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"It's a sandwich gun" - Sartana
Wha..wha..what?! A Sartana film without Gianni Garko? This can't be good. Well have no fear friends as yes Garko opted out of this fifth and final Sartana film (aka Fistful of Lead) into the official Pentalogy but filmmakers replaced him with a competent replacement in the form of actor George Hilton. Hell to be honest George Hilton is a much more popular actor in Italy than his predecessor but will he be able to pull off the role that inspired more official sequels than any other spaghetti western character? Well let's put on our shit kickers and see.
Sartana gets wind of a corrupt town official who is robbing stagecoaches transporting gold. He, with the help of his cunning wits and fast drawing hands solves the mystery while along the way trying to figure out how to beat his all time rival Sabbath.
Of course the first thing people are going to want to know is how Hilton does in the role. It is baffling why Garko passed on this film and with Hilton in the role it confuses a lot of people into thinking this is one of those many unofficial "sequels" that cashed-in on the name Sartana. Never-the-less Hilton does fine in the role staying true to the character while bringing his own little twists to the role, mostly more tongue-in-cheek humorous touches.
Giuliano Carnimeo, director of the previous three Sartana films, returns to direct this fifth entry and even with his experience of the franchise at the helm, this sequel lacks a lot of the flair seen in the previous entries. I doubt it was a stylistic choice and seems to be more of a budgetary one as this film just looks smaller scale and cheaper.
The writers also decide to make take a slightly more humorous approach with the subject matter (proved by my opening quote from the film) perhaps to tailor more to the new actor in the lead role. To me the more silly approach hindered the film as I just found it more puerile. The added humor isn't horrible, but it did make me hit my head a few times (again... read the opening quote).
Considering the change in the lead role this sequel doesn't come out bad at all but I can honestly say it is easily the weakest of the franchise. The lowered budget hinders the polished nature of the film and the added humor hindered some of my respect for the character. Considering all this it is still entertaining and Hilton proved he could easily handle taking over a popular role but sadly he wouldn't have an opportunity to tailor it more to his own as there would be no further official adventures of Sartana. Was it due to Spaghetti Western popularity starting to decline or did audience not react well to seeing a new actor in the role? It could be a number of combination of these things including that every other Italian western made at the time cashed in on the Sartana name (copyright laws are more lacked in Italy) confusing audiences on which films were truly part of the official series. Whatever reason Sartana didn't return, officially that is, making this the final chapter and in solid franchise. It sure was fun while it lasted.
Sartana will return.... in a shit load of cash-in unofficial "sequels". Reviews on those to come...
I always felt sorry for Slaughter as he gets a "Big Rip-off" in his sequel title as opposed to Shaft who gets a "Big Score". What gives.... Shaft gets a piece of ass and Slaughter gets pulled a fast one on? In my humble opinion Slaughter is more badass than Shaft and if anyone deserves a great score, it's fuckin' Slaughter but don't fret as he does get plenty of ass, both black and white, in this entertaining follow-up to 1972 Blaxploitation hit "Slaughter."
"Slaughter's Big Rip-off" opens with a sequence one would least expect for this sequel open with... with Slaughter in cowboy drag in a horse race? Really... what the fuck? Where is my badass title sequence? Oh well but soon after a hitman flying an airplane attempts a hit on Slaughter who in turn misses and kills a few of Slaughter's friends instead. He heads out for vengeance but like the original, pisses off some law enforcement along the way and they give him make a deal to get them a ledger of names of corrupt police and political figures (hmmm... sounds like "Black Caesar" to me) in turn for Slaughter not going to prison. Plenty of bullets break the skin of mafia goons as a result.
Jim Brown seems much more comfortable in the title role this second time around as he makes the character even more badass. We get more hand to hand combat from the character and even some badass one liners (my favorite is "how would you like to pick your teeth out of your lips). He also seems to get much more ass in this film making him a blaxploitation rival for James Bond. In all the character of Slaughter is even more baddass in this sequel minus the awkward opening with him in western garb.
In an awkward casting moment the filmmakers hired Ed McMahon for the lead villain. For you youngins out there he was the sidekick for Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show" who mummered the famous line "Heerrree's Johnny" long before the likes of Jack Nicolson. I actually never knew Ed McMahon was an actual actor before his TV stints and actually he isn't terrible but I did have a hard time shacking his "Tonight Show" motif from my mind.
The plot however is rather haphazardly constructed making the film drag at some moments between the entertaining action sequences. Director Gordon Douglas does what he can with the script but the film sadly misses original director Jack Starrett who wonderfully directed the action sequences to wrap around its plot issues. Starrett was avaiable to direct as he hightailed it to Warner Brothers to make his film "Cleopatra Jones" and in turn pissing off AIP executive Samuel Z. Arkoff who responded with his own woman Blaxploitation revenge effort "Coffy" which itself is a completely different story.
The two things that annoy me the most is first how our evil hitman attempts to kill Slaughter. He makes Slaughter's main squeeze drive him off a cliff and then leaves within a few minutes before making sure Slaughter is truly dead. If I learned anything from "Under Seige 2" it's that "assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups" and this James Bond villain mistake annoyed the shit out of me. Second is how all newer versions of the film are emasculated of James Brown's wonderful original score. Damn I hate when soundtracks and score rights deteriorate for whatever reason over the years resulting with some films, like "Slaughter's Big Rip-off", having a replacement score haphazardly spliced in. Grr...
"Slaughter's Big Rip-off" isn't as good as the original due to a poorly constructed plot and the lack of original director Jack Starrett but Jim Brown seems more comfortable in the role making Slaughter even more badass in the long run. The film is left open for another sequel but sadly a third film to round out a trilogy never emerged.
Look at that title! This is the unholy amalgamation of Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Commando" and Chuck Norris' "The Delta Force". What does that mean? Well it means this is going to be the action event of the decade! What.. hold on... I'm getting myself too amped up. Let's just take a look at the credits real quick. Pierluigi Ciriaci is credited as director... the same guy who directed such 'well-known' films as "Warbus II". It stars Brett Baxster Clark of such films as "Eye of the Eagle" and "Cobra Mission 2". Fuck... this is a late 80s Macaroni Combat film. Damn... I guess this means it's going to suck.
Some terrorists break into an American military base to steal a nuclear bomb and kill Brett Baxter Clark's pregnant wife (why are soldier family quarters located so close to where nuclear missiles are stored is beyond me) . He heads out for revenge by kidnapping pilot Fred Williamson to fly him into enemy territory and then fires lots and lots of bullets in the name of honor and revenge.
Being a late 80s Italian Macaroni Combat film we can expect the usual: bad acting, bad plot, bad stunts, bad dialogue, bad directing... yea everything is plain and simple BAD. Fuck this film is even loaded with lots of mistakes and continuity errors. If I didn't feel I would have to drink to make it through this mess again one might find it fun to go through and play 'spot the mistake.'
Besides Bret what's-his-name, two other cult icons make up the cast. That of course is Fred Williamson as the pilot and Bo Svenson as the leader of the Delta Force. Williamson does minimal... even his ego feeding persona fails to shine through here. Svenson is typically wasted. Oh, I forgot to mention this also stars Mark fucking Gregory, the non-actor from such classics as "1990: The Bronx Warriors", "Thunder Warrior" and of course "Warbus II", as the terrorist leader. Thank the Italian war gods that the filmmakers made his character mostly mute to save our eardrums from his deplorable mumbling.
My real beef with the plot is the Delta Force aspect which is completely pointless. Our Delta Force shows up for a short time at the beginning of the film but Svenson is told they can't move in. They then don't enter the plot until the very end to help rescue our heroes. Why the fuck even have the Delta Force in the film if they aren't going to utilize them?
This is atrocious but one should expect this as all late 80s Italian Macaroni Combat films suck. Somehow this film did well enough to warrant a sequel as "Delta Force Commando II: Priority Red One" followed two years later. A sequel shouldn't surprise me as both "Cobra Mission" and "Warbus" also somehow managed to inspire sequels so anything can happen in the 'wonderful' world of late 80s Macaroni Combat.
"Subspecies II" was part of an experiment Full Moon Entertainment conducted in which they made back-to-back sequels to their most successful franchises ("Subspecies", "Puppet Master" and "Trancers") and I've stated in other reviews that I DESPISE when production companies take this route. However I do have to hand it to Full Moon as they did craft some pretty entertaining sequels with this process (sans "Trancers 4" & "5") that actually puts high budget studios to shame that also practice this back-to-back sequel making technique (cough, cough "Matrix" and "Pirates of the Caribbean"). "Subspecies II" not only ends up being one of Full Moon's better sequels, but it actually matches the original with its low budget vampire sucking goodness.
Picking up right after the first film ended, we open with our ghoulish vampire Radu (Anders Hove returning) being resurrected by our pointless mini demons known as the subspecies (that somehow serve as the title of the series). Radu begins with killing his metrosexual brother in whilst sleeping(which means they couldn't get the actor back so they conveniently kill him off). Before he can kill the newly transformed Michelle, the sun rises so she awakes, steals the 'bloodstone' (which looks completely different) so know he must chase our virginal vampire down with the aid of his mummified hag mother.
This sequel outdoes it's guilty pleasure predecessor in the plot department as the pacing is much quicker. This surprised the shit out of me considering this was shot congruently with "Subspecies III" and with a single plotline expanding two films I expected far more padding. One aspect that the film fares worse in is the dialogue department as it is far more hokey and silly. Director Ted Nicolaou does have a keen eye for style as the film has a nice polished look about it despite being made for the direct-to-video department. Nicolaou's use of shadows are also admirable and makes the film captivating from a technical standpoint.
The main problem for me is the main character of Michelle as she is far more wishy-washy. Her character in the first film (played by Laura Tate) was a strong, determined women. Here the character is just a needy, emotional mess that spends most of the film sobbing and crying. Her character also ends up being reactionary protagonist as she does nothing to move the plot along herself, only reacting to actions on the screen created by the antagonist character of Radu. Seriously Radu ends up being more of a main character than our 'heroin', if she would qualify as that.
The continuity as expected is complete bullcrap. Not only is our character of Michelle act completely different, she now has LONG hair even though the film takes place within mere moments of the original. The bloodstone itself has also gotten a complete makeover, though it does look far lavish than the cracker jack toy of the original film. Seriously there's enough continuity errors here to make one's head explode.
A plethora of new characters are added into the "Subspecies" universe (perhaps 'universe' is too grandiose a term to describe such a silly low budget franchise) including but not limited to a our 'heroines' professor (where was he in the first film?), her sister (played by William Shatner's daughter... the horror!) and her preverbal love interest Kevin Spirtas, who looks like he just walked off the set of a soap opera. The new character that takes the blood pie is Mummy, Radu's hideous mother. Yes this character is a wee silly but her dysfunctional relationship with her son does provide for a few unintentional laughs.
Despite its obvious low budget short comings, "Subspecies II", compared to the original, is one of the more stronger sequels I've seen as it matches the original in every aspect. Though it may be weaker in some angles (dialogue), but director Ted Nicolaou makes up for it in other aspects (pacing). Overall this is a very satisfying sequel and one of the overall strongest films that the Full Moon factory pumped out in its early heyday. Can they keep it up in "Bloodlust: Subspecies III"? Well it's the second of back-to-back sequels so I'll let you draw your own conclusions.
Here is a bizarre little French film I picked up on DVD at a whim at a pawn shop and from the title and lurid cover artwork I was expecting some silly, comic book style Satanic Euro shocker from the 70s but that's not the case. Instead I was dished up an engrossing, seriously told tale showcasing a character study how two young women are corrupted by perversion and Satan to do heinous acts, hurting innocent victims along the way.
So we have two young women who were raised in strict Catholic households by wealthy families. They bore of their life of in the covenant and find interest in some forbidden readings. Soon they decent into perversion and corruption, partaking in Satanic rituals, seducing men, and torturing and killing animals. These women are deciding a dark path of destruction and they don't care who they destroy in their process.
Though there are exploitative elements present throughout the film, it's never to the over-the-top extent that director JoÃ«l SÃ (C)ria could have taken the subject matter. He actually treats the film very seriously with style and accomplished filmmaking, making an engrossing character study how two wealthy women with nothing better to do decide to make trouble. This serious approach to the subject matter made "Don't Deliver Us From Evil" a huge controversy over in Europe with it being banned in its home county for, get this, 'blasphemy'. Hard to believe a film could get banned in for that in today's day in age.
JoÃ«l SÃ (C)ria serious approach to the subject matter, mixed with his slower plotting, actually makes this almost an arthouse film. It gets labeled a 'horror' film by most people as for the fact it contains elements usually contained within that genre but 'horror' wouldn't be my first label for the film. It is by far more a drama, with a little horror and exploitation sprinkled on top.
The acting is top and our two young French actresses Jeanne Goupil and Catherine Wagener are astounding in the roles, disturbingly so. There are a few sequences where their actions sent shivers down my spine and truly hated their characters for their actions. They even mix it up by even showing some remorse at some moments which was a thoughtful touch to the war going on in them.
Again this is NOT a mere Satanic shocker horror film from the 70s brimming with poor production values and cheese. This is a seriously taken DRAMA with a little horror and exploitation elements thrown into the mix topped with impressive direction, great acting with complex characters and a haunting score. Due to the serious nature of this film the tone made it rather disturbing, and sometimes hard to watch. Definitely not for the faint of heart and easily offended.