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Premonition AKA Head directed by Alan Rudolph (1972)
"Premonition" is a tripped-out anti-narrative written and directed by Alan Rudolph, the son of B-movie actor Oscar Rudolph and the long term side kick of Robert Altman. It opens with a hippie musician called Neil (Carl Crow) wandering around strumming his guitar and telling us about his weird experiences that began when he took a trip into the desert as a hired hand working for an alcoholic archaeologist / anthropologist who was researching Indian culture. When Neil and Professor Kilkenny (Victor Izay) recovered a well preserved skeleton, Neil was so frightened by the accompanying hallucinatory experience - possibly brought on by the local weed he'd been smoking - that he went cold turkey on his spiff habit. Three years down the road this reformed pothead moves to a remote property in the country to get some music together with fellow hipsters Andy (Tim Ray) and Baker (Winfrey Hester Hill). Neil explains via a voice-over that Andy's folks were rich as a result of some lavatory plumbing they'd developed but that: "Andy couldn't find meaning in a life that profited every time a toilet flushed..." Andy smokes the weed they find left in the shack they've moved into and instantly becomes as spaced out as Neil; they even suffer the same nightmares. To counterbalance these sublime moments of tripped-out terror, director Rudolph provides a self-conscious mix of the beautiful and the pastoral in the form of some groovy hippie chicks, and Neil even leads one of them around by holding the reins on the horse she rides bareback.... Moving on, the band audition for a promoter at a festival out in the country and there are some solarised effects with this, providing a laid back complement to the nightmare flashbacks that keep plaguing Neil and Andy. "Premonition's” blend of surreal and character driven scenes is distinctly odd, and vaguely reminiscent of "Cocaine Cowboys" and to a lesser extent "Ciao Manhattan". Although "Premonition" is often categorised and promoted as a horror film, it is more of a hippie period piece, even if the use of white light in the nightmare sequences shares some stylistic similarities with the work of splatter maestro Lucio Fulci. "Premonition" is flawed – the mix of styles never quite gels - and Rudolph makes too many concessions to realism, but the film is still well worth a watch.

Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon AKA The Mansion of Madness directed by Juan López Moctezuma (1973)
Here's a neglected Mexican cult classic that will appeal to fans of Latin American surrealism and the films of Luis Buñuel. After working with Alejandro Jodorowsky on "Fando & Lis" and "El Topo", Juan López Moctezuma employed some of the actors he'd met on these projects for "Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon", his first feature. This flick kicks off with psychedelic solarised imagery of a naked woman on horseback, but the whole trip is a grove sensation incorporating a total disregard for logic and the wackiest nude dream sequence you’re ever seen. Although Moctezuma's movie is based on Edgar Allan Poe's "The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether", this nineteenth-century source is heavily revised to create a biting attack on authority, colonialism and white supremacy.

Gastón LeBlanc (Arthur Hansel) has been commissioned to write a story about ‘a sanatorium famous for its novel way of treating the mad’ run by Dr. Maillard. Poe's story narrated in the first person by LeBlanc sets the scene. Poe/ LeBlanc states that he suggested to his travelling companion - unnamed in the story but Julien Couvier (Martin LaSalle) in the film - : "that we should turn aside, for an hour or so, and look through the establishment. To this he objected–pleading haste in the first place, and, in the second, a very usual horror at the sight of a lunatic. He begged me, however, not to let any mere courtesy towards himself interfere with the gratification of my curiosity, and said that he would ride on leisurely, so that I might overtake him during the day, or, at all events, during the next. As he bade me good-bye, I bethought me that there might be some difficulty in obtaining access to the premises, and mentioned my fears on this point. He replied that, in fact, unless I had personal knowledge of the superintendent, Monsieur Maillard, or some credential in the way of a letter, a difficulty might be found to exist, as the regulations of these private mad-houses were more rigid than the public hospital laws. For himself, he added, he had, some years since, made the acquaintance of Maillard, and would so far assist me as to ride up to the door and introduce me; although his feelings on the subject of lunacy would not permit of his entering the house."

As well as naming LeBlanc's companion Couvier, Moctezuma provides him with a niece in the film. As LeBlanc is welcomed to the sanatorium, Couvier, his niece and their coachman Henri are attacked and captured by lunatics. In his story Poe explains the set up at the asylum as follows: "I had heard, at Paris, that the institution of Monsieur Maillard was managed upon what is vulgarly termed the 'system of soothing' – that all punishments were avoided – that even confinement was seldom resorted to – that the patients, while secretly watched, were left much apparent liberty, and that most of them were permitted to roam about the house and grounds in the ordinary apparel of persons in right mind." Poe uses reported speech to enable Maillard to describe his psychiatric procedure: "I may state the system, then, in general terms, as one in which the patients were menages-humored. We contradicted no fancies which entered the brains of the mad. On the contrary, we not only indulged but encouraged them; and many of our most permanent cures have been thus effected. There is no argument which so touches the feeble reason of the madman as the argumentum ad absurdum. We have had men, for example, who fancied themselves chickens. The cure was, to insist upon the thing as a fact – to accuse the patient of stupidity in not sufficiently perceiving it to be a fact – and thus to refuse him any other diet for a week than that which properly appertains to a chicken. In this manner a little corn and gravel were made to perform wonders."

In Poe's story the "system of soothing" had been abandoned some weeks before LeBlanc's visit, but in the film it is still in operation when he arrives at the asylum, and it is this that allows Moctezuma to turn Poe's story of the lunatics taking over the asylum into a surreal odyssey. Maillard's niece is not named in Poe's story but becomes Eugénie (Ellen Sherman) in the film to simultaneously invoke both The Marquis de Sade and Peter Brook's play "Marat/Sade" (Moctezuma had previously worked in the theatre).Likewise, there is a figure who appears to be a cross between an Aztec priest and Alfred Jarry's grotesque pataphysical creation Pere Ubu; this character has a spiral emblazoned on the chest of his tunic and wanders around performing weird rites. Alchemy and references to the utopian socialism of figures such as Charles Fourier are also a part of the brew.

'Maillard' takes LeBlanc on a tour of his crumbling asylum, laughing along the way at the antics of his patients. An inmate who believes he is 'Dante' is chained up in a dungeon and makes a speech about hell. Moving on, at the end of a slow erotic dance Eugénie tries to stab the doctor. Later Eugénie informs LeBlanc that a bandit called 'Raúl Fragonard' is masquerading as her father 'Dr. Maillard' and calling her his niece. Eugénie flees with LeBlanc into the forest surrounding the sanatorium, where they link up with Couvier when he escapes from the lunatics who have captured him. At the very moment this trio believe they have reached safety, they are recaptured by .'Fragonard' and his men. Couvier is incarcerated in a cage with his coachman and the apparently 'real' 'Dr. Maillard'.

At the climax 'Fragonard', blonde and dressed as an image obsessed military despot (this simultaneously brings to mind Napoleon, nineteenth-century and earlier representatives of British and Spanish imperialism, Hitler, the authoritarian regime in Mexico and Latin American dictatorships in general) condemns LeBlanc and Eugénie to death. Three dancers made up to look like cows appear and perform a crazy routine prior to the execution. However, the caged prisoners escape and kill 'Fragonard', which simultaneously ensures the survival of LeBlanc and Eugénie.

At the conclusion of Poe's story the reader is left in no doubt as to what had happened at the sanatorium: "Monsieur Maillard, it appeared, in giving me the account of the lunatic who had excited his fellows to rebellion, had been merely relating his own exploits. This gentleman had, indeed, some two or three years before, been the superintendent of the establishment, but grew crazy himself, and so became a patient. This fact was unknown to the travelling companion who introduced me. The keepers, ten in number, having been suddenly overpowered, were first well tarred, then –carefully feathered, and then shut up in underground cells." Moctezuma abandons this and instead introduces a rather more radical ambiguity since Eugénie does not appear to me as entirely reliable witness and therefore we cannot be sure that the man who gains control of the asylum at the end of the film is in fact the 'real' 'Dr. Maillard'. While not as impressive as Jodorowsky's best work, this particular meditation on the return of the repressed nevertheless is well worth a view, and personally I greatly preferred it to films such as Fernando Arrabal's "Viva La Muerte" and "I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse" which emerged from the same film-making circles.

Hard Target directed by John Woo (1993)
Hard Target is a 1993 action film starring Jean Claude van Damme, Lance Henriksen, Arnold Vosloo, Yancy Butler, and Wilford Brimley. It was the first American film by Hong Kong action director John Woo. Sam Raimi was an executive producer. Personally I found Woo's balletic style of slo-mo action sequences something of a drag here. But much worse than that is Jean-Claude's hair-cut, an appalling permed mullet which somehow manages to make the atrocious 'Ziggy Stardust' barnet David Bowie sported in the early 70s look almost cool in comparison. Basically this movie is an update of "The Most Dangerous Game", so you have businessmen paying a couple of con artists to hunt homeless army vets through the streets of New Orleans. The villains aren't at all attractive but Jean-Claude's mullet is so dreadful I kept hoping they'd wipe him out. So all in all this is a kung fu disaster... Avoid! Incidentally, this clearly inspired the much more recent "Hostel" movies, but don't take that as a recommondation of them, since although they were slightly better than this I didn't think they were much cop either... But I would take a John Woo movie with Chow Yun Fat, now that dude is cool!

99 Women directed by Jess Franco (1969)
Jess Franco has made a handful of great films (including "The Awful Dr. Orloff", "Succubus", "Vampiros Lesbos" and "Female Vampire"), many mediocre films and some real turkeys. As a general rule the Franco films that really suck are either made after the mid-seventies, are women in prison movies or else are produced by Harry Alan Towers. This is Franco's first women in prison flick and it was produced by Harry Allen Towers (who under the pen name Peter Welbeck also wrote this piece of crud). "99 Women" looks promising at the start because there is some fabulous eye candy in the shape of former Bond girl Luciana Paluzzi, who unfortunately dies on her first night in jail. So with Paluzzi out of the way this quickly turns into a tame and very run-of-the-mill late-sixties sexploitation flick with coy lesbian scenes (mostly shot in extreme soft focus close up) and torture scenes that are lame even by Franco's standards. The principle leads in the shape of Maria Schell, Herbert Lom, Mercedes McCambridge and Maria Rohm, are all competent, but the film is a bore. I found it completely indistinguishable from Franco's later "Devil Island's Lovers" (1974) - a couple who are in love suffer sexual and other degradations in male and female prisons situated close to each other on an isolated island, they plan a break out and there is a chase through the jungle, with the escaped prisoners being recaptured and/or killed. That said both "99 Women" and "Devil's Island Lovers" are marginally superior to Franco's many other contributions to this tedious genre including "Barbed Wire Dolls" (1975) and "Ilsa, the Wicked Warden" (1977). "99 Women" is a film to file alongside crapola like Joel M. Reed's "Bloodsucking Freaks AKA "The Incredible Torture Show" (1976); both are movies which bored me rigid despite the fact that I’m a sleaze film freak (and "99 Women" won't do anything for you if you're into gore or porno either). Avoid!

Brothers of the Head directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe (2005)
This is a fictional mockumentary set in the mid-seventies about a pair of male Siamese twins who a sleazy music manager signs up to front an English pop band that starts out as a kind of Bay City Rollers rip-off and ends up as something much darker. The story is told thru a mixture of fake archival footage from an abandoned Ken Russell documentary and retrospective interviews. So the plot is your typical down in flames rock and roll live fast, die young and have a good looking corpse tale featuring exploitative management and vulnerable artistes.... But forget the story which is nothing new or special, what blew me away about this flick is the period detail, it is spot on! The group fronted by the Siamese twins is called The Bang Bang, and I assume this is in tribute to the 1973 glam rock single "Bang Bang Bullet" by Streak (featuring what would become The Arrows, the band who failed to have a hit with their tune "I Love Rock & Roll" back in the mid-seventies).

The music like the period visuals is perfect, and effectively recycles the sound of many little known Brit pop gems of the era (so it will surprise no one to learn Pete Shelley of 70s Brit popsters The Buzzcocks 'wrote' one of the tunes). Many of the original obscurities that fed into the "Brothers of the Head" soundtrack are collected together on compilations like "Glitterbest: 20 Pre-Punk & Glam Terrace Stompers" or "Glitter From The Litter Bin: 20 Junk Shop Glam Rarities From The 1970s". Actually my favourite CD compilation of these old glam flops is "Velvet Tinmine: 20 Junk Shop Glam Ravers" since it features "Rebels Rule" by Iron Virgin;. back when I was a nipper in the early and mid-seventies I used to listen to Radio Luxembourg, a commercial pop station which every hour for a week would play a newly released single as their "208 power play" - and when "Rebels Rule" was awarded this accolade I went nuts for the tune, and couldn't believe it when it flopped, so it was great to see it finally sneaking out on CD a few years ago.

"Brothers of the Head" provides visuals for dozens of great glam tunes that have been going around and around in my head for more than thirty years. This really is a fabulous film if you dig the obscurer glam and pub rock sounds that fed directly into the British punk rock stew of the late-seventies, or even if you don't! Yeah if you lived through the groove sensation that was British pop way back when, then you're gonna love "Brothers of the Head", and even if you didn't it is still super phat and groovy.

The Bagman directed by Rae Fitzpatrick AKA Beverly Beaton (2002)
The Bagman is a micro-budget slasher movie shot on digital film. It has two huge assets in its star and producer, the scream queen Stephanie Beaton. Oops I meant two huge assets in terms of mother and daughter team Beverly and Stephanie Beaton - respectively writer/director and producer/star. And talking of huge assets, Stephanie Beaton has possibly the scariest and most unreal 'dirty pillows' I’ve seen this side of Chesty Morgan. Likewise, since Stephanie is both star and producer of this movie, only she gets naked in it. Presumably the budget didn't stretch to paying other actresses enough to appear nude. However, I'm not complaining because Stephanie is a hefty redhead and much better looking than the rest of the cast.

According to her biography Steff has grey eyes, is 5'8" tall and weighs 120 pounds… I wonder how many pounds of that is silicon? She’s appeared in a slew of b-movies including "Beast" (2005), "Blood Gnome" (2004), "Tortured Soul 3: The Willing Flesh" (2004), "Bloody Bender's Return" (2003), "Dancing on the Dark Side of the Moon" (2003), "Evil in the Bayou" (2003), "Slice 'N Dice" (2003), "Tales from the Grave" (2003), "Bikini Planet" (2002), "The Crawling Brain" (2002), "The Evilmaker" (2000), "Witchcraft XI: Sisters in Blood" (2000), "Eyes of the Werewolf" (1999), "Headcrusher" (1999), "Monster in My Car" (1999), "A Passion to Kill" (1999), "V-World Matrix" (1999), "Twilight" (1998), "Tales from the Cannibal Side" (1998), "Witchcraft X: Mistress of the Craft" (1998), "Witchcraft IX: Bitter Flesh" (1997), "Dying to Meet You" (1997), "Zombie Ninja Gangbangers" (1997), "Teen Witches " (1996) and "Unnaturally Born Killers" (1996).

Beaton was born in 1972, so having reached her thirties when she made “The Bagman”, she'd entered what is traditionally the beginning of a difficult career period for scream queens. B-movie starlets tend to find their careers falling away to nothing as they approach 40. One of the things I like about Beaton is her proactive approach to this, setting up her own production company so that she's taking herself off in new directions in the skid row movie stakes. "Bagman" was her first film production and presumably she hired her mother as the writer and director because the Beaton family comes on-board cheap. Anyway, "Bagman" kicks off with some over grown and visibly overage 'school kids' beating and drowning a class mate in a puddle before throwing his body in a stream. Stephanie Beaton playing the final girl is the only person present to object to this. Skip forward ten years and Steff is naked on a cooker having sex with her boyfriend, followed by an argument and break-up. This is a low budget movie so the stove is nothing special, but if the budget had stretched to it I'm sure they'd have used an Aga - which is the brand of cooker I favour making love on, since it has the benefit of being both large and signifying class.

There are two main reasons for watching "The Bagman". The first is gorgeous redheaded Stephanie Beaton with her tits of death. The other is to see the dumb and corrupt male cop character go to a bar and pick up a transvestite promising to put her in the movies - and the bozo doesn't realise he's with a geezer wearing make up until he’s touched the blonde up and burst one of her balloon boobs! Hilarious... especially as the tranny has a heavy five o’clock shadow and even the average blind man wouldn't be fooled into thinking he was a she…

Returning to the plot, the school friends responsible for picking on their nerdy class mate get bumped off one by one, some are horribly tortured while others are simply stabbed to death by an overweight maniac with a bag obscuring his head. It isn't hard to guess that the class nerd survived his beating and drowning and 10 years on it is 'payback time'. Fortunately Stephanie Beaton survives so we get to enjoy her charms from the beginning to the end of the movie. The real twist is that judged on her flighty onscreen behaviour I'd have never guessed Steff is secretly an undercover cop, but if you've seen her in other movies playing pretty much the same role this won't come as a surprise.

“The Bagman” is no trash classic but it gave me some great belly laughs in a so bad it is good kinda way, and we need redhead scream queens like Stephanie Beaton - despite donning a pair of horribly unflattering black trousers in this flick, she's both really cute and a surprisingly competent actress. If you dig redheads and cheesy movies, you'll love this… I know I did!

The Dragon Lives Again AKA Deadly Hands of Kung Fu directed by Lo Kei (1977)
This has got to be the ultimate stoner movie. Bruce Lee (Bruce Leong AKA Siu-Lung Leung) wakes up in Chinese purgatory after his death, and the fact that the actor playing Lee bears no resemblance whatsoever to the famous kung fu film star is explained by dialogue about how people look different after they're dead! Despite having snuffed it, Bruce Lee opens up an underworld kung fu school and teams up with various famous TV and movie characters such as the One Armed Swordsman (who looks nothing like either Jimmy Wang Yu or David Chiang who played the role in various Shaw Brothers movies - must be because he is dead), Kane from the "Kung Fu" TV series (played correctly in this instance by a Chinese actor - must be because he is dead) and cartoon favourite Popeye the Sailor (also played by a Chinese actor - must be because he is dead). Meanwhile the King of the Underworld is too busy chasing naked concubines around his hot tub (nice) to notice that various villains (James Bond, the Godfather, Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name, the Exorcist, Dracula, Zaitoichi the Blind Swordsman and soft porn kitten Emmanuel) are plotting to dethrone him (and knowing he has a weak heart, Emmanuel even tries to fuck him to death - although how you kill the mythological King of Death is beyond me - as well as attempting to get it on with Bruce Lee). Needless to say, none of the actors playing the villains look at all like the characters they are supposed to represent - must be because in the film they are dead, and this may also explain why James Bond has been transformed into a villain and has such a cheap looking suit - all of which just adds to the surreal mayhem. Lee and his allies eventually defeat the bad guys, but he's still mad at the King of the Underworld for his bad behaviour (and possibly also for encouraging much lewd talk about the size of Bruce Lee's dick among various concubines). However, in exchange for being sent back to the world of the living, Bruce Lee allows the King of the Underworld to retain his royal power. "The Dragon Lives Again" makes Situationist kung fu detournement "Can Dialectic Break Bricks?" appear tame in comparison; and the pan and scan version I watched put out by Vengeance Video makes any avant-garde movie you care to name look conservative in comparison to the spectacular show of disregard for filmic convention by those who repackaged this flick for the home market - speaking characters are often largely off screen because of the way the movie has been reformatted for full frame presentation, and we miss many of the poorly choreographed punches and kicks in the fight scenes for the same reason, all of which only adds to the general hilarity (as does the slapdash dubbing). This film is so insane no description could do it justice. If you ain't seen it yet, you gotta catch it!

Purana Mandir directed by Tulsi and Shyam Ramsay (1984)
If you're not particularly familiar with Bollywood movies (or possibly even if you are, but only in their more 'mainstream' incarnations) then "Purana Mandir" ("The Old Temple"), which launched the Indian horror boom of the eighties and early nineties, comes across as seriously mental. Suman Singh's father is a rich jerk descended from a line of kings; he doesn't want his daughter going out with poor city boy Sanjay (played by Mohnish Bahl) and after failing to buy him off, has him beaten up by hired thugs. It turns out that 200 years before a demon called Saamri (played by Ajay Agarwal) had placed a curse on the Singh family with the result that all its women die upon their first child being born; but even worse than this, we are shown a flashback of Suman emerging into this world and as she does so her mother turns into a hairy monster before expiring! Suman (played by Arti Gupta) and Sanjay decide to leave the city and travel to the old Singh family seat in an attempt to put an end to the curse (providing us with an easily recognisable American-style horror formula of the eighties, a group of teenagers away from home in a creepy old building). Accompanying them are Sanjay's best friend Anand (played by Puneet Issar) and his randy wife. Issar has several fight scenes and is reputedly one of India's best martial arts actors but his moves are only a cut or two above those of Rudy Ray Moore; and with the major disadvantage that unlike Moore, Issar isn't strutting his stuff for comic effect. More endearingly, Suman spends a lot of time lounging around in bathing suits; since this is Bollywood there is no nudity (although when leading lady Gupta comes out of a swimming pool the camera does linger on her breasts because her erect nipples are discernible under the material covering them). Gupta even wears a swimsuit when taking a shower, although pleasingly the water she's washing herself in turns to blood after a minute or two.

The plot and editing of "Purana Mandir" move speedily along, although this being an Indian film there are comic interludes which bizarrely incorporate elements from Italian cannibal horrors of the 1970s in the form of painted tribesmen AND simultaneously parody Bollywood classic "Sholay" and spaghetti westerns (these scenes have to be seen to be believed, they look extremely surreal and out of place to those of us more used to Hollywood horror and Eurosleaze - appearing as they do both inappropriate and jaw droppingly bad - but ultimately they work because they add nicely to the general sense of fun and insanity).. There are several song and dance numbers, and these quickly become tiresome, although the first featuring a night club showgirl is fabulous. The best thing about this movie is the prowling camera work, which owes a lot to Italian cinema in general and Mario Bava in particular, with innumerable fast zooms into eyes, shocking cuts and colour tints. The set design and props are effective too, and surprisingly given the fact that this film is largely set in the mid-eighties (and as a result there is plenty of groovy gear in evidence) are heavily influenced by Hammer horror period shockers. The special effects are cheap and amateurish looking, and add nicely to "Purana Mandir's" sleazy feel; if like me you are into trash they prove perfectly satisfying, although 'western' gore fans tend to grumble about them. The 'world cinema' elements taken from both Hollywood and European film-making are well integrated into "Purana Mandir's" Bollywood structure, making it in the view of many film fans the first successful Indian horror movie (there wasn't much of a horror film tradition in Bollywood prior to this production). So while this isn't the greatest horror movie I've ever seen, it is both great fun and infinitely superior to whatever Hollywood schlock is currently showing at your local multiplex, even if at nearly two hours and twenty minutes in length it could do with a few of the musical numbers included being trimmed. And to cut a long story short, by defeating the demon and thus ending the curse on the Singh family, Sanjay wins around Suman's dad and thereby gets the girl he loves.

Fanatic AKA The Last Horror Film directed by David Winters (1982)
American character actor Joe Spinell stars alongside British model and would-be actress Caroline Munro in this truly post-modern sleaze epic shot on location at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival. "Fanatic" is so self-referential it hurts (which can only be a good thing for a horror movie). Spinell's real life mother appears in the flick as his screen mom (and she gives a performance that is so senile it has to be seen to be believed); Munro's husband Judd Hamilton who co-wrote and co-produced the film appears as her screen lover (called Alan Cunningham, two letters shy of Sean Cunningham of “Last House On The Left” and “Friday 13th” fame); oh and Spinell and Munro had already starred opposite each other in "Maniac" (directed by William Lustig, 1981). Spinell hams it up as Vinny, a sad mother obsessed New York taxi driver who goes to The Cannes Film Festival in an attempt to get his fantasy movie "The Loves of Dracula" - with himself as director - off the ground. He wants horror actress Jana Bates (Munro) - who is up for a best actress award - to play the lead in his flick. Vinny is self-evidently a loser and no one takes him seriously; but his pointless mission becomes decidedly perilous when Munro's producer and former husband Bret Bates disappears, and various movie people who've slighted the seedy taxi driver start getting bumped off. The gore is all low level done tongue-in-cheek comedy style. In what is probably an unconscious homage to French avant-garde letterist cinema of the early fifties, the words "The End" come up over some of the earlier gore scenes and then the camera cuts or pulls back to show that the action was taking place on a cinema screen. Amusingly there is even a press conference at which Jana Bates discusses the relationship between 'screen' and 'real world' 'violence', not to mention disco scenes and topless babes on the beach (some of whom I understand are 'famous' 'actresses'). Munro is wooden and Spinell cunningly plays off this with his over-the-top theatrics; all of which makes the conceit that Munro's character is in line for an award for her having her face taken off with a blow torch in a fictional film called "Scream", even more of a.... SCREAM! In "Maniac", Munro’s dark sultry looks came across as hot, but in "Fanatic" her streaked hair makes her look like a skunk, which adds nicely to the sleaze factor. I liked this David Winters film a lot better than "Maniac" precisely because it is accidentally avant-garde, whereas in that earlier movie director William Lustig was trying too hard on too low a budget to pay homage to his Italian film-maker idols Dario Argento and Mario Bava (but although "Maniac" was a failure, Lustig went on to make enjoyable horror action romps like "Maniac Cop" with Bruce Campbell). In "Fanatic" Spinell is more or less reprising his role from "Maniac", but everything is surreal because it is as if he's wandered off a poverty row slasher and onto the set of a Joan Collins movie; and this time Spinell is just nuts rather than psycho, he isn’t actually the killer. The real maniac turns out to be Bret Bates (the fictional producer of the fictional "Scream"), who is homicidally jealous now that Jana Bates has left him; the ex fakes his own disappearance figuring that obsessed Jana fan Vinny will get fingered as the killer in his place. This movie is a gas, and even features hoardings advertising cult items like "Cannibal Holocaust" and "Polyester”! Gore hounds may find this a disappointment but since I'm more of a Eurosleaze type myself, it hit all my buttons and ranks right up there alongside "Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers" and "Bronze Girls of Shaolin" (or even “The Stud”) as a trash classic!

Bloodsport directed by Newt Arnold (1988)
This movie is set around a martial arts tournament, a popular theme in fight flicks and one used to best effect in the Bruce Lee epic "Enter The Dragon". "Bloodsport" was Jean Claude Van Damme's first starring role, but there is seasoned support in the form Bolo Yeung who plays the main villain (among other things he was, of course, deputy chief villain in "Enter The Dragon"). Van Damme looks good in this movie, he has a reasonable haircut (in sharp contrast to his later mullet) and some incredible movies, and the director doesn't shy away from repeatedly allowing him to demonstrate his ability to perform the splits (tasty!). He also does plenty of helicopter kicks and similar tricks that have more to do with athletics than serious martial arts. The film is supposedly based on the true life story of Frank W. Dux, an American trained in Ninjutsu who became a full contact martial arts champion in the second half of the seventies; however the writers Christopher Cosby and Mel Friedman clearly took major fictional liberties with the material when adapting it for the silver screen.

To honour his Japanese master Van Damme wants to become the first westerner to win the Kumite, a full contact mixed martial arts championship. There are flashbacks to Van Damme's training and a tedious comic subplot about him being chased by a couple of military goons for going AWOL from the US army. That said, the meat of the movie is the Kumite championship in Hong Kong. One suspects the setting was chosen to mimic "Enter The Dragon", and there are other Bruce Lee references scattered throughout the film, including an onscreen awkwardness with women and a certain coyness even when Van Damme succeeds in getting his rocks off (VD's rep as a tiger in bed seems to stem from his wife wanting a divorce on the grounds of unreasonable sexual demands - but maybe even that was a PR stunt). Jean Claude is a great athlete but doesn't have Bruce Lee's charisma. He comes across as narcissistic and slightly vacant, whereas Lee had an incredible magnetism that emerged from the smouldering rage that was a part of his life both on and off screen. That said, Lee was long dead by the time Van Damme made "Bloodsport" and the Belgian beauty is not only massively more attractive than the likes of Chuck Norris, he's also a better actor. However, for me the real star here is Bolo Yeung who camps it up as a villain of the martial arts ring who viciously taunts and even cold bloodedly kills his opponents. Yeung was 49 when "Bloodsport" was made but he is in such great shape and oozes so much charisma you wouldn't know it. In fact Yeung is so fantastically over-the-top I wanted him to win the Kumite championship, although obviously since this is an American movie influenced as much by "Rocky" as Bruce Lee's legacy it is Van Damme who walks away with the Miss Martial Arts crown. While "Bloodsport" isn't the greatest fight flick ever made - it isn't nearly as good as anything starring Bruce Lee, or even some of Jimmy Wang Yu's crazier ventures such as "Master of the Flying Guillotine" AKA "One Armed Boxer II" - it is well worth at least one viewing since the young Van Damme is really cute in this and Bolo Yeung is sensational!

Sleaze cinema 1 (earlier reviews)

Sleaze cinema 2 (earlier reviews)

Sleaze cinema 3 (earlier reviews)

The films of Manchester exploitation legend Cliff Twemlow

The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky



Stewart Home with his Barbie dolls
Watching too much trash cinema as a young man led to Stewart Home doing 'unspeakable' things with Barbie dolls - here he is in a threesome with two of the dolls he kidnapped from a thrift store.