Friday, August 25, 2017

Black Mask

Black Mask Starring Jett Li, Directed by Daniel Lee (1996). 

After compiling the list on, I noticed that we've neglected hordes of titles in the DR catalog, especially the Hong Kong action ones. I'm thinking we might even throw together a special tribute week. 

So, that's what inspired me to review this tepid, run of the mill, Matrix-y yawn-fest. This besides the abysmally disappointing Heroic Trio is the most widely viewed Hong Kong flick in the bootleg catalog and both are usually very easy to find. When this Jett Li vehicle showed up on STARZ, I figured it would fun to check out. I know I've had a more torturous time getting through a flick before (this one was even dubbed, with no white on white subs), so why did I just find it bland?

The brilliant Tsui Hark is in the producer chair but his usual action packed flicks and gory attributes that make his films so incredible are absent here. The casting of Jet Li seems as if Chow-yun Fat was busy, I mean to me, he's not very likeable in the main role. There are human time bombs called 701s, they detonate without warning. The description in the beginning goes by light speed so I had to rewind it to figure out what the deal was. I'm not the only one, either according to Lisa Morton's book "The Cinema of Tsui Hark", "Black Mask wants to both revel in the superhero mythos and deconstruct it but the script doesn't pursue either idea further enough". There's even some sexual ambiguity that they leave unexplained, Jett's character gets all frustrated at his female co worker in the library when she comes onto him.


The score is pretty lame and it's peppered with some wack rap beats. Jett hides out in the library and works there. As a volunteer at the library myself, I know what a bitch it us to get hired, so I'm not sure how he just slipped by without a double masters degree. I was pretty alarmed by Anthony Wong's appearance, he sports a pony tail, gold teeth and a see thru plastic outfit, plus he wears only shorts as he jumps around waving a gun. It's pretty shitty that he just disappears because he really could've brought this film to another level. There's one odd part when the hero injects a girl from the library with some roofie or something and ties her up then she plays a video game.

this grill is totally funky fresh.

The action is pretty frequent but it's all kind of done in a mainstream "Keanu Reeves in a black vinyl duster" style way. The mask that Jett wears looks incredibly stupid but is reminiscent of the Green Hornet's sidekick Kato (obviously no one is claiming to replace Bruce Lee however, although millions have tried--see Brucesploitation). There is a yucky cyberpunk vibe to this flick that just leaves a horrible taste. I wonder if The Wachowskis were fans of this film, they made Bound the same year this came out. I have to admit, even though I'm not a fan of any of their works, I did love their Hard-Boiled comic book, I still can't believe it was the same team behind that. 

if you think I'm scary, you should meet my cousin CD man from Hellraiser 3.

I don't know what people see in Jett Li, he has no acting range and there's always bits of skin hanging off his lips, I wonder how many actors audition for his role in The Expendables 2. Another thing I don't understand about the subplot is why would the main character retire from being a librarian, that's a pretty cushy job, why risk your life everyday instead? Wong's character checks out and gets replaced by this long-haired religious weirdo duster wearing goofy John Lennon glasses. Sometimes this movie comes off like a really warped episode of Red Shoe Diaries especially the music. I would say skip it and watch a really horny episode of Three's Company instead, a total snoozefest!


this just looks like a new fetish in the works to me.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Dragons Forever (1988)

DRAGONS FOREVER (1988, dir. Sammo Ma-Bo Hung, Corey Yuen.)

Review by Goat Scrote

     I was excited to see a Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung/Biao Yuen collaboration on the list of Deep Red movies. My expectations may have been set a little high by the mind-blasting awesomeness of some of their other work. The action in this one felt a little too familiar, like a retread of bits and pieces of fights we've seen in their other films. It’s still very exciting action, but it feels like they didn’t challenge themselves to do something new and interesting despite the spectacular talents involved.

Go on, try. I dare you.
    “Dragons Forever” has all of the fights you could hope for. Some of them felt like they were only there to pad the time, or their setup was contrived, but the important thing is that they were fun to watch. There’s plenty of Jackie Chan's trademark humor and prop-based action, but no big set-piece “wow” stunts that popped out at me. Sammo Hung’s fight choreography is superb of course, but the editing in a handful of the action scenes was a little choppy, rapidly cutting in a way that made it harder to tell what was going on. The stunt work, as you'd expect, is utterly phenomenal.

     If you’re a fan of any of the main actors you will probably find plenty of enjoyment here. It entertained me thoroughly, although there are a lot of other movies in the same vein I would rather re-watch. It’s a better-than-usual Hong Kong action/comedy/romance flick, it just doesn’t rise to the level of invention and excitement which Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan deliver in some of their other projects.

     The plot contains a heavy romance story element, which might make it a decent date-night action movie. The characters are mostly quite flat and underdeveloped, however, and only the innate charisma of the main characters carried the romantic side of the movie. There are two interconnected romance plots, one each for Sammo and Jackie. I don’t really like romance movies and there was a lot more of that element here than in your typical HK actioner. The romances drive the character arcs of the two male leads and has a direct impact on the shifting alliances in the movie, so I can’t hate on it too much.

Stop! In the name of love... and my invincible kung fu.
     The romantic storylines arise from the other driving force of the story, the legal battle against narcotics manufacturer Boss Hua. He is operating under the guise of a legitimate chemical factory, which is poisoning waters downstream and affecting a fishery. This eventually grows into open violent conflict between the three heroes and the forces of corporate and criminal evil. The various subplots directly intertwine and affect each other, so the romance elements really are essential to the plot.
     The movie opens with a meeting in which Boss Hua Hsien-Wu (Wah Yuen), a mobster, screws over a business associate and shoots him in cold blood. Hua’s lackeys don’t even flinch, but damn, somebody is going to have to get a new sofa now, and that sofa really pulled the room together.

Asian Grouch0 Marx enjoys a post-homicide smoke.

     Defense lawyer Mr. Jackie Lung (Jackie Chan) and his assistant Mary (Crystal Kwok) have lunch. Some men show up, smack Mary for opening her mouth, and abduct her. Mr. Lung fights his way through the thugs to rescue her. As a reward, she slaps him and accuses him of working with the bad guys, so he slaps her back. I didn’t quite get the purpose of this entire scene, as I didn’t ever catch on to how the assistant figured into the overall plot or who these thugs were working for.

     Mr. Lung flirts with a whole series of woman while walking down the halls with his assistant, to establish what a ladies man he is. In court, Mr. Lung proves to be kind of a sleazy defense lawyer, defending a rapist and getting him loose on a technicality. Then he defies that first impression when the defendant thanks him, and Jackie delivers a brutal uppercut. He is apparently conflicted about the work he does. The judge just overlooks this little infraction. If I am to believe this movie, the Hong Kong legal system runs in a very counter-intuitive fashion. It’s a lot like the feeling I get watching an episode of “Law & Order”. I am skeptical about whether the scriptwriters have any practical understanding of what they're writing about.

Whoa, this aquarium is a tube, dude, and it's blowing my mind!
     Miss Yip (Deannie Yip) tries to negotiate with cigar chain-smoker Boss Hua. She wants his factory shut down because it is poisoning local waters and ruining her fishery business. He doesn’t want production shut down because he is making obscene amounts of money. Jackie Lung represents Hua Chemical Company against the fishery, and Hua wants his staff to use every underhanded trick in the book to find dirt on Miss Yip and the fishery. Miss Wen (Pauline Yeung), beautiful cousin of Miss Yip, consults with the lawyers about the ecological testing she has done. Jackie relentlessly and inappropriately flirts with her and she stonewalls him.

     Elsewhere, Luke Wong Fei-hung (Sammo Hung) is dealing firearms out of his duffel bag in an abandoned warehouse. When his clients can’t afford the guns, they attack him to try to take the merchandise and he gives them a solid beat-down. Luke gets a phone call from Jackie on his huge 1988 cellular phone, and the two meet up.

I've had a very emotional day. Now I'm gonna shove your
machete up your ass. Sideways. Deep.

     Some time later, eccentric  burglar Timothy Tung Tak-Biao (Biao Yuen) returns to his unusual home and discovers someone is up to something sinister inside. He acrobatically ascends the roof and climbs in through the skylight. There is a fight in the dark, before Timothy realizes he has been attacking his friend Jackie. Jackie came by to ask Timothy to use his electronics and cat-burglar skills to plant a listening device in the apartment of Miss Yip.

     Luke/Sammo moves to a new neighborhood and meets his nice lady neighbor, who is (not by coincidence) Miss Yip. It’s obvious he’s here to spy on her when he breaks out wacky listening devices. He spots Timothy climbing around the building, trying to plant the bug in Miss Yip’s apartment, and he doesn't know that they're both working for Jackie. The burglar gets caught (after stupidly planting the electronic bug in a watery vase) and gets into a fight with Luke. Afterwards, Miss Yip sees Luke as more of a hero.

Go, go, Gadget creep-o-matic!

     Things get complicated with Timothy when he shows up in the middle of a date between Jackie and Miss Wen the ecologist. Then Luke shows up too, but he is supposed to be undercover and has to hide in the apartment while Miss Wen is there. Luke stumbles across the burglar Timothy, who is also there to talk to Jackie, and the two have a fight while Jackie tries to prevent his date from investigating the loud noises. He rushes her out of the apartment and breaks up the fight, then tries to mend the conflict since the two criminals are both helping him.

     Jackie meets with Boss Hua at a club. A rival gang shows up and attacks with cleavers, fighting with Hua’s men. Jackie and his two friends are caught in the middle and forced to help fend the attackers off. Hua’s criminal enemies start specifically targeting Jackie now, because he is both a ruthless lawyer and a skilled fighter. 
"If do right, no can defense." - Mr. Miyagi

    Jackie and Miss Wen go on a date on a yacht, when assassins on ski-doos or whatever they’re called attack the boat. Jackie gets into one of his signature acrobatic, prop-heavy fights against a legion of foes and sends one of them flying overboard. Then the last assassin jumps in the water willingly, since he doesn’t want to face the fury of Jackie! This puts an end to another date with Miss Wen.

     Sammo flirts with his neighbor Miss Yip relentlessly. She turns him down, he’s too pushy. Even so, Miss Yip ends up showing up to the place he said he’d wait for her, a restaurant, and he chases her shouting his devotion through a megaphone. Somehow this works and she ends up going on a dinner date with him when she should be getting a restraining order. (Shades of John Hughes here.)

And you stink like sweaty ass-crack.

     There are lots of cutesy scenes showing the couples each bonding on their own. The two couples are genuinely falling in love. An assassin attacks all four of them while they are together. The assassin gets caught and turns out to be their crazy friend Timothy. He then spills the beans about the two other men dating the women to help win the case. The women  storm away, quite understandably, and don’t give them a chance to explain what their real feelings are.

     A three-way free-for-all develops between the friends, each of them mad at the other two for the turn things have taken. This ends with the trio getting arrested and released shortly afterward.

Sammo Hung's brief, controversial bondage porn career.
     Luke blocks a road to get the women to stop so he can declare his devotion to Miss Yip. She hits him with a wrench and then feels bad and wipes away the blood. He convinces her that he is no longer in it to win the case, or for money, but for love.

     In the factory, the two buddies Luke and Timothy sneak in to take pictures to prove the place is a drug factory. They discover secret doors and Luke slips inside one to get to the “real” factory where the narcotics are made and where the pollutants are dumped straight into the water. The workers notice him taking pictures and he has to fight a room full of thugs to get away with his photographic evidence. Since he is a righteous badass he beats the lackeys, but then a non-asian guy (martial arts champ Benny Urquidez) shows up and beats Luke badly. He is tied up and injected with narcotics to knock him unconscious. Timothy is still free, and escapes to get help.

I would put a joke here but I'm afraid Benny Urquidez
would rip out my still-beating heart.

     In court, the hearing begins. Jackie is there defending Boss Hua, putting him at odds with Miss Yip and Miss Wen. Jackie cross examines his main squeeze Wen and asks her under oath if she loves him. Improbably, the judge compels her to answer. She says yes and this gives Jackie an excuse to recuse himself from the case because of the conflict of interest, freeing him from his allegiance to Hua.

     Timothy, Jackie and Wen sneak into the factory again and end up in a confrontation with Hua’s men. This leads to lots of acrobatic fighting on walkways and rapid-fire stunt work. They find their drugged friend Luke and Timothy fights a horde to rescue him. The head enforcer played by Benny Urquidez is the last foe to face off with Timothy, and takes him down with one kick.

The inventor of the used-panty vending machine.
     Jackie keeps fighting the endless minion supply elsewhere, trying to get at Boss Hua. He chases Hua and they fight, then Benny shows up and takes over. Jackie and the Benny have an epic boss fight, while Boss Hua occasionally darts in to deliver a kick or a cigar burn before flitting back out of reach. This fight is much more entertaining because of his antics.

     Given the creators involved I expected some insane set-piece battles, especially here at the climax. Although they definitely use the multileveled terrain of the drug factory the climactic confrontation is more of a straightforward kung fu fight with some comic relief.

I just fucking LOVE being EVIL so god-damned MUCH!
     Hua spots Miss Wen and attacks her, but Luke leaps to the rescue and injects Hua with a fully-loaded syringe of the drugs. Boss Hua is tossed into the toxic waste tank while overdosing. Jackie takes down Benny the badass shortly afterward. The good guys get their girls, all three of the friends survive without going to jail, and the bad guys get their just desserts. Hooray!

Ooooh crap. Isn't this how the Joker got his start?

Flap your arms really fast and you can fly, just like Jackie Chan!

Yum, semen flavored!
(Oh shit, I am gonna get murdered for real now.)

Taste my bacon-flavored shoe of justice!

Gross, you never kung-fu fight with dogshit on your shoe!

So it's true... Sammo IS hung!

Hey Jackie, remember that time you saved my life
and to say thanks I slapped you really hard? Good times!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Angel. Directed by Robert Vince O’Neill, starring Donna Wilkes (1984).

Image Entertainment/ New World pictures put out an amazing DVD that includes all Angel films in the series on one disc for a small price, I and Mrs. Crank were stoked to find this out, all for 9$, it's a steal I tells ya!

The first time I saw the sleazy cover of a Jekyll and Hyde-esque hooking Donna Wilkes on the cover, I was sold. “High School student by day, Hooker by Night”, what a top notch tagline that was! I saw the VHS tape most likely at Q video (a long defunct chain that was half record store and partial rent out video store). This is also the first place I saw Color Me Blood Red and George Romero’s Martin. I was middle school age at the time and was trapped in adolescence. I seem to remember seeing a clip of Dick Shawn in drag on WDZL in Florida, the same channel I watched the women in prison flick Vendetta on, man what a glorious time, when you could jump stumble face first into high grade sleaze accidentally on TV between reruns of My Three Sons or The Jetsons. That channel really destroyed my fragile mind and turned me into the obsessive gore-nerd that I am today.

psychedelically speaking, I'm talking about blowjobs.

Robert Vincent O’Neill (not to be confused with Vince Neil or the former buffoon of Motley Crue, who’s Vegas restaurant currently offers a margarita served in a toilet bowl).
O’ Neiil cut his writing chops on SWV classics like The Mighty Gorca, Psycho Lover and one of my all time favorite scummy flicks, Vice Squad!

We’re back in the thick of desperation and terror or the streets of mid 80’s Hollywood Blvd. Right off the jump start, one obvious flaw here is that Craig Safan (who’s usually a competent score writer, tries to ape Bill Conti with a syrupy “after school special theme”. I mean we get it—ramp up the sympathy for the main character. I guess it worked for Bad Boys with Sean Penn, perhaps the producer figured it would work here.

I wonder how many of those Danish butter cookies I could fit in my mouth?

Shrimpy Molly (Donna Wilkes), who you may remember from such classics as Jaws 2, Grotesque with Linda Blair (which I reviewed for Monster #31 or Schizoid is the title character. There’s some prime "West Coast Deuce" footage on par with Vice Squad. Molly (aka Angel)'s surrogate family is a cowboy (played by Motel Hell’s Rory Calhoun), Dick Shawn in drag (or LSD from The Producers) and Susan Tyrell (as Solly the punk landlord with a heart of gold). There’s a preverbal fly in the ointment of our drama though, an egg sucking mommy fixated serial killer played by John Deil, who a few years later ended up on Miami Vice and played a corporate psycho in Mo' Money. His type of wacko registers somewhere in between the police lineup of the dude from 10-Midnight or the ninja psycho from Fear City. There’s even some off screen necrophilia, highlighted by a jaunty “summer place knockoff” theme! Why, who the fuck knows? 

my spirograph formed into a mugshot somehow.

I like how even though the main character was interchangeable (they replaced Molly, 3 times), Susan Tyrell and Rory as Solly and The Cowboy returned for their paychecks in each sequel. I should also mention that Tyrell’s dykey character looks almost exactly like Susan Lowe’s from Desperate Living.

there's no toilets in Mortville or in this apartment complex either.

When the serial killer character strips down and gets in a washtub and scrubs the blood off his nude body, it’s really funny if you play Yakety Sax over that segment. Cliff Gorman plays a helpful cop who has sympathy for Angel and her pals. The only movie I’ve ever seen him in was Boys in the Band, a William Friedkin melodrama, where he plays a screeching over the top effeminate gay character.

Farmer Vincent? You must have me confused with someone else, I'm a cowboy.

The scene where the three high school boys abduct Molly and threaten to rape her is pretty surreal, one guy squeals “let’s see that whisker biscuit” and they all proudly boast that they will all get her pregnant. The story arc takes all sorts of winds and turns and it's basically leading up to her becoming a cop and getting off the streets. Go out of your way to see, this flick though, I never get tired of watching it and each sequel gets more ridiculous. Betsy Russell, the girl they replace her with in Avenging Angel is pretty foxy too.

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