Monday, October 29, 2012

Horror Europa With Mark Gatiss

Genre fan, actor and screenwriter Mark Gatiss follows up his highly endearing and entertaining 2010 series A History Of Horror with a one off companion piece entitled Horror Europa with Mark Gatiss.


As described on the BBC website "Actor and writer Mark Gatiss embarks on a chilling voyage through European horror cinema. From the silent nightmares of German Expressionism in the wake of World War I to lesbian vampires in 1970s Belgium, from the black-gloved killers of Italy's bloody Giallo thrillers to the ghosts of the Spanish Civil War, Mark reveals how Europe's turbulent 20th century forged its ground-breaking horror tradition. On a journey that spans the continent from Ostend to Slovakia, Mark explores classic filming locations and talks to the genre's leading talents, including directors Dario Argento and Guillermo del Toro."


I had no idea this was happening until today and it really brightened up a horrible day. Hopefully Gatiss will provide a similar balance of facts, personal memories (that I'm sure many of us of a certain age will share) and humour as he brought to his earlier series. You can catch the show on October 30th at 9pm, repeats will be shown at 2.10am on the 31st and 10.50pm on November 3rd.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cool Crap : Dr Lamb Alternate Hong Kong Poster

Not quite as keen on this alternate poster for Billy Tang's Dr Lamb as I am on this one, but it's awesome all the same. How could you not love the insane look on the Yamster's face? What about the body parts strewn across the table, including the boob in the bottom right corner?

Remember though kids, don't mix beer with sharp surgical tools and chainsaws, Dr Lamb is a professional!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cool Crap : Dr Lamb Hong Kong Poster

What better way to continue the horror theme than with the very special poster for Billy Tang's horrifying Dr Lamb. Long before seeing the movie I had already fallen in love with the film's fantastically lurid artwork. When I did eventually see the film and found the artwork bares little resemblance to the actual content, for once I didn't mind. Usually when a poster is misleading it promises something the movie cannot match, not with Dr Lamb though. This poster offers all kinds of terror and depravity but doesn't even come close to the (real life) horrors Simon Yam and Billy Tang actually deliver.


I never thought it would be possible for me to ever get my hands on this original Dr Lamb poster, and while the condition is far from perfect, who cares because the artwork itself certainly is!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Beasts


Hong Kong New Wave filmmaker Dennis Yu's 1980 movie The Beasts has a reputation as being something of a grim fest amongst Hong Kong cinema fans. So much so even the battle hardened Phantom Of Pulp said of the film "It's stuck with me for years like a sore that won't heal." If The Beasts should ever enjoy a re-release that quote should be on the poster, so perfectly does it encapsulate the feeling I was left with on finishing this gruelling experience.


Wah (Eddie Chan) and his sister Ling (Chong Jing Yee) go camping with friends in the New Territories, where they encounter a group of crazy locals (who the subtitles dub "The Disco Boys" and include a young Kent Cheng). The trip turns into a nightmare when Ling is viciously raped by the gang and Wah is murdered by them. Captured by the police, the gang escape justice when Ling proves too traumatised to testify against them. The siblings distraught father (Chan Sing) is left no choice but to go all Paul Kersey (by way of Ray Mears) on their ass.


Borrowing elements from many similarly themed films, but mainly Wes Craven's double of The Last House On The Left and The Hills Have Eyes, The Beasts is grim, humourless and uncomfortable viewing. Yu strips back the veneer of the moral compass this kind of genre film would usually have, and presents the events in a disturbingly matter of fact manner. It's through this lack of judgement on his characters and their actions the film gains it's real potency. It feels as though the director had only one intention with this film, and that was to make everyone suffer. Whether it be the actors or audience, no one gets an easy ride in The Beasts. Chong Jing Yee suffers more than anyone else and she deserves huge credit for her courageous performance.

Jack J gets around a bit
The filmmaking is of a surprisingly high standard, with the excellent photography in particular being at odds with the distinctly grindhouse feel of the rest of the movie. This polish (not a word I thought I would use for this film!) only increases the visceral grip the film holds over you. Definitely not a film for the faint hearted, less because of it's graphic violence and more for the nihilistic vibe it forces upon you. In addition the film contains numerous acts of animal abuse that are thoroughly repellent. Would I recommend it? Yes, but with strong reservations, consider yourself warned!


I saw the film via the (still in print) HK dvd, which I understand is slightly cut during the assault on Ling, and for violence later on, just as the original HK theatrical print was. A VHS version was also available which is uncut but dubbed, which I haven't seen. The film is more than strong enough in it's edited form that I'm not sure how much would be gained from reinstating the deleted footage at the expense of losing the original language track.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sadako 3D


Hideo Nakata's Ringu introduced genre fans to the scariest barnet in cinema via the manky haired, pale faced Sadako crawling out of the TV screen way back in 1998. The film based on a book by Koji Suzuki was a phenomenon, a triumph of concept and atmospheric execution. In it's wake came scores of copycat movies attempting to recreate the magic of Nakata's film, some good, some bad and the occasional one great. The net result being saturation of the market, in turn leading to the inevitable parodies of both the Sadako character and the trappings of the Asian ghost film. This left many fans, who initially championed Asian horror, with a been there done that , what else have you got attitude. Fourteen years on from the original movie, Suzuki comes back with a new book, and Tsutomu Hanabusa's film Sadako 3D, can this reboot breathe new life into the series and the Japanese ghost movie?


Teacher Akane (Satomi Ishihara) begins to hear rumours about a "cursed video" floating around on the internet, featuring someone commiting suicide, whoever sees the video also then kills themselves. Dismissing the story as just a rumour, she becomes concerned when one of her students who was searching for the clip inexplicably falls out of her apartment window. Akane investigates and finds the video and it's curse is all too real, and that she is somehow linked to the mysterious ghostly figure named Sadako.


The simple answer to the question I posed earlier is a resounding no. Where Nakata's original film played out as a mystery, with a slow drip feed of information gradually building a palpable sense of fear and dread, using the powerful image of Sadako to terrifying effect, Sadako 3D wants to be a roller coaster thrill ride. Unfortunately the filmmakers lack the basic skills and technique to achieve this proficiently, so out go the attempts to build mystery and atmosphere, and in comes an overkill of CG and 3D effects.

The concept of the film is interesting, by updating the technological aspects of the original story from a VHS tape to a viral video on the internet, it allows the horror to follow the characters almost everywhere they go, on computers, phones,  and even into the streets via advertising screens etc. Unfortunately the dreadful screenplay fails to explore this idea (or any others) sufficiently, instead choosing to concentrate on cheap jump scares and 3D effects. My viewing was in 2D, and this perhaps made it more obvious that the film was shot with it's emphasis on the 3D elements first and foremost rather than on what actually works for the scene at hand. To emphasise the visual issues, Sadako 3D has some of the worst CG effects I've seen for many years, for example the are multiple occasions of breaking glass that look truly terrible, like going back fifteen years or more. Worse still is the film's third act which descends into an uneasy mix of the depressing and the unintentionally funny. Concept aside, the only part of the film that works is lead actress Satomi Ishihara, who is significantly better than the material she is appearing in.


A generation on, clearly the series had to move forward but where Ringu was a horror film for adults, that had appeal for the teenage audience, Sadako 3D is a film for teenagers with little to no appeal for the audience that so embraced the 1998 movie. This in itself is not a crime, what is though is the gimmicky execution which is often embarrassingly poor, and could prove to be enough to kill off any renaissance of the series. This would be a shame as in my opinion Sadako still has scares to offer. Unfortunately in this film, just as Samson lost his strength without his hair, Sadako's power is completely muted, as if shorn of her long locks only for them to be replaced by an unconvincing CG fright wig!


Friday, October 19, 2012

Arrow's House By The Cemetery Blu ray


Arrow's blu ray release of Fulci's House By The Cemetery has been available since May, and Blue Underground's has been out for even longer, so why post about it now?

I ordered the Blue Underground version last Christmas time from Horror Movie Empire, during their infamous B.U sale, along with four other titles. Like many others who ordered from them, I am still waiting ten months later for either a refund or my discs, but that's another story! Anyway, I really wanted to watch the movie, and saw the Arrow version was reduced, so despite reviews suggesting the B.U disc was the better transfer I went for it.


Having never seen the B.U transfer I can't comment on it, but what I can say is the Arrow version is one of the worst examples of a blu ray I've seen. All the reviews I've read of the disc are quite favourable, and I just can't understand why. As an example the DVD Beaver comparison suggests the B.U transfer is "more robust" but doesn't criticise the Arrow version at all, indeed the screen caps on the link show only a subtle difference. This is a perfect example of how screen caps are not enough to judge the quality of a blu ray disc. When seen in motion the Arrow presentation is a real horror, far more terrifying than the murderous Dr. Freudstein in the movie! While I certainly wasn't expecting a reference quality disc, the least we should be able to expect from a blu ray is a "transparent" transfer of the best available elements. By transparent, I mean the disc should be free of visible faults introduced during the conversion from film to digital, so any faults that are there are down to the film itself, rather than the production of the disc.

A combination of video noise and truly awful video compression create an image that feels like it's alive, crawling with clumpy digital artefacts that just cannot be seen in a still shot. There are a number of possible reasons for this, the first and most obvious one is the video bitrate. As the DVD Beaver info shows the blu ray is a BD-50, yet the disc uses only around 30GB of the 50GB available, even worse the film itself uses only around 15GB. This makes absolutely zero sense, and makes me wonder if anyone even checked the encode prior to pressing the disc, so readily visible are the compression artefacts. There is simply no excuse when so much space is available on the disc. Another potential reason could be that the image has been tinkered with in regard to boosting contrast and brightness, making it appear that you can see a little more detail but instead it highlights the problems inherent in the transfer.


Rather than taking screen caps to try to highlight how poor the disc is, I've experimented with making a video of a comparison between the previously released Arrow dvd, which looks similar to the Anchor Bay dvd in the DVD Beaver piece. Turns out it wasn't very successful and is no better a way of highlighting blu ray quality than screen caps are. The compression of the camera and then youtube's compression makes it impossible to see what I'm getting at but I'm posting it out of interest anyway.

Click the link to see it on youtube House By The Cemetery dvd and blu ray comparison 

The two discs were played on the same player and projected onto the same screen, where I tried to capture roughly the same part of the image. The dvd is first, followed by the blu ray.

I'd be interested to hear the thoughts of anyone who has either the Blue Underground or Arrow blu rays. Are you happy with the quality of your version?


Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Island


Leung Po Chi's 1985 film The Island stars John Shum as Cheung, a geography teacher who takes a group of his students camping on an uninhabited island. Once there, they soon discover the island does have a population, a strangely behaving family of three brothers with a mother fixation, who are desperate to find a bride to provide the child to keep their lineage alive. Rather predictably the trip turns into a nightmare....


After we see the family in action at the beginning of the film and we know we could be in for a grim ride, we are introduced to the poorly developed student characters, and the movie becomes something of a tease. It seems to take forever to get to the point, however once the situation escalates the film kicks into gear and becomes the taut, grim and pretty nasty experience the opening promises. While never quite as graphic as you expect, the last half an hour still has plenty of opportunity to make the viewer wince. Shum's teacher is quite interesting as he shows cowardice through poor decision making before things get really tough, making his transformation into action hero when it really does kick off all the more important and believable. The desperate confrontations with Peter Chan Lung (the eldest of the brothers) are excellent, the choreography is given real life or death immediacy, important given how Shum is not the most physical looking of men.

This holiday destination's entertainment options are a little limited
Not your typical Hong Kong horror fare by any means, but an above average entry into the survival horror genre, The Island boasts impeccable taste in it's influences, the obvious ones being The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance. The film could have undoubtedly been improved with a little tightening up, but if you like the genre it has plenty to recommend it, not least of which is the fantastic island location itself, which manages to look beautiful despite the horrific events of the film.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tourist Trap


Made in 1979 and somewhat overshadowed by it's contemporaries, David Schmoeller's feature debut Tourist Trap is a definite oddity. Not only is it one of the more bizarre horror films of the seventies, it must surely also be one of the creepiest PG rated films ever made. At once impossible to take seriously, yet delivering the kind of unsettling mood and genuine scares many horror movies would kill for.


A group of friends (Including future Bond Girl Tanya Roberts) stop at an old rickety wax museum looking for their friend who is missing, where they encounter the friendly owner Mr Slausen (Chuck Connors). Despite being unnerved by the incredibly lifelike mannequins on display, the group stick around and soon begin to disappear, as the museum literally becomes the titular Tourist Trap....

Starting out as it means to go on, Tourist Trap's first set piece leaves you unsure of what you have just seen as a cacophony of laughing dummies and flying objects assault Woody (Keith McDermott), and from there events take a turn for the weird. Schmoeller's film borrows from a number of sources, including two of the very best in Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but blends all of it's influences into something, if not unique then distinctly individual.


In order to achieve this distinctive mood, Schmoeller employs some excellent, creative effects work (Impressive considering the film's obvious low budget) and more surprises than most horror franchises can muster in their entirety, alongside a committed central performance from Chuck Connors. All of these components are equally important, and they all produce spikes of fear throughout the film, contributing to a feeling of just when you think things can't get freakier, it can and does. The trump card of the film is the score by Pino Donaggio, who provides some of his very best work here. From bombastic horror to breathy female vocals, to the romantic love theme (don't ask!), this is a truly superb score and it's criminally unavailable on CD, various tracks were released on a compilation CD but that is now long out of print, and vinyl remains the only format the full score is released on.


Tourist Trap holds up remarkably well for such a low budget film, and it comes recommended to even the most jaded of horror fans. While it doesn't deliver much in the way of graphic violence, it's weird vibe and genuine scares should make Tourist Trap the kind of once a year Halloween treat any horror fan can get onboard with. If you have (a perfectly rational) fear of mannequins or freaky masks, then this film cannot be recommended anymore highly to you, but don't blame me if you can't sleep for weeks afterwards! Just one question, how did this get a PG rating?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sleeping Dogs : Nightmare In North Point DLC


Yesterday at the New York Comic-con Square Enix announced the first major DLC pack for Sleeping Dogs, their open world action game based on the streets of a fictionalised Hong Kong and heavily influenced by HK cinema. I haven't posted about the game previously as I was a little slow in picking it up in the first place and then enjoying the thing too much to bother. Since finishing it, unlike most games I still find myself returning to it, tearing up the streets of Hong Kong as main character Wei Shen.


The eagerly awaited additional content will be available on October 30th, just in time for Halloween, and will be called Nightmare In North Point, and will have a distinct horror flavour. As a tortured and killed triad comes back from the dead with an army of zombies looking for revenge. Promising "a few hours" of additional content, and to homage Hong Kong's heritage of horror cinema, I really can't wait to get my hands on this. Look out for the Geung-Si!



Saturday, October 13, 2012

The House By The Cemetery


Incoherent, illogical mess or Italian genre classic? In truth Lucio Fulci's The House By The Cemetery sits as comfortably in either category, and your opinion of it will very much depend on your tolerance for the strengths and weaknesses of director Fulci. Both are in full effect here, with wonderful atmosphere complimenting the usual stark Fulci imagery, while logic and sense all but abandon the "haunted house" plotting.


Dr. Boyle (Paolo Malco) moves his neurotic wife Lucy (Catriona MacColl) and his young son Bob (Giovanni Frezza) to the Freudstein house in Boston. Boyle is there to research why a colleague living in the house previously, committed murder and then suicide. While Boyle was eager to move, Lucy certainly wasn't, and Bob is less keen still after being warned not to go in the house by a mysterious young girl, who is of course ignored by his parents. Cue the strangeness, involving a weird babysitter, bizarre estate agents, something nasty in the basement and of course, this being a Fulci movie, copious gore and a few maggots....


The greatest strength of The House By The Cemetery is the rich, doom laden atmosphere Fulci and his team manage to generate. Beginning with the house itself, it's often said a location can act as a main character in a movie and nowhere is that more appropriate than here. The house is given a foreboding feel inside and out by the excellent photography and set design. This is only enhanced further by the creepy sound design and score. The weakest element is the aforementioned lack of logic and sense in the events of the first hour or so of the movie, the reason being if you get hung up on the details, you're going to be taken out of the film completely. If you can just go with it some of the events actually enhance the mood, with the strangeness giving a nightmarish feel to proceedings. However, there is one moment that completely breaks the mood, the infamous bat attack sequence. Common sense dictates if you have a poor effect shot, you use cinematic sleight of hand to cover the imperfections, not Fulci though. The camera lingers in loving close up on the bat attached to Boyle's hand as the audience howls with uncontrollable laughter. A serious misjudgement and one Fulci only just gets away with. Another serious error was the decision to have adults dub the voices of the two child actors, thankfully this doesn't prove to be as damaging as it could have, although it is a real irritant for many Fulci fans.


It may seem as though I have been hard on the film, but despite it's flaws, I love The House By The Cemetery and think it is one of Fulci's very best efforts. The first hour maybe relatively restrained by his own blood soaked standards, but the measured build up makes the gory hysterics of the "child in peril" finale all the more chilling and effective, and the haunting ending is truly excellent. Highly recommended.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Favourite Hong Kong Movies. The End.


So after around 70 days of Hong Kong movie lists, the curtain falls on Favourite Hong Kong Movies. I'd like to take the opportunity to thank every single person who has contributed to the project, obviously everyone who submitted a list, but also those who have supported the series on facebook and  elsewhere. I wasn't sure what kind of response I would receive when I first came up with the idea, I expected maybe 10 to 15 lists if I was lucky, so to get 30 plus was extremely gratifying.

I can honestly say I've had a blast doing FHKM, and I hope that everyone else has had a good time reading the lists and the thoughts of their fellow Hong Kong cinema fans. You may not always have agreed with the picks but it's fascinating how and why people make their choices. In addition, I've had a great time discovering and re-discovering movies featured on the lists and hope that you have all found at least one movie to fall in love with from this, either for the first time or all over again.

Before the final list of compiled favourites, a couple of quick stats. Across all the submitted lists there were a total of 191 different films chosen, and of those 191 choices, 114 were unique to individual lists. This is the aspect of the series I'm pleased with most, as it was always a possibility that it may be a very similar choice of films across the board, which was clearly was not the case.

Favourite Hong Kong Movies final 10 (actually 14), based on the number of appearances on lists.

10th = with 5 votes each.

Crippled Avengers


Drunken Master 2


Eastern Condors


Peking Opera Blues


Shaolin Soccer


5th = with 6 votes each.

Full Contact


In The Mood For Love


The Mission


Police Story


Wheels On Meals


4th with 7 votes.

Hard Boiled


2nd = with 8 votes each.

The Killer


Bullet In The Head


1st with 10 votes.

Chungking Express



For anyone new to the world of Hong Kong cinema, this list of movies would be an excellent jumping off point....

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Favourite Hong Kong Movies. Jack J, En Lejemorder Ser Tilbage


Last, but certainly not least on Favourite Hong Kong Movies is Jack, who managed to make the cut at the last possible moment. I'm really pleased he did, it wouldn't have been the same without him. Probably best known for his excellent blog En Lejemorder Ser Tilbage, which translated means "Memoirs of a hitman". Aside from that blog, Jack also finds time to run When The Vietnam War Raged In The Philippines, a crusade to champion trashy Philippine war movies, and Backyard Asia, to quote Jack "The weird, unknown, forgotten, never discovered, trashy, wild, gory, absurd, insane, dark, nasty wonders from the Asian backyard!!!" In addition Jack put out a couple of fanzines years ago "Banned In Britain" and "Stay Sick", and you can see a couple of issues via his blog. As if all that wasn't enough, he's a facebook regular and can often be found all over various movie message boards. A serious movie collector, few have the knowledge of worldwide releases Jack does, fewer still have the tenacity to track down those rarities the way he does!

Only relatively recently did my path cross with Jack's, surprising really as the history of how we discovered Hong Kong cinema is very similar. Much of what Jack writes in the intro to his list is almost identical to my own story (minus the Nordic Ice Hell part!). Anyway enough rambling, enjoy Jack's writing!


In 1988 I discovered the splatter film via a ”Dead all night” zombie film screening at the old Scala Cinema Club in London. I started to buy gore and horror movie fanzines and in one of them, “In The Flesh” (from Manchester if memory serves me well), the editor Steve C. raved about these new wild films from Hong Kong that he had found. BOOM!! That was it! I read those reviews. I re-read those reviews. I assaulted shop assistants at Tower Records, at Forbidden Planet, at everywhere that had a tiny video section, in order to find those films. Needless to say, it was an almost impossible journey as those underground fanzine guys didn’t get their films from normal video stores but through tape-trading with friends. Friends who lived close to Chinatown video rentals – or knew someone who did.

Later, I relocated to the Nordic Ice-hell and decided to venture down the same less than legit road myself. Yes, I became a VHS tape-trader. And what a wonderful world that suddenly lay open! I remember receiving video lists from collectors in Finland; video lists the size of a phone book (almost). And half of the films were from this new, unexplored territory Hong Kong (well, unexplored to us white Gwilo horror fans anyway). There were films became instant classics in the blood drenched genre overnight. John Woo became a god. We were his soldiers and Chow Yun Fat was our cool cult leader. Those guys could do no wrong. Nobody wanted the old “karate films”. All that mattered was “the new wave of Hong Kong films” (later I discovered that to the Hongkongese this term actually applies to a different kind of films but let’s forget about that for now and stay at gwilo level for now shall we). I lived and breathed this massive new Hong Kong film barrage; the “heroic bloodshed” films, the “girls with guns” films (aka “girls kick ass and look cute” films), the horror films, the hopping vampire films, the over-the-top dark horror films, and even the silly comedies. Like my peers from the horror scene who discovered these films in the early 90s I wasn’t particularly interested in old-skool kung fu films and you’ll notice their absence from my fave Top 10. Maybe I’ll get there some day.

In a way my list is actually rather boring. There’s no funny films to make you go, “Wauw, he’s got THAT one on his list!” and you won’t go “Gee, I’ve never heard of that one, let’s check it out”. My films are basically all the classics from twenty years back. To me they are still valid. It was hard work cutting down to only 10 and as you can see I did a bad job of it (as there’s still 14 left).

No particular order:

THE KILLER.


This was the very first HK film I bought on VHS. I think a lot of UK and Euro fans began with this tape, the old UK English dubbed, fullscreen video tape. Fully uncut which was a bid deal to us back then (as UK tapes were often censored in those days as I’m sure you’ve heard). The ol’e VHS still has a special place on my shelf and in my heart.


A CHINESE GHOST STORY.


I remember Jonathan Ross presenting this on an episode of his legendary cult TV show THE INCREDIBLE STRANGE FILM SHOW in the UK (late 80s/early 90s). I can no longer count how many times throughout the years I’ve watched this film. The mix (as mentioned in Ross’ show) between Eastern mythology and THE EVIL DEAD is just great. There were two sequels and countless imitators (one is PICTURE OF A NYMPH) and although none of them are as good I would highly recommend them all for the pure and sheer wild horror fix.


PEKING OPERA BLUES.


Another classic from way back. Tsui Hark’s brilliant film. Words fail me and you should just seek it out (Jonathan Ross covered it in his programme too, and you should seek that old show out too. Unless they’ve been deleted recently they’re all on YouTube).


ANGEL 2.


I could have made a complete Top 10 list of “girls with guns” films all of its own. Actually, I could have made TWO lists. Haha. I love the genre, purely and simply. These films are all too often criticized for being all action, no story, and no real character development. I fail the see the problem. These films star cute 1980s Hong Kong babes like Moon Lee, Cynthia Khan, Michelle Khan (yes, I’m so old I still use the old name), and Yukari Oshima (and many more) who shoot guns and kick ass. And they are so entertaining I don’t really give a fudge about their lack of complex story line or anything but a paper thin plot to transport us to the next shoot ‘em up and/or kick their arse scene. My favourite entry to the genre is ANGEL 2 but all three films are great and films like KILLER ANGELS and ANGEL TERMINATORS 2 are better than sex (okay, bad sex but still!).


THE RAPE AFTER.


I had quite a few films from this genre on my notepad; this genre that I have Christened “The Dark and Nasty Hong Kong Horror Moves from the ‘70s and ‘80s”!! But I had to narrow it down to just one film and I think it HAS to be THE RAPE AFTER. It’s one of the films I first viewed on a first or second generation VHS dupe from Finland circa early 1990s, and it’s one that I still return to (I own the film on various legit video tapes now but unfortunately the film has never been granted a DVD release). The plot is too wild and odd to explain but watch it if you get a chance. The trailer is on YouTube. Other favourites in the genre; BLACK MAGIC WITH BUDDHA, BLACK MAGIC  1 & 2.


IN THE LINE OF DUTY 2 aka YES, MADAM!


It’s out of pure nostalgic reasons I’m using the old “In the Line of Duty” moniker here. The original HK English title is YES, MADAM! but I first found the film on an English dubbed, fullscreen VHS from Denmark (with a front cover title that read “Ultra Force 2”!). To me, this is as good as it gets. Michelle Khan teams up with Cynthia Rothrock and Tsui Hark is in there too as a two bit crook! It’s one of the fun’est and entertaining’est of the bunch if you ask me. Is it big filmmaking? Probably not. Entertaining? Hell yes.

PS: Do watch the old dubbed version if you find it; it has a different beginning that differs from the original version in that, uh, it’s actually from a completely different movie! (which I’m informed is WHERE IS OFFICER TUBA but I can’t confirm that as I’ve never watched that).


BLACK CAT.


This is the HK remake of NIKITA (aka La Femme Nikita) and although I love the original film I love this one even more. Jade Leung is just that one tad more wild than her French counterpart. And in contradiction to the original film (as well as the American remake) BLACK CAT is the only film that has sequels!


EBOLA SYNDROME.


It was a tough choice between this one and UNTOLD STORY! They’re both directed by Herman Yau, they both star crazy, wild, and no-holds-barred Anthony Wong, and both films are among the best nasty, yukky, and insane horror films from any country. You should watch them both. And catch Yau’s TAXI HUNTER too in which he makes Wong take on taxi drivers. Don’t let the film’s Category IIb status think less of the film!


MR VAMPIRE.


Another film I have to thank Jonathan Ross (and early VHS tape-traders) for! I watched this on a tape off UK TV and never looked back. Hopping vampires! Lam Ching Ying!! Ricky Hui!!! Do I need to keep repeating myself!? These films are so wild, over-the-top, no-holds-barred, and wild (again) that they put most other stuff to shame, in my book anyway. They’re so much fun to watch. There are bucket loads of sequels, some are great, some are less good, but I’d recommend checking them all out if you can find them.


ROUGE.


Much like PEKING OPERA BLUES this is a favourite not least because it’s such a beautiful film. A beautiful film and at the same time a sad story – both on-screen and in real life. Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung play characters that meet and fall in love but they can’t have each other. So they decide to take the step into the next world but something doesn’t go as planned and Anita Mui’s character must search through the centuries for her lost love. The film is extremely well acted and directed. Mui and Cheung are fantastic in their roles. Unfortunately, real life kind of reimagined the plot line. A few years after Anita Mui died of (I believe) lung Cancer and Leslie Cheung committed suicide.


HAUNTED COP SHOP 2.


I’ve already mentioned Ricky Hui once in this Top 10 (MR VAMPIRE) and here he is again in probably one of my most watched and re-watched HK films! HAUNTED COP SHOP 2 is a wild-wild-wild horror/vampire comedy. I can’t even describe the plot because… I’m not even sure whether I just never noticed the plot or if there simply ISN’T a plot to notice. But the film is so wild and silly it really doesn’t matter one way or the other. The scene of Ricky Hui part having sex with and part tickling a female vampire in order to keep her from killing him has me in tears every single time. And the finishing line of “I’ll remember him every time I urinate” is what classics are made of. Well, in my house anyway.


THE BEASTS.


Here’s one of the original Hong Kong new wave films from around 1980. Unfortunately, it gained (bad) splatter film notoriety when a certain bootlegger in the US decided to cut out a huge chunk of dialogue and add hardcore porn inserts instead (never released officially but on bootleg tape as “The Flesh and Bloody Terror”). It’s a great pity if anybody were to only watch this braindead version and not the original film. Did said bootlegger think horror fans only want gore and nasty rape porn? Forget about the recut edit and watch the original film, it’s very good! Yes, it’s still a gory horror film but with the original dialogue the characters are not just mere cardboard characters that get killed, chopped to bits, and raped. It’s a very well made nasty new wave horror film that’ll stay with you for quite a while.


ON THE RUN.


Here’s a sadly overlooked Hong Kong film noir masterpiece! ON THE RUN is the story of a policeman (Yuen Biao, completely out of character) who teams up with a female hitman (Pat Ha in her best role and with the wildest hairdo) who killed his wife on a contract. The film is Hong Kong cinema when it’s most wonderful and they should show this to the students at film schools around the world. Unfortunately, the only subtitled and uncut version is the old video tape from the “Made in Hong Kong” label in the UK.


STORY OF RICKY.


As an old-skool splatter film fan how could I not have this on the list! Based on a Japanese Manga that was later made into a Japanese animé, and later the good people of Hong Kong made this film version. I have a hard time describing the film as, again, the plot is thin but the (splattery) outcome is awesome! It’s one of the very best splatter films ever made and at the same time probably also one of my fave comicbook film adaptations. Look out for Yukari Oshima (female and from Japan) playing a guy. See if you can find the subtitled animé as it’s also TOTALLY brilliant. There’s even an animé sequel! There are bootlegs and I saw both animé films (subbed!) on YouTube at one point. I think part one has only been officially released English friend on a German DVD release of STORY OF RICKY.


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