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Friday, February 17, 2023

The Order of Myths

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 Disclaimer: The following post is not in the scope of this blog, but I had a a strong reaction to this documentary and have thoughts about it. Besides that, its been an obscenely long time since I have posted anything here.

I am admittedly not a film expert, have never made a documentary, and probably never will, but I do watch a many of them and believe that I am a fairly decent judge of their quality. 

That being said, I truly hated 2008's The Order of Myths, and I apologize in advance.

The film, directed by Margaret Brown, is about Mardi Gras in Mobile, AL, which which has a long history, dating back to the 1700s. While it does begin as a history of the season, it devolves into a statement about racism, classicism, and slavery. While all of that is certainly worth analyzing, I got the sense that she likely deceived many of her interview subjects, as to the purpose of this film.

While it seems to be a current practice for some documentarians (Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock, etc.) to deceptively edit interviews, in order to put the subjects in a bad light, they at least seem to have been upfront about the intent of the film. 

Considering that some of the cringeworthy things that a few of the white subjects say, they had likely been led to believe that Brown, a Mobile native, was acting in good faith. I seriously doubt that she forewarned them, some being family members and people she had grown up with, that she was going to make them look like racists.

Maybe they are racist or just isolated or insensitive, I don't know. On the other hand, she may have selectively edited out qualifying statements or their comments about lower class whites, which I would guess were probably made. Again, I don't know, but many appear to be aristocratic and any of those could possibly be the case.

The thesis of the documentary was that the major organizations are racist, because they are segregated. I believe that is probably a fair criticism, particularly with the main Mardi Gras organization, the Mobile Carnival Association, which is made up of the aforementioned aristocrats.

To illustrate that point, she tells the story of the Clotilda (more about that later) since she was contrasting MCA with the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association (MAMGA), which is the alternative organization whose members are descendants of the slaves who were carried over on that ship, ‪while the Queen of the MCA in the year that she was filming was a descendant of the scumbag who chartered the ship‬.

For background, US participation in the slave trade was banned by Congress in 1807, but continued illegally through the 1850s, and the Clotilda was the last one known slave ship to arrive on our shores, in 1860. 

The story goes that Timothy Meaher, a shipbuilder, on a bet, chartered the it to carry 124 slaves from Africa to Mobile. When the ship arrived, he told the captain that he was going to collect on his bet and to scuttle the ship if he wasn’t back before a certain time. He didn’t make it back in time and the ship was scuttled, killing some of the slaves, while the rest escaped and settled in Plateau, which later became known as Africatown.

Anyway, back to the main story. She used the MCA Queen’s ancestry as a vehicle for reinforcing her message. The poor girl had nothing to do with the events of over 150 years earlier. Sins of the father being projected onto descendants always nauseates me, even considering my dislike for aristocracy.

On top of that, Brown is Old Mobile, and her grandmother was an MCA Queen back in the 1930s. She used her background  for getting access to the inner workings of the organizations, and, again, apparently didn’t disclose the purpose of her film. 

She interviewed two of her grandparents and I believe that it put them in a very poor light, because of some of the stories that they told and and comments that were made. I sensed a violation of trust, because I doubt that she told them that she was going to make them look like unreformed racists. 

She also interviewed members of some members of newer organizations, who are not part of the aristocracy. Granted, I was really taken aback by some of the things that one of them, who was wisely in costume, said, that even the most objective person could probably view as being racist.

I will give Brown some credit in that she at least admits in her frequent self-inserts that she’s making the film because of her politics and the guilt that she feels about being part of the aristocracy. 

To be clear, I don’t really care about how she made the MCA look, because I’ve never liked it, I guess because of my blue collar background, and have always thought a Mardi Grass Court was boring and stupid.

My problem with the film is that I sense that she made the film in an underhanded way. It bears repeating that I seriously doubt that she was upfront with the MCA participants,  because it’s hard for me to believe that they would have otherwise said the things that they did or let her film. However, it does appear that the MAMGA participants had been aware of her intentions.

I understand that the focus of a documentary may change as it is being made, but, it seems to me, the directors tend to clearly state whether that was the case. The statements that Brown makes throughout the film indicate that was not the case here, and, I believe, that she was acting in bad faith. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the impression that I got.

On the other hand, the parts about MAMGA were quite excellent and interesting. Brown later followed up that part with a film about the Clotilda and the residents of Africatown, in 2022's Descendant

That being said, it is a competently made film, but I don’t believe that it was made in an ethical manner, but what do I know? 

The Order of Myths is available on Netflix, Kanopy, and Mubi, and I give it 2 out of 5 Sugar Beads.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

13 Assassins (1963)

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 We all have things about us that we want to keep hidden. These things can be small (chronic flatulence) or large (an arrest). To hide those things, whatever they may be, we create stories or other ways to hide or obscure them. The hiding is also something done by cultures and countries, to cover less flattering things about their history. In Japan, they have specific words for this: Honne and Tatemae.

Honne is what is true, or what actually happened, while Tatemae is what others need to see, or the official story. While, in modern times, the Honne has been difficult to hide, it appears that the Tatemae runs rampant in the history of Feudal Japan, where the honor of the Samurai and other castes, and their ingrained need to protect their masters' honor was used as a tool to facilitate Tatemae. Supposedly, the story of the 13 Assassins is supposedly based on actual events that fell victim to Tatemae**.

My reason for that assertion is that I've read that the story is actually part of Japanese lore, but there is no official record.***  The story has been filmed at least twice, in 1963, and again in 2011. I have previously reviews the remake, but just recently got around to this version.

13 Assassins (Juzan-nin no Shikaku)  is set during the Japan's feudal period. Lord Naritsuga, brother of the Shogun is cruel, and terrorizes the citizens under his rule, and is allowed to, because of his familial connection. Even worse, he is soon to be elevated to a loftier position, where he will gain even more authority, with much less accountability.

The elder council decided that they must stop his ascent. In order to do this, they approach Shinzaemon (Shinza), who is something of a Marshall. He is reluctant to take up the mission, until a villager, whose son and daughter-in-law (after she was raped) were murdered by Narigatsu. 
Shinza's moment of decision
After Shinza accepts the task, which of course the elders will disavow any knowledge of, he sets out to assemble his group of assassins. They consist of various ronin, other Marshals, and a country samurai.

Assassins assemble!

Hanbei, Narigatsu's head of security, gets wind of the plot, and after failed attempts by spies to gain evidence, confronts Shinza, but is unable to get him to admit to anything. As a result, he is unable to take any direct action, and is left to plan for any traps the assassins may set.

This all leads to Narigatsu eventually embarking on a tour of his domain, and Shinza seeing an opportunity to complete his mission. Through various machinations, the assassins are able to end Narigatsu's reign of terror.

One of Hanbei and Shinza's confrontations

 This is a truly great film. The story is engaging, the cast is magnificent, and the requisite battle is appropriately climactic.

One of the things that I like about the Samurai-era period films is how politics and various codes can drive the story. An example of this is how while Hanbei clearly loathes Narigatsu, and is clearly an honorable man, he is bound by duty to serve his master.

To further illustrate this, he knows that Shinza is clearly up to something, but will not act on the knowledge, because he is unable to find any proof. However, an unfortunate aspect of Hanbei being duty-bound is that in spite of his loathing of Narigatsu, his duty prevents him from taking action himself.

The Assassins' war council

I have read that this film, and many of the period pieces of the era, is supposed to be a parody of sorts of the Bushido. I guess the parody is supposed to be of the characters being bound to their duties out of a sense of honor, even though they know what's required of them is wrong (in Hanbei's case), or almost certain to fail (the assassins). Personally, I didn't see it that way. I saw it as a story of loyalty, honor, and courage, much like films like Platoon and Full Metal Jacket were supposed to be anti-war have been embraced by people who aren't anti-war as great war movies.
Hanbei and Shinza's final showdown

The scenes between Shimza and Hanbei, of two different generations of warriors, one weary, and the other brash, are particularly tense, with two actors in fine form. As well as those, the tactics each uses to try to get the upper-hand on the other are quite fascinating, as is the way a village is transformed into a killing ground for the finale.
The action sequences are well-done, the acting is fantastic, and intentionally or not, the film does a good job of explaining the Japanese feudal system, which can be confusing. The only drawback, go me, not necessarily the film's, is that it was sometimes difficult to keep with characters' names. As a Westerner and English speaker, I sometimes got a little lost with names, especially since some characters were often referred to several different ways. Also, I would often get lost in thought, trying to determine what a certain title was equivalent to in Western systems, and would have to rewind, to catch parts that I'd missed.

 I give it four out of five, and highly recommend it. I also recommend Takishi Miike's remake^, which was very faithfully made. 

13 Assassins is available on Amazon Video, Hoopla, and other streaming services, as well as on DVD.
Oddly absent from this version, as well as the remake

* This is a hobby for me, so if I'm wrong, give me a break. You get what you pay for with me.

** Seriously, see the first note.

*** See above.

^ Seriously, go read that post.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead

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If I had the financing, or creativity, or technical ability, or attention span, I would make Nazi zombie movie. Nazis and zombies (as has been mentioned here before) are perfect antagonists, because of their relentlessness. Very few films have been made that have combined the two, which may not necessarily be a bad thing. At this point in time, it seems that pop culture has probably reached Peak Zombie. There are a multitude of movies that have been made, and books published, about zombies, so much so to the point that they are hard to escape. While zombies have long been my favorite monsters, frankly, I'm almost sick of them. Not only are people constantly talking about a zombie apocalypse, which at one point was an interesting exercise, but has become tiresome. 

One benefit about there being so few movies that have combined zombies and Nazis is that it allows for the freedom to break free of the typical Outbreak/Attack - Siege - Escape formula, and to play with the rules of the sub-genre, which is done in this film. Not only have few of this type of film been made, they have historically not lived up to their potential.  Norway's Dead Snow was the first to fulfill the promise of the combination. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (RVD, not to be confused with professional wrestler Rob Van Dam), this time an American-Norwegian co-production, continues the story.

Not appearing in this film, which is unfortunate, because he might need the work.

RVD picks up right where the original left off, with Martin, the sole survivor, escaping from the zombie horde, after he and some friends had stumbled upon their treasure. After crashing his car during the getaway, Martin wakes up in a hospital, to find that he is under arrest as a suspect in the death of his friends (he did accidentally kill his girlfriend). As usual, the cops, who are wonderfully inept, don't believe his zombie alibi, and treat him as a suspect. In addition to being under arrest, he finds that the doctors, thinking that they had reattached his arm (which he had sawed off in the original), actually had attached the zombie arm of Major Herzog, the leader of the Nazi zombies, which had been ripped off during his escape. 

Handsome devil, isn't he?

The new arm has super strength, but still acts as if it's controlled by its previous owner. It does help him escape from the hospital and police, but leaves a trail of death and destruction in its wake, because it does what it needs to in order to survive. 

Martin taking the new arm for a test drive

Martin finds that the Nazis, even after having recovered all of their treasure, are still on a rampage. He discovers that Herzog and his horde (which has grown inexplicably from the original) are still around because they are seeking to fulfill a mission that Hitler had given them: to exterminate a nearby village, in retaliation for some anti-Nazi sabotage committed during the war. 

Along the way, acquires allies of varying abilities, Glenn, a museum employee,  and the self-styled Zombie Squad, a trio of nerdy American siblings who've been waiting and preparing for the zombie invasion that popular media has taught them will surely come. Between discovering Herzog's mission and gaining his allies, Martin discovers that Herzog can reanimate bodies, which helps him in acquiring new minions. This new discovery helps him and his team hatch a plan for stopping the zombies: to reanimate some Soviet prisoners (who had been murdered by Herzog), in order to get them to fight the Nazis. 

A rare tender moment

After Martin reanimates the Soviets, he and his team join together in battle against the zombies, and as required, they are triumphant.

Not only is this a fantastic sequel, it is a great movie in its own right. The effects are quite effective, even to the point of Herzog and other zombies being able to demonstrate facial expressions, which allows for some comedic effect, as they respond to surrounding events. The Nazi uniforms appear to be quite authentic and accurate, and they even have a Panzer!

There is a lot of gore, much of it used for comic effect (entrails used for siphoning fuel from a bus, to fuel the Panzer). However, be warned that the zombies, in line with their evil nature, kill everyone in their path, including men, women, and children.

"This fuel won't siphon itself!" (Translated from German)

There are a lot of comic elements in RVD. The cops are completely unprepared, and the Chief is completely inept. In addition to he and his force being small town, they have watched way to many American cop shows/films, resulting in them overestimating their abilities, leading to much misadventure. 

Initially inept, Martin's team, between their introduction, and becoming heroes, provide some comedy as well. Particularly amusing is Sidekick Zombie (that's how he's listed in the credits), the first zombie reanimated by Martin, who is subjected to a lot of abuse, and follows him around like a puppy.

"Martin, Martin, how I love Martin!" (Translated from zombie)

Honestly, I only have two issues with this film. First, after all of the buildup, the titular Reds have woefully little screen time. Second, The Zombie Squad, intentionally or not, is extremely annoying.

2/3 cute (l&r), 3/3 annoying

I can't recommend this film too highly. It is a really fun movie, that moves along at a fairly rapid pace, with few slow moments. There is a lot of humor, most of which hits the mark. Also, bonus points for historical accuracy. Herzog's group is identified as being Einsatz Grupen, which were actual Nazi death squads.

I could've used more of this guy

While there are two versions of this film, one in English, and the other in Norwegian, with subtitles (a small loophole), I watched the former. 

Content Warnings: There is quite a bit of profanity and gore.

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead is available on Netflix, Amazon Instant, and other streaming services. 

I give it 5 out of 5 reanimated zombies.

Note: Stick around until after the credits.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

My Thoughts on The Saw Series

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Note: This post is a slight detour from the usual content, not a change in its mission.

Up until this week, I have avoided the Saw series. I had done so because of it generally being classified as "torture porn". Human beings suffering (real or pretend) for entertainment purposes has never appealed to me.

While I had seen the original, and found it to be an interesting and original concept, I really had no interest in seeing more of it. Quite obviously, multitudes of others felt differently. Their opinions were strong enough to result in *six* sequels.

Why did I finally give in? First, the series, for good or ill, has become embedded in our culture. There have been parodies of it (Scary Movie), frequent references to it in our culture, and it has a regular presence in haunted houses. Secondly, I-V were on Netflix, and I could watch out of the corner of my eye, while doing other things..

I like suspenseful movies, and the first installment of the series fit that description. What can be more suspenseful than one's ability to solve a puzzle being a matter of life or death? Not much.

This series does have plenty of puzzles, in the form of Rube Goldberg-type death machines. Unfortunately, most of them, even if the person is able to solve one, mutilates them irreparably. The alleged reason for people being placed in the "games" is to teach them to place a greater value on their lives, by testing their will to survive, or to "rehabilitate" them.

Rube seems to be a little too happy about the shotgun collar.

Maybe I'm not as smart as I consider myself to be, but I just can't figure out how permanently disabling someone can help them become a better person.

Additionally, even if someone does "win" the game, they seem to die more often than they don't. Many of the games are designed to be unwinnable, with ridiculously short times to solve them, and necessary appendages being rendered unusable for completion. That's just sadistic.

Jigsaw frequently mentions "redemption". How can anyone be redeemed when they die, even after the "win"? It's just damn depressing.

I'm a fairly open-minded person, and had been dubious of critics' hand wringing and clutching of pearls over this series being "torture porn". After watching the series, I have to acknowledge that they have a valid point..

In addition to the mentioned sadism, the supposed offenses of the victims are seriously out of proportion with their challenges/punishment. The popularity of this series, to me anyway, seems to be based on the brutal maiming and killing of characters, and the resulting gore.

Does that make the people who enjoy these movies bad people? No, not necessarily, we all need our escapes, but life can be so depressing anyway, how are they helpful? Besides, I don't recall ever hearing of anyone trying to reenact any of the scenarios from the films.

Is the popularity of these films a sign of the decline of our culture and moral rot? Maybe, I don't know, though I'm pretty doubtful that they're helpful.

Are the movies all bad? No, there's actually quite a bit to like. First, the casting is quite great, including Cary Elwes, Dina Meyer, Michael Emerson, Danny Glover, Shawnee Smith (hubba, hubba), Donnie Wahlerg, Beverly Mitchell, Glenn Plummer, Costas Mandylor, Angus MacFadyen, and Julie Benz, among others. While it does remind me of an episode of The Love Boat or Fantasy Island, loaded with actors who were either still trying to make a name for themselves and those who had already peaked, it's still quite good.

Now, this would've been really interesting casting.

That leaves Tobin Bell, as the titular character. He does a particularly good job in the role, especially in the flashbacks, which show why and how he became Jigsaw, and make up a large part of the films. Not that we need to know a killer's (he insists that he isn't one) motivations, the flashbacks showing them were the most interesting parts to me.

A man who clearly enjoys his work.

Another impressive thing for me is the continuity, if that's the right word. Watching the films back-to-back, like I did, they flow almost seamlessly together. Also, many of the events in different parts of the series happen concurrently, with only one time where I noticed that didn't quite make sense.

Finally, the production was interesting. According to IMDB, most of the films were made in single buildings, and outside of the elaborate death traps, are basically minimalist. As disgusting as the end results were, the design of those machines were quite impressive.

Do not watch these if you are squeamish or eating. There is a lot of gore, some nudity, and a lot of language.

While I can't and won't recommend them, and don't really see any redeeming value, I give them 3 out of 5 ridiculous Rube Goldberg torture devices.

Note: this will be updated if I ever finish the series.

This refers to the first film, but it's pretty typical of the others. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Zombie Lake: How to Not Do A Zombie Movie

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By Craig R.

Movies are usually notable for one of two reasons: They're either exceptionally good, or exceptionally bad. Unfortunately, Zombie Lake falls within the latter category. It is so bad that, for years, its director denied any involvement with it. Also, it appears to have nearly killed the Nazi Zombie subgenre. After this movie was released in 1981, the next film of its kind I can locate is 2009's Dead Snow.

In the setting of a French village ten years after WW II (we know this because we are told so), undead Nazis begin shambling out of a nearby lake and randomly attacking villagers. We are told that the ghouls are the reanimated corpses of German soldiers, who had been ambushed by the Resistance, and then dumped in the lake. This was done out of fear of reprisals against the village, had the bodies been discovered. Unfortunately, the lake in question is known as "The Lake of The Damned", because of human sacrifices and dark masses once performed there. Surely, there were more effective ways to dispose of the bodies. Shallow graves were out of the question, and while bodies of water are generally good places for such a purpose, The Lake of The Damned probably isn't the wisest place to do so. While the village must have had a furnace or incinerator that would've been just as effective, but there wouldn't be much of a movie.

As is the case with most movies of this type, the village authorities, in spite of evidence to the contrary, deny that there is anything responsible for the attacks other than wild animals. Finally, after both the help that is sent for and an entire volleyball team are killed, the villagers rally to destroy the zombies.

This movie has a lot of problems. First among them is the nature and behavior of the zombies. Instead of being the relentless wave of the undead, this movie's version of a zombie apocalypse is the undead lazily emerging from the lake to dine on villagers, and then return, presumably for a nap. I guess French cuisine is filling. These zombies even have manners. At one point, they have to share a victim, but instead of a frenzied jockeying for position, they patiently wait in line for their turn.

Apparently, this is what the French consider to be a horde.

Probably the most annoying of the zombies is the one I call "Zombie Daddy", who is the most featured. In flashbacks we are shown that he had an affair with a village girl and fathered a daughter with her. During one of his excursions into town, he discovers her and immediately takes a break from his rampage to spend quality time with her. Later, he even walks away from the zombies' battle with the villagers to go for a quiet walk with the girl.

Who's your daddy?
Zombies need love too
Speaking of the battle with the villagers, it was reminiscent of Star Wars. The similarity is not that it was an exciting scene, but that the villagers reminded me of Imperial Storm Troopers. The zombies were moving towards them, slowly, bunched together, down an alley, and in spite of that formation and at least 100 shots fired, only a couple hit their targets, hardly having any visible effect.

Zombie battle formation
This brings us to another annoying aspect of the zombies' nature, in that there's no decided way in which they can be killed. While Zombie Daddy kills another with a knife, none of the bullets that manage to hit them appear to have any effect. Eventually, the villagers kill them with fire. The beauty of zombies is that they are a relatively new monster, or at least they were at the time that this movie was produced, and don't have any set folklore. Even so, whichever way a storyteller decides that zombies have to be killed, they need to stick with it. Granted, their reanimation was probably the result of a supernatural source, but if a knife to the chest can kill one, unless it has to be one that's enchanted, shouldn't a bullet?

Secondly, the production values are just horrible. This movie has some of the typical problems such as switching between day and night during a scene. Other minor problems include additional zombies who randomly appear, then are never seen again, and when one is set on fire, the burning figure is obviously a mannequin.

The biggest production fault, however, is special effects, or the lack thereof, where the laziness of the production staff is clearly visible. By the time Zombie Lake was released in 1981, Romero's first two zombie movies, Fulci's Zombi 2, and Shock Waves, another Nazi zombie movie, had all been released. All of those, unlike Zombie Lake, had at least moderately convincing effects. In contrast, The zombie makeup here consists mostly of erratically applied green grease paint and silly putty.

A tube of green greasepaint: $6.98. Silly Putty: $4.54. Half-ass zombie makeup: Priceless. 
At the time the movie takes place, our undead Germans have been submerged in the lake for over ten years, yet they are almost perfectly preserved. From their appearance, the only indication that they were formerly dead is that their skin is mostly green, and I say "mostly green" because the makeup "artists" apparently couldn't be bothered to apply even coats of makeup. Some of the ghouls don't even have makeup on the backs of their hands; most have patches of normal skin tone showing through the paint, and Zombie Daddy doesn't even anything covering the skin on his neck.

After being submerged for ten years, shouldn't there be some decomposition? Even if one suspends disbelief, shouldn't there at least be deterioration of their uniforms, or rust on their helmets? One could accept that the cause of their reanimation may be supernatural, and may have preserved their bodies, but the clothes too? Admittedly, I'm probably over-thinking this, but is it too much to ask that at least one of them have a trouser leg untucked from a boot?

False advertising
Look, I know that makeup and effects needed to transform an actor into a convincing zombie are expensive, but the necessary techniques had by then been around for quite a few years, at least since Night of The Living Dead, which was released in 1968, and was little more than a student film. Also, with a zombie attack, especially one where the victim is gnawed on for several minutes, give us at least a little bit of gore, instead of just a smear of fake blood. Tom Savini (who did the makeup effects for Dawn of The Dead) was pretty busy during the time this film was produced, but he seems like a decent guy, who would've been glad to have given a few pointers.

Zombie Lake conforms with at least one of the informal rules of horror movies, that once a character either gets naked or becomes amorous, they're doomed. Which leads to my final problem with Zombie Lake, what I guess some would call too much of a good thing. There is a lot of gratuitous nudity in this movie. The horror movies that I grew up watching were released in the late '70s and early '80s, and at least some amount of  nudity was pretty much a given. Even then, most of that was simply a brief flash, where one would have to rewind and pause the video cassette, in order to see it, or so I've been told. Where this movie skimps on effects, it overcompensates in nudity. Approximately 1/3 of its run time is naked women. I'm sure that's probably more than could probably be found in many of the late night cable movies with plots about sex therapists solving murders.

Want to guess what happens next?
As an example, there is one scene, where a woman strips down, sunbathes, walks around, and then goes swimming, all while stark naked. I can live without nudity in a movie, and it doesn't bother me, but that scene lasted for about 5 minutes (I timed it), and I actually began to get uncomfortable. There were moments where she walked off screen, and I thought "Okay, she's going to put something on", but that didn't happen. There are at least two other scenes that linger like this, quite a bit too long. Look, I'm sure that I'm not alone in this, but if I wanted to see a lot of nudity, a zombie movie wouldn't be the place. I watch zombie movies because I want to see hordes of the undead relentlessly terrorizing people.

To the movie's credit, though it didn't manage to execute a good idea, it should be acknowledged that it does try to be different from other films in the genre. Having said that, Zombie Lake is a really terrible movie. The level of bad is not even "it's so bad that it's good." I can't recommend it, but if you do watch it, I hope that you find something to enjoy in it. Either way, you've been warned.

Supposedly, there is a version of the movie that has no nudity, where the women are at least partially covered. Unfortunately, I couldn't uncover it (See what I did there?). The poster at the top of this post and the clip below are actually from the sanitized version.

Zombie Lake is available on Netflix Instant, as well as YouTube. On Netflix, it's in French with subtitles, and on YouTube it's dubbed in English.

I give it 1 out of 5 waterlogged Nazis.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Share on Tumblr By Craig R.

Not only do I like foreign genre movies, but I also like classics. As a result, I occasionally contribute to The Speakeasy. I've never mentioned it here because there has never been any overlap of content areas. However, the overlap has finally occurred.

My latest contribution is a post about Dr. Fu Manchu, for a villain blogathon. The overlap doesn't come because the titular supervillain is Chinese, but because one of the films, The Vengeance of Dr, Fu Manchu, was produced by the legendary Shaw Brothers. 

Three Words: Christopher F'ing Lee
I am fond of saying, though this is the first time here, that I'm never finished with a written composition, I just quit. Unfortunately, after I quit, save, and submit it, like the snappy comeback one thinks of hours later, I think of something that I should've added. I use the tenuous connection to our standard content to make the missed point.

In the piece, I relate that Fu Manchu was the embodiment of what was referred to as "The Yellow Peril", which was the anxiety experienced by European countries over Asian countries becoming geopolitical forces. Later I mentioned that although Fu, for any number of reasons, had lost popularity as a cinematic figure, there may be a possibility for a comeback. 

The point I had made for a comeback was that period mysteries/adventures, such as the Sherlock Holmes films have had some success. The point that I would like to add is that China has become a major world power, and a scary one, at that. Whether the nefarious stories are true or not, of cyber attacks waged on other countries, and other such forms of espionage are things that are right up Fu's alley.

Another point: In the post, I made a joke about Nicholas Cage: "Fu Manchu is a great supervillain... played by many great actors, and Nicolas Cage...", which I feel that I need to clarify. Cage, while he has won an Oscar, and has appeared in many successful films, is a ham. 

Being a ham doesn't necessarily make him a bad actor, but he just usually tends to play different variations of the same crazy dude. Good or bad, he makes it work, and he deserves every bit of success that he has received. After all, I have enjoyed many hours of his hammy acting.

Please go read the original post here. Kristina, the proprietor of The Speakeasy, is a good friend of this blog so please drop in. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

An Example of Why Viking Samurai Exists (Hollywood Sucks)

Share on Tumblr By Craig R  
"I've got your good tidings right here!"

One reason that this blog was started was that we both noticed that we were both watching mostly foreign genre movies. We had independently developed this preference because Hollywood is basically out of ideas. Most of the genre garbage that comes out there is, more often than not, simply a variation of a handful of themes, or a remake or sequel. Foreign films tend to be more original or at least have a unique take on a well-worn theme. When Hollywood does try to be original, more often than not, they just try to sex up a well-known story or figure (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer), often with disastrous results.

The most recent example is the forthcoming Winter's Knight, which is supposed to explore the the origins of Santa Claus, making him into a badass action hero. Alternately, the Finnish Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale suggests that his origin was as a supernatural being who punished naughty children, instead of rewarding the good. This is essentially a take of the general practice of scary Christmas legends, like Krampus, being replaced by the more gentle Santa/Saint Nick. On the other hand, Hollywood goes the route of making up a whole new origin for Santa, where he's a Greek Bishop who fought Vikings, or something..

The Old Boss

The New Boss
Cracked has an excellent piece that explains why Winter's Knight will be terrible, and outlines our grievances with Hollywood (Warning: There is salty language).. In the meantime, we recommend a viewing of Rare Exports (available on Netflix Instant).