Category Archives: Action/Adventure

#241 – Death Boat

(1980, US/GB, 105 min) Dir Hank Hogart. Cast Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Donald Pleasance.

Following firmly in the footsteps of the likes of The Wild Geese, The Sea Wolves and North Sea Hijack, all of which proved that there was a market in the late Seventies/early Eighties for action films populated exclusively by men who were a bit over the hill, Hank Hogan reteamed with his Pinwheel co-conspiritor Richard Burton and Burton’s fellow goose Roger Moore for this stodgy WW2 maritime yarn. The plot’s simple – in fact it’s so simple it’s been nicked from 1964’s Burt Lancaster starrer The Train but with the artwork stolen by the Nazis loaded onto a boat instead of a train. The best bits of the film are those on the Nazi boat, not the allied one, as the titular Nazi ‘Death Boat’ is helmed by Donald Pleasance who is, as ever, worth every penny, investing his scheming German with more character and, in the end, pathos than a distracted Burton and Moore can muster for their own wheezing heroes. What’s never explained is why the boat transporting all this art is called a ‘Death Boat’ when no death is dealt by it – it’s transporting things, not killing people. It’s a mystery that occupied me the most of this forgettable film’s running time… Not to be confused with the equally pulpy but much more entertaining Hell Boat.

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#241 – Pinwheel

(1974, US/GB, 110 min) Dir Hank Hogart. Cast Richard Burton, Richard Attenborough, Fred Williamson.

Rollicking WW2 action nonsense based on real-life wartime derring-do but seasoned liberally with bullcrap. Richard Burton (distracted) is heading up a crack team to infiltrate the German held Chateau de Moulinsart in occupied France under the moniker Operation Pinwheel. Their target – an encoding device that controls the line of communication directly to the Führer. Taken along is gun-shy boffin Mallory (Attenborough – his speciality freaking out during attack) and violent Yank representative Colt (Williamson – his speciality strangling Germans). To make it through hostile territory Burton and Attenborough disguise themselves as Nazi officers escorting Williamson as their prisoner. Of course this ruse can only work for so long and in no time they are rumbled by a nosey Nazi and all subtlety is lost as they cut a swathe of fire across the countryside towards their target. Though bloodily violent Pinwheel still manages to find the time for some moments of misplaced humour – keep your eyes peeled for Marty Feldman as a confused French villager for example.

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#237 – Blood Wild

(1983, Aust, 85 min) Dir Chuck Mallory. Cast Steve Bisley, Joanne Samuel.

Between his spooky debut Hannah Blet and his posting to Hollywood, Chuck Mallory found the time to produce Blood Wild, a turn into Mad Max territory, apparently made just to see if he could. Unlike Mad Max, Blood Wild is set in the present day and owes just as much to Deliverance and Duel in it’s premse – Bisley and Samuel (not accidentally both MM veterans) are JB and Shanny, a big city couple travelling to Darwin where JB has a new job. There is tension between the two, Shanny not masking how aggrieved she is at having to move so far away. Her displeasure only increases when she finds out JB’s plan – his scheme is to travel in a straight line through the vast desert expanse of the interior. Before you can say ’bad idea’ locals are offended and they are forced to drive through the night to the next town for accommodation. From out of the dark, while JB snores beside her, Shanny spots a pair of faraway headlights. Her heart in her chest she watches as they get closer and closer still and before she knows it this mystery car has shot past mere inches from them, waking JB. “What was that?” he splutters but when Shanny points out the window there are no tail lights ahead, only darkness. So far so Deliverance/Duel but by the time the third act wheels around JB and Shanny are racing for their lives against some very real enemies in the form of a racing gang who have gone ‘Blood Wild’ in the desert and are hungry for sport. The creeping dread of the first two-thirds are as effective as you would expect from the director of Hannah Blet and the end shows he has as much talent for unrestrained action as he does for controlled suspense.

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#231 – Sobek: City of Death

(1978, GB/Mex, 91 min) Dir René Cardona Jr. Cast Hugo Stiglitz, Susan George, Fiona Lewis, Robert Guzman.

On the Nile, southwest of Memphis in Egypt, there once was the city Shedet, established in 4,000 BC by the worshipers of the crocodile god Sobek (and later renamed Crocodilopolis by the Greeks). This city and it’s worshippers have long faded into history but, to fast forward about 6,000 years and swing about 6,500 miles west, it is found being re-established by a death-cult of crocodile worshippers southwest of the modern-day city of Memphis, Tennessee. It’s discoverer is Michael Chad, a rough and tumble swamp explorer played by Hugo Stiglitz, who takes it upon himself to stop these reptile revering maniacs, rescue the local virgins they have kidnapped to sacrifice and kill the monstrous beast that they worship as the living incarnation of the foul Sobek. Stiglitz, an old hand at nonsense such as this, takes it all in his stride, as equally unfazed by the beasts he must battle (and the effects by which they are rendered) as he is by the women flinging themselves at him.

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#218 – Christmas is About Jesus

(2014, US, 92 min) Dir Raoul Acton. Cast Jimmy Grits, Feluza Marks, Mark Yorker-Clipse.

Humourless polemic masquerading as a cack-handed action film (and entertainingly advertised, as per the director, as “An Acton Film”) memorably described by reviewer Pan Nicholls as “Taken for Christ”. The time is now and Leo Clay (Grits) has returned from defending the country against the godless in the desert heat of some nameless Middle Eastern country and has decided to do something about the rising tide of atheism in the country he loves. He’s going to militarise the War Against Christmas. The fight begins at his local supermarket that won’t put up decorations for fear of offending the non-Christians. Now, I don’t know where in the world this shop is since I’ve never been in a shop at Christmas that isn’t floor to ceiling with festive tat, blaring seasonal music and slathered with more tinsel and lights than two sane eyes can cope with. But I digress – the determined Clay has soon taken his message all the way to the top of the liberal media’s ivory tower where he can shoot at the hand that pulls the puppet strings and strike a blow at the heart of the Global Conspiracy. One gets the idea that the script was written in all caps. Terribly shot, scored, acted and not very violent, it will no doubt entertain the similarly deluded but everyone else will leave bored and/or angry.

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#215 – Female Predator

(1990, Indon, 82 min) Dir Joko Wayang. Cast Jemima Kryten, Rudi Bo, ‘Eddie’ Katung.

In the late 1980’s there was the Indonesian bad movie classic Lady Terminator which appropriated scenes from the American classic The Terminator for its own low budget ends, splicing the action beats of the original to a supernatural tale of the revenge of some sort of female sea demon who had a snake in her vagina or something. On the back of this a second bright spark decided to nab the same basic scheme to produce Female Predator, a rip off of a rip off (or, if you are Harlan Ellison, a rip off of a rip off of a rip off). The set-up: on a remote Indonesian island a long dormant volcano erupts and among the poorly realised magma that is loosed is what appears to be a woman – nude, of course – played by martial artist/Playmate model Jemima Kryten. She’s not a normal naked woman though, she’s a lizard demon bent on revenging herself on the cadre of warrior monks who imprisoned her in her volcanic jail a millennia ago or, at a pinch, their modern-day descendants. Within no time she’s made it to Jakarta and with her sophisticated methods of seduction (i.e. she disrobes without compunction) she sets about sexing her prey to death, revealing her true form in mid-coitus to be in possession of a wobbly snake head and pendulous scaly breasts, a more easily constructed appearance than the other, bigger budgeted Predator’s pincer-lined maw. It only takes a pile of mutilated corpses before tubby, stubbly, mulletted cop Mo (Bo) is on the case and we can get cracking with the shoot-outs and explosions. Almost as amusing and random as Lady Terminator, fans of which should seek this out.

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#208 – Lost Generation: A Murderous Feast

(2010, US, 135 min) Dir Jeremy Bangold. Cast Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy, Robert Pattinson, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Stewart, Marion Coitillard.

With a mega cast like this and a concept higher than high who would have thought that this franchise could have stalled? Who might have thought the paying public shy of shelling out for the adventures of modernist writers solving occult mysteries? I know – who’d of thunk it? Riding a wave of hot cash on the back of Gerard Butler starrer Frogman, Bangold winkled a cool $100 million for this and I really can’t think of money better spent. At an unspecified time in the 1920’s in Paris there has been a murder in the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop. The fact that the victim, a M. Reynold Chouff, regularly paid the bar tabs of authors leads tipple hounds Joyce (Fassbender), Hemmingway (Hardy) and Fitzgerald (Pattinson) to investigate the crime with Joyce electing to begin by interrogating the cats of the bookshop murder scene (and apparently gaining testimony). Unfortunately the central trio spend most of their time in drunken speculation and are perpetually beaten in their quest for clues by the more sober triumvirate of Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas (Stewart, McCarthy and Cotillard respectively). At the end of the day all paths lead to Cthulhu (of course) and the budget starts to show itself but the wit of the slower, more character based first half never lets up. The finale, with the reveal of the dastardly Aleister Crowley (Mark Strong, obviously), set the tone for what was supposed to be a franchise and even now, five years later, there are occasional Twitter campaigns to resurrect the idea. We should forget the idea and be glad of the crazy vision that we have.

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