Five: Spaghetti Westerns not directed by Sergio Leone

Jeffman from Head Full Of Snow recommends five Spaghetti Westerns not directed by Sergio Leone.

A bruised and battered stalwart of the late night cinema circuit, the Spaghetti Western held a bastardised, custom-job revolver to the head of its inferior American cousin and relieved it of both its basic premise and last shred of decency; joyously blurring the line between right and wrong and leaving morality swinging from a ragged noose in the hot, desert sun.

The Spaghetti Western was an Italian phenomenon, mostly financed by Rome's famous Cinecitta Studios, although there were plenty of co-productions with other Euro countries like Spain and Germany, even stretching as far afield as Israel if you count the soul-sapping awfulness that is God's Gun. One man is responsible for popularising the Spaghetti Western, Sergio Leone. If you're a follower of LateMag's frequent forays into the weird and wonderful worlds of cult cinema you'll probably know his films already. The Clint Eastwood 'Man with no name' trilogy: Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. The pure majesty that's the operatic and sweeping Once Upon a Time in the West; the Mexican revolution-flavoured epic Gui La Testa (Duck, You Sucker or the more familiar yet boring title, A Fistful of Dynamite); and finally, the unfortunate comic attempt of My Name is Nobody.

Leone's name is synonymous with the Spaghetti Western and it's because of this monopolisation of the genre that Late Mag presents five must-see Spaghetti Westerns not directed by Sergio Leone:

The Great SilenceThe Great Silence

Made by another prolific Sergio of the Spaghetti Western scene, Django director Sergio Corbucci, The Great Silence, Il Grande Silenzio, The Grand Silence, The Big Silence - whichever of these titles you happen to see it under – won't leave you disappointed.

Spaghetti Westerns thrived on bleak amorality and 1967's The Great Silence took this to its logical conclusion with an ending that still shocks despite its grim inevitability, whilst brazenly pissing on the chips of the audience's preconceived notions regarding the superhuman reliability of the hero in cinema.

Eschewing the usual sweat-beaded heat of the Spaghetti Western, The Great Silence is one of the few films of the genre to benefit from a snow setting. This provides some great scenery along the way as a band of sadistic bounty hunters, led by the ruthless and aptly named Loco (Klaus Kinski in excellent form), hold siege to a small town trembling under the corrupt thumb of its justice of the peace, Pollicut (Luigi Pistilli, For a Few Dollars More; Death Rides a Horse). Into this icy hell rides the eponymous Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a mute gun for hire who forfeits the standard Western revolver in favour of one of the first automatic pistols. He has been summoned by Pauline (Vonetta McGee in her debut role) to avenge the cold-blooded slaughter of her husband at the hands of Loco. Also showing up are Frank Wolff as the obligatory bumbling sheriff and Leone regular Mario Brega, as well as several more grizzled fizogs that will be familiar to anybody who's seen the odd Spaghetti Western or two. Add a memorably moving score by Ennio Morricone and alongside The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and A Bullet For the General, you have one of the greatest Spaghetti Westerns ever made.

No Room to DieNo Room to Die

1969's No Room to Die looks just as a Spaghetti Western should. It has the extreme close-ups, the unusual camera angles, the forced perspective shots, and despite the location filming looking quite nippy at times – a sweaty, dusty, grime-ridden feel throughout. It also has a regular of the genre in the lead role, Shango himself, Anthony Steffen. His sun-baked, dry-lipped performance is pitched somewhere between Eastwood's 'Man with no name' and Franco Nero's Django,the omnipresent Spaghetti character who Steffen would play in the supernatural-tinged precursor to Eastwood's High Plains Drifter - Django the Bastard, also made by No Room's director, Sergio Garrone.

Another familiar face from Spags is William Berger (Sabata; Keoma), playing a cold-blooded bounty hunter known as 'The Preacher' and combining two elements popular of the genre: the bounty hunter with a peculiar quirk – he reads the bible and dresses in holyman garb – and an unusual item of weaponry; in this case a seven-barrelled shotgun.
 
With all these elements in place you can almost forget the secondary plot involving a corrupt and brutal landowner smuggling Mexican peasants across the border for cheap labour. You can certainly forgive the gaping holes, the achingly contrived situations, the often disjointed narrative, and character motivation that would topple in a light breeze. It looks great, that's all that matters, and uses every last inch of its widescreen vista. Just as every great Spaghetti Western should.

Cemetery Without CrossesCemetery Without Crosses

Frenchman Robert Hossein co-wrote, directed and starred in this downbeat Spaghetti Western from 1968, which takes the bleak pessimism of The Great Silence and cranks it all the way up to number eleven. There's an impending sense of doom right from the off, with the cold-blooded lynching of the leading lady Maria's (Michelle Mercier) husband and our first sighting of anti-hero Manuel (Hossein), who lives alone in a deserted town in the middle of nowhere. With such a bleak set-up, it's to be expected that things can only get worse.

Hossein is the gunslinger to who Mercier looks to administer brutal revenge on the rancher who killed her husband; this revenge involves infiltrating the rancher's inner circle before kidnapping his daughter and standing aside while the dead man's brothers administer their own form of justice upon her. Yes, the line between good and bad is not just blurred, but completely obliterated. The ending is as grim as Spaghetti Westerns get, with any vestige of hope lain bloody and dead in the dust as the closing score kicks in. Just the sort of thing this writer likes.

A Bullet for SandovalA Bullet for Sandoval

1969's A Bullet for Sandoval plays like a Greek tragedy, one that's been dragged kicking, screaming and bleeding profusely from a nasty buckshot wound to its gut into the equally grim world of the Spaghetti Western. Julio Buchs' (A Few Bullets More; Django Does Not Forgive) dark tale of despair and revenge stars Spag regular George Hilton (Any Gun Can Play; I Am Sartana, Trade Your Guns for a Coffin) and Dominic Santini himself, Ernest Borgnine.

Sandoval is a Gringo hating, Mexican landowner, played with scenery-chewing gusto by Borgnine. Hilton plays confederate deserter, John Warner, who finds himself cast out with his newborn baby when cholera takes the mother, Sandoval's daughter. Unable to look after the child it soon dies and Warner swears revenge on Sandoval and all the others that denied him and his son help. In this moment he transforms from the obvious hero of the piece into a cold-blooded killer, and with a gang made up of a couple of fellow deserters, a fallen priest and a treacherous convicted "child molester" (!?!), takes to robbing, maiming and killing along the Mexican border.

A Bullet for Sandoval is superb stuff, even if it's crying out for a remastered and fully restored release. The only dubbed print currently on DVD has fallen foul of those who used to carve these things up to cater for the short attention span of an American audience, shoehorning them into TV spots or double features. Hence it suffers from an often disjointed and episodic flow.

Nevertheless, there's plenty to make up for this, with viewer expectations challenged by Warner's switch to a heartless and sadistic killer, plenty of violence, an embarrassingly bad narration by Borgnine (possibly added for the US market to explain away what's been removed), some hilariously bad drunken acting from Hilton and a memorable and sombre climax where the band of desperadoes face down the might of the Mexican Army at the Plaza de Toros. Great soundtrack, a complete lack of moral compass and that classic Spaghetti feel; what more can mortal man ask for?

A Bullet for the GeneralA Bullet for the General

It was a hard fought race for fifth spot on this list with Django, The Big Gundown, $10000 Blood Money and Death Rides a Horse all jockeying for position. However, it was a last minute viewing of an old favourite that saw Damiano Damiani's 1966 masterpiece, A Bullet for the General, come from further down the field and pip all four to the post.

This Spag Western has it all. Political chicanery, amoral anti-heroes, a bomb-hurling holy man, a high-velocity golden bullet, sun-scorched vistas and enough sweat-soaked lingering close-ups to please an army of salophiles. Throw into the mix a terrific Luis Bacalov soundtrack and the requisite stopped-counting-when-it-nudged-over-50 body count and you have one of the best.

Gian Maria Volante (Fistful of Dollars; For a Few Dollars More; Face to Face) plays Mexican bandit-turned-revolutionary gunrunner, El Chuncho, whilst Lou Castel (Kill and Pray) is the sharp-suited Gringo mercenary who infiltrates his gang to take out a high-profile revolutionary leader. The backdrop of the Mexican revolution provides plenty of scope for Franco Solinas's (Tepepa; The Mercenary) excellent script to explore the left wing themes it so proudly wears on its sleeve. Klaus Kinski, who appeared in over 20 Spaghetti Westerns, quite often at the low rent end of the market (Black Killer; Fistful of Death – made by the Godfrey Ho of Spaghetti Westdom, Demofilo Fidani) plays Chuncho's brother, El Santo, notable not only for the fact he's a grenade-toting monk quoting passages from the bible whilst administering explosive justice upon the repressive forces of the Mexican army, but also for his blue eyes and flowing blonde hair. "Our mother is the same, but his father... who knows?" As El Chuncho explains.

With there being so much to recommend A Bullet for the General, whether it's the sumptuous cinematography, the sweeping Luis Bacalov score, the epic Spaghetti Western ambience, or the symbolic victory over imperialist capitalism at the denouement; it's safe to say that if you only see a couple of Spaghetti Westerns in your lifetime, make sure A Bullet for the General is one of them.

To read more from Jeffman visit headfullofsnow.com which covers psychedelic, acid, prog and classic rock as well as his upcoming contributions to the print magazine Shindig! You can also follow him over at twitter @jeffman1

 


Five: Documentary recommendations

Jay Cheel of The Documentary Blog gives us his top five documentary recommendations.

salesman1. Salesman (1969) – Directors: David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin

The Maysles Brothers are considered by many to be pioneers in the Cinema Verite movement, or as they prefer to say…their own ’Direct Cinema’ style. Saleman is a prime example of their knack at remaining almost completely un-intrusive while still capturing beautiful images and honest moments. The film follows a small group of Boston bible salesman as they try to meet their quotas by any means necessary. When the main subject, Paul ‘The Badger’ Brennan starts to lose his touch, he struggles to remain on top of his sales while sharing stories on the road with his salesmen buddies.

Also check out: John Landis’ Slasher. A documentary about a rambunctious used car salesmen.  

Grizzly_Man2. Grizzly Man (2005) - Director: Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog’s ‘Grizzly Man’ compiles recorded video of Timothy Treadwell’s years spent in Alaska’s Katmai National Park ‘protecting’ the Grizzly Bears. After Treadwell and his girlfriend were brutally mauled by one of the bears he swore to protect, many claimed he ‘had it coming’. Werner Herzog interviews both the Treadwell supporters and non-supporters, providing not only a confessional film, with Treadwell revealing his inner-most demons to the camera, but a debate on whether or not Treadwell was helping or hurting the bears. For anyone who’s a fan of Herzog’s cold, unflinching German logic, you will love Grizzly Man.

Also check out: Little Dieter Needs to Fly

Paradise_Lost_2_Revelations3. Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000) - Directors: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky

I remember the first time I watched Paradise Lost 2. It was Christmas morning, and it was playing on the Documentary Channel. I was so caught up in what was going on in this film that I refused to get out of bed, and in the end, cancelled Christmas until further notice. Paradise Lost 2 re-examines the case of Damien Echols, who was sentenced to death for supposedly being the ringleader of a gang of two other teens (Jessie Miskelly and Jason Baldwin) accused of killing three young boys in a sadistic, ritualistic manner. After HBO released the first Paradise Lost, many people began to question the facts and lack of evidence in this case, suggesting that the three teens were wrongly convicted based on prejudice views on their goth lifestyle, love of heavy metal music (Metallica provides the soundtrack to the film)  and interest in the wicca relgion. For fans of murder mysteries, courtroom dramas and who-dunnit’s, this movie will have you hooked. Mark Byers, the stepfather of one of the child victims, suddenly becomes one of the key suspects in this case as some unusually incriminating coincidences begin to pop up throughout the film. I will say that Byers is one of the creepiest film characters I’ve ever seen in a film, fiction or non-fiction.

Also Check out: Brothers Keeper

Vernon_Florida4. Vernon Florida (1981) - Director: Errol Morris

Before Errol Morris invented his world famous ‘interrotron’, he sat down face to face with a group of unusual southern senior citizens in my favourite in his amazing body of work, ‘Vernon, Florida’. Every shot in this film is like a photograph. Cinematographer Ned Burgess retains the colourful backgrounds and symmetrical framing found in ‘Gates of Heaven’, Morris’ first film. The interviewees stand directly in front of the camera and talk about anything and everything…from turkey hunting, the authenticity of a mail order jewel, catching fish out a dead donkey carcass… Some might accuse Morris’ of exploiting the ramblings of the old and uninformed, but among these seemingly pointless monologues, there are moments of pure poetry. This could be my favourite documentary of all time.

Also Check Out: Gates of Heaven

The_Staircase5. The Staircase (2004) - Director: Jean-Xavier De Lestrade

The Staircase is a six hour long documentary, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. For the sake of releasing the film to the public, it was split up into eight episodes during it’s original broadcast on the Sundance Channel. The film follows the murder trial of Michael Preston, a high-profile author accused of killing his wife Kathleen Peterson, who was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of the staircase in their North Carolina mansion. This movie is SO thrilling and so gripping that I managed to watch the entire six hours in one day. Director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade was given INSANE access to the extended Peterson family, filming their every move and capturing their thoughts as Michael Peterson’s kids deal with the trial of their Father and the death of their Mother. Throughout the trial, many revalations and unusual coincidences have the viewer and the jury shifting back and forth between guilty and not-guilty, right up until the climax of the film which will have you on the edge of your seat. I HIGHLY recommend this film.

Also Check Out: Murder on a Sunday Morning, Capturing the Friedmans

You can pick up all of Jay Cheel's recomendations via amazon.com: Salesman | Grizzly Man | Paradise Lost 2 - Revelations | Vernon Florida | The Staircase

The Documentary Blog is a website created by and for documentary fans and filmmakers. Our goal is to become your quintessential source for news and reviews pertaining specifically to documentary films. Our regular ‘features’ will focus on filmmakers, style, and hopefully provide insight into the process of documentary filmmaking.

Read more from Jay at  www.thedocumentaryblog.com


Five: Adaptations of stories you probably don't have on your bookshelf

Peter from Horror's Not Dead gives us Five: Adaptations of stories you probably don’t have on Your bookshelf

These days horror adaptations from the literary world are so rare (unless the source is Stephen King or a Manga) that one may forget a time when they were the bread and butter of genre productions.  Obvious monster lineage (Frankenstein et al) and genre staples (Jaws, The Shining et al) aside, there are plenty of terrific adaptations of fairly underplayed short stories or novels.  Some a little more common than others, but the following five all owe their existence to that wonderful breed of horror unique to tried and true prose.

Incident_on_and_off_a_Mountain_RoadIncident on and off a Mountain Road

Directed by the fan friendly Don Coscarelli, Incident is an adaptation of a short story by the relatively prolific Joe R. Lansdale.  Perhaps best known as the author of Bubba Ho-Tep, Lansdale has a tendency to write darker than most and Incident is no different.  Written without a prepared plot, Lansdale started his short story with a woman driving down the road and naturally shaped it into one delightfully demented chase through the woods.  The adaptation was the premiere episode of Masters of Horror (and one of the best of the first season), didn’t wear its welcome out at its sub 60 minute runtime, has some badass makeup effects and one very cute Bree Turner as the damsel in distress.  If you haven’t seen the episode or read the short (which can be found with a quick google to Lansdale’s homepage), both are quick and reliable entertainment.

 

A_Boy_and_His_DogA Boy and his Dog

I love A Boy and his Dog, but not everyone does.  Overlooked outside of the genre community, this L. Q. Jones directed adaptation of the Harlan Ellison short story of the same name is perhaps as imaginative a journey through a post-apocalyptic wasteland as one could ever hope for outside of the Fallout game series.  If you’re still not sold, you have to at least respect the originality of a story about an 18 year old who uses his psychic relationship with his dog, Blood, to traverse the wastelands and find women to rape.  It has an ending that will make you double over from its sheer lack of politics, but even the build up is fascinating.  Plus, the dog who played Blood is capable of more emotions than most child actors are these days.

Altered_StatesAltered States

Another overlooked, but easily recommendable film, Altered States was originally written as a novel by Paddy Chayefsky, who’s more popular Network won the 1976 Academy Award for best screenplay, and adapted for the screen by Ken Russell (from Chayefsky’s own script).  Imaginatively based on the sensory deprivation experiments of real life scientist John Lilly, Altered States is one beast of a creative film that all too often gets lumped in as an acid trip film.  If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out on a phenomenal film.  Remove the psychedelic plot and you still have an expertly crafted film that weaves one winding story without handicapping itself for the sake of mass audience understanding.

Dellamorte DellamoreDellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man)

I’ve never read the Tiziano Sclavi novel that Dellamorte Dellamore is based on, but predictably (hence its place on this list) I dig the hell out of Michele Soavi’s direction here.  I honestly believe it to be some of the most inspired camera work ever put to screen, in and out of the horror genre.  It’s no surprise that Soavi was an assistant director on several of Dario Argento’s films, but his command over Dellamorte Dellamore – for me – exceeds anything Argento has done in terms of complete cohesion.  There are no ups and downs, but rather a steadfast and hypnotic ride through the life of a man surrounded by death with little more but job obligation keeping him sane.  A great source of quotes and practical camera effects, Dellamorte Dellamore is one of the more unique zombie films out there.

The_FlyThe Fly

Everyone has seen the story of the Fly in some shape or another, be it the original film, one of its sequels, remakes or even the Simpson’s Tree House of Horror’s take on it, so no description is needed, but few have probably actually read the short story by George Langelaan.  It was originally published in a 1957 issue of Playboy with a – surprisingly – more heart wrenching outcome than any of its film adaptations.  I prefer the David Cronenberg adaptation (and, for the record, consider it one of the best horror films ever made) to them all, but no matter what incarnation you’re watching, you’re still guaranteed a fairly solid variation of what I consider one of the most emotional science-gone-wrong stories ever written.

Buy them at amazon.com: Incident on and off a Mountain Road | A Boy and his Dog | Altered States | Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) | The Fly

Read more from Peter at Horror's Not Dead


Five: Overlooked and underrated vampire films

Ricardo from U.N.L.O.A.D.E.D gives us five overlooked and underrated vampire films.

Nadja1. Nadja

Pixelated imagery (shot with a toy pixel vision camera of all things) along with slick B&W cinematography pulled me right in.  This David Lynch produced flick mixes art film with horror and a nice dash of humor to boot.  Nadja (Elina Lowensohn) and her man slave arrive in New York City to claim the remains of their father, Dracula, who was taken out by Dr. Van Helsing played perfectly by Peter Fonda.  A young couple, Lucy (Galaxy Craze) and Jim (Martin Donovan) are pulled into Nadja's web of seduction which complicates matters as Jim is the Nephew of Van Helsing.  Enter Nadja's brother Edgar, who has no love for Nadja and things get even more dicey.  The film is an allegory about family dysfunction and while disjointed in parts, the style and unique approach to the genre won me over. Some may find this gem pretentious but I  just saw director Michael Almereyda trying to be unique in his delivery.  I also wanted to get my hands on that toy pixel vision camera but never found one.  Guess I could always try eBay.

Habit2. Habit

Nice little film by Larry Fessendem who wrote, starred and directed this one.  This film also takes place in New York City where Sam (Fessenden) plays a down on his luck guy that drinks a little too much and seems to be headed down the road to nowhere.  He's shabby but has his heart in the right place.  Things start going wrong when he meets an mysterious woman named Anna (Meredith Snaider) who doesn't fit the plastic definition of movie siren but delivers a performance that oozes with sex appeal.  They have wild, savage lovemaking sessions that involve some blood drinking. She'll only see him after the sun goes down, she mysteriously vanishes and suddenly appears in Sam's dreams.  Hmm..... somethings awry with this young lady.  Sam becomes isolated from his friends but Anna starts making some inroads with them as well during a countryside retreat.  There's a feeling of realism that this film is able to hold and capture quite well.  Matters of loneliness, addiction ad depression seem to be well represented here.  I was hoping to see more of Meredith Snaider in other films but this is her only one.  I read somewhere that she's a social worker. Too bad in a way, she had something and so does Fessendon with this one.

Vampyros_Lesbos3. Vampyros Lesbos

Lesbian vampires, what more could a movie fan want? This wonderful 70's cult gem by Jess Franco has so much vampiric sex and tripped out music that it reminded me of a spaghetti western on crack with vamps instead of cowboys and sex instead of gunfights.   The plot involves the stunning Countess Carody (Soledad Miranda) that has an appetite for female blood. Running around alleys and biting women is not her style.  She's got an island where she lures women to wine and dine them and then,  suck them dry.  The story focuses on Linda Westinghouse (Ewa Stromberg) falling into the Countess's trap and later tries to escape the living hell that follows.  But that's not really the point either.  See this for the sheer outrageousness of it all.  The camera work, the music, the camp factor.  It must be seen to fully comprehend.

 

Graveyard_Shift4. Graveyard Shift aka Central Park Drifter

I'm not referring to the Stephen King adaptation circa 1990.  This blood sucking film came out in 1987.   While Vampyros Lesbos cashed in on 70's camp, this one made the most of 80's gloss.  The story isn't the best there is but has promise.  NYC Taxi driver Steven Tsepes (Silvio Oliviero) uses his graveyard shift  credentials to pick up women in despair with the desire to die. Once he's pinpointed the right candidate, he feeds on them in the back seat of the cab, thus turning them into vampires.  He falls for one of his converts, Michelle (Helen Papas), and her jealous ex-husband tries to take them both out.  In the meantime, his other female converts have begun to go on a rampage around the Big Apple and the body count starts going through the roof.  With a script that's in need of a few rewrites, the film still wins me over. The visuals are rich in color and lighting, the sex scenes are hot and ridiculous,  and the mood and atmosphere seem to hold for it's time on the screen.

Ravenous5. Ravenous

OK this isn't really a vampire film which may lead you to think I'm cheating but I don't think I am.  I'll explain.  The film is about Capt. John Boyd (Guy Pierce) who is transferred to an outpost in the middle of nowhere just after the Mexican-American War.  The top brass feel he was less than brave in defeating the enemy hence the demotion of sorts.  The outpost is filled with an eclectic group of soldiers and 2 Indians that help around the place.  It's not until a hysterical fellow by the name of Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle)  stops by and tells the story about how he and a party became stranded that the horror begins to unfold.  He had to consume the other members of the party to survive.  Boyd and the others stationed at the outpost must investigate the site where Colqhoun was to see if they're any survivors.  There is cannibalism, yes, but the lust seems to be more blood based with the flesh being more of a by product.  The elements of hunger, addiction, desire, over consumption and destruction that are rich in vampire lore are here as well.  The film tries to draw a parallel with these themes by doing a little blurb on the concept of manifest destiny.  A very interesting take on the history of how the USA came to be, but it's not fully explored.  No matter, this film is so overlooked that it's a crime.  If your a vampire film fan, looking for a well made film written with intelligence, this one will do very well.

So there's my 5. Sure there's lots of vampire flicks out there but these didn't seem to get a fair shake.  We've all seen "Interview" with Pitt and Cruise, "Blade" with Snipes, and a few episodes of "Buffy" here and there but these still stick in my mind after all this time.  And while I took a shot at writing my own vampire flick which I didn't like.

Buy them at amazon.com: Nadja | Habit | Vampyros Lesbos | Graveyard Shift | Ravenous

... more Late Fives

Read more from Ricardo at U.N.L.O.A.D.E.D and follow him on twitter @unloadedone


Five: Rutger Hauer Films Where He Is Not An Android

Sin City and Batman Begins in 2005 saw the mighty Rutger Hauer return to roles in high profile genre films. He has been working solidly of course, but these day's one might forget just what a genre film powerhouse the Dutchman was, during a period spanning about 15 years, from the early 80's to the mid nineties. Of course Hauer’s quintessential role is that of Roy Batty, the replicant on the run who races against time to find his creator. While avoiding the Blade Runner Rick Deckard played by Harrison Ford. Probably his second most recognizable role is the powerhouse performance as the uber menacing Hitch Hiker John Ryder in the 1986 movie The Hitcher. "John Ryder" as played by Hauer is probably my favorite on screen psycho, as Hauer relies almost entirely on performance to menace both the viewer and his onscreen victim Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) in a movie where you really don't see much in the way of blood and gore at all. For this five though I am going to leave these two off the list and look at some of the other great fun films Rutger Hauer did in his genre heyday.

Salute Of The Jugger (The Blood of Heroes) 1. Salute of the Jugger AKA The Blood of Heroes

First thing first the UK title Salute of the Jugger is a way better title, The Blood of Heroes makes it sound like one of those ensemble mercenaries / desperate men on a mission movies. Nothing wrong with desperate men on a mission movies, but Salute of the Jugger is a post apocalyptic future sports film. The sport in question is "Jugging" and in the baron landscape of this future it's the only game in town. A brutal hybrid of gladiatorial games from ancient Rome and Rugby/US football. The objective is to get past the opposing team and ram a dog’s skull on a wooden stake. While the aim is not necessarily to kill your opponents it's certainly not that much of a problem if you do. Players do their best to take opponents out of play anyway they can, and that tends to mean painfully. Rutger Hauer plays "Sallow" a man who makes a meager living with a band of Juggers who travel between the "dog towns", challenging the resident players to a game in return for hospitality and food. How ever he did not always live this way traveling the baron landscape and playing second rate teams for subsistence. Once "Sallow" played the game in The Nine Cities as the premiere star of "Red City". This was before he transgressed with the woman of the cities overlord and was cast from the underground city out into the wasteland never again to sleep on silk sheets with women whose skin was just as soft. When Salow's team mate "Dogboy" is injured too badly to continue the team are joined by a young girl named "Kidda" played by Joan Chen. Her ambition to play in the league drives the band of aging Juggers to try a challenge in the nine cities. This is where a team from the out-land's takes on players from "The League". Now "One eye from Blind" the aging "Sallow" will have to prove one last time that he was the greatest jugger that ever lived. I expect I am in a minority when it comes to people that would put this on a list of Rutger Hauer's greatest films or in fact any list of films of any kind, but the fact is I love this movie it's the greatest "future sport" movie ever made (Not a huge sub-genre I know) and I love post apocalyptic films. Quality brutal sci-fi with a great cast which includes alongside Hauer and Chen, Delroy Lindo, Vincent D'Onofrio (Pvt. Pyle in Full Metal Jacket) and Richard Norton.

Split_Second_US_DVD2. Split Second

Set in London in 2008 (LOL) the tagline was "2008. The future has never looked more dangerous.". Its funny that we are now living in "The future" and there are still no hover cars and women refuse to be clothed in silver bathing suits 24/7 ... oh well we do have "communicators" i.e. mobile phones I guess. Anyway back to Split Second which is set in London of the "future", a London where global warming has caused the ice caps to melt and London is now permanently semi flooded. After a spate of horrific murders around the city, tough American cop Harley Stone, played by Rutger Hauer is called in. Stone is partnered with mild mannered UK detective Dick Durkin and the "chalk and cheese" pair set about investigating the killings. UK born Sex in the City star Kim Cattrall plays the love interest. UK acting heavyweight Pete Postlethwaite and singer Ian Dury also star. As Stone and Durkin get closer to the mystery killer they soon realise something is not right. It seems the killer is not just inhuman in its behavior; it's not human at all. This prompts the mild mannered Durkin to undergo a change and deliver the line "We need to get bigger guns. BIG FUCKING GUNS! ". Enjoyable UK set action sci-fi / creature features where not exactly thick on the ground in the early 90's and personally I found this movie great fun. Some people hated it and said this film indicated that that golden age of genre films with Hauer was coming to an end, but he still had a couple of fun features to come in the mid nineties including modern B movie ensemble classic "Surviving the Game".

Flesh + Blood3. Flesh+Blood

For this violent "medieval romp" star Rutger Hauer joins fellow Dutchman Paul Verhoeven who directs this lost genre classic. Verhoeven's English language career hit a huge "bump in the road" with 1995's Showgirls. Gina Gershon was sex on a stick, but that was not going to save the movie from being a huge disaster. How ever before that he brought genre fans three true genre classics Basic Instinct, Total Recall and RoboCop and redeemed himself with the very fun Sci-fi novel adaptation Starship Troopers two years after Showgirls. How ever there is one film that get's left off the list, 2 years before Robocop became one of the greatest Sci-fi films of the 80's Verhoeven made Flesh+Blood. Rutger Hauer plays Martin the leader of a band of medieval mercenaries. After the lord who they are currently in service to reneges on their payment Martin decides its time to teach him a lesson. To this end he kidnaps the daughter in law to be of the lord played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. However thoughts of revenge soon turn to thoughts of lust as the beautiful Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh) becomes a fixation for Martin. My old "Big Box" VHS video carried the tagline "Their thirst for her body spilt the blood of many men", though it's not listed amongst those used on the IMDB. Flesh+Blood is a very brutal, dirty, violent movie with feels intentionally filthy. Set In a time when the Plague was sweeping through Europe and the lords in their castles ran amok with very little intervention from kings many miles away and life. To this end the whole thing is mud and blood soaked, women are raped, people dismembered and the sword settles any disagreements. Blood and filth rain supreme in this lost 80's swordplay classic. Flesh+Blood represents a filmic vision of a time when "men where men" and women where in a shit load of trouble if they where attractive.

Surviving the Game4. Surviving the Game

Surviving the Game is Ernest R. Dickerson director of stand out violent Urban movie Juice second feature. The film is one of those classic "modern B movie" ensemble pieces with a cast that includes John C. McGinley, Ice-T, Charles S. Dutton, Gary Busey,F. Murray Abraham and of course the man himself Rutger Hauer. Surviving the Game is a pretty simple concept which see's Rutger Hauer as Thomas Burns a man who hunts the most dangerous game in the world. Lions and tigers are dangerous sure, but they act on instinct alone, only one prey is able to think like a man ... another man. Ice-T play's homeless man Jack Mason who has to survive the game as the title implies. While in no shape or form a match for Juice, Surviving the Game makes for one of those really fun switch your brain off "rental" movies that they don't seem to make any more. If you enjoy films like Gun Men, Fortress, No Escape your more than likely going to get a kick out of it, if you just can't tolerate B grade stuff intended purely as genre entertainment maybe you should avoid it.

Blind Fury5. Blind Fury

Hmm tough choice for the last one, you have, Blind Fury, Nostradamus, Wedlock, Ladyhawke, Crossworld, Wanted: Dead or Alive and The Osterman Weekend falling roughly in Rutger Hauer's "Golden" period. I figured though it might be best to end the list with a serious dose of cheese. Rutger Hauer plays Nick Parker a blind Vietnam vet (oh for the times when action hero's where all Vietnam vet's) who is a master swordsman. Blind Fury is essentially an American take on the Zatoichi character played by Shintarô Katsu for a couple of decades (mainly in the 60's and seventies) a character which was later revived for Takeshi Kitano's excellent 2003 movie Zatoichi. Terry O'Quinn (Pin, The Stepfather) joins Hauer in the cast as the father of a boy Billy (Brandon Call) and a man who is in serious trouble with some criminals. When those criminals come calling Nick uses the skills he picked up in Asia to easily defeat his opponents. Blind he may be, but just like Zatoichi he has honed his other senses to super hero like levels. Using his senses and mastery with a sword he is able to overcome the bumbling bad guys and save the day, leaving little Billy in tears as he moves on to new adventures. Hmm maybe I should have chosen Wedlock or Ladyhawke to go here, oh well too late now. Blind Fury is Classic late 80's cheese, not a highlight in Rutger Hauer's career, but a film many people will have fond memories of watching back in the day.

Buy them at amazon.com: The Blood of Heroes | Split Second | Flesh + Blood | Surviving the Game | Blind Fury

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Five: Stand Out Pieces Of Violent Urban Cinema

"Urban" cinema tends to mean black cinema or cinema reflecting a "Ghetto" experience often from a youthful perspective. So I will that as a rough guide and then narrowing it down to crime related and violent features I'm going to look at some of the best from this "Genre", if it can really be called a genre.

La_Haine_Special_Edition1. La Haine (1995) Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz

La Haine is arguably the best "Urban" film ever made, certainly the most politically charged and the one with the most impacting ending. French Jewish director Mathieu Kassovitz may have gone on to make the crappy Gothica, but in 1995 he made the best film of the year. So the top film on my list is not American as you would expect, but French. In fact as far as I am aware, a decade after its release the film which took won best director and was nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes is still not available in the US. This is the film that made the French police guarding Cannes turn their backs to the cast and crew as they passed. The film follows 3 friends Vinz, Hubert, Saïd as the pass the day in the aftermath of riots the night before. Kassovitz shot the film in colour, but then printed it to B&W because he wanted the film to be taken as more than just another "Ghetto" or "Hip Hop" film. While the French ghetto is very apparent in the film and scenes of break dancing and an iconic DJ scene mean the film drips hip hop culture in places his film is indeed much more. All the performances are dead on, with the three leads Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kounde and Saïd Taghmaoui all first class. One of the best and maybe the most powerful films of the 1990's. Fans of Urban film, World Cinema, modern B&W cinema and just great movie making in general have no excuse for not owning or at the very least having seen La Haine.

Fresh2. Fresh (1994) Directed by Boaz Yakin

Yet another Jewish director takes on bringing a Ghetto set story to the screen. And why not, after all the word was spawned from a Jewish experience. Fresh is set in a mixed Hispanic and Black area of New York and follows the story of a young boy known as Fresh. Fresh is a classic case of a mind gone to waste, in a different setting he would be following a life that would lead to higher education and a successful career. Fresh how ever is not in a different pace he lives in the inner city hood and is a runner for drug gangs. Running heroin for slimy Hispanic drug lord Esteban and Crack for paranoid black gangster Corky, Fresh is in deep and having to live a life way beyond anything someone his young years should experience. Everyone keeps telling Fresh he's going to be the man one day, but it’s not what he wants. Fresh is torn between the streets and a home crowded home life at his aunt's. Fresh's father portrayed by a still relatively unknown Sam Jackson is a Chess master and a drunk who fresh makes regular visits in the park to play against. The films plot see' the combining chess concepts into a tale reminiscent of Yojimbo. The expected Hip Hop score is absent, in its place is a score by Stuart Copeland similar to that he provided for Rumble fish. Cinematographer Adam Holender was called in and Yakin persuaded him to use the old school feel he used on the Oscar winning midnight Cowboy some 25 years earlier. Great performances, especially from young Sean Nelson as Fresh, but all the cast are strong. Fresh's life may change but the cost will be high. Fresh won Boaz Yakin the Filmmakers Trophy and was nominated for Grand Jury Prize as well as earning Sean Nelson Special Jury Recognition for technical acting.

City_of_god3. City of God (2002) Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund

Carrying the tagline Fight and you'll never survive..... Run and you'll never escape Brazilian film City of God blew away just about everyone who saw it in 2002. Stylish and backed by a funky soundtrack City of God was an exceedingly hip piece of cinema. Behind the cool, is really a very tragic look at modern Brazil and the utter desperation that faces those living out there lives in the roughest parts of Rio de Janeiro's favela's. In city of God life is not just cheap; it's to be thrown away like rubbish. The directors succeed in bringing a multi character movie to the screen where many would fail. Although it revolves around, but does not centre on, Rocket a young man with a love for photography growing up in one of the most violent places on earth. How ever the film weaves in friends, acquaintances and other locals who do not always directly affect Rocket himself. In many ways he is more observer than participant in much of the film. Rocket is around, but not involved in the madness that surrounds him. City of god is also notable for giving us one of modern films most chilling characters in Li'l Ze whose childhood murder spree is made even more shocking by the fact that there are people like him out there. Like Fresh, City of God does not shy away from child death, but is more shocking in that here the killers are often not long out of dypers themselves. Everyone should have seen this by now, but if not it's another must.

Menace_II_Society4. Menace II Society (1993) Directed by Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes

OK so the common theme of a young man who wants to get out is in place, but if you lived somewhere that violent would you not want out. Two years after John Singleton's critically praised seminal film Boyz n the Hood the Hughes brother’s unleashed Menace II Society. Menace was highly quotable, cool and violent. For many people who had grown to be first fans of Hip Hop and then of the gangster rap subgenre menace was the celluloid version of a Compton’s most wanted or N.W.A album. Mc Eiht of CMW even has a strong supporting role as OG A- WAX. The great thing about this film is it works both on the level of great pop culture fun and as a series look at life in the gang infested area's of LA. The way the neighborhood in which your are born in seriously lessons the chances you have in life. Even those characters who want out find themselves just as caught up as those who accept the desperate nihilism of life in the area. The never ending tit for tat killing, the senselessness of fighting wars from which there is nothing to gain. Larenz Tate as Kevin 'O-Dog' who really just does not give a f**k is awesome ... anybody want a cheeseburger?

Juice5. Juice (1992) Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson

Black genre director Ernest R. Dickerson's impressive New York based feature is often criminally overlooked when it comes to discussing Urban cinema. Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur both give blistering performances as the lives of four close friends take a downward turn. As with La Haine one of the pivotal moments is the gaining of a gun by one of the leads, guns equal power and with power you can gain "The Juice". Tupac may not have been your favorite music performer or personality, but here his acting skills as the dark brooding Bishop are beyond reproach. Bishop is a genuinely scary character, the kind of psycho friend you know is bad news but you just can't escape. Backed by an appropriate Hip Hop (real hip hop not MTV rap) score including the legendary emcee Rakim's "know the ledge" Juice is more firmly embedded in hip hop culture than the other films on the list. That’s not to say it's a rap movie just that it appropriately reflects the New York scene in the early nineties. Omar Epps drips charisma as upcoming DJ Q and the supporting cast is strong. The look on his face as he walks away from the rooftop at the end of the film and a member of the crowd tells him he has the Juice say's it all.

Not included: I've left off Blaxploitation films from the films I considered as they are a different thing entirely. I also discounted films that are essentially organised crime flicks like New Jack City and king of New York and Police flicks like Colors. Prison films are also ignored such as Bound by Honor. Urban, black and ethnic cinema covers a lot more than just "Growing up in the hood", but for the purposes of this five violent hood stories was an appropriate theme and just because that is the focus it does not make the films any less powerful.

Also see: Boyz in the hood, Spike Lee's work in particular Do the right thing, Colours, Jason's Lyric, Animal, Dead Presidents, Bound by Honor (Blood in, Blood out), American Me.

Trivia: Samuel L. Jackson appears in all 3 of the American movies in my 5.

Buy the films:

La Haine: (UK Ultimate edition) As the film has no North American release the best bet for those of you out there with region free players order a UK version via hkflix.com

Fresh: No UK (region 2) DVD for this one so amazon.com

City of God: amazon.com | amzon.co.uk

Menace II Society: amazon.com | amazon.co.uk

Juice: Again no UK (region 2) option so amazon.com

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Five: Late Night TV Gems

You can’t beat late night television to catch some of the oddities of the film world. Series’ like Moviedrome and Mondo Macabro presented some weird and wonderful films, but sheer scheduling alone would bring the occasional strange delight our way. The only bonus of insomnia was that I’d never miss these films when they were on and it’s how I got into loving film, the veritable B-movie banquet that was the early hours So, here are my choices of five late night TV gems:

Don’t Be Afraid Of The DarkDon’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (1973) Now you see them, now you don’t…now you die

Be afraid, be very afraid in this very effective made-for-TV movie which has already made an entry in fistinface’s ‘Five: TV Movies Not About Eating Disorders’. I love cheesy TV movies but this is the rare thing of a darker, more original film and for years I never knew what it was, just that Feral and I had both seen the film independently and were both independently a bit freaked out by it. The film concerns Sally and Alex (Kim Darby and Jim Hutton), a young married couple who move into a large house Sally inherits from her Grandmother. There is mystery surrounding her Grandfather’s demise and the chimney is boarded up, much to sally’s dismay as she is intent on opening it up and making good use of the room. When she takes it upon herself to do just that, the trouble starts to happen. Sally starts to see tiny demons around the house and Alex needs her to be hold it together for a business dinner party they are to host. That’s what’s so great about this film, that, though the creatures themselves are real and very scary, the fear is old-fashioned paranoia and fear of losing your mind as represented within the confines of a traditional marriage. Though there has been talk of a remake, it wouldn’t have the same resonance today as you couldn’t recreate the marriage interplay of the era and that’s what builds the tension in this surprisingly scary film.

The_BabyThe Baby (1973) Pray you don’t learn the secret of…The Baby

If ever there was a great late night cult movie it’s The Baby, this bizarre tale is one of the most pleasingly strange films I’ve ever had the satisfaction of catching. Ann Gentry (Anjanette Comer) is a social worker investigating the Wandsworth family; Mrs. Wandswoth (Ruth Roman), her two daughters Germaine and Alba (Marianna Hill and Suzanne Zenor) and son Baby (David Mooney). Recently widowed Ann is rightly concerned about the situation at the Wandsworths being as Baby is in fact a 21 year-old grown man dressed, treated and kept as a baby. Well-meaning Ann finds intervention difficult to say the least with the hostile matriarch and her wilful daughters and turns to her mother-in-law for support in the case. The strong female-led cast really makes this film as the women are not just strong, but beautiful, strange, cunning and manipulative, with funky fashions to boot. Unnerving in many ways, this film works very nicely on the fear of other peoples domesticity, weaved around a truly unique take on maternal horrors. With an amazing twist ending, there’s really not much more you could ask for in a late night TV treat.

High_Desert_Kill_VHSHigh Desert Kill (1989) In the badlands of New Mexico it waits for them…

The second TV movie on the list, like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, High Desert Kill is unexpectedly unique for TV fare. The film focuses on a hunting trip that goes awry when strange things start to happen. Jim (Anthony Geary), Brad, (Marc Singer) and Ray (Micah Grant) make the usual annual trek to New Mexico, though this time without Ray’s Uncle Paul (Vaughn Armstrong), who died in an accident. Though the absence overshadows the trip, the men are enjoying the great outdoors until things and people disappear and the men, confused, turn on each other. When deceased Uncle Paul starts making an appearance there is definitely something weird afoot and the film manages to convey this well with a distinctly eerie tone. This is an instance where the low budget works in the film’s favour as the minimal effects add to the slightly creepy atmosphere. Not what you’d call a great film, but an interesting little flick nonetheless and worth seeing for Chuck Connors as the old-timer and Ray’s impromptu and highly 80’s dance beside the camp fire. Probably not high on the list for a DVD release but if, like me, you search hard you too could be the proud owner of one High Desert Kill big-box VHS, just the way it should be.


The_Cars_That_Ate_ParisThe Cars That Ate Paris (1974) The traffic in the township of Paris was murder

A great retro intro begins this Australian ‘strange town’ movie with added social commentary from director Peter Weir (Picnic at Hanging Rock). In Paris, New South Wales, the locals boost their economy by causing road accidents and salvaging the wreckage. This is an unfortunate fact for brothers Arthur and George Waldo (Terry Camilleri and Rick Scully), who happen to be passing the town and for whom normal town practice ensues. To the surprise of the Parisians, Arthur survives the crash and is taken in by the Mayor (John Meillon), even being given employment as a hospital orderly. However, while embedded in the community and unable to leave, Arthur discovers the truth, but will he be as much of a threat to their existence as the town’s own disaffected youth? Though dark and offbeat, this is less horror than you’d think and more of an endearing small town drama. It’s no Picnic, but The Cars That Ate Paris is one of my fondest memories of random films to catch as it seemed to be quite a regular on the late night TV circuit.

Psychomania_DVDPsychomania (1971) Ride with the Living Dead!

With 70’s fashions and decor, a ridiculous plot, amazing soundtrack and one of the greatest intro’s I’ve ever seen in a film, Psychomania is fantastically kitschy nonsense for a late night viewing. Tom (Nicky Henson) is the leader of a rebellious biker gang called The Living Dead, whose ambition is to come back from the dead as indestructible hell raisers. Tom thinks he’s cracked it, with believing the secret, and multiple suicides ensue followed by much biker mayhem like trashing a supermarket. Meanwhile, Tom’s mother, Mrs. Latham (Beryl Reid), is frog-worshipping in her funky pad aided by butler Shadwell (George Sanders), but what is the secret of the locked room, and what happened to Tom’s father? All won’t be revealed by director Don Sharp and that’s part of the charm of this film, that it doesn’t make any sense and never explains itself. It’s a lot of fun and if you can’t appreciate it for what it is surely seeing Beryl Reid out of character is attraction enough.

Buy Them at amazon.com: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark  | The Baby | High Desert Kill | The Cars That Ate Paris | Psychomania

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