Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bruce Lee Statue in Hong Kong

I didn't know this even existed!  Sadly, there is no major monument or memorial for Bruce in San Francisco, his birthplace, or Seattle where he went to college and set up his first gung fu school.  There should also have been a U.S. Bruce Lee postage stamp by now!

New Warner Bros. Archive Releases!

Although I disapprove of the whole DVD-R releases, it's good to see Warner dig into their vaults.  Hopefully, this will someday be available for on-demand, streaming and download.  DVD-R's for $20-plus sucks!  Michael Reeve's classic THE SORCERERS and the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu titles have previously been released on DVD in the U.K.  Warner U.S.A. previously released BRIDES OF FU MANCHU and the two Jess Franco entries are available from Blue Underground.

Herbert Lom, 95, dies

The great Herbert Lom has died but he will always be remembered for his gallery of memorable characters!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dracula in HD! First Review!

The eager folks over at DVD Beaver have posted a review of Universal's soon-to-be released DRACULA  blu-ray with comparison frame-grabs from the previous SD incarnations.  Tod Browning and Bela Lugosi never looked so good!  This might be the first ever Dwight Frye blu-ray?

NEWS FLASH!  There are now reviews (with frame grabs!) posted for FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY, THE INVISIBLE MAN and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (simply astounding!).  I'm sure the rest are soon to follow.

Monday, September 10, 2012


BLACK MAGIC (1949- U.S./Italy)

D: Gregory Ratoff.  Orson Welles is Count Cagliostro, the infamous magician and freemason in this lush, stylized historical tale of intrigue.  Welles is great and suitably over-the-top as the historical Cagliostro, supposedly the real life Giuseppe Basalmo (though nobody knows for sure) - a charlatan, con man, alchemist, mentalist and hypnotist.  Although highly fictionalized, the story moves at a swift pace and the black and white imagery is often times stellar enough to be mistaken for Wellsian cinema.  The usual rumors persist that Welles did, in fact, direct most of the film.

The film opens with novelist Alexandre Dumas sitting down with paper and pen about to spin the tale of Cagliostro in the presence of his inquisitive son, Alexandre Jr. (Raymond Burr).  Dumas penned the thousand-plus-page Cagliostro epic Joseph Basalmo (1846-8) and the character appeared in several of his novels.

Dumas picks up when Cagliostro’s gypsy mom is executed as a witch by an evil viscount (Stephen Bekassy).  Young Alessandro inherits his mom’s svengali-like gift and proceeds to profit off it and seek revenge. Years later, the suave Count Cagliostro gets sucked into the infamous Affair of the Diamond Necklace involving Marie Antoinette and a look-a-like (both played by Nancy Guild of ABBOT & COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN) by the very man he has been hunting, the slimy viscount who executed his mother!

Unlike the film’s heroic, swashbuckling ending, the real Cagliostro (1743-1795) was sentenced to death (later amended to life) for the charge of freemasonry and languished and died in a Vatican jail.
The film’s fictionalized plot fuses elements from Dumas' THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK and du Maurier's TRILBY as well as dishing up court room drama, doomed romance, revenge, royal intrigue and premature burial; all served up in grand style and visualized with stunning expressionistic photography, hundreds of extras and elaborate costumes and sets.
Shot in studios and locations around Rome with a mostly Italian tech crew, the film glosses over Cagliostro’s controversial link to Freemasonry and his creation of the Egyptian Rites (the subject of a recent book) but Welles does sport the cryptic square and compass symbol in one or two scenes.
 A stand-out supporting player is Welles’ favorite Akim Tamiroff as Cagliostro’s trollish henchman.  Of course, Tamiroff was wildly memorable in Welles’ TOUCH OF EVIL, THE TRIAL (1962 and DON QUIXOTE (1958).  Tamiroff also worked with Welles collaborator Jess Franco in JUSTINE (aka DEADLY SANCTUARY/1969).
 Actor/Director Ratoff directed around 30 films including THE CORSICAN BROTHERS (1941).  Supposedly, veteran cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli (worked with Fellini, Leone & others!) was an uncredited camera operator.
 Boris Karloff was originally announced to play the Count in a never realized Universal Picture in the 30’s that supposedly morphed into 1932’s THE MUMMY. Other actors to play the role include Jean Marais, Howard Vernon, Henry Daniell, Nicol Williamson and Christopher Walken, to name a few!
A fascinating, truly multi-faceted man of mystery, Cagliostro has always been and remains the subject of non-fictional/fictional books, plays, music, movies, comic books, etc.  Cagliostro would have been a fitting character for inclusion in Welles’ mind-bending F IS FOR FAKE (1975), a twisted tribute to cons and con men, .  Welles was a serious magician in real life and as in 'F,' he gets to show off some of his sleight of hand skills here including the classic "Miser's Dream."

A difficult film to track down, BLACK MAGIC was originally available on Beta and VHS tape on the Nostalgia Merchant and Midnight Video labels.  It can sometimes be snagged during one of its rare airings on Turner Classic Movies.  Without question, BLACK MAGIC deserves a legit U.S.  DVD/BD release.  It is available on DVD as CAGLIOSTRO in Spain and Italy.

The real life Count Cagliostro!

(Reviewed from a nice bittorrent download, as evidenced from the frame grabs, from an unknown video source.)

Thursday, September 6, 2012


With Al Adamson's monster mash being prepared for a remastered DVD and Blu-Ray release, it's time to look back... maybe not?
I remember Forry Ackerman hyping the hell out of this movie and it set my expectations sky high.  Upon first experiencing the film on TV, my jaw dropped...

The astounding Gray Morrow painting!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Jaguar Dies! Martial Arts Legend Joe Lewis Passes Away at Age 68

The always outspoken and controversial Joe Lewis is dead.   He will always be remembered for his massive contributions to full-contact karate, his friendship with Bruce Lee and, hopefully, not his erratic film career.
I saw both of these films in the theater upon their first-run release.  They were sort of... okay.

More Bruce Le! By Popular Demand!

Here are some more Bruce Le flyers for his early 90's productions.  I've also included a slightly revised review for COMFORT WOMEN which originally appeared in VC #17 (March 1993).

COMFORT WOMEN (1992- Hong Kong)
D: Bruce Le (Huang King Lung).  Set in 1936, this action drama exposes the horrors of the comfort women- Chinese and Korean women abducted by the Japanese oppressors and forced into a life of prostitution to service the military elite.  A female Japanese reporter, Akiyama Tomi (Lily Lee), is a staunch supporter of the Japanese war effort until she discovers the covert Comfort Houses.  She goes undercover (Emmanuelle style!) to investigate but is discovered, captured and forced into sexual service by the military brass.  A sympathetic Japanese military liaison (a rather suave Bruce Le) becomes romantically attracted to Akiyama and eventually gets up the nerve to take on the evil, face the brute General Kawasaki and invade the whore  house of horrors to rescue the V.D. ridden reporter. For a few tense moments, the film veers into MEN BEHIND THE SUN terrain and we glimpse some graphic torture.  Although the film is mainly focused on the heart-breaking human drama, a good amount of screen time is thankfully devoted to exploiting the sexual and violent aspects of the sordid subject matter.  You'll find the usual staples associated with the war/prison genres- whippings, nudity, rape, autopsies, battle scenes and kung-fu- all handled with a certain amount of flair and taste!  There's even an intense accidental incestuous encounter that results in an explosive double-suicide pact!  The film's tag-line says it all!  Around the time of this film's release (and probably the inspiration for its creation), the Japanese government publicly admitted to the existence of the Comfort Women for the first time.  A really solid and polished effort from one of the 70's clone icons of Bruceploitation.  The film was originally reviewed on Hong Kong laser disc boasting a nice letter-boxed transfer in Chinese with English subtitles.

70's-80's FLASHBACK!  Bruce Le and his clonies!  The mother of all Bruceploitation films!

I still maintain that if Linda Lee, the real Bruce Lee's widow, ever collected a fraction of the royalties and money owed her for the illegitimate use of her husband's name and image on films, merchandise, businesses, music, etc., she would be one of the richest persons in the history of our planet!

More Le and Li!
This is so wrong!  Usually the real Bruce Lee is used illegally to advertise 'fake' Bruce Lee movies.  Here, we have Lee's legit major studio classic with an image of vicious clone Dragon Lee!  What were they thinking?  I love it when people mention that Bruce Lee probably made more movies than anyone in film history (he made 3-1/2 kung fu films!) or ask if I ever saw the film where Lee fights guys in gorilla suits!
I'll have one take out order of JKD pork!