Monday, June 20, 2016

Godzilla vs. Hedorah - 1971

Also of course known as Godzilla Versus The Smog Monster.

One might very well wonder why a lot of the Japanese Godzilla series didn't do well in America, and why a lot of them were not even brought in here for theatrical or VHS/DVD release for quite a while.  One might, in that case, want to start here or at Godzilla and Son, and watch a few of those movies.  I'm not saying this is a terrible Godzilla film.  I'm just saying what sounds like a nifty concept idea didn't quite translate 100% to screen.

Hedorah is a giant monster that clashes with Godzilla (obviously) in this 11th installment of the series.  At this point in the series, Godzilla was a friend to humanity, meaning he would protect humanity from whatever threat was looming at the time, and in this case it was The Smog Monster, which was inspired by (and indeed made of) pollution and filth which mankind makes.  Hedorah is made of mutant cells which feed on pollution and grow, and then bond together to form the monster itself.  Also involved is a kid, Ken Yano, who has a unexplained link to Godzilla/Hedorah.

This installment is usually one that makes lists of like "Top 10 worst Godzilla films" and stuff.  It's not that it's outrageously bad, it's just that it's 1) not very good and 2) very very low on the action.  When action happens, it's also at a different pace than most of the Godzilla franchise.  I'm just going to drop this like it's hot:  Hedorah seems vaguely confused, and not explicitly evil.

It was an odd idea to take the giant Godzilla and pit him against a man-made monster, and specifically one made of pollution.  The anti-pollution message is decently strong, but moreover you'll probably be struck with the same idea as me, that most of the bad things Hedorah does are not strictly his fault.  First of all he sinks some ships, and it's never proven he did it on purpose.  In fact it looks more like he was just coming up and the ships happened to be there.  Then he starts to emit a poisonous gas which kills people.  Okay, maybe that's not his fault, he's just flying around, and the gas happens to be coming from him.  Then his conflicts with Godzilla.  Well yeah!  Hedorah is around, minding his own business, and the Godzilla confronts him.  Hedorah is of course gonna fight back!

But even in the Godzilla fights, Hedorah seems resistant.  Several times he runs away, or doesn't bring the fight to Godzilla.  In fact, I'd easily call this the most confusing of the Godzilla films simply because a lot of the time I wasn't sure what Hedorah was doing or why.  When humanity also starts to fight Hedorah, of course he also fights back, but he doesn't go berserk and destroy buildings and shit like some monsters, no it's like, a single helicopter or a single tank or whatever.  I think it was a conscious choice, to make him "not as evil" as some others, because they wanted to show that the true villain in this film was mankind.  In fact in the end, Godzilla defeats Hedorah and then glares at the army men and head scientist/main character Dr. Toru Yano.  It's a warning, Godzilla is saying, look and see what you've done.

Watching this one last night I also felt like perhaps this is one of those things where it was a concept idea that so-happened to be made.  Like, there are tons, TONS of movies that are scripted, in production, even filmed in parts that are later abandoned.  Maybe this is one that just so happened to get lucky and to actually be made.  It reads like a wacky concept, Godzilla versus a monster of smog and pollution?  It made me really interested to research and find out what wacky Godzilla films hadn't been made.  I mean if one this weird was still made, what weird ass ones were never fully realized?

It's not a bad movie, it may be for hardcore fans only or something like that though.  It's not one to start a non-initiated person on, and it may not be a "classic" in feel, execution, and all other ways.  But it's one of them, unique, and an easily remembered, bizarre one that's perhaps a bit more dark and "realistic", in a series where three headed dragons are mechanized by aliens....

I give it 4 stars.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Hundra - 1983

What ever happened to the "sword and sorcery" genre of film?  I was recently on IMDb looking up Hundra and it hit me as I browsed this IMDb user list of such films.  More so, it's the vanishing of the fantasy / young adult action film that has happened.  The thing I love about the fantasy genre is that even rated R movies are still admitting there's the dumb kid in us that is into wizards and magic, and likes to see evil sorcerers and weird shit happening.  Conan the Barbarian isn't classic because it's a great action movie.  It's a great action movie, has weird appeal to it's characters, nudity, and still keeps it's silliness factor high.  Why can't silliness be a sell point any more?

I'm not here to be all depressed about how the fantasy genre has been dumbed down by about everyone these days.  I'm here to talk about a fun movie called Hundra from 1983 that was made to capitalize off the success of such films as Conan the Barbarian and also Quest for Fire.  This film is pretty much Conan light, with a female lead, but it still retained some originality to it and has a lot of the familiar things to offer.  It's got the rough and tumble fighting and a quick setup for the plot, attractive female star that gets nude along with several other girls along the way, larger than life baddie, odd magical happenings that are never explained but don't need to be, and true feeling of how shitty life in ancient times must've been, especially for girls.

This genre was huge in the 80's, and I can't imagine why.  Of course, one thing I'm realizing more and more as I do this blog is that there used to be a lot of cash ins on a hit film, and now there's not.  Nowadays, you'll have a few quick cash ins and maybe some direct to DVD cash ins, but you won't have years and years worth of cash ins, or years where like 4 similar feeling movies are made to cash in.  Case in point is my recent review of Just Before Dawn where I revealed that 12 slasher movies came out in the year 1981 alone - most of them released in theaters, and most of them copycatting either Halloween or Friday the 13th.  I've also covered Alien, Terminator, and Mad Max rip offs, along with others I'm probably forgetting.

Hundra is best defined in pictures, not words:
I love that cartoon style new poster they have on IMDb, which I put up here.  I's got everything you'll wanna see in the movie right there on the poster: nudity, chicks with weapons, girls kissing, and some ridiculous villain.  And then a screenshot showing what most of this movie actually is: a pretty average blond girl with an obvious fake sword and a badly acted villain, while in the background Bronson Canyon fills in as a desolate landscape.  (Side note, I guess it was actually filmed in Spain.  My bad)

Hundra is about about a female warrior named Hundra who doesn't accept her place in the male dominated society and goes about to set the injustices right - with a broad sword.  She is told by an old woman that she must bear a child so that the Amazons don't become extinct.  Thus a large portion of the movie is her trying to find the right guy, and when she does, her trying to seduce the guy.  That part of it was slow and not as fun, but the action works to keep you interested.

I give it a solid 3 star effort, and be warned that lesbian kiss on the cover never actually happens.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Battle Beyond the Stars - 1980

I am actually a little torn between reviewing this and Lady Terminator.  I just finished both movies, and both are probably Grindhouse Review worthy, however I think this one is perhaps a bit less known, so I'll throw it up on here.  I'll include a bonus mini review of Lady Terminator in here as well!

Battle Beyond the Stars is another Star Wars clone that came out shortly after Star Wars, attempting to grab some of it's success.  Watching this last night made me really examine in my head exactly what makes a movie be a "rip off" to audiences, as well as why Star Wars and Star Trek so specifically seem to have a lot of stuff that rips them off.  I just think it's a little funny that movies get so quickly categorized as rip offs.  But this is certainly one, it's not up for contest, so no big deal in writing about it that much.

Primarily director of animation Jimmy Murakami teamed up with the infamous Roger Corman to make this bizarre sci fi adventure.  John Saxon as the main villain, Richard Thomas is the young plucky hero, and Robert Vaughn as a character I don't remember are your cast members.  Richard Thomas plays Shad, a very average good guy, who hires a few mercenaries to protect his planet from some intergalactic baddies.

Hmm.  I'm really fucking tired and I don't quite feel like going on about it.  The plot's been done before, but the effects are decent enough.  The whole android/alien thing is where this rips off Star Wars, and this movie is pretty crappy in most ways.  But it's a solid sci fi effort that isn't going to hurt you too much.  The whole thing feels a little dialed back, not particularity out to leave a mark per say.

I'll give it 2.5 stars.

Lady Terminator is a rip off of Terminator from Indonesia, and the director of Mystics in Bali, H. Tjut Djalil.  In this, there's 1) a lot of topless girls 2) a female version of the Terminator and 3) a whole lot of nonsensical shit in between.

There's a whole lot of bizarre aspects to this movie, naturally.  In a similar sense to Mystics in Bali, it's got a lot of weird shit in it, and you may not entirely know what's going on.  The dubbing and the action are a lot of fun to watch, and the film has it's clear ups and downs.

I have a somewhat hard time watching these because it simply seems like the movies go nowhere, but at no point can you say it's because they have a slow plot or loss of things happening.  It's almost like there's too much going on, where at some point I hit sensory overload and become blind to it.

Trying not to let that be a main detractor, I still give it 3.5 stars.