In the early 70s in the UK, and indeed worldwide, we were in the grip of Kung Fu Fever. A huge reason for this was the John Carradine TV show Kung Fu but another major factor was the Bruce Lee film Enter The Dragon.
Imagine an unholy blend of martial arts, Blaxploitation, action and even James Bond. But there is a lot more as to why the film is just sooo good. One major reason is that it feels authentic. This was the moment that martial arts movies truly broke into the mainstream rather than such films being imported and playing to niche audiences in drive-ins and grindhouse theatres. Enter the Dragon was the joint venture of Golden Harvest, a studio based in Hong Kong who were well known for producing such fare and Warner Bros in America who recognised that martial arts movies were becoming very popular indeed. Bruce Lee’s star had been steadily rising also. Lee would also stage all of the fight scenes within the film and even make casting suggestions. Rod Taylor was due to take the role which was eventually taken on by John Saxon but was vetoed by Lee as he felt him to be too tall for the role.
It’s also great to see a film with black, white and Asian leads. We get the world-weariness of John Saxon, the Blaxploitation cool cat that is Jim Kelly and then we get Bruce Lee. I could watch Mr Lee all day long and the only negative that I have about Enter The Dragon is that Lee passed away just after the film was completed. It’s a massive tragedy that this amazing talent couldn’t be enjoyed in more films after this masterpiece was made. Lee was 32 when he passed away.
Lee’s fight scenes are some of the best I’ve ever seen on screen and are almost supernaturally brilliant. I love what I’ve dubbed ‘The Bruce Lee Strut’ that he adopts when he’s in full flow. But Lee’s acting skills and natural charisma also shine through which makes his death even more devastating. I love the snippets of philosophy that his character dispenses throughout the film. Add to this that Lee is one of the most stylish men I’ve ever seen in a film. He really is cool as fuck and, in my humble opinion, one of the best leading men in film history.
But there’s also a strong horror element to the film also. Lee’s nemesis is Mr Hans, a drug lord and pimp who is missing a hand but puts this to his advantage as he can now fix numerous deadly fake hands to his stump consisting of things like deadly razors (years before Freddy Krueger) or even claws. The film’s ending sequence within the hall of mirrors is the stuff of nightmares.
Add to this Lalo Schifrin’s funky soundtrack. I love the stories about Lalo wanting some of Lee’s war cries on the soundtrack as part of some of the tracks but rather than taking these from fight scenes, he brought Lee into the studio to specifically record them. The idea of Lee in the studio making these sounds is surreally fantastic.
There is also a scope to the film that makes it gorgeous to look at with amazing cinematography and direction. It feels like Warner Bros and Golden Harvest wanted to pour all of their available talent into making a classic rather than just knocking out a quick film to make a few bucks. And audiences knew this and the film went on to make $400m with a budget of $850,000. Enter The Dragon is also now seen as one of the best action/martial arts films ever made and has even been included in the National Film Registry as a work of massive cultural significance. And deservedly so.
I rewatched Rocky today for the first time in like decades! It was one of the first movies we rented when my parents bought our first VCR. Oh, I loved those huge padded Warner Brothers video cases!
It’s such a simple premise but one which clearly struck a chord with audiences. A small-time, part-time boxer who is struggling to survive day to day gets a shot at the heavyweight championship belt.
There are so many cliches I could fall into using such as ‘rags to riches’ and ‘underdog’ when reviewing this film but the thing is they’re all true. The film is so well made and written that in itself it doesn’t feel cliched or cheesy when dealing with such themes. No wonder the film became a huge earner at the box office.
The sequence which marks the film’s and leading character’s turning point is, of course, the running/training scene with the iconic theme playing in the background. It’s genuinely uplifting and moving- just like the entire film really.
Bonus marks for having Joe Spinell and Lloyd Kaufman as cast members.
Stallone also penned the screenplay. Nice job, Sly.
I rewatched Reanimator again today for the first time in years. The memories came flooding back…
I originally saw it a few years after it was originally released here in the UK as there was a (cut) midnight screening at a soulless multiplex near my house in the late 80’s. I phoned my friend to see if he would be interested in coming along and he said that his Dad could drive us there. There was only one catch- his Dad would be coming to see the film with us so that he could drive us back after the end of the film. I warned him to tell his Dad what kind of film this was and that it was supposed to be really gross and gory (two qualities I *love* regarding the kind of cinema I go in for). He said that his Dad was fine with this.
His Dad spent the entire film chuckling at the film. At one point a character said something like ‘I can’t believe this is happening!’ to which my friend’s Dad blurted out ‘You and me both!’ which made the entire audience burst out laughing at his remark. I don’t think Reanimator converted him to the splatter genre but his remark made him a few converts that night within the film’s audience. My friend and I loved the movie though.
Did it stand up still when I watched it today? Yes. Some parts could have been better executed but hey this is low budget horror with a tight budget and a tight schedule. These moments were few and far between though I’m pleased to say.
Reanimator is still as gory, gross, outrageously funny and original as when I first saw it at the Warner Village multiplex in York here in the UK at that midnight screening.
4 out of 5 stars.
P.S. Here in the UK there was even controversy regarding the severed head on the original US poster for the film. On the UK quad poster the head is turned around so that it’s face can’t be seen (see below)
I first saw The Howling 3 in 1989 on home video and thought ‘What the hell was that?!’
I saw it again today and again thought ‘What the hell was that?!’
The film is a curio for sure. It bears no relation (except by name) to the other films in the franchise and feels more like a standalone movie. It’s a gloriously zany and quirky slice of Ozploitation and even features some Prisoner Cell Block H cast members (I see you Nola McKenzie!) We also get a glorious Dame Edna Everage cameo.
Bizarre, left-field but never boring.
I must compile a list of my favourite messed-up horror sequels. The Howling 3 will feature for sure.
I watched Fatal Attraction yesterday for the first time since I first saw it in the late 80’s on home video.
The film ranges from being a brilliantly directed New York flick to being a thinly drawn slasher movie.
I loved the shots of Alex (Glenn Close) when she’s in full psycho mode wearing her floor length black coat with her wild frizzy blonde hair. The long shots of her make her look like the supernatural villain from a Japanese ghost movie.
The ending lets the film down as the material feels thin and is pure Hollywood.
The mark of a film that has made it’s mark on the public consciousness is that an expression adapted from the movie becomes part of our language. The term ‘bunny boiler’ comes from Fatal Attraction. The film obviously struck a nerve.
A good film but not as great as Play Misty For Me.
A massively dysfunctional couple decide to go Bush in their native Australia to try and salve their relationship. However, it appears that nature and the local ecology doesn’t take kindly to two bickering and slobbish human beings invading and polluting their environ and decides to fight back.
This is a terrific slice of Ozploitation with the one and only Briony Behets taking the female lead and she is as fantastic as ever. Ms Behets will, of course be known to fans of Prisoner Cell Block H as the character Susan Rice. John Hargreaves is equally as brilliant as the male lead and is a perfect foil to Behets’ hot/cold wife.
I couldn’t stop thinking of William Girdler’s Day of the Animals whenever the animals decided to attack and both films would make a great double bill.
There’s subtle innovative touches in Long Weekend to show the off-kilter situation the couple quickly find themselves in. Check out the darkly psychedelic sound mix which distorts the sounds of the everyday and makes them utterly sinister and alien.
I kept thinking of the brilliant Wake in Fright also as another example of the darker side of Australian life. Long Weekend is a curio that more people need to know about. Let’s hope that happens with a fantastic Blu Ray release soon.