Friday, September 18, 2009

Sunshine Cleaning (2009)

This one seemed to fly under radar when it was released earlier this year. It's sort of an indie comedy/drama in the mold of something like Juno (I assume, still haven't seen it), Little Miss Sunshine (same producers, both feature Alan Arkin as an eccentric old person), and lots of movies I'm sure I've never heard of since, unlike Juno or Little Miss Sunshine, they didn't manage to find an audience (or even a theater). Sunshine Cleaning sort of skipped the whole finding an audience thing too, but I think it deserved better. Also, they managed to include a song from a not too well known band that I really like over the opening credits (Golden Smog's "cure for this"). Off to a good start.

As soon as I hit my thirties I started to reflect on my life, my choices, etc. Regrets started to seep in. I'm single, not exactly doing what I thought I'd be doing back in my twenties. When I was in my twenties I was way more careless, kept thinking things like "I still have time, blah blah blah". Now, I'm essentially dead. Well, of course that's not true. I still have time to achieve a few of my dreams....wait, think I'll just crack open a beer, maybe see what's on TV first. Whatever, my dreams can wait until tomorrow.

Anyway, that's basically the theme of this picture. Getting older, taking stock of your life, making changes. The movie centers around this Amy Adams like character named Rose. Thankfully, they got Adams to play the part. I'm not sure anyone else could have pulled it off. Rose is in her 30s, a single mother, working as a house cleaner, but not really too happy. You see, Rose was that girl in high school; You know, head cheerleader, dating the star quarterback, most likely to succeed, lost her virginity at 15, etc. Now, Rose is working a menial job while pretending to study for her real estate license. Instead of going to class, she meets up with Detective Steve Zahn at a hotel for some illicit affair-y type shit.

Also, there's Rose's sister named Nora (Emily Blunt) who is in her twenties, can't hold a job for more than five minutes, has lots of casual sex, and is one of those deadpan, dark haired, overly sarcastic type girls I'm not sure I'd want to date, which is a good thing since I think she comes out of the closet in this picture. Whatever, you know the type. Rose (in her 30s) takes her shitty job (apologies to all maids out there. let me say, shitty in the context of this movie) seriously. Nora doesn't. I can't say their father was a very good influence though. Joe is an old guy who tries to make money by peddling things (fancy corn, truckload of shrimp that he bought illegally) all across town. If you've seen an Arkin movie, you pretty much know the character. Doesn't swear like grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine though. Also, there's Rose's son, Oscar who is one of those slightly annoying, at first, movie kids but eventually he kinda grows on you.

The movie doesn't quite open like you'd expect. We got a business man, fidgeting with something in his pocket. Turns out it's a shell for a shotgun. He walks into a sporting goods store, asks to look at a 12 guage, then loads it, and blows his own head off. Later, Detective Zahn is investigating the suicide (it's pretty cut and dried) but he becomes fascinated by the cleaning crew that comes in and charges an arm and a leg. One guy over by the fishing poles makes a joke "he's over here too". So, Zahn, tells Rose, knowing she could use more money, that she ought to get in on that. He calls it a racket. At first, she shrugs it off. Then, something comes up, she needs money, her sister's broke and jobless, so together, they get in on it.

At first, they don't know what they're doing. They show up to another suicide scene (most of their calls are suicides) with windex and rags. Nora pukes. They throw a bloody mattress in a dumpster (illegal I guess) but not before Rose drops it and Nora falls on top of it (one of the few laugh out loud moments in this thing). They get better. They find out about this supply store which is run by this one armed guy named Winston. Winston is a quiet guy, but seems real nice. He tells them what they need and also that maybe they should think about getting certified. Clifton Collins Jr. is Winston and gives a wonderfully understated performance.

The movie progresses from one cleanup scene to the next while allowing us to get into the characters a little more. Meanwhile, Arkin continues to be a lousy influence but his hearts in the right place. In a fairly large contrivance Nora develops a friendship of lesbian-ish under(maybe, over)tones with one of the daughters of a suicide victim they cleaned up after. Also, Rose and Nora's mother killed herself. Meanwhile, Oscar gets kicked out of school for licking his teacher's leg. This movie is too loose, too cute to possibly work.

But it does. I think it can mostly be attributed to Amy Adams who once again takes a left field character and completely grounds her with unabashed sincerity. Rose reconnects with a high school friend who invites her to her baby shower. Rose wisely leaves when they start sampling melted chocolate out of diapers. That kind of life just ain't for her. I can't think of another actress who could make the scene work where she tries to talk to her dead mother over a CB radio. Or, the scene where she tells Winston "I'm good at getting men to want me. Not to date me...or to marry me, but just to want me" She's never less than completely compelling in a role that could have very easily been grating.

Nora's character, however, is somewhat problematic in that I've only known girls like her in the movies. Never met one in real life. Maybe I'm just in the wrong circles. Could have done without the scene where she goes "tressling", or burns down a house, or refers to her nephew as "l'il bastard" and then bought him a l'il bastard fake tattoo for his birthday. Despite all this, she provides a solid contrast to Rose's sunnier (but still brow beaten-ish) outlook. The movie doesn't really provide easy resolutions. The characters aren't necessarily in a much better place when it's over, but at least they're on the right track.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Header (2006)

Shit man, I can't think of another blog that would follow up a review of a Humphrey Bogart classic with a review of something like this. Apologies to Bogart for even mentioning his name in this one. This is the kind of movie where the creative minds behind it (I guess that would be novelist Edward Lee and director Archibald Flancranstin) think up the most disgusting act imaginable and then throw it into a generic police procedural. That disgusting act I refer to would be what's known as a "header". I'm embarrassed to explain what a header is. My embarrassment speaks volumes.

Our little story begins with the dim witted Travis Clyde Tuckston being released from prison somewhere in a deep south mountain community. Travis goes to live with his crippled grandfather, also known as "gran pappy". There's a parallel story involving ATF agent, Stewart Cummings, who works out of a little office in the middle of nowhere with a couple fellow redneck agents. We know he's an ATF guy since he wears his ATF shirt everywhere, even when he's working undercover or trying to set up a deal with some bad people to sell some drugs on the side so he can pay for his invalid wife's prescriptions. Meanwhile, some dead women turn up with holes in their heads. Also, seminal residue in the holes. I'm still not sure where they get the title of this picture from. Neither is the dense Cummings who is constantly asking his partner "what the fuck is a header anyway?" Yes, he is still asking this question even after the evidence is staring him in the face.

Well, this is a piece of shit alright. Jack Ketchum (writer of such works as "The Lost" and "The Girl Next Door") has a cameo (unnoticed by me) so I guess it's earned some street cred. Still, it's too fucking ridiculous to take seriously. I mean, neither of the leads (Cummings and Tuckston) are the least bit compelling. The only character in this thing that held my attention was gran pappy and that's not a good thing to be honest. I mean, what kind of old geezer would allow himself to appear in a movie where his grandson holds him up out of his wheel chair so he can put his limp dick inside a hole in some prosthetic head (I'm assuming they didn't really kill these girls for the picture because if that's the case then these guys can't even make a convincing snuff film).

So, the story goes that Tuckston get's out of the big house and hooks up with his demented gran pappy who convinces him to go pick up girls and bring them back to their tar paper shack for a little header action (it's pronounced "headahhhh" in the movie). Gran pappy shouts things like "we're gonna have us an old fashioned headahhhh!!!!!" while slapping his useless leg. His grandson is just retarded.

While those two inbreds are having their fun, Cummings goes on a rogue investigation to solve the murders. My favorite part was when he was driving to the state police forensic lab and the exit sign on the highway was actually labeled "forensic lab". I don't remember what happened at that lab though. Not sure if they even had a scene there to be honest. Alright, I have something to confess. I saw this fucking thing about a month ago and have since lost my notes. I'm winging this mother...

The subplot involving Cumming's bed ridden wife was sorta interesting. Turns out she wasn't even sick (who was writing her prescriptions?). She was always tired at night because she spent her days whoring herself out. No energy to give herself to the hubby when he got home. Or, maybe she was just wracked with VD. I can only imagine what the hubby would do if he found out her secret? You don't think....

This pretends to be some sort of descent into madness type picture. Well, gran pappy and Travis are already there. Cummings starts off as a bad guy. I mean, this guy sells drugs that he confiscates (did I mention he wears his ATF shirt during these scenes?) and I think he murders some guys at one point. So, not a guy we can get behind unless you're getting ready for some headerin (is that a word?). We hate his wife since she's a whore. We can't stand the two caricatures that are gran pappy and Travis (although, they satisfy a need for intermittent unintentional comedy). Not one of the header victims resonate; we got a girl walking down a wooded road alone. She says hi to Travis who immediately punches her in the face. One girls a prostitute. One victim is actually a guy who I seem to remember was involved in some shady financial dealings with gran pappy involving cobbled shoes or something.

Eventually the stories of Travis and Cummings collide in an explosion of unsatisfying, unconvincing violence. I don't know. I think there could be a good movie made of this material. Maybe headers exist, maybe they don't. The picture is almost completely lacking in atmospherics (admittedly, a challenge when working with no budget), a reasonable story, capable performances, etc. If the goal was to repulse, this is a failure because to do that the subject needs to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, this doesn't really work as camp either. I would like nothing more than to enjoy a picture where a 90 year old cripple instructs his grandson on the finer points of giving a header like, for example, how to make it so you don't get splinters in your dick.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Well shit, there are some of you that will never even give this picture a chance. I mean, it was made over sixty years ago. You'll assume it's pretty dated and stuff. Minimal violence, no nudity, etc. It's probably even black and white for chrissakes! I can't dispute any of that. All true. I also can't dispute that it's one of the best pictures I have ever seen. Of any era.

Some guy (you may have heard of him) named Humphrey Bogart plays some guy named Fred Dobbs, a down on his luck drifter living (for the moment) in Tampico, Mexico. He spends his days asking rich americans (actually, it's always the same American, played by director John Huston) for a few Pesos to buy some food. When the rich American calls him out and asks why he only seems to pick on him, Dobbs responds with a 'sorry mister, I guess I never looked at your face....just your hands and the money you give me". Dobbs is sorta pathetic is the point. Then he uses the money to buy some booze with. Later, Dobbs hooks up with fellow drifter, Curtin (Tim Colt). Even later than that, they meet up with yet another drifter, this time a loveable old coot (Walter Huston, the director's father) named Howard. Howard tells them about some gold just waiting to be prospected from this Mexican mountain (the Sierra Madre of the title) and so the three of them head off for grand adventure....and also some old fashioned descent into madness type shit, etc.

Shit man, this is about as good as movie making gets. We got a brilliant set up where we think we learn most of what we need to know about the three principal characters; Dobbs (greedy, capable of violence), Curtin (earnest, capable of violence), and Howard (old, potential comedic relief). Turns out, Howard's the most bad ass of the three while also being funny, capable of violence (as long as it's right), and full of heart. His mile a minute delivery is a thing of beauty and, at no point, feels like a device added into this thing to provide some humor. It's his character. Hustons' is the best performance of the picture and that's saying something when you consider just how great Bogart's work is here.

Bogart's arc as Dobbs resembles Daniel Day Lewis' as Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood) only if it were greatly abbreviated. At first, he's happy to panhandle a couple pesos but, later, as he begins to bring in the gold he starts to isolate himself, protect what's his, distrust those closest to him (Howard and Curtin). Bogart doesn't play it too over the top and manages to keep it on a plain of existence we can identify with. Little of his backstory is ultimately revealed. Times were tough and he did (flee to Mexico) what he thought he had to.

Mexico, at the time (maybe still, never been there), was a dangerous place with banditos roaming the countryside looking to rob and kill, especially white people. After our three characters board a train to take them deeper into the country, they are immediately attacked by a group of such bandits on horseback. It seems like every passenger on the train is armed, so the attack is thwarted. This group of banditos will reappear throughout the film and ultimately lead to one of the more famous lines ("we don't need no stinking badges"), when they pose as federales, in film.

Well, I don't know, don't wanna spoil too much here. The three find their mountain, Curtin and Dobbs follow along slowly as Howard double times it toward the site. They rig some shit, discover some gold, build a mine, etc. They spend a lot of time on that mountain (months, perhaps). Howard and Curtin do a good job of maintaining their cool. Meanwhile, Dobbs just gets more and more restless, getting up in the middle of the night to check his stash, making wild accusations, sticking his hand under rocks even when told there's some sorta of Mexican lizard under there that will bite into him and not let go even after they cut off it's head. There's a great scene where Dobbs gets up (carrying a pistol) in the middle of the night, followed by Howard (also armed), and then later Curtin wakes up (gun in hand). The tension was so palpable I expected someone to get shot, especially with the way Dobbs had been coming unglued. Dobbs carried his gun with murder on his mind. Howard and Curtin, merely for protection.

What amazed me about this movie (beyond the story, performances, depth of characters, etc) was how gritty and violent it seemed without even showing any of the results of that violence. We see acts of violence (fighting, gun shots) but, at the time, censors woudn't allow you to show someone actually being shot or stabbed. Huston brilliantly frames these moments so we can still imagine the worst and somehow it seems like we were witness. No cuts, after the act. The camera lingers, just not on the victim (which it doesn't show at all). For example, a certain character at the end meets a horrible fate at the hands of banditos. We see the machete swing and then the trail the head left as it rolled into a little brook.

Too often with older movies it seems like the characters are not really a part of their environment. Not here. Howard, Curtin, and Dobbs get grimier with each day that passes on that mountain. The attention to detail here is astounding. Their beards grow a little at a time, their hair (including Bogart's semi-famous wig) more matted. This isn't Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo (no offense to that otherwise pretty great picture).

This one's pretty close to perfect so what else can I add here? There are lots of little offbeat touches which kept me off guard. Like the American (Bruce Bennett) that made his way to the camp and basically said they have three choices; 1) cut him in 2) kill him or 3) make him leave. The three principals ultimately decide they have to kill him (even good hearted Howard agrees this is the best option) only when they're about to go through with it, the American points out several banditos making their way up the mountain. Suddenly, they kinda like the guy and later like him even more after he helps to fend off the banditos at the cost of his own life. Now, they're traumatized over the loss of their "buddy" even though they'd agreed to kill him barely an hour earlier.

Later, Howard (with a reputation as a medicine man in Mexico), in a moment that builds both plot and character, gets called to a village to heal a dying boy (pay close attention to the music in this scene, it's great). The only fault I can find with the picture is how Howard speaks Spanish, almost as if he's reading it without understanding (I looked it up, it's true). However, this actually works when you think about it because Howard speaks English (rat-a-tat-tat) the same way!

Yeah, it's a masterpiece but you didn't need me to tell you that. We got John "I fucking directed The Maltese Falcon and also Annie you got a fucking problem with that?" Huston, we got Walter "Best supporting actor for this god damned picture" Huston, and we got Humphrey "I was in this, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon but only one an oscar for The motherfucking African Queen" Bogart. The point is, this one's worth your time. It's as ahead of it's time as something like Citizen Cane (and I love Cane) in this humble reviewer's nearly worthless opinion.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

House of Traps (1982)

I'll start off by saying I'm not that familiar with the Shaw Brothers and had no idea who Cheh Chang or his Deadly Venoms were before watching this thing. The way I stumbled upon this one is pretty simple. I was browsing some used DVDs, found House of Traps in a bargain section, read the premise, and bought it blindly. My knowledge of kung fu films is fairly limited. I loved Master of the Flying Guillotine and have great affection for Crippled Masters. I watched several others when I was a kid but can't, for the life of me, remember which ones. Still, I'm always looking to expand my filmatic horizons so it was almost a no brainer to pick this one up for seven bucks. Also, I loved Tarantino's Kill Bill pictures but I'm not sure those count.

Anyway, the premise, as it's written on the back of the DVD case, seemed pretty intriguing: "a team of skilled fighters, unleash their fury in a bloody frenzy when they infiltrate a mysterious, treasure-filled house designed to entrap and destroy all those who enter it."

Unfortunately, there's also a story that's a little too convoluted. We've got an emperor (I think he was slain early on, but not really sure to be honest), we've got a traitorous prince who steals some valuables, a jade horse (reused from Crippled Masters, perhaps), a royal pearl crown, and a list which contains the names of all those loyal to the prince, we've got various fighters (Black Fox, Water Rat, Tunnel Rat, etc), and we've got some pretty tacky costumes (including some rather odd head dresses).

The prince stashes the stolen treasure inside his house (the one from the title). Early on, there's a scene where an accomplished kung fu fighter breaks into the house and dies a pretty quick death. The house is a wonderful creation. Upon entering, you face several of the prince's guards who come out of secret passage ways. If you prove to be more than a match for them, they retreat as cage walls slam down barring your escape. Suddenly, the floor lowers to reveal row after row of spikes. Clearly the only move is to jump onto the central staircase. Unfortunately, the staircase turns into a slide and if you're not quick enough you'll fall onto the spikes. If you're quick enough to evade the trick staircase (this first guy ain't) you become trapped in some net thing that binds you while the prince's men come back out and fill you full of arrows. That's just the first floor.

So, we got a great premise here for a film. It's like a fucking video game. Unfortunately, in this case, they treat the thing like Jaws and rarely show it (a little at the beginning, a little in the middle, and then a lot more for the finale). I was hoping for a story where a few kung fu fighters get trapped in the house and then spend the entire movie trying to fight their way out. What we got instead is a story involving that corrupt prince, some magistrate guy, lots of talking, and not one single woman in the entire picture. Sure, there were some pretty cool characters. I loved the Black Fox who was a bit of a comedian and started off working for the evil prince but it turned out he was just playing him for a pauper or whatever. Also, he was the best fighter of the bunch.

Lots of unique weapons in this thing as well. I particularly liked the umbrella that doubled as a drill. Liked the grappling fist and also the standard metal pole. Some weird nunchuckas work their way into the mix as well. This thing was a little too light on the fights but they were all masterful. The choreography in this picture is incredibly impressive and makes a viewing more than worth it (also, the house). It's like a ballet only I was watching it. It's easy to see how this Chang guy (and his venoms) probably had an influence on Kill Bill. Apparently, this is the last of the venom films and also the rarest. Not sure if what I saw was complete or not. To be honest, I wouldn't mind losing some of the dialogue. Perhaps, the footage with the women was permanently lost? The lack of budget is evident in the minimal sets but really wasn't a problem. I don't know, I'll definitely check out more from this Chang guy. House of Traps is pretty good, but I'm not sure it's the place to start.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Prime Cut (1972)

You know how movies like Fast Food Nation (and various documentaries - none of which I have seen) depict, to put it mildly, an unhealthy beef industry? Well, I'm not sure any of them can top Prime Cut which, in a brilliant opening credit sequence, posits that sometimes human cadavers get mixed in with cattle and end up as sausage. This sequence begins with the unloading of the cows and continues through with such niceties as the hammering of their heads, the cutting up of limbs, the loading of parts onto conveyor belts, and the condensing of various unsavory bits into a machine which squeezes everything together into a paste that ends up as sausage. Along the way, we catch a quick glimpse of a naked male ass that somehow becomes a part of the process. One of the "cow" parts on the conveyor belt has a wristwatch. A guy (aptly named Weenie) follows these particular parts throughout the process, while munching on cold sausage, eventually packaging up the finished bits and sending them off to Chicago (the movie takes place outside of St. Louis). All of this takes place as the credits slide onto the screen accompanied by Lalo Schifrin's cues. It's one of the more original openings I've seen.

Turns out that slaughterhouse is run by Mary Ann (Gene Hackman), a former Chicago mobster who got sick of playing second banana in the big city. So, he moved to farm country where he could operate his own business. The beef industry is too legitimate, however, so he also deals in drugs and sex slavery on the side. It turns out that the human sausage links were once this mob guy sent down by his boss in Chicago to collect a debt from Mary Ann. His former boss, upon receiving the package, dispatches an enforcer (Nick played by Lee Marvin) to get the money and maybe settle a few scores. I like Hackman, but he's not a match for Lee Marvin.

I enjoyed this picture. We got some good scenes (and one great one). Marvin plays his character the only way he knows how: tough (note: I haven't seen Cat Ballou). Although, in a bit of a twist, they also give him a sensitive side. In one of the more risque scenes, Marvin and a couple of his men, arrive at Mary Ann's slaughter house, to talk. They arrive as he's auctioning off drugged out girls kept naked and non-lucid inside cattle pens. One of these girls is a very naked Sissy Spacek (in her first major role) who, at one point, whispers "help me". He does. He brings her back to his hotel, buys her a dress (it's see through) and takes her out to a nice dinner (a scene echoed in Pretty Woman). When other patrons begin staring at her visible nipples Marvin gives them a staredown (obviously they relent) and treats Spacek to a wry smile. I don't think his intent was to give her a revealing dress. He's just not good at those sort of things.

Gene Hackman is good as the villain, a slightly more sinister Lex Luthor. First off, he's been saddled with Mary Ann as a name so you know he's probably always had to act tough. In the first scene between him and Marvin, he's shown eating cow guts. At first he smiles alot, laughs, etc. When Marvin pisses him off he looks like he's about to fly off the handle for a moment, but then he quickly bursts into a laugh. His views on forced prostitution are simply "cow flesh....girl flesh...all the same to me." He's not all bad though. His brother Weenie is the supervisor of the slaughterhouse. Apparently, he makes a slave's wage since he can only afford to live in a room in the lousiest hotel in town. Also, the only thing he seems to eat are sausages which he likely stole off the assembly line. In an amusing scene, he and Mary Ann wrestle in the kitchen (a fight that goes on and on) while the accountants tally up the cash, none of which seems to make it's way into Mary Ann's brother's pockets. Come to think of it, I guess Mary Ann is a "son of a bitch", a sentiment shared by Weenie.

The best scene (the great one I alluded to earlier) of the picture takes place at a local fair, the site of an arranged money pick up between Mary Ann and Nick. The deal goes bad (the money is switched with cow organs) and some violence erupts. The whole thing culminates in a wheat field chase with Nick and Spacek (character named Poppy) fleeing from one of those hay bailer machine things. It cuts and gathers up the grass in the front and then shits out a bail of hay in the back. Anyway, what's great about this scene is the way it ends. Nick's driver crashes his limo into the front of the machine, gets out, shoots the driver and then we watch for a few moments while the bailer chews up the limo and lays out a bail of metal in the back.

The climax was a little too familiar but I liked how it began with Nick (who previously had refused the use of guns - as if it was insulting that he would even need one) loading up with an arsenal as they drive to the final confrontation with Mary Ann. There's a nice moment when Weenie stabs Nick with a sausage. There's a gunfight amongst sunflowers. Marvin even finds time to free some girls that were raised from childhood to be sex slaves (a local orphanage turns them out faster than Mary Ann turns out sausage links). In some ways, it's like that movie Taken except it doesn't jump directly from one action scene to the next spending little to no time developing Neeson's Bourne-esque character beyond the fact that he's incredibly lucky and trying to make up for lost time with his daughter. Here, we got some small character moments like the look Marvin gives when he finds a comatose girl in a flophouse clutching a fistful of nickels (her payment for sexual services) and a line full of derelicts waiting to use her. Or the bond between Marvin and his driver which is conveyed without words. Or the non-generic score by Schifrin. I wish the studio would put shit out like this these days. Good job on the part of Michael Ritchie (the director, whose credits also include The Bad News Bears and Fletch).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Conquest (1983)

Once upon a time there was this shitty land where you couldn't see shit through the perpetual mist. This land was swarming with all kinds of creatures; werewolves, cavemen, topless snake loving broads, barbarians, pseudo-gods, zombies, fake birds, etc. The land was ruled with an iron fist by this she-bitch named Ocron who must have been a pretty awful butter face since she wore a mask which she refused to take off. One day Ocron has a vision of being killed by a faceless man with sweet hair and a bow that shoots lasers. She orders her werewolves to search the land, find this man, and bring him to her. If they should happen to tear a few cavewomen to shreds in the process...well...she'll just look the other way.

Lucio Fulci (House by the Cemetery) fucked this one up when he made the stylistic choice to shoot it through a glass of milk to achieve a dream like atmosphere. Likely, this was his excuse after looking at the finalized footage. From what I saw, the opening was actually kinda brilliant. Werewolves storm a cave, brain an elder, grab a young woman by the legs and make like she's a wishbone. It's one of the greatest gore moments I've seen in a long while. I'm completely into the story at this point. Then we're introduced to the main character Ilias (who reminded me of Hamlin's Perseus) and Mace (looks kinda like Conan, acts like Beastmaster). These two meet after Ilias tries to use his bow, pathetically I might add, to fend off some werewolves in close combat. Mace comes to his rescue, swings his mace a few times, wins the battle and draws the ire of Ocron.

Well, I don't know, I liked the opening. Then, like so many movies from this era, the thing just got boring. Lots of walking across boring landscapes. We've got caves, we've got fields, we've got marshes, lakes, etc. All shit that's barely visible to the viewer. Ilias gets captured after meeting a cavegirl (a horrible instance of coitus interruptus), rescued (again), shot with a poison dart, and so on. He's not really a typical hero I guess. That would be Mace the Barbarian who preys to a god named Crom-os, but doesn't swing a broad sword. This movie is full of shit like magic that doesn't really seem magical (unless you consider rubbing plants on your puss-filled boils magic) and creatures that seem all too human (zombies, werewolves, cavemen, mummies, goats, etc).

I was intrigued by one scene. When Mace brutally murders a caveman who was just minding his own business and carrying home a lamb to feed his cave family. I guess it's easier for Mace to take a lamb off this dead bastard rather than to catch one himself. So, this Mace is not really a great guy, but I liked that shit. Makes him more real in a way. This is a harsh land with harsh rules. Kill or be killed, fuck or be fucked, eat or be eaten, etc. Mace is also interesting because he communicates with animals. He heals a hawk that's injured during his battle with werewolves, an innocent casualty. He kisses the thing and let's it fly off. "I thought you didn't have any friends" says Ilias, to which he responds "I said I didn't have any man friends". Then he banged a cavewoman and offered Ilias her sister. I can totally relate to this guy.

Alas, not really the type of picture where you might find a strong woman character. We got a girl that's torn in two, a girl that's brained after bearing her breasts. Ocron is pretty strong though. She walks around topless but you get the idea it's her decision. She tortures one of her creatures by twisting around an arrow that's been lodged in his leg. She wears a mask because we can guess underneath she's pretty god damned ugly. Nice tits though.

This movie has some other fantasy type elements (besides the breasts) like shape shifting in the form of a shape shifting character named Zora. He starts as a dog, then changes into a guy made of metal shingles. He can even turn into any one of the characters in this film. He's a pretty evil character. You'll just have to wonder if he ever uses that particular power. If he can manage to kill Ilias then Ocron promises he can have her body. "Forever?" he asks. Just keep that mask in place pal and you'll be alright.

Fuck, I forgot about the part where Mace gets saved by dolphins or where Ilias gets his head lopped off and Mace burns his body on a funeral pyre which slightly resembles a pig roast. I guess that's a bit of a spoiler. There's another part where an army of chirpy mummies kidnaps Mace and threatens to kill him if he doesn't reveal the location of Ilias but since we now know Ilias isn't long for this particular world, I guess the tension in that scene is pretty nil. Again, sorry.

I love a good sword and sorcery epic but this one was way too light on the swords (as in, there weren't any) and the sorcery consisted mostly of blue lasers shooting out of a bow (which admittedly, was fucking awesome). If you can forgive the way it was shot (through a haze of semen?) I guess it will give you a somewhat enjoyable 90 minutes. It's not as good as Conan the Barbarian or even The Beastmaster. Not as fun as Deathstalker. I can't think of a sword and sorcery epic this is on par with come to think of it. It's bad. Bad but watchable. I did get a laugh at the first line of the closing credits: "Any reference to people or events is purely coincidental".