GRAND SLAM (aka Ad ogni costo)
Directed by: Giuliano Montaldo
Starring: Janet Leigh, Robert Hoffman, Klaus Kinski, Edward G Robinson
Music: Ennio Morricone
A bored American teacher working in Brazil hatches a plan for a diamond heist to be executed during the Rio Carnival. A team of experts is assembled including a safe cracker, a military man, a mechanical genius, and of course a playboy (his job is to seduce Janet Leigh, so he gets the best job obviously). To pull this off, the team will have to coordinate and expertly execute the plan down to the last painful detail and overcome the latest and greatest in security technology: the Grand Slam security system.
Why You'll Love It:
If you like heist films, you'll enjoy this one. While it's not necessarily inventive, it does a great job with what you might expect from the genre (do you like Ocean's 11? Rififi?). The plot is tight (especially for an Italian film), there's suspense, action, humour, and just enough cheese to keep it fun. The all-star cast does a great job too.
Blue Underground has released a great DVD edition as well.
Oh, and no less than Roger Ebert calls it "one of the best heist movies".
One of my favourite sequences is the assembly of the team, using a well connected guy's contact files for all sorts of interesting characters ...
Let's just look through my files concealed behind this painting:
Newspapers? no ... oilmen? no ... pentagon? no ... ah yes PLAYBOYS!
Syndicate killers? yes! and I must remember to keep a theatrical actor in mind for the future too ...
|# ¿ Jun 7, 2010 19:02|
|# ¿ May 23, 2013 05:44|
MESSIAH OF EVIL
aka DEAD PEOPLE
Directed by: Willard Huyck (writer of American Graffiti, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and director of Howard the Duck) / Gloria Katz (uncredited)
Starring: Michael Greer, Marianna Hill, Royal Dano, Elisha Cook Jr.
Year: 1974 (after languishing in unreleased hell for several years)
Genre: Horror / Supernatural
The Plot: A woman travels to a beach town to visit her estranged artist father. Even as she gets close to the town, strange things start happening, and when she finally does arrive, her father is nowhere to be found. Something seems very wrong about the townspeople and the woman ends up banding together with another group of travelers who are also curious about what's going on. Needless to say, it's not good.
Why You'll Love It: Messiah of Evil isn't just an effectively creepy Lovecraftian story (there are many echoes of "Shadow Over Innsmouth" here), but also a little film with effective art film pretensions. Huyck and Katz, as writers and directors, were obviously influenced by the dreamlike gothic horror films coming out of Italy at the time that shared the same art film pretensions as MOE. Understanding that real horror doesn't necessarily come from graphic violence or cheap scares onscreen but also from an the audience's own imaginations stemming from never completely understanding what's happening but just knowing that something is wrong is the real strength of this film. It's a very low budget film, but just because your budget is small doesn't mean that you can't beautifully frame shots (this film is an advertisement for widescreen) or make use of some really great scenery (the father's house is covered in odd murals that really add to every scene shot in that house).
Messiah of Evil was recently released on DVD by Code Red and it is in proper widescreen format while retaining a gritty and dirty charm to the video. The DVD also includes a really great making of featurette and a bunch of other interesting stuff (be sure to check out the trailer for "The Statue" on there).
If this recommendation sounds familiar, it might be because Messiah of Evil was recently featured in an issue of Film Comment. That article pointed out that MOE actually appeared as the film on a marquee in Woody Allen's Annie Hall, probably to juxtapose the more highbrow Bergman films that Allen's character attends next door. In a really great burn, the author of the FC article notes that the joke is on Allen because MOE does a much better job emulating it's Italian art film heritage than Allen did emulating Fellini in Stardust Memories. I think that was the first time FC ever made me laugh out loud (and I think the author was right too).
Rather than sharing a trailer, I'll suggest instead that you watch this entire sequence and decide if the film might be for you. Out of context, it doesn't spoil anything important about the film, and it definitely illustrates the tone and mood. Note that this sequence isn't in proper widescreen like the recently released Code Red DVD ... it's even better that way (why haven't you watched it yet?):
|# ¿ Jul 6, 2010 16:46|
THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN aka SHAOLIN MASTER KILLER
Directed by: Chia-Liang Liu
Starring: Gordon Liu (Pai Mei in Kill Bill), Lo Lieh (a whole lot of awesome kung-fu films)
Country: Hong Kong
Genre: Martial Arts
The Plot: When the Manchu government kill his friends and family (and wound him too), San Te (Gordon Liu) is out for vengeance. Fleeing to a Shaolin temple, San Te approaches the monks and demands training so he may take his revenge. He is initially rejected by the monks outright but eventually they take mercy on him and let him stay. San Te will be trained in the 35 chambers of Shaolin, but being young and brash, he believes that he might be able to just skip ahead to the upper chambers. This doesn't work out -- at all. San Te begins from the bottom, training his way through the chambers until he finally becomes a master himself (and along the way, he invents a new and rather awesome weapon). Vengeance will soon belong to San Te, but after that, he devises a way to give back to his people.
Why You'll Love It: You know how when you watch most martial arts or sports films (ex: Rocky), one of the best sequences of the film is always the training sequence? Well, what you get with The 36th Chamber is a film that's almost entirely one big training sequence. Watching San Te go from being a brash and arrogant disciple to a master is a treat, and you pull for him all the way, developing a strong bond with the character through his trials. The action sequences are great, Gordon Liu is a great martial artist and rather good actor too, and the film is really well put together. This is considered a classic for good reason.
If you are a fan of martial arts films, this is essential viewing. If you are not a fan of martial arts films, I would argue that 36th Chamber is still worth watching because it is so relevant to the genre and a great ambassador for this kind of film. There are many fantastic Shaw Brothers films out there, and The 36th Chamber is certainly amongst the very best.
Dragon Dynasty has released a great DVD and a good BluRay (sadly, it's only in 1080i) that are loaded with some good extra features as well. It's widely available right now and shouldn't cost too much should you elect to purchase the film (and as I said, it's essential for a martial arts fan to have this in his library and even if you aren't, if you're going to have one or two of these kinds of films in your library, this should be one of them).
This trailer is hilarious:
|# ¿ Jul 15, 2010 14:52|