Movie Reviews

Red Pier (Review)

Red Pier

aka 赤い波止場 aka Akai Hatoba aka Crimson Seaport aka Red Quay aka The Left Hand of Jiro
Red Pier
1958
Written by Ichirô Ikeda and Toshio Masuda
Directed by Toshio Masuda

Red Pier
It’s Nikkatsu Action time again! The film genre is so consistently entertaining that it will be a constant reoccurring theme here (or at least the films that have gotten releases on digital media are the entertaining ones, as there are piles of films that still don’t seem to have any sort of legitimate release even with 20 years of cinephiles screaming about it. But we work with what we got, and what we got is Akai Hatoba, aka Red Pier, but also known as Crimson Harvest as well as a few other titles. It’s supposedly a reworking of a French film called Pepe le Moko, but everyone who claims this also mentions they haven’t seen that film, and I’m afraid I have to add myself to that total, wo who knows? What I do know is director Toshio Masuda revisited this story a few years later with Velvet Hustler in glorious color. But this is the OG yakuza on a pier outwitting his enemies while also being in love with a lady whose brother he helped kill film.
Red Pier
Lefty Jiro (Masuda regular Yujiro Ishihara, I Am Waiting, Rusty Knife) hangs at Kobe Harbor running the joint for his gang. He was formerly from Tokyo, but due to some trouble he’s been hiding out here “keeping a low profile”, in that he’s still involved in people being killed but never with enough evidence for the cops to do anything about it. A cool local policeman, Detective Noro (Shiro Osaka), spends most of his spare time hanging out at the harbor determined to catch Jiro doing something bad, but also sort of likes him as a friend. Noro is always snacking on something, and is around so much the other criminal elements tolerate his presence even if they know they have to do extra work to snark around behind his back.
Red Pier
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 15, 2019 at 6:20 am

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The Bravest Revenge (Review)

The Bravest Revenge

aka 武林龍虎鬥 aka Wu lin long hu dou
The Bravest Revenge
1970
Written by Tin Goh
Directed by Kim Lung

The Bravest Revenge
Can you believe there is a Polly Shang Kuan film where her parent is killed and she has to seek revenge? I know, right? That only happens in like 99% of the films she did, and it happens here! Revenge will be gotten, and of the bravest sort, at least that’s what the title claims! We all know who Polly Shang Kuan is, so no need to do a deep dive into her, but if you want to know more we covered her in an Infernal Brains podcast and she has an active tag on TarsTarkas.NET with plenty of wonderful films! Tien Peng is his usual heroic self as Sword King Tsai Ying-che, and Yee Yuen hams it up as the glorious villain like he usually does in films such as The Flying Swordgirl

Director Kim Lung (aka Chien Lung) helmed Taiwanese flicks in the 60s and 70s, many featuring revenge themes and many featured female protagonists. Among his films are these cool-sounding ones from 1966 – The Lady Spy, The Flying Killer, and Queen of Female Spies Jin Gang. He also directed 1967’s Dragon Inn, not to be confused with the classic King Hu 1967 Dragon Gate Inn. Most of his filmography is either unavailable or known only to those who collect Taiwanese kung fu movies, and Bravest Revenge might be his best known film now.
The Bravest Revenge
Bravest Revenge is actually pretty good for a standard murder revenge kung fu movie, because it has huge fight sequences. There are multiple scenes of characters carving their way through dozens of people like butter in giant choreographed fights, they are fantastic! The last 30 minutes is an almost non-stop battle through themed stages of a giant fortress as the heroes slice through goons and are only occasionally slowed by the various mini-bosses. If this came out today this would be accused of imitating a video game, but it is from 1970 and all we had for video games then was things like Spacewar!, so maybe it is more accurate to say all video games stole from Bravest Revenge!
The Bravest Revenge
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 8, 2019 at 6:09 am

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Lost In Apocalypse (Review)

Lost In Apocalypse

aka 末世人间道 aka Mo Shi Ren Jian Dao
Lost in Apocalypse
2018
Written by Sky Wang, Baiying Wu, and Fei’er Zhao
Based on the comics by Ruibo Cao
Directed by Sky Wang

Lost in Apocalypse
It wouldn’t be a film festival if I didn’t offer up a review of everything I saw there, and the final entry in the recent Another Hole in the Head Film Festival that I went to is Lost in Apocalypse, a tale of zombie attacks set in Mainland China. While the film isn’t bad, it was the least of the three films I did go see, the other two being Ghost Squad and Galaxy Lords, hence why I switched order for once and Lost in Apocalypse got caught in the crossfire. As regular readers of TarsTarkas.NET have probably figured out by now due to the dearth of reviews, but we don’t really watch zombie movies much at all. It just is a genre that got so over-saturated so quickly that I just didn’t want to sit through a bunch of boring ones. So automatically by the fact that I went to go see this one, you know it isn’t a run of the mill zombie story, but something good and worth watching.

We follow a group of characters that have to fight their way out of a zombie-infested hotel only to end up at an industrial plant where the zombies might not be the worst things around. (Spoilers: they aren’t, because Lost in Apocalypse follows the rules of good zombie movies and has people and their failings be more of a monster than anything else going on) There is Jack (Martin Yang) the school dropout working as a driver for Rich (Mingyi Yang), who is a jerk but Jack is loyal because he was the only one who would give him work when he was desperate. There is Helen (E’Naan Zhang) the news reporter who is caught in the trap of the only way her career will advance is if she sleeps with someone. Jack is involved in a business deal with Director Wu (Jia Fengzhu), which has something to do with schools but as we learn Director Wu has his hands in many pots and some of those pots are full of things that grab back. Jack reconnects with his old friend Michael, their paths diverging long ago due to Jack leaving school while Michael going on to become a successful reporter and family man. But before the deal can be finalized trouble bursts literally through the front door as a zombie comes in the room and people start getting chomped. There is a desperate stand as people who don’t necessarily like each other have to work together to try to escape, and due to a plot framing device we know several of them aren’t going to make it to later in the film.
Lost in Apocalypse
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 28, 2018 at 6:35 am

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Galaxy Lords (Review)

Galaxy Lords

Galaxy Lords
2018
Written by Dan Underhill and Von Bilka
Directed by Von Bilka

Galaxy Lords

Galaxy Lords is pure cinema. Galaxy Lords is great fun and a galactic adventure in the stars. A group of friends went and made one of the best movies to pop into 2018 and I loved every second of it. From the Champions of the Cosmos having a starship battle with the villainous Adorastius and his now super powered ship to Commander Helios having a duel with enemy goons on airsleds that are clearly treadmills spray-painted red to Wranthelon flying through the cosmos as a rainbow-trailing star that was just waiting for “The More You Know” to appear on screen, the whole thing is amazing from start to finish.

In the far far future, the galaxy has yet to recover from galactic war. But their brief period of peace comes to an abrupt end when Adorastius (Von Bilka), the last of a band of warlords, is busted out of Space Jail Gargantuan by a cool cardboard robot who laser blasts many of the guards into puddles of red goo! Only Commander Helios (Dan Underhill), the hero who brought the villains down last time can save the day, but he’s retired and in self-imposed exile as a simple farmer, trying to forget the horrors of war. But the same horrors are also why he can’t forget, and why he can’t sit idly by while the galaxy his friends died to protect burns again.
Galaxy Lords
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 13, 2018 at 6:31 am

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Ghost Squad (Review)

Ghost Squad

aka ゴーストスクワッド aka Gôsuto Sukuwaddo
Ghost Squad
2018
Written and directed by Noboru Iguchi
Ghost Squad
G-g-g-g-g-ghost Squad!! Sorry, just getting the “g-g-g-ghost” joke out of the way early! Ghost Squad is the latest from splatter auteur extraordinaire Noboru Iguchi, who has been covered by TarsTarkas.NET many times and will be covered many more times, as his films are usually filled with fun dumb energy and lots of ridiculous effects and plots that manage to entertain and occasionally comment on various aspects of society in the warped way that only exploitation cinema can. Ghost Squad joins the pantheon of his fun films, with plenty of crazy action and weird effects. Splatter fans might find little to be excited about, as the gore is subdued for a Iguchi film. But there are ghost ladies beating a guy in the junk with a meat hammer arm, a ghost with a dog for an arm, a ghost with a Machine Girl-style gun arm, and a gun with a baby face. So embrace the ridiculousness of a squad of murdered ghosts coming together to get their revenge with Ghost Squad!

Rika (Anna Yanagi) is your normal teen girl with an abusive father (Iguchi regular Yûya Ishikawa) who also sees ghosts. She explains this to her scoffing boyfriend Yosuke while also observing a ghost named Keiko Furukawa (Sumire Ueno) who struggles to write a letter to her father while slipping between being aware and unaware that she is dead. Rika goes to work as a waitress, but Yosuke follows her to harass her. But he didn’t count on Keiko also following along, as well as another ghost named Akari (Minori Mikado), who soon spring to action just as Yosuke is slashing Rika’s wrist. They beat him down and give him a few extra holes due to impalements, but let him survive enough to be in the hospital later.
Ghost Squad
Rika awakens at home with her wrist bandaged, and soon learns from the ghosts that they can only interact with the physical world when she is close to death (she learns this as she tries to hang herself from depression and guilt!) She quickly makes friends with Keiko and Akari, and also a third ghost named Yoshie who at first is a story telling framing device but quickly joins the main story as a fellow ghost. The three ladies need to get revenge on the men who attacked them in order to pass on to Heaven. It’s the law, Ghost Law. As we see later when Naomi Ohishi (Asaka Nakamura) shows up, it actually is the law and there is a whole bureaucracy set up to make sure they get revenge on everyone. Biggest critique here seems to be only lady ghosts have to get revenge, as we see a male character murdered later who goes directly to Heaven. That is totally unfair, we need to reform our Ghost Laws!
Ghost Squad
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 11, 2018 at 6:51 am

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Pembe Panter Gangsterlere Karşı (Review)

Pembe Panter Gangsterlere Karşı

aka Pembe Panter \ Temel Reis: Gangsterlere Karşı aka Pink Panther and Popeye Against Gangsters
Pembe Panter Gangsterlere Karşı Pink Panther Popeye
1975
Written by Muzaffer Hepgüler
Directed by Oguz Gözen


One of the joys of watching weird and obscure movies from around the globe is finding things that not only make no logical sense but also make perfect sense. Pembe Panter \ Temel Reis: Gangsterlere Karşı is one such beast, because the concept of Pink Panther and Popeye teaming up to rescue a woman kidnapped by the mob not only seems like low tier fanfic but also seems completely acceptable as a live-action movie coming out of Turkey! If you wanted to see a live-action Pink Panther which is basically a guy in a Pink Panther onesie wandering around with a guy in a saior’s costume who looks way closer to Bluto than Popeye, then this is the perfect movie for you, person who doesn’t exist! Pembe Panter is basically a live-action cartoon, in fact it is pretty close to a children’s movie except for a few examples, like the nude photos in the background, some risque jokes that cause a female character to sound like she’s having an orgasm, and both of our heroes trying to look up her skirt. But that’s probably perfectly acceptable in a world that regularly produces movies like Pembe Panter in the first place!
Pembe Panter Gangsterlere Karşı Pink Panther Popeye
The copy we have is recorded off of a television broadcast, appears to be missing a bit near the end, and has most of the major instances of smoking blurred out. It’s probably the best copy we are going to get without a major miracle happening, as I probably don’t have to tell you this isn’t exactly a 100% legal use of the characters. Or even 1% legal use! There is also no subtitles, but at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles! And it helps that the film is low on dialogue in the first place. I guess the Pink Panther theme song also has lyrics? Or at least this Turkish version does during the opening credits, which play over a slideshow featuring a stuffed Pink Panther toy being posed. Poor Popeye isn’t even even acknowledged in stuffed slideshow or music form. Sometimes the title I see in articles/databases about the film is listed Pembe Panter Gangsterlere Karşı, and sometimes it is Pembe Panter \ Temel Reis: Gangsterlere Karşı (it is the latter on this print!), I’m not sure if they just renamed the film later or what is the deal.

But enough talk, let’s get to the magic that is Pink Panther….and Popeye….teaming up and taking down the mob!

Pembe Panter (Ahmet Sendil) – Pink Panther is a guy in a Pink Panther Onesie, and is actually Pink Panther, not a detective or a diamond. He loves hanging out and doing goofy stuff, but is also girl crazy like every character in every Turkish movie ever made. Unlike the cartoon, he talks, but as he’s played by a comedian being funny, he’s also often shrieking or making other weird noises.
Temel Reis (Muzaffer Hepgüler) – Popeye is the least Popeye looking Popeye I’ve seen in a live action film, and I’ve seen the Popeye in Dragon Lives Again! Don’t worry, it is all planned, as actor Muzaffer Hepgüler also wrote this film, so he obviously loves these characters and made this goofy tribute film.

Pembe Panter Gangsterlere Karşı Pink Panther Popeye
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 3, 2018 at 7:13 am

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