Another relationship goes sour for Yuki K.
Above is another promo poster with roman porno queen Yuki Kazamatsuri, this time for her film Chijoku no heya, aka Room of Shame. Yuki's cab driver hubby has an accident and becomes impotent, leading to infidelity spiced up with various kinky deviations. You can always count on Yuki to pick the wrong man. Audiences loved her serial predicaments. By the time this effort appeared she was a huge box office draw, as evidenced by the fact that during 1981 and 1982 she appeared on the screen in no fewer than twelve starring or co-starring roles. That's a lot of failed relationships. She later had small parts in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill movies, and this year appeared in a mini-series. All-in-all a very nice run in show business, still ongoing. Chijoku no heya premiered in Japan today in 1982
Hong Kong kidnappers have problems mastering possession, and so do the filmmakers.
If Tarantino likes it, it must be tops. At least that's the assumption some would make upon learning that 1976's Ebony, Ivory & Jade has Tarantino's stamp of approval. Well, despite the endorsement and status as a minor classic of the blaxploitation genre, the film isn't great. It has some highlights, including confidently staged action sequences and camerawork that does seem to have influenced Tarantino. But its failings are legion—bad script, wooden acting, and heavy duty crushed black levels that make the actors almost impossible to see in the night sequences. We'll give a pass on that last problem, because it could have happened during the video or DVD transfer.
We'll admit though, this flick is damned funny in parts—unintentionally so, foremost the character Stacy's beatdown of a bad guy who morphs into a dummy at the moment she hoists him overhead and helicopter spins him through a room divider. The basic idea of the film is also appealing—Hong Kong bad guys kidnap five female track stars for ransom, unaware that two of them happen to be martial arts experts that will cause no end of trouble once they untie themselves. Playboy playmate Rosanne Katon in the lead role is also a plus. But as blaxploitation, even a discernibly elevated budget doesn't lift the film above other entries in the genre.
As a side note, the above promo poster should help put to rest any idea that apostrophe illiteracy has something to do with modern education or the internet or whatever. It has always been a problem, and we see it all the time in vintage material. This particular failure to master the possessive form is pretty egregious, though. Yes, it's attached to a movie shot in the Philippines, but the error made it all the way through a phalanx of American writers, designers, pre-press workers, printers, and producers working in the U.S. of A. at—or at least for—Lawrence Woolner's Dimension Pictures. Pretty bad. Though as we've noted in the past, sometimes apostrophe placement can be legitimately tricky.
American boxing great’s legacy includes seminal film about the antebellum South.
The death of boxing champ Ken Norton has produced some nice tributes, but we wanted to mention that he also made a couple of interesting movies. The one most worth watching is 1975’s Mandingo, a slavery tale that has gone unsurpassed for realism in depicting America’s antebellum South. A few movies are at the same level of historical accuracy (including the amazing Addio Zio Tom, which we’re going to feature here in a couple of weeks), but Mandingo remains notable for its sweaty, oppressive feel and rich cinematography. Norton wasn’t chosen for the pivotal role of Ganymede because he could act. He was chosen because of his physical build and good looks—the first was necessary for scenes in which his character takes part in brutal pit fights, and the second makes the movie’s subplot of forbidden sexual desire plausible. When we featured Mandingo a few years ago we didn’t recommend it fully, but any film which some prominent critics have hailed as a classic and was a clear influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, but which Robert Ebert originally rated a zero has to be worth watching, if only to see what the fuss is all about.
Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise is required reading for fans of pulp.
Above is one of our recent finds, a 1966 French edition from De Noël of British writer Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise, based on his iconic comic strip of the same name. If by chance you aren’t familiar with the character of Modesty Blaise, let’s just say she’s the archetype for every female ass-kicker from Lara Croft to Charlie’s Angels. Her background is too complex to get into in a short post, but the quick version is she began life as an orphan somewhere in the Middle East and rose at a young age to become the head of a vast crime syndicate called the Network. She eventually retired, but sometimes works as a sort of a freelance spy for the British government. The cover art here is a screen of Italian actress Monica Vitti, who played the lead in a 1966 film adaptation most fans agree did not in any way capture the essence of the character or the scope of her adventures. A 1982 television adaptation didn’t do much better, and a cheapie 2004 effort that was made so the rights wouldn’t revert from the then-owners was monumentally bad. One of those owners was Quentin Tarantino, and he supposedly still has a piece of the rights but has not said when or if he’ll helm a fresh adaptation. If you haven’t read any Modesty Blaise, we recommend you remedy that immediately. It’s light, but O’Donnell still manages to deliver some thrills along with a healthy dose of eroticism and humor. And in the meantime us Modesty fans will just keep waiting for a film that does the character justice.
Beat Takeshi’s Sonatine remains one of the best crime films to come out of Japan.
We saw Sonatine a few years ago and were simply stunned by it. It’s a gangster drama that derives inspiration from the same Hong Kong crime films that inspired Quentin Tarantino. We’re talking about classics like Ringo Lam’s City on Fire and John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow. But the difference is Sonatine is doggedly introspective. There’s plenty of violence, but the overall pace is measured, and the film features a long interlude during which hired gun Aniki Murakawa—played by Takeshi “Beat” Kitano—enjoys some idyllic rest and recreation at the beach with his criminal cohorts. This interlude, wedged between the bookends of the film’s main story, was our favorite part by far, because it humanizes Murakawa, shows him to be a man capable of laughter, even dreams. But it also highlights his insatiable appetite for self-destruction, and the utter emptiness of his soul. In the hands of a lesser director these sequences could have been nonsensical, but Kitano, handling the chores himself, constructs the pieces perfectly and you come away with real feeling for his anti-hero Murakawa. When the problems Murakawa avoided finally come to roost, we can’t help but cheer for him to win. But nothing is as simple as it seems in Sonatine, and nothing about it is predictable. Maybe that’s why, after its spring premiere in Japan, it went on to create a sensation at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival and make Kitano an international icon. Watch this one and you’ll see why.
What a town without pity can do.
Below we have top-notch promo posters from South Korea for Seung-wan Ryoo’s actioner Jjackpae, aka City of Violence. The film is exactly what you’d expect from looking at the art—two men driven by vengeance fight their way through swarms of baddies until finally reaching the evil kingpin who caused all their troubles. But even if it’s the type of tale we’ve seen made by every director from Woo to Tarantino, it’s done with style and delivers a mighty nice kick. Jjackpae premiered in South Korea today in 2006.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1944—Velez Commits Suicide
Mexican actress Lupe Velez, who was considered one of the great beauties
of her day, commits suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. In her note, Velez says she did it to avoid bringing shame on her unborn child by giving birth to him out of wedlock, but many Hollywood historians believe bipolar disorder was the actual cause. The event inspired a 1965 Andy Warhol film entitled Lupe
1958—Gordo the Monkey Lost After Space Flight
After a fifteen minute flight into space on a Jupiter AM-13 rocket, a monkey named Gordo splashes down in the South Pacific but is lost after his capsule sinks. The incident sparks angry protests from the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but NASA says animals are needed for such tests.
1968—Tallulah Bankhead Dies
American actress, talk show host, and party girl
Tallulah Bankhead, who was fond of turning cartwheels in a dress without underwear and once made an entrance to a party without a stitch of clothing on, dies in St. Luke's Hospital in New York City of double pneumonia complicated by emphysema.
1962—Canada Has Last Execution
The last executions in Canada occur when Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin, both of whom are Americans who had been extradited north after committing separate murders in Canada, are hanged at Don Jail in Toronto. When Turpin is told that he and Lucas will probably be the last people hanged in Canada, he replies, “Some consolation.”
1964—Guevara Speaks at U.N.
Ernesto "Che" Guevara, representing the nation of Cuba, speaks at the 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City. His speech calls for wholesale changes in policies between rich nations and poor ones, as well as five demands of the United States, none of which are met.
2008—Legendary Pin-Up Bettie Page Dies
After suffering a heart attack several days before, erotic model Bettie Page, who in the 1950s became known as the Queen of Pin-ups, dies when she is removed from life support machinery. Thanks to the unique style she displayed in thousands of photos
and film loops, Page is considered one of the most influential beauties who ever lived.
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