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ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE (Japan, 1963)
Directed by Inoshira Honda

This is a strange film from the director of the original Godzilla, King of the Monsters. We begin with a bunch of wealthy jet-setters headed out to sea for a weekend of escapism. After a some arguments and minor plot development, the sailboat plunges straight into a vicious storm. Now damaged, the ship drifts for days as the crew argues over food, women, and their pointless existence back in Tokyo. They ultimately find land and go ashore to set up camp and explore the island, leaving the captain on board to try and make repairs.

It is discovered that the island is completely deserted, with the exception of an old shipwreck set up on a coral reef. The group explores the fungus-covered interior of the ship and discovers a mysterious scientific laboratory below deck. The ship and laboratory seem to be of unknown origin, housing equipment from the Soviet Union and the United States as well as Japan. One guy finds and reads the ship's log, and find's there is no food on the island except the mushrooms, which are possibly dangerous.

Realizing that they are in need of food, some of the crew splinters off to dig up tubers and grass roots, while the others decide upon eating the ambiguous mushrooms. The fungus-eaters go insane and start turning into fungus! And, in the end, the rest of the crew also succumbs to fungal death. That is, all but our faithful narrator, who is now housed in a asylum in Tokyo.

This film is full of weird Bava-like atmosphere and DC comics-style lighting. In fact, the whole film seems to be straight out of "Tales From the Crypt." Considering that this is the same director who brought us the unbearable Godzilla's Revenge, I found Attack of the Mushroom People to be a mature, entertaining film filled with outrageous style. But, of course, it's not for everyone! It is very talky and slow moving, yet it can be totally absorbing.


CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (Italy, 1982)
Directed by Antonio Marghereti

So, I finally got to see this uncut "masterpiece" last night and well, John Saxon is an ex-Green Beret who contracted a "cannibal virus" while serving in Vietnam. He runs into two of his fellow Green Berets who have gone crazy because of the virus. Cannibalistic killings occur throughout the city as Saxon attempts to deal with his friends.

Luckily for us, Saxon starts showing symptoms of the virus (the urge to bite little girls). A series of dull events leads the action to a city hospital. Here a nurse is infected and several other doctors and nurses are killed. The three vets and nurse are now on the run from the law and a cranky old detective chief. They get chased into the sewer, where they are killed one at a time by S.W.A.T. troops with flame throwers. Saxon barely survives to return home to his wife, but ends up dying while he watches her being attacked by a rabid doctor.

All in all, it's not as bad as the unbearable Cannibal Holocaust. But that's not saying much! There's far less gore than one would expect from a film entitled Cannibal Apocalypse, yet that doesn't seem to be its downfall. What does ruin the film is the lack of plot development; it's a great idea for a story, but nothing happens. We're treated to a bunch of mindless chase scenes with only minor amounts of cannibalism. Seems like Romero did a better job with his second rate film The Crazies. It's worth watching; just don't expect a Romero film.


THE STREET FIGHTER (Japan, 1975)
Directed by Ozawa Shigehiro

New Line Home Video has done us good! Yes, Ted "Charles Foster Kane" Turner somehow decided to release this classic film in its uncut, letterboxed glory. Packaging also includes the original theatrical trailers (letterboxed!) of all four of the "Street Fighter" films as well as a trailer for Jackie Chan's Rumble in the Bronx, just to get you "in the mood" for the feature presentation.

Don't you worry yourself with any plot or weird symbolism, this film is just pure action! But I guess that a brief story outline wouldn't hurt. Sonny Chiba plays Terry Tsurugi, a rather dark hit man who is out looking for a job. He is hired to kidnap a wealthy oil heiress, except he turns down that offer and ends up going head to head with the local Yakuza. If you want a body count, this film is it! Terry kills everyone that the mob can send at him.

There is some weird relationship going on between Terry and his sidekick. I never figured out if the sidekick was his brother or what; it seemed, at times, an openly homosexual relationship. But, enough of that, just pay attention to the non-stop barrage of ultra-violence!

One scene had Terry punching the teeth out of one gangster and ripping the genitals off yet another. One truly beautiful scene has our director employing "x-ray" footage of a human skull being crushed, and then immediately cutting to the victim spraying blood out of his mouth. Terry rips the throat out of yet another gangster and punches one in the stomach, causing projectile vomiting. We see a man thrown out a window and falling to his death, head exploding like a watermelon on the pavement.

As I said, the plot is not worth your time, but the film itself is worth the price of purchase. In fact, you couldn't go wrong by purchasing the whole boxed set. It'll keep you happy at least until Mr. Kane, I mean Turner, releases the next four Jackie Chan films here in the U.S.


OCEAN'S ELEVEN (USA, 1960)
Directed by Lewis Milestone

Danny Ocean has gambled away everything in his life; that is, everything but his style, man. Probably drunk in Vegas one night, he concocts a scheme to get all his money back and relive his wartime glory days. He calls all his old army buddies together to pull a major heist. He wants them to rob five casinos in Vegas!

That's it, that's the plot. Now we get to meet his rag-tag band of old (and I do mean old! It's now fifteen years after the end of the war) Army pals. There's Sammy and Dean, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and more! (Not to mention everyone's second favorite landlord, Norman Fell!) Of course, Dino gets drunk a lot, tells "funny" jokes, and sings! Meanwhile, Sammy works as a garbage-man and sings a little, too! Unfortunately, Sinatra doesn't sing-he's too busy "being" Danny Ocean.

I'm not too sure about this film. Some of the acting is pretty good. But, then Frank and Dean are just playing themselves and Sammy really should've stuck to the stage, I'm sorry to say. It's obviously pieced together from real-life drunken binges the "Brat-Pack" went through numerous times before. The directing could be part of the problem, since I have no clue as to who "Lewis Milestone" is, I have concluded that his name is akin to "Allan Smithee."

Despite it's many faults, you lame—I mean hep—swingin' bachelors out there will find this moldie oldie an enjoyable "trip" through memory lane. But, for my money, I'll be watching my Sammy, Liza, and Frank performance tape again!


ASSUALT ON PRECINCT 13 (USA)
Directed by John Carpenter

And while I'm at it, here's another John Carpenter film. It seems that whenever I see one of his films, I always end up renting a few more older ones, knowing that I will be profoundly entertained. Which brings me to this earlier, bleak entry in the John Carpenter Library.

The story is about a police officer who is assigned to take over command at Precinct 13, which is now being closed and abandoned by the city of Los Angeles. Of course, the precinct is centered in a totally ravaged ghetto with absolutely no hope anywhere, even for the father of a murdered girl who barely makes it inside. Another problem is that the incredibly well-armed gang that killed the girl (and subsequently lost one of their members to the enraged father) is out to get the fleeing father character, no matter if their is a police station in the way or not.

Out of that fragmented plot arises a more immediate, realistic version of Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead. Carpenter's film has a group of people (led by an African-American male, just like Romero) trapped inside a building, fighting for survival as the world around them succumbs to chaos and senseless violence (and sun-spots!). Okay, so maybe it's not as simple as that, but the near post-apocalyptic setting and the internal rivalries between the police and the jailed criminals, who join forces in the name of survival, makes a lot of the same social commentary as it's predecessor.

It all adds up to a thrilling ride through the End Times. Carpenter's films seem to all have that paranoid, angry-hippie sensibility that is lacking in the films of his counterparts. He is always making his audience think about what's actually happening up on the screen and realizing just how real it may be. Adding to Carpenter's genius is that he not only writes and directs, but does his own music too; quite effectively, I might add. Despite that this film is a B-grade film poorly transferred to video, it still harnesses a lot of power and, therefore, a lot of respect.


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