Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Black Cobra 3 Review-The Hammer (Water)Falls!

The Black Cobra 3

1990 – L’Immagine S.r.l.

Directed by Edoardo Margheriti (Dan Edwards)

With Fred Williamson, Forry Smith, Debra Ward and Mike Monty

Review by David Zuzelo

“See ya around…babycakes!”

More Manila Guerilla action ensues as The Black Cobra saga continues in this third film. The true trilogy concludes in a collection of bang up fights and explosions with nudity and witty repartee as The Hammer and his new pals go commando to hunt down THAT elusive waterfall in the Philippines!

A long commando scene with CIA agent Charlie leaping and bounding through a camp of bad guys gets the film off to a good start. Charlie doesn’t make it out alive sadly-but at least gets to see a beautiful nude woman before he dies. Greg Duncan of Interpol (Forry Smith) is assigned the case and advised to pick someone outside of Interpol to help him. And luckily Greg’s daddy happened to be pals with…The Black Cobra! Detective Malone is busy blasting away thugs in Chicago, and another vacation is demanded by his boss. Back to the Philippines (where he hates to “GOTTdamM go”) and into the breach he goes. After meeting up with a pretty CIA agent named Tracy and forming a little unit to solve the mystery with his son’s friend, the trio face off against a lot of enemies. I mean that… a lot of thugs and scum come their way. After beating up some scumbags in a warehouse, blasting more boneheads that randomly attack and even investigating a backlit Jesus medicine cabinet for clues, our heroes realize the following plot point.

“The only reference we have is a waterfall?” Ah, Italians in the Philippines… they just love waterfalls.

Even more blasting follows as they invade the enemy camp, wreaking havoc and causing some of the most MASSIVE explosions I’ve seen in 80’s action cinema. A traitor is unveiled, a rich guy weeps, the heroes get to laugh and it’s over as quickly as it began.

The Hammer looks in better shape in this entry as he runs around the jungle and tosses invisible knives that never miss and teams with Forry Smith-who is best known as appearing as The Green Hornet in Dragon. Though the film isn’t quite as good as the previous entry in the series, it is quite enjoyable with a slew of fun sequences. Edoardo Margheriti’s action direction is as solid as the previous entry, although there are some serious pace issues that rival the action. Walking around begins to take as much screen time as fights and gunplay do far to often for my taste. Funny quips from Williamson keep some of the boring parts bearable, as does some early nudity. The fights all look great and show off some of that FredFu and while not as gory as part 2, a few baddies still go down hard. The last explosion is immense with an overhead helicopter shot is flat out stunning…seriously.

Using the frequently appearing waterfall as a plot point is wonderful, especially given that this film was released in 1990. Making it a fun homage to all of the 80’s films shot on the cheap in a fun way and given the director’s heritage it draws comparison to the mini cars from Black Cobra 2, a fun wink to the audience is given. Or…well, it’s just another waterfall shot, but I like those.

A lot of action, a smattering of gore and nudity and Fred Williamson’s trademark wit add up to a fun conclusion to the trilogy. While the sequels may not rival Stelvio Massi’s original, they do make a nice double bill.

2.5 Exploding Huts

Japanese VHS Cover

Black Cobra 3 opening titles

Monday, January 28, 2008

Black Cobra 2 Review - Margheriti Takes The Snake

Black Cobra 2

1988-L’Immagine S.r.l.

Directed by Edoardo Margheriti (Dan Edwards)

With Fred Williamson, Nicholas Hammond, Emma Hoagland and Mike Monty

Review by David Zuzelo

“Bullshit, I’m not going to no goddammed Philippines!”

Detective Malone is back and his head cracking antics will get him in trouble all over again in this follow up to the popular Stelvio Massi film. Now he faces the ultimate action hero nightmare…a mission in Manila! The Philippines are the home to the big bang blow ‘em up flicks where both life and land are cheap, and the movies are cheaper.

Opening with Fred Williamson appearing on top of a super cool logo, some truly stupid drug dealers decide to make a transaction right in front of Malone and his crew. This leads to a long motorcycle and foot chase and culminates in a hostage situation with a massive gore splattered headshot finale that only Williamson could unleash. Of course that isn’t police standard procedure and as a punishment for his ballistic balls out attitude our man Malone gets traded to the Philippines.

Upon arrival, Malone gets taken by a low conman who also snaps up a briefcase from some tough types during his escape. The Wallet of Williamson may be important, but the briefcase gets the thief killed. Luckily, he mailed the key to find the briefcase off to his daughter…and she (luckily) is attractive. And she likes Malone…lucky again! But will the bad guys use her to find the briefcase? Can his new pal and partner McCall (Nicholas Hammond) be tough like The Hammer and fight back when his son is taken hostage? Will Fred Williamson have a heart attack trying to run up all those flights of stairs?? After gunplay, FredFu, boat ballistics and head smashing all come off the screen everything comes down to a commando raid end sequence that feels so intricate that it could be another film entirely!

Directed by Edoardo Margheriti, his first feature after many years of working with his father Antonio--the Maestro of Mini and Two Fisted Action--this is a very solid effort. Hindered by a teensy budget even by 80’s action standards, Edoardo (as Dan Edwards) swings for the fences when he gets the chance and does his best. Ample slow motion explosions of shotgun gore and some cool shattering glass certainly bear the family trademark well. There is even a mini-car chase, though perhaps more obvious than the ones familiar from his father’s work. When the time comes for the finale, it’s very assured and well designed, exciting even. The cast put forth their best efforts, and TV Spider-Man Nicholas Hammond goes berserk well enough. The Hammer…Fred Williamson is always reliable and he even gets to do some dancing with leading lady Emma Hoagland. Don’t miss friendly action face Mike Monty in a role as well.

Scored with great electronic aplomb and propelled forward even during it’s slower moments by a score from Aldo Salvi, there is a lot to enjoy in Black Cobra 2. At the least, Fred Williamson fans should not miss it, and there are moments for the gore hounds amongst us that will be pleased as well. Made in Manila, where celluloid is cheap and so are the thrills!

2.5 Exploding Huts

Japanese VHS Cover

Australian VHS Cover

Black Cobra Review - Stelvio Massi charms a Cobra

Black Cobra
1987 L'Immagine
Directed by Stelvio Massi
With Fred Williamson, Karl Landgren, Vassili Karis,
Eva Grimaldi, Maurice Poli and Sabrina Siani
Review by Paul Cooke

‘‘I’m not doing it for you , I’m just doing it’’

Playing like a pre post apocalyptic variation on ‘Bronx Warriors’ comes Director Stelvio Massi’s chin bruising Italian outing ‘Black Cobra’ , chiselled from the mould set by George Pan Cosmatos’ earlier 1986 American made movie vehicle ‘Cobra’.
Rampaging through proceedings with his own square set chin is black leather clad bad guy Karl Landgren as the leader of a gang of malicious territorial street thugs. Looking like fellow ‘B’ movie Action star Conrad Nichols attempting a plausible impression of the iconic Mark Gregory. A role type that ‘Cobra’ star Sylvester Stallone himself once revelled in way back in 1975 with the Roger Corman produced cult classic ‘Death Race 2000’. Like any good low budget outing in time the flavour becomes ever more palatable to widely discerning audiences , and with ‘Black Cobra’ what was itself in its time perceived as being a ‘bomb’ now resurrects as an explosively enjoyable find.
The opening sequence is pretty much a rerun of ‘Cobra’ with the introduction to events of special police enforcer Fred Williamson as the stoic Detective Malone. Appearing as cool as ever in a heavy garbed black coat , itself a less obtrusive fascia for his gun laden personage , and readied for Action with his insignia cigar pointing him in the direction of trouble.
Having been introduced to the take no prisoners style of Malone we then get to see gang leader Karl Landgren setting a style statement all of his own. One that that may well have been the inspiration behind Arnold Schwarzenegger’s look for ‘Terminator 2’ , with a black leather dressage and matching sunglasses to garnish his pose sat astride the requisite chunky motorcycle. Landgren and his thug band of indoctrinates go on a killing rampage , but are caught one evening in the act of murder as a neighbour returns home to witness the vicious assault. Fashion model photographer Eva Grimaldi flees for her life as her presence is soon noticed , escaping the gangs clutches by using her camera flash to temporarily blind their leader Landgren. She manages to elude capture by running into the safe hands of the police , leaving her assailants no choice but to back off from their malicious intent.
Aware that her taken pictures will incriminate him Landgren and cohorts set out to kill Grimaldi to cover their tracks. Detective Malone is assigned to protect her from the scourge which leads to Fred Williamson getting to do what he does best , dish out the rough stuff to those that are most deserving. The movies storyline opens up for some highly entertaining scuffles that allow for gunplay aplenty and a body count that mounts up as the indomitable Fred takes no prisoners. He may be governed by the badge but he sure as heck stamps his own interpretation on passage and verse of its law.
With gang leader Landgren becoming more frustrated at not being able to get through Malone’s self styled witness protection programme he has to change tact. A smartly exercised ambush is set and Detective Malone’s police chief friend Max Walker , portrayed by Maurice Poli , has his daughter abducted to further Landgren’s hand at forcing Malone’s to hand over the girl. Police chief Walker has no option but to turn to Malone for help in getting back his daughter , played by the welcomingly attractive Sabrina Siani.
Time for the audience to prepare for big time retribution Spaghetti Western stand off style as the metaphorical chain watch is flipped to chime its way down to the bullet ballet ahead. Armed to the hilt with an arsenal , a cigar and his long time police partner friend in co star Vassili Karis , big bad Fred Williamson steps up to square off and take down the gang. It’s ‘Gunfight At The OK Corral’ and Detective Malone is readied once and for all to fill this communal Tombstone with bad boy bodies. Good guys versus bad in the big showdown with fearless Fred striving to win the day and save the girl.
Director Stelvio Massi is a very adept ‘B’ movie veteran who makes good use of tightly shot close camera work and uses the full frame very well in his Action sequences , as cars collide and bodies fall in numbers under the plenitude of gun fire throughout the film. There is a momentary feeling of flatness for the audience as the showdown comes to what seems an unsatisfactory conclusion , but in the best tradition for movies of this fun ilk there is a double ending to revel in. With three sequels following it will come as no surprise that bad ass brawler Fred Williamson has the final word , which in the tradition of Roman gladiators means this ‘Cobra Nero’ gets a deserving thumbs up.
3.5 Exploding Huts

Japanese VHS Cover
US DVD-Poor Quality. Note that DVD is in lowercase letters!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Editorial Actions and VOOD!

Thanks to everyone for showing up during our first week, we will continue to update this blog with all the EuroAction we can find. Though we fully intend to stick to our original format, this online edition of TOUGH TO KILL provides us with an opportunity to branch out and include other European efforts that might be a little off kilter, but rest assured they will feature lots of action! So, here are some looks at films we are excited to cover and one other special bonus.

This is the trailer for the first in next week's featured series! We will not only be reviewing the original film, but the sequels helmed by Edoardo Margheriti and the elusive FOURTH entry as well!



Thursday, January 24, 2008

Jiboa Review - Mario Bianchi Sleaze!

Jiboa / Jiboa, il sentiero dei diamanti

1989-CB Productions

Directed by Mario Bianchi as Stuart Murphy

Starring Rick Dean and Bobby Rhodes

Review by David Zuzelo

“If you let it rip her mouth apart you’re an egg sucking asshole!”

What happens when you take a host of Tough To Kill stalwarts such as Luigi Ciccaresse, Ernesto Gastaldi and Paolo Rustichelli and hand them off to sleazemaster Mario Bianchi and say to him “make an action film?” A jungle adventure with murky underside of slimy sexploitation is what…and a damned good one bit of junk at that. Jiboa is about as reclusive a film as any in this book, but as a cross pollination of trash and action-it succeeds on every level to which it aspires. Of course, that is gutter level, which I'm totally fine with!

Mark Frasier wakes up in an Indio village and can’t remember how he got there…but he sure likes LoLoLai who aids him to health with her topless magic. When a helicopter comes and attacks the village Frasier runs into the jungle and treks through all the waterfalls you could want to see before falling off one. He washes up to the shore and is picked up by Tony Marcucci, who claims to want to help him. Before he even gets started in penetrating his fog of amnesia, Frasier is snagged by some baddies and brought back to the Amazon to find “it!” It being a city of emerald of course-and these scumbags will stop at nothing to find it. Led by Sewer Rat (“In fact everybody called me sewer rat, I’m just plain Rat to my friends.”), the gang torment and torture our hero and an unlikely heroine-slash-love interest going so far as to break out the rat in the cage strapped to the girls face trick. As things progress and our band get closer to the emerald city, we have killer piranha attacks, lots of outrageous Indio battles, face smashing spiders and thousands of syllables forming unbelievably vulgar language. Good nasty fun… When another group of even more psychotic treasure hunters arrive its all out war as Frasier, Rat and the girl try to survive endless obstacles and perhaps more than a fair share of time filling walking through the jungle.

This cheap effort would seem to be more at home in the library of French producers Eurocine and their nasty adventure output such as Diamonds of Kilamanjaro really, but uses so many Italian personnel that it certainly fits in our lists. Bianchi built his reputation on groovy sleaze and porn, but manages to pull together the elements of Ernesto Gastaldi’s script to make an entertaining little action flick in the same flat exploitative style. While not exactly a hutbuster of giant action sequences there are some good fight scenes and enough unpleasant jungle antics from the Indios to leave the viewer with a solid rainy days entertainment. The final trippy sequence that leaps out of nowhere is worth any price it may take for you to find the film as well…weird stuff!

Rick Dean has appeared in tons of exploitation films you may have seen including some Cirio Santiago movies, but this is by far his most appealing work-he gets to crack jokes and heads at every turn. The great Bobby Rhodes plays Rat with gusto, chokeslamming his foes into an unconscious blob whenever the opportunity arises. You can’t go wrong with Rhodes…ever.

Decently scored with Rustichelli music and decidedly nastier than most, Jiboa is action of a different, more virulent, strain.

2 Exploding Huts

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

White Apache Review

White Apache / Apache Kid

1986 Beatrice Film

Directed by Bruno Mattei as Vincent Dawn

With Sebastian Harrison, Lola Forner, Alberto Farnese, Alan Collins

Review by Paul Cooke

‘‘If they learn you are Apache they will kill you’’

With an opening sequence reminiscent of ‘The Little House On The Prairie’ a wholesome family seeks out the Promised Land. Children play by a stream as a proud father and husband looks protectively over them and his pregnant wife. The tranquil scene is shattered as a vagrant band of evil men approach with savage intent and the serene picture swiftly turns into a canvas of blood!

Having witnessed her kin’s massacre the childbearing woman is herself brutalized to the point of death, yet survives long enough to see retribution carved into the cold hearts of the protagonists. Scouting indigenous Native Americans strike down the bastard spawn of the West in graphic detail.

The rescued woman is taken back to the Indian camp but soon dies. The unborn baby is cut from her womb and a boy child is ushered into the world to its adopted family, with a given name of Shining Sky. Raised as a second son, by the Chief and his woman, Shining Sky grows up alongside his kindred brother Black Wolf. As the two grow into strong and healthy young braves a beautiful young squaw named Rising Star vies for their attention. When playful flirtation leads to the pretty young Indian woman expressing her true affection for star Sebastian Harrison’s character Shining Sky the innocence of youth is forever lost in a moment of jealous rage. Black Wolf strikes out at Shining Star and a tragic twist of fate brings about his death at the hand of his pale-faced brother. Shining Star is cast out into the wilderness by the tribe, armed only with kindly words of wisdom from his adoptive father and parables of the white man. Forced to seek out a new way of life he leaves with heavy heart but promises to never betray his upbringing.

Strolling into a Western town he soon runs into trouble with the local bigoted sheriff. A fair-minded landowner gives him a job after he helps tame a seemingly unmanageable wild horse that belongs to him. Shining Sky adopts the pretense of being a mute in order to educate himself in the ways of these newfound people hoping to attract less attention to himself. He catches the eye of the town jezebel Isabella and very soon is persecuted by the town’s bad element that suspects him to be a reviled half-breed. In true man against the odds fashion Sebastian Harrison’s foremost ‘Thunder’ character is set upon, beaten to breaking point and forced out into the desert land. Isabella rescues him and nurses him back to health, but when he later rejects her advances, and reveals that he does have a voice, she turns upon him like a true woman scorned.

Backed by the sheriff and a despotic political Colonel the troublesome town element go on a killing rampage, masquerading their intent as a gun run to the surrounding Native American tribes. They freely maraud through the settlement where Shining Sky was raised, indiscriminately butchering and killing all in their wake. The scene is set for Shining Sky to fight back against the tyranny of the white man as he chooses to fulfill his true destiny as the ‘White Apache’! He fights to save his native people and the woman he loves, Rising Star. The end Action sequence has Shining Sky fighting back against all those who oppressed him in a good old-fashioned Cowboys and Indians showdown, effectively infused with all the gory expressionism of the similarly thematic ‘Soldier Blue’. Several bloody and vicious moments leap off the screen, including the unexpected shot of an axe firmly implanted into a face. The brutality of the plight of the Native American is strikingly played out with a cumulative final play of justified retribution. The movie ends in an unbelievably savage fashion that fatefully unravels to a startling conclusion. Director Bruno Mattei delivers a noticeably profound and meaningful interpretation on a well-documented plight of oppression. Told from the vantage point of the Native American, this is indeed a ‘Brave’ interpretation.

4 Exploding Huts!

Japanese VHS Sleeve

Greek VHS Sleeve

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lock, Load...and EXPLODE!

Action nuts around the world...unite and roast marshmallows in the afterglow of the great burning huts which surround the enemy camp!
For years my friend Paul Cooke and I have collected EuroAction films from the crazy days of the 80s. Sure, they are odd and usually knock off products based on the the bustling action biz. BUT, they are also an important part of European Cult Cinema. After the funding for horror died away, producers such as Fabrizio DeAngelis took many of the most popular directors from the glory periods of Eurotrash and gave them a little budget and a lot of blanks to head into the "jungles" to make some action.
Huts were killed by the thousands.
What this blog will do is provide an outlet for us to put reviews for over 60 of these strange gems and celebrate an era when men were dubbed and killed to the tune of shell casings dropping from oversized machine guns. From the great directors such as Antonio Margheriti and down on to supreme hackers such as Mario Bianchi, we will flip every rock and find as many examples of euroballistic bliss as two humans can possibly handle.
And more huts will be killed.
So, sit back and enjoy the ride... We'll be reviewing dozens of action flicks, star profiles and artwork from releases around the globe in the coming days-we hope you enjoy them and seek out these films for yourself.
Besides, as Paul and I always say, to quote a great bit of Bruno Mattei-ism...