Tuesday, 28 February 2017

1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)

What it lacks in originality and coherence, 1990: The Bronx Warriors more than makes up for in energy, glorious cheese, and a pulsing soundtrack.

Like many of the film's contemporaries, there is much in common with other successful genre films, in this case Mad Max 2, The Warriors and especially Escape From New York.

The year is 1990 and the US government has given up trying to police the Bronx, instead sealing the area off and leaving it to the gangs and criminals still there. Meanwhile, Anne, the teenage heiress to a giant arms manufacturing corporation is having some moral questions about her upcoming inheritance, so she runs away to the Bronx to join a biker gang. But the Corporation isn't about to let her go that easily, so enter ruthless, psychopathic mercenary Hammer (played by Vic Morrow), who has orders to get her back by any means necessary.

Although the premise and characters may sound like a none too subtle imitation of Escape from New York, it is not quite as straightforward as that. Carpenter's film paints Snake Pliskin as an anti-authoritarian nihilist, while Hammer is simply a gun for hire, who, by the end, turns into a pantomime villain. Genre stalwarts Fred Williamson and Christopher Connelly (The Atlantis Interceptors) take on the Isaac Hayes and Ernest Borgnine roles as Ogre the gangster and Hot Dog the cabby, the former being more of a Robin Hood figure than an outright villain. Meanwhile the biker gangs are actually the easiest to cheer for, coming across as the little Davids taking on the Goliath that is the Corporation.

Some clever shooting and editing helps cover up the limited resources available to the filmmakers, and there are some nice goofy touches such as the supposedly menacing gang on roller skates (no match for guys on bikes) or the drum solo on the soundtrack that, as the camera pulls back reveals an actual drummer playing away in the middle of some wasteland for reasons best known to himself.

The script has a few head scratching moments but also an energy that stops it from ever getting dull. Essential trash viewing.

1990 The Bronx Warriors b-movie CHEESE 1984 VHS... by uros-mrkonjic

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Hand (1960)

The Hand has a grisly premise and a seedy atmosphere but the film loses its way with a talky confused script, uninteresting characters, and poor acting.

Starting in 1940s Burma, the story sees three captured British soldiers being interrogated by the Japanese. When two of them each have a hand chopped off, the third agrees to talk. Cut to 1960s London and a policeman makes a gruesome discovery - a tramp who is missing a hand - is there a link back to the events in the Far East?

The majority of the film is taken up with the police investigation involving Inspector Munyard and his sidekick Sergeant Foster, two solid, characterless, permanently smoking detectives. The investigation mostly consists of the two of them talking, going to places, talking some more, and then smoking, which does not make for gripping cinema. It is not helped by the poorly written script, which feels like a great central premise that nobody knew how to write a pay-off for. The fractured, hard to follow storyline feels like certain key expositional scenes were either not written, not filmed, or cut out.

Having said that there is, for the time it was released, occasional brutal (if off screen) violence, and some surprisingly coarse language. The Hand also has a rather pleasing ambience of Trad Jazz, fog and Brylcream, so if those things appeal, come for the story, stay for the atmosphere.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Future Shock: The Story of 2000AD (2014)

Long before dark and moody superheroes were all the rage, 2000AD was presenting a bleak, funny and subversive take on the comic genre. Future Shock does an excellent job of gathering together many of the names who created and nurtured the magazine, and presenting their funny, astounding and, at times, contradictory stories of how it all happened.

We see the rise both artistically and commercially, as it strikes a chord with 70s readers through strips such as Strontium Dog, Halo Jones, and the legendary Judge Dredd. We also get the lows in the 90s when a dip in the quality of the writing, coupled with poor management and jaw-droppingly stupid marketing ("Women just don't get 2000AD") nearly saw the comic fold.

Watching the parade of faces, it's astonishing to think what a school of talent 2000AD has been, from the early days of Alan Grant, Alan Moore (absent in person, but instantly recognisable in photographs) and mainstay Pat Mills, through to the 80s and 90s eras of the likes of Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison.

The main thing the documentary achieves is placing 2000AD into a historical and cultural context. The original group of writers and artists all say how the grim world of 1970s England, with strikes, food shortages and riots, along with the angry energy of punk, all fed into their stark vision of the future. In turn a generation of writers, film-makers and musicians have all had their lives and imaginations shaped by the comic. This ranges from modern writers such as Lauren Beukes, to musicians like Scott Ian from Anthrax (who wrote I am the Law about Judge Dredd) to filmmakers like Alex Garland (who wrote and produced the second and far superior Judge Dredd film) and Richard Stanley, whose 1990 film Hardware borrowed so liberally from a 2000AD strip called SHOK! that the lawyers had to get involved.