Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dead Air

Kinda like the FLIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD title better, but PLANE DEAD will have to do. Good zombie fun, with what appears to be something resembling an actual budget...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

There'll be blood...on the floor...when Super Snooper opens the door...

One of the best bits of news I received last year was news that an old favourite—Sergio Corbucci's SUPERFUZZ (1981) aka POLIZIOTTO SUPERPIU—was finally getting a legitimate Region 1 DVD release this February. A special edition no less, although what ultimately hit store shelves was not what many fans were expecting. The R1 DVD of Superfuzz turned out to be the U.K. cut of the film, which lists among its offenses: PAL speedup, additional and extended scenes which screw up the pacing a bit, music replacement, alternate voices from the U.S. version, missing narration, and more.

Also, the distributor didn't port over the interviews with Corbucci's wife and actor Sal Borgese from the Italian disc, opting instead for a bio of Terence Hill and clips from other films (but NOT Superfuzz, oddly enough).

Saigon says skip this baby and get the Italian DVD instead (see below).

While some folks may have fond memories of SUPERFUZZ from it's endless airings on HBO in the network's early years, I was one of the few, the proud, to have seen it first run in a theatre, geek that I was. And what would possess a small-city 12-year-old to place a fluffy, often puerile Italian comedy made by people he'd never heard of above all other fare—even RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK—playing the local multiplexes that summer?

Well, the theme song definitely had something to do with it, which is why I posted it over at Youtube, taken from the awesome Italian DVD of the film that came out a couple of years ago: :D

I'm sure there was more to it than just a groovy title track, though. But for my money, rarely has a theme song so infectiously encapsulated the personality of a film. After all, this is a film about a Miami cop (Terrence Hill) who gains superpowers when he accidentally shoots a Nasa rocket out of the sky after firing a warning shot to scare a freeloading alligator out of his police canoe on a routine call to collect on parking tickets at a swamp shack in the everglades! THE LEOPARD this ain't. By the end of the movie, Hill and Ernest Borgnine are floating on a giant chewing gum bubble over sunny Miami. In between is all manner of humour that perhaps only a 12-year-old could love.

When I discovered the uncut, anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 Italian DVD about two years ago, after years of fruitless wading through listings for bootlegs on eBay and shoddy "official" fullscreen releases from the U.K. and elsewhere, I was in a deep nostalgic haze for several hours, thanks in no small part to an ever-present all-region DVD player. Not having seen the film since that theatrical showing 24 years prior, I was pleasantly suprised to discover how little of this film I'd actually forgotten over the years. That said, I'd highly recommend sourcing out the Italian DVD while it's still in print. It contains the original U.S. English language track, a beautiful transfer, and the aforementioned interviews.

If you like Corbucci's sillier stuff, or just about anything with Terrence Hill in it, then POLIZIOTTO SUPERPIU will be money well spent.

From Giallo to Jjakpae

I remember a couple of years back, a Korean movie called SPY GIRL took heat for essentially being a feature-length advertisement for the fast food chain Burger King, and while one of the chain's restaurants was featured prominently throughout the film, part of me couldn't help but appreciate the verisimilitude it brought to an otherwise dull picture. I mean, in real life people work at Burger King, and Harold and Kumar went to White Castle, so why bother "creating" a Burger Shack or a Burger Barn that people will know is fake when there's a chance the real deal might not mind being in your movie? And besides, it didn't feel as insidious as MAC & ME. At lest the makers of SPY GIRL were largely in control of their project, and the heroine didn't defeat the villains by throwing juicy, flame-broiled Whoppers® and succulent Tendercrisp® Chicken Sandwiches.

Sometimes, though, it's the little product placements that can get out of hand. Have a look at these stills from Ryoo Seung Wan's THE CITY OF VIOLENCE and see if you can guess what he probably has cases of in his garage.

(a word of warning: this first one's tricky, so you may have to stare at it for a long, long time to feel thirsty spot the placement)



Still not certain? Well, they do get a little more difficult from this point on:




And if you think this next shot is here just because I loved watching this beautiful girl kick both of our heroes' asses, you'd be half right. But look closer...

I'm not entirely convinced even Sergio Martino wouldn't consider this a bit much...

When the mercury dips below zero.


Gave Bandit Thongdee's MERCURY MAN a spin tonight.

It was alright. Just.

At the time of its release, I believe this first foray into the Thai superhero genre was one of the more expensive movies ever made in the country, but it's dismal box office performance there didn't bode well for its producers' hopes that it would "go international" or have the box-office muscle of Sam Raimi's SPIDERMAN, a film it so obviously has been modelled on, right down to the lead character's sinewy-rubbery costume, which can be easily duplicated in a computer.

Mind you, it's flawed enough that it probably never stood a chance of cracking the international market anyways. Glossy production values aside—and they're often rare in Thai cinema—there's a weird sense that the whole thing is some kind of thinly-veiled propaganda. After having part of a mystical "Solar Mercury" amulet embedded in his chest, a hot-shot fireman (Vasan Kantha-u) must learn to control his temper (in a country known for silencing dissent, no less, not to mention alienating religious minorities) if he's to defeat not only various hooligans around the city, but also a small band of Muslim extremists led by a dude named "Usama" who unfortunately looks a lot like Richard Lynch in INVASION U.S.A. The terrorists need the amulet, paired with it's sister—the "Lunar Mercury"—to aid in their plans to attack the literal and symbolic American interests around the country (Hello, massive McDonald's & Hard Rock Cafe product placements!!). Interestingly, the film features a little boy with psychic powers who opens the film by demonstrating his ability to stop a stopwatch at will. Funny that they'd need a scene like that...

For the money the filmmakers spent (which still wasn't much by American standards), everything looks pretty good, but the computer effects are hobbled on occasion by a clear misunderstanding of the laws of physics (like the car that Mercury Man kicks into a billboard, where it becomes stuck rather than crashing through!). Yes, I know it's a fantasy, and I can indeed accept Mercury Man's metal-based powers allowing him to "fly" between metal objects without the aid of machinery or ropes or webs, but billboards can't stop cars!

The cast is generally quite dull, but I've come to expect that in Thai cinema. Pretty faces, but not much expression, not unlike the ones that Mercury Man must suppress for fear of catching on fire, as his crotch nearly does when he cops a few glances at a Penthouse magazine tucked away in his drawer.

The action choreography, by Prachya Pinkaew and his ONG BAK/TOM YUM GOONG team, are the main reasons this is watchable, but there's a certainly a recycled feeling about them now, with only the more expensive costuming and modern-looking locations differentiating them from those seen in the earlier Tony Jaa films. On top of that, there's one hell of a lot editing going on in these sequences. Every connected blow is followed by an immediate cut to a closeup or a long shot, which tends to make you wonder just how many stunt doubles are being disguised with every splice. Fans of BEAUTIFUL BOXER, the life story of transgender Muay Thai boxer Parinya Charoenphon, might enjoy watching her, largely undoubled it would seem, kick the snot out a batch of evildoers in white lab shirts.


And the final fight between Mercury Man and the villain's right hand babe, who's absorbed the power of the Lunar Mercury amulet, is worth watching for any number of reasons.


Though undoubtedly intended as an A-list picture in its homeland, and indeed, with its slick visuals and breezy pace, feeling and looking much more like one in comparison to a lot of the sloppily made crap that passes for populist cinema there, MERCURY MAN is nonetheless best viewed with lowered expectations, particularly if you aren't familiar with Thai cinema, otherwise you'll inevitably be tempted to actually compare it to the American superhero films it so brazenly wants you to.