Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Three with Sonny Chiba (1974 - 76) and Diamonds are Forever (1971)

Too many projects to finish up to really get into too many details, but I've managed to get caught up to where I need to be. I had to pick and choose a few films from the other months to appease my girlfriend (whose lack of horror love nullifies about half the list), but we watched FOUR movies yesterday, including a Sonny Chiba triple-header.

Dragon Princess (1976)
Karate Warriors (1976)
Sister Street Fighter (1974)

Part of:
The Exploitation Cinema Collection (20 Films)

Directors: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (all three), Yutaka Kohira (co-director on Dragon Princess)

Runtimes: Roughly 90 minutes each

Three martial arts movies featuring Japanese action star Sonny Chiba, although only one has him in a starring role. In Dragon Princess, he appears only in the first act, as Etsuko Shihomi's father. The crippling of his character by a dishonorable karate rival leads Shihomi to seek revenge in this fun, well-choreographed flick. Chiba actually stars in Karate Warriors, which has him take on the Toshiro Mifune role in a modern take on Kurosawa's Yojimbo. The direction here is much more frenetic than in Dragon Princess and too many action scenes rely on a precocious little boy being endangered. Still, an enjoyable romp. Finally, in Sister Street Fighter, Shihomi searches for her brother, who was captured while trying take down a drug ring. Chiba is shoehorned in as Shihomi's able back-up. The plot here makes about as much sense as necessary. There's a weird obsession with dressing up the various kung fu clans in bizarre costumes (one gang wears large lead cage helmets).

One thing that struck me about all of these films was how goddamn gory they were. I don't have a problem with gore as such, but when I watch martial arts films, I certainly don't expect random intestines or heads twisted all the way around. Well, unless I'm watching The Story of Ricky or something.

Worth the Purchase: Heck yes. Cheesy martial arts films are awesome.

Diamonds are Forever (1971)

Part of: James Bond Ultimate Edition Volume 1

Director: Guy Hamilton

Runtime: 120 minutes

Sean Connery is back in the tuxedo as James Bond for his final film in the official Eon Bond series. It's a fun romp, but the series is clearly still trying to figure out the transition into the 1970s (it's about as bumpy as the one Doctor Who made into the 1980s). Jill St. John is feisty as Bond girl Tiffany Case and Charles Gray (in a huge smock) makes an appropriately campy Blofield. The hitmen Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint are deliriously over-the-top with their fey-ness (and my girlfriend informs me that they are the direct inspiration for characters on the children's cartoon Codename: Kids Next Door).

Worth the Purchase: It's Bond, so... yeah.

Stats: 6/403 movies watched in four days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: November 19, 2009
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

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