From a hitman in A COLT IS MY PASSPORT, the frightened people of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to a lovelorn conjurer in LO, the spectre of death hangs over the characters in today’s Journal. We look at three films from various genres and backgrounds only to find another one of those unifying themes that keep popping up as I catalog my viewing habits.
DAY 27: MARCH 6, 2013
A COLT IS MY PASSPORT (a.k.a. KORUTO WA ORE NO PASUPOOTO) (1967) – This crime thriller from the Nikkatsu studio of Japan involves a hitman assigned to rub out a rival mob boss. When he does, he tries to leave the country with his partner, but they are delayed. In the meantime, the son of the mob boss takes control of that family and proposes are more amicable partnership between the two warring clans. But all of this is on one condition… that they kill the hitman before he can blow town.
Even for someone who has watched as many films as I have, certain areas remain a mystery to me. As such, I knew about the these 1960s Japanese noir films mainly from reputation. A COLT IS MY PASSPORT turns out to be an enjoyable, brisk film in which a man who has made death his business seems to be heading on a collision course with the Grim Reaper himself… unless he can do something about it. Tight direction and some surprisingly well-written characters made this an entertaining flick to watch as a weekend matinee.
The film is currently in the Nikkatsu Noir collection from Eclipse. Or, if you have Hulu Plus, you can watch it for free. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) – A group of people take refuge in a farmhouse when the dead suddenly start rising from the grave and feasting on human flesh. But the horror raging outside is amplified by the collision of personalities and egos inside as the group…. hold on. Do any of you seriously need me to tell you the plot of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD? Is there any one of you reading this that does not already know this film? If there is, stop reading now and check it out – but then come back, because all kidding aside, we’re not in a position to turn away anyone.
George Romero’s horror classic altered the language of horror cinema. It created a craze when it was released and this reputation has only grown as the years have gone on. So much so that not only is there a number one cable show directly inspired by the film, but some people are actually planning contingency plans in case of a zombie apocalypse, forgetting that it all just arose from a $20,000 exploitation film. Incidentally, we have a name for people who do this. We call them “stupid people.”
The film is a true classic of horror and of film in general. Beyond the amazing shock scares, it also creates an atmosphere of paranoia, tension and dread that just gets more intense as the film wears on. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD has multiple layers on which to appreciate it, some of the them intentional (the earliest stages of the breakdown of society) and unintentional (allegories to the violence occurring during the civil rights movement). However you look at it, the film is a masterpiece. ★★★★ (out of ★★★★)
LO (2011) – One man sits alone in a darkened room and performs a ritual to summon the demon Lo. His girlfriend, who he loves despite her strange behavior, has been abducted by demons and taken into the bowels of Hell. He enlists the demon to go fetch her and bring her back to him. But Lo and the other demons keep toying with him, playing with his emotions and perhaps revealing some pretty shocking truths about both himself and his one true love.
This was a wonderful surprise that I stumbled upon at random via Netflix Instant. This was made even more pleasant when I quickly realized that LO is from some of the same people responsible for DUST UP, a film that made my list of the Ten Best Films of 2012. The film contains a sparse set and most of the action happens around the main actor as hidden stages materialize out of thin air and director Travis Betz does amazing things with light and shadow. In the lead, Ward Roberts (who directed DUST UP) alternates between good and awkward, but it’s also not the easiest material to make work. As the demon Lo, Jeremiah Birkett completely embodies the role. This guy is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors on the indie scene. LO is a twisted film for sure, but it also made me laugh out loud, fascinated me with its insight and kind of touched me as well.
Oh and one more thing – Tom Devlin, Dijias Ervin and Kazuyuki Okada. Those are the people responsible for the makeup effects in this film. And surely, they deserve a special award for creating such amazing creatures and effects with limited resources. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013) – John McClaine (Bruce Willis) travels to Russia to help his estranged son (Jai Courtney) who is now in trouble with the law). He discovers that his son is actually a CIA agent and now he has to help him escort a valuable political prisoner to safety. This is the fifth entry in the DIE HARD series. Directed by John Moore (MAX PAYNE, THE OMEN). Read my full review HERE!
THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (2013) – Nell (Amber Bell) is found delirious and emotionally scarred from the events of the first film. She eventually goes to live at a halfway house in New Orleans, where she tries to tell herself that she does not have to define herself by her past. But the demon that possessed Nell in the first film wants to seduce her over to its side now and will kill anyone who gets in the way. Read my full review HERE!
The following films were watched for review on an upcoming episode of FILM GEEK CENTRAL PRESENTS: THE FILMS OF 1985. This is our podcast in which we review every film released in American theaters during 1985, on its corresponding weekend in 2013. Check out the shows we’ve already done and look at some of the films yet to come, including:
1918 (1985) – Written by acclaimed playwright Horton Foote, 1918 tells of a small American town during the year in question. World War I is raging on and patriotic fervor is in the air. But an influenza epidemic is overtaking people’s concerns, as it starts to claim the lives of various townspeople. Stuck in the middle of this is a family just starting out in the world, particularly a family doctor (William Converse-Roberts) and his ne’er do well brother-in-law (Matthew Broderick).
MOVING VIOLATIONS (1985) – From some of the same people who brought you BACHELOR PARTY and POLICE ACADEMY comes this, a comedy about what is usually a notoriously dull setting – traffic school. A group of misfits risk losing their licenses and cars if they don’t pass an impossibly hard driver’s safety course. The film particularly spotlights the confrontational relationship between a loud-mouthed clown (John Murray) and an authoritarian figure whose career has taken a detour. Jennifer Tilly, Fred Willard, Wendie Jo Sperber, Nedra Volz, Nadine Van Der Velde, Brian Backer and Sally Kellerman co-star.
THE NEW KIDS (1985) – After their parents are killed in a car accident, two teenagers (Shannon Presby and Lori Loughlin) are sent to live with their uncle in Florida. As they start a new school and help their uncle start up a local amusement park, they get on the bad side of some tough locals, led by the psychotic Dutra (James Spader). This film is directed by Sean S. Cunningham, who is also famous for directing FRIDAY THE 13TH and producing THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.
PETITE CON (a.k.a. LITTLE SCHMUCK) (1984) – An 18 year-old from a wealthy family spends his days writing in his journal, yelling at his family, quoting prominent socialists and trying to get laid. He takes up with a gypsy girl and tries to pursue a relationship with her. But this turns out to be just another painful learning experience for our character. The film translates “petit con” as “little schmuck.” If you try typing the phrase into Google translate however, you get… well, something else.
STICK (1985) – Based on an Elmore Leonard novel, STICK stars Burt Reynolds as an ex-con who arrives in Florida (again with the Florida!) to try and start a new life. He agrees to tag along on a hand-off, only to see his friend gunned down. After laying low doesn’t seem to be an option, Reynolds gets a job working for a Hollywood producer, where he can keep a close eye on his enemies and strike when the time is right. Candice Bergen, Charles Durning and legendary stuntman Dar Robinson co-star.
WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS? (¿QUE HE HECHO YO PARA MERECER ESTO!!!) (1984) – This early film from Pedro Aldmovar takes a long, hard look at an unhappy housewife who has taken to self-medicating with pills and glue. Her husband is a no-good layabout. Her older son is an emotionally distant drug dealer. Her youngest son sleeps with older men, despite the fact that his voice hasn’t even changed yet. And her best friend is a call girl. Believe it or not, none of these are the strangest moments in this quirky comedy/melodrama.
Total films watched in 2013 so far: 103