Action not words is the name of the game in today’s Journal, as we take a look at the RZA’s debut film THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, the John Wayne western THE TRAIN ROBBERS, the blaxploitation kung fu flick TNT JACKSON and the WIP film WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE.
SCOTT’S FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 33
THE TRAIN ROBBERS (1973) – John Wayne and his company of cowboys are hired by a widow (Ann Margaret) to locate the gold that her no-good husband robbed from a train and stashed somewhere in dangerous territory. It’s a treacherous journey and loyalties are tested as they draw closer to the treasure.
This was one of the later John Wayne vehicles. While his films weren’t as big as they were in the 1950s or 1960s, Wayne was still at the top of the box office. Even the new crop of talent to emerge in that great decade could not knock him from the top of the box office.
This is one of the films that felt like a throwback to Wayne’s earlier efforts. But here’s the thing, I like John Wayne films. This was guy whose politics don’t match with my own and it doesn’t matter. John Wayne had an iconic personality and a charisma unmatched by most of the Hollywood stars. So yeah, I liked this one.
THE TRAIN ROBBERS is also directed by Burt Kennedy, an often overlooked director who handled a lot of great latter-day westerns. In addition to the John Wayne-Kirk Douglas film, THE WAR WAGON, Kennedy also helmed the great HANNIE CAULDER, WELCOME TO HARD TIMES and SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF (He also did SUBURBAN COMMANDO, though I assume not by choice). This is another entertaining film from him. Nothing that will rock your world but plenty entertaining for fans of Wayne. And what a great twist at the end! ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
TNT JACKSON (1974) – A tough African-American woman named TNT Jackson travels to the Philippines subbing for Hong Kong in order to find out what happened to her brother. Unfortunately, her brother was killed after running afoul of some seedy dope peddlers. Now, TNT is in town to bust the entire operation open, using her no-nonsense attitude and awesome martial arts skills.
TNT JACKSON is a very short, to the point action flick directed by Cirio H. Santiago, Roger Corman’s man in the Philippines. The film crams a ton of action into its short running time and while it may not have the best acting in the world, who can deny the pure entertainment value of this flick? Jeannie Bell should have become an icon of blaxploitation cinema based on her performance here. The script, written by character actors Dick Miller and Ken Metcalfe, never outstays its welcome. Pure, wondrous exploitation cheese.
Try to avoid the many chopped up and awful-looking public domain prints out there. Opt instead for the restore version, released by Shout! Factory as part of their now defunct Roger Corman Cult Collection. The film is packaged in a set called “Lethal Ladies,” which also contains FIRECRACKER and TOO HOT TO HANDLE. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
NOTE: The embedded trailer is NSFW.
WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE (a.k.a. EMANUELLE FUGA DALL’ INFERNO, EMANUELLE IN PRISON, ESCAPE FROM WOMEN’S PRISON) (1983) – WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE (which is also called ESCAPE FROM WOMEN’S PRISON) was the last of the Emanuelle series, not to be confused with the Emmanuelle series. This girl only had one “m” in her name and so she pronounced it differently. The series is also sometimes called the Black Emmanuelle series, after the first film in this long-running saga of sluttiness. The series starred Laura Gemser and transformed her into the premiere international sex symbol of the grindhouse market. Many of these Italian films were also directed by Joe D’Amato, a guy with over two hundred films to his credit from every conceivable genre, including action, sci-fi, giallo, horror and even hardcore porn (where he would find most of his success later in his career). The first few were pretty standard, following Emanuelle as she used her job as reporter to hop from bedpost to bedpost in exotic locales throughout the world. As the series wore on, Emanuelle got kinkier and kinkier however. Pretty soon, there was extreme violence and even hardcore footage in certain prints. In 1977’s EMANUELLE IN AMERICA, there was a plot involving a snuff film and a scene where a gal jerks off a horse to get her rocks off. Later that year, we had EMANUELLE AND THE CANNIBALS (a.k.a. TRAP THEM AND KILL THEM) which blended the cannibal films like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST or MAN FROM DEEP RIVER with softcore sexiness with unintentionally hilarious results.
By the 1980s, even D’Amato had enough of this gig and for the last two films, we got a two-part women in prison epic director by infamous hack Bruno Mattei (HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD, RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR).
This is the second of those films, so Emanuelle is already in stir, serving a sentence for a crime she didn’t commit. She tries to be a role model to the women in the prison (whom she fucks), amidst all the cruelty going on. And boy oh boy, is there ever a lot of cruelty going on. The guards in the prison, all stereotypical-looking butch lesbian types physically, sexually and psychologically assault the women in this incredibly corrupt prison. Fellow inmate Albina, whom you can tell is bad because her nostrils are always flaring, her eyes are bugged out and she has really bad skin, is just as cruel, serving as the biggest bitch in the jail.
But as if the series of beatings, rapes and cruel tricks weren’t enough, soon the prison is invaded. Four violent male prisoners are transported to the prison for unfathomable reasons. They overpower their keepers and these four men take over the entire prison. They murder people and take everyone hostage (despite not being very bright and being obviously outnumbered). Their games are even crueller than the guards and soon Emanuelle has to lead a revolt against the scum that has invaded this hellhole of a prison.
As I said, this film is directed by Bruno Mattei, a terrible director responsible for some real howlers. The only films of his that are enjoyable are the ones that are so terrible, they’re good (and that happens more often than you’d expect). The film is also co-written by Claudio Fragrasso, the same guy responsible for TROLL 2 and about three dozen other stinkers.
This is a sleaze epic and if you’re into sleaze, this might be right up your alley. There are, after all, many different kinds of exploitation. But I’ve already reviewed this film twice in the last ten years or so, when I was doing reviews for CultCuts. I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now. Oh, there’s lots of nudity once again and many of the ladies that bare all are quite attractive. But it’s usually presented with such incredible cruelty – rape, abuse or torture – that I couldn’t get into it. Hey, call me old-fashioned that way. Moreover, the whole film has this oppressive atmosphere – even worse than what is naturally found in Women In Prison films – that I just could never enjoy this film. ½★ (out of ★★★★)
NOTE: The embedded trailer is NSFW.
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (2012) – At first glance, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS should be incredible. It’s produced in part by Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth. It’s the first film directed by the RZA, whose pedigree suggests he must have picked up something about making a good action flick. And the plot has so much going on that it seems like there will always be something to thrill to.
Unfortunately, that’s where MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS falls apart. There is so much going on that the film feels like it has ADHD. What makes this an even bigger problem is the startling revelation that despite studying great martial arts films and hanging out with people like Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch, the RZA is a rotten director. He doesn’t seem to know how to frame a shot, how to light properly, how to cut a scene up or show any consistency with his actors or storyline. As for why Russell Crowe is in this film, my guess is for the scenery.
This is a major disappointment and also marks a rare consensus here at Film Geek Central. Austin Kennedy has already written a scathing review. Jesse Hoheisel included it on his Ten Worst list. Still, I had hoped that my love of this genre of cinema would allow me to find greatness where my friends have not. Instead, I have to throw in my two cents as well and proclaim my disgust with this shoddy production. ½★ (out of ★★★★)
This also means an update to my own Ten Worst list, which now reads as follows (lucky break, CHERNOBYL DIARIES):
- JOHN CARTER
- IRON SKY
- THE PAPERBOY
- THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS
- ROCK OF AGES
- THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
- 21 JUMP STREET
- PIRANHA 3DD
- CASA DE MI PADRE
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:
THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (1984) – Based on the short stories of Angela Carter, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES offers a labrynthian tale of a small town during the Middle Ages that is occasionally plagued by a pack of wolves. By as young Rosalie’s grandmother tells her, only some wolves are wolves all the time. Neil Jordan’s sophomore film is packed with fairytale imagery and hints of eroticism.
WHERE THE GREEN ANTS DREAM (a.k.a. WO DIE GRUNEN AMIESEN TRAUMEN) (1984) – A mining company hires a geologist to look into a hill they hope will yield a prime uranium deposit. The local aborigines however inform him that this is where the green ants dream. They claim that to destroy the hill will not only be blasphemy, but it may destroy humanity as well. In real life, there is no such legend. But Werner Herzog creates this scenario to further explore the native cultures of the world and their continued clashes with modern society.
Total films watched in 2013 so far: 151
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