Guardians (2017)

    After roughly 400 studio logos, Guardians officially begins, set to the tuneful strains of “not quite Adele” warbling something or other. We are then informed via info dump that super soldiers were created during the Cold War by a mad scientist named Kuratov (more on him in a bit) and have subsequently been scattered to various parts of Russia. Well, wouldn’t ya know, ol’ DR. K went ape, was caught in an explosion, and was doused with Guardian DNA which has made him massively mutated (and bald) not mention totally evil, and to make matters worse, he has a special exo-suit that allows him to control machines. In order to fight this menace, some of his old experiments (including a monk that can control rocks and earth with his mind, a teleporting sword master, a woman that can become invisible and control water, and a freaking awesome as balls were-bear!!) must be located by the clandestine PATRIOT program and convinced to battle their former creator before he unleashes his army to conquer the world. Super powered battles, martial arts, swordplay, robots, clones, and a myriad of other comic book inspired hijinks ensue!

    As you can tell from the description above, Guardians is one hell of a fun film that moves at a breakneck pace. There is literally a new off-the-wall concept smashing your eyeballs and brain every other minute, and I sat watching the whole affair with a giant grin on my face. For those of us that grew up with a steady diet of Marvel comics, G.I. Joe cartoons, and action figures, this flick plays out like pure nirvana; it’s an anything goes whirlwind that flows exactly like the childhood play sessions most of us experienced with about the same respect for logic or rules with only “Isn’t this awesome?!!” and “Doesn’t this look cool?!!” being important here!

    If there is a negative to be found with Guardians it’s that it throws a literal shit ton of concepts, ideas, and backstory at you with breakneck speed so some things are left by the wayside soon after they are mentioned (presumably to be touched upon in future installments…if there are any) also the film’s run time of eighty-eight minutes isn’t long enough to explore anything in great detail. We basically meet the villain (and learn of some sketchy plan involving a clone army), meet the heroes, and then battles ensue. Also some of the CG work is super dodgy…but I am willing to give that a pass here as what the film makers are trying to accomplish is incredibly epic of scope considering they were working with about a tenth of the budget that your average Marvel flick gets.

    In my opinion the feature makes this worth a purchase alone, but there are a few special features to add to the value. Included are: interviews with the cast and crew, a series of character profiles (which are basically just character specific clips from the film), trailers, and an image gallery. Not great, but better than nothing.

    Fun, frantic, and packed to the rafters with bonkers concepts and action, Guardians will not disappoint lovers of the comic book genre (and would make a great double bill with the ’80’s Empire picture Eliminators)!

    Iron Protector (2016)

    Wu-Lin (Song Yue, who also directed the film) is a chill dude…most of the day he just practices some sort of bizarre split maneuver on the streets of a large city while a cartoonishly nerdy child taunts him with a ice cream cone. Well one day some gangster types in pursuit of a man crush that damn ice cream cone and he proceeds to whip their ass in  manner not seen on the silver screen in a damn sight (think full contact combat with a little wire-work…brutal, yet stylized and fun). Anyway, we soon learn that Wu-Lin is a devotee of an iron based system of kung-fu (appropriately named The Iron kick) that makes him ultra-powerful and damn near invulnerable. This comes in handy as he is charged with protecting the  daughter of the city’s richest man from a criminal organization lead by the mysterious Mr. Fo. What follows is violence and mayhem on an unbelievable level that simply has to be witnessed to be believed.

    Normally I’d utilize this space to go over the positive aspects of the story (which in this case is merely a traditional kung-fu flick “bodyguard” trope with a splashy, almost anime style veneer), but there is something much more important to discuss here; namely the action and stunts on display in this film. The fighting, as stated previous, is of the full contact variety. The actors may pull their punches and kicks, but they are making contact…and lord does it show! Add in a little wire work to this and you get a  hyper choreographed, bone rattling wonder to behold.  Along with the martial arts are some astounding stunts (one of which involving our hero chasing a van on foot only to jump straight through the vehicle’s windshield…for real…had me exclaiming “Holy shit!” out loud) that would make Jackie Chan in his prime envious.

    As for the negatives…there aren’t many. Maybe for some the story will be too familiar or straightforward…but for me that was necessary to ensure maximum impact was given to the action set pieces.

    As great as the film is on it’s own, the special features on this one are on the light side. You get brief featurettes detailing the chase and final battle sequences, some behind the scenes footage, and the film’s trailer.

    Simply stated, if you love martial arts cinema, then Iron Protector is a must own film for your collection; it’s wall-to-wall action, jaw dropping spectacle, and completely irresistible!

    Erik The Conqueror (1961)

    After a cadre of British knights lay waste to a Viking settlement, the Norse King’s sons are separated in the chaos…one stays with the folks o’ Odin, and the other is absconded by the Brits. Flash forward 20 years, and the British and Vikings are getting their war once more. As you can guess, the brothers are destined to meet on the field of battle…but will they reunite and in the process end the bloodshed? I mean that’s the Reader’s Digest version…there’s also virgin sacrifice (the location for which is an amazingly surreal set complete with eerie green light, smoking braziers, and a giant twisted tree), complicated intrigue, some beards…the normal things one would find in a picture such as this…

    Anyway, fresh of of Black Sunday, maestro of Italian genre cinema Mario Bava decided to deliver something a bit more epic for his next picture leading to the creation of Erik The Conqueror. Now don’t be fooled by the fact that this film features Vikings…this is basically a sword and sandals epic with a costume change…and with that being said you can expect to see epic battles, oily dudes rowing boats, gorgeous scenery, even more gorgeous women, and a fair amount of melodrama (but more on that in a sec). Additionally, this being a Bava picture you can expect that his painterly aesthetic sense leads to absolutely breathtaking lighting, costumes, sets, and cinematography (all of which makes what was essentially a lower budget feature look like a major Hollywood production).

    On the downside, while the film moves at a brisk pace and is filled with color, battle, and spectacle it seemed to run much longer than it’s hour and thirty minute length, which can be attributed to the amount of characters and their intertwining narratives. In a flick concerning sweeping warfare sometimes it can be too much of a gear change to focus on intrigues and romance.

    While the main event is solid enough, Arrow has loaded this Blu-ray/DVD combo release with a longboat full of extras…okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but there are a few decent bonus features present! Kicking things off you get  a newly recorded audio commentary by Bava scholar Tim Lucas. Lucas really knows his stuff, and always gives an informative and engaging commentary. Following that you get a lengthy archival audio interview with actor Cameron Mitchell, and a video essay showing the comparisons between Erik The Conqueror and Richard Fleischer’s 1958 epic The Vikings (if any of you creeps don’t know, the Italians liked to “borrow” a few things like oh… complete plots from other films). Bringing up the rear is the film’s original ending.

    If you dig on sword and sandal action, Errol Flynn style swashbuckling, and astounding visual spectacle than you really owe it to yourself to add this edition of Erik The Conqueror to your library; it’s an action packed (if slightly over dramatic) visual delight!

    Revelator (2017)

    John is  a psychic strugglin’ to make ends meet…even though he can actually talk to the god damned dead! Well, soon it’s Jazzy John’s lucky day as he is called in to help solve the death of the last heir to the rich AF Bellvue family. Along for the ride is a cynical reporter named Valerie assigned to document the whole fracas…which is good because before long John is blamed for the murder and he’ll need all the help he can get to clear his name…and not tumble into some sort of insanity based abyss!

    Written, Directed, Acted, Edited,…hell probably even catered by first time director J. Van Auken, Revelator looks like it cost way more than it did. The cinematography, color palette, and striking visuals (especially in regards to the scenes involving John’s encounters with the dead) combine to form an impressive aesthetic that gives the entire a perfect balance of beauty and eeriness. Also of note is the solid performance of the aforementioned Van Auken as John, especially in the scenes where he is alone with the dead.

    On the negative end of the spectrum, Reveleator suffers from an overly complex plot and bloated run time (the film runs nearly two hours). Streamlining the plot and cutting the length of the film to the golden sweet spot of ninety minutes would have helped make Revelator a more effective fright flick that I would revisit often.

    Length and script problems aside, Revelator is a damn fine, aesthetically gorgeous fright flick and well worth a watch…I’m just not sure you would watch it again.

    The Resurrected (1991)

    Charles Dexter Ward high tails it to a remote cabin after police come ’round to question him about why he has corpses in his possession (doesn’t everyone have those lying around?)…well that and his wife’s bitching about his time spent in his home laboratory. Anyway, said spouse wonders just what in the hell her husband is up to and enlists a private dick to check up on him. As his investigation continues, John (the dick in question) discovers ol’ Chuck is collecting the bones of dead wizards, is related to a sorcerer from Ye Olde Days, and may be possessed…you know just a Tuesday. By the time the dead start rising it may be too late for our heroes to stop the machinations of Ward!

    Part film noir pastiche, part Lovecraft adaptation (the author’s  The Case of Charles Dexter Ward served as the basis for the screenplay by  Brent V. Friedman), part pulp adventure (in the third act anyway)…hell there’s even period piece flashbacks chucked in; The Resurrected is an entertaining hodge-podge of a fright flick that manages to work despite it’s disparate themes thanks to the sure hand of director Dan O’Bannon. The unraveling mystery of just what Ward is up to is suitably outlandish while still sticking to basic noir tropes (every man P.I., dishy jilted woman, a layered antagonist up to no good), some of the acting is quite good (Chris Sarandon is effective as the occult obsessed Ward who’s decent into the arcane comes complete with varying accents and ghoulish make-up), and the gore, creature suits, stop motion animation, and make-up effects are excellent (and surprisingly plentiful given the low key suspense vibe the flick tries to adhere to for a good portion of it’s run time…minus the climax and bizarre dream sequences that is).

    For all it does right, The Resurrected does have it’s problems. For starters, John Terry as Investigator John March is a pretty bland hero, and delivers a performance akin to sleepwalking for most of the feature. Additionally for nearly 75% of the run time, The Resurrected has the look and feel of a low budget made for TV flick (albeit one punctuated by extreme gore)…and the cheesy score by Richard Band doesn’t help that out much either. On a side note, the audio on this film is slightly off too with large chunks of dialog sounding like they were dubbed. And of course, at an hour and forty five minutes, this film is too long and has some serious pacing problems (which are also not helped by the fact that it’s tone changes like the wind).

    So that’s the feature, but what about eerie extras? Well, first up you get an audio commentary with Producers Mark Borde and Kenneth Raich, Writer Friedman, Effects Artist Todd Masters, and Actor Robert Romanus. The track is breezy and informative, and those speaking thankfully don’t talk over the top of each other too often as is often the case when there are multiple participants involved in a commentary. Next up are interviews with Actress Jane Sibbett, author S.T. Joshi (discussing H.P. Lovecraft’s work), Actor Chris Sarandon, Friedman, Masters, Composer Richard Band, and Production Designer Brent Thomas. Rounding out the package are a collection of deleted and extended scenes, the Chainsaw Awards acceptance speech, trailers, and a photo gallery.

    Uneven pace and dodgy production values aside, The Resurrected firmly belongs in the collection of anyone that digs on Lovecraft, pulp adventure, or gooey, gory creature features…and this Blu-ray from Scream Factory, with it’s dearth of bonus content, makes for the best way to own it!

    Daniel XIII
    Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

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