Bruce’s Deadly Fingers (1976)
After an intro that is Saul Bass meets Sergio Leone we begin the story of Bruce’s Deadly Fingers; one of roughly 4,567 Bruceploitation flicks made after the untimely passing of martial Arts legend Bruce Lee. Anyway, Bruce (Bruce Le) rolls into Hong Kong to find his mother dead and his sister missing…speaking of missing, the “famous” Kung-Fu Finger Book (it’s more a marital art than a martial one) is nowhere to be found either. Well, turns out Bruce’s sister has become a reluctant whore, and when he steals her back from the local whore monger he raises the ire of a big shot gang boss who is also looking for the Kung-Fu Finger Book (speaking of which, they mention this tome by name approximately 345 times during the run time of this picture). This leads to a non-stop barrage of kung-foolery, horrible dental hygiene, a hooker menaced by the world’s smallest snake, multiple training montages, more zooms than a Franco flick, and Bruce sticking his finger into all manner of objects (write your own joke here my faithful fiends)!
Bruce’s Deadly Fingers is as baffling as it is satisfying; to wit: although the main character is named Bruce, he is indeed not Bruce Lee…he may look and act like the late, great master, but he is supposed to be someone else entirely…hell, even that damn Kung-Fu Finger Book is the manual that gave Lee his fighting edge (according to this flick anyway)…it’s so damn meta that the whole affair is in danger of busting through the 4th wall, rebuilding it, then smashing it to pieces all over again (most likely utilizing only it’s fingers). Though to be fair, as perplexing as the narrative is, it’s chock full of nearly non-stop action as the fists, feet, and…you guessed it…fingers fly with wild abandon, plus it’s filled with that exploitation comfort food (well for me at least), the cartoony sound effects and Australian dubbing crew (“But still”…some of you just nodded your heads out there) so familiar to those of us that grew up with Saturday afternoon Kung-Fu flick regional programming.
Along with the surreal experience that is Bruce’s Deadly Fingers, those finger bangin’ maniacs over at VCI and MVD have included a fist full of bonus features on this release. First up, you get a sweet looking transfer of the film (which is saying something, because these flicks looked rough when they played on TV in the ’80’s) on both Blu-ray and DVD. You also get an ultra-informative and anecdote packed audio commentary by Martial Artist/Actor/Writer/ Producer Michael Worth that covers everything from the cast of the film, to the history behind the story line, to the entire significance of the Brucesploitation genre. It’s a great listen, and a wonderful companion to the feature. Also included are; the film’s theatrical trailer, a collection of deleted scenes, a collection of Brucesploitation trailers, a photo gallery, and a collection of “choice” lines from the film (Kung-Fu Finger Book).
All in all, Bruce’s Deadly Fingers is a top-notch Brucesploitation entry; it’s got a rock solid imitator in the form of Le, a search for secret fighting techniques, nudity, over-the-top gangsters…just crack a brew or six and watch it already why don’t ya?!!
Man ol’ Greta (Ewa Aulin) is having a right shit go of it; her brother Franz (Luciano Rossi) is an abusive, possessive, psychopath of the highest order (and a sexual deviant for good measure), and her secret lover, the aristocratic Dr. von Ravensbrück (Giacomo Rossi Stuart) leaves her to die as she gives birth to his illegitimate child. In his grief (and because he wants to start banging her again) ol’ Franzy-baby resurrects his sister via an Incan ceremony after which she tosses some pussy at him and he gets his eyes clawed out…a pussy cat I mean. Anyway, before long she is taken in by von Ravensbrück’s son Walter (Sergio Doria) who falls in love with her (as does his wife), but that does little to slow her undying (literally) lust for revenge and she begins offing the friends and staff of the von Ravensbrück’s just for shits as she plans the demise of the family proper. Lucky for them the physician Dr. Sturges (world class lunatic Klaus Kinski) is on the case and he soon begins to unravel Greta’s supernatural secret!
Death Smiles on a Murderer plays out like a whacked out, long lost Edgar Allen Poe tale (the supernatural vengeance, the black cat featuring prominently, a character being sealed up in a wall) crossed with elements of Frankenstein (Dr. Sturges’ resurrection of a corpse as he learns Greta’s secret), Dracula (Sturges is simply a Van Helsing stand in), Le Fanu’s Carmilla (the lesbian overtones, and the seductive, mysterious female house guest staying in a Gothic estate due to a coach accident), and good ol’ spaghetti splatter (an impalement due to that coach accident mentioned previous, highlights include a mean gunshot wound to the face, the aforementioned ocular mauling, and Greta’s true, totally rotten visage). This all adds up to a Gothic fever dream of surreal images, shocking violence, eroticism, and near art house style interludes that never fails to entertain!
This being a release from our fine fiends at arcane Arrow you can expect many a beastly bonus along with a magnificent 2K restoration of the main event! Included are: a commentary by author Tim Lucas that is absolutely loaded with information on both the film and those that created it, an archival interview with the film’s Director Joe D’Amato, an extensive brand new interview with Actress Aulin, a new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger exploring D’Amato’s genre work, trailers, and a stills gallery.
If you are looking for a trope combining, straight up Gothic spookshow, Death Smiles on a Murderer is the way to go; it’s gory, erotic, and full of off-kilter supernatural shenanigans!
A Bucket of Blood (1959)
Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) is a lowly busboy at a beatnik haven called The Yellow Door Cafe…the type of place that’s just lousy with sax solos, poetry, and artists (oh, and berets). Now our hero wants nothing more than to be just like the hep cats what populate that establishment mentioned up yonder, but his skill set is akin to that of an armless chimp rolling in Play-doh. But, as fate would have it after an incident involving a steak knife, a plaster wall, and a now ex-cat, ol’ Walter discovers he can create a celebrated work of art by simply slapping some clay over that dead feline. You can just guess what happens next; more accidents lead to more “sculptures” and even more accolades…but also rouses the suspicions of undercover detectives casing The Yellow Door (not to mention the Cafe’s owner who stumbles on Walter’s secret but balances his horror with the growing financial gain the morbid work generates).
A Bucket of Blood is a horror comedy played to perfection. Under the steady hand of low budget legend Roger Corman (directing from a script by Charles B. Griffith), this quirky, off-kilter, skid row production shines, thanks mostly to leading man Miller (who has appeared as a character actor in beloved fright flicks such as Gremlins, The Howling, and The Terminator to name a very, very few) who infuses Paisley with equal parts simpleminded lovable charm and sweaty desperation…it’s a wonderfully disparate performance and never fails to entertain throughout the feature’s scant hour and five minute run time.
As for extras, you get a bucket of nothing, but the transfer looks good, and the price is definitely right (just click the title of the film at the start of the review to see what I mean).
A Bucket of Blood is quite rightly regarded as a horror classic (not to mention providing the name for multiple Miller essayed characters over the years)…it’s full of murder, memorable characters, laughs, and a strange undercurrent of the bizarre…and certainly deserves a place in any horror hounds fright flick collection!
For the Love of the Boogeyman: 40 Years of Halloween (2018)
For the Love of the Boogeyman: 40 Years of Halloween grabs your attention right off the bat; instead of being yet another “making of” production detailing the film’s creation, this doc examines the impact John Carpenter’s seminal slasher has had on the generation of film makers that have grown up in the years since it’s release…and let’s be completely honest, there are few of us in working in the horror biz today that haven’t been influenced by good ol’ Big H!
The biggest thrill in watching For the Love of the Boogeyman: 40 Years of Halloween was the great assortment of anecdotes from some of my favorite fiendish folks currently toiling in the stalk n’ slay salt mines. Included in that pantheon of laceratin’ luminaries are: P.J. Starks (the Volumes of Blood series), Richard Stringham (Close Calls), and Justin M. Seaman (The Barn)…all are major talents, and all had something interesting to say as the key elements of Halloween were discussed (divided into segments such as Carpenter’s innovative style, the cast, the design of The Shape himself, etc.). Plus at a mere forty two minutes the documentary never lags or overstays it’s welcome…but speaking of the run time, that brings me to my one minor gripe about the film…
As I mentioned, this feature runs on the short side…I wanted more! I know that’s a bit of selfishness on the part of your’s cruelly, but my attention was peaked and I would have listened to more of what these creepy cats had to lay down if given the opportunity to do so!
For the Love of the Boogeyman: 40 Years of Halloween ultimately fulfills two important goals; one, it enlightens the viewer as to just what the legacy of Halloween is to those working on horror pictures today, and two I believe it will inspire those that view it to re-examine the classic for themselves and perhaps inspire them to create their own nightmarish visions!