Crazy Six (1997)

    Crazy Six (Rob Lowe), or Billy if you are a boring bastard, is a junkie who makes his way to the lawless lands of Eastern Europe hoping to make some ill-gotten gains…and to that end he succeeds like a mother fucker as he ends up stealing a case of plutonium from a drug lord named Raul (a scenery devouring Ice T…the only man in the world I’d believe just has spare plutonium lying around for shits n’ grins) and going on the lam. As he runs for his life, he tries to kick his demons straight in the balls…also included are Mario Van Peebles as a gangster with quite possibly the shittiest approximation of a French accent you have ever heard, Rob Lowe’s amazing fake mustache, a song that crops up like every five minutes that constantly drones “something this way comes”, and Burt Reynolds…because kids dig that mofo fo’ sure.

    Comprised of absolutely gobs of style including an anachronistic pseudo-1940’s aesthetic, slick visuals, near comic book style lighting (and pulpy story line to match), and some impressive actors; Crazy Six has a lot going for it…and in the aforementioned areas it does indeed shine…but like that fucking song says (over and over and over) something this way comes…in this case some negatives along with the positives.

    So those negatives…well for starters the pace of this film is damn near non-existent…scenes drag on and on and on, that song keeps slowing things down (as nearly every time it appears we see a woman singing it in some club), and the visuals (which I can’t state are damn impressive and gorgeous) take center stage over any sense of actual storytelling.

    So the film is fun to look at but not actually that much fun to experience. Maybe the extras on this Blu-ray will sweeten the pot a little. Included on this release are…some trailers…okay, yeah…

    Look, I’d recommend Crazy Six on the strength of it’s eye-popping use of color and slick style…but don’t expect it to set your world on fire with it’s story or action.

    Boss (1975)

    Two black bounty hunters, Boss and Amos (Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and D’Urville Martin) defeat a posse of bandits and rescue Clara Mae (Carmen Hayworth), while simultaneously uncovering a plot by San Miguel’s racist mayor (R.G. Armstrong) to elect a criminal as the town’s sheriff on the recommendation of the evil Jed Clayton (William Smith). Boss reveals the plot to the town council and in a surprising twist of fate becomes the sheriff himself, while fostering a romance with schoolteacher Miss Pruit (Barbara Leigh) and putting into effect laws that punish all racist acts of which the town is lousy with. Of course ol’ Jed is none to pleased to discover his plans for a sympathetic to crime lawman have been squashed, and he soon starts causing all manner of static for Boss and Amos, including kidnapping Clara Mae. Soon our heroes have to stand their ground against Jed’s men as all hell breaks loose!

    Boss is one hell of a good time in the rootin’ tootin’ wild west! Starting with the cast; The Hammer is his usual cool-ass self as Boss, and Dolemite‘s Martin is fantastic as the good-natured Amos, while Armstrong makes for the perfect scenery chewing, over-the-top villain. While containing plenty of action, the film is at it’s heart a satire, and a damn amusing one at that…and makes for a refreshing change of pace from most drive-in Western fare with it’s tongue-in-cheek nature. Additionally Boss features the funkiest goddamned score a Western has ever had, hands fuckin’ down!

    On the negative side, if you wince at the usage of the “N-word” well this may not be the picture for you…but again, this film satirically skewers racism, and I’m not sure if that would have the same effect minus the language used.

    As fun as Boss is…and yes, I’m well aware of the film’s actual title (look no further than the trailer below), but that is what is used for this release…MVD have included some entertaining bonus material as well. Included are a look back at the film’s production from it’s Associate Producer Myrl A. Schreibman, a brief tribute to the film’s director Jack Arnold, lengthy interview with Williamson that covers his entire career, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

    If you are looking for a straight up Western romp with charismatic actors, the most ’70’s sounding music imaginable, and a strong sense of “Does this offend you…if so F off!” then Boss is going to be your bag for sure baby!

    Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji (1955)

    A wandering samurai and his two knuckle-headed servants traverse the road to Edo. The samurai is a kindly sort unless he has a swig of booze…this has the adverse effect of turning him into a violence crazed psycho. Joining them on their travels are a number of folk, each with issues of their own (one is a disguised thief, a father who must sell his daughter into prostitution due to financial strife, a young boy who desperately yearns to become a samurai). As the story progresses, the samurai and his men’s presence in each of the travelers lives results in outcomes to their situations that may not be what you would expect. Of course destiny has things in store for our protagonists that are equal as impact (i.e. that demon in a bottle leads to some serious static).

    Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji is at it’s heart a road picture. A group of diverse characters (all played to perfection) wander along having surprisingly light-hearted interactions given the subject matter involved. And things carry on in that manner for a good deal of the picture before legendary director Tomu Uchida pulls the rug out and turns the picture into a study in dichotomies as what was once calm becomes a tableau of shocking violence with shocking outcomes. It makes for an enjoyable cinematic experience, and one that all can relate to as life is never predictable.

    Along with the main feature, Arrow Films have included some bonus content on this Blu-ray release. First comes an ultra-informative audio commentary by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp. This is a fantastic listen and really enhances one’s appreciation of Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji. Following that we get interviews with Yasuka Uchida, (the son of director Tomu, who discusses his father’s work), and Toei Studios (who released the film initially) publicist Kazunori Kishida. Finally comes an interview with French film critic Fabrice Ardiuni on the history of the film.

    Equal parts comedic and bloodthirsty, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji is an entertaining and thoughtful look at the part our decisions make on our fate in the world…it also has a drunken samurai going batshit, so win-win!

    Usually I’d slap a trailer here, but after an exhaustive and fruitless 20 second Youtube search I gave up…just picture folks in traditional Japanese garb walking on a road in black in white…

    The Hired Hand (1971)

    Harry Collings (Peter Fonda, who also directed the picture), Arch Harris (Warren Oates), and young Dan Griffen (Robert Pratt) are wandering souls who have grown weary after seven years of meandering throughout the American Southwest. Soon our trio stop off in a town ruled by the corrupt McVey (Severn Darden), which results in Griffen being murderized by thugs, and McVey getting his feet ventilated by Collings. Soon Collings decides to head home in the hopes of patching up his strained relationship with his wife Hannah (Verna Bloom), but that goes over like a fart in a submarine, and she allows him to stay, but only if he works as a hired hand. Will their relationship heal, and speaking of heels (clever, right?) will McVey seek revenge?

    Like Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji above, The Hired Hand is a study in the impact choices can have on your life. Collings chose to leave Hannah behind and live the saddle tramp lifestyle, only to return home in the hopes of making things right, but again his choice caused serious damage. Also like the aforementioned film, violence plays a huge role in this picture as well, and it again comes in shocking doses. All of this is brought to engaging life by a strong cast of actors, rock solid directing from Fonda and an emotionally charged, well paced story from screenwriter Alan Sharp. With all of that being said, one of the real stars of the picture is the breathtakingly gorgeous cinematography of Vilmos Zsigmond whose ability to paint with different light sources is a sight to behold (there, I’ve finally put that art degree to good use).

    While the film itself is excellent, Arrow Films have done their usual stand-up job of offering a bounty of special features on this Blu-ray release. First comes an anecdote packed commentary from Fonda, followed by an archival documentary on the making of the film. Both detail what it took to bring the tale to the screen, and both are worth the price of admission alone. Following those comes  an archival documentary on a trio of Scottish screenwriters (Sharp is of course one of those featured), a conversation with legendary film maker Martin Scorsese on his feelings for the film, and an audio presentation of Oates and Fonda at the 1971 London Film Festival. After that we get a selection of deleted scenes, a stills gallery, trailers, and TV and radio spots.

    Infused with poignant human drama, violence, and gorgeous visuals; The Hired Hand is a fantastic Western yarn and is worth experiencing not only for fans of the genre, but for those that like a solid story well told and presented.

    The Day of the Jackal (1973)

    The militant French underground organisation OAS is right pissed that their previous attempt to assassinate President General Charles de Gaulle went sideways six ways to Sunday. In order to fix that they decide to give it another go and commit a series of bank robberies in order to hire British assassin The Jackal (Edward Fox), a cat that’s as slick as shit through a duck’s asshole. Even though the authorities catch wind of the plot, The Jackal goes honey badger and doesn’t give a shit and carries on. Will the authorities be able to thwart the OAS’s plans and eliminate The Jackal, or will he complete his mission?

    Well paced, expertly acted, and with a great sense of overall believability (no over-the-top James Bond or Duke Togo styled antics here folks) The Day of the Jackal is one hell of a taut thriller. It also makes a compelling and engaging character out of a hired murderer which really makes us root for The Jackal, even though his mission is less than admirable…in short, Fox is amazing in the role! Adding to the aesthetic is fantastic cinematography by Jean Tournier, and sure direction from Fred Zinnemann…in short this is the type of picture that makes my review style kinda hard…it’s so damn good I can barely crack my patented wise!

    As fantastic as The Day of the Jackal is, Arrow once again adds to the pot by offering special features including: an interview with author Neil Sinyard discussing the film and it’s director, a selection of archival behind-the-scenes footage from the film’s production in 1972, an interview with Zinnemann (also from 1972), and the film’s theatrical trailer. Kinda light this go around, but believe me the film is worth the price of admission on it’s own!

    If you love to love the bad guy, enjoy well paced and gripping suspense, and love the machinations of secret organization then The Day of the Jackal is a must own…simply put, it’s utterly brilliant in every way!

    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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