Tuesday, October 17, 2006


This rare DAIEI horror gem utilizes the legendary Yotsuya Kaidan storyline. This version is by director KAZUO MORI (aka: ISSEI MORI) who is best known for the excellent ZATOICHI series of films. The complicated storyline takes place around 1786 and concerns the life of a masterless samurai, Iemon (KEI SATO) who is unhappy in marriage with his ill wife Oiwa (KAZUKO INENO) and hates working for a living doing assembly piecework for umbrellas. After he hires thugs to be part of an elaborate scheme to attack the young and rich Oume (CHIKAKO MASAGO), Iemon battles them off (all planned of course) so that he appears to be a superior swordsman. In gratitude, Oume (and her caretaker) are grateful... and Iemon concocts a plan for an arranged and profitable marriage to this rich young lady so that he can live the life he desires. Later, Iemon receives a gift of "medicine" from the caretaker to give to his sick wife Oiwa. A few days later, the caretaker drops by to visit, and informs Iemon that the "medicine" is poison and is for the purpose of killing Oiwa. This was not Iemon's original plan, as he had no idea that the elixir was poison. Iemon had already engaged the half-blind masseur Takuetsu (SONOSUKE SAWAMURA), who has a crush on Oiwa... to seduce and rape her, so that he can get a divorce or have her killed for adultery. But now Iemon has a new plan, and begins giving Oiwa the medicine, which slowly begins to poison and disfigure Oiwa's face. Although Oiwa's health continues to deteriorate, it isn't fast enough for Iemon. This is when he informs the blind Takuetsu to murder his wife... not just assault her. While visiting, the masseur tries to have sex with Oiwa, and she fends off his advances with a knife, stabbing a wall instead. Takuetsu, freaking out after seeing her disfigured face, tells Oiwa of her husband's horrific plan. Oiwa is infuriated and wants revenge on her husband and prepares herself to find him. Takuetsu watches her getting ready in horror as she combs out her hair... which creates large bald patches on her scalp... while she kneels weeping and looking at her deformed face in the mirror. Oiwa sits up abruptly and begins to walk, only to stumble across the floor and into the knife stuck in the wall, slitting her own throat. Thus, Oiwa's curse comes into full effect... to exact revenge on all the people responsible for her disfigurement and death... with the curse being strongest upon Iemon. There are tons more plot twists and characters involved in this unique telling of the Ghost of Yotsuya, especially when Iemon's insanity begins to take hold. Watch for glamour girl (aka: the snake woman) IKUKO MOURI who has a small part in this horror gem as well. A definite Z-Grade Japanese horror gem to check out... and it's on auction right now.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


This is an interesting subversive psychological film from the MATSUMOTO SEICHO SERIES of VHS releases in Japan. MATSUMOTO SEICHO is a very famous and gifted writer from Japan, and this series of VHS tapes utilize the best films based on his novels and screenplays. This particular movie starts out like an adultery-themed melodrama, but as the story unfolds, it becomes a strange and twisted tale of deception. In the beginning we meet middle-aged Japanese salaryman Hamajima (GO KATO) who is not very satisfied with his life and marriage at the moment. He is a good husband, kind of shy, and has a steady yet tedious job as a travel agent. One day, a beautiful lady named Taiko (SHIMA IWASHITA) recognizes him on the bus home and they start chatting. It turns out that this woman is actually his childhood friend from his hometown. Soon, they start developing a relationship that is closer than just friends. Taiko is a widow and lives with her 6-year-old son Ken-chan (HISATO OKAMOTO) in a small house, and Hamajima starts spending more and more time with his new-found adopted family, coming over evenings for dinner after work and even on weekends. Of course, during all of this, he is continually lying to his wife who is busy at home with her own business and hobbies, so she barely notices that he is gone.
In time however, Hamajima begins to suspect and believe that the 6-year-old Ken-chan wants to harm and perhaps kill him. Strange occurences like... the gas is left on for the oven while he is napping... and all the windows are locked shut, poisons in his drink, and more. At one point this little terror is even wielding an axe!
Is it just his imagination? Or is it real? The kid actor in this film is fascinating as the menacing and creepy little boy. And as you watch the film, you never really are clear as to whether you are watching imagined (and paranoid) scenarios inside Hamajima's head, or actual situations and events that are taking place. And then the twist in the story begins to take shape. The music score for this gem sounds like something from a European film of the era, with a groovy lounge-style atmosphere. And for you sleazehounds, this film does contain some nudity as well. You naughty people out there! This is a very artistic film with beautiful cinematography... it has that grainy soft & faded 70s look to the film stock. A highly recommended Z-Grade film that works quite well, even if it is lacking English subtitles. If you're interested in checking this gem out, click here.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


This is a lesser-known entry into the backwoods brutality genre of films started by the classic DELIVERANCE. Derivative exploitation, but pretty good nonetheless. Please note that a majority of the reviews listed for this film (also known as THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE) in the IMDb are littered with errors in the who, what and where of the storyline... so let me set the record straight, at least based on my own viewing of this rare Japanese VHS release. Fashion model Diane (BRENDA VACCARO) accompanies her playboy swinger dentist friend Harry (CHUCK SHAMATA) to his country house to join several others for a weekend-long party. On the way, he allows her to take the wheel of his souped-up Corvette sports car and she engages a gang of hillbilly hoodlums in a dangerous road chase, which ends with the four miscreants crashing their hot rod Camaro off the road and into a creek bed, and the Vette speeding away. The menacing gang leader Lep (veteran DON STROUD) swears vengeance on the pair, especially the driver. Up at the house, Diane is observed by Harry (the voyeur) via a two-way mirror taking off her clothes and nude in the shower. Nice guy this Harry. Not surprisingly, Diane soon discovers that there are no other guests coming up to the lake for the weekend. She also realizes that sleazy Harry just wants a quickie sex romp and another notch on his belt. Meanwhile, the psychotics in the Camaro are causing havoc all over town, nearly killing a local man of the law, in search of the two in the black Corvette. Of course, the vicious thugs arrive at the lake house, terrorizing Diane and Harry, and really begin messing up the place. Two of the gang members even take Harry's expensive speedboat for a spin out on the lake and kill some drunken hicks in a rowboat, who were out to help the dentist. When doctor Harry is revealed to be a bit of a wimp and the chaos really begins to ramp up, Diane in desperation, takes matters into her own hands and begins to exact her revenge, but not before she is sexually assaulted by Len, the crazed ringleader... and dry-humped by one the creepy gang flunkies while locked in one of the rooms of the house. Strangely enough, the ending of this film has a bit of an ambiguous tone. You'll have to watch it for yourself to see what I'm talking about. Recommended backwoods brutal shocker that is destined for Z-Grade glory. On auction right now, if you are interested in checking this one out!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

TIGER JOE & KUNG FU FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE - Martial arts/action VHS rarities on eBay!

Just a quick notice to let all you Z-Grade film fans that I have listed more Japanese VHS rarities on eBay this bright sunny morning. I was hoping to list more later this evening as well, but since I am still slaving at work, there is a good chance that this might be it for the day. But, up for grabs are two unique gems... both from the early 80s. Keep in mind, that if you like either of these hard-to-find Japanese factory original tapes, put your bids in now, because there's a very good chance that I may never come across these obscure titles again.
TIGER JOE (1982)
The ANTONIO MARGHERITI Vietnam euro-trash gem starring DAVID WARBECK presented in WIDESCREEN.

Crazed WIDESCREEN Hong Kong horror vampire weirdness starring BILLY CHONG of KUNG FU ZOMBIE fame.

Check 'em out before the bidding gets out-of-hand.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


This DAIEI film is a stunning period atmospheric ghost (yokai) story. It's initially a story of love denied. While transporting a bride-to-be in a closed carriage (kago) while during a thunderstorm, a group of servants and onlookers suddenly come upon an apparition of a ghostly white-draped female figure floating down to the ground. As she turns to face the crowd, the woman reveals the disfigured right side of her face. As the procession stands in utter horror, the ghost then takes flight again and down a side street. After the shock wears off, the bride is checked on and everyone is safe in the group. Once the wedding party finally arrives at the groom's home, they apologize for the delay... and proceed to open the kago, only to realize that the bride-to-be is now missing... and all that's left in the carriage is a single white snake slithering about. Cue the title sequence and eerie theremin music score. The future father-in-law then reveals a bit of his past privately to his son, about the fact that he is cursed by a woman named Omiyo (RUMIKO KOMACHI), a servant that worked for his family years ago. Basically, the curse is that he will no longer be able to marry, and either will his sons. The father reveals to his son that he and Omiyo were in love, but he was forbidden by his family to marry her. Then a mysteriously strange accidental(?) fire occurs, and horribly scars the woman's face. Although not made perfectly clear in the film, she commits suicide over being distraught about her disfigured face and her forbidden relationship.
Enter the sensuous carnival snake charmer Okon (IKUKO MOURI) and the plot develops, especially after the estranged brother Genjirou (SHOUJI UMEWAKA) gets involved and begins to suspect foul play. Even though this film is presented in Japanese dialogue only, you will appreciate this vintage horror gem for the cinematography and fantastic eerie atmosphere! HAKAJU KOMACHI has everything you need in a movie including swordfights, murder, deception, mystery, romance, assault and several ghostly apparitions along the way and also... quite a few white snakes, which all combine into a delirious and highly entertaining Z-Grade gem. This is the first movie in the Hebi (Snake) series of films featuring glamour girl IKUKO MOURI. In the course of making this first film, producer SHIN SAKAI came to discover that Ikuko loved the slithery reptiles and quickly she became known as the "snake actress." She plays Okon, a geisha vixen who performs in a carnival act with snakes. In the film, she handles a lot of live snakes and also on hand is some surprisingly near nudity in a few scenes. Ten years later, she was the woman monster with a snake-like neck (a Rokurokubi) in the classic DAIEI gem YOKAI 100 MONOGATARI (100 MONSTERS).

Friday, June 23, 2006


This is some piece of work. This rare slice of schlock cow-pie is best left for the heartiest of ROSS HAGEN fans... and most cult film fans barely know who he is anyway. The setting is modern times, but concerns a gang of washed-up crooks that get busted while attempting a bank robbery dressed as nuns. After getting locked-up and put on a chain-gang, they eventually plot an escape, get sprung by some of their other buddies, and prepare for their next big score. The hapless crew pulls off their next heist successfully, and they head out into the desert on dirt bikes... runnin' from the law. They wind up in Mexico at a whorehouse and play with the naughty wimmin (hmmm...sound familiar yet?), and then eventually are holed up and surrounded by the cops in a beat-up shack. Cue the slo-mo SAM PECKINPAH cinematography and audio... as all the miscreants bite the dust one at a time, all the while joking and singing a drunken bar tune.

Nonsensical from start to finish, this low-rent ripoff of THE WILD BUNCH on dirt bikes is pitiful at best. You might notice that CHRISTOPHER GEORGE is second billed in this wrong-headed exercise in plagiarism, but the prolific veteran actor only peeks his head into the action early on as a doofus gas station attendant... for just a brief moment.

A footnote to this Z-Grade hall of fame inductee is that the director (IVAN NAGY) later became notoriously famous for his involvement with HEIDI FLEISS and her former celebrity house of prostitution ring. If ya find this anywhere on DVD or VHS, you've found a true bottom-of-the-barrel treasure. Last time I saw this film was on a VHS tape I recorded from a vintage late-night broadcast. Long gone now.


1972 {aka: LOS AMIGOS}
This was a later Spaghetti Western gem I had not had the pleasure of seeing yet, so it was with much surprise to discover a scheduled showing of DEAF SMITH AND JOHNNY EARS on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) the other night. What a great oddball gem for the genre, with FRANCO NERO hamming it up completely, with ANTHONY QUINN (as the deaf one) playing the straight man. But my main goal in wanting to see this particular film, was to see the lovely PAMELA TIFFIN. I had no idea that she had some brief nude scenes in this, as seen from a distance by both the viewer and Nero's character Johnny Ears. Not sure if she used body doubles or not, but I guess it could have easily been done with a shot like this. Of course, I wasn't even sure this was her at first, regardless, because her trademark brunette hair had been dyed a brash platinum blonde. Later on, a love-making scene, that may or may not have been edited by TCM, nearly reveals a topless Pamela up close, so who knows? At times throughout the film, she is wearing what appears to be a near transparent full-length nightie that reveals peeks now and then. Maybe this was Pamela cutting loose a bit, after her earlier "good girl next door" roles. All in all, quite enjoyable and recommended viewing.

Preceding DEAF SMITH AND JOHNNY EARS was a rare widescreen broadcast of GUNS FOR SAN SEBASTIAN. Far more serious in tone, but another nice Anthony Quinn outing for sure, with a stunning ENNIO MORRICONE score. (My personal favorite Ennio Spaghetti soundtrack after ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST). Unfortunately, I missed this one... and only caught the tail end of the letterbox credits while setting up the DVD recorder for the rare showing of this full-frame print of DEAF SMITH. Damn happy to see it.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


To be honest, I hadn't really spent much time following AL GORE's career path since he lost the election to the big W. I guess in some way I always distrusted him, but ironically it was because of Tipper... and her short-lived music censorship plans of the 90s. I can also vaguely recall the big hullabaloo the media made over Al's new "mysterious beard" look a while back. But then again, I hold the media in the same high regard as I do the latest administration.

But then I caught the latest WIRED Magazine issue where there is a neat article about his upcoming film release... and an insightful interview with the ex-vice president himself, along with the new environmental order being directed by consumers. My interest was piqued.

Today, my wife and I went to our little cineplex in Manhattan Beach and watched the documentary... AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. From a cinematic perspective, this gem will not win any artistic merits. But that in essence is the charm of the film. Simple, and to the point. And powerful. Both of us came away very impressed with Mr. Gore, his vision, and his slide show (as he likes to call his very compelling presentation*). BTW, at least 80% of the running time of this documentary is watching Al present his slide show in front of several live audiences.

See this movie and prepare to be informed. This is not the hack work our pal Michael Moore likes to produce with sleight-of-hand and editing magic. No, Mr. Gore deals in hard facts and delivers what may be one of the best politically-charged documentaries ever... presented in a straight-forward style, without resorting to name calling or buffoonery... like the aforementioned auteur. This film makes me proud to know there are still American leaders you can look up to in this country.

I won't hold anything against the man any longer. Hell, not even Tipper.

*His "slide show" was created on a Mac, using their fantastic presentation application called Keynote. This program kicks Microsoft's Powerpoint squarely in the balls.

Footnote: I also added this review (under the title: An inconvenient truce) to the Internet Movie Database site as well. Click here to read and vote for my review as well... if you want.