April 29th, 2009

CAGED FURY (1984) **

Cirio H. Santiago is the Orson Welles of Philippines–Lensed-Women-in-Prison Movies.  This is the man that gave us She-Devils in Chains and Caged Heat 2:  Stripped of Freedom, here people.  That’s why I was a little disappointed with this flick.  Santiago has made some of the best Broads Behind Bars Movies ever made and Caged Fury is certainly not one of them.


The plot has a bunch of women being sent to a Vietnamese prison camp where they are brainwashed into becoming suicide bombers and political assassins.  Whenever they call the women on the phone and say “The apples are dying”, it triggers them to kill.  (The guards must’ve seen Telefon.)  A kindly prison guard helps a handful of prisoners escape into the jungle where they are quickly recaptured.  They escape again, only to be recaptured… again.  Then, they finally escape for good.


The thing I didn’t like about this movie is that for whatever reason, it switches gears about halfway through and becomes a low budget action movie instead of the fairly decent Women-In-Prison flick that it started out as.  Now I don’t mind action movies; it’s just that old Cirio is clearly more comfortable filming women being abused behind bars than he is with stuff exploding.  I mean the Vietnamese tanks vs. American helicopters finale SHOULD have been cool, but it’s undone by listless editing and indifferent staging.


Even the Chicks-in-Cages stuff isn’t even up to snuff with Santiago’s usual standards and a lot of time is spent on the stupid brainwashing subplot that quickly goes nowhere fast.  In between the brainwashing scenes, we do get to see some of the female prisoners occasionally Kung Fu their captors, horny guards balling the prisoners in exchange for smuggled goods, electroshock therapy to the titties, slow motion sex scenes and rape orgies, naked delousing and of course, shower scenes.  Had Santiago kept this stuff up for 84 minutes, Caged Fury would’ve been a modestly respectable Women-in-Prison movie.  Too bad the flick sucks whenever the bimbos aren’t behind bars.


The Head Screw gets the best line of the movie when he tells the bubble-headed blonde:  “You have no brains to wash!”


AKA:  Hell Train.


The original Devil Bat is one of my all time favorite Bela Lugosi movies.  It’s a literally batty Poverty Row horror flick about a deranged scientist splashing pheromone laced aftershave on people’s necks before unleashing his giant ass bat to rip out their throats.  I never knew there was a sequel to that manic classic, so when it was recommended to me on Netflix, I immediately Queued up that son (err… daughter) of a bitch.  As it turns out, Devil Bat’s Daughter is similar in a lot of ways to Curse of the Cat People.  It continues the “story” and characters from the first film, but it’s really nothing like its predecessor. 


We now follow Lugosi’s daughter, a mixed-up gal who believes that she’s inherited her father’s homicidal tendencies.  To make matters worse, she has bizarre visions of blurry bats menacing her in her sleep.  A bland psychiatrist tries to get to the bottom of her mental deficiencies but she ends up going crazy and murdering the good doctor’s wife (and dog).  If you already hadn’t guessed, the shrink is the real murderer and is merely pinning the wrap on the Devil Bat’s Daughter because she’s clearly bonkers.


Whereas the original Devil Bat was tons of nutty fun that never took itself seriously for a minute, this sequel plays things very straight.  Director Frank (Strangler of the Swamp) Wisbar takes a page out of Val Lewton’s book and tries to keep the horror confined to the character’s (and audience’s) imagination.  Die hard fans of The Devil Bat will be disparaged to learn however that this sequel more or less shows blatant disrespect to the original and even goes so far as to contradict nearly everything that happened in the first film.  (We learn that Bela really wasn’t the killer after all…  HUH!?!)  Also, everyone usually refers to Bela’s character as a vampire rather than a mad scientist; which makes me think the filmmakers somehow got the original movie confused with Dracula.


Despite these major pitfalls, I didn’t mind Devil Bat’s Daughter too much.  It flows pretty well and the scenes of the DBD’s psychoanalysis are quite involving.  The nightmare sequences are also stylishly done and help to put this flick slightly above most of the Poverty Row crap that was being churned out during this period.  As tenuously related sequels to horror classics go, you can certainly do a lot worse.

FAST AND FURIOUS (2009) ** ½

I kinda dug the first The Fast and the Furious movie although I was more impressed with star Vin Diesel than I was with the film itself.  In a world of rapidly decaying action movies, I saw him as the heir to Stallone.  The Chronicles of Riddick solidified him in my eyes as the Next Big Thing, but then he made The Pacifier and that pretty much ruined everything.  He made a comeback of sorts last year with the not-bad Babylon A.D. and I had high hopes for Fast and Furious*, his return to the franchise that made him a star.  


Now I never saw 2 Fast 2 Furious, mostly because Diesel wasn’t in it, and likewise skipped the third flick, Tokyo Drift.  When I learned that Vin did indeed have a cameo at the end of that film, I decided to YouTube the final scene to save the trouble of actually renting the movie and having to watch the entire thing just to see his one scene.  The minute long cameo mostly consists of Vin revving his engine and turning to that film’s hero (Lucas Black) and saying, “Are you ready for this?”  Really though, Diesel was asking the audience if they were ready for him to come back to the Fast and the Furious fold.  Boy were we ever. 


The story has Vin Diesel returning to America from his exile in the Dominican Republic so he can avenge the death of his girlfriend (Michelle Rodriguez).  Naturally cop Paul Walker wants the murderer too; mostly because he’s a big time heroin smuggler.  Walker and Diesel grudgingly team up to bring down the bad guys and of course, drive cars fast and furiously.


Fast and Furious is basically a revenge flick.  The main thrust of the story is all about Vin trying to find the dude that killed his woman.  All the hot rodding shit has been kept to the bare minimum, which I liked.  I don’t know shit about cars so all the gearhead aspects of the franchise doesn’t really appeal to me.  What I like is action, and in that department, Fast and Furious delivers.  There’s a great opening action scene that rivals a James Bond movie, as well as a fairly awesome street race; complete with wonderfully cheesy CGIed out GPS graphics.  


Vin carries the movie on his dependable shoulders and does some fucking great action hero type shit that I really admired.  In one standout scene, Diesel gets shot in the back by this asshole and Vin doesn’t even get hurt; just mildly annoyed.  This guy knows he fucked up big time too because he doesn’t even TRY to shoot Vin again, he just immediately goes down on all fours; Duck and Cover style, whimpering.  Diesel hustles over and just starts beating the shit out of the dude for inconveniencing him by putting a bullet in his back.  Brilliant. 


There’s also a great scene where Diesel puts together in his mind how an important accident happened by just looking at the skidmarks on the road.  CGI cars smash and drive through him as he stands around pondering what happened.  I don’t know how credible all this is, but it’s certainly hilarious.  (Especially when all the CGI smoke clears and we just see Diesel standing in the middle of the road with a pissed off look on his face.) 


I also loved the way that Diesel smashed the driver side window of his car out with his elbow so he could blow away a couple punks with a shotgun.  Seriously, this guy doesn’t even fuck with ROLLING down the window.  He smashes it with his goddamn elbow.  Is that badass, or is that badass?  


Walker also does a credible job this time out as a down-and-out detective.  While he’s no match for Diesel, his performance here is miles beyond his usual cardboard self.  The supporting cast is peppered with a lot of hot lesbians who have PG-13 make-out sessions with each other.  Sure, it’s just PG-13 heavy petting, but these are HOT LESBIANS, folks.


Although anchored strongly by a satisfying first half, Fast and Furious quickly runs out of gas before the third act.  There’s a lot of business involving cars driving through mine shafts over and over again and it just kinda gets monotonous after awhile.  Even though Fast and Furious drops it’s transmission before the credits roll, I have to admit, I’ll probably be in line for Fast and Furious 5 (which will probably just be called “Fast/Furious” given this franchise’s knack for dropping words and numbers out of the title) when it comes out; but only if Diesel is back in the driver’s seat.


Diesel naturally gets the best line of the flick when he tells a hot chick, “I appreciate a good body, regardless of the make.”  


*(For whatever reason, the new The Fast and the Furious movie drops all the “Thes” out of the title.  Why they just didn’t call it “The Fast and the Furious 4”, I have no idea.  Oh well, it sounds a Hell of a lot better than 2 Fast 2 Furious, that’s for damn sure.)