Walking Tall Part II C, 1975) AKA Part 2 Walking Tall, Legend of the Lawman
Sequel to the brutal hit starts where it left off, but with big Bo Svenson taking over the role of Buford Pusser. While I agree with the general consensus that Joe Don Baker is the definitive Pusser (I also liked Brian Dennehy in the TV movie Real American Hero), I'm not as down on Bo as some are: he has charisma and is believably tough, plus his accent is fun to listen to, even if it doesn't really carry the "Tennessee" feel that much. Pusser continues his crackdown on illegal whiskey, and the Dixie Mafia keeps trying to kill him. They tamper with his car and lead him on high-speed chases, plant dynamite, try to lure him into rifle range for professional shooters, and use every other dirty trick they can come up with, but if Buford's anything, he's hard to kill, and he'd be back for Final Chapter and a short-lived (7 episode) TV series that wasn't bad, either. Don't listen to the naysayers - this is a good Southern action flick, and there never has been a Buford Pusser movie that wasn't worth watching. -zwolf

The Warriors (C, 1979)
I'll admit that I wasn't crazy about this classic and influential Walter Hill film the first time I saw it - I thought it was too cartoonish and wanted something more realistic. But since then I've probably watched it a dozen times and come to appreciate that very same cartoonishness. A huge meeting of representatives from a hundred New York street gangs - intending to unify them so they can rule the city - breaks up into chaos when Cyrus, the would-be leader, is shot by a psycho gang member who blames The Warriors from Coney Island. So the Warriors have to make it nearly thirty miles through a city full of gangs who are all out for their blood. There are lots of well-done but comic-book-clean fights and strange gangs - guys who dress like baseball players with painted faces, for instance. Even the dialogue is delivered strangely, almost as if by word balloon - people seldom speak at the same time and are often framed by themselves when talking; it had to be a deliberate motiff, and gives the film a unique feel. It also manages to come across as futuristic and retro at the same time (I think a few of those hairstyles were already out, even by '79). Anyway, this one still holds up, and is a must for Walter Hill fans (and everybody should be one of those). -zwolf

Watch Me When I Kill (C, 1977) AKA The Cat's Victims, Cat with the Jade Eye, Il Gatto dagli occhi di giada
A knife-wielding psycho kills a shopkeeper and a bitchy dancer almost witnesses it, so the killer starts coming after her next. Plus a man in town is getting strange phone calls full of multi-layered industrial noise, screaming, dog barking, and what sounds like a Hitler speech. A woman gets her face burned in a skillet full of hash, an old man gets strangled in his bathtub, and all the while the dancer's boyfriend is trying to figure out who the killer is before he loses his girlfriend. The intricate web of clues is pretty hard to follow, and the slightly-grainy darkness of the photography doesn't help much, but you can tell that director Anthony Bido (Bloodstained Shadow) had Bava and Argento in mind while he was working on this. It's a rather cheap-looking but worthwhile giallo, without much blood to the violence. -zwolf

Werewolf Woman (C, 1976) AKA Daughter of a Werewolf, Legend of the Wolf Woman, Naked Werewolf Woman, She-Wolf, Terror of the She-Wolf, The Wolf Man, La Lupa Mannara
A young woman named Daniella suffers from nightmares of being a werewolf. Her father is concerned because she spends so much time in the attic looking at aold historical artifacts, and she bears a striking resemblance to an ancestor who was rumored to be a werewolf. Daniella was raped as a child and has some animosity toward men, which comes out in her werewolf dreams. Psychiatrists and doctors try to help her, but she acts possessed, yelling obscenities and screaming and thrashing around, until a completely insane nympho unties her and frees her from the hospital to go on a killing spree. She bites a lot of people to death until she meets a really nice guy who works as a stuntman in movies, and his non-jerk-ness makes her re-think her hatred of men. But then a scumbag trio of rapists spoil that, and she has to get revenge. Very bloody Italian splatterfest that's not really a werewolf movie per se - she does have on werewolf makeup in the nightmare sequences, but she's not really a werewolf, only thinks she's one. Should deliver for most fans of Euro-gore. -zwolf

We Were Soldiers (C, 2002)
Mel Gibson stars in this Vietnam war epic (based on a book by Hal G. Moore) that's got to rank highly among the best war movies ever, not only for the realism of the battle scenes but on the strength of the non-battle scenes, since it shows the heroism of the soldiers' families as much as of the soldiers themselves. The battle scenes are bloody and terrifying but the strength of them relies as much on the fact that you've been shown what these guys stand to lose, and that they may not even be paying the worst price; when you're dead it's all over, but the families have to live on without a husband, father, brother, son, or friend. Plus, the enemy isn't depicted as just a faceless evil, but are also husbands and fathers who are also scared young men but doing what they have to do, just like our boys. The battle scenes are realistic and very well done, and even if the film is a little manipulative (woulda been even more manipulative if they'd left in the extra scenes you can see on the DVD), it stands as a well-deserved testament and tribute to the American military... and their families. Mel Gibson does a great job as usual, and Sam Eliot is perfect as his exceedingly hardboiled partner. Recommended. -zwolf

What Have You Done To Solange? (C, 1972) AKA Cosa avete fatto a Solange?, School That Couldn't Scream, Secret of the Green Pins, Solange, Terror in the Woods, What Have They Done to Solange?, Who Killed Solange?, Who's Next?
Top-notch giallo starring Fabio Testi (looking different than usual with a beard and lighter hair) and a small part by Camille Keaton (the woman from the infamous I Spit on Your Grave). Some psycho is running around jamming big knives up between girl's legs. Testi is an Italian professor who's having an affair with one of his students near the scene of one of the killings, but they have to keep it a secret or their affair will become a public scandal. The girl thinks the killer was wearing a priest's habit. As more killings ensue, Testi investigates and finds that the killings are somehow tied in with a girl named Solange (Keaton) and something that was done to her that was horrible enough to drive her insane. It's complex but tightly-plotted enough to stay coherent, and is well-directed by Massimo Dallamano, who served as a cinematographer on Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. To add to the Leone connection, you also have an Ennio Morricone music score. -zwolf

What the Peeper Saw (C, 1972) AKA Child of the Night, Night Child, Night Hair Child, Diabolica Malicia, Diabolisch, Tua presenza nuda
Andrea Bianchi (director of the infamous zombie gorefest Burial Ground) co-directed this (his first film) with James Kelly (whose only other film as a director was Beast in the Cellar). Years ago my satellite dish used to stay glued on WGN because they showed a lot of old obscure horror like this late at night. Nowdays I seldom have reason to stop at their channel anymore and am not even really sure they're still on my cable. So much for the profitability of current trends amongst the fringe element... Anyway, Britt Ekland is a new stepmom to creepy kid Mark Lester, who looks innocent enough, but who starts making passes at her and feeling up her breasts on the first day he meets her. And he's only 'bout 12... Since he gives her the willies, she starts checking up on him and finds out that he got kicked out of school for peeking at people on Lover's Lane and torturing cats to death, and she starts to suspect that he may have killed his mother, too. Meanwhile he's setting his dad up to take his side, saying that Britt doesn't like him... so when she comes to him with her findings, he dismisses them all as slanderous lies. So she tries to be understanding and help with the boy's problems, but he gets creepier and creepier, staring at her and acting spooky until she does start hating him, gets drunk, alienates herself from her husband, and finds a peephole in the attic where the kid's been watching them have sex. She tries to question him, but he makes her strip naked for him before he'll admit to killing his mother. The kid's so brilliant that he's even outwitted his psychiatrist, so everybody thinks Britt's the one who's crazy... and before the movie ends, she may be. And you may be a little crazy yourself when you see the extremely twisted ending. Weird, seldom-seen British-Spanish co-production. There used to be interesting things in the late-night TV wasteland, before Ronco took it over... -zwolf

When Trumpets Fade
(C, 1998) AKA Hamburger Hill 2
Great made-for-HBO World War II film about the battle of Hurtgen Forest, one of the bloodiest battles of the war. With hundreds of soldiers already dead, a self-serving private (Ron Eldard) is promoted to sergeant, despite his many protests. He has no desire to lead and doesn't care about winning the war - he just wants to survive and get the hell out of there. But the will to survive may be what makes a hero, since he decides their only chance is to sneak in at night and take out some German tanks before the next morning's offensive. Well-done, intense war-is-Hell drama from John Irvin, director of Hamburger Hill. -zwolf

The Whip and The Body (C, 1965) AKA What, Son of Satan, La Frusta e il Corpo, Incubo, The Body and the Whip, Night Is The Phantom, The Way and the Body
One of Mario Bava's less-often-seen classics with Christopher Lee as Kurt, a cruel, sadistic black sheep who returns to his father's castle after being cast out for driving his lover to suicide. When he finds his brother's new wife on the beach, he stripes her up with a horsewhip, just like they used to do - they were both into it. Soon afterward something hiding in the curtains sinks a dagger into Kurt's throat and kills him - perhaps it was the ghost of his former lover. Nobody's terribly sad to see him go... but they're none too pleased when he starts coming back. He returns each night to terrorize his brother's wife, leaving muddy footprints and staring in the windows at night, or appearing in her bedroom and whipping her bloody... something she doesn't find completely undesirable. Then his father ends up dead with a knife wound in the throat, and they all suspect each other of the murder, not ready to believe that Kurt's ghost is doing the killing. Then the brother's wife is carried off by someone who leaves muddy footprints, and they track them back to Kurt's crypt... but find the caretaker leaving muddy footprints. But then they hear Kurt's laughter and find more footprints in a secret passage... The missing girl is found in Kurt's tomb, and she says he put her there. Is it his ghost, or was he buried alive, or is it something else entirely? This unrelentingly-creepy tale of obsession and perversion is Bava's most gothic film - in fact, it plays like a more horrific version of Wuthering Heights: cobwebbed crypts, dark castles with secret passages, love-hate relationships that last beyond the grave, sea cliffs, turbulent ocean, sunsets, and a very haunting music score. The sets are rich and the direction is moody, with lots of brilliantly-composed photography, making this one of Bava's greatest masterpieces, even if the pace is a bit slow. -zwolf

White Lightning (C, 1973)
In the deep Southern part of a strange world where the only cars made are Ford LTDs, a guy named Gator McKlusky (Burt Reynolds) gets out of jail (he was serving time for repeat-offense whiskey running) so he can collect evidence against the crooked sheriff (Ned Beatty, who actually doesn't get sodomized in this movie!) who killed his brother Donnie. So pretty soon ol' Gator's back in town, raising hell and outrunning the police, infiltrating the local moonshine industry and taking down names (which are usually things like "Dude," "Rebel Roy," or "Shuggapuddin'"). Thing is, a lot of movies try really hard to create a backwoods redneck atmosphere, but this film never comes across as trying - it just does it, and probably better than any other movie, with realistic dialogue and believable action scenes and good acting. I'm no big Burt Reynolds fan but I like this one a lot. The sequel, Gator, got more attention but wasn't half as good. A double-feature of this and Walking Tall would be damned near perfect. -zwolf

White Pongo (B&W, 1945) AKA Adventure Unlimited
Safari folk set out to investigate a possible "missing link": a white gorilla. Or at least a guy in a white gorilla suit. A big fluffy one! And it's already killed a few anthropologists. They camp out among natives and other animals (I may be wrong, but I don't think Africa has bears) and deal with budding romances and bad comedy relief, plus betrayal within their camp by gold seekers. Regardless of subplots, it still lags a lot, and even the gorillas don't have much screen presence. But the white gorilla does carry off a girl and battles a guy in a regular gorilla suit (while the girl looks on in wonder, as if the whole spectacle isn't utterly silly). Adding bits like naming the native chief "Mumbo Jumbo" adds to the goofiness. A PRC production. -zwolf

White Slaves of Chinatown (B&W, 1964) AKA White Slaves, Slaves of Chinatown
Before there was Ilsa, there was Olga. Audrey Campbell is Olga, sadistic criminal mastermind who presides over a ring of drug-dealing prostitutes whom she controls with pot, opium, and torture. For the most part, it's shot silent and narrated documentary-style, backed with annoying "Chinatown" music and bad beatnik jazz. Nearly half an hour in Olga does some of the narrating herself and lusts after one of her female slaves. She also tortures them with whips and sticks their hands into vices, hangs them upside down, and uses Chinese water torture. She also makes drug deals and arranges abortions. And there's no real conclusion, just a warning that we shouldn't let it happen here. Olga would be back in several sequels, including Olga's Girls, Olga's House Of Shame, and Olga's Dance Hall Girls.

White Zombie (B&W, 1932)
The first zombie film, this was partially based on real-life narratives from W. B. Seabrook's The Magic Island. A young couple comes to Haiti to be married, but their host wants the bride for himself and has a witch doctor friend who can arrange it. The witch doctor, named Murder Legendre (Bela Lugosi's best role besides Dracula - hell, I like this better than Dracula, really), has living dead servants, and can put people into deathlike trances with "just a pinpoint" of secret voodoo powder. He turns the bride into a zombie, and it's up to her groom to return her to the land of the living and stop Murder and his zombies. Readily available (for a while every video company seemed to have a no-budget copy on the market) horror is slow and creaky and looks kind of like a silent, but it has some creepy moments, plenty of atmosphere, and eerie-looking zombies. That one fat guy's stare bothers me. The Roan DVD is as good a copy as you'll ever find. -zwolf

Who Saw Her Die? (C, 1972) AKA Chi l'ha vista morire, The Child
George Lazenby (the one-shot James Bond guy) stars in this Italian giallo film about the murder of little girls. Somebody grabbed a little redheaded girl when she was running through the snow and bashed her head in with a rock. Two years later another similar-looking little girl (the evil girl who was torturing lizards in Argento's Deep Red) becomes a target. Her father is an artist setting up a show in Venice, and the killer - apparently a woman wearing a veil - stalks the little girl and eventually they find her floating in the river. The father investigates the killing himself, after a newspaper archivist finds an article on the similar killing that happened two years before. The killer, however, is stalking the people the father talks to, killing them to keep them quiet, and the father is on the list, too... Nicely done, twisted film that bears repeat viewings. -zwolf

The Witchmaker (C, 1969) AKA The Legend of Witch Hollow
A team of researchers (with a guy from Green Acres leading them) goes into the Louisiana swampland to investigate a series of ritualistic murders. A witch coven, led by Luther the Berserk, is behind them all, and they plan to make victims out of the reporters, too, since they can always use more blood. There's some mild gore as people are hung upside down, have symbols painted on them, and then get their throats cut. It's not bad if you catch it in the right mood. -zwolf

The Witch's Curse (C, 1963 or 1960?) AKA Machiste in Hell, Maciste all'inferno
The logistics of this movie make it a little bewildering. A witch named Martha Gaunt is burned by inquisitors, screaming that the land will be cursed for eternity as she burns. A hundred years later, another woman named Martha Gaunt comes to the same Scottish village, and a cursed tree begins flowering, so frightened villagers haul her to a stake to burn her. But then Italian muscleman Machiste shows up and saves her. What he's doing in Medieval Scotland is never explained, so just go with it. Maybe he was picking up some haggis for his mom, say. Martha tries to swear on a Bible that she's no witch, but the Bible bursts into flames; that's bad for one's case. So Machiste uproots the cursed tree and climbs under it and, basically, goes to Hell! He fights a lion, sees enslaved people being tormented by monsters, burns his hands badly while pushing open a flaming door, and meets a girl who heals him and tries to help him. Machiste battles a giant caveman (either they found a very big guy or it's a great special effect), fights a vulture to (temporarily) free Prometheus, and sees some flashbacks of fighting a cyclops and some Mongols, just as a bit of high-quality running-time padding. Then he stops a cattle stampede. In Hell? Yes, in Hell! All this before finding his real quarry. It's like a cheaper version of Hercules in the Haunted World (with no Mario Bava, but director Ricardo Freda is no slouch, either) and even though it's not up to that lofty caliber, it's still weird, atmospheric, and better than most muscle-epics. -zwolf

Womaneater (B&W, 1957)
Probably the best title in the subgenre of killer-tree movies. A British expedition sets out to the voodoo jungles seeking a fabled formula that can return the dead to life. They find natives feeding women to a pretty silly-looking tentacled tree. A crazed professor brings the tree back to England (how'd they manage to get close enough to uproot it? Who knows!) and continues the sacrifices because the resurrection serum comes from the tree's sap. A young lady needing work takes a job as his live-in housekeeper, and the doctor falls in love with her. Meanwhile, he's picking up loose-moraled women to feed the tree (which really doesn't look a whole lot scarier than Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors even though that was a comedy and this is supposed to be serious). When the housekeeper tries to leave and the doctor learns the limits of his resurrection formula, it spells big trouble. Not badly made, but there's only so far you can go with such a ridiculous storyline. -zwolf

The Woman in Black (C, 1989)
Herbert Wise ("I, Claudius") directed this Masterpiece Theatre·like TV movie (probably for PBS or A&E, I don't know which), and Nigel Kneale (who wrote some of the Quatermass movies and other Hammer projects) co-wrote the screenplay, so you know it's gonna be good. This old-school British ghost story is about a young lawyer in the 1920's traveling to an old spinster's house to settle her estate. She wasn't very popular; he's about the only one at her funeral, besides a grim-looking woman in an old black dress. She appears again in a graveyard near the house, looking dead and glaring hatefully. She scares him, but he's determined to stay in the house and find out what's going on. The house is separated from the mainland by a marsh, with only a misty causeway (which is sometimes underwater) connecting them, so he's very isolated in the spooky old mansion, and tortured by repeated sounds of a carriage wreck on the causeway. And then things start getting really creepy... Genuinely scary ghost story containing one of the most horrifying and nightmarish scenes I've ever seen in a film (it's when the woman appears, grinning, in the bedroom in the middle of the night), and you can trust me on that because I've seen 'em all. Even though it has a made-for-TV look to it, that shot-on-quality-video thing, this can still stand alongside such films as the original Haunting, The Innocents, The Changeling, and Legend of Hell House. -zwolf

Women Unchained (C, 1974) AKA Five Angry Women
A bunch of jailbird women who look like they really belong in prison bust out, steal a car, run from the cops, and abduct a Mexican guy. Really, really cheap-looking flick with all the cliches and stereotypes and some pretty plain women, to put it kindly. Almost completely devoid of style, but good enough on a trash level. The dumb dialogue is also good for laughs. One of the girls hangs herself, and the Mexican gets killed while driving about 80 miles an hour. They look up old friends, pump them for money, rip them off, or kill them. Then it's off to rob gas stations, battle cops, and get shot. Cheap, no-frills, but okay. Not really good, but not really bad. Which, means, yeah, I guess it is pretty bad when you get down to it. A little nudity, but nothin' you'd really want to see. -zwolf

Wrath of Daimajin (C, 1966)
Third in the grim, well-made Japanese giant-samurai-god series. This time the giant stone statue is on an island in a lake that separates a prosperous village from an oppressed one. Using a Trojan Horse gimmick, the oppressed village sends assassins as prelude to an invasion. The good village then falls under oppression as well, and the stone god's face turns red with anger. The invaders scoff at Daimajin and abuse his people. As usual it takes a while, but eventually he comes to life, turns from stone into a giant samurai with the blue face of a demon, and goes on the warpath, even though the bad guys have dynamited him and reduced him to rubble. First boats of the invaders are sunk, then one of them is found with a chunk of the statue imbedded in his chest, and finally all the ominous rumblings culminate in Daimajin rising impressively from the lake and causing large-scale havoc, splitting the lake in two and rumbling into town, angry and unstoppable. Basically it's no big departure from the other two, but, again, it's top quality filmmaking and the monster is impressive and scary, not silly. In fact, this is probably the scariest of the series, since these baddies put up the best fight against him (making the fruitlessness of it even more harrowing) and the violent deaths of the evil ones on their day of judgement even contain some blood. The best of the series, in my opinion. -zwolf

Wrong Turn (C, 2003)
Wrong Turn reminds me, at varying times & in varying degrees, of Deliverance, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, & Friday the 13th. That being said, I also think that this is one of the best new horror films in years. In a way similar to the zombie-genre revamp in 28 Days Later, Wrong Turn revitalizes & breathes some new scares into the "hungry backwoods inbred" movement as much as Mother's Day (man! that scene with the Drano is still hardcore!), though with lots less of the annoying videogame-style editing overpopulating most post-Matrix releases. Creepy & non-stop, this one is worth checking out, though the final scene at the gas station would've been much more cathartic if the gas station attendant had gotten what was coming to him... Eliza Dushku, who played a great nigh-invincible tough-girl role on TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a great show... I promise!) gets to strut her stuff as a non-invincible kinda-tough-girl & there's enough gore to satisfy all but the most over-the-top gorehounds, including dismemberings, "food" stored up for winter, a decapitation & more, but most importantly, Ned Beatty doesn't get raped... or even appear in the movie at all!-igor

Yoga and the Kung Fu Girl (C, 1978)
If you're looking for a really different kung fu flick, here ya go. A mute orphan girl named Phoenix is raised to be an expert at shien yie kwon soft-bone kung fu, which involves a lot of yoga-style contortions. She does amazing backbends and wraps her legs behind her head and ties herself in all kinds of freaky-looking knots, even while fighting off rude admirers. As if that weren't enough in the fighting department, she's friends with Chi Kwan Chun, who is a badass. They work in an acrobatic troop for a woman named Madame Kow, but some evil men start abusing them and Phoenix and Chi go on the warpath. Which is not easy because Madame Kow is a pacifist and she runs Chi off for killing enemies. She's consumptive, though, and dying... but the bad guys hasten her demise. Strangely enough, a lot of the bad guys in this one look kind of like clowns (particularly a dwarf in a weird hat). One looks a little like Jackie Chan, and even mentions his name! After a while the plot starts to meander, but Phoenix puts on a pretty amazing display doing all kinds of things you'll never be able to do, all that triple-jointed craziness, and that makes this one a good thing to check out if you're looking for something out of the ordinary. -zwolf

Young Tiger (C, 1973) AKA Little Intention Tiger, Siu Liu Foo
Amazingly enough, an instrumental rendition of Led Zep's "Immigrant Song" opens this set-in-the-modern-70's (and has the bell bottoms to prove it) kung fu fight fest. A bigshot fighter challenges a kung fu school to send someone to fight him, so they send a top student called "Little Tiger" as a representative. Little Tiger kicks the fella's ass, and some gangsters stop the guy's dune buggy and kill him behind missed blackmail payments, and Little Tiger (who was riding by on his motorbike and stopped to help the guy out) gets blamed for the murder. He escapes from the cops and goes on the run to try to find the gang that framed him so he can clear his name. While all this is happening, you get a fashion show with an instrumental version of Janis Joplin's "Move Over," there's some car stunts, the theft of an ice-cream delivery motorcycle, and various fights in sleazy locations, including the roof of an abandoned parking garage. Modern-time kung fu movies are usually pretty bad, and this is certainly no masterpiece, but it's not likely to bore you. -zwolf

Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold (C, 1964) AKA Zatôichi senryô-kubi, Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold, Masseur Ichi and the Chest of Gold, Zatôichi 6, Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold, Zatoichi's Thousand-Ryo Neck, Zatoichi: A Wanted Criminal for Stealing 1,000 Ryo
Some thieves try to hijack a tax payment shipment, but Zatoichi the blind swordsman gets it away from them and is then accused of stealing it, even though he didn't know what was in the chest and didn't keep it. He sets out to clear his name and recover the gold. The local gangsters plead innocence and the evidence points to corrupt officials. Zatoichi ends up fighting a small army in a forest at night, betting on crazy sword tricks, and, scariest of all, gets molested by an ugly, smelly prostitute. He has a pretty hard time with everyone hating him, but he finds out where the gold is... and has the skill to get it back, too, despite the odds against him. Good entry in the series with more action than usual, and some of it involving some blood spraying. The style is also cooler than usual. -zwolf

Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (C, 1970) AKA Zatoichi To Yojimbo, Zatoichi 20, Zatoichi Vs. Yojimbo
AnimEigo makes the strongest opening possible to its Zatoichi series by releasing the one that paired up two of the biggest icons in chambara films: Shintaro Katsu and Toshiro Mifune. Shintaro, o' course, is the icon of all the Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman films and one of the hardest-working men in the genre. And Toshiro is often called "the John Wayne of Japan" (although, no disrespect to the Duke, but he never had the kind of screen presence that Toshiro's blessed with; I'd consider him closer to "the Clint Eastwood of Japan." Or maybe Clint's the Toshiro of America - it's hard to say, Mr. Mifune's that damn good). After killing some men in a rainstorm, Zatoichi takes shelter and remembers a village that he enjoyed visiting years before to help him endure the miserable rain. Then he travels back there and finds it's changed a bit, because an evil clan is running things, and he's not even settled in before he's getting into fights. Toshiro (who's referred to as a "yojimbo" - bodyguard - but doesn't seem to be the same character he played in Akira Kurosawa's classic) comes to collect a price on Ichi's head, but he shows up drunk and Ichi easily pulls a trick on him... which Toshiro admires so much that they go out drinking. Zatoichi's picked up by the law and thrown in jail (after accidentally konking himself with a rock! Even he's not perfect...) and Toshiro's mad because he still wants to collect the bounty. Ichi escapes via a clever trick, and then Toshiro starts playing tricks on him, too. As usual, Ichi does a little gambling and has some ill-fated dealings with a woman. Then, among evil portents of fire and rain, a somewhat-ghostly swordsman (who also packs a gun) called "Nine Headed Dragon" comes into town, seeking some gold that's been embezzled from the Shogunate Mint. The theft of the gold, which was supposed to be made into coins, is devaluing the currency and making the poor people even poorer, while various criminals are starting a war in the village while trying to find its hiding place. Ichi has too great of a sense of justice to allow such things to go on, and forms a reluctant alliance with Toshiro to put an end to it. The climactic fight, in a windswept town where nearly everyone's already been killed, is like something out of Sergio Leone. A standout for the series, as well as one of the longer episodes at 115 minutes, and AnimEigo's given it a great widescreen presentation with subtitles that include helpful definitions of unfamiliar Japanese terms. -zwolf

Zatoichi On The Road (C, 1963) AKA Zatôichi kenka-tabi, Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, Fighting Journey, Zatoichi and the Scoundrels, Zatoichi's Fighting Journey
As a promise to a dying man (and because he's always ready to help a lady), the blind swordsman agrees to escort a girl to Edo. There are people trying to kill her, because she stabbed a feudal lord who was trying to rape her. She's worth a lot of money so two warring gangs try to use her as a way to control Zatoichi... but that could backfire on both of them. Good entry in the series, with a big massacre finale. -zwolf

Zatoichi the Fugitive (C, 1963) AKA Zatoichi kyojo tabi, Masseur Ichi the Fugitive, Zatoichi, Crazy Journey
After competing in a wrestling tournament, the blind swordsman kills a man who tries to collect on a price on his head. Since this unskilled man apparently needed the money so badly, Ichi visits the man's mother and gives her the money anyway, out of his own pocket. A much-more-skilled samurai shows up to collect the bounty and comes pretty close, but then he messes up and kills a girl Ichi likes instead. Can we say "blind rage"? It's a little slow but the end makes up for it, with Ichi plowing through about a hundred enemies. Another solid entry in a great series. -zwolf

Zombie (C, 1980) AKA Zombie 2, Zombie Flesh Eaters
George Romero's Dawn of the Dead was released as Zombie in Italy, so gore-god Lucio Fulci made a "sequel" (even though it's unrelated completely, plot-wise) and called it Zombie 2, released over here as plain ol' Zombie. Romero's may be the better film in wit and social commentary, but as a sheer splatterfest, Fulci's film blows it out of the water. A reporter accompanies a girl to the island of Matoul to find out what happened to her father, since his boat - with a zombie on board - was found just off Staten Island. Hooking up with a vacationing couple, they land in zombie hell, since Matoul - due to voodoo experiments - is swarming with living dead. The cavalcade of very-effective gore includes a notorious I-can't-believe-they-did-that splinter-in-the-eye effect (the woman getting gouged doesn't flinch, nor does the camera - that's your job, and I bet you'll do it well), gut-munching, throats bitten out in extreme, stretchy, fountaining detail, and three figures worth of head injuries. The zombie makeup easily surpasses the weak blue-face used in Dawn Of The Dead (that's one thing I've always hated about Dawn - the weak makeup on most of the zombies) - Fulci goes whole-hog, using excessive decay and injury and worms spilling from eye sockets, the works. It's that kind of attention to disgusting detail that sets this film up as the icon of walking dead gorefests. It got an X for violence and barf bags were available when you bought your ticket. I bet it's easier to find clean bags from Mark Of The Devil - the ones for Zombie probably actually got loaded. -zwolf

Zombi 3 (C, 1988) AKA Zombie Flesh Eaters 2
Wonderfully lousy zombie shit attributed to Lucio Fulci even though the maestro-of-meat walked out on it in disgust after filming only a few scenes, leaving it up to (oh no!) Bruno Mattei. It's more of a "crazy virus" movie than a zombie movie, really, as a guy steals a toxic chemical which gets unleashed and mutates people, covering them with oozing sores and making them kill. When one of their bodies is burned, birds that fly through the smoke become crazy, too, attacking people who then become contaminated as well. Soon you have a whole lot of very silly and badly-dubbed people being attacked by zombies in lame makeup jobs, providing non-spectacular gore effects. The "zombies" are really fast-moving, too, usually, which takes away most of their creep-factor. Some very funny things happen, though, such as horribly ridiculous dialogue when soldiers in a jeep flirt with girls on a bus, and a disc jockey who obnoxiously prattles on about ecology between playing extremely bad records. The zombie attacks are lackluster, people wandering around until some lamely-decorated extra jumps out to pull off some badly-applied prosthetic latex. Things reach another level of stupid'n'bad when a puppet zombie head flies through the air and forces an actor to hold it up to his neck as though he's being attacked. It's about as close to your stupid uncle doing the "oh no, I can't control my hand and it's choking me!" trick as you're going to find in a movie. The best testament to Fulci's legacy is not the portion of this that he did, but the fact that he walked out on the rest of it. Italian zombie films were already out of vogue when this was filmed, and if this is where they were heading, you now know why. It's about Troma, Full Moon quality, and that ain't good. There is, however, a Zombie 4...

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