The Sadist (B&W, 1963)
Pretty freakin' intense for its day... and is still pretty potent stuff. Arch Hall Jr. and his dumb girlfriend hold some teachers hostage at an isolated garage, wanting their car fixed so they can continue their killing spree (based on the Charlie Starkweather case). Arch - who was being groomed by his dad to be some kind of blonde Elvis or something - radiates menace and acts like a Neanderthal as he takes his time killing off the captives. The intensity doesn't let up as the hopeless situation becomes even more hopeless - so hopeless, in fact, that, unlike most of this kind of films, the good guys don't all make it out okay. -zwolf

Salo (C, 1975)
Director Pier Paolo Passolini's harsh critique of fascism in this loose adaptation of the Marquis De Sade's 120 Days of Sodom is truly a disturbing film; much moreso than his Canterbury Tales or The Decameron, which also contain some shocking imagery, but couched in humor & storytelling. The depravity depicted is nowhere near as graphic as much of what has come since its filming, but nowhere else is said depravity quite so unnerving. The film is quite surreal, as the soundtrack by Ennio Morricone serenely accompanies some truly sick occurences which take place in a beautiful Italian villa. Nine boys & nine girls are kidnapped & taken to a country villa where the wardens of their new home, aided by fascist soldiers clearly based on the jackbooted armies of Mussolini & Hitler, force them to perform some of the most depraved acts ever depicted on film. Disobedience, escape, hope, prayer... all are punishable by death. Or worse. Coprophagia, pedophilia, & forced sodomy are common, as the wardens destroy the psyches of the children in an attempt to create a group of completely amoral fiends like themselves. The soldiers, like the Nazis in the deathcamps, are merely "doing their jobs." The children, as they are broken down more & more, seek to please their captors in Pavlovian reaction to the treatment they receive at their hands (& other parts). Soon, everyone involved is acting on the most animalistic of levels, with little or no humanity left to be found. Not recommended for those with consciences or weak stomachs, the film merely parades this downward spiralling circus of the grotesque before the viewer, who is left to draw his own conclusions. -igor

Sands of Iwo Jima (B&W, 1949)
Solid WW2 film with John Wayne as a hard-ass sergeant trying to train his platoon to survive combat. He's especially hated by John Agar, whose dad was another hard-ass marine who made him resent military authority. The battle scenes (which include real war footage) are great. What's funny, however, is a thread of latent homosexuality that seems to run through the film; Wayne teaches bayonet practice by dancing with a guy, one G.I. gushes endlessly over how handsome one of his friends is, a guy shows up in another guy's tent to ask if he believes in love at first sight, and when a guy's nervous about his wedding one of the other guys says, "If she doesn't show up, I'll marry ya!" When a soldier gets gunned down and a book falls out of his pocket and the camera zooms in on the title - Our Hearts Were Young And Gay - I nearly ruptured something. It's probably unintentional - things were different in the '40's - but it's fun to watch for, anyway. Don't ask, don't tell! -zwolf

Santo vs. the Martians (B&W, 1966) AKA Santo contra la invasión de los marcianos, Santo Versus the Martian Invasion, Santo el enmascarado de plata vs. la invasión de los marcianos
Martian musclemen in a barbeque grill land in Mexico, demanding that all earthmen stop all wars and get along in peace and harmony... or be annihilated! Santo the masked wrestler takes time out from teaching kids to be good sports to tackle the Martians, who wear silver capes but no shirts and have long blonde hair sticking out from under helmets that look like bedpans with a disintegration ray in the middle. Eventually they decide that this look frightens the Earthmen (I dunno if "frightened" would really be the right reaction when one was faced with a guy in this get-up), so they take on a more "normal" appearance - like extras from a Hercules movie! They want to take Santo back to Mars 'cuz he's so big and strong, but he won't go no matter how many hammerlocks they exchange. The Martian women, meantime, go around hypnotizing people, while the men impersonate masked wrestlers. What heels! Would it be too much of kayfabe to let you know that Santo's gonna kick their asses? Typically ridiculous but entertaining Santo flick. And if it's any help, you can make a drinking game by taking a shot every time Santo looks around trying to see where people went when they "beam up." You'd be quite drunk by the film's halfway point, I promise you... -zwolf

Saps At Sea
(B&W, 1940)
Oliver Hardy is driven out of his mind by his job at a horn factory, so he decides to take a cruise with his longtime companion Stan Laurel. A miserable experience escalates into a living hell when they're set adrift with a killer on board. Lots of slapstick and other comic mayhem, just as you'd expect, including a rather disgusting sequence where L & H are forced to eat string, sponges, elastic, and other household items they've disguised to look like food in order to trick the killer. Classic. Cross-eyed star Ben Turpin has a cameo, and silent star Harry Langdon was one of the scriptwriters. Less than an hour long. -zwolf

Satan In High Heels
(B&W, 1962)
Meg Myles (from All My Children) plays a carnival burlesque queen named Stacey Kane, and she's an ambitious, confident, cold-blooded evil bitch. Her junkie ex-husband shows up at the carnival with $900 he made writing an article, and she pretends she wants to make up with him... then jumps on a plane to New York with the cash. She gets a job singing in a club run by a woman named Pepe (Grayson Hall, from Dark Shadows). She selfishly causes a lot of turmoil, wears a lot of plus-size leather (she's not fat, really, but she is full-figured!), and uses a riding crop while singing an SM-ish song ("I'll beat you, mistreat you, 'til you quiver and quail, the female of the species is more deadly than the male!") Del Tenny, who directed a lot of schlock movies, plays a guy who becomes one of Stacey's exploited dupes. Pretty well-made pseudo-sleaze (no real nudity) with a real noir feel to it, and some excellent black and white photography. -zwolf

Satanis : The Devil's Mass (C, 1970)
Documentary on Anton LaVey and Satanism in his infamous "Black House," covering his philosophy (which is a lot less "evil" than most people think), reactions of his neighbors (most of whom find him amusing, a nice guy, or somewhat annoying - mainly because his lion used to roar too much, or because he didn't mow the lawn enough). A few Satanic rituals are filmed (they get pretty dull; there are naked women, but not the kind you'd want to see, and LaVey looks silly with his little devil-horn hood) and a lot of the church's members are interviewed, coming across as a bunch of bright, funny, friendly crackpots. There's nothing really shocking (even the guy dressed as a bishop who gets lashed on the butt comes across as goofy) and it's actually pretty educational. But of course alarmist scare-mongers like Geraldo have used snippets of this film to spread ignorance instead. If you have enough interest in the subject to have watched the Geraldo specials, then you should at least make the effort to seek out the full-length documentary and see the footage in its proper context. -zwolf

Satan's Children (C, 1974)
Poor Bobby is the proverbial red-headed stepchild; his bitch stepsister cockteases him and tells his jerk stepfather that he's hiding weed in his room. So Bobby runs away from home, and his luck goes from bad to worse: a gang of homosexual rapists kidnap and rape him. Or maybe they just strip him down and drive around with him hanging over the front seat of their car - it's kinda hard to tell. Then they leave him on the side of the road, where he's found by some ridiculous Satanists who are out playing catch! Take the skinheads bowling, and play catch with the Satanists... hey, whatever. The Satanists turn out to be about as homophobic as their Christian counterparts, however, and don't want Bobby around, even though he's not gay - the priestess even gets a crush on him so he has a chance to prove it. But then Simon, the cult leader, comes back and is unhappy with the priestess (partially for hanging out with Bobby, and partially for hanging three of their members by their necks). He has her buried up to her neck near an ant bed and then covers her in syrup. He also punishes a lesbian member of the cult. And he doesn't like Bobby much, either, but Bobby gets tough and escapes (in his skimpy undies - the director seems to be covering up some latency with the homophobic elements - it's really pretty amazing), throws his pursuers into the most laughable patch of quicksand ever, then goes back to get some pretty crazed revenge on his family and the cult members. Unbelievably weird made-in-Florida drive-in cheapie that you can't take your eyes off of, in a car-wreck kind of way. Astounding product of some very strange thought processes on the part of the filmmakers. -zwolf

Satya (C, 1998)
Gritty, violent Bollywood crime drama. A dead-eyed man named Satya comes to Bombay from "somewhere" and soon learns the streets are not very forgiving for a guy down on his luck. Working menial jobs, he keeps crossing paths with gangsters who have him beaten up. Defending himself lands him in jail, and there defending himself again makes him friends with another gangster, who gives him a job as hit man. He also starts a romance with the girl next door, who doesn't know he's involved in crime. He wants to keep it that way, but also secretly uses his mob influence to advance her singing career. But a mob war stars heating up and there are gun battles in the street, so his secret life gets more difficult to hide, especially when a new police commissioner starts taking advantage of the in-fighting to crack down on the gangs. Still, Satya gets engaged to his girl... and arranges the murder of the commissioner, which causes major political unrest, and all the criminal activity starts to catch up with him, and tragedy seems imminent. Very well-made, epic crime saga with the usual Indian musical numbers here and there. Considered India's best pure crime saga, with a good, subdued performance by J. D. Chakravarthy. -zwolf

Scarecrows (C, 1988)
Some renegade paramilitary types who stole army funds land near a farm populated by creepy-looking scarecrows when one of them pulls a double-cross and chutes out with a couple million bucks. Little do they know that the scarecrows come alive and are ready to kill people and turn them into homicidal zombies. Pretty good horror flick with plenty of gore (alt least, plenty if you get the unrated version - there's also an R version out, which you should avoid to foil the MPAA). -zwolf

Scarface (C, 1983)
Brian DePalma's remake was notorious upon release because it got an X for violence, mainly for a chainsaw-in-the-bathtub scene that's more implied than graphic. Al Pacino is Tony Montana, a criminal exiled from Cuba who soon rises to the top of the Miami drug underworld... then pays for it. The word "fuck" is said hundreds of times and Robert DeNiro isn't even in the movie. The "say hello to my lil' frien'" gunfight finale is a classic of cinematic mayhem; firefights don't get much cooler. This bears little resemblance to the 1932 original, but that's okay. Critics hated this one, but everyone else I know worships it. Yeah, it's pretty excessive, but that's the fun, y'see? -zwolf

Scooby-Doo (C, 2002)
A live-action remake of a cartoon about a group of adventurous youths & their talking dog who solve crimes as they travel the land. That being said, I am a huge Scooby fan, specifically the original series... not Scooby meets Batman or Dick Van Dyke or Phyllis Diller or the Harlem Globetrotters or whoever. Not the Scrappy-Doo stuff. Not even the ones with Vincent Price in that purple cape. Thus it was with reluctance that I sat down to see this film, dreading the disappointment. I groaned at some parts, particularly the "serious moments" that Hollywood likes to insert into feature films to manipulate the audience, but the slight aging of the characters added some interesting moments & the CGI-Scooby was much better than I'd expected, though Matthew Lillard steals the show with his spot-on performance as Shaggy. Excellent villain, too. On the whole, I enjoyed this film & recommend it to fans of the original series. Who's next... Speed Buggy? Hong Kong Fooey? The Funky Phantom? How about Jonny Quest?!? Silly, but enjoyable. -igor

Scorpion (C, 1998) AKA Scorpion: Double Venom, Scorpion: Female Prisoner #701, Sasori: Joshuu 701-gô
An unrelated attempt to cash in on the Female Convict Scorpion series, this Japanese women-in-prison film follows a beautiful female doctor named Nami who's sent to jail for killing a patient - one of the men who'd kidnapped and murdered her little sister years earlier. She shares a cell (more like a room, really) with a wide-assed bull dyke and a couple of mean girls, and they try to make her life rough. This results in a brawl, and I don't mean a catfight, I mean a brawl; these two women are toe-to-toe, seriously slugging it out. Our hero doesn't win, but by refusing to stay down, she earns some respect. Then a bisexual guard gets a little crush on her and tries to make things hard for her since she's not into the idea. She makes one good friend (who reminds her of her sister), but the friend is about to be executed for a crime she didn't commit, so it's up to Nami to try to break out and stop the execution. For an exploitation film it's pretty mild - not heavy on the nudity or too explicit in the gore - but it's beautifully shot, and even though the story is pretty familiar ground it's well-acted and manages to stay compelling. Not nearly as cold-blooded as the Female Convict Scorpion movies, though. Comes on DVD complete with its sequel. -zwolf

Scream Blacula Scream (C, 1973)
Pissed off because his voodoo cult didn't elect him Papa Loa, a guy with James Brown hair raises Blacula, who begins draining the blood of the city. He meets Pam Grier, a voodoo priestess, and she tries to exorcize the demon of vampirism from Blacula (played by the great William Marshall, o' course). Sequel to Blacula that's not half as bad as you've probably heard. Directed by Bob (Count Yorga) Kelljan. -zwolf

Scream in the Streets (C, 1973) AKA Girls in the Street, Scream Street
Softcore porn masquerading as a cops and robbers flick gives you one of the best examples of sheer drive-in sleaze, as produced by Boxoffice International legend Harry Novak. Two shabby plainclothesmen named Eddie Haskell (no relation to the insincere TV icon, although he does cleave some beaver) and Bob Strecker try to deal with crime in the L.A. suburbs, getting in car chases and gun battles while stopping peeping toms (a couple of lesbians manage to phone the police even while they're in a compromising position) and guys who give spankings at massage parlors and various robberies. Their main problem, however, is a murdering rapist who gets close to his prey by dressing in drag. He's very obvious, but still everybody falls for it. The plot doesn't really get that much screen time, though, because it has to compete with heavy softcore padding, which is slightly harder than most cable porn. There's not really much to it, but if you're nostalgic for drive-in sleaze, this is it. I think there are dozens of different cuts of this thing floating around - every version (several videotapes and a DVD) seem to contain different things. Some people really get excited about this movie, but I really don't know why. You'd have to be pretty horny to view this as any kind of classic.-zwolf

Scream of the Wolf (C, 1974)
One o' those good ol' Dan Curtis TV horror movies, with a strange script by Richard Matheson. Peter Graves is a researcher who's brought in to investigate a series of killings being perpetrated by an apparent werewolf. He enlists the aid of his jerky big-game-hunter buddy, Byron, who seems to know a lot about what might be doing the killings... in fact, he may know a little too much. Plus he was once bitten by a supposed werewolf while on a hunting trip with Peter. Byron enjoys the drama surrounding the killings and is so smug about it that even Peter finds him hard to put up with, and sets out to track down the monster on his own. It's not high art or anything, but '70's made-for-TV movies seldom fail to entertain. -zwolf

Screaming Ninja (C, 1973) AKA Ten Fingers of Steel, King of Boxers, Screaming Tiger, Wang Yu - King of Boxers
Jimmy Wang Yu has a grudge against the Japanese for murdering his family, and he wants to kill every one of them he meets, even though a flute-player with a basket on his head tells him it's wrong. He should have a grudge against pickpockets, because he's almost robbed by them twice in the first ten minutes of the movie. Even though Wang Yu is kind of a small guy, he beats up several Sumo wrestlers in a row, and later kidnaps a guy (via rickshaw) and gets information about his parents' killers. A girl who was counterspying on the Japanese helps him... and pays for it. So, Wang Yu has even more motivation for revenge. The fighting is not that spectacular, but it's constant, and the climactic duel on a moving train, then a bridge, then over a waterfall, is something different. Decent chopsocky. -zwolf

The Searchers (C, 1956)
No big John Wayne fan, me, but he is good in this John Ford masterpiece that ranks as one of the finest westerns ever made. After his family is killed by Indians and his niece kidnaped by them, Wayne and an adopted nephew (who Wayne doesn't like to acknowledge because he's a bigot and the nephew's 1/4 Indian) set out to track them down, not stopping even though it takes several years... and that he might not like what he finds at the end. Monument Valley is used to maximum effect. -zwolf

Secret of Tai Chi (C, 1985) AKA Tai Chi Chun
Hong Kong chaos right from the start as some guys attack some other guys and burn their houses and kidnap one of their women and torture her, while the guys in her family who escaped plan revenge. They're repeatedly hunted and beaten, until one day they notice two girls "dancing" outside their house in the woods - it's actually tai chi practice. And they also do some bizarre "chicken style" kung fu their dad teaches them, apparently as a joke. The guys finally begin formal training with the girls, but being defeated in a fight at a lantern festival sends them all to Shaolin Temple, where monks take on the bad guys in elaborately-choreographed fights... but not as elaborately choreographed as the hoards of people in costumes of various colors that run around in patterns during the big revenge finale - that's pretty impressive and unique. Unusual kung fu (or tai chi, I suppose) film starts out a little sloppy but get progressively better as it goes along. But I think the real "secret" referred to in the title is why these factions are fighting in the first place; the plot never really makes that clear. -zwolf

Serpico (C, 1973)
Great, unorthodox direction by Sidney Lumet and a career-standout performance by Al Pacino make this based-on-fact cop movie a classic. Al plays real-life nonconformist cop Frank Serpico, who gets in trouble by being almost the only honest cop in New York City. He refuses to take payoffs from criminals, which eventually makes him a target for all the other cops who are worried that his incorruptibility will ruin the sweet deals they have going. Al gets near the breaking point, working plainclothes (he looks progressively hippified as the movie goes - they shot scenes in reverse sequence to the script so they could cut his hair and give him a shave to make him look more clean-cut) and being in more danger from his own squad than from the criminals. One of those movies that everybody needs to see. -zwolf

Seven Bloodstained Orchids (C, 1971) AKA Puzzle of the Silver Half Moons, Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso
Umberto Lenzi goes upscale in this nicely-done giallo, based on an Edgar Wallace novel. A black-gloved killer is murdering women by various means (none overly bloody) and leaving crescent-moon medallions on the bodies. One of his victims is only wounded but the authorities have a funeral for her to make the killer think his attempt was successful, while she tries to help the cops figure out who's doing it, and why. All leads to the killer head in an impossible direction: a man who's been dead for two years. And it seems he has a hit list of seven women. If all you've seen from Lenzi is Make Them Die Slowly you'll be surprised that he had anything this classy-looking in him. A solid entry into the giallo genre, even if it is a little light on gore (a power-drill killing provides the most splatter). -zwolf

The Severed Arm (C, 1975)
Uniquely-plotted horror obscurity about some strange psychotic vengeance. Some buddies exploring a cave get stuck in a cave-in (thanks to Marvin Kaplan, who played the neurotic telephone man in the old Alice sitcom... here he's a D.J. named "Madman Herman") and eventually decide they're going to have to eat each other. Not wanting to do any killing, they opt for just taking a single body part. So, they cut off one guy's arm, mere seconds before they hear people digging them out. They tell their rescuers that the guy's arm was crushed in a cave-in and they had to cut it off to save his life, but of course he knows better, and five years later he's released from a madhouse... and the other guys start losing arms to someone with a hatchet... Pretty cheap, with no real gore, but it's interesting and has a pretty grim resolution... -zwolf

The Shadow Strikes (B&W, 1937)
Adaptation of "The Ghost of the Manor" from The Shadow pulp magazine. A rich old man is shot while working out a new will with The Shadow's lawyer alter-ego, Lamont Cranston. He decides to get to the bottom of the killing, finding an underworld connection and posing as a lawyer for one of the gangsters. It's all overly convoluted, stiff, and slow, with almost no action and only a few seconds of screen time for his "Shadow" identity, which isn't even very impressive - he just puts on a regular ol' fedora and wears a trenchcoat: you wouldn't notice him on the street. No evil laughter, no "clouding men's minds," no two-gun mayhem... The Shadow never shoots anybody at all, in fact. So, it's mainly just a mild drawing-room mystery with a gimmick, and it may put you to sleep even though it's only an hour long. Makes me wonder if the filmmakers ever even read an issue, or even saw a freakin' cover... -zwolf

Shanty Tramp (B&W, 1967)
One of the ultimate sleaze classics of all time, following the unsavory adventures of a trashy small-town tramp named Emily on one bad, eventful night. She visits a tent revival and seduces the preacher into some sin, fights with her gutter-drunk father, parties with a motorcycle gang at a juke joint while they trash the place, and does some small-change whoring. Or at least she tries to; the guy won't pay up and tries to rape her instead, but she's saved by a young black man who's basically a good guy but is unfortunately obsessed with her and is easily seduced. His chivalry is rewarded with misery; Emily teases him, the bikers kill his mom, and when Emily's dad (all fired up on religion from the tent revival) catches Emily having sex with him she claims he raped her and soon there's a lynch mob after him. Meanwhile, she has further problems with her daddy, whose religion has worn off and been replaced with some unholy ideas. Bob Clark (of Porky's fame) was assistant director, and K. Gordon Murray produced. Kroger Babb and Jerry Gross also re-released this on the exploitation circuit for years. Although there's only a little nudity (Emily's saggy titties), this is much better-made and more genuinely sleazy than most and is faster-moving and more memorable than the standard trashy flick. A masterpiece in its own way; they'll never make anything even remotely like it again. -zwolf

Shaolin Drunken Monk (C, 1982)
A vengeance-seeking killer is after the gang who cut off one of his hands. Then Gordon Liu comes in, also seeking revenge for the murder of his father. He kidnaps the daughter of one of the gangsters. Y'see, after Gordon's father was killed, he went to live with an old drunk who kept Gordon busy finding wine for him and doing other chores. All of this was subtly training him in kung fu. Eventually, in a musical semi-montage of fire-stoking and bowl-washing, Gordon masters Drunken Style. There's some flaws in the narrative style, and they make some bad editing choices in a few fights, so this isn't Gordon's best, but since he's one of the few who make it almost as fun to watch his acting as his fighting, this is worth a look, despite the extreme cheapness. If you get the DVD, the Ric Meyers commentary is highly entertaining. -zwolf

Shaolin Fox Conspiracy (C, 1985)
Odd, crazy kung fu about some unusual fighters gathering at a wedding. One uses a whirling double-bladed boomerang-like weapon, another fights with a flute (and is called "Silent Flute" even though his flute makes noise, and whenever he jumps you get a Space Invaders-like noise), and one is a clever swordsman called Shaolin Fox (he's our hero, if you couldn't guess from the title). They're not really at the estate for the wedding, though; they're all after an artifact called The Purple Jade Badger, which contains an elixir that will make one a matchless fighter. More fighters show up - a monk, a guy with an axe, a guy with a fan, a woman who's described as "a horrible nymphomaniac," skull-faced guys who pop out of the ground, and other incidentals. Shaolin Fox is framed for theft by some of the evil ones (known as the Heartbreak Clan, who obligingly live in Heartbreak Palace... which, presumably, is down at the end of a lonely street), who are all led by the nymphomaniac. Shaolin Fox foils various tricks and engages in a ridiculous number of fights before joining the ranks of the numerous people who are poisoned in this movie. He gets a dose of something called "Lily Gas" and staggers off to seek a cure, while the groom is forced to marry the nympho... who turns out to be a living corpse. One of the evil fighters drinks the fluid in the Badger and becomes a blue-skinned, lion-haired monster-thingie-guy! He crushes weapons, breaks swords with his teeth, and bends people backwards over his knee. He also roars... or maybe it's bad burps from drinking that stuff. Shaolin Fox comes back just in time to square off against this supposedly-unstoppable fiend from kung-fu hell! Crazy oddity from the transitional period between old-school and wire-fu, with some Hercules-movie type stuff thrown in, and a lot of people flying around. Stylized sets with painted backdrops and dry-ice fog add a surreal feel to the proceedings, and there's nearly constant fighting going on so you don't have to worry about being short-changed in that respect. -zwolf

Shaolin Kung Fu Mystagogue (C, ?)
Some travelers to Shaolin are attacked by a guy throwing Bloody Birds, a weird multi-bladed boomerang dealie that cuts down trees as it passes by. Meanwhile, a student at Shaolin wants his teacher to let him learn the secret eighteenth form; if mastered, you get incredible strength, but if you fail, you die. The teacher was blinded years ago by a man who tried to steal the eighteenth form, so you know the student'll end up getting revenge for that. One of the travelers shows up, wounded, and tells of the Bloody Bird attack. The monk says they're in for a fight. And o' course they are, or you wouldn't have much of a movie. Bad guys raid the temple, causing big gangfights using swords and chain weapons. Meanwhile, the student braves converging spiked walls and fire traps. Later guys leap out of graves to fight a guy with metal claws on his fingers. The bad guys try to find a secret scroll and have to overcome poison gas and flying razor traps, as well as monks wielding frisbee-torches. Pretty decent kung fu with enough unusual happenings to keep it interesting. -zwolf

Shaolin Monk (C, 19??) AKA Killer Priest
Chen Sing stars as Tamo, the historical founder of Shaolin Temple and the originator of the five animal styles of combat. He's traveling around to spread the word of Buddhism when he comes to a drought-stricken town. A Taoist priest is also in town, causing rain. Meanwhile, Chen Sing challenges a young doctor to a friendly fight - but he's really there to protect the doctor from the Taoist, who's got evil plans. The water supply gets poisoned and people start coming down with plague, and the young doctor's father kills himself in despair, leaving his son to avenge him against the people who plotted against him. Chen Sing wants the doctor to become his pupil, and exhibits strange Buddhist powers, like levitation and walking on water. He saves the doctor from an attack and begins training him and healing him with accupuncture. And, in a ridiculous scene, Chen Sing manifests himself as... a flying shoe! Gets a bit hard to follow at times and is slightly light on fighting, but it's got some interesting direction is pretty good overall. Chen Sing's climactic bout against a white-haired priest who has one black hand that sears at the touch is especially cool... and just a little insane! -zwolf

Shaolin Raiders of Death (C, 1979) AKA Kung Fu of Seven Steps, Seven Steps of Kung Fu
Lots of top-notch kung fu skills are on display in this Jackie Chan-inspired fight fest. A highly-skilled (yet also somewhat clumsy) young marital artist named Little Tiger spends a lot of time practicing his craft and occasionally defending people against bullies, but he's not above stealing, and one day he steals a medallion belonging to one of the Five Hand Gang, a dangerous group his teacher has a vendetta against. The loss of the medallion causes strife amongst the gang, and they set out to kill Little Tiger's teacher, thinking he's responsible. They injure him, but Little Tiger heals him with medicine, and then starts training to defeat the gang, walking on his hands and breaking eggs and rocks with his knees, then sets out for vengeance. Standard plot, but above-average fights, and a whole lot of 'em. On many fans fave-films lists. -zwolf

Shaolin Temple Against Lama (C, ?)
A young prince studying martial arts at a lama temple in Tibet passes his exit exam. A "black faction" of the lamas is demanding that all the local schools surrender their kung fu manuals to them, but the Shaolin Temple refuses. Most of the Shaolin guys have the usual shaved heads and yellow robes, but the lama have outlandish costumes, heavy (fake) facial hair, and accessories such as headbands with skulls on them (just in case you missed that they're the bad guys). Their conflict leads to constant obnoxious fights, complete with staffs, throwing stars, and much flipping and flying. Meanwhile, the young prince must leave to run the country and solve the Black Faction vs. Shaolin Temple conflict. The Shaolin monks get some help from a wacky old man with long hair who lives in the forest and knows a zillion styles. The prince tries to challenge the Shaolin monks (who say "ah me toh foh" a lot) to learn about their kung fu, but the priests refuse. Some of the younger monks are less pacifistic, however. When the prince loses a fight, he has to stay in Shaolin for a year and fight wooden washing machine adjutators and stuff, while the bad guy bends spears with his skin and tears the heads off of doves and drinks their blood. It all leads to a violent showdown. Decent kung fu flick. -zwolf

Shaolin Wooden Men (C, 1976) AKA Shao Lin mu ren xiang, 36 Wooden Men, Shaolin Chamber of Death, Shaolin Wooden Men: Young Tiger's Revenge
Jackie Chan begins his Shaolin training by carrying big leaky buckets of water up long flights of stairs while wearing lead shoes, then he endures more suffering, driven by the desire for revenge against a masked man who murdered his father; Jackie witnessed the killing and it left him mute. He befriends a surly prisoner chained in a cave, and because Jackie sneaks him food, he teaches him kung fu. A nun, concerned about the vicious style he's learning, trains him in snake-style in a pit of grease to give him finesse. Once his skills are honed, he has to fight his way through a gauntlet of wooden men and then lift a burning cauldron that brands his arms with a tiger and a dragon. (It's all similar to what you'll see in 18 Bronzemen). Then humble, good-natured, but lethally-skilled Jackie goes out into the world and fights gangs of bad guys, the most dangerous of which is named Fuk Yu (or something very similar). One of Jackie's best films, all played dramatically with nary a trace of clowning. His acting is great, even though he has very few lines, and his fighting is top notch, especially in the long climactic brawl. -zwolf

Shatter Dead (C, 1994)
There are many (too damned many) no-budget shot-on-video zombie flicks lately, but this one has the biggest rep. A few years in the future the biggest oppressed minority will be... the living dead. The newly dead return to life and are more or less normal except... they're dead. A well-armed young lady has to get past hoardes of them - aggressive because of their pariah-status desperation - to bring groceries home to her boyfriend. She's creepier looking than most of the zombies, like an Addams Family cartoon made flesh, and is so emotionally-dead paranoid that she even showers with a gun. She meets a girl who killed herself so she could look young forever. A weird preacher leads a cult of living dead. Then there are some attempts at artsiness that are really bad and turn the already-lethargic pacing into something absolutely leaden, followed by a massacre that doesn't really liven anything up. Some guy who looks like Howard Stern in his "Fartman" outfit reads a manifesto, after the preacher delivers a sermon that seems to go on forever, and our heroine has a nightmare that looks really ambitious but comes across as laughable since it's shot on video. It's mostly tombstones and a big-titted angel and the girl fellating a .45 (which is obviously a cheap BB pistol - I've even got one). A pregnant girl gets a shotgun blast in the tummy and delivers the zombie fetus through the wound. Then our heroine gets out again and finally makes it home, and her boyfriend has committed suicide and is now living dead, and he has plans for her. There are some good ideas and some refreshing grimness to it all, and it does try hard to push the envelope, but it can't overcome an absolutely awful instinct for pacing, blah gore effects, some really bad acting (and our main starlet is the worst - I'm not surprised she used the assumed name of "Stark Raven" instead of her real one, and figure that was more embarrassment over the acting than the gun-sex scene), one of the least-attractive casts ever (which may not be a drawback for this story, admittedly). Some of the dialogue is okay and the situation is interesting enough to make this possibility worth a look, but don't pay much for it. The DVD has the most annoying menus in history - unless you fast-forward through them they take you five minutes to get anywhere, showing you half the movie. There's a director commentary that's interesting; the guy sounds much more intelligent than his filmmaking talent suggests. Has its good points, (I do like its tagline - "God hates you!" ) but mostly crap. -zwolf

Shivers (C, 1975) AKA They Came from Within, The Parasite Murders, Orgy of the Blood Parasites, The Parasite Complex, Frissons
A weird-looking cast does a lot of terrible things to each other in this crazed David Cronenberg horror sickie, which was his first feature film and possibly the first horror film made in Canada. It could be retitled Night of the Fucking Dead, because that's basically the plot. Residents of a slick, faux-Utopian condominium become host to sluglike parasites that look kind of like disembodied tongues or even bloody turds. These creatures cause them to become very violently horny, but they were designed to replace failing organs, in lieu of transplants... but the crazy doctor who developed them wanted a combination aphrodesiac/venereal disease that could turn the world into one big orgy. Soon the apartment building is full of rampaging, raping sex-fiends with moving lumps in their stomachs, which they vomit up so the slug-things can crawl off and find other hosts. Barbara Steele is attacked by one in the bathtub, but most of the infected are not so attractive - fat, hairy, warty old people and such, and it's not limited to hetero, either. Lots of blood and large-scale craziness, with Cronenberg's usual disease-obsessions, and it's pretty creepy but with only a minimal plot, it feels a bit overlong. -zwolf

The Shock (B&W, 1923) AKA Bittersweet
Very melodramatic melodrama as only the silent era could produce. Lon Chaney is a crippled gangster from Chinatown who's sent to the country by his boss, a criminal mistress called Queen Ann. He's supposed to be setting up some blackmail, but he meets a lady who's nice to him, gives him a Bible, and encourages him to change his life. He wants to start over and go straight, but still has his underworld ties, and things aren't going right. The lady's marrying someone else, and the man Chaney's supposed to help blackmail is her father, who's been embezzling from his own bank. Chaney tries to help him, instead, by blowing up the bank to hide the evidence. But the woman he loves gets crippled by the blast and has an operation to help her walk again. Chaney goes back to Queen Ann, who now wants her revenge on the banker... through his daughter. They work out a plan to capture her and Chaney has to find a way to stop them. Chaney's only make-up effects here are his twisted legs (they're very effective), but he gets to do some powerful acting. And even if the plot is heavy on the un-subtle, it's engaging, well-paced, and well-handled. An earthquake provides some pretty impressive disaster scenes - buildings crumbling, explosions, broken water mains, fire - truly apocalyptic. -zwolf

Shock Waves (C, 1976) AKA Death Corps
A small pleasure cruiser sails into strange waters (with John Carradine at the helm where else was it gonna go?) and ends up on an island populated by an old Nazi officer-hermit (Peter Cushing) and some zombie SS stormtroopers - the Death Corps - who were created as an experiment but who proved too uncontrollable. They've been walking around on the ocean floor but now stalk the island to hunt down the shipwreck victims. The spooky zombies (waterlogged, blonde, and wearing swim goggles) don't eat people, but they do kill (not gorily, but when you have enough atmosphere you really don't need it), and since they're good to go on land or sea, there's nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Pretty creepy and a late-night TV fave in the glory days before infomercials ruined everything (it's movies like this that make me harp on the sorry state of late-night TV even more...). -zwolf

Sholay (C, 1975) AKA Flames, Embers, Flames of the Sun
Epic "curry western" from India is very derivative in plot - it's basically a combination of Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven and Once Upon a Time in the West with just a touch of The Dirty Dozen thrown in ('cept only two guys instead of twelve)... but there's a lot to be said for picking good sources to emulate, and this is a well-made, highly entertaining Bollywood classic that sold out Indian cinemas for over a year, it was so popular. A village leader (and former police captain) wants vengeance on the extremely scurvy bandit leader who massacred his family and then chopped off his arms (!), so he recruits a couple of happy-go-lucky career criminals (one of whom - Amitabh Bachchan - looks so much like Al Pacino did in Scarface that he got the starring role in Agneepath, the Indian Scarface remake). At first the two crooks are just doing it for the money, but as they stay in the village they learn compassion and fall in love with a couple of girls. But they don't go soft when it's time to deal with the truly evil bad guy, so this one has a pretty violent, pseudo-nihilistic finale. And, like nearly all Indian films, it has numerous singing-and-dancing musical numbers every once in a while, which is a bit strange bu they're well done. The song with the two criminals doing slapstick on a motorcycle with a sidecar is so cheesy (intentionally so, I'm pretty sure) that you can't help but love it even if you hate musicals as much as I do. All-around entertaining, with all the bases (comedy, romance, action, violent revenge, dramatic pathos, etc.) covered. It's a long viewing experience - nearly 3 hours - but I never got bored. Definitely worth seeking out. -zwolf

Short Night of Glass Dolls (C, 1971) AKA Malastrana, Corta notte delle bambole di vetro, Paralyzed
The body of a man is found in a public square and taken to the morgue... but it's not a dead body. He's just gone into some kind of deep catatonic state that brought all his life functions to near zero, but even though he can't move, he can still think and knows what's going on, and remembers what brought him to this state. He was searching for a missing girlfriend and uncovered a very strange conspiracy involving sacrificial murder, butterflies, perverse orgies of old people, and a bunch of other odd stuff that I can't swear I understand even now. I'll probably need to watch it again a few times to pick up all the nuances, but I don't mind, 'cuz it's an interesting and great-looking Italian giallo, complex and artistic. An Ennio Morricone score doesn't hurt, either. -zwolf

Shriek of the Mutilated (C, 1974) AKA Mutilated
With a title like that, it's an instant classic, no matter what... which is really the only reason anybody's still watching this cheapo fake-Yeti movie written by the same guy who did the similar-quality Invasion of the Blood Farmers and directed by Michael Findlay, infamous for directing Snuff. Even though they're warned not to go by a raving idiot who later cuts his wife's throat with an electric carving knife (she lives long enough to get revenge by tossing a toaster into his bathtub), some students go with their professor, Dr. Prell, to a mountain cabin to search for Yeti. An aging hippie flake and his mute Italian-looking "Indian" helper, Laughing Crow, are already there. The hippie tells them of a midnight sighting of a Yeti (which, in the flashbacks, is obviously filmed at high noon). Before long Yetis are attacking the students. The Yetis - big white fluffy things - don't actually look that bad. The mild gore is lame, though. They bait a wolf trap with a piece of a corpse's leg, then set another trap with an entire corpse. But the Yeti may be a cover for something even more sinister... Junky and crude, and can't live up to the title, but it does have some cheap, sleazy charm. -zwolf

Signs (C, 2002)
Developing into a trend of some sort, this is the third film from M. Night Shyamalan that takes place in the Philadelphia area, this time about forty miles outside of town in a rural farming community. An immediate jolt sets the tone for the rest of the film's development, much like his previous films The Sixth Sense & Unbreakable. Without really giving anything away here, Mel Gibson plays a former minister & widowed father of two whose family life is changed forever when mysterious crop circles begin to appear on his rural farm. Not as creepy as The Sixth Sense, but with some genuinely scary moments. It's also not as slow in developing, while still delivering a good number of scares. More than half of the people at the screening jumped & screamed at least twice during the film. Heehee! The little girl who plays Mel's daughter is better than you'd hope from such a young kid & quite spooky. Joaquin Phoenix (as Mel's brother) & Rory Culkin (Macauley's lil' brother, as Mel's son) both turn in solid performances, as does Shyamalan himself, this time in a more expanded role than the one he had in Unbreakable, again a deus ex machina that propels the film along. As with his earlier films, there's a lot more to this film than just the primary story, delving deeply into the waters of spirituality, faith, & synchronicity. A solid film from a writer/director who deserves close attention. Recommended! -igor

The Six Directions Boxing (C, 1977) AKA Liu he ba fa, The Six Directions of Boxing)
David Chiang stars in this resistance-fighter kung fu flick, which also stars "Drunken Master" Simon Yuen. Everybody seems to be looking for a secret "square" (Paul Lynde to block?), which is crucial to arms shipments. This strife compromises an otherwise-idyllic life of playing with dogs and monkeys (who also double as secret agents!). Chiang is a captain of police (in a spiffy white suit and driving cap) trying to stop the gunrunners while his girlfriend and her dad (Yuen) fight over picnic baskets and take care of their mischievous pets. The police set up a complex plot to trap the warlord who's behind the gun smuggling, and resulting in lots of punching, kicking, and knifing. Finally all the bad guys are jailed except for the most dangerous one, and Chiang must learn the Six Methods of the Terrible Fist to defeat him, which he does to the accompaniment of music from The Young and the Restless. Yep. Solid kung fu flick. -zwolf

666: Mark of the Beast (C, 197?) AKA Six-hundred and Sixty-six
Joe Turkel (who was in some Stanley Kubrick movies) stars in this very obscure low-buget sci-fi apocalypse film that I've never seen referenced anywhere and can't even find on the Internet Movie Database. A group of military officers hide in an underground bunker while the earth above nukes itself out in WW3, under the guidance of a leader called "The Man." Their bunker contains stores of all man's greatest accomplishments, like a big museum-library database. When the world does end, the survivors are stuck in the bunker and the air supply starts failing, so global conflicts are soon recreated on a personal scale as the men start murdering each other to make the air last longer. It's all very talky, with lots and lots of philosophical blah-blah and things about the Book of Revelations, and the sets offer no relief - they're mostly stark white rooms with simple furniture - so it requires a very patient viewer (I have a theory about sci-fi fans - they're easily excited), but it's fairly interesting on an intellectual level if you're in the right mood, and if you can find it at all; it doesn't turn up often, but I have seen it on two separate very obscure satellite TV stations which are both defunct. The first time I saw it I didn't even watch it because I thought it was one of those Bible-propaganda "dramas." -zwolf

Ski Troop Attack (B&W, 1960)
Compact (barely over an hour) extremely cheap war film from Roger Corman, filmed at the same time and with much of the same cast as Beast from Haunted Cave. A small group of ski troops are on a recon mission during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, arguing with each other about how to proceed. The Germans are out in force (via some pretty obvious stock footage that includes tanks, and footage Corman shot of what appears to be the same four or five Germans getting killed over and over). The patrol invades a German woman's house, stages several ambushes, and booby-traps a bridge. They're the only recon patrol left in the area, so they have to make it through with their information. Decent little war film that has interest added by being about ski patrols - those don't get many movies. -zwolf

The Skull (C, 1965)
Peter Cushing is a collector of rare occult oddities. The man who procures these strange things for him brings him first a book about the infamous Marquis DeSade that's bound in human skin. And the next night he sells him the skull of DeSade himself! The skull's other owners all became evil and then died horrible deaths. So, of course Cushing can't resist it... even though is friend Christopher Lee (whom the skull was stolen from) strongly advises him to have nothing to do with it, because it's possessed by evil spirits. Once he has the skull, Cushing suffers nightmares of Russian roulette, and he walks in his sleep. Bodies are later found with their throats bitten out, and Cushing becomes afraid of the skull, which is compelling him to kill people and is floating around his house, making objects move and terrorizing him. The camera is often filming from inside the skull, showing everything through the nose and eye-sockets. Unusual and interesting Amicus production. -zwolf

Sleepaway Camp (C, 1983) AKA Nightmare Vacation
Thanks to a really twisted surprise ending and some sick-minded events along the way, this cheap, silly just-another-slasher-flick became a surprise standout of the genre. The teenage victims actually are teenagers in this one, with the usual mix of nice and mean counselors, nasty slutty brats, and picked-on kids, like shy, strange Angela and her cousin who looks out for her, the boy who likes her, and the bitchy camper and counselor who hate her. Then there's Mozart, the picked-on boy who has a knife... And one of them - or maybe somebody else - is a psychotic nut. The violence begins with a child-molesting cook who gets scalded. Then a camper gets drowned, another gets stung to death by hornets, another is knifed in the shower, and then something really nasty happens with a curling iron. Then there's an arrow through the neck which is the most impressive special effect (it's really not that gory of a film, pretty bloodless for a slasherfest). The end - while not really all that relevant to anything, necessarily - is pretty freaky. Not really any major departure from slasher formula overall, but it's fun and keeps moving, and it's also kind of amusing because it's so nailed to 1983 - check out the freakin' clothes, cut-offs and Asia and Blue Oyster Cult and Tequila Sunrise shirts and whatnot. And you know the producers probably just let the actors wear stuff out of their own closets. There were two sequels and a false-start on a third (which they're still talking about doing), and all are available on a nice DVD box set that looks like a first-aid kit. -zwolf

Sleeping Fist (C, 1978) AKA Shui quan guai zhao
Leung Kar Yan is one of my all-time favorite kung fu guys, ever since I saw the unbelievable Thundering Mantis, but films starring him are a little hard to find, so this should be sought out. Yan is a wounded undercover policeman who's hiding out and healing up, but then some criminals show up. He's helped out by a smartassed kid (Wong Yat Lung, an incredible contortionist who's gotta be the genre's best child actor - he was also in Thundering Mantis) and Simon Yuen, who's playing another of his old-master characters. Since a drunken master had already been done lots of times, Simon changes gears and teaches a method based on positions associated with sleep. He trains Yan in these methods and soon he's yawning and falling over while tearing through opponents. It's a little far-fetched and the plot's kind of loose, but so what - it's still amazing stuff, and Yan oozes charisma like always. Some of the humor is pretty twisted, though, seeing as the little kid's hobby seems to be trying to pee in people's mouths while they're sleeping. -zwolf

Sleepy Hollow
(C, 1999)
Tim Burton brings his quirky directional skills to the classic Washington Irving tale (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) to good effect... and speaking of effects, this has to take the gold for Highest Number of Decapitation Gags In A Single Film. Burton throws in a lot of his trademark comedy-wackiness (Johnny Depp is kinda a goon) that severely compromises the surreal creepiness of the Caligari-esque sets and visuals, but it all adds up to decent entertainment. And even though there's lots of gore, none of it is particularly gross for some reason. Probably 'cuz it's CGI and let's face it, no matter how good you can make things look with that stuff, it's never really effective. Anyhow, the town of Sleepy Hollow (where it's always dark and gloomy) is beset by a headless Hessian horseman (who was Christopher Walken when he was still headed) who's been lopping off heads, and Ichabod Crane (Depp) is brought in to investigate. He may not like what he finds. Interesting. -zwolf

Slice of Death (C, 1979) AKA Shao Lin ying xiong bang, Shaolin Abbot, Abbot of Shaolin
David Chiang is a young Shaolin monk who travels to visit a teacher in order to get plans for the making of modern weapons - guns and such - in order to resist the Chings. There he also learns new techniques of kung fu, such as Dragon Palm, Iron Head, and One Finger Style - things that let him exert force on things without even touching them. Even though he's very polite, he still makes a few enemies: a student who he has a couple of fights with (including one on a narrow mountain bridge) and the evil white-haired priest Pai Mei (Lo Lieh, who also played the same character in Executioner from Shaolin and Fist of the White Lotus). While Chiang is gone, the Chings destroy Shaolin and slaughter the monks, leaving him with the mission of rebuilding it. He travels to Kwangtung to raise funds, and also collects skilled students by defeating local thugs (this includes a brief fight on top of fixed posts - I always like those and wish they'd use them more often in these movies), and also has to battle a Tibetan lama before taking on Pai Mei, who, as usual, only has one hidden weak point that Chiang will have to seek out. Better than usual plot and excellent fight scenes, with top-notch production values from the Shaw Brothers - the destruction of Shaolin is especially impressive. Lily Li also stars. This is maybe David Chiang's best film. -zwolf

Snake Fist of a Buddhist Dragon  (C, ??)
Four killers are dispatched to go after Shaolin monks, and they seem to have Ninja powers even though they're supposed to be Manchus. A Shaolin disciple named Dragon (who's so energetic that he does backflips while doing his chores) joins a resistance effort to defeat them. And that's the plot... not that there really is one; mostly there's an incoherent messy patchwork of unrelated fights thrown in with barely any explanation (one guy asks, "Remember what happened to White Mantis?" and then we go to a fight probably taken from another movie; another says "Yesterday they killed one of my men!" and you get more stock footage), on a DVD that's badly framed and too dark. What you have as actual movie includes a guy who can slide along the ground, ninjas flying around, and a few lame comedy bits... and not much in the way of snake fist despite the title, and no scene with guys fighting on a huge pile of benches, despite the cover picture (and that's the main thing that pisses me off). A few scattered interesting bits but not worthwhile, overall. Kinda short, too - just over 70 minutes. Ground Zero got me off their bandwagon once they stopped putting this kind of thing out as double features and started charging twice as much for them as stand-alone titles. Not a good deal. -zwolf

Snowbeast (C, 1977)
Made for TV Yeti movie that borrows ideas from Jaws, which was still a pretty hot topic at the time. Scared off the beach? Well, don't think you can come to the mountains, either, buddy! Stay home and watch network television! Bo Svenson (picking up a few bucks between Walking Tall sequels) plays a former big-time skier in need of a job. His wife is Yvette Mimieux (Henrietta Pussycat's favorite actress!), and they're unfortunate enough to pick a resort that's being stalked by... well... a camera, I think, because most of the "monster" stuff consists of point-of-view shots. You get a few brief glimpses as the thing attacks wayward skiers and a Snow Queen dance, but you get the feelings that the filmmakers didn't have much confidence in their monster suit... and probably rightfully so, since it looks a little too "fluffy." The Abominable Snowpoodle. Anyway, even though most of the running time consists of footage of people skiing and there's really not a whole lot to it, it does have that endearing '70's movie of the week charm to it... which, admittedly, may be a attribute that appeals only to me, I dunno. In any case, this prejudice against Yetis has to end! -zwolf

Sorority House Massacre (C, 1987)
Rubber knife movie that has a girl joining a sorority (the kind that evokes not-all-that-pretty girls engaging in a trying-on-clothes rock-video montage before everybody's wiped out) and suffering from nightmares about a knife-wielding killer. Meanwhile, a psycho escapes from an asylum, finds himself a knife so he can do some wieldin', and heads for the sorority... which is based in the house he used to live in before he was taken to the looney bin for slaughtering his whole family. Soon he's stalking and slashing the girls and their boyfriends (amidst a more-than-usual crop of false scares where friends sneak up on each other and the subjective camera makes you think it's the killer). Not to be confused with House on Sorority Row from '82 (I say this because I confused 'em myself and kept looking for the head in the toilet - wrong movie!), and also not to be confused with any kind of slasher classic - this was a late entry as the genre was dying out and it lacks that most-crucial component of good stalk'n'slash - namely, gore effects. The only thing that really gets slashed to hell in this movie is a teepee. The blood is minimal and the effects are mostly confined to non-effects of pillows being stabbed. There are a few elements of style, enough to keep you from being bored as long as you're not expecting much. -zwolf

South Shaolin Master (C, 1984) AKA Red Dragons of Shaolin, Nan quan wang zhi qi zhuang shan he
A performing troupe gets in trouble when a secret anti-Ching revolution is under way in their area. One of the revolutionary agents gives them some help dealing with an evil warlord who's trying to force them to perform at his palace. The revolutionary is stabbed and they hide him while he heals. Between trouble following them and rivalry within the troupe, they stay in trouble. One of the actors is jealous of the revolutionary and turns him in, but the troupe helps him out. Eventually animosity between the performers and the Chings rises to such a degree that there's quite a vendetta going, and the troupe retreats to a Shaolin temple to seek refuge, and since they're there, the revolutionary gets even more training (which, strangely, involves pounding things with his knees). This is separated from the usual kung fu film by a much higher budget than usual, top-notch cinematography, and plenty of well-choreographed fights; it looks like a wire-fu style Crouching Tiger type of film, but without the wires. -zwolf

Soylent Green (C, 1973)
It's 2022 and the world is vastly overpopulated and, with more people there's less farm space, more pollution, more greenhouse effect, and less resources, so the world is starving to death. A wealthy man is murdered, and Charlton Heston has to navigate the food riots to find out who did it and why. Edward G. Robinson (in his 101st and last film) is his assistant, living in seclusion and hoarding books (there's no more paper, either - not enough trees) and whatever food they can scrounge. Mostly people eat soy-lentil squares - soylent red, soylent yellow, and the very-popular soylent green, which is supposed to be made of plankton. It isn't. Meanwhile, pretty girls are considered "furniture" for the rich, while crowds of rioters are bulldozed off the street, and people can voluntarily commit assisted suicide to help the population problem. It's a bleak, damned, and frighteningly-believable future. Edward G. Robinson was very deaf at the time this was made and had to act by counting time in his head, which makes his impressive last performance even more impressive. Chuck Connors and Joseph Cotten also appear. As I kid I was always tempted to put "Soylent Green" on the family shopping list just so my parents might ask somebody in the store where to find it. I'm an asshole like dat. -zwolf

Spider Baby
(B&W, 1964) AKA Attack of the Liver Eaters, Cannibal Orgy: The Maddest Story Ever Told, The Liver Eaters
Weird, low-budget horror flick about the Merrye family, who suffer from a strange disease (a result of inbreeding) that makes them homicidal, overgrown kids. When some scummy people and a distant cousin come to investigate the Merrye fortunes, they end up getting killed, usually by young Victoria, who likes to play "spider" with a butcher knife in each hand. Lon Chaney Jr. is their unbalanced chauffeur/mentor. Sid Haig is bald 'n' goofy Ralph. Mantan Moreland has a brief role as a deliveryman who gets killed and loses an ear (the only gore) while playing "spider" with Victoria. An incredibly strange, funny, and great film that few have seen. Despite the alternate titles, the cannibalism is only hinted at, but they do eat a cat. Lon Chaney Jr. sings the title song. Directed by Jack Hill. If your last name is Merrye, please see your doctor. -zwolf

Spider-Man (C, 2002)
"Face it, Tiger... You just hit the jackpot!" Hooray for Spider-Man! It's great to see that a comic book movie can break box-office records! As a certified comics geek, I was required to see this on opening day. The film takes certain minor liberties with the Spidey mythos that'll bristle the most hardcore comics fans -- Mary Jane Watson is supposed to be "model-pretty," not Kirsten Dunst-cute, Spidey's webs are now organic instead of invented, the film's climactic scene on the bridge originally featured Spidey's first love, Gwen Stacy, who died during her rescue --but on the whole, this was an excellent film, with the essential elements of the Spider-Man ouevre represented & respected. Especially excellent is Sam Raimi regular J.K. Simmons as Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson, capturing the essence of the character in his short time onscreen & stealing every scene he's in. The most unfortunate thing about the film (& it's a minor gripe, really) is the heavy reliance on CGI for special effects. Many scenes of Spider-Man swinging his webs, running on rooftops, & battling the Green Goblin over the city have an artificial look to them that's tough to take at times, much like the neat-but-fake scenes of the Fellowship running through the catacombs in Lord of the Rings. Aside from that, & the stiff armor of Dafoe's (otherwise excellent... perfectly over-the-top) Green Goblin, no complaints! Look for the cool cameos by Bruce Campbell, Stan Lee, & others &, of course, the sure-to-come sequel! -igor

The Spook Who Sat By The Door (C, 1973)
When they come under political pressure, the CIA decides they need a token black agent, so they weed through some candidates until they end up with a guy named Dan Freeman (Lawrence Cook). They try everything to discredit him, but he passes all the tests and becomes a member of the CIA. So, they give him an idiot-job making photocopies all day, then move him up to being a receptionist, greeting people at the door so visitors will see how "integrated" they are. He stays there for years, "yes-sirring" and putting up with all kinds of ignorant condescension from the white bosses. Then he goes back to Chicago to do social work with the black community... or so he says. Instead, he starts using what he learned in the CIA to start an organized revolution, turning the gangs into a focused and trained army. They rob banks to fund their cause, and soon they're working at organizing other gangs in other cities, to turn the racist American dream into a nightmare. They pull guerilla raids on military bases, and the police don't suspect them because society has been conditioned to underestimate inner-city blacks... just as no one suspected that Freeman would do anything like this, because they underestimated him, too. Soon riots are breaking out, and radio stations are being taken over, the mayor of Chicago's office is demolished to get the National Guard out of their neighborhoods. They paint one Guard captain black, give him LSD, and send him off on a bicycle in his underwear. The government decides the only way out of this mess is to kill Freeman... but they may still be underestimating their opponent. This isn't as slam-bang as most blaxploitation films, but it is one of the most intelligent, serving as both a warning and as social satire. Based on Sam Greenlee's novel (which is reportedly even better - I gotta get a copy) and directed by Ivan Dixon (he was the black guy on Hogan's Heroes). It's not what you might expect from a blaxploitation film, but that's part of the point, too. Recommended. -zwolf

Squirm (C, 1976)
My fave movie from the under-rated Jeff Lieberman. An electrical storm hits a backwoods Georgia town called Fly Creek and stirs up millions of carnivorous sandworms. 'Bout that time a goofy city fella named Mitch comes to town to visit his Tobacco-Road-cliche girlfriend, and together they start finding worm-riddled corpses and surviving attacks. One guy has worms burrow into his face in one of the earliest - and grossest - uses of bladder effects in movies. And if they think things were bad in the daytime, wait'll the sun goes down, because the worms don't like light... they've been relatively inactive during the daytime. When night falls, our heroes end up in an old house with the worms filling the place up waist-deep in the dark. Some people call this a bad movie (MST3K made fun of it) but it works for me as one of the best nature-goes-berserk flicks that came out in the '70's... and there were dozens. The phenomenon even hit paperback books, too (several of which used worms as the monsters). Some of Lieberman's other unique horror flicks are Blue Sunshine and Just Before Dawn. -zwolf

Stalingrad (C, 1993)
Even making the movie had to be a pretty miserable experience, so you can only imagine how bad the real battle must have been. German-made war film depicting the hell of the most brutal battle of the war (maybe of any war), with starving, freezing, despairing German troops battling in the rubble against the equally-miserable but more-determined Russians. It's not a battle-heavy film; most of the fighting is confined to the beginning and the rest is the Germans trying to survive the elements on almost no rations and even less hope. Even though it's a German film their soldiers aren't portrayed as heroes (their officers are diabolical, in fact); at best, they're human, some doing occasional acts of kindness, others just trying to survive, and all of them both victims and victimizers in the futile suffering and madness of a lost-cause war. From the producer of Das Boot. Enemy at the Gates is perhaps more entertaining in a popcorn kind of way, but this is a truer depiction of Stalingrad. Perhaps it's not so terribly ironic that the evil German officer looks a lot like Donald Rumsfeld... -zwolf

Stanley (C, 1972)
Once upon a time, there was a movie called Willard. It was about a guy who had rats for friends, and it made a lot of money. Somebody who saw it said, "Hey, let's make a movie like that except we'll use snakes instead of rats," and this movie was born. Chris Robinson plays a Vietnam veteran Seminole Indian who lives in the Florida Everglades with rattlesnakes as his close friends. His favorite is named Ben... oh, 'scuze me, it's named Stanley, and he uses it to get revenge on some evil poachers and a go-go girl who bites the heads off snakes during her act. Producer/director William Grefe liked the theme so much that he later made Mako: The Jaws Of Death, which is basically the same deal with sharks instead of snakes or rats. This would make a nice double-bill with Holy Wednesday. -zwolf

Starship Troopers (C, 1997)
A privileged young man of the future stupidly joins the space-infantry to impress a girl who's more gung-ho than he is and trains to wage war on giant alien insects. She dumps him and he's about to quit but then his town and family is destroyed by a meteor sent by the bugs, so he goes to war. The first half's a little slow and sometimes borders on "whimsical" but there are some splattery, violent bug-battles in the second, boasting impressive special effects. Adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein seems to disappoint fans of the book, but, not being a fan of Heinlein's prose, I didn't mind the changes and found this a decent sci-fi action flick, with good direction from Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, RoboCop). -zwolf

Star Wars - Episode Two: Attack of the Clones (C, 2002)
Dracula versus Yoda!!! A redemption for Lucas after the mediocre & drab Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones is a solid film. C3PO & R2D2 appear again, being manuevered into the positions where we'll encounter them in the first Star Wars film. R2D2 is always fun, but somehow keeps coming up with new gadgetry (this time it's little jets for flight) that never shows up later in the timeline. Threepio's one-liners are groan-worthy from the first one. By the third or fourth, they've become a distraction. Ditto for the sorry Jar Jar Binks, thankfully given only a few moments of screentime. The romance between Anakin Skywalker & Senator Amidala is hard to swallow, but only because Amidala is a much more robotic princess than the fiesty Princess Leia... dunno if that's the directing or the acting, but yeeesh! Enough of the negative, though! The film is well-done, with some great alien designs for characters & locations, & a fast-moving story. The Jedi Council spends a lot more time onscreen, especially Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson, always good, but great here) & Yoda. Boba Fett's origin story unfolds during this film, too, kinda predictable, but very fun & well-executed. The climactic scenes at the end of the film are particularly strong, with amazing special effects & over-the-top action, including an incredible lightsaber duel between the evil Count Dooku (Christopher Lee, playing an excellent role) & Yoda, who kicks ass! A solid entry in the series, I enjoyed this one almost as much as Empire Strikes Back, my favorite in the series. -igor

Sting of the Dragon Master (C, 1973) AKA When Tae Kwon Do Strikes, Tai quan zhen jiu zhou, Kickmaster
Very old-school kung fu film (Carter Wong has an early role in it and looks like he may be in his teens) featuring the many skills of Angela Mao Ying as a Chinese girl who's been raised in Korea and joins the Korean resistance against the evil Japanese (man, everybody in Asia has a beef with the Japanese!). The Japanese are also hunting a leader of the Korean resistance and torturing an American Christian priest until he's found, so there's plenty of mayhem. Crash Cinema has produced a nice-looking (but unfortunately not letterboxed) DVD of this, but it has one big problem - after a certain point the sound doesn't synch up with the visuals, so the actors' mouths move and a few seconds later you hear the dialogue, or fight scenes become silent with the crash-crack-thud noises following afterward. It gets really disorienting. Mainly worth watching for Angela Mao. -zwolf (***** Note - Crash Cinema has fixed the synch problem and will replace messed-up versions free of charge.)

Stir of Echoes (C, 1999)
Richard Matheson is a genius, but I was unimpressed with the novel that this movie is based on. It was just kind of... ordinary. And the movie isn't terribly surprising, either, but it's well-done and 90 minutes is a more appropriate time-investment for this story than the hours it takes to read the book. Kevin Bacon is an ordinary working Joe who becomes extra-ordinary when he has an adverse reaction to being hypnotized at a party. (The hypnosis in the movie is accurate, and some audience members have been put under by it). He starts seeing ghosts in his house (his kid has a touch of this "shine," too) and soon he's digging up his yard just like Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters, except he's trying to find a grave, to make the creepy girl stop haunting his house. Some small but nasty incidents of gore (that fingernail thing - OUCH!) And some good acting and intelligent filmmaking. This one was a victim of bad timing, as it got outshined at the box office by the similarly-themed Sixth Sense, but now it deserves checking out on video. -zwolf

Stranger On The Third Floor (B&W, 1940)
Poor Elisha Cook was in the wrong place at the wrong time and is found guilty for the razor-murder of a coffeeshop owner, but he's not the one who nearly severed the guy's head. A reporter who gave the convicting testimony suspects that Cook was innocent and feels guilty, as does his girlfriend. Then he finds himself in a similar situation when the guy in the next apartment is also killed with a razor. He saw Peter Lorre running out of the building... but can he prove it? Crisp-looking noir with a great impressionistic dream sequence and a scary finale, with Lorre acting convincingly psychotic. Very good in all departments and runs just over an hour. -zwolf

The Stranger's Gundown (C, 1969) AKA Django the Bastard, Django il Bastardo
Horror-tinged Spaghetti western that may have served as partial inspiration for High Plains Drifter. A black-clad stranger (they call him Django but he doesn't seem to be any relation to the more-famous Django) shows up in a town and plants a cross with a man's name on it, and, minutes later, kills him. Then he watches a couple of idiots play catch with a lit stick of dynamite before getting another cross made and going after another old enemy. Django has some ghostly tendencies and may in fact be a ghost, avenging his own death... or he may have just been left for dead, survived, and is a master of psychological warfare. In any case, he's spooky, and the people he's hunting were Confederate officers who sold out to the Union and got all their soldiers killed. Django's final target is so unnerved he makes everyone leave town, then hires a small army to protect him. Django goes through a lot of them before the tables turn on him and he's wounded and hunted-for. But, o' course, nobody should count him out too early. Atmospheric and stylish, very cool, but it's a mystery as to why it got an X rating on initial release, since there's no nudity and even though there's lots of shooting and killing, it's not very bloody or gruesome. Definitely worth seeking out for Spaghetti western fans. -zwolf

The Strange World of Coffin Joe (B&W, 1968) AKA O Estranho Mundo De Ze do Caixao, The Strange World of Ze Do Caixao
Anthology film by disturbed Brazilian director Jose Mojica Marins, consisting of three sick-minded tales. The first, "The Dollmaker," is about a man who makes dolls that are famous for their realistic eyes. When some thieves break in and terrorize him and rape his daughters, they find out why those eyes look so real. Doesn't sound like much, but it's gory and the camera angles and insane leers will haunt you. Next is the dialogue-less "Obsession," which deals with a dirty, scruffy balloon-selling hunchback who's in love with a girl he sees on the street. He worships her from afar and stalks her while trying to return a pair of shoes she dropped. But she marries another man and is stabbed to death on her wedding day by a jealous woman. The balloon man later breaks into her crypt, chases the rats off her coffin, puts the shoes on her, and consummates his passion through necrophillia. It's all like some Charlie Chaplin story gone horribly wrong. The third story, "Theory," stars Marins himself as a version of his Coffin Joe psychopath, this time as a television professor who says that love doesn't exist, and challenges another panelist to spend a weekend at his home to prove that his theories are true. There he shows the man and his wife weird orgies, a man being pierced with big needles (apparently real; if not, it's a damn good effect), and whippings. Then he locks them in his dungeon and makes them watch people be torn apart on a rack and then gnawed to pieces by lunatics. Then perverts assault a woman who spits in their faces until one throws acid in hers... which she appreciates because she's a pervert, too. Then a man is forced-fed molten lead. Then the guests are caged for a week and starved to prove that hunger and thirst are stronger than love. Then Coffin Joe stages a cannibalistic feast so blasphemous that it makes God so angry that he destroys the castle. Very weird, low-budget, artistic expression of psychopathia, with very realistic gore effects. Definitely not for everyone... Marins is apparently a truly sick fella. -zwolf

Strangler of the Swamp (B&W, 1945)
PRC's best horror film... although that's damning with faint praise, considering some of the drain-clog they turned out. But this actually a pretty decent old creaker, and only takes an hour of your time. A ferryboat across a gloomy, foggy swamp is the site of various strangulation deaths ever since the old ferryman was framed for murder and hanged. His ghost shows up as a dim, blurry figure and talks of vengeance. After he kills the new ferryman, his granddaughter shows up to take over the job, and she has a little romance with Blake Edwards (yep, the Pink Panther guy). Then the strangler comes for them, too... Reportedly, this movie used to be a staple in the early days of television, coming on once a month or so. It's not seen nearly as often these days. Very low-budget (the swamp and a shack on the edge of it are about the only sets) but not bad if you're into '40's B-movies. The short running time makes it good tape fill-in material. -zwolf

Sunset Boulevard (B&W, 1950)
Damnsure classic that got eleven Oscar nominations. William Holden is a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who, hiding from repo men, pulls into a palatial-yet-decaying estate, which turns out to be the home of silent movie star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), who has become more than a bit deranged while contemplating her past glory. She enlists Holden (not giving him a lot of choice) to write a comeback script for her, practically enslaving him, putting him in a trap that leads to his death. (I'm not giving away the ending - you see him floating dead in a swimming pool in the first five minutes - he narrates the film from beyond the grave. Originally director Billy Wilder wanted to start in a morgue, with corpses telling their stories, but test audiences found this so morbid that they laughed at it). Brilliant film that was a real slap in the face to the shallowness of Hollywood, and works as both film noir and - in a way - a horror film, as well as black comedy. Also stars Eric Von Stroheim as Swanson's butler/ex-husband (who works overtime to preserve her delusions), Jack Webb (he smiles a lot and isn't speaking in monotone - you may not recognize him!), Cecil B. DeMille (as himself - "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille!"), and look fast for Buster Keaton. Highly recommended. -zwolf

Super Gang (C, 19??)
You know the drill : no matter what it says on the box, no matter what pictures are featured prominently, BRUCE LEE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS MOVIE. It does have the always-entertaining Bruce Le, however, who looks nothing like Bruce but has such a lack of charisma that it *becomes* charisma, if that makes sense. Bruce is on the warpath because a guy in a monster mask killed his big brother. In the meantime there's a lot of confusing in-fighting amongst some gangs; there's even a brawl in a pigpen, and guys using meat cleavers to attack a guy in a stocking mask, and Bolo Yeung (or Yang Sze in this movie - he even has a running suit with his initials on it) lost in the mix somewhere. At one point a guy (who's very clumsy for a kung fu expert - he trips over everything) goes into an old house, climbs two flights of stairs, and then scares a guy... who jumps out a first-floor window. How'd that happen?!? Then Bruce leaves a pig's head on a guy's car, and he fights an old friend - they simultaneously kick each other in the nuts and hop around for comic relief. Then there's more revenge... and none of it makes much sense. Bruce Le doesn't even have a whole lot of screen time, and there's lots of bad disco music in the background, and one guy who looks *exactly* like a Chinese Henry Silva. Bad, bad kung fu movie that's still pretty fun 'cuz even though it doesn't make much sense, something weird's always happening, and the dubbing is wonderfully terrible. -zwolf

Swamp Girl (C, 1971)
A trio of non-actors are about to do some illegal night-fishing when they see a legendary swamp girl leaving a snakebitten man by the side of the road by the Okeefenokee Swamp. They alert the law, who happens to be Ferlin Husky (who also sings the title song), and he goes into the swamp to find her. She turns out to be a pretty blond girl named Janenne (Simone Griffeth, who was Frankenstein's sidekick in Death Race 2000) who was orphaned and raised in the swamp by a black man named Nat, who she considers her pa. He was raised in the swamp, too, by an abortion doctor who operated out there. Janenne's mother had been too far along in her pregnancy for an abortion, so the doctor took the baby and planned to sell it to Arab sheiks, like he did with so many others. But the doctor got killed and then Nat killed the men who killed the doctor, and he raised the girl as his daughter. Then Nat gets killed by some escaped convicts who try to force Janenne to lead them out of the swamp. Ferlin tries to find them before something tragic can happen, but Janenne has plans for vengeance. The proceedings include a guy hung over a snakepit and alligator and snake attacks. Decent drive-in drama with scenic Okeefenokee locations. -zwolf

Swamp Virgin (B&W, 1947) AKA Untamed Fury
Short (25 minute) PRC Okeefenokee drama with some really great underwater photography and swampside atmosphere. A writer talking to an old man gets told the story of two swamp boys, Jeff - who would go off to school and become a civil engineer - and Gator - who progressed from diving in the water with a rope around him to lure gators so his dad could hunt them to becoming a swamp guide who resents Jeff's fancy book-learnin'. Plenty of alligators and a girl who trims her overalls down into a silly bathing suit. Available as an extra on the Swamp Girl/Swamp Country DVD. -zwolf

Sword of Vengeance (C, 1972) AKA Lone Wolf and Cub: Child and Expertise for Rent, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, Sword of Vengeance I, Kozure Ôkami: Kowokashi udekashi tsukamatsuru
First in the excellent Lone Wolf and Cub series based on the classic, long-running manga actually takes a good stab (no pun intended) at improving on the near-perfect source material. And the DVD improves on the VHS version, which was already amazing. This opening, establishing film is somewhat rawer and cruder than the subsequent Kenji Misumi-directed episodes (but the ones that Misumi didn't direct are cruder than this one), but it's still beautiful and powerful filmwork... and also opens the floodgates for some of the most aesthetic and gratuitous bloodshed on film. The Yagyu shadow-clan frames Ogami Itto, the Shogun's chief decapitator, and kills his wife, causing him and his toddler son Daigoro to walk the road to hell and live as demons, assassinating for money to fund his personal war of vengeance. Once the premise is set up, we move into an episode with Ogami, already a couple of years into his quest, taking on a mission to kill some men in a muddy little resort in the middle of nowhere. The resort is terrorized by a gang of murderous scumbags, who subject Ogami to a lot of abuse before he elects to blow his cover and lay them all to waste with his sword and weapons-laded baby cart, in a maelstrom of astonishing violence. It's nice to finally have these on DVD, partially because they look even better than before, and because DVDs stand up much better to frequent replaying, which on a movie this good will definitely be a factor. -zwolf

Swordsman With An Umbrella
(C, 1970) AKA Shen san qi xia
It's weird to see a movie that has both subtitles and dubbed dialogue and they're saying different things. It's even weirder when you can't tell which is worse! This Chinese swordfighting chivalry flick, pre-dating the hey-day of kung fu films, is very stagey and rooted in Peking Opera traditions, and the dialogue is incredibly awkward, dubbed in strongly-British voices. A swordsman called Iron Umbrella (or Iron Umbrella Man in the subtitles, hee hee!) wanders the land using training he got from a teacher named Iron Man (or Iron Tit in the subtitles!) to seek the scarfaced man who killed his parents. His weapon is an umbrella with a point on the end of it, and the main features of it seem to be that if he spins it he can fly through the air like Mary Poppins, although he doesn't do that very often, and that "once he uses an umbrella, no one else can use it!" Whoa. Despite his awesome prowess, some bad guys called (amazingly enough) The Flower Zone kill a bunch of their enemies and blame it on Iron Umbrella, so he's branded an outlaw. A swordswoman helps him out of some trouble and tries to convince him to be good, but he says that violence is the only answer to anything and continues his killing spree, which really does seem to be pretty senseless. He's soon captured and tortured, but the swordswoman saves him. Then she goes to get his umbrella back, and guys wearing black hoods attack her. And this leads to a kind-of chase-scene with everyone just walking leisurely, and the girl - who's always preaching pacifism- killing them by the dozen. Once he has his umbrella again, our hero practices for revenge. Overall it's an extremely strange, disorienting, surreal and funny viewing experience, with really bad fight scenes and a total sense of stiffness. The climactic duel - a posedown with a guy who fires coins is especially crazy. I wonder if this started as a stage play or opera, because it looks like a filmed version of one. -zwolf

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