The Gambling Syndicate (1975)

The Gambling Syndicate [惡霸] (1975)

Starring Danny Lee, Woo Gam, Ku Feng, Fan Mei-Sheng, Cheng Kang-Yeh, Lo Lieh, Chiang Nan, Wong Ching, Lee Pang-Fei

Directed by Chang Tseng-Chai

Expectations: High. I loved The Casino, so I’m eager to see what Chang Tseng-Chai has up his sleeve for this one.


Chang Tseng-Chai’s previous gambling film, The Casino, was a gambling drama with a dash of action. The Gambling Syndicate completely flips the equation and delivers an action film with a flavoring of gambling drama. Which film you prefer will be up to the type of movies you like, but each film has its own strengths and weaknesses. Regardless, they are both relentlessly entertaining and full of life.

The Gambling Syndicate begins by introducing us to the film’s casino and the villains who run it. We work through multiple levels of hierarchy in a short amount of time, and for the first 15 minutes or so it really feels like the film will live up to its title by focusing entirely on the villains. But there the film brings in the heroes, and never really returns to explore the syndicate further. This is one of the few strikes against the film, but in a film as quick-moving and fun as The Gambling Syndicate, this kind of flaw doesn’t really amount to much.

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The Midas Touch (1997)

Starring Trever O’Brien, Ashley Tesoro, Joey Simmrin, David Jeremiah, Marla Cotovsky, Danna Hansen, Shannon Welles

Directed by Peter Manoogian

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Like Train Quest, The Midas Touch isn’t listed on Full Moon’s official filmography. Regardless, IMDB lists it as being originally distributed on VHS by the company, and the film bears most of the significant hallmarks of a Moonbeam film (notably missing are any kind of references or posters from other Full Moon films). Directed by longtime Full Moon collaborator Peter Manoogian, The Midas Touch is one of the more respectable Moonbeam films. I don’t have kids so I don’t really pay attention to these things, but I don’t remember anything here that would anger touchy parents. It’s not the most exciting film in their ranks, but just the fact that it can actually work as a family film gives it a rare distinction among its Moonbeam brethren.

Billy (Trever O’Brien) is your typical weakling kid, lacking in confidence and easily susceptible to bullying. His parents tragically died, leaving him in the care of his grandmother (Danna Hansen). She’s not doing great, either, as her heart condition has forced her to step away from her job. These stressful factors all contribute to Billy’s anxiety about life, but his grandmother does her best to instill in him the courage and confidence necessary to persevere and make it through the day. Billy’s dream, though, is not just to get through the day, but to be rich enough to provide a better life (and a pacemaker) for his grandma. Lucky for Billy, circumstances lead him to the creepy mansion of Madame Latimer (Shannon Welles), a woman with an ability that might be able to make his dreams reality.

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The Silver Emulsion Podcast: Ep. 22 – Pursuit / Days of Being Wild

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Episode 22! This episode I’m talkin’ about one of the Shaw Brothers Water Margin films, Pursuit, and Wong Kar-Wai’s second film, Days of Being Wild!

Also on the show:

  • Budd Boetticher’s Ride Lonesome
  • Michael Mann’s The Keep
Music Notes

Intro:

  • Vince DiCola – War
    • Rocky IV Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (iTunes, Amazon)

Incidentals:

  • Tohru Nakabayashi – Power Up
    • From the SEGA Genesis video game Altered Beast
  • Kinuyo Yamashita & Satoe Terashima – Start
    • From the NES video game Castlevania

Outro:

If you’ve got feedback, throw it into the comments below or email it to me via the contact page! I’ll include it in a future show!

The podcast is embedded directly below this, or you can go directly to Podbean (or use their app) to listen. If you want to subscribe, paste http://silveremulsion.podbean.com/feed/ into whatever reader you’re using, such as iTunes.

Blood Money (1975)

Blood Money [龍虎走天涯, Là dove non batte il sole] (1975)
AKA The Stranger and the Gunfighter, La brute, Le Colt et le Karaté

Starring Lee Van Cleef, Lo Lieh, Patty Shepard, Femi Benussi, Karen Yip Leng-Chi, Julián Ugarte, Erika Blanc, Wang Hsieh, Chan Shen, Cheng Miu

Directed by Antonio Margheriti

Expectations: High. I love Spaghetti Westerns and Kung Fu! This sould be a slam dunk, right?


On paper, Blood Money is the kind of movie I should love. A Spaghetti Western starring Lee Van Cleef, co-produced by Shaw Brothers and co-starring Lo Lieh. When I first heard about this movie a few years back, I imagined it as something similar to My Name is Shanghai Joe, only better since it had a great cast and the power of the Shaw Studio’s martial arts behind it. But man… that honestly couldn’t be further from the truth. Blood Money isn’t a horrible movie, but it’s definitely not taking full advantage of all the greatness at its disposal.

Dakota (Lee Van Cleef) comes to town with one thing on his mind: cracking the safe of Wang, a man said to have his fortune stored within. Dakota gets right to work, finding a sequence of locked doors within, each containing a picture of a prostitute who works for Wang. The safe’s final door requires some dynamite, and the blast not only opens the door but mistakenly kills Wang. Dakota retrieves the contents (another photo… and a fortune cookie), but he is arrested before he can get away. Word of Wang’s death reaches China, so Wang’s nephew Wang Ho Chien (Lo Lieh) is sent to investigate and find the missing fortune. His first stop is to question Dakota in jail, but this is just the beginning of the hunt for Wang’s treasure!

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The Accidental Spy (2001)

The Accidental Spy [特務迷城] (2001)

Starring Jackie Chan, Vivian Hsu Jo-Hsuan, Wu Hsing-Guo, Kim Min-Jeong, Eric Tsang, Murat Yilmaz, Alfred Cheung Kin-Ting, Lillian Ho Ga-Lee, Cheung Tat-Ming

Directed by Teddy Chen

Expectations: Moderate.


One of the great things about going through an actor’s complete filmography is discovering films that passed you by at the time of their release. By the early 2000s, my initial passion for Jackie Chan had faded due to my distaste for his American films and the films of the early 2000s in general (thanks in part to the rise of CG). I would love to say that The Accidental Spy is a wonderful film, offering untold delights, but it’s actually quite a mediocre film all things considered. Where it excels is its action, offering up a pair of incredible sequences that recall everything you’ve ever enjoyed about the films of Jackie Chan. They aren’t enough to pull the film out of mediocrity, but they are wonderful and very welcome in an otherwise underwhelming film.

The film begins oddly, as journalists drive through a village in Turkey afflicted with a deadly pneumonia outbreak. They are quickly assaulted and murdered by terrorists, and we are whisked away to the South Korean embassy in Istanbul. A spy is called in to investigate, but before we get too deep into this serious plot line, we are abruptly taken to Hong Kong where Buck Yuen (Jackie Chan) is doing his best to sell some exercise equipment by giving energetic demonstrations. His real test of fitness comes a few minutes later, though, when he daringly thwarts a bank robbery as only Jackie Chan could. The media coverage attracts the attention of Many Liu (Eric Tsang), a private eye looking for orphans about Jackie’s age, which consequently drags Jackie into an international struggle.

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The Silver Emulsion Podcast: Ep. 21 – Curtains

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Episode 21! This episode I’m talkin’ about Richard Ciupka’s Curtains!

Also on the show:

  • Chang Cheh’s The Water Margin
  • Sammo Hung’s The Victim
  • Shunya Ito’s Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion
Music Notes

Intro:

  • The Blendells – Huggies Bunnies

Incidentals:

  • Tappy Iwase, M. Adachi – End of Level
    • From the NES video game Contra
  • Kumi Yamaga, Tamayo Kawamoto – Sent Back
    • From the NES video game Section-Z

Outro:

  • Dawson & the Cosmos – You’re Gonna Lose Your Head
    • Recorded for the unreleased Remastered Edition of the amateur horror film Body Borrower

If you’ve got feedback, throw it into the comments below or email it to me via the contact page! I’ll include it in a future show!

The podcast is embedded directly below this, or you can go directly to Podbean (or use their app) to listen. If you want to subscribe, paste http://silveremulsion.podbean.com/feed/ into whatever reader you’re using, such as iTunes.

The Valiant Ones (1975)

The Valiant Ones [忠烈圖] (1975)

Starring Pai Ying, Hsu Feng, Roy Chiao, Han Ying-Chieh, Simon Yuen Siu-Tin, Ng Ming-Choi, Sammo Hung, Hao Li-Jen, Lee Man-Tai, Yuen Biao, Yeung Wai, Lau Kong, Wu Chia-Hsiang, Chiang Nan, Chow Siu-Loi, Chao Lei

Directed by King Hu

Expectations: High. King Hu!


I enter each unseen King Hu film with equal amounts of trepidation and delight. I’ve loved every one of his films that I’ve seen, so I guess I’m worried that the spell will break and I’ll hit one that just doesn’t do it for me. The Valiant Ones is not that film; it’s a stone-cold killer of a movie. It’s a real shame that a film as good as this one is languishing in obscurity, but that’s how it goes. If nothing else, it allows me to dream of a future restored edition that will continue to raise King Hu’s status among fans of world cinema. No matter how low-res and full of video noise the old master is for The Valiant Ones, the power of King Hu’s filmmaking overrides it all to entertain as only he can.

The Valiant Ones tells a story of pirates and the chivalrous knights tasked with stopping their pirating ways. According to the film’s intro, Japanese ronin teamed up with bandits in the 13th Century to create fearsome pirate bands that tormented the land and sea. The Valiant Ones is set in the 16th Century, when the pirates had multiplied to the point that the government lost any kind of control over the regions they inhabit. There have been multiple attempts to eradicate the pirates, but it has always proved unsuccessful. Now a chief of a Southern clan needs to reach the capital and must be escorted through the pirate-infested land. For this task, General Yu Da-You (Roy Chiao) assembles an experienced team who are up to the challenge, including a husband and wife duo (Pai Ying and Hsu Feng) who are lethal and absolutely unstoppable.

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