Uncle Jasper reviews: The Thing with Two Heads (1972)

The Thing with Two Heads (1972)Twoheads

Starring Rosey Grier, Ray Milland, Don Marshall, Roger Perry, Chelsea Brown, Kathrine Baumann, John Dullaghan

Directed By Lee Frost


I can get behind any film that casts an Academy Award winning actor alongside ex-defensive tackle Rosie Grier as a half bigot, half convict… thing with two heads. In concept alone, this film is a stroke of genius. You can tackle the race issue with slow burning drama ala Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, or dress it up in the guise of a police investigation like they did with In the heat of the Night. But it takes a real visionary to slap a racist-spouting, prosthetic Ray Milland head on Rosie Greer’s shoulder and call it a day.

The Thing with Two Heads could have a brilliant statement, forever ridding the world of racism and making boys and girls of all colors join hands and sing in the streets, but instead it decides that what we really need to mend hate and end injustice are a shitload of car chases and dirtbike races! Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t need no message up in my movies in order for me to appreciate them. I can get along just fine with explosions, dismemberment, or lasers. But this film sets itself up for some very interesting opportunities and chooses not to explore them. Dawn of the Dead is a great film because it has the blood, gore, and head-explosions that we all know and love, but it also mines its own premise to reveal maybe just a little something about human nature and society at large without sacrificing all of that fun stuff.

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Tai Chi Master (1993)

Tai Chi Master [太極張三豐] (1993)

Starring Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Chin Siu Ho, Fennie Yuen, Yuen Cheung Yan, Lau Shun, Yu Hai, Sun Jian Kui

Directed by Yuen Woo Ping

Expectations: High. Haven’t seen this one in years and remember really liking it.


We’re doing something different with this review. I won JP’s DVD comment contest and he let me pick any DVD or Blu-Ray I wanted. Oh, the possibilities! I ended up deciding on this film and I’m glad I did. In honor of this awesome gesture, my review will be featured exclusively on JP’s website, complete with neato video clips from the film selected by yours truly. So what are you waiting for?

Head over there now and check out the review!

Uncle Jasper reviews: Men from the Monastery (1974)

Men from the Monastery [少林子弟] (1974)

Starring Alexander Fu Sheng, Chi Kuan-Chun, Chen Kuan-Tai, Deng Tak-Cheung, Feng Yi, Feng Hak-On, Kong Do

Directed By Chang Cheh


Men from the Monastery continues the “Shaolin Cycle” of films that Chang Cheh kicked off with Silver Emulsion favorite, Heroes Two in 1974. More or less a direct sequel of sorts to Heroes Two, Alexander Fu Sheng and Chen Kuan-Tai return as legendary folk heroes Fong Sai-Yuk and Hung Si-Kwan. Except this time they are joined by the revenge driven powerhouse Hu Huei-Chien, played by the sleek Chi Kuan-Chun in what I assume is his acting début. Men from the Monastery is a pretty apt title, but I am hoping that in some alternate reality this film goes under the much cooler moniker of Heroes Three. It just makes so much sense.

To my surprise this film actually manages to outdo its prequel despite some really strange narrative devices that eventually end up growing on you the further you get into the film. The movie is divided up into segments, each focusing on a particular character. These segments overlap each other well enough before finally unifying themselves in the film’s absolutely stellar fourth and final act. It sounds great on paper, but if you don’t know that (as I didn’t) before going in, you will wonder what the hell has happened to Chen Kuan-Tai, who isn’t even mentioned by name until 41 minutes into the film.

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Once Upon a Time in China 2 (1992)

Once Upon a Time in China 2 (1992)

Starring Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Rosamund Kwan, Max Mok, Zhang Tielin, David Chiang, Hung Yan-Yan, Yen Shi-Kwan

Directed by Tsui Hark

Expectations: High. I haven’t seen it in a while and I’m really looking forward to the Jet Li / Donnie Yen fight.


So back when I started this site in April, I wrote up some of my thoughts after revisiting one of the classics from my youth, Once Upon a Time in China. I’ve wanted to get down to business and watch the much-loved sequel since then, but only recently got around to it. Wow, I gotta say… this one is even better than the first. It’s possible that I feel this way because I recently watched the original and I had less of an adjustment period, but whatever, Once Upon a Time in China 2 is a damn pleasing film.

While the recently reviewed Ip Man was set during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Once Upon a Time in China 2 takes place just after the First Sino-Japanese War. Taiwan has been handed over to Japan and outside influence is getting stronger. The White Lotus clan is angry that Westerners have come to China and brought all their nasty wares with them. They wish to kill the foreigners and rid the land of everything related to them. Led by the Immortal Kung (Hung Yan-Yan), they are ultra-nationalists and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

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Re-Animator (1985)

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson, Gerry Black

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Expectations: High. I’ve been building this movie up in my head for years.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
fourstar


Distributed by Empire International, Re-Animator is one of the hallmarks of 1980s horror cinema. Finally watching it after all these years of build up was something of an event and one that I truly enjoyed, even with my high expectations. Based on a little known story called Herbert West–Reanimator by H.P. Lovecraft, the film is so much more than the simple Frankenstein re-telling I expected it to be. Apparently Lovecraft wrote the story as a parody of Mary Shelley’s classic tale and while the filmed story differs quite a bit from the original, it can still be seen as a slight parody re-telling.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: The Pink Angels (1971)

The Pink Angels (1971)

Starring John Alderman, Tom Basham, Robert Biheller, Jackson Bostwick, Karen Bouchard, Dan Haggerty, Joe Hansen, Bruce Kimball, George T. Marshall, Henry Olek

Directed By Larry G. Brown


I do not claim to be an expert on homosexual outlaw biker gang movies, but if Pink Angels is any indication, I can safely say that they are an acquired taste. Pink Angels is sometimes on uppers, sometimes on downers, but almost always stoned to the bone. It’s really difficult to put a finger on a film that paints its characters as twisted, stereotypical caricatures while at the same time elevating them as weird, but cool, counterculture icons. I can’t tell if this film was made to protest, embrace, document, or lampoon gay culture. All I know is that despite its sloppy mediocrity there is definitely some kind of bizarre, rogue force looming beneath the surface, trying desperately to say something worthwhile.

The film is very loosely strewn together by a main plot which attempts to follow the bikers as they make their way down the coast, freaking out squares, cops, and the military on their way to a drag-queen convention in Los Angeles. Nothing is that simple in the world of cinema vérité though, as the film careens off course about a dozen times, working all kinds of bizarre tangents, subtle (and not so subtle) innuendo, and pointless exploitation into the mix. If there’s one thing I can guarantee with Pink Angels, it’s that you will never know what it’s going to throw at you next. One moment we have the fellas squirting bottles of mustard and ketchup at each other during an impromptu food fight at a highway fast food restaurant, and at the next we have a gay man raped by a sex-crazed woman and left to fend for himself in his underwear on the side of a road. Whew!

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I Shot Jesse James (1949)

Starring Preston Foster, Barbara Britton, John Ireland, Reed Hadley, J. Edward Bromberg, Victor Kilian, Tom Tyler, Tommy Noonan

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: Moderate. Wasn’t expecting too much from Fuller’s first movie.


Samuel Fuller’s directorial début is a character drama masquerading as a western. It features a lot of western conventions, but it’s all window dressing as far as I’m concerned. Fuller’s cinematic motives are to examine the tortured nature of Robert Ford, making the film not so much about the actual shooting, but about how it shapes Ford’s life following it and how he deals with the disgrace and pressure it adds. This makes for quite the interesting film and a fantastic début from the criminally underrated director Sam Fuller.

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