Foxbat (1977)

Foxbat [狐蝠] (1977)
AKA Operation Foxbat, Nato Code Name MIG-25

Starring Henry Silva, Vonetta McGee, Rik Van Nutter, Roy Chiao, James Yi Lui, Melvin Wong, Wong Hung, Nick Lam Wai-Kei, Phillip Chan Yan-Kin, Tong Chung-San

Directed by Po-Chih Leong

Expectations: High. I liked Jumping Ash, and this one’s on Blu-ray!


In 1976, Po-Chih Leong co-directed Jumping Ash, a film often cited as the beginning of the Hong Kong New Wave. The film was a big hit, and so the following year Leong made Foxbat. The film is interesting in many ways, perhaps most because it is a Hong Kong production shot in English and featuring an international cast. This sort of thing had been done prior by Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest, but those I’ve seen have all been co-productions with a Western-based film company. Foxbat was made fully independently, so it carries none of the baggage that studio-based co-productions generally have; it is a film with a singular vision executed with style and confidence. Like Jumping Ash it exhibits many hallmarks of the Hong Kong New Wave films, specifically a noted influence from European and American films, location shooting, and the multi-tonality that would come to define Hong Kong filmmaking during the ’80s and ’90s.

The story of Foxbat is based in current events of the time, taking the defection of Russian pilot Viktor Belenko as its jumping off point. On September 6, 1976, Belenko landed his MiG-25 Foxbat jet at the Hakodate Airport in Hokkaido, Japan. The film begins here as well, showing us the defection with scenes shot at the actual Hakodate Airport where it happened. From here the fiction begins, with multiple groups desiring the chance to study the Russian fighter jet. The CIA send Mike Saxon (Henry Silva), a James Bond-style operative, and he captures all the pertinent info via his photographic fake eye. He hides the film inside a candy so it can pass unsuspected through customs, but things get hairy when a goofy Chinese cook, Cheung (James Yi Lui) mistakenly eats the candy!

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The Great Silence (1968)

greatsilence_6The Great Silence [Il grande silenzio] (1968)
AKA The Big Silence

Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Klaus Kinski, Frank Wolff, Luigi Pistilli, Vonetta McGee, Mario Brega, Carlo D’Angelo, Marisa Merlini

Directed by Sergio Corbucci

Expectations: Low.

threehalfstar


The Great Silence must be pretty high on the list of the bleakest films in existence. So if you’re not going to be OK with a movie that doesn’t contain a single shred of hope, optimism or happiness, then The Great Silence is one to avoid. But for those willing to take the plunge into this snow-covered land of darkness ruled by ruthless bounty killers and their greed, then you are in for one of the greatest Italian westerns of all time.

The Great Silence opens by introducing us to Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a mute gunman who lives by a strict code of only firing on a man in self-defense. He is a good man living in a cutthroat world, but his quickness on the draw and his code allow him to stay within the bounds of the law. On the other side of the proverbial coin is Loco (Klaus Kinski), a bounty killer who will kill anyone, anywhere without a second thought… as long as there’s a reward to be collected. He is an evil man, but like Silence he is also technically operating within the confines of the law. The film inevitably puts these two men against one another, but to describe the film in such simple terms makes it sound a lot more average and unremarkable than it actually is.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Blacula (1972)

Starring William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, Gordon Pinsent, Charles Macaulay, Thalmus Rasulala

Directed By William Crain


Transylvania, 1780 – Castle Dracula

It is a dark and stormy night and Count Dracula is entertaining African Prince Mamuwalde and his wife. (Because, as we all know, Dracula was well known for his important contributions to politics in 18th century Europe.) The lovely couple are enjoying small talk and champagne with Dracula when the Prince gets down to business and discusses the concerns of his people. All is going fine until Dracula scoffs at the prince’s attempt to convince him to do something about the slave trade. Tensions flare and the Count even has the audacity to propose a deal for Mamuwalde’s beautiful Zulu wife!  Dracula’s honkies of the night restrain the Prince, as the lord of darkness bares his fangs and sinks them deep into his neck, cursing him for all eternity and christening him… “Blacula.”

Transylvania, Present Day – Castle Dracula

Dracula’s castle has fallen on hard times. The Count has long been vanquished, and an interracial couple of flamboyantly gay interior decorators are sizing the property up in an attempt to strip it clean of its stylishly gothic furnishings and mark the prices up stateside. The real estate guy repeatedly warns them of Dracula’s curse, dark spirits, foreboding evils, and a lot of generally spooky talk that would turn most folks away. But these are gay guys in a blaxploitation film, so unfortunately you already know they are gonna ignore all common sense and be the first to get it. These films seemed to have a vendetta against homosexuals for reasons I could never really figure out. Yeah, it’s a little troubling… but look, if you’re watching a film titled Blacula chances are you aren’t going out of your way looking for political correctness anyway.

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