Saturday, June 23, 2018

Junesploitation 2018 Day 23: Cops!

A .38 slug works better than any judge or jury!



    Umberto Lenzi's VIOLENT NAPLES (1976, 95 min.) on Amazon Prime for the first time.

    "Bub's" pick for John Saxon! Day is an entertaining and gritty 'poliziotteschi,' even though there's barely enough (dubbed) Saxon in it to justify him getting second billing. Hardass "Commissario" Betti (Maurizio Merli) transfers to Naples, hands over his resignation letter to the superintendent (Guido Alberti) and tells him to use it to save his ass when Betti goes too far. Which he intends to because the fire of righteous rage burns within Betti, who is willing to fight back and be as dirty as the bad guys working for the city's uber crime lord, "Commandante" (Barry Sullivan).

    Merli looks the part of a badass cop, but we seldom see him being one. Most of the story finds Betti being made a fool by crooks outsmarting him. Lenzi seems more interested in showing the cruelty that Commandante's men inflict on civilians (ramming a woman's face against a passing train) and undercover cops (bowling ball to the face). "Violent Naples" tries and almost succeeds in making its titular town come across as the Italian New York City of the mid-70's. Pretty cool motorcycle stunts too, with just the minimum amount of pathos (little Massimo Deda's Gennarino giving Betti motivation) to keep the slasher-style violence (spike through the neck) from being too overwhelming. Recommended.

    HAWKEYE, aka KARATE COPS (1988, 85 min.) on Amazon Prime for the first time.

    Even though we have Pomaro to thank for re-discovering this one during this year's Junesploitation!, credit goes to Chaybee for finding this hidden-in-plain-sight gem back in 2015. It's all right, girls, you're both pretty! :-)

    While it doesn't reach the heights of absurdity of the all-mighty "Samurai Cop" (sorry Chaybee), "Hawkeye" is flying in the same "so bad it's good" fun altitude. Texas Ranger Alexander Hawkamoto (writer/producer/co-director George Chung) transfers to Las Vegas P.D. to "lay low" after he took the law into his own hands to avenge his girlfriend... or so he tells his new partner, A̶x̶e̶l̶ ̶F̶o̶l̶e̶y̶ Charles Wilson (E̶d̶d̶i̶e̶ ̶M̶u̶r̶p̶h̶y̶ Chuck Jeffreys). As seen during a bank robbery/hostage negotiation early on, "Hawkeye" didn't get the memo about the "laying low" part. After being chewed off by the mayor (THE Troy Donahue) and his captain (Jerry Wilson, who has nothing on "Samurai Cop's" Dale "up-my-ass" Cummings), Hawkeye and Wilson are assigned to investigate an execution-style killing. Turns out the dead vic is an old friend of Hawkeye's, and the key to solving the case is what his widow Sharon (Elizabeth Frieje) is willing to tell.

    The moment when Hawkeye swings his hips to the shitty soundtrack after he and Wilson beat a hotel hallway full of bad guys is one of my personal Junesploitation! '18 highlights. It looks and sounds like a 70's home movie somebody forgot about, which might explain the missing foley and 'is this mic on?' barely audible dialogue. The "sexy sax" note from "Lethal Weapon" should get its own credit, but the many technical shortcomings (kicks/punches a mile away!) just add to the charm. Come for the novelty of seeing an Asian-American action star, stay for the warm blanket of exploitation tropes weaved into "Hawkeye's" cheap fabric. Recommended

    1. Good looking out, Vargas. Great film!

    2. Hey, you and Pomaro get the credit for digging out this entertaining 80's fossil. :-)

    3. Check out Kindergarten Ninja whenever you can. Chung wrote it and a small role. It's not as good, but it's definitely worth watching especially cause Dwight Clark (former receiver for the 49ers - RIP) plays the character named "Blade Steel" and Vinny Cerrato is in it. Chung has a relationship with football players somewhere. Maybe they were his students or something.

    4. A now defunct podcast called Badasses, Boobs, and Body Counts (greatly missed) covered Kindergarten Ninja and conducted an interview with George Chung.

      Here is the link to the interview if you are interested.

    5. Essential listening for a fan of Chung and for independent filmmakers. Thanks again, really informative.

    6. I was a fan of BBandBC podcast, too bad they closed their doors in early May. I miss Mike and Iris' banter. :'( Thanks for reminding me that they interviewed G. Chung. :-)

    7. The audio in this movie is so good that you can sometimes see the mic in the shot!

    8. Vargas - thanks for linking me to my old post as well.
      I re-read some posts and, yep, still feel the same.
      I'm just a snob though.

      ChaybeeJune 20, 2015 at 7:33 PM
      "I think almost everything is at this point. I have super strong mixed feelings about this. Everything being so accessible now makes things less sacred. I have VHS and DVD copies of shit that took me YEARS to track down. We're talking finding some dude overseas who had it and you would spend 50 bucks and wait 3 months for it to get to you. Now? I say - Karate Cops is a masterpiece and you need to watch it (which you do) and all you need to do is click on YouTube."

    9. And that was three years ago. Things are improving if "Hawkeye" is now streaming on Amazon in the States, right? RIGHT??!! :-(

    10. Improving? I guess? It's just Indicative of the times where everything is accessible therefore I have to dig more and more for obscurity while everyone else can take comfort at the click of a link. 😂

  2. I just got back from the drive-in. It was an all Umberto Lenzi night on 35 mm. Great fun. I watched a film this evening/morning that fits the day's theme perfectly.

    ALMOST HUMAN (1974) Giulio Sacchi, wonderfully portrayed by Tomas Milian, is a low-level criminal with big ambitions and no self-control. This self-styled criminal mastermind hatches a kidnapping plot that gets chaotically carried out. On his trail is Commissario Grandi, Henry Silva in a rare good guy role. Grandi is utterly committed to bringing Giulio to justice.

    With Giulio Sacchi being the main focus of the story, the film can feel like a character drama in certain parts. He is a ruthless man whose nastiness can be hard to watch, yet that is the charm of the poliziotteschi films. They are not afraid to venture into violence that is uncomfortable to be a spectator of. As for Giulio, there are no redeeming features of his personality.

    Almost Human is a great crime drama. If you do not mind rough movies, this should be a good watch.

    COPS (1922, dir. Buster Keaton and Eddie Kline)

    “Get come cops to protect our policemen,” says the mayor.

    On a much lighter note is this 18 minutes of comedic genius. After a series of mishaps and misunderstandings, Buster Keaton finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time, unwittingly becoming part of a bomb attack on a police parade. In one the best gags of the film, Keaton lights his cigarette with the bomb fuse. Hundreds of extras in police uniforms then chase him around. The ladder sequence is certainly my favorite part of the film.

  3. Samurai Cop (1991, dir. Amir Shervan)

    This kinda feels like Miami Connection, or those Italian action movies that are trying to ape American movies but get it a little wrong. With just a little doctoring, this script could've been a middle-of-the-road JCVD vehicle, but I'm glad that didn't happen. Now it's gloriously weird, funny and entertaining!

    If you thought Kate Mara's wig looked bad in Fantfourstic, check out Mathew Karedas aka Matt Hannon's wig in Samurai Cop!

    Gas, Inspector Palmu! (Kaasua, komisario Palmu!) (1961, dir. Matti Kassila)

    My favorite ever Finnish movie, a comedic murder mystery about a murdered old woman and the array of family members and acquaintances who all had a motive to murder her. Investigating the case is inspector Palmu, an old and grumpy man set in his ways, but also brilliant at his job.

    I've seen this movie dozens of times and I love every line, every actor, every whimsical musical cue. It's a who's who of Finnish actors of the time and a beautiful trip to 1960's Helsinki.

    Conventional wisdom says Inspector Palmu's Error, the first movie in the series, is the best of them, but I maintain that this, the second one, is the superior one.

  4. 10 to Midnight (1983 - dir J. Lee Thompson)

    I think ELric Kane was half through in introduction of this movie on Pure Cinema (I can't remember if it was the Explitation Sampler or Early 80s Cult movies) and I was already trying get a copy. Thanks Ebay.

    Charles Bronson, is trying to track down a naked serial killer. And it might be a gross little procedual, but it's a really entertaining one, as Bronson makes it more personal and Gene Davis becomes more unhinged and toxic. And Davis starts off Patrick Bateman unhinged.

    Though my favourite is Wilfred Brimley not giving two f&$ks about anything. And no does that like the Brimley.

  5. Macon County Line (1974, dir. Richard Compton, First Time Viewing) Written by and starring Max Baer Jr. aka Jethro Bodine from The Beverly Hillbillies. He is awesome as a pleasant but menacing southern sheriff who gets entwined in a spiral of violence. This movie is amazing. It’s a great exploitation movie but it’s all about Max Baer who’s performance was so impressive and not afraid to take his character to very dark places. Makes me wish he was in more movies. Highly Recommended.

    1. Part of the reason Macon County Line was made is because Max Baer, Jr. could not find acting roles. Shaking the image of Jethro was difficult. I read somewhere that Macon County Line was made with his own money and ended up grossing tens of millions of dollars. Not a bad investment.

    2. Oh interesting I did not realize that. Don’t know if it makes me feel better or worse...

  6. The Laughing Policeman (1973 dir. Stuart Rosenberg)

    Passengers in a city bus are massacred by shooter, and one of them was a cop. The murdered cop's partner(the great Walter Matthau) and his new partner(Bruce Dern, with a great stache) are tasked to find out why he was there and find the killer.

    A standard police-procedural is elevated by a good script and great performances by Matthau and Dern. It also has a slew of great character actors/actresses including Louis Gossett Jr., Anthony Zerbe, Joanna Cassidy, Matt Clark and Gregory Sierra.

  7. CAVE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964, dir. Akos Rathonyi)

    A city police detective goes to a small German town to help the local police investigate the deaths of several young women. Could there be some truth to the superstitions about vampires in a nearby cave? A krimi – a German crime genre- with a touch of gothic horror, this is an entertaining enough time filler, something to watch if you are looking for gothic films made outside of Italy. The black and white cinematography is beautiful. It has passable English dub.

  8. The Laughing Policeman (1973)

    Like Shannon Briggs said, it's pretty standard as far as the story goes. It could have used a lot more Louis Gossett Jr., as even in his small role he delivers the best line in the movie.

    he's a cop, and he's violent. what, you need more? all right. this is the first feature lenght film by the great Takeshi Kitano. it's kinda weird seeing him without the twitch in his face. as debut feature go, this is one of the best (isn't there a colum about first films on this site? can't remember by who). Kitano knows what he's doing and this is a great example of what he'll do later. as usual in Kitano's movies, the violence is sudden and brutal. this is not exactly his movie with the most violent scenes, but when they come, they hit hard. Kitano's had a very varied filmography, but he kind of specialized and gangster/cop/violent movies. the blu-ray from Film Movement is great looking, but doesn't have much on the extras side. it does have a booklet an essay by Tom Vick. i really like whyen my blu-rays comes with essays. is it a perfect film? of course not. is it a great film that worth your valuable time and money? definitely.

  10. Streets of Death (1988) Dir. Jeff Hathcock

    SOV rarity (well, use to be, but...internet ruined all that) about a cop who goes undercover as a prostitute to catch a killer(s). Awful dialog and acting in the best way possible and brutal enough for the low budget/SOV genre. This is the only movie from Susanne Smith who plays the undercover hooker and that's a shame cause she's great! Recommended only for those who are fans of SOV or are Tommy Kirk completists...I'm sure they exist.

  11. The Cop Baby (2018, dir. Alexander Andrushenko)

    It's exactly what it sounds like: a Russian film in which a tough cop has his soul put into the body of a baby. He and the baby's father team up to a solve a case. A one-joke premise that's never as outrageous as the title, further hindered by some Baby Geniuses-level CG effects for make Cop Baby.

  12. The French Connection (1971)

    First time for me. Hard to speak objectively about something that's so influential. As someone raised on Lethal Weapon and Robocop, it was difficult to find this as captivating. However, it's easy to see why its held in such high regard. Friedkin's direction is a perfect compliment to the material. Hackman is great, but Schieder is especially fantastic.

  13. Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man (1976)

    The violence starts early in this flick. Deodato stages some rather unique crime/Chase sequences. A little cringe worthy with some of the sexual politics, but there was at least 1 strong response from a woman. All in all, I liked it, but I think I'm more for giallo than the police films.

    1. Love this Deodato joint. "Violent Naples," which I reviewed earlier today, has scenes that share locations (the house that the robbers invade) and motorcycle racing stunt teams. Of course Lenzi shoots his action differently than Deodato, who is a different beast than Fernando Di Leo. Once you start watching 'poliziotteschi' movies regularly you realize how small and incestuous of its limited resources (sets, actors, locations, stuntmen, plots, etc.) the Italian movie industry was in previous decades.

  14. Shoot First, Die Later (1974)

    Damn, Italians are harsh. I’m pretty new to Poliziotteschi, and while I was expecting something as crazy as Italian horror tends to be I turned out to be (mostly) wrong, instead getting a sober melodrama about a corrupt cop (Luc Merenda) who keeps digging himself and his family deeper and deeper into danger. While I wasn’t really in the mood for melodrama, it still managed to grip me pretty hard.

    Merenda’s very compelling to watch, and the scenes between him and his father (another cop at a lower rank who’s filled with pride about his son’s achievements until he finds out the truth) are absolutely heartbreaking. As it tends to be with Italian movies, when things get violent they lean toward disturbingly violent, so your mileage may vary. That being said this was one of the best movies I’ve seen this month, as difficult a watch as it was at some moments.

  15. The worst thing about Junesploitation is that it always falls around marking and reporting time at my job. However, taking a break from the paperwork to get stuck in.

    Robocop (2014), dir. José Padilha
    I know, this doesn’t hold a candle to the original Robocop. It doesn’t even try to emulate anything that made the Verhoeven movie such a classic, but that’s kind of why I dig it. It’s shooting for this soft-hearted approach that attempts to use genuine emotion to make up for the lack of any winking subversion. I really feel Padilha straining to bring his own ideas and put his own touch on this movie. Maybe I should’ve just watched Elite Squad instead.

    Ghost in the Shell (2017), dir. Rupert Sanders
    Okay, well while I’m going for the whole “futuristic robot cops in a movie that nobody really likes” vibe… Visually, this movie brings a lot to the table. I admit, I’m not overly familiar with the source material. This movie however is completely watchable and I enjoy it every time I put it on.

    Rush Hour (1998), dir. Brett Ratner
    One final movie to break away from futuristic cops. Rush Hour, like most Jackie Chan movies, is my cinematic happy place. The action is highly entertaining as per usual for Chan, but what really sticks with me is the chemistry between him and Chris Tucker. The comradery that builds between their characters seems effortless and is kind of sweet. Oh, and the vase gag is one of my favourites.

  16. Gemini (2017) Dir. Aaron Katz

    Dialog driven and semi-stylish modern noir. Lola Kirke is great in this. I see that she's been a few films I've seen but I don't remember ever seeing her at all. The score is modern electronic music with a mix of jazzy noir. A little too clean sounding for my taste, but I was surprised as to how well it worked in context. I liked this for what it was. Good performances, settings and kept my interest. A bit of a stretch for "Cops!" day, but it is a solid mystery with cops involved and wanted to see the movie regardless so might as well share.

  17. Vice Squad (1982, dir. Gary Sherman)

    I'd heard good things, but nothing could have prepared me for how amazing this film is. It feels like such an unfiltered and uncensored view into this incredibly brutal and seedy world. I love how natural and average Gary Swanson is as the lead cop. Nothing about him screams "action hero" or is larger than life. He's great. Wings Hauser, on the other hand, is so larger than life he stepped on life and I can't see it anymore. He's so unhinged and INCREDIBLE. Everything about the film is perfect and I truly was on the edge of my seat.

  18. End of Watch (2012, dir. Ayer)

    Found footagesploitation (I guess). This was a confusing movie for me. I didn’t quite get what it was going for. Sometimes the writing and directing seemed misguided, sometimes it seemed brilliant. I still thought it was effective by the end, but I have this lingering feeling that it was just a few turns away from fully locking into place as a great film.

  19. POLICE STORY (1985)
    Jackie Chan plays a cop protecting a mob witness from killers. There are two big set pieces, a gunfight/car chase at the start, and the big glass-breaking and bone-shattering fight in the shopping mall at the end. These make the movie worth seeing. On the negative side, Jackie’s comedy is not exactly subtle, and a lengthy courtroom scene has me thinking sometimes it’s okay to fast forward.

    POLICE STORY 2 (1988)
    Jackie’s cop character resigns from the force, yet still gets caught up in a criminal conspiracy. The idea was to make this one more realistic, the idea being you can’t have action movie carnage without serious consequences. Jackie is nonetheless in fine form once he's punching and kicking.

    Released in the US as just SUPERCOP, this one teams up Jackie with another cop played by Michelle Yeoh, making this a star vehicle for her. She and Chan go undercover to stop international drug smugglers. There’s bigger production value, bigger stunts, and glossier cinematography. It ends with a train-dragging-a-helicopter stunt that must be seen to be believed.

    SUPERCOP 2 (1993)
    Also known as PROJECT S and ONCE A COP. Here we follow Yeoh’s character. Her loyalties are divided upon discovering her fiancé is in with a bunch of high-tech thieves. This is less of the blockbuster action of the last film, and more like the low budget filmed-on-the-fly Hong Kong filmmaking of the first.

    Released in the US as just FIRST STRIKE. But yes, we’re still in continuity with the previous movies. Chan’s character is now a CIA agent (!), putting us in James Bond Land. We’ve also swung back around to full-on comedy, with lots of slapstick silliness. This is the one with the famous ladder fight, and I imagine the words “Jackie Chan fights a shark” got the movie financed.

    1. NEW POLICE STORY (2004)
      A sequel-in-name-only in which Jackie Chan plays a new cop character. A bunch of psycho 20-somethings kill Jackie's fellow cops and, after some time, he goes after them. The movie deals with serious themes like aging and loss, but also has crazy stuff like extreme sports and Joker-style death traps. The "kids these days" metaphor is laid on thick during a kung fu fight inside the Lego Store. I liked this one, but it's an oddity.

      Another name-only sequel, with Jackie playing another brand-new character, Dirty Harry-ing it up as a grizzled veteran who’s seen it all. The entire movie takes place in one location, making it DIE HARD in a nightclub. More thriller/suspense than action, and it’s filmed with music video glossiness that contradicts the downbeat story. Some might like the grittier tone, but I thought it was kind of a slog.

  20. Sudden Impact (1983)

    The fourth Dirty Harry film and the only one that Clint Eastwood directed. He pretty much shares the spotlight with his then girlfriend Sondra Locke. Locke is actually one of the films villains and nearly has the amount of screen time that Eastwood does.

    The Dirty Harry films always seem to take place in a bit of a gray area. Harry methods are considered excessive and in Sudden Impact Locke is killing men who raped her years earlier so she may be killing people, but we can still empathize with her. Overall this is completely entertaining, but I was actually more interested in Locke's side of the story than the Dirty Harry storyline.

  21. Hard Boiled (1992) Dir: John Woo

    Only had time to watch one movie so I made it count by watching one of my very favorite movies. Look, what can I say about this masterpiece that people far smarter than me haven't already said. If you've seen it you know what I'm saying. If you haven't, stop waiting and see it now.

    1. I believe this is the greatest action movie ever made and a handshake movie for me.

  22. Hard Boiled (1992)

    Classic John Woo. Slow-motion and violence galore.

    The visuals are out of this world. If you removed the slow-motion the movie would be 30 minutes shorter. The camerawork Is really great. All the action scenes are incredible, and should all be on the curriculum of aspiring Action directors. The Action sequences which starts the movie is intense and incredible, and the last 25 minutes is, to sound corny, a ballet of death and mayhem.

  23. Samurai Cop (1991)

    Once more, I find an utterly bizarre and hilarious gem this month. This movie is now right up there with ‘The Room and ‘Miami Connection’ as one of my favorite “bad” movies. I genuinely love these movies, and I don’t think they’re bad per say since they’re still wildly entertaining… they just require a certain level of expectation and a willingness to appreciate the effort. Everyone is giving the performance of their careers, yelling, dying, brooding, suave…ing? ‘Samurai Cop’ is the community theater version of ‘Lethal Weapon’, put on by the local dojo master hoping to attract new students - and it’s brilliantly something. Not ashamed to say this is the third movie this month I’ve immediately ordered off Amazon as soon as I was finished watching it.

  24. Narc (2002):

    I put this on just to check an entry off the Pure Cinema list, but once I saw Joe Carnahan's credit, I knew I was in for something good. I love movies that know how to use Ray Liotta.

  25. Showdown In Little Tokyo (1991) - first watch - Cops

    Dolph was great in this, abandoning the stoic performances from previous films, and showing off his acting chops, as well as his killer physique. Again, I fist pumped when he somehow ended up running around in short shorts for the last act, until donning traditional Japanese garb for the final showdown with the Yakuza.