Goodnight Varla: Tura Satana: RIP

Posted in Daily flow on February 6, 2011 by twm68

“A strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not be done.” – Marge Piercy

Today stands as a truly solemn day, with the passing of Tura Satana. For many of us, she was an indestructible black rose, thorns and all, ready to stomp a path through anyone or anything in her way. Every woman wanted to be her, and every man had masochistic thoughts of being under her boot heels.

While she stood as tough as they come on screen and off, she had to be. Tura was a survivor of many tribulations in life that few can say they could endure, but that she did. Those of us lucky enough who got to briefly know Turna knew she loved her dogs, and any animals in need, far more than most people. She was a sweetheart who always had a kind word, regardless of her situation, and always thought highly of her fans.

Tura faced despicable racism, growing up in American internment camps due to her Asian heritage. She was also sexually assaulted at a young age, and ran with several gangs in her youth.. Regardless of her chaotic struggle as a young woman, she never looked back, and carved herself a path to Hollywood starting as a photo model for silent film star Harold Lloyd. Tura would eventually gain fame as an exotic dancer, and dated Elvis for a time. She was proud that she could turn the head of the boy from Memphis.

Most know Tura for her role as the she devil Varla, in Russ Meyer’s 1965 magnum opus, ‘Faster Pussycat Kill Kill’. From one role, Tura established herself as a rule breaker, a back breaker, a one woman army who would stomp you into desert dirt just for looking at her. On and off the set Meyer even stated that she was not a lady to be fucked with.

While she didn’t hold a large number of roles in her career, Tura’s influence far outweighed her cinematic output. It’s no stretch to say that she clearly established a new place for ‘real’ women in Cinema. You didn’t have to be a ditzy blonde, a pretty face like Audrey Hepburn, or a helpless lass tied to the train tracks. Women were now seen as being strong, opinionated, and total shit kickers if need be. In terms of genre cinema, Tura paved the way for future names like Pam Grier, Sybil Danning, and Dyane Thorn. Thanks to drawing a new line in the desert sand, Tura leveled the exploitation playing field, and gave the ladies a chance to show they were just as tough as the boys, and could bust the balls of all the swinging dicks in Hollywood.

At the time of her passing, a documentary on her life was in production, and will hopefully be released in the new future, for many more to appreciate the wonderful lady, and her work. According to her manager, Tura passed due to heart failure, but she never failed in stomping a place in all of our hearts.

Thank you Tura, you beautiful bitch.We will remember you….

Wayback archives#2 Asian Trash Cinema issue-9

Posted in Daily flow on February 3, 2011 by twm68

Alright kiddies we’re rolling the clock back to 1995 for a number of articles I wrote for ‘Asian Trash Cinema’, which later became known as, ‘Asian Cult Cinema’. They aimed for a bit of legitimacy, despite the fact the magazine was just a front to pimp bootlegs that were distributed through the sister company Video Search Of Miami. There’s no way they’d get away with hawking half the shit they did today, but this was still at a time when many genre films were hard to come by, or not even re-distributed legitimately. People took what they could get.

You try not to spend so much time looking back, but there was nothing like getting a unmarked manila package in the mail, or that cardboard box, full of VHS goodness that Canada customs turned a blind eye to.

Review written in 1995

Death Powder –1986

Director: Shigeru Izumiya

With: Shigeru Izumiya, Takichi Inukai, Mari Natsuki

This is my first review I’ve proudly done for ATC, and what a doozy. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Death Powder when I threw it in the VCR. After twenty minutes I felt something kick me in the synapses, and I knew I was in for a hallucinatory treat, via some twisted Asian mind candy. Melted colors and blurred filtered images swam around my picture tube, and I started to think someone had thrown a batch of those special mushrooms into my beer again. The best way to watch the film is to let its dark visuals and twisted film style wash over you like a wave. This is the perfect kind of thing to throw on at a party with the volume turned off. It’s totally overwhelming and fascinating at the same time.

I couldn’t help but feel that director Izumiya was influenced by several twisted filmmakers in his dark surreal take on technology. The influence of films like ‘Videodrome’, ‘Hardware’, and obviously Shinya Tsukamoto’s ‘Tetsuo: The Iron Man’ can be felt all throughout this mind chewed flick. Much of the nightmarish imagery in Death Powder totally reminded me of the art of Hideshi Hino in his manga book, ‘Panorama Of Hell’.

There is so much visually going on in this film that the plot is hard to pick up on at first, but with repeated viewings everything makes sense. Sometime in the near future of Neo-Tokyo, a trio of renegade soldiers-of-fortune heist a stolen bio-cyborg, the Guernica. Little do they know that the android is still active and is capable of infiltrating their minds with its biological weapon—the Death Powder. Director Izumiya play Harima, the first of the trio to be taken over by the Guernica. Harima turns on his young partners Kiozi and Norris, and soon Kiozi is taken over by the Death Powder. As Kiozi succumbs to the bio weapon of the Guernica, he starts to trip badly into his mind and then the film fun begins.

Many will see it’s obvious that Death Power was filmed on a shoestring budget, but Izumiya makes up for this in his filming style. The film jump b&w to film to video with multi-layered imaging. Electronic pulses streak across the screen like spermatozoa and walls of flesh shimmer and glisten, breaking down and reconstructing itself at the same time.

Kiozi’s drug-saturated mind takes him back to the origin of the Guernica and it’s creator Dr Loo. A struggle begins between the new life provided by the Guernica and the world of the dead, inhabited by the nightmarish scar people. Kiozi finds himself being pulled between giving up his flesh to the scar people or living the life of a zombie under the power of the Guernica. In Izumiya’s world there is no happy ending.

The message is clear that in our glorification of technology we may wind up speeding ahead of the natural process of the death and destruction of life.

Shigeru Izumiya has created a film that manages to stretch beyond it’s boundaries, and screw with people’s minds in the process. As with Tetsuo, Death Powder has shown enough proof that you don’t need an outrageous budget to create visionary films of future technological nightmares. It’s really great to have some fresh Asian mind candy to chew on.. and something to scare the hell out of your friends with when they drop by for a visit. _________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yamato Takeru (Aka Orochi the eight-headed Dragon)- 1994

Director: Takao Oogawara.

Fantasy films of the far East have come a long way thanks to Tsui Hark and his ‘Chinese Ghost Story’ series, as well as his more recent films like ‘The Bride with White hair’ parts I&II. These films pulled you in with break-neck acrobatics, dazzling costumes, and legendary tales…all in all a feast for the senses. It seems that with new film these directors are trying to create visions more fantastic and outrageous than ever before. In the case of  Yamato Takeru this film shows that less can be just as good as more.

It’s no co-incidence that Yamato Takeru reminded me the classic monster movies of Toho studios of the 70’s, as director Oogawara had just previously helmed the last two Godzilla films in 1992, and 93. Despite the similarities, Yamato Takeru is a beast all of it’s own, no pun intended.  The film takes the classic Toho styling, and crosses them with classic stop motion effects that harkens back to the work of Ray Harryhausen in the Sinbad films. This is a great ilm to sit down and watch with kids on a Sunday afternoon. While it may not be as groundbreaking as the Sinbad films, or the Chinese Ghost story series, the film holds it’s own in terms of storytelling and delivering the goods.

Yamato Takeru is a tale about the gods created at the beginning of time, and how they lay dormant for thousands of years waiting to be called upon by man. Two brothers are born in the country of Yamato—Osamumko and Takeru. Both are destined to be king, but the birth of twins is a bad omen to the throne, so Takeru is taken to be executed by the king. The baby is saved by a golden phoenix, and is raised under protection by his aunt. The king’s advisor Tsukinha, plots against Takeru and plans on controlling the power of the dark gods to do his bidding. Takeru grows and gains the power of the gods to become, ‘the soldier of the gods’.

As Tsukinha plots and manipulates the dark powers of the gods, Takeru is blamed for the evil acts that occur. Takeru soon becomes banished from his own land, and must journey to clear his name, and destroy the evil raised by Tsukinha. As Takeru becomes stronger under the power of the gods of light, his evil adversaries also become stronger and more menacing. The journey begins with a group of rag tag heroes and ends with a battle of epic proportions.

The effects of Yamato Takeru are not state of the art, but work within the film’s framework none the less. The battles and monsters in the film kept taking me back to the sci-fi double features that were televised most Sunday afternoons. Sure, some of you might think that the Kumaso war god looks a bit cheesy, and a rip off of Gidrah, the three headed monster, but think again. It’s not the fact that Yamato Takeru is lacking as a film, but rather that most of us have been spoiled by much more extravagant fantasy films.

I like the fact that the film doesn’t try to beat you over the head with it’s content. It tells an epic story within it means, and provides classic characters and monsters. Anyone can get into Yamato Takeru as a light exciting adventure film to spend a couple of hours with. If you want extravagance, look to Tsui Hark, but if you want old fashioned fantasy, look no further.


Wayback archives#1 Asian Eye

Posted in Daily flow on January 31, 2011 by twm68

This post is dedicated to the memory of a god among men, the one and only Don Knotts. Some might have called him Barney Fife, while others called him Ralph Furley. However you slice it, he was one of the most unexpected and unassuming celebrities to come down the pike. He was as far from Sinatra as you could get,but had a charm and charisma all his own. Sure the guy always had that look on his mug like he just had a prostate exam, and eyes like two boiled eggs bulging out of the sockets, but all joking aside Don was one of a kind. He could never fail to make you crack a smile with a dumb assed goofy stare, or that gait  like he had spaghetti legs

Even if you’re the average purveyor of film, you owe it to yourself to catch one of his gems that always played on Sunday afternoons. The Incredible Mr Limpet, The Ghost and Mr Chicken , The Private Eyes, The Prize Fighter.  We’re not talking world class cinema here my friends, as most of Don’s films were shot for Saturday matinée screenings for general audiences, but it doesn’t matter. After ingesting a steady stream of extremities in genre fare, Don’s film were always a breath of fresh air. Sure the might have been a tinge of cheese wafting in the ether,but it was all in good clean fun.

The thing about Don that was amazing was that he carved out a unique niche for himself in both movies and on television. Right up until he died he was still doing voice overs for children’s cartoons

Someone once told me that Jim Varney (aka Ernest) was the modern day Don, and that’s like saying a starving artist is the modern day Van Goh. It boils down to a simple equation. You either grew up with the man, and understand how much of a cultural icon he was, or it will go right over your head like a 747…

RIP Barney…..

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Alright professor peabody, we’re going to kick things off by firing up the way back machine, and re-printing some vintage reviews of time gone by.  The writing might be a little sub par and stilted, but for those you willing to endure
strap yourselves in.

I was living in Toronto briefly in the early 90’s, and crossed paths with many fellow rabid cinephiles, some I still know to this day. One of the few I knew who was always scouring Chinatown and Suspect video for new sights was Colin Geddes. Colin was always on the ball about the latest Asian fare, and eventually put out a two issue fanzine called ‘Asian Eye’. it was definately a labor of love,and if more content could be packed into those two issues, I don’t know how.

After renting my share of Asian gems courtesy of Suspect, and catching a few Saturday night screenings at the long lost ‘Pearl’ in Chinatown, Colin asked me to write a piece for Asian Eye. I sat down at a typewriter and cranked out a piece, and that was it. I had the bite, and this was my first step in writing and reviewing, so take it as you may…

review written in 1993

SEX AND ZEN -1993

DIRECTOR: Michael Mak

WITH: Amy Yip, Isabella Chow, Lawrence Ng, Kent Cheng, Lo Leih, Carrie Ng

One of the first things that attracted me to the world of Asian films was the fact that everything is totally over the top, and it just wasn’t action films either. Old stories are given new twists, and many scenes and situations are presented that would stupefy most North American audiences. With many of the films the filmmakers have wound up creating genres of their own.

Sex And Zen isn’t your average skin flick like the title suggests. A man isn’t satisfied with the size of his penis and has it lopped off and replaced with a horse’s crank; two women decide to tag team a flute and another woman takes the creative approach and paints pictures on the floor by holding the paintbrush in her vagina. Many would think the film might run along the lines of Tokyo Decadence,but that’s not the case.

Sex And Zen is loosely based on The Carnal Prayer Mat, a work of Chinese literature banned for 350 years. it’s all about a young monk, and his adventures of trying to bed as many women as he can. At the start of the film it almost becomes an Asian version of the British ‘Carry On’ movies. By the midpoint you start feeling like your watching HK pervy version of Henry and June.

There are many twisted sex scenes in Sex and Zen and they nicely wind up being tied together by the price each character ends up paying for screwing around.

All in all the film is hard to pin down. There’s not enough ‘raw’ material to classify it as porn. even though some scenes are highly erotic. It’s also hard to look at as a straight comedy as it may be a bit too twisted for some.

If you have an appetite for a literary twisted sex comedy with a bit of, ‘sweet and sour pork’ on the side then Sex And Zen will satisfy

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Apparently  after the success of Sex and Zen in 93, and it’s subsequent two sequels, HK is rolling out ‘Sex and Zen:3D’, in 2011. One can only imagine from the trailer that the skeezers in the theaters will be working overtime with the ‘fists of fury’.  Let’s hope they also leave the 3d fluids at home outside of the screenings, where they don’t belong.

The Evolution Of Bullshit

Posted in Daily flow on January 31, 2011 by twm68

From the beginning of mankind, in caves in the South of France, a  scribe woke up one day with a an itch to carve his piece out on the side of a cave wall, and that he did. And with the first primitive man who had the notion to transcribe his musings to the masses, also came the first, ‘critic’. If anything was going to be acknowledged by the tribe, there had to be someone waiting in the wings ready to piss all over the wall to confirm their dissatisfaction.

While it’s uncertain whether or not our scribe split the critic’s lid with his stone axe, the negative assessment of his work didn’t dissuade  him from truckin on. With his first blurb set in stone, he raised his freak flag high outside his cave for all to see. If  people were rolling through the primeval sprawl of  bedrock and felt the need to drop by to peruse his work, it was all good. On the other hand if it was just their intention to ridicule or to criticize, he could give a popcorn fart for their final Judgements. There would be more cave drawings to come, good or bad, regardless of public opinion. Time proved the scribe to be victorious, as his work became recognized centuries later for it’s historical relevance in modern museums of art, while the final remains of the critics lay encased in the petrified waste of some wild animal long gone extinct.

As history rolled on, and Gutenberg got a hold of things, man began to print his ruminations. Regardless of the medium,he continued to peck out his piece, and the critics followed right behind him always willing to spout off, and with their self assumed importance and authority.

Now, you don’t have to be Aristotle to know that creativity and criticism go together like stink and shit. We’re not here to pontificate, and state the obvious, nor are we here to declare some kind of jihad on critics. Everyone is entitled to their two cents, so long don’t try passing it off as a dollar. Just because you have a wild hair up your ass for Catcher in the Rye, doesn’t mean everyone else is lined up around the block, sold hook line and sinker. There’s a reason it’s called ‘taste’, as some take a liking to liver and onions,while others lean towards broccoli.

There’s a lot of people who continually get off on playing the role of media vultures picking everything apart and then shitting out an opinion.  Regardless of their intent or levels of intellect, they’re still entitled to mount their digital donkeys and chase their internet windmills. Censorship and intolerance are not the answer. In the immortal words of Mark Twain, ‘Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak, because a baby can’t chew it.’. People can say what they need to say, and will continue to do so. It’s up to everyone else to evaluate whether or not those opinions are worth acknowledging. If your aim is true, and your piece comes from either your heart or nether regions, chances are im going to take some kind of notice.

For the two of you out there who have stuck it out thus far, and have managed to feign a modicum of interest, I Ithank you and welcome you.  I’m not going to blow proverbial smoke up anyone’s ass about my intentions with this blog. I’m not trying to subjugate,educate,illuminate,convert,pervert,or sell you amway. The deal with Cinema Satori is a purely selfish one.  The blog is my own personal cathartic cave,  Shriner’s Lodge of sanity, what have you. . Cinema Satori is simply a repository of reviews, and a place to  throw down an indefinite number of words regarding my appreciation of cinema, and world film. Regardless of how you got here, here you are.  All opinions aside, I invite you to pull up a stool, order something cool and wet, and stay awhile. Excuse me for a minute while I pick up my chisel. I need to get back to carving the cave…

Welcome to the lodge – Es Selamu Aleikum!

And so it begins…..

Posted in Daily flow on January 26, 2011 by twm68

First up, I’d like to dedicate this piece to the memory of one Mr Adolph Caesar. The man had a golden throat, and a voice slicker than malt liquor that laid down magic over some of the most vintage exploitation trailers of the seventies. His voice-over work  included  Cleopatra Jones, Superfly, Blacula, JD’s Revenge, Abby  and Dawn of the Dead. He also starred in Norman Mailer’s often overlooked WWII whodunnit, ‘A Soldier’s Story’.

Anyone who grew up in the eighties no doubt heard Caesar’s voice promoting the United Negro College Fund as,  ‘A mind is a terrible thing to waste’.  While a large percentage of art becomes victim to time and obscurity, some things escape these pitfalls, and become ageless. The voice of Adolph Caesar is one of them. The next time you happen to eyeball the Dawn Of The Dead trailer, pour one out for Adolph Caesar.