The Man from Hong Kong, aka, The Dragon Files

1975, Australia

Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu (Inspector Fang Sing Leng), George Lazenby (Jack Wilton), Hugh Keays-Byrne (Morrie Grosse), Roger Ward (Bob Taylor), Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (Win Chan)

Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith

Viewed: Streaming

Transfer Quality: Excellent transfer!

Don’t worry about what he might have said.

Don’t worry about gathering evidence..

Aww, no man…just POW!

I was all geared up to review the killer soundtrack for this, but then my damn amplifier conked out. Can’t do a proper review listening to a YouTube rip, so I decided it was a good excuse for a re-watch and review of the actual film.

Ozploitation meets Golden Harvest in this perfect marriage of unbridled action and absurdity from Dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith of Turkeyshoot and BMX Bandits fame. You certainly know you’re in for a wild ride when a two-pronged chase scene breaks out before the opening credits even roll. On the one side, drug smuggler Win Chan’s (Sammo Hung) bellbottoms are flying in hi-karate action as a narc pursues him to the top of Australia’s Uluru. On the other, a motorized chase between a helicopter and car ending in a massive explosion and the untimely demise of bad guy #2.

Enter kung fu legend Jimmy Wang Yu (One Armed Swordsman, Master of the Flying Guillotine) as inspector Fang Sing Leng—imagine Henry Silva, but Asian and with other-level martial arts skills—to extradite Win Chan to Hong Kong for justice. However, Chan is soon taken out by a sniper, and the Aussie narcs (who you’ll recognize as Mad Max’s Fifi, Roger Ward, and the Toecutter, Hugh Keays-Byrne) can’t keep a leash on the titular man from Hong Kong. It’s no slow, all go for the inspector as he mows down countless henchmen to get to the man behind it all, Jack Wilton, who kind of looks a bit like Dennis Parker in his prime.  The inspector is not just a fighter, though, he’s a lover too, with an array of uncomfortable gettin’ it on scenes to prove it.

To say this is an action movie is an understatement as it’s almost impossible to stay on top of all the car chases, kung fu battles, deep tongue lashes, and explosion after explosion after explosion. Although Sammo Hung’s character is offed pretty early in the film, he makes his indelible mark behind the scenes as the martial arts choreographer here. His top-shelf action really has an impact, as most Western movies tend to go a little soft in the kung fu department.

Legend has it that producers dropped 20% of the film’s budget on the rights to use Jigsaw’s Sky High as the theme song, but that’s a story I’ll save for when I get my amp up and running again.

In the meantime, don’t shy away from this classic…even if you have to drop $1.99 to watch it streaming.



The Ninth Configuration

1980, USA

Starring: Stacy Keach (Col. Vincent Kane), Scott Wilson (Capt. Billy Cutshaw), Jason Miller (Lt. Frankie Reno), Neville Brand (Maj. Marvin Groper), Moses Gunn (Maj. Nammack), Joe Spinell (Lt. Spinell)

Director: William Peter Blatty

Viewed: Streaming

Transfer Quality: Excellent


This is one of the strangest and most unsettling films I’ve seen in a long time, and it totally caught me off guard…I mean with Keach in the lead I was hardly expecting anything cerebral, and the awesome poster art suggested some kind of sci-fi, action/adventure, horror crossover. It wasn’t until the opening credits were rolling that I realized this was written and directed by William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist. Quick pause and a Google search later and I understood that Blatty imagined the novel this was based off of, Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane, to be the sequel to The Exorcist.

Admittedly, l spent the first 10 minutes of this with mallet in hand just waiting to ring the gong and be done with it, but The Ninth Configuration really grew on me, proving itself to be extremely interesting and unpredictable. In many ways the movie reminded me of other deep and quirky self-aware black comedies…like Catch 22 or Dr. Strangelove.

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The film opens with Col. Vincent Kane (Stacy Keach), a military psychiatrist, arriving at an army mental facility located in an old castle in the Pacific Northwest. Some of the inmates seem to be there for legitimate reasons, but it’s hinted at that some might just be taking the piss out of the establishment to get a pass on service. Kane is there to sort this all out, however, we soon learn that his method to remedy their ills is to indulge the inmates’ every whim.

As Kane interacts with the patients, he gravitates toward troubled astronaut Billy Cutshaw (Scott Wilson). Though not explicitly mentioned in the film, it turns out that Cutshaw is the connection to The Exorcist, as it was his brief encounter with Regan McNeil (Linda Blair) in full possession mode that drove him to the existential meltdown that caused him to abort his space mission and landed him in the castle of chaos. Through the interplay of Kane’s cool and certain insistence on a higher power and Cutshaw’s utter nihilism, the film becomes a thought experiment testing the limitations of each notion.

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I was quite blown away by all of the performances in the film, with the standouts being the duo of Jason Miller (The Exorcist) as Lt. Frankie Reno and his sidekick Lt. Spinell (of course, played by Joe Spinell of Godfather and Maniac fame) who spend the film working on a production of Hamlet for dogs. Apparently Spinell hounded (no pun intended) Blatty so much that he created a character for him in the screenplay that didn’t exist in the original novel. But it’s Keach who gives the performance of a lifetime here, sometimes seeming to channel HAL 9000 in his calm unwavering reactions to the exploits of the inmates, but harnessing a palpable and jarring rage in the bar fight scene.

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My only real critique of the film is that it should have been about 30 seconds shorter. For me, the trite reveal in the final scene sacrificed all of the heavy lifting that Blatty did throughout this pretty masterfully directed debut for the simplicity of a Hallmark card ending.

I’ll try to forget that last few seconds ever happened.



Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Matt Average: MA



1985, USA

Starring: Melissa Leo (Cookie), Dale Midkiff (Duke), Leon (Jason), Antonio Fargas (Finesse), Julie Newmar (Queen Bee), Annie Golden (Phoebe), Greg Germann (Creepy)

Director: Joan Freeman

Viewed: Streaming

Transfer Quality: Decent

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The n’ at the end the title here had me half expecting a comic romp with plenty of wacky pimps, hookers, and tricks, but this turned out to be a pretty grim street subculture exploitation movie with some heavy vengeance thrown in for good measure. It’s both superficial and super-grim, which makes it super-fun to watch.

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Streetwalkin’ is really a hidden gem with surprisingly well-acted, albeit cartoonish, caricatures of stereotypical street hustlers, johns, and cops and a good balance of violence, nudity, action, and implicit moralizing to keep you interested for 84 minutes. It’s also a very well-made film, so I was a little surprised to see that its director, Joan Freeman, only directed one other film, Satisfaction (1988), with Justine Bateman (that I kinda wanna check out now) and wrote the script for Uncaged (1991), which seems to be a remake of Streetwalkin’. I’m guessing the subject matter is what keeps this from getting regular runs on Sunday afternoons on cable, because this is a movie I would put in the same high re-watchability category as, say, The Substitute (1996) or New Jack City (1991).

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Without giving too much of the story away, the set up and plot are pretty run of the mill: kids run away from a troubled home life to the big city and find themselves lured into the world of sex work as a means to get by a sweet-talking pimp who takes them in then reveals himself as a mind-fucker and abuser (and later a psychopath). However, a power struggle between him and his rival pimps results in every man and woman for themselves free-for-all in the second half of the movie that really sets this film apart. I was also surprised by the level of nuance portrayed in the friendships among the prostitutes. On the surface, they’re all best friends who’ve always got each other’s backs, but only to the point that it doesn’t impact their livelihood or their status with their respective pimps. It’s actually a little jarring to see the seemingly close friends quickly turn on each other as the shit hits the fan at different moments in the movie when pimps are jockeying for their power positions.

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Aside from all that, it was fun spotting the many familiar faces and stars of past and future, including Annie Golden (The Shirts, Orange is the New Black) as the stoned out Phoebe, Antonio Fargas (Foxy Brown, Starsky and Hutch) as the pimp Finesse, and Leon (Colors, Above the Rim) as the pimp Jason. The standout performances, however, come from pop culture legend Julie Newmar (Batman, a million other things) as the street strutting mother figure, Queen Bea, and future Academy Award winner, Melissa Leo (The Fighter, a million other things), in her film debut as the film’s protagonist, Cookie.

Highly recommended!


Spoiler Alert! —

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Eaten Alive (aka Death Trap)

1976, USA

Starring: Neville Brand (Judd), Marilyn Burns (Faye), Robert Englund (Buck),Stuart Whitman (Sheriff Martin), Mel Ferrer (Harvey Wood), Crystin Sinclair (Libby Wood) Carolyn Jones (Miss Hattie), William Finley (Roy), Roberta Collins (Clara Wood), Kyle Richards (Angie)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Viewed: Streaming

Transfer Quality: Very nice transfer!

Probably my biggest takeaway from this film is that while a scythe looks cool and makes for great promotional poster art, it is ridiculously cumbersome as a murder weapon. Oh, and that Nile crocodiles in Texas can both shrink in size when pursuing prey in tight quarters and eat several adult-sized humans in a single night.

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Hooper again exploits our deep-seated collective fear of backwoods Texas to explore something I’m still not quite able to put my finger on in the horror hotel genre meets Jaws flick, Eaten Alive. Apparently Hooper had some creative differences with the producers that lead to some scenes being helmed by a different director. Perhaps this can explain away why this movie has so many elements that could have made it great, but still manages to fall short. In the end this is a pretty clunky film, but with some cool components, great cast and soundtrack, and a campy plastic crocodile that morphs into different sizes that make it worth checking out.

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So the set-up: The film opens at a sleazy country brothel run by Miss Hattie (Carolyn Jones, The Addams Family) with “Name is Buck, I’m rarin’ to fuck,” Buck (Robert Englund, Nightmare on Elm Street) trying to force newbie prostitute Clara Wood (Roberta Collins, The Big Doll House) to do pervy stuff she doesn’t wanna do. Of course, Miss Hattie takes the good ‘ol boy Buck’s side in the dispute and banishes Clara from the whorehouse. Well, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for poor Clara as she stumbles over to the Starlight Hotel, a dilapidated mess of a place in the swamp where she meets a similarly dilapidated mess of a mental case, Judd (Neville Brand, Mad Bomber, Stalag 17), who owns it. Not to spoil too much, but it doesn’t end well for Clara or just about any man, woman, monkey, or small dog that happens to find themselves at the Starlight that evening.

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While watching this I kept wondering what Judd’s motivation is for undertaking all these killings. At first, he seems to be exacting revenge for all of the abominations and iniquities of the world embodied in the guests he encounters at his hotel. We know he’s definitely got a thing against prostitutes, but it’s certainly not a consistent motivation to kill. For example, he also chases a little kid under the house, with the scythe, no less…a pursuit that smolders throughout the film, but he ties her mother up to the bed without killing her. He mumbles to himself at times, so I’m guessing he’s hearing voices, but that’s never clarified. There’s also this thing where he takes off his glasses when he kills. Maybe an alter ego he takes on? Anyway, don’t expect any of this to be explained at any point. Judd’s just a creepy guy who acts nice and then ends up killing you for no real reason…first with a pitchfork and then with a scythe. And, yes, as the title gives away, Judd doesn’t quite finish off any of his victims, so they’re each “eaten alive” by a giant crocodile that Judd keeps in the bog next to his hotel.

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While leaving things unexplained is what gives the horror in Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre such depth and intensity, it just doesn’t work here. In my opinion, this comes from Hooper’s decision to film the entire movie on a sound stage. I will say first that the genius of this is that it allows him to create a discrete and completely fictional universe, where the rules of the real world don’t necessarily apply. The dominant red hue cast in the hotel scenes really does create an alternate reality kinda feel that intensifies just how cut off from sanity the hotel is. The downside, of course, is that in the process it cuts the viewer off from any sense that this is real, and forces us to start finding holes in the narrative leaving us asking questions like “why any of this is happening?” In Chainsaw, it’s precisely the documentary feel that allows the viewer to abandon need for explanation and join the fictional victims in full panic mode. In Eaten Alive, only confusion results.

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Finally, as ludicrous as the plastic croc is in this, I will say it is pretty absurdly amazing every time it appears on screen. Also, the crescendo of carnage in the final scene is intense enough not be missed. Unfortunately, it’s the only scene that even comes close to the level of anxiety that Chainsaw produces.

Although not quite a “for Hooper completists only,” and not among his top films, I would definitely recommend checking it out.

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The Fifth Day of Peace

1970, Italy

Starring:  Franco Nero (Bruno Grauber), Richard Johnson (Capt. John Miller), Helmuth Schneider (Col. von Bleicher), Bud Spencer (Jelineck)

Director: Giuliano Montaldo

Music: Ennio Morricone

Viewed:  Streaming

Transfer Quality: Horrible, VHS to digital

A transfer so bad only Franco Nero could save it? That was my only hope when I turned on this miserably low-quality VHS to digital conversion. I’m already not a big fan of war movies, well at least not poorly transferred bad ones. Of course, I love Catch-22, Apocalypse Now, Where Eagles Dare, etc. …but cropped for TV war schlock is a tough sell. I can sit through the lowest budget paper plate UFO sci-fi flick or 5th generation VHS copy of a ketchup splatter slasher and still feel like I’ve used my time productively, but bad war movies I cannot abide. Case in in point? …see my Combat Shock review, haha. Anyway, Nero’s involvement practically required me to check this one out, but honestly I wasn’t expecting to get more than 10 minutes in before switching flicks.

To my surprise—horrendous transfer aside—this turned out to be a pretty brilliant take on the war film genre that hooked me in from start to finish. Sure, there are a few vertigo inducing nighttime scenes that the VHS to digital conversion renders absolutely unwatchable, but those only kept me constantly wondering how great it would be to experience a clean 35mm print screening of this.

The film opens at the end of WWII in a Dutch concentration camp converted to house German POWs by Canadian Allies led by Captain Miller (Richard Johnson). If that weren’t ironic enough, the whole story takes place after the combat has ended. I mean, it’s a war movie with no war. Only the participants’ vestigial tension remains as they struggle to make sense of their roles in what happened and what will happen next. What’s revealed in the end is not only a commentary on the futility of war, but also on futility of the human condition: man’s eternal struggle between freedom and control.

We find Captain Miller, already ambivalent about his return to civilian life and the loss of status that will entail, simultaneously repulsed and fascinated by Nazi top officer Col. von Bleicher, masterfully portrayed by Helmut Schneider. Col. von Bleicher is obsessed with maintaining military order and continues to discipline his troops as though the stukas were still wreaking havoc over Poland. Captain Miller desperately wants to claim the moral high ground of the Allies, but is ultimately torn as he struggles to fill his role as commander and to control the camp. In contrast, we have Nero’s character, Bruno Grauber, and his fellow deserter Corp. Reiner Schultz (Larry Aubrey). Two deserters who, despite almost starving to death on their journey, enjoy a relatively blissful few days as kitchen assistants in the camp before their cover is blown and they are dragged into the POW barracks with their countrymen. The Colonel, of course, wants them executed and made an example of. Grauber, having tasted freedom, struggles to expose the absurdity of the troops still playing war as his and Schultz’s lives dangle in the balance.

Of course, Nero steals the show with his classic everyman, pushed to the brink by the injustice of it all ranting and pontificating. But, effectively, he spends most of the film relegated off screen or yelling something or other from his solitary confinement cell while the Captain and the Colonel decide his fate. In the end it’s the battle of wits between the two commanders that really drives the narrative. So meta!

Top-notch Morricone soundtrack and great performance by Bud Spencer as the kitchen supervisor, Jelineck, really rounded out the package here. Check this out!


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Why Is This Even Collectible? Vol. 2

Band:     Blues Creation
Title:      Demon & Eleven Children (1971)
Label:    Denon (original press w/Gatefold Cover), Blow Up (1975 reissue w/single sleeve), Various unofficial reissues

Ōsawa Hiromi – Vocals
Takeda Kazuo – Guitar
Saeki Masashi – Bass
Higuchi Masayuki – Drums


This second Blues Creation LP is a crushing beast of early-70s Japanese heavy, heavy blues tinged rock not dissimilar to Sabbath overall, but with little bits of Cream, Sir Lord Baltimore, Hendrix, and of course Mountain (whose Felix Pappalardi they would later record an LP with as “Creation”) mixed in. For this effort, guitarist and founder Takeda Kazuo wisely cleaned house, assembling an entirely new line-up and forging a new direction away from the covers-only approach of their first LP towards this true masterpiece of original compositions. Demon & Eleven Children, has somewhat looser production than stoner-friendly rivals from the States and UK of the time, but packs a two-ton wallop that will leave you reeling in awe nonetheless.

On that note, this is definitely not an album to be listened to via a YouTube video or on your shitty phone speaker. A decent set of headphones will give you a serviceable experience of this recording, but I recommend cranking your stereo up loud enough that you can feel the bass ripple through the floorboards. Grab a pillow and lie down in that good shit…settle in and let the heaviness seep deep into your pores and your being.

Blues Creation recorded just one other album after this with Japanese psych hero Carmen Maki that has its moments but, honestly, underutilizes the talents of both. Blues Creation would later morph into Creation and produce a string of quite good heavy rock LPs that litter both the cheapy bins of Disk Unions across Japan as well as my personal collection.


Why is this even collectible?

Japan only pressing for Japanese market, so incredibly scarce. Incredibly stellar LP that surpasses much of the heaviness emerging from the US and Europe at the time.

Advantage: Seller. The original Denon press (gatefold) is a holy-grail item that is nearly impossible to find complete and in good shape. This (pictured) nice 1975 repress is much more common, though the meager single-sleeve is enough of a trade-off to keep collectors dreaming of an original.

Price range: The original Denon press can grab well over $1k (oof!) if complete and in decent shape. Until recently, you could sometimes snag this press (1975 single-sleeve reissue) for $50-ish, but lately I’ve not seen a complete copy go for less than $150. A few “unofficial” vinyl reissues exist, but I’ve not encountered any to report on. I’m actually surprised this never got an Akarma high-end bootleg treatment.


1.        Atomic Bombs Away (5:30)
2.        Mississippi Mountain Blues (4:05)
3.        Just I Was Born (6:18)
4.        Sorrow (7:13)
5.        One Summer Day (2:26)
6.        Brane Baster (2:00)
7.        Sooner or Later (5:13)
8.        Demon & Eleven Children (9:15)

BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER (aka Night Warning) (1981)


1981, USA

Starring:  Susan Tyrrell (Cheryl Roberts), Jimmy McNichol (Billy Lynch), Bo Svenson (Detective Joe Carlson), Julia Duffy (Julie Linden), Bill Paxton (Eddie)

Director: William Asher (Michael Miller, uncredited)

Music: Bruce Langhorne

Viewed:  35mm / Aero Theatre Horrorthon

Print Quality: Not great, but watchable

butcher baker

I remember the chills that ran down my spine the first time I dropped the needle on Mercyful Fate’s first EP and was totally blindsided by that blistering guitar solo that opens “Corpse Without a Soul.” I mean the song opens with the fucking solo! Thirty years later, my experience watching the opening scene of Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker was almost exactly the same. The first 3-minutes of this film are just so intense that it leaves you wondering where can it possibly go from here.

Turns out that one of the things that make that opening sequence so distinct is that it was born of a different director and cinematographer. Apparently, Michael Miller (Jackson County Jail) shot that bit with Jan Du Bont (Private LessonsDie Hard) but both were fired and replaced by veteran TV show director William Asher and Robbie Greenberg (Lucifer’s WomenSwamp Thing) to finish it out. Somehow the final product works, though…and then some!

But then again, how could it go wrong with the brilliant casting of Susan Tyrrell (Forbidden ZoneAngel, Open All Night) and Jimmy McNichol (those fabulous McNichol’s) in the leads and Bo Svensen (The Inglorious BastardsInglourious Basterds) as the pathologically overconfident homophobic detective thrown into the mix.

It’s difficult to summarize much of the story without ruining half the fun, but I assure you Tyrell delivers and absolutely crushing, must-see performance as Aunt Cheryl, whose incestuous lust for her nephew Billy (McNichol) leads to some delightfully insane and ever-escalating consequences. William Asher deserves equal respect for his perfectly paced slow burn of Aunt Cheryl’s unraveling that builds to psychotic crescendo that is purely unforgettable cinema. Kudos, too, to the anachronistically positive portrayal of homosexuality embodied in Billy’s basketball coach Tom Landers played by perennial TV actor Steve Eastin. This film was truly ahead of its time.

For me this was the real standout in the Aero Theatre’s Horrorthon line-up this year and immediately skyrocketed to the top of my list of must-see movies to recommend.

It’s just nuts that this film still flies somewhat under the radar almost 40 years after its release.



Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Matt Average: MA

Why Is This Even Collectible? Vol. 1

Join Devon as he dares to ask:

Why Is This Even Collectible?

Vol. 1


Ever feel your heart race as you grab a super-obscure want list record from the cheapy bin only to be left scratching your head upon first spin wondering what the fuss was about? Ever snag a weird looking slab you never heard of that quickly becomes a favorite record in your collection?

In “Why Is This Even collectible” we’ll look at collectible records of all types, from top-shelf items that are worthy of a lofty price tag to those that completely defy logic. We’ll also look at obscure titles that fly under the radar, but are tough to pry off the turntable once you give ‘em a spin.

My first entry falls into the latter category:

Band:                               野獣 (Nokemono) trans. Wild Beast
Title:                                From the Black World (1979)
Label:                              Sound Marketing System, Inc. (SMS)
Vinyl Variations:            Regular label, White label promo

Cherry – BassNokemono_2
Ace – Vocals
Rolla – Guitars
Bunchan – Guitars
Popeye – Drums

Living in Japan for an extended period of time was a record collectors dream. Stuff like this Nokemono LP would just appear in the bins in top shape for next to nothing. Some epic hauls were had during each of my stints there, though the resurgence of vinyl is finally catching on in Japan, too, with prices starting to climb in response. One saving grace is that Japanese shops tend to be super-strict with their grading, so any blemish can result in a massive discount. This is a big advantage to a US record freak who’s used to being charged top dollar for musty, skated on, seam split, and ring worn garbage.

When I picked this up a few years back, I had no idea what it was other than that it looked too cool to leave in the bins. After getting home I discovered this is LP is a pretty important milestone in Japanese metal. With 44 Magnum and Vow Wow, Nokemono formed the first wave of Japanese bands straddling the line between hard rock and heavy metal, with From the Black World widely considered to be Japan’s first true metal record. Apparently, Nokemono were big in Japan, winning the Nagoya Midlands Grand Prix at Yamaha’s battle of the bands in 1978 and opening for Judas Priest at the Nagoya stop on the Stained Class tour that same year, but they only released this one decent LP.

From the Black World actually reminds me a lot of Sin After Sin (1977) -era Priest but with production that’s closer to Point of Entry (1981). You get plenty of metal staples here…some cow bell, a gong, galloping and whinnying guitars, and an air raid siren screams topped off with a dual lead guitar assault of Rolla/Bunchan that’s half Tipton/Downing half early Smith/Murray. The two standout tracks “Runaway” and “From the Black World” that open each side of the LP are both hard drivers and difficult to extract from your brain after a listen, but as is typical with most metal LPs of the era, there are a couple real clunkers on here (most notably Big Wednesday). All-in-all, while it’s not a game-changing debut, From the Black World definitely deserves a spot in any serious metaller’s collection.

Why is this even collectible?

Japan only pressing for Japanese market, so pretty scarce.

Widely accepted as Japan’s first true metal album, so historically important.

Advantage: Buyer! Not many people will even know what this is when it comes up in the bins or for auction, so prices paid are all over the place. That said, you’ll probably still never see this in a dollar bin in the US.

Price range: Though not perfect copies with an obi have gone for over $200, if you’re willing to be patient you can probably pick up a copy without an obi for under $30.


1. Run Away (03:09)
2. Terrible Night (04:37)
3. Tozasareta Machi (03:59)
4. Ushinawareta Ai (04:48)
5. Big Wednesday (04:45)
6. From The Black World (04:05)
7. Back Street (04:22)
8. Hai Ni Kieta Kako (06:13)
9. Ari Jigoku (04:49)
10. Run Away (Part II) (00:25)



THE GATE (1986)


1987, Canada

Director: Tibor Takács

Starring: Stephen Dorff (Glen), Louis Tripp (Terry), Christa Denton (Al)

Viewed: Streaming

Transfer Quality: Excellent

The Gate

Terry: I got something to show ya…They’re called Sacrifyx and my Dad brought it from Europe…and it’s got all this stuff in it! See, these guys were like really serious about demonology and it’s like they’re trying to warn you!

Terry shows Glen record album

…See, these guys knew. They wrote their own music. They got their lyrics from this thing called the Dark Book…that’s like the Bible for Demons!

Glen shakes his head incredulously

This was surprisingly great. After watching just the opening dream sequence I was certain The Gate would stay high on my current list of must-sees. I remember this movie kicking around when it came out, but somehow never got around to watching it. I suppose by 1987 I’d already graduated to Nightmare on Elm StreetTexas Chainsaw, etc. and the classic “parent’s go out of town so it’s up to the kids to save the world from supernatural monsters” didn’t hold much appeal. Anyway, seeing it now as an adult I absolutely loved it. Think Evil Dead meets Adventures in Babysitting.

The basic premise is that a tree removal unearths a passage to an underground realm of demons. Parents go out of town leaving the kids alone. Then, through a series of random events the kids inadvertently release the demons into the real world.

A big part of the allure of this film for me is that it captures what it was like to be a suburban middle school kid in the 80s in a surprisingly nuanced way. From awkward kid trying to be cool Glen’s (Stephen Dorff from Blade, Cecil B. DeMented, Leatherface, etc.) obsession with model rockets, to Terry’s (Louis Tripp) innocent fascination with metal, to their shared disgust for Glen’s sister Al’s (Christa Denton) new wave friends…I don’t know, even though the film is silly by nature, there’s just something honest in the way the characters interact that make them totally believable and really brought me back to the heights of excitement and depths of anxiety of my middle school experience.

There is nothing not to love about this film: the lighting, camerawork, effects, and animation, and acting are top-notch. But it’s director Tibor Takács’ (I, MadmanMetal Messiah) pacing that is absolutely masterful. Every time you think the rollercoaster ride is coming to an end and all will end well, The Gate ratchets your cart back up the hump for another plunge. (DC)


Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Matt Average: MA



1988, Hong Kong
Starring: Ernst Mausser as Bill Young and a bunch of other people
Directors: Godfrey Ho & (probably) Tomas Tang
Viewed: Streaming
Transfer: Decent
Robo Vampire
Boss Young: Listen, I must find a way to handle Tom, that goddamn anti-drug agent.
Lackey: Boss, what are your plans then?
Boss Young: I’ve employed a Daoist. He’ll train vampires to deal with him.
Apparently Robo Vampire is actually two movies sewn together, so that means it’s gotta be twice as good, right? Yes, most definitely!

It certainly has everything…kung fu, drug smuggling mercenaries, Hong Kong slapstick, hopping vampires, dummy stunt men, sexy ghosts, a silver lamé version of Robocop, and even some nooky from beyond the grave. Every moment in this film is either awesome or just about to get awesome, nicely counteracting the need for a cohesive plot. Don’t worry if you doze off for a bit or forget to pause it when you head for the kitchen to get a snack…just hop right back in. I only wish Nate and Matt were here to experience it with me as this should definitely be watched with friends for maximum entertainment value.

So a quick sketch of the story here…drug kingpin Boss Young—or is it Cole? I’m still confused—has a hard on for DEA agent Tom Wilde and plans to thwart him by enlisting a Daoist monk who can summon an army of vampires that are, of course, (super-) naturally impervious to machine gun fire. The smuggling method that Tom disrupted to initiate this revenge is never made clear, but it seems like the new plan is to transport the drugs in corpses…but then there’s also a gratuitous scene of a ox-like animal being opened up and having drugs sewn up inside its body. None of this is ever explained, but it’s not really important. Anyway, going on a tip from agent in the field, Sophie, Tom & Co. confront Young’s crew all guns blazing and manage to out maneuver the smugglers despite some early casualties. As the momentum shifts toward the “good guys,” however, the monk springs into action calling up his undead henchman to make short work of the agents, Tom included. For some reason, even though all the agents are killed, only Tom is deemed worthy of being reanimated as a cyborg super-cop.

Cyborg super-cop certainly sounds familiar, but by the end of this you’ll be asking yourself “Robocop who?” Much like wrestling’s Honkytonk Man, the Mylar Murphy rip-off in this will leave you more than half-convinced that the copy is WAY better than the original. I also like the parallel of the two different imaginings of the undead: the traditional Chinese vampires born again via the supernatural, and Tom resuscitated via science: both stripped of their self-determination and slaves to the bidding of others. Get it? Robo-Vampire…I mean this shit’s deep.

It’s hard to pin down a favorite scene in this…there’s Sophie’s Chinese water torture absurdity, Cyborg Tom’s existential crisis/romantic flashback as he witnesses vampire and ghost consummate their marriage, any one of the incredible vampire vs. cyborg battle scenes…just so many ludicrous and memorable moments. Cyborg Tom’s assembly montage that segues into his test run is one of my favorites, though. I love how they just take some random dumpster dived e-waste objects with knobs and stuff and jam them unconvincingly into what looks like a hollow metal leg. However, cut to some beeping and flashing equipment, a 4th of July sparkler posing as a welding tool, and some shots of all involved nodding knowingly, and somehow it totally works. Plus we get to see him put together all over again after he’s blown to bits at the end of his first battle.

I would love to see a wide screen version, as this was modified for TV at some point, but don’t touch those overdubs! Also, if someone has a theory on how the opening scene fits into the chronology of the film, I’m all ears. (DC)


NW: Nate Wilson  DC: Devon Cahill  HR: Heath Row  MA: Matt Average