Ezekiel Hood: A Man Called Asshole Pre-Sale

My new ‘Ezekiel Hood’ 20,000-word novella ‘A Man Called Asshole’ drops on Thursday 31st January on amazon kindle. Price 99p / $1.27

It’s available for Pre-Sale Now!

Previous installment ‘Death Is My Bitch’ will be available FREE from that date until the following Monday.

Available at all amazon stores worldwide:

Amazon UK: http://tinyurl.com/ybxvwfnh
Amazon US: http://tinyurl.com/yd887pnd

A Man Called Asshole


Outlaw of Gor/Gor ll (1988)

Outlaw of Gor (1988)‘I was cleaning and polishing the vibrations of the home stone.’

A college Professor is drawn back to the alien world of Gor, where he once fought the tyranny of a warlord. The kingdom is now at peace, but its future are under threat from the machinations of the new Queen and her high priest…

Visitors to bookshops in the 1980s couldn’t fail to be familiar with the name of author John Norman, even if they had never picked up one of his titles. The ‘Gor’ series was a minor publishing phenomenon of its time; a series of adventures set on a medieval alien world very much in the manner of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Only with added sex. Although popular, they proved controversial; mainly due to some questionable philosophy and dodgy gender politics that suggested women would enjoy a subservient role to men. Not surprisingly, when it came to the movie adaptations, all this subtext was excluded in favour of a more homogenous, commercial approach.

The first of these was ‘Gor’ (1987), a dreary, by the numbers mixture of bare-chested heroes, inept swordplay, Oliver Reed in a silly helmet and a generous assortment of tired and well-worn genre clichés. It was generic at best, and completely without any personality of its own. Not surprisingly, it was both a critical and commercial flop, barely registering at the box office at all. So why on earth release a sequel? Well, mainly because it was already in the can. Cannon Films had the two films shot concurrently to save money.

So, apart from Reed, all our old friends from the first film are back. There’s anonymous hero Tarl Cabot (Urbano Barbierini), his big-haired lover Princess Talena (Rebecca Ferrati), King Marlenus (Larry Taylor), Queen Lara (Donna Denton) and high priest Xenos (Hollywood legend Jack Palance!) The megaphone’s been handed over to John ‘Bud’ Cardos, who once did bit parts in Al Adamson films such as ‘Horror of the Blood Monsters’ (1970) and replaced Tobe Hooper as director on ‘The Dark’ (1979) when the producers decided at the last minute to make the psychotic villain into an extra-terrestrial who could shoot laser beams out of his eyes.

We begin with (the somewhat unlikely) Professor Barbierini hanging out at a bar and looking down in the dumps, obviously having realised that marking term papers is a bit of a comedown after saving a kingdom by swinging a plastic sword. What makes things far worse is that he’s been saddled with motormouth ‘comedy’ sidekick Whatney (Russell Savadier). Within a minute, the audience is praying that he won’t be along for the ride on Barbierini’s inevitable return to Gor. Unfortunately, he is. On the plus side, he pretty much vanishes after the first 20 minutes of the film, which actually proves to be the best thing about the entire project!

From there, we’re treated to the usual run of captures, escapes, unconvincing fights, even less convincing swordplay and a climax so rushed and lame that it relegates our hero to the role of a pointless spectator. Palance was only in the last couple of minutes of the first film (presumably to get his name on it) and does little more here than wear a very silly hat and hang about a bit at the back looking pissed off. Sure, he gets to mix a few liquids in test tubes (very medieval) and snarl a few lines of dialogue, but he’s just playing second banana to Denton’s evil queen. There’s little sign of the enthusiasm that he brought to his similar role in seminal sword and sorcery crapfest ‘Hawk The Slayer’ (1980). It’s Denton who is chewing the scenery here, but her truly heroic efforts to liven things up are killed stone dead by the snail’s pace and predictable plot development.

Outlaw of Gor (1988)

‘Mark my words, I’ll win that Oscar one day…’

lt’s amazing to think that Palance picked up an Academy Award just three years after this, for his performance in ‘City Slickers’ (1991). Even that did little to revive his moribund career; his only other project of note being ‘City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold’ (1994) before his death in 2006. It’s a real shame as he was an actor with real power and proven screen presence who deserved much better.

But I actually feel sorrier for the palace guards here. They seem to have a very full job description. Duties include ‘Take Him Away’, ‘Seize Him’, ‘Bring Him’ and ‘Take Him To The Cells’. And they get shouted at an awful lot. Which is not very nice.

A wretched, feeble enterprise. ls it worse than the first film? Yes, it is. It really is. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

Fantômas: The Mysterious Fingerprint/Fantômas Contra Fantômas (1914)

Fantômas: The Mysterious Fingerprint (1914)

‘Give the police superintendent this when he comes to arrest me.’

Public opinion turns against Inspector Juve of the French Police after his failed attempts to apprehend master criminal Fantômas. Stripped of his position and thrown into jail, the detective is helpless as his friend Fandor tries to take down the villain and his gang of thieves and cutthroats alone…

Choosing to skip the next two novels in the literary series by authors Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain, director Louis Feuillade instead based the fourth film in his ‘Fantômas’ series on sixth volume ‘The Long Arm of Fantômas’. The reasons for this decision are unrecorded, but it may be that the themes of espionage and the theft of state secrets addressed in ‘A Nest of Spies’ and a foreign monarch accused of murder in ‘A Royal Prisoner’ were uncomfortable subject matter on the eve of the First World War.

The story begins with an intriguing setup. Inspector Juve of the Sureté can’t be further from ‘flavour of the month’ in the eyes of the Parisian public after being bested three times by the deadly masked man Fantômas. But it gets worse when the newspapers start to infer that there are more sinister reasons for his lack of success, rather than just a lack of competence. Soon, they are even suggesting that Juve and Fantômas are the same man and, somewhat bizarrely, the state prosecutor seems to believe them! Although the idea may seem outlandish, it’s worth pointing out that some commentators have said that if you read the first novel again with that in mind then it’s a definite possibility! Whether that was in the authors’ thoughts at the time of writing is unknown, of course, but further volumes do make it abundantly clear that it’s not the case.

Unfortunately, that initial plot device is about as good as it gets here, with the story development often contrived and stretching credibility. Why do the authorities persist in this sudden belief that Juve is Fantômas? It’s hard to understand to begin with — there’s no evidence! — and even more difficult to credit that he stays locked up for most of the picture. This puts his unofficial sidekick Fandor (Georges Melchior) front and centre, and he does make a pretty good job of rounding up the criminal gang in an abandoned house, but he is just a journalist! What are the police supposed to be doing all this time? Other than jailing an innocent man on the word of a few tabloid newspaper reporters, of course!

In fact, Juve has to prove his innocence from his cell, which is only possible when Fantômas makes a stupid attempt to prove his guilt beyond question. His method? To have Juve wounded in exactly the same way that he was the night before in a run-in with Fandor after a party. How Juve was supposed to have left his cell to attend this shindig doesn’t seem to have been considered. Did everyone believe that Fantômas had super powers, or something? The ending is also likely to provoke snorts of incredulous laughter from a modern audience; not just because it’s ridiculous and poorly executed, but simply because it’s so unbelievably lame.

Fantômas: The Mysterious Fingerprint (1914)

‘It was him! He’s the one who stole my right arm!’

Both books and films had settled into a comfortable groove by this point, with plots often seemingly designed simply to allow the main protagonists to spend as much time disguised as other people as was possible. And there are no sudden revelations of secret identities in the films; these are always clearly signposted as each begins with isolated shots of René Navarre’s ‘Fantômas’ in his various make-ups. This was probably designed to help keep the plot clear to the audience, but it robs the finished tale of any opportunity to surprise.

Curiously, the final cut runs just less than an hour, a similar length to the opening film in the series, but considerably shorter than the previous two, which both clocked in around 90 minutes. Yes, there is a scene missing (the Artificial Eye DVD release replaces it with an equivalent from one of the earlier films with explanatory captions) but this would add little to the overall running time, and it seems no other footage is missing.

A definite step down in quality from the first three films.

Agent Secret FX 18/FX 18 Secret Agent (1964)

Agent Secret FX 18/ FX 18 Secret Agent (1964)‘You’re much too beautiful to bother your head with such things.’

A painter is killed with a blow dart, and his apartment destroyed in an explosion. The special operative sent to investigate disappears, so top agent Francis Coplan is called back from vacation to undertake the mission…

Dire Italian-Spanish Eurospy effort with American actor Ken Clark as this week’s ‘Bond on a Budget’ carrying on in Rome, Marseille and on the island of Majorca. Guns, Girls and Gadgets? Well, yes…but only the girls appear with any frequency. Actually, it’s painfully obvious that this is an early example of a ‘007’ knock-off. The well-worn formula isn’t clearly established, and proceedings often resemble a simple international crime thriller, rather than anything else. Gadgets are restricted to a ‘cigarette’ blow gun, a trick gun and a toy radio antenna which allows transmission of coded messages inside a military zone.

Agent Secret FX 18/ FX 18 Secret Agent (1964)

‘Don’t look at me; I haven’t got a clue what’s going on either…’

This all makes more sense when you realise that Coplan was an existing literary character, created by Belgian authors Gaston Van Den Panhuyse and Jean Libert (writing as ‘Paul Kenny’). He’d already appeared on screen, being played by Henri Vidal in ‘Action lmmédiate’ (1957), and it seems obvious that he was simply co-opted as a convenient ‘Bond’ stand-in as a way to ride the wave of Connery’s global juggernaut.

So, how does it differ from the usual hi-jinks that became so familiar in the years that followed? Well, for a start, Clark is not a lone wolf. He has a team, as allocated by boss La Vieux (Jacques Dacqmine). This includes ‘stand-in’ wife Jany Clair and ‘comedy’ sidekicks Jean-Pierre Laverne and Lorenzo Robledo, who are given far too much screen time. At one stage, Clark’s under threat of getting completely sidelined by their laboured routines, which include a ‘hilarious’ knockabout fight sequence accompanied by music you might expect to hear in a two-reeler from the silent days. The IMF these guys are not.

There’s also a problem with our bad guys. To put it kindly, Noreau (Daniel Ceccaldi) and Barter (Claude Cerval) are completely anonymous, and we get no real idea about what they’re up to either. Their secret HQ is an ordinary private yacht, crewed by bit part thugs and pretty girls Cristina Gaioni and Margit Kocsis. Clair’s character is also a bit of a puzzle. To begin with, she’s an iceberg and rebuffs Clark’s smarmy advances, but, in the blink of a false eyelash, she’s in love with him! At times, it seems she’s in the film simply to be slapped around and tortured, but she does get to prove her spy credentials late on, via the twin mediums of Landrover and machine gun.

Coplan returned for 5 further big screen adventures in the 1960s; played by a different actor on each occasion, including Englishman Richard Wyler in ‘Coplan FX 18 Casse Tout’ (1965), which saw Dacqmine reprise his role and Clair return as a different character. We also got Lang Jeffries in ‘Coplan Ouvre Le Feu A Mexico (1967) which also starred Sabine Sun, who has a small role here. Co- writer/director Maurice Cloche did it all again with the unrelated ‘Agent X-77 Orders to Kill’ (1966), which was a little better, and Clark ranked up a trio of appearances as Dick Malloy, beginning with ‘Agente 077 Missione Bloody Mary’ (1965).

This is an unfocused, dreary slog through one of the dullest espionage adventures imaginable. A truly lousy viewing experience.

Raiders of the Sun (1992)

Raiders of the Sun (1992)‘Hey, relax, man! Take a laxative.’

In the aftermath of the nuclear war, the democratic Alpha League struggle to rebuild civilisation and maintain law and order. Their existence is threatened by groups of well-armed renegades and the conflict turns on which side will be able to acquire new sources of gunpowder…

No-one travelled into the atomic wasteland more often that Pilipino director Cirio H Santiago. Even more than a decade after Mel Gibson hit it big as ‘The Road Warrior’ (1981), he was still making the trip. This time out our small budget ‘Mad Max’ is Aussie martial-artist Richard Norton (again!) who dispenses post-apocalyptic justice via his considerable brawn and arsenal of automatic weapons. But, unusually, instead of just focusing on him, we get two heroes for the price of one, and we spend a fair amount of time in the company of each on his solo adventures before they join up for the big finish.

Typically, Norton is the lone wolf, who doesn’t want to get involved. Everyone is an enemy to him, until a skirmish goes bad and he is nursed back to health by the mysterious Lani Lobango in her native village. This ‘lost’ kingdom is conveniently located in a thriving rainforest that has somehow escaped the holocaust (as rainforests do) and just happens to be sitting right slap-bang on top of a pile of explosive black powder. Of course, the Head Man wants nothing to do with Norton or his violent ways, until the villainous William Seis and his black-clad associates come a-calling.

ln the other narrative strand, we follow good guy soldier Talbot (Blake Boyd), whose homecoming is rather spoilt when the wife (Brigitta Stenberg) is kidnapped by unscrupulous warlord Hoghead (Rick Dean). Boyd infiltrates the tyrant’s gang, a process which involves a rather impractical ‘fight to the death’ while swinging from ropes. The Thunderdome it ain’t. Stenberg is worth it, though, as she’s not just eye-candy, getting free on her own and icing one of the main villains with a car. She does hand the wheel to Boyd afterwards, though, which is a bit disappointing, and not a great tactical move when you’re desperately trying to escape from a gang of well-armed cut-throats.

Raiders of the Sun (1992)

Getting a signal after the apocalypse was a pain in the ass…

This was a Roger Corman production, so it’s highly likely the split narrative was down to cost-cutting. Perhaps two crews were shooting simultaneously, as they used to do for old movie serials, or perhaps it was down to the availability of the actors, or other filming logistics. Surprisingly, some of the scale is quite impressive, especially in terms of the number of extras dodging flash grenades and jumping off rocks in the battle scenes.

At least it is until you realise that a lot of it is just footage from the director’s own ‘Wheels of Fire’ (1985) and ‘Equaliser 2000’ (1987). To be fair, it’s not that obvious, although it probably helped that both Norton and Seis originally appeared in the latter of the two older films!

Norton certainly had some good moves, and the (sadly) brief combat scenes where he uses them are the best thing in the picture. These days he’s working in Hollywood as a stunt man on such major projects as ‘Suicide Squad’ (2016) and ‘Ghost ln The Shell’ (2017). Rather brilliantly (and perhaps inevitably!), he also appeared on screen as part of the cast of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015).

This effort was written by old hand Frederick Bailey, who was also behind the word processor for Santiago’s ‘Future Hunters’ (1985), as well as the afore-mentioned ‘Wheels of Fire’ (1985) and ‘Equaliser 2000’ (1987), in which he also had an acting role. His story hits all the same old familiar beats, never straying far from the well-worn template for this kind of adventure. Villains only seem to have guns when it’s not inconvenient for our heroes, or simply forget to use them.

A predictable and anonymous project.

Savage Mutiny (1953)

Savage Mutiny (1953)‘Well, Major, you’ve no doubt been wondering about the scientific expedition I brought in here last week…’

Leading a force of government troops, Jungle Jim wipes out a cell of foreign agents living in the interior. This clears the way for ‘Jungle Project X’; the first atom bomb test to be made in Africa. But some of the enemy spies are still around and plan to disrupt the project by stirring up the local population…

The tenth of the ‘Jungle Jim’ series finds muscle-bound ex-Tarzan Johnny Weismuller in gainful employment as some kind official enforcer for the Anglo-American government. Yes, he’s no longer working as a trail guide (specialising in the discovery of lost cities, fabulous diamonds and missing scientists) but rooting out the Commie threat on behalf of Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam Katzman, that is. Yes, the penny-pinching producer serves up yet another slice of no-budget jungle fun with the help of veteran director Spencer Gordon Bennet and writer Sol Shor.

After clearing out the local Red Threat (or so he thinks!), Weismuller heads back to HQ for to his next mission. Chief of Staff Major Walsh (series veteran Lester Matthews in yet another different role) is under orders too; those of ‘radioactivity expert’ Dr Parker (Nelson Leigh). The boffin is planning to drop an atom bomb on the island of Tulonga (the name of which has been helpfully added to the printed wall map in marker pen). Matthews points out that the island is inhabited, but Leigh assures him that it’s the perfect place to test the effects of radioactivity, so it’s all fine. The native tribe can just come to the mainland for a holiday. They might have never left the island before, but Matthews reckons Weismuller can relocate them all in a couple of days.

Savage Mutiny (1953)

‘Come on, lads, we’re only 4-0 down and we’ve got the wind with us in the second half…’

Obviously, it’s not entirely fair to impose modern day attitudes on a piece of entertainment more than half a century old, but it’s still eyebrow-raising when Wesimuller simply goes along with all this. Especially considering he’s supposed to be a long-time friend of the tribe’s headman, Chief Wamai (Charles Stevens, born in Arizona). Still, I guess that uprooting a unique indigenous people from their natural environment and obliterating their culture and homeland with an atom bomb isn’t that bad, is it? The government are going to rebuild their village and let them move back a week or so afterwards!

Also on the plus side, they’re going to get inoculated against any nasty, civilised germs by Angela Stevens from the World Health Organisation. Unfortunately, she loses her ‘carrying case containing the vaccine’ during the journey. Yes, Weismuller retrieves it from some stock footage hyenas, but the description kind of suggests that one shot of something is all they’re going to get anyway. With that quality of medical care, it’s no surprise they start getting seriously ill once they’ve made the trip, but it’s actually because they’ve been sprayed with radioactive dust by despicable commie trader Kroman (played by Gregory Gaye; a real live Russian, ladies and gentlemen!) All of which goes to show that the nasty effects of radiation exposure were even known to Hollywood scriptwriters at the time. As was the fact that you can survive a nuclear explosion by turning your back and simply looking the other way. You don’t even have to lie down. Which is good to know.

Director Bennet was a Hollywood veteran who spent many years working on movie serials, and there’s a sequence in a burning hut that will ring a bell with any fans of that medium. Likewise, author Shor was a regular on the staff at Republic Studios, contributing with a stable of writers to such classic chapter plays as ‘The Adventures of Captain Marvel’ (1941), ‘The Drums of Fu Manchu’ (1940), ‘The Mysterious Dr Satan’ (1943) and ‘The Crimson Ghost’ (1946). But the presence of these two stalwarts adds little that’s new to the seasoned formula; Bennet having already directed ‘Voodoo Tiger’ (1952) in the series, and going on to helm ‘Killer Ape’ (1953) and final entry ‘Devil Goddess’ (1955).

One of the better entries in the ‘Jungle Jim’ series when viewed today, but most of the enjoyment comes from the dated aspects of the story, rather than from anything that the filmmakers put up on the screen intentionally.

Tamba (the talented Chimp) probably does more backflips in this one than any other, though. So,there is that. You know, for die-hard Tamba fans…

The Worst of 2018

Yes, all too soon it’s that time of the year. A time for reflection, to pause for thought, to wonder why I wasted my time watching all this cinematic dreck. As usual, I’ve listed what I feel are the worst 30 films that I sat through. But, first, a word of explanation!

It has been pointed out that my blog seems to be missing some big hitters in the bad movie department. Where is my review of ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ (1959) for instance? Where are my posts on ‘Robot Monster’ (1953), ‘The Creeping Terror’ (1964), or ‘Attack of the 50-Foot Woman’ (1958)?

Well, the reason is simple. I only review films on a first watch, and I saw all those movies years before I started this blog. Decades, in some cases! It’s why you won’t find any of the Universal classic monsters here, or many examples of 1950s science-fiction, Ed Wood projects, or Hammer Horrors. I’ve already seen them all (or almost all…!)

I’ve been watching cult movies for most of my life, and I have little desire to re-visit most of what I’ve already seen (can you blame me?) After all, there are always delicious new horizons of weirdness to explore! And what can anyone really say about ‘Plan 9’ that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before?

However, there’s always an ‘exception that proves the rule’ (a nonsensical phrase if ever there was one!), and that is ‘Santa Claus Conquers The Martians’ (1964). I wanted an appropriate movie for Christmas Day, so I watched it again. Obviously, this was an error of judgement on my part. A big error. As a re-watch, it doesn’t feature on the list below, but would be quite high if it did.

My sympathies if you’ve ever suffered through any of these:

  1. Lemon Grove Kids Meet The Monsters (1964) (d. Ray Dennis Steckler/Ted Roter)
  2. The Sky Divers (1963) (d. Coleman Francis)
  3. Come Spy With Me (1967) (d. Marshall Stone)
  4. Star Odyssey/Sette Uomini D’Oro Nello Spazio (1979) (d. Alfonso Brescia)
  5. Santo and Blue Demon Versus The Monsters (1970) (d. Gilberto Martinez Solares)
  6. Beyond the Bermuda Triangle (1975) (d. William A Graham)
  7. Adventures of Captain Africa, Mighty Jungle Avenger! (1955) (d. Spencer Gordon Bennet)
  8. Dr Orloff Against The Invisible Man (1970) (d. Pierre Chevalier)
  9. Stargames/Star Games (1998) (d. Greydon Clark)
  10. Alabama’s Ghost (1973) (d. Fredric Hobbs)
  11. Ultra Warrior (1990) (d. Kevin Tent/Augusto Tamayo San Román)
  12. Jungle Jim In The Forbidden Land (1952) (d. Lew Landers)
  13. Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century (1977) (d. Gianfranco Parolini)
  14. Mysterious Two (1982) (d. Gary Sherman)
  15. Manhunt In Space (1955) (d. Hollingsworth Morse)
  16. The Embalmer/Il Mostro Di Venezia (1964) (d. Dino Tavella)
  17. The Beast From The Beginning of Time (1965) (d. Tom Leahy)
  18. Luana, The Female Tarzan (1968) (d. Roberto Infascelli)
  19. Chloe, Love Is Calling You (1934) (d. Marshall Neilan)
  20. The Phantom (1931) (d. Alan James)
  21. Assignment Skybolt (1968) (d. George G Tallas)
  22. A Scream In The Night (1935) (d. Fred C. Newmeyer)
  23. Night of A Thousand Cats/La Noche De Los Mil Gatos (1972) (d. Rene Cardona Jr)
  24. Code 7 Victim 5! (1964) (d. Robert Lynn)
  25. The Big Blackout/Perry Grant, Agente Di Ferro (1966) (d. Luigi Capuano)
  26. The Wizard of Oz (1925) (d. Larry Semon)
  27. James Tont Operazione U.N.O./Goldsinger (1965) (d. Bruno Corbucci/Giovanni Grimaldi)
  28. Night of The Cobra Woman (1972) (d. Andrew Meyer)
  29. Slaughter Hotel/La Bestia Uccide A Sangue Freddo (1971) (d. Fernando Di Leo)
  30. James Tont: Operazione D.U.E. (1966) (d. Bruno Corbucci)

What have I learnt from watching all these movies this year?  Radiation can be carried around in a box and gets in through the eyeballs, skydivers really like coffee, Frankenstein’s Monster can drive a car, giants are really just tall werewolves, you can rebuild the world after the nuclear holocaust by watching half a dozen old videotapes, and the land of oz isn’t somewhere over the rainbow at all, it’s just down the road.

Happy New Year!