Gravedigger: Hot Women, Cold Cash

GravediggerTitle: Gravedigger: Hot Women, Cold Cash
Author: Christopher Mills
Illustrator: Rick Burchett
Publisher: Action Lab: Danger Zone
Year: 2015

The first thing you’ll notice about the character, Gravedigger McCrae, is his resemblance to Lee Marvin. In my mind this elicits thoughts of Point Blank, The Killers and Prime Cut, which is quite okay if the story delivers that kind of tough guy mayhem and action. I am happy to report Mills and Burchett knock the ball right out of the park. It delivers exactly that type of action and more.

The two stories in this collection, The Predators and The Scavengers are first-rate, tight crime thrillers that are a great deal of fun to read. If you like Richard Stark’s (Donald Westlake) Parker novels – or the aforementioned Marvin flicks you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.

I can’t wait for more.

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Lie Catchers

Lie Catchers Cover imageTitle: Lie Catchers
Author: Paul Bishop
Publisher: Pro Se Productions
Year: 2015

Lie Catchers is a police procedural with a twist. The two heroes of the story, ‘Calamity’ Jane Randall and Ray Pagan, have unique gifts which aid their investigation. Randall is a synesthete – which means she can see when people are lying – and Pagan is an empath and can tap into how people feel. Together this odd couple must solve the mysterious abduction of two children in L.A.

At first glance, the two abductions seem unconnected. One child was the daughter of a big-shot music producer. The other was the son of a single-mom struggling to make ends meet. Their worlds could not be further apart. But there is a connection. Randall and Pagan must untangle a web of lies to get to the truth.

Lie Catchers had me engrossed from first page till last, and the universe created by author, Paul Bishop, is one I would gladly visit again.

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The Scroll of the Dead

ScrolloftheDeadTitle: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Scroll of the Dead
Author: David Stuart Davies
Publisher: Titan Books
Year: 2009

The Scroll of the Dead is a fast paced yarn that hits all the beats a Holmes and Watson story should. Some of the twists are a tad predictable, but don’t really detract from the story. The tale wastes little time getting started, assuming readers are already familiar with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson; their relationship, and the world they live in. It’s a fair assumption considering the amount of Holmes material in the marketplace – be it books, film, and television shows – and that number appears to be growing exponentially every day.

The story concerns the theft of a piece of ancient papyrus from the British Museum’s Egyptian collection. The papyrus was written by a high priest named Seraph, who was said to know the secret to eternal life. His coded text on the papyrus was a guide to the location of The Scroll of the Dead, which outlined his formula for achieving life beyond the normal plane of existence.

Naturally enough, evil doers who dabble in the black arts want the scroll and are prepared to kill to get it. The game is afoot, and treachery and deceit ensue.

While The Scroll of the Dead is a thoroughly entertaining read from go to whoa, if I have a problem with it, it’s that the coded secret of the papyrus is never revealed. Holmes cracks the code off screen, as it were, and the reader (and Watson for that matter – as he is the narrator) misses out on what could be argued is the most important piece of information in the case… Then again, somebody could suggest if I want that type of story, then maybe I should stick to Dan Brown!

None-the-less, The Scroll of the Dead is a fun adventure romp that can easily read in one or two sittings and should please most fans of Holmes and Watson.

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Welcome to the Jungle, Mr. Love!

Ambrosia V3My latest retro-spy thriller, THE AMBROSIA KILL was published last week by Pro Se Productions (you can track it down on Amazon or Smashwords if you’re so inclined), and I thought I’d tell you a little bit about it and some of my influences.

I am a big fan of spy stories from the 1960s, in both film and literature. It is therefore, not so surprising that I have set my Jarvis Love retro-spy series during that decade. I like the 1960s as a setting for several reasons. The first is simply escapism. I want readers to escape from their everyday lives for a few hours, and setting the story in the past gives me that opportunity. It’s another world – a simpler world – but one full of danger and excitement. I also don’t want technology to interfere with the story. I like the idea of a man (or woman) dropped into a foreign location and having to figure out things on the fly. No back up; no-one in an earpiece sharing the latest intel. I want the hero to work it out for themselves, and hopefully the reader will enjoy making the journey with them.

One of the tropes inherent in those classic spy stories from the ’60s was JET-SETTING or GLOBE-TROTTING. It was like a holiday on the printed page. The tales featured international globe trotting secret agents fighting crime and evil masterminds in exotic locales all around the globe. Beautiful people in beautiful locations doing particularly nasty things was the maxim. In some cases the stories were barely more than glorified travelogues, but the locations provided fantastic backdrops for the action. Perfect examples of these were the James Bond (I know Bond was first published in the 1950s), Matt Helm or Sam Durell stories, but even many of the lesser known tales of espionage liked to work in foreign locations. In fact, the locations used were often a selling points for these films or novels. If a spy story utilised an exotic location, it wasn’t unusual for that location to be mentioned in the title. The role call of destinations included, Our Man In Havana (book in ’58 / film in ’59), Funeral In Berlin, The Berlin Memorandum, That Man In Istanbul, Espionage In Tangiers, The Girl From Rio, Assassination In Rome, Our Man In Marrakech, Fury In The Orient, Hong Kong Hot Harbour, Our Man In Jamaica and many, many others. The tradition of globe-trotting is an element I have tried to incorporate in my spy stories. In THE LIBRIO DEFECTION (2012), I had G.I.N. operative Jarvis Love travel to Florence in Italy. For THE DANAKIL DECEPTION (2014), I went right off the beaten track, and took readers to Ethiopia and the volcanic desolate terrain of the Danakil Depression, the hottest place on earth.

For my latest novel, THE AMBROSIA KILL, I set most of the story on the island of New Britain, in the Bismark Archipelago. New Britain is one of the regions that make up Papua New Guinea, and much of the island, to this day, remains unexplored. So gear up for a rugged jungle adventure. It’s getting more and more difficult to find new locations to explore, but I like to think I have succeeded.

THE AMBROSIA KILL picks up right after the end of THE DANAKIL DECEPTION. The story finds Jarvis Love with a new assignment. Kerryn Foxworthy, the daughter of a prominent English Lord, has run off and joined a religious cult called the Twin Hearts of Fire. Their compound is in Almeria, Spain, and is run by a shadowy figure called Brother Myron. Love’s mission is to retrieve Kerryn and bring her back to London, however there is a catch. Accompanying him on the assignment is Kerryn’s twin sister, Merryn. Love is not pleased at the prospect of chaperoning the high-spirited young woman, but, as the mission progresses, Love finds himself falling for her. Love and Merryn succeed in rescuing Kerryn, but the cult sends out armed acolytes to stop them. The final confrontation occurs in a gas station in the Almeria Dessert. As Love attempts to escape with the Foxworthy girls, there is a tremendous explosion. The car they are traveling in is struck by the blast and overturns. Merryn’s face in burned. She will be scarred for life.

Love blames himself for the tragedy. Struggling to live with the guilt, he becomes addicted to seconal – or Red Devils – a drug that takes away his pain. He even contemplates quitting G.I.N. His superior, Rupert Fenwyck, knows the only way that Love will recover, is if he is thrown into the thick of it again. He assigns him to investigate the murder of a G.I.N. operative in Port Moresby – Papua New Guinea. It seems like a nothing assignment. The killer was shot during the attack, and died soon afterward. However, nothing is as it seems. Upon arrival, Love discovers the operative was looking into the disappearance of Professor Lincoln Jess, a prominent botanist, who had only recently returned from New Britain. The Professor’s most recent discovery is Bulbophyllum ambrosia, a blood red orchid with mind-altering properties. Used for good, it could cure anxiety and depression, but used for evil, it could be used for mind control.

After several attempts on his life, Love realizes the assignment is more complex than anyone could imagine. And soon finds himself teamed up with the Professor’s daughter, Miranda, and a jungle guide named Haggert. Their plan is to retrace the steps of Lincoln Jess – a journey into the wild unforgiving jungle of New Britain – a land full of danger at every turn. Naturally enough, the events in Spain still haunt Love. He is not keen to have Miranda along. He does not want to be responsible for her safety, fearing he may let her down. Concerned for her father’s safety, Miranda insists she make the journey, and Love can do little to stop her. Their expedition leads them to a lake in the black heart of the jungle. The final confrontation pushes Love and Miranda to the brink of human endurance. Can Love excise the demons of the past? Can he save Miranda from the horrors of the jungle? All this and much, much more, in THE AMBROSIA KILL. Welcome to the Jungle, Mr. Love!

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Happy New Year

G’day friends. Happy New Year to you all.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.54.59 amAs we say good bye to 2015, I thought I’d take a look back at the last twelve months and all that I acheived. On the surface, it didn’t seem like a very good year. There were some personal hurdles to climb – which I won’t bore you with here – suffice to say sometimes life can kick you in the guts when you least expect it. And on the writing front only three shorts stories were released. When I realized this, for a brief moment I was pretty down (Oh, shut up you whinger!) Then I sat down with pen and paper and jotted down everything I had achieved. It wasn’t so bad.

January saw the release of CUTTER’S LAW – the first story in the Vengeance trilogy – and a part of the Pro Se Single Shot Signature line. The follow-up stories, GET CUTTER! and CUTTER AND THE KINGSNAKE unfortunately got held up when the Signature series went off the rails. But I have been told the project should be back on track early this year – so hopefully those of you who have been waiting for the next installments will be rewarded very soon. The reviews for CUTTER’S LAW were great – most people seemed to get exactly what I was trying to do. Here’s a couple of snippets.

For readers mourning the demise of the famed Executioner series and the whole Men’s Action sub-genre subsequently spawned and reaching a fever-pitch peak in the ’70s and ’80s … take heart. In the capable hands of James Hopwood, a new kick-ass hero for the new century is at hand. His name is Nathan Cutter. He’s an ex Aussie soldier returned home for revenge and retribution and the Devil help anybody who gets in his way.

Wayne D. Dundee

This is all the men’s action stories I read in the 70’s & 80’s boiled down to their lean, bloody core. I enjoyed this story immensely. I miss action stories that don’t take 600 pages to get to the point.

J. L. Stubblefield

While I could not–and still can’t–decide whether this was supposed to be a throwback, homage, or parody of ’80s men’s adventure fiction, one thing that was never in doubt was how much fun I was having while reading it. It took all the vital elements of the genre–tough hero, tragic loss, big guns, high body count, etc.–and boiled them down to their bare bones essence in a brisk 25-page short story. Again, not sure how serious we’re supposed to take this stuff, but anyone who enjoys the genre cannot help but grin like an idiot when the hero emerges from a vehicle brandishing a Skorpion machine pistol in each hand and begins to simultaneously gun down the bad guys. Or even better, when the villain, on the cusp of his comeuppance, yells at Cutter, “Who are you?” and the only answer our hero gives is, “I am Vengeance!”

Mark Allen

BULLET GAL_Its Not You Its Me_Collection_COVERIn early April, the graphic novel, BULLET GAL: IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME, written by Andrez Bergen hit the shelves. Hidden in its pages,was a rather 80’s retro pin-up poster of the heroine cobbled together by me. My contribution won’t shake up the art world – or the comic book world either – but it was a fun project, and it’s nice to see it out there in the wild and to do something a little different. It is available from Underbelly Commix.

In May, UNDER THE RADAR, written by Aaron Smith, was released by Pro Se Productions. The novel, which is a rapid fire spy thriller, featuring globe trotting agent Richard Monroe, was edited by me. Despite fantastic cover art by Jeffery Hayes, the novel hasn’t received the recognition it deserves – so if you enjoy a good old fashioned spy story, check it out and give it some love. Monroe previously appeared in NOBODY DIES FOR FREE.

RadarSeptember saw the release on the 2015 WRITER’S BLOCK Anthology, which featured my short story SHERMAN’S SECRET. By nature I am a pretty shy guy, so getting out there and talking about my writing is difficult, but in early 2015, I started attending Writer’s Block. They are a truly a great support network – never judgmental – always encouraging, which has helped me more than I can say.

Through Writer’s Block I also wrote my first radio play. Entitled SONG BIRD, the piece was a tight little beat-the-clock thriller, set on the Mornington Peninsula. Unfortunately, the project seems to have stalled. Hopefully the wheels may begin to turn this year. It would be great to hear it on air sometime.

In October, THE GREAT BIG BOOK OF AWESOME ADVENTURE TALES was announced by Clan Destine Press. My contribution, THE LOST LOOT OF LIMA introduces two new heroes, Mark and Sarah Page – dubbed The Pages of History. This promises to be a fantastic collection of Antipodean adventure stories, and I can’t wait to see it hit the shelves in mid 2016.

Just before Christmas, LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION was released by the crew at Airship 27. The anthology is a benefit for friend, publisher, editor and mentor, Tommy Hancock. My contribution was a rollicking action-adventure tale entitled THE PIRATE KING.

So that brings up up to date. But what’s in store for 2016, I hear you ask? Of course, things may move about a little – and some things I can’t talk about – but here’s a few highlights for the coming year.

As I mentioned above, the VENGEANCE series should start up again very soon, so look out for GET CUTTER! and CUTTER AND THE KINGSNAKE. Also THE GREAT BIG BOOK OF AWESOME ADVENTURE TALES should be out mid year.

Ambrosia V3I am pleased to announce the next Jarvis Love novel, THE AMBROSIA KILL is just around the corner. I don’t have an exact release date, but start preparing now for the greatest thrill ride ever committed to the written page. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration – but believe me, I have pulled out all stops on this one. If you liked THE DANAKIL DECEPTION, then AMBROSIA is going to blow your mind. I kid you not!

In May, Beat Girls, Love Tribes, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980 will be released by Verse Chorus Press. Put together by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre, this promises to be an amazing book that every student of Pulp Fiction will need on their shelf. I have contributed a couple of articles and an interview with George Snyder – who wrote the OPERATION HANG TEN books. Here’s the spiel.

Beat GirlsThe first comprehensive account of the rise of youth culture and mass-market paperback fiction in the postwar period, Beat Girls is a must-read for anyone interested in retro and subcultural style and popular fiction.

As the young created new styles in music, fashion and culture, pulp fiction followed their every step, hyping and exploiting their behavior and language for mass consumption. From the juvenile delinquent gangs of the early fifties, through the beats and hippies, on to bikers, skinheads and punks, pulp fiction left no trend untouched. Boasting wild covers and action-packed plots, these books reveal as much about society’s desires and fears as they do about the subcultures themselves.

Featuring over 300 pulp covers, many never before reprinted, as well 70 in-depth author interviews and biographies, articles and reviews, Beat Girls offers the most extensive survey of the era’s mass market pulp fiction. Novels by well-known authors like Harlan Ellison, Lawrence Block, Evan Hunter/Ed McBain, and by filmmakers Samuel Fuller and Ed Wood Jr., are discussed alongside neglected obscurities and contemporary bestsellers ripe for rediscovery. More than 20 critics and scholars of popular culture contributed to this celebration of a fascinating body of work.

The western series I have teased on a few occasions has hit a few snags of late – and may be looking for new publisher. I hope it finds a new home and finally sees the light of day. There are also a few short adventure stories scheduled to appear in anthologies over the year, so keep your eyes peeled.

2016 promises to be a pretty exciting year for me, and I hope yours is too.
All the best, D.

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Legends of New Pulp Fiction

Legends

G’day everyone. I trust you had a great Christmas – and wishing you and yours all the very best for the New Year. I have just returned from a short break in the mountains (in Jindabyne) with family which was very pleasant and relaxing (and thankfully not too hot). On the downside I think I’ve put on a few extra kilos (ha ha). With turkey-drumstick in hand, while I manfully gazed at the lake and the wind rustled my unkempt hair, another of my stories escaped into the wild. It is called THE PIRATE KING and it’s part of a new anthology called LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. The book, which is an absolute monster – more like a phone book – is a benefit anthology for a gentleman named Tommy Hancock – who is editor-in-chief at Pro Se Productions (a US publisher who put out my first novel – THE DANAKIL DECEPTION – and have released several of my short stories). Earlier this year, Tommy was diagnosed with congestive heart-failure – and consequentially hit with medical expenses after undergoing treatment/surgery. The New Pulp community (of which I consider myself a part) decided to band together and see what we could do – the end result is a collection of rollicking adventure tales.

When the call was put out for stories, I immediately jumped on board, despite other writing commitments I had. The deadline for the submissions was tight too. I knew if I wasn’t going to let the team down, I wouldn’t have time for universe building – that is to say, start a story from the ground and work my way up. I needed characters and a world I was already familiar with. The obvious choice was Mace Bullard – a character from BISHOP & HANCOCK’S PULSE FICTION. Bullard is a character – a French Foreign Legionnaire – created by Paul Bishop. For PULSE FICTION, I took the character and ran with him in a story called HONOR OF THE LEGION.

I contacted Paul and asked if he had any objections to me using Bullard once again. He didn’t. With Paul’s blessing I was on my way. The resulting story, THE PIRATE KING was a blast to write – and while it is a Foreign Legion tale, it also harks back to great old-fashioned swashbuckler movies I used to watch as a kid, such as THE SEA HAWK, CAPTAIN BLOOD, THE BLACK SWAN and THE CRIMSON PIRATE – to name but a few.

I am proud to be a part of LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. From early on in my writing career Tommy Hancock has been there offering his support. Even before I was part of the Pro Se family, when I self-published my novella THE LIBRIO DEFECTION, Tommy asked me to appear on the PULPED podcast to talk about my work. He got nothing out of it – he was simply helping a new author get a little recognition and exposure for his work. Now, in my small way, I am glad I can repay not only that favor, but many others ever since. Thank you Tommy – all the best my friend.

The press release from Airship 27 follows…

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS
Proudly Presents
LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION

Earlier in the year we learned that New Pulp writer/editor/publisher Tommy Hancock was suffering from congestive heart-failure. A relatively young family man, this was a dangerous condition that threatened not only Tommy but his entire family. Almost immediately after this news was made public, several members of the New Pulp community began putting their heads together to see if anything could be done to help the Hancocks.

“Jaime Ramos proposed the idea of doing a benefit anthology,” says Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “It was such a great idea, I realized it needed to get done and we began planning such a project.” The first thing Fortier did was bring aboard his partner in Airship 27, Art Director Rob Davis. “There was no way this was going to fly without Rob handling the book’s overall artwork and design.” Fortier then went to Hancock and informed him of their plans. With Hancock’s blessings, he then posted an ad on Facebook explaining the project and seeking submissions from both writers and artists. “It was always our intention to do this as a traditional pulp tome and thus artwork would be a major element in the final product.”

Much to Fortier’s surprise, and delight, the first creator to volunteer his assistance was Douglas Klauba, one of the finest artists in the field. Klauba volunteered to paint the anthology’s cover once the book was assembled.

“Honestly,” Fortier confesses, “I was in shock. Doug is an amazing artist and his offering to do the cover was very much an omen that we were about to put together something truly unique.”

Within 48 hours after posting his recruiting ad, Fortier had received 57 commitments by New Pulp writers while 36 artists signed on to do the illustrations. Amongst these creators were some of the most popular New Pulp writers and artists in the field. In fact, getting so many promised stories in just two days, Fortier begrudgingly realized he and his associates were being handed a giant book and he publicly closed the admission call.

“It was crazy,” he recalls. “Fifty-seven stories in just two days! Of course there were naysayers who warned me we’d never get all of them. They were right, we got 62 instead.”

And so the project began with Fortier reading each entry and then assigning it to an artist to illustrate. Each tale features one black and white illustration. Ramos acted as his assistant editor proofing each story after Fortier. Then, months into the project, Ramos, who suffers from diabetes, found his own health in jeopardy and after having handled half the stories, was forced to sideline himself. What looked to be a major set-back was averted when writer/editor Todd Jones, a protégé of Fortier’s, volunteered to take on the task of finishing the proofing.

And so, after months of ups and downs. Airship 27 Productions is extremely proudly to present LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. A giant treasure chest of some of the finest New Pulp fiction ever produced in an 800 page collection. Representing the varied genres of pulp tradition, this volume features tales of horror, mystery, suspense, pirates, fantasy, private eyes, crime-busting avengers and westerns to name a few.

“Rob and I kidded during the long months of production that we had everything pulp save for a romance story,” quips Fortier. “Then in the final days of story submissions, we were sent a romance. No lie!”

LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION is now available at Amazon.com in both hard copy and on Kindle. All profits earned by this amazing book are going to Tommy Hancock and his family. Sure to become a valued collector’s item, LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION is a one of a kind title pulp fans young and old, will cherish in years to come.

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

Available now from Amazon and on Kindle.

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The Curse of the Sphinx (2008)

Curse of the SphinxAKA: Riddles of the Sphinx
Country: UK | Canada
Director: George Mendeluk
Starring: Dina Meyer | Lochlyn Munro | Mackenzie Gray | Donnelly Rhodes | Emily Tennant | Dario Delacio
Writers: Brook Durham | Kevin Leeson
Music: Michael Richard Plowman

The front cover for The Curse of the Sphinx DVD features the Sphinx coming angrily to life, a skeletal mummy dragging itself out of the earth, and a bi-plane fleeing from an explosion. The back cover has a lightning bolt – possibly the power of God – striking the top of a pyramid. Unfortunately none of these cliches are in the movie. However, another set of adventure movie cliches are present in their stead.

The movie begins with Thomas (Donnelly Rhodes), an aged archaeologist, discovering two parts of a key that will open a legendary secret chamber beneath the Sphinx, which houses the lost library of Alexandria. Accompanying him to the site is Jessica (Dina Meyer), who is armed and outfitted very much like Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. Thomas inserts the key and opens the chamber, however, a Sphinx – that is a head of a demon, body of a lion, and wings – bounds out of the temple and mauls everyone in its path. Jessica unloads her weapons at the beast but to no effect. In the end, Thomas sacrifices himself giving her time to escape.

She heads to America to notify Thomas’s son, Robert (Lochlyn Munro) of his father’s death. Robert wants to live a simple life. He is a history teacher at a high school, and has a teenage daughter, Karen (Emily Tennant), who he is bringing up on his own. He doesn’t want any part of his father’s globe trotting archaeological adventures. He soon finds out he has little choice when the Sphinx arrives at his home – having followed Jessica. Legend says the Sphinx must be killed in three days or a great plague will sweep the world. With the Sphinx trying to kill them, Robert, Jessica and Karen flee and reluctantly embark on a quest to solve a series of riddles – leading to the sites of several of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Their they will learn how to kill the Sphinx – and save the world from the plague. Before long, Robert is dressed in a leather jacket, wearing a battered fedora – looking every inch a cut-rate Indiana Jones.

The biggest problem with this film – ignoring the crappy CGI – is that doesn’t know if it’s a kid’s film (appropriate for 8-10 year olds) or a horror film. It probably works better as a kid’s film, as the horror moments (which are gory, rather than scary) appeared to be shoe-horned into the story.

At the end of the day, The Curse of the Sphinx is a harmless diversion, buoyed by the presence of Dina Meyer pretending she is Lara Croft – firing two pistols at the same time – which isn’t a bad thing.

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One Down, Two To Go (1982)

One DownCountry: USA
Director: Fred Williamson
Starring: Fred Williamson | Jim Brown | Richard Roundtree | Jim Kelly | Paula Sills | Laura Loftus | Joe Spinnell
Written by: Fred Williamson
Music: Herb Hetzer | Joe Trunzo

Featuring four of the biggest and baddest blaxploitation stars of the 1970s, Jim Brown, Richard Roundtree, Fred Williamson, and Jim Kelly, One Down, Two To Go is a kick-ass action adventure, written and directed by Fred “The Hammer” Williamson.

Watching movies is such a subjective thing. Reaction to, and appreciation for a film can be affected by so many factors. Where you alone or in packed cinema? Was the film viewed on a worn VHS tape, DVD, or Blu-ray disk? Did you see it at the cinema? Or did you see it on the big screen at 5:00 o’clock in the morning, the fifth film in an all-night Fred Williamson marathon? I ask these questions because they can truly change your perception of a film.

I have read some negative reviews of One Down, Two To Go that criticize the prolonged opening of the film, in which two of the film’s stars, Jim Brown and Fred Williamson, don’t appear for the first half hour or so. I understand that frustration. However, my experience, which was at a Fred Williamson marathon, is that the tension generated in that lead up is pivotal to enjoyment of this film. It is perfect timing. There was almost a tangible sense of electricity in the air, waiting for Jim and Fred to tun up on screen. I knew, when they stepped out of their cars – looking sharp and ready for business – ass was going to be kicked and the rulebook thrown out the window. I had to restrain myself from punching my fist into the air and whooping for joy. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s have a look at the story.

The film opens at the L.A. Tournament of Champions – a karate competition – and the two final teams are competing for the grand prize, four hundred thousand dollars. One of the teams is run by Chuck (Jim Kelly – Enter The Dragon), and as the first bout takes place, he notices his fighter is taking a lot more punishment than he should. He becomes suspicious – believing something fishy is going on. Chuck leaves his team in the care of his good friend, and promoter, Ralph (Richard Roundtree – Shaft), and heads back to the changerooms to investigate. There he discovers the opposition is loading their gloves with pieces of iron. It appears the manager of the opposition team, who has ties to a mobster, Rossi (Peter Dane) is looking to ensure he collects the grand prize.

However, before Chuck can report his discovery to the match referee, he is spotted and set upon by thugs working for Rossi. Chuck fights his way clear, but in the carpark, one of the thugs draws a pistol and shoots him in the shoulder. Though bleeding and in pain, Chuck manages to avoid capture and goes into hiding.

Meanwhile in the auditorium, when Chuck doesn’t return, Ralph realizes something has gone amiss. He searches for Chuck but cannot find him anywhere. Hiding in the shadows, Chuck makes his way to a bar, where his girlfriend, Trei (Paula Sills – who appeared in No Way Back with Williamson) works. Chuck knows mafia hoods will be watching and waiting for him, so he hides out back. When Trei steps outside to empty the trash, he asks her to contact Ralph, to arrange transport, so he can slip away. He also asks her to make two other phone calls. He has two friends (guess who?), whose help he is going to need if he is going to get out of this alive.

Trei makes the calls, and Ralph collects Chuck and Trei, and spirits them away to a safehouse on the edge of town. Unfortunately, that night, Ralph’s car is spotted by informers, and a cadre of goons is sent to the location to silence Chuck for good. When they arrive, Ralph is knocked unconscious, and Trei is sexually assaulted, but Chuck, once again, manages to escape disappearing into the woods.

But the hoods don’t intend to let up. They know Chuck will show up sooner or later. But what the hoods don’t count on is the arrival of Jay (Jim Brown – The Dirty Dozen) and Cal (Fred Williamson – Black Caesar). Jay and Cal don’t know what’s goin’ down, but know their friend is missing and needs help. They intend to get to the bottom of the mystery in their own unique way. Fists and bullets fly. Cars explode. General mayhem ensues.

As I mentioned at the top, sometimes One Down, Two To Go gets a bad rap. I thought it was an absolute blast from first frame to last – but I did watch it under different circumstances to most, and I am sure that colours my perception. My perception may also be clouded by the fact that so many of the current breed of action heroes are aided and abetted by CGI and special effects. I find it enjoyable, almost refreshing, watching a film such as One Down, Two To Go, where I see old school heroes doing their thing without the aid of visual trickery.

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The Land of the Pharaohs (1955)

LandofPharaohs3Country: USA
Director: Howard Hawks
Starring: Jack Hawkins | Joan Collins | Dewey Martin | James Robertson Justice | Alexis Minotis | Luisella Boni | Sydney Chaplin
Writers: William Faulkner | Harry Kurnitz | Harold Jack Bloom
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin

The Land of the Pharaohs is a film I have been trying to track down for years. Not that it was particularly hard to find, but I didn’t know its name. It’s one of those films I saw as a youngster on Saturday or Sunday afternoon television – and the ending has remained indelibly burnt into my brain ever since. I am relieved to have finally tracked it down, and I am pleased to say the film didn’t disappoint.

The Land of the Pharaohs is a big sprawling epic – with a cast of thousands – as they used to say. It is directed by the legendary Howard Hawks – although it is a very different type of movie to his usual output. Jack Hawkins stars as Khufu, the Pharaoh – the living god – the ruler of Egypt. As the film begins, he returns to Thebes, having won a war in Kush. It is an occasion of great pomp and ceremony. People line the streets as the Pharaoh and his men make their way into the city. Trumpets and horns blare and rose petals are thrown into the air. It is a celebration.

Not only has Pharaoh won the war, but he has increased his wealth – plundering riches and acquiring many slaves. It is revealed that Khufu is obsessed with acquiring gold. He believes it will serve him well in the afterlife (or second life as it is referred to in the film).

Leading the slaves brought to Thebes is a man named Vashtar (James Robertson Justice). Khufu has kept Vashtar alive because he is a master architect and wishes for him to construct a thief proof pyramid. If Vashtar does this, Pharaoh will let the slaves go free. Vashtar’s idea is simple – seal the corridors to the tomb with stone blocks. The stone blocks are engineered to hydraulically move into place (but rather than fluid to move the blocks, dessert sand is used).

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Work on the great pyramid begins, and for fifteen years workers toil away constructing the great stone edifice. Pharaoh becomes frustrated at the slow progress. He is told for the work to be completed faster, they will require more workers and more food to feed them. Pharaoh vows to get both – calling upon the surrounding kingdoms to pay tribute.

One kingdom doesn’t have the food to spare, and send Princess Nellifer (Joan Collins) instead. Pharaoh has a choice – he can either insist on tribute being paid (resulting in famine and starvation) or he can have Nellifer. Nellifer is spirited and defiant, but he chooses to keep her. That night, when he calls for her, she bites him. So much anger and hatred can only lead to one thing. Marriage. Yes, she becomes his second wife.

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However, Nellifer soon learns of the vast amount of treasure Khufu has accumulated and begins to plot and scheme to acquire it for herself. Aided of Treneh, the Captain of the Guard (Sydney Chaplin), a man infatuated with Nellifer, she puts in motion a chain of deadly events – moving her from number two wife, to number one.

The Land of the Pharaohs is a flawed film to be sure, some stilted dialogue, poor acting etc., but it is a big Hollywood spectacle that delivers on most fronts. It looks great, the score by Dimitri Tiomkin is rousing, and the climax… the climax to the film is just perfect, exactly the way I remembered it from all those years ago.

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Atomic Eden (2015)

Atomic EdenCountry: Germany | USA | Ukraine
Director: Nico Sentner
Starring: Fred Williamson | Mike Möller | Hazuki Kato | Lorenzo Lamas | Wolfgang Riehm | Nico Sentner | Everett Ray Aponte | Dominik Starck | Josephine Hies
Written by: Nico Sentner | Dominik Starck

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to attend the world premier of the thriller Atomic Eden at the Lido Cinema in Hawthorn. The movie was proceeded by an introduction by action superstar Fred Williamson, and a Q & A afterward. While many of Williamson’s contemporaries are in mothballs, at 78, he proves he still has the charisma and charm to entertain a crowd, and carry an action movie of this kind.

The plot for Atomic Eden asks more questions than it delivers, but it is pretty straight forward. It appears that at the end of the Second World War, the Nazis had a secret underground bunker in Chernobyl, where they were building a doomsday weapon called Eden. It is suggested nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, was to cover-up the Eden device’s location, so no-one would go looking for it. But now almost 30 years later, people can enter the site for short periods of time. The worry is, that someone may now try to retrieve the weapon. Of course the weapon can not fall into the wrong hands. An international team of mercenaries is sent in to retrieve it.

The team consists of Stoker (Fred Williamson) – the Team Leader, David (Mike Möller) – The Fighter, Reiko (Hazuki Kato) – The Samurai, Heinrich (Wolfgang Riehm) – The Priest, John (Nico Sentner) – The Sniper, Darwin (Everett Ray Aponte) – The Texan, Brenner (Dominik Starck) – The Blade, and Laurie (Josephine Hies) – The Rookie. The characters themselves are little more than broad stereotypes – but this works in keeping the story moving forward. In many respects, viewers already know the characters – for example Heinrich, the fighting priest is cut from the same cloth as Friar Tuck, and Darwin, the Texan gets to mouth ‘Don’t mess with Texas!’ after blowing someone away.

As the team head into the bunker to retrieve the weapon, they are set upon by an army of faceless killers – all wearing radiation suits and masks. The film then becomes a battle – eight against eight-hundred. Despite the modern trappings, this story is essentially a western – like The Alamo, a small desperate band trapped inside a building, trying to fight off a much larger force outside. Bullets and bombs fly. Blood is splattered. Ass is kicked.

The film is a low budget B-grade actioner, and knows it, so it works within its limits. The script doesn’t try to be more than it ever can be, simply pushing the story on. In it’s favour, it features no (or little) CGI. Filmed in ruins in East Germany, the crew were allowed to blow a lot of shit up – giving it a layer of authenticity not found in most modern action films.

But most of all, this film is fun. Great art, it aint – but as a low-budget kick-ass adventure film, it punches above its weight.

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