Jean Claude Van Who? The Germans love Vincent Klyn!
When video hounds think of Albert Pyun and the Post-Apocalyptic genre they are sure to look right at Cyborg or Nemesis, but perhaps the most Pyunimatic of all his burnt out wastelands is the excellent and more than slightly eccentric KNIGHTS. Not only does it feature the cyborg vs. human theme, but it mixes in a Deathlands style world of wandering nomads and tribes…and oh yeah…VAMPIRE CYBORGS!! Led by Lance Henrikson who mutters to himself and threatens innocents with a giant blood draining arm. And lets not forget the awesome, and criminally underused in films, Kathy Long.
We meet Nea as she recounts “another time” of violence when cyborgs first came to power and began to use the blood of humans to power their systems-or to join the army as servants to further the cause of the VampBots. As a child her tribe is laid to waste by the cyberprophet Job (Henrikson) and she escapes with only her little brother as comfort…but the world is harsh and Nea is forged into a fighting machine, something it seems that Kathy Long had little trouble bringing to the screen. All grown up, Nea has little luck avoiding the know dominant cyborg and human armies. When all appears lost, she crosses paths with another cyborg-the one sent to destroy all of the nasty ‘borgs, Gabriel, played shockingly well by Kris Kristofferson! Her grit seems to appeal to Gabriel and he takes her in and trains her to become a one woman Mechano-Masher…
Many many cyborgs and goons get thrashed, kicked, stabbed, slashed and basically fucked up. Wonderfully.
When Gabriel is destroyed, Nea takes up the cause-even going so far as to form a Crippled Masters duo with Kris Kristofferson’s torso (how many people can say that?)-and they challenge Job in his own pit of peril.
When it all comes to the end of it’s all to brief running time, we learn that there is a Cyborg City and that we are being told this tale is just a beginning of a time and space spanning epic. I NEED MORE KNIGHTS!!
While it lacks the polish of Cyborg and Nemesis in some respects, Knights is classic Albert Pyun action film making. It plays everything straight ahead, but also shows off Pyun’s singular sense of imagination AND twisted humor at turns. Everything comes together and the film never feels like it over reaches itself, relying only on a few mechanical special effects and a whole lot of very good fight choreography. The story is fairly stock, but again spiced up with the biblical references and blood drinking cyborgs (never mind the ominous MASTER BUILDER flying on a hang glider!)-you can’t help but see the stamp of the director in every aspect.
The center piece of the film would be Kathy Long and all the fighting of course. A real life fighter and self defense specialist, she brings an urgency to her fight scenes that is rare. She has a fascinating look and gets a wardrobe that makes her look perfect as the toughened nomadic warrior she becomes after Gabriel’s training sessions. Watching her taunt Vincent Klyn before kicking his ass is just fantastic. Toss in Gary Daniels and a damn good stunt double for Kris Kristofferson and you have some interesting fights. Best of all though, once the film hits the one hour mark it goes from having a lot of action to being ALL action as Nea mows down the armies of Job, both human and cyborg-punctuating her actions with knives to heads and some wicked looking knees.
Yeah, I’m a fan… I could not find a fight coordinator listed in the credits, but these are all well done, which is hard enough, never mind in the 90s US direct to video market. This one also features a really well done training section, it reminded me of Duel to the Death directed by Ching Siu-Tung..but without all those wires getting in the way. And shot on a dime.
The usual suspects appear as well, Scott Paulin turns in an excellent performance as the first big challenge for our heroes, Simon. He gets the vibe perfectly, playing his dialog with a humorous edge that doesn’t fall in to “hey, this is silly stuff-why are you watching” territory without emoting all that seriously about the rule of the VampBots either. Who knew that Scott Paulin and Kris Kristofferson could have an action packed fight? Not me! Also look for Nicholas Guest early on…and Vincent Klyn being ordered to deal with some Pumpkin Heads…
The ending is frustrating in that it is satisfying, but then leaves on a cliffhanger that has yet to be resolved (and that means that all these years later I think it could still happen)-Nea finds her brother only to have him snagged away by the mysterious Master Builder. And then we realize again that this story is a flashback AFTER some grand adventure. Alright, we know there is a NEMESIS / CYBORG film coming, but toss in some Nea goodness… CYBORG KNIGHTS…THE NEMESIS DAWN!
While there is no really good DVD release or anything of that nature, find yourself a copy of KNIGHTS and enjoy one of the best Female Kickboxer battles Armies of Unliving Bloodsucker Vampire Cyborgs films ever shot. Today!
Heatseeker is my favorite cyborg kickboxing tournament film. Now, that may not be a huge genre, but it should be! Could there be anything better than a bunch of fight scenes, well staged ones at that, which end with head stompings that reveal smooshed up cyberfaces? Nope? Heatseeker gives you exactly what you want if you are watching it, and as a piece of the Pyuniverse it delivers in spades!
Keith Cooke stars as Chance O’Brien, kickboxing champion. When we first meet him he is delivering a beat down to Xao, played by the always welcome Gary Daniels-the only guy that could play a Wing Chun practicing CyberFighter that wears white hi-top sneakers! With his gal pal / trainer Jo (the beautiful Pyun regular Tina Cote) looking on, Chance is on top of the world of ass kickers. Too bad for him the Sianon Corporation wants to make an example of him in their big Cyborg Enhanced Kickboxing Challenge Of The Century For All The Money In The CyberEnhancedCyborgKickBoxer Market DeathMatch Battle. The creepy Tsui Tung, played with massive screen devouring presence by Norbert Weisser, puts his life on the line with the even creepier board of directors of his MegaCorp-and that includes a red haired and long fingernailed Tim Thomerson as Fu Man Pyun! Tung captures Jo, implants her with a chip that makes her passive enough for him to use the Tung Tongue on her-and forces her to work with Xao to not only train him, but show him LOVE!!!
Chance fights, tournament battles of varying awesomeness occur, and Xao rips through his competition as Chance seeks to find his way back to Jo and out of the cyberfisticuffs alive. Lucky for him, the always cool Thom Matthews is around as a CyberCEO / Fighter working for the bad guys who helps him along. A fight is about to happen, and we know what it is…who will survive, what percentage will be left of them, and could we get one additional nude scene with Jo? Well, I’m hopeful…
Heatseeker is a fun film in a little sub genre of martial arts that benefits from some really strong fight choreography by Burton Richardson-so if you want low budget ass kicking with a little cybertwist than you should already be satisfied by this film. But for Pyuniversal Soldiers this film is total paydirt! Every bit as eccentric as an Albert Pyun film should be, it takes that familiar tourney trope and twists it all over the place by adding odd detail upon weird visual in every scene. Heatseeker isn’t looking to revolutionize science fiction fight flicks, but I doubt you’ll see another one like it.
First off, we have the Pyun Players in full effect. Keith Cooke, who I always associate with China O’Brien (for better or worse) is really game to be earnest at times and then run around naked through the Phillipines at others. This scene is hysterical as it takes the serious “Will I be able to save my lady love” moment of Dudley Do-Rightism and slings a real bit of what in the Sam Hill are the people on the streets thinking as they cower from the cameras and the naked white guy surrealism. Also, Cooke may not be a master thespian, but he does great cinematic kung fu kicks and facial expressions. I’m ready for Heatseeker 2 Mr. Pyun…today. Kathy Long and Keith Cooke would make a great pair of Mutated MMA Fighters…but I digress. Thom Matthews is funny and does all his fight scenes proud-but it isn’t his acting or fighting I’ll remember, it is his clothes. The guy looks like a giant Kung Fu Christmas Tree in weird suits and strange hypnofashions that you can laugh at, but not in front of Big Brandon! He’d kick your head to a mess of circuits and pseudoflesh! I love Tina Cote’s look in this film, she has a great face and can rock the short and spiked up hair cut with great aplomb-and manages to keep a mostly straight face as she acts frozen and gets munched like 25 pages of script in one reading by Norbert Weisser.
And speaking of the man…Norbert Weisser may have his best scene of all Pyuntime here as he explains that his cyborg friend just needs LOOOOOVE!!! I’m going to try and get that clip for preservation on the Pyuniverse. I can’t stress it enough-Weisser is great and he puts everything out there in this film. Watch as he rubs Thom Matthews leg a little bit closer to the epicenter of his chi than was probably in the script…I don’t know how anyone works across from him when he is in the zone. Truly awesome. Norbert Weisser…you are the maximum Pyunamatic Performer!
And that brings us to Gary Daniels. He can go either way for me…he does great screen kung fu, but many of his non-HK films don’t really use him very well. Not so here, his fights as Xao are excellent, if not a bit brief because he is putting over how powerful the character is. Maybe less personality and more fist flinging suits him. He was the same way in Fist of the North Star and that turned out great.
Pyun pulls out the stops, using the weird lighting effects and letting the fight scenes work for themselves without a ton of additional editing. The man knows Cyborg Kickboxing, sit back and let him drive… Joined by the boopdadeeboopchakkachakkaPYUNPUMPINchakaboom score by Tony Riparetti-the two are an audio visual Cerebrus (the third head is George Mooradian) and Heatseeker delivers what was expected and as happens in the best corners of the Pyuniverse, much much more for those wearing the proper tuning gear in their teeth!
Albert Pyun, the maverick mayhemist behind the camera for some of the most unique cinema I can think of is always near and dear to my celluloid driven heart. He has a new website RIGHT HERE that you can check out. There are lots of good reasons to pop in and see some new things, some older ones and definitely some new looks at some of his better known flicks as well.
I’ve definitely written a lot about him over the years, and have a shared blog called THE PYUNIVERSE as well.
But you know how blogs go. Things slip down into the cracks of time and get lost. This blog has nearly 1000 posts! So, I’m going to give the man a bump for the next few days and maybe you’ll discover a new film or be encouraged to check out an old one. IMPACT On Demand is playing BLOODMATCH, so check it out. It’s anything but the average kickboxing flick!
Sometimes you put a disc in the player and know what you are going to get. Sometimes you put a disc in the player and you don’t get what you expected at all. With Albert Pyun movies this is usually a good thing. The artwork makes this look like another Kickboxing Tournament of Doom film-and I love those… but Bloodmatch is not exactly that. Well, it isn’t that at all.
Brick Bardo is pissed off. Really pissed off. Good thing he is played by Thom Matthews, who gets to put his Friday The 13th gained skills in to action as the damn near psychopathic fist n’ foot flinging nutjob who is on a trail of vengeance. After his brother is killed for not fixing a kickboxing match he is out to find those responsible. After torturing a guy in the middle of nowhere for the opening 10 minutes of the film he gets a short list of names. All kickboxers, all champions and all ready to participate in a Bloodmatch…well, they better be, because Brick and his lady friend are setting them up and kidnapping them all. Some get sexed and snatched, others have family threatened and some are just damn curious as to why the hell a guy named BRICK is so pissed off.
This takes about 45 minutes to play out, but it is sort of fascinating as the action quotient is down to nil so far, minus one nifty fight that includes Vincent Klyn as a bad guy. But it isn’t the action (in a kickboxing film??) that sold me on this one. Thom Matthews is excellent as we watch Brick Bardo’s mind unravel in his quest for vengeance, blinded to the reality that he is now far worse than the people he is punishing he just devours up the script and spits it out with total commitment. Oh, and he rivals the best pro-wrestlers out there for putting on his “rrrrrrrrrr…I dislike you very strongly!!” face.
The promised Bloodmatch section of the film fills up the second half of the running time and is a mixed bag. On the plus side we have a great bit of screen kicking and battling as Brick faces off against Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez, and each fight actually carries the story momentum that Pyun and crew have built up to be satisfying. Brick becomes more repugnant than the four “guilty” parties-which has a screwy twist in the end to boot. Honestly, it all gets a little unclear before leading up to a final battle. But, you can salvage a plot twist that goes awry with a good fight. It isn’t a great final battle, but again-the kickboxin’ berserker that Matthews portrays is so demented by the end you can’t help but root for the “wrong” side! I’m sure this was the intention and it really plays in to my “Familiar Tropes, Strange Takes” theory of Pyunotronic Cinema-viewers looking for a fight flick to pass the time with may be surprised by what they have here. Disappointed? Possibly. But if you are in the Pyuniverse you might be going in the opposite direction-avoiding it because it appears to be just another fight film. That would be like calling Deceit a Trancers style film-sure you have cops from odd places and fights, but they are nothing alike.
The upsides consist of Matthews as Brick Bardo, one of the more memorable characters in 90s kickboxing cinema, some cool Riparetti cues, cameos by Klyn, Qissi (ain’t no Faux Po here baby!) and the always welcome Benny The Jet. Also, I’ve begun to see that Albert Pyun really seems to shoot most of his sex scenes from the same angles and finds women with bodies that look good from behind. Hey, here in the Pyuniverse we get in to minutia. Marianne Taylor may not have done a heck of a lot, but George Mooradian and Albert Pyun could light and film her ass(ets) with great skill. Overall, I’d call this a film that has enough strength to overcome the weaknesses. But there are one or two parts that erode the complete success of the film.
I’m not going to pick on Hope Marie Carlton too much, she looks good and handles most of the dialog well enough. That final fight though…kickboxing champion is a tough sell when you look like you are lining up to play with a beach ball in a battle to the death. Bonus though for not being shy in front of the camera. What definitely bugged me however was the editing. I get very itchy when the CHOP/EDIT/CHOP/EDIT school of kung fu fighting is employed, but Bloodmatch has a very unique spin on that. Very unique. In most of the fights almost EVERY move is shown 2 to 4 times from different angles. Uh…once in a while to punctuate something cool, I get it. I actually like it. Low kick (x4), Low kick (x4), punch (x2) and fall (x3) should be input for a Street Fighter game and not in the editing suite in my opinion. Most of the fighters look way more proficient than this and if it had only been used to cover up the Carlton Fu I would be good… Somehow the Urquidez fight overcomes it however…maybe I’m just a big fan of The Jet and was missing seeing him in action.
Overall, Bloodmatch is not the greatest kickboxing movie you could find, but it is funky and odd and unique and ambiguous and well acted for the most part. It has nudity. It has fights. It has you wondering what the heck is going on! I recommend it if you want something totally strange that also has kickboxing scenes. Hell, it is worth watching just to see Thom Matthews grit his teeth…and then kick other guys teeth out!
I was THRILLED to get my Cyborg Director’s Edition, which I will no think of as SLINGER, in the mail. Director Albert Pyun was signing each copy sold and I was thrilled to see a “how would you like it signed” box on the order form.
Now, anyone that knows me can attest to my rather wordy nature. Hell, you are reading this, so you know. If you ever need a thousand plus words on an Italian Adam and Eve exploitation film, I’m your guy… So here is what I requested–and received!!
“From the edges of THE PYUNIVERSE…straight to a PYUNIVERSAL SOLDIER…THE SLINGERS SHALL RISE!!” – Signed by Albert Pyun.
Yes, there is a happy nerd typing this right now.
I was thrilled for all the denizens of the Pyuniverse today! Opening up my email and finding the following is pretty exciting. I posted a clip of the quality on the release, so definitely keep in mind you are watching a time coded telecine from a long way back, that has sat on VHS for decades before you leap in and expect a “restored” film. This is an exciting opportunity to sit back and check out what one of Albert Pyun’s most recognized films would have been like if he had retained control over the final cut.
I can’t wait!
Here is the email from Curnan Pictures…