Italian Action Explosions!! Cult Cinema Corner gets Z Listed!

You can check out tonight’s radio show on Action, Peter North Poles, Manhunter Dongs, Werner Pochath Disco music, Reb Brown and MORE right here!!

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The Last Match! Exploding Footballs of Fury!

The Last Match

1990-Fulvia Film
Directed by Fabrizio De Angelis (Larry Ludman)
With: Oliver Tobias, Melissa Palmisano, Charles Napier, Ernest Borgnine, Henry Silva
“Tomorrow we start to play the most important game of our lives!”
In a genre that thrives on the absurd The Last Match may be the most absurd film to lumber forth from the Italian action boom. Only the mind of “Larry Ludman” could spawn so idiotic a premise, going on to create a lasting masterwork of cult action nonsense. Footballs, grenades, helicopters, strip searches and barking Borgnines combine for a Super Bowl of silly fun that will leave you satisfied.
After an opening football game we meet Cliff (Oliver Tobias) as he talks to his daughter, who is on vacation in what is only referred to as “that country.” Why Suzi (Melissa Palmisano) would choose to vacation with her boyfriend in what appears to be a Caribbean slum is beyond me, but why bother asking that question? When she tries to leave the country, a guy in huge sunglasses slips drugs into her bag, and she is arrested. Her boyfriend George calls in Cliff, who does his best to get his daughter out of the situation, but not before she is stripped and tossed into jail. Cliff will fight for her though! Consulting a lawyer (Martin Balsam who sweats profusely), taking it up with the consulate (Charles Napier) and even to reasoning with the head of the prison doesn’t work.

When we see Henry Silva appear behind young Suzi, we know the warden is a bad dude… he even uses escaping prisoners as skeet shooting dummies! Silva presents Suzi stripped and submissive, and has Cliff beaten to show him who the boss around here is. What to do you say to a sadistic Silva? What can you do in the face of such odds? 

Call in your football pals in full gear to come use rifles, grenades and bazookas to blow up the prison and rescue your daughter–of course!

Fabrizio De Angelis must have wanted to spend even less money than usual, but defines the fun of the action film at the same time. Mildly sleazy with interesting characters for the first two thirds, it’s a good little potboiler with less than zero sense and no logic. But with so many iconic cameos and a strong bit of steel jawed determination from Tobias it zips along until right at the one hour mark…BLAMMO! The football players show up. Now, you have to really picture this. Shoulder pads, helmets…the whole nine yards. But running about with machine guns and high fiving each other. Ernest Borgnine coaches them and they kill dozens of prison guards in gory machine bullet splattered slow motion. The battles go far beyond mere silliness, as swarms of guys line up to get mowed down, but that is the Ludman way… and this is classic stuff.

 “Is this movie really happening Fabrizio?? I’m really seeing this???” – Ernest Borgnine
Outside of the cast, no expense was taken for sure as a generic score tackles any intensity the film may build, the cinematography is flat and there are tons of fill-in sequences of cars driving around (actually views from inside the car!) None of that matters, because for the final third of this film, your brain will flatline and the final down can only come with a miniature helicopter explosion… caused by a punt! Good lord…

A must see, this is perhaps the ultimate ending to the entire Tough to Kill saga, because no action film made after it in Italy would be nearly as bizarre. Thank you Fabrizio, and thank you Larry Ludman, for this film you should be a legend.
4 Exploding Huts

Tough To Kill…On HK Laserdiscs!

It has been too long since I pimped out (uh..promoted) THE book on Italian Action of the 80s (and 1 or 2 from the 90s)…TOUGH TO KILL.  You can get it on your mobile device or in print and I don’t think you’ll regret it.  Now how is that for an endorsement?   Well, the Bookgasm review says it all in my opinion. Paul Cooke, the brilliant Ballistic Blood Bulleteer brings it and I tried to as well.  That said, I’m all about the Laserdiscs this week. 
The only thing I can say is that I’d love to find a Last Match laserdisc simply to frame the jacket!  Larry Ludman Laser!  Set your beams to stunning, drop back and punt that helicopter out of the air!

Thunder – Larry Ludman’s Warrior Trilogy

Good old Larry Ludman!  I was looking for some cheap thrills to get me through a sick weekend and turned my attention to the THUNDER (WARRIOR) Trilogy for the first time in around 7 years or so (if the date I burned the DVDrs is any indicator).  I never tire of Fabrizio De Angelis working behind the Larry Ludman pseudonym to be honest with you, I am so intrigued by one of the legends of European Genre Cinema as a producer taking matters in to his own hands and making low budget films to keep product in a marketplace that was not just shifting, but rotting like one of the dead things from the producers own ZOMBIE.

It was very interesting going back to these-I’ve long thought of 2 as the highlight of the series, but I must say that has changed. THUNDER is one of the most fun EuroAction flicks out there, it has a little bit of First Blood (alright, a lot of bits of it) and plays well in to the Ludman school of Neo-Spaghetti Western flicks at the same time. It comes packing a Francesco De Masi score that I really love (which is pretty much complete on the De Masi compilation disc) and good old TRASH himself, Mark Gregory, is an imposing figure as our Indian that digs up the war hatchet. The first two films make for great back to back viewing, because the second works better as a somewhat less action packed THUNDER enthusiast film than a stand alone feature. The first film, in a nutshell, has an Indian wronged by the white man go utterly nuts and blow up a lot of stuff in a small Arizona town. The moral compass of the films are totally bizarre-because everyone comes down on Thunder’s side by films end, no matter what he does.

But damn if the low budget mayhem is not well designed and shot! Car crashes (with “Alan Petit” credited as supervising them?) and fist fights abound-not to mention arrows (‘Yaaaargh!’) and ballistic mayhem. You also get Bo Svenson as a sheriff with a tooth ache and a great “reporter on the side of right” subplot.
One of the highlights of the first two films is Thunder’s nemesis Barry, played by Raimund Harmstorf. I know he has a big resume, but I’ve seen only a few things. The man plays a great scumbag in part 1, but part 2 is even better!  If you haven’t watched part 1, give it a shot. While it doesn’t have the bizarre football angle from Last Match, it actually DOES have some football in it as Svenson is more interested in watching College football than he is chasing the indian!

Part 2 is really interesting in that it slows down the action, but has Thunder return as a deputy in the TOWN HE BLEW UP in the previous film. Rusty frames him for drug possession. He goes to jail and is tormented. His woman loses his baby. Wow, a prison flick, an indian on the rampage flick AND a cop flick all
in 90 minutes.Svenson returns as well and Thunder fans will really enjoy the wrap up.

Now, Thunder 3 is pretty poorly rated by and large, but I enjoy pieces of it.  This Thunder is different really. Different woman but the same attitude. A group of weekend warriors blow up a TINY trailer park that is a reservation according to the story. Thunder exacts much revenge. The difference is that instead of budget crunching mayhem, we get MEGA SMALL BUDGET miniatures blowing up. You’ll appreciate the PAG FLIP from YOR-HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE much more after this, believe me. But Mark Gregory thumping people entertains me, and though the diminishing returns here are obvious, I still had fun with Thunder 3.

But there is one BIG reason all Eurotrashaholics should see it. I’m a big fan of Werner Pochath-the guy just grabs my eye in the action movies because he is so out of place. Brothers in Blood will always be my favorite, but Thunder 3 comes close. He plays a business owner that takes the weekend warrior bit to an extreme. But he does it in tiny shorts and with his socks pulled up really high. When he is confronted by Thunder in his “real” job look for him to grump out an extra with one of the best utterings of “bitch” I can recall.

Overall, you need 1-if you love it, go for 2. 3 is for cheap-even by EuroAction standards-thrills. Or if you just like Pochath in short shorts.

Yeah, I can admit it, Pochath in short shorts rocks.


Thunder / Thunder Warrior
1983-European International Pictures
Directed by Fabrizio De Angelis (Larry Ludman)
With-Mark Gregory, Bo Svenson, Raimund Harmstorf, Paolo Malco and Valeria Ross

“Stay out of town…if not I’m warning you… Bang Bang Bang Indian!”

 Producer Fabrizio De Angelis first donned his Larry Ludman lowly budgeted producer’s cape and director’s tights with this fun and formulaic film which not only rides the Rambo wave of one man army action, but also uses some slaps and dashes from the recipie booklet of the Spaghetti Western. Thunder serves up one of the most important films in the 80s EuroAction genre from perhaps its most stalwart supporter and producer.

While any plot synopsis can only show that all the talking and gesturing in this movie is simply the thin boned skeleton on which several long action sequences hang upon,  the simplicity of Thunder is hard to resist or deny. Our brave hero Thunder (Mark Gregory) returns to his Arizona reservation and immediately finds things have gone poorly for his people of late.  Meeting up with his woman, Sheila (Valeria Ross) is being nastily harrased by the typical “asshole cop” character Barry. This isn’t your usual naughty talk oh no…but truly vile and racist nonsense. Thunder takes it in stride though, his pride and silent strength oozing… but for how long can he contain his power??  Once at the reservation Thunder is greeted by the sound of explosions as a local Indian graveyard is being blown up, all to make way for a white man’s conservatory! Looking at the treaty his father had made and disgusted with the actions that have been taken in his absence, the fists of Thunder are unleashed!!  After throwing down on some workers, Thunder goes to the police…but runs right into both Barry’s racism AND the disinterest of Sheriff Cook (Bo Svenson). More interested in getting his tooth fixed than helping the Indian Thunder gets no satisfaction from the law or the bank and when the Sheriff decides to simply run him out of town, this results in not 1, but 2(!) slow motion beatings for our hero.  He simply can’t sit down for this anymore and begins going on a path of revenge that includes an amazingly long car chase with tons of crashes.  AND we have a reporter taking up Thunder’s cause (Paolo Malco!) as the inevitable Indian in war paint destroys a city sequence, punch ups and beat downs galore and a few stylish fire sequences ensue as even the children sing the legend of Thunder by the final credits.

This first Larry Ludman film is perhaps the best due to an effective use of budget (lots of cheap ugly cars that go boom!) and payoffs per minute. Obviously constructed by a very wise producer to not only capitalize on the market for action films, but too also focus on letting the Italian crew do what it does best. Stunts, action, more action, and the occasional bit of amazing overacting all come fast and furious.  Raimund Harmstorf chomps up all the best lines as Barry and the singularly iconic presence of Bronx Warriors star Mark Gregory stands tall and proud like a brave played by a giant Italian man! Everyone else is barely present enough to register a memory, though I do love Bo Svenson’s sheriff with a toothache and a love of football.  It is hard to forget the car which seems to fold in on itself after one jump.  The dilapidated metal has more personality than the cast!

De Angelis applies the action as character motif to it’s nth degree to a positive effect, using the script by Dardano Sacchetti to set the action up and letting “Larry Ludman” knock it all down to the ground, even if it requires a grenade launcher and an inappropriate use of a steam shovel to do so! Sacchetti uses the “local hero” legend of the spaghetti westerns and mixes in some fun modern media musings as an underground Indian DJ spreads the saga of Thunder over the airwaves, rallying the supporters.  Furthering the western stylings, De Angelis wisely employed soundtrack stalwart Francesco De Masi to strum and thrum out some great tunes as well, and while they don’t fit the time period of the film the songs are very evocative and go well with the action.  The themes blend well with Sergio Salvati’s work, as the veteran cinematographer gives the action sequences a whole lot of old school angling from the blood and pistolero era.

 This was the start of the Ludman saga, as the budgets got lower and the stories became more outrageous (The Last Match being the apex of bizarre action), Thunder is an excellent and solidly made cheap action film which entertains, no matter how many times it is viewed.


Leandro Lucchetti – Getting Even

The first review of Leandro Lucchetti films this week comes from TOUGH TO KILL – THE ITALIAN ACTION EXPLOSION, though I’ve given the write up a little tweaking and found that watching it close to the other LL films had me focused much more on the trashy knife wielding than the action sequences I was looking for back when this was first written.  A solid action flick that features the prolific eurotrash star George Ardisson in a small role for the scuzz film librarian in all of us. 
1988- A.M. Trading Intl. Film
Directed by Leandro Lucchetti
With: Harrison Muller, Michael Aronin, Richard Roundtree
“Through the refugee camp, there is no one guarding it… so we can take our pick of weapons!”
Sleaze master Lucchetti contributed some vintage Eurotrash with his women in prison film…. but that did not mean he couldn’t do more.  Getting Even is an aptly titled film as we meet Evans, a grubby and heroic Harrison Muller Jr. in full homeless Vet mode, beating down some rapist thugs. Instead of cheers however, he ends up with a gut full of bullets instead of thanks and maybe even a little kiss on the cheek.  Where is his parade? While he lies twitching in his hospital bed, he flashes back to his tour of duty in Vietnam, hastily catching up with someone he is about to go after again.  A premonition? Nope, but it sure helps us figure out what is going on after this…  
As part of a three man platoon, he finds himself blowing up everything they see in the name of action, but the sex n’ violence habits of sociopathic Slisco, played with knife wielding and bug eyed aplomb by Micheal Aronin, are really not to his liking.  Seems Slisco likes to carve up hookers with his trusty kris blade-a Lucchetti specialty.  Slisco gets an opportunity for Evan’s busting him while on a mission Evans is trying to bring his wounded friend home. Slisco double crosses him and leaves him in Vietnam, where he stays in a P.O.W. camp for five years… begging to die. But of course, Evans pulls through and makes it home to sleep under bridges.  Flashbacks finished, Richard Roundtree appears as the pairs old C.O., now working to find a serial killer which he believes to be Evans’ old pal Slisco.  More women are dying under the knife and even though it’s been a long time, he believes it must be the same rogue commando.  
And now Slisco is an arms dealer to boot!  A lot of combat ensues with gunfights and fisticuffs in a gym, with a funky twist ending to enliven things in the final reel. 
While Getting Even is a solid action film, it manages to distinguish itself by slipping a few bonus genres into play.  It’s Vietnam action, no…it’s a cop film with a Ripper twist, but wait, gritty urban violence abounds as well!  Getting Even all adds up to an extra trashy treat for 93 minutes. Lucchetti’s sleaze adept hand adds a bit of rough around the edges nudity and sadism to what is sold as a “stuff blows up while Shaft shoots bad guys” film-and this is jarring and unusual enough to be memorable as well. 
 Harrison Muller Jr. is his usual self, though he always appears a bit too thin and weedy to be the ass kicker he portrays on screen. But you can count on him to deliver his performance well, especially in the flashback scenes where he rants up a storm.  Aronin plays Slisco to the hilt (of his knife) here, terrorizing the ladies and looking greasy.  Look for Ottaviano Dell’Acqua in a George Hilton type role, and it’s great to see this welcome face get a last laugh or two.  Richard Roundtree, a main selling point, dials in a standard sub-standard performance.  His best sequences are mostly pick up shots as he is spliced into one action scene which contains footage from the same producer’s film The Violent Breed.  If you like Harrison Muller shooting gas cans in one film, then you’ll love it in two. The Man Who Was Shaft certainly should stay away from rocket launchers as he looks terrified waiting to fire it into said stock footage.  Leandro Lucchetti scores big with this urban gun and fist tale, with a half scoop of Vietnam action to make the package complete.

Japanese VHS Covers Archive – Bruno Mattei Bang Bang Bonanza!

If there is one director that drew me to the world of Japanese VHS it would be Bruno Mattei. I love his films and finding genuine releases of films like STRIKE COMMANDO 2 and SHOCKING DARK are some of my favorite moments in all of my film geekdom. Enjoy!

BONUS BRUNO! The following is my review of the 5 Exploding Hut masterwork STRIKE COMMANDO from Tough To Kill-The Italian Action Explosion (which is a must for any action fans bookshelf if I say so myself!

Strike Commando

1987-Flora Films

Directed by Bruno Mattei

With Reb Brown, Christopher Connelly, Alex Vitale, Luciano Pigozzi

“Got me and you…pussycat!”

A film that defies description without begging for hyperbole, Strike Commando is action-sploitation that pounds outrageous and entertaining mischief in every minute. Really. The brain trust (read: they trust that you will not use your brain!) of Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso fired on all genre conventions, burping out this incredible entry.

Michael Ransom (Reb Brown) is one tough Strike Commando-he can’t be killed it would seem. His commando team blows up Vietcong bases with ease, but is double crossed by a skuzzy commander (Christopher Connelly), which leaves him trapped behind enemy lines with little hope of survival. But of course he lives on! Floating down a river and greeted by Vietnamese in whiteface (huh?) who are led by Luciano Pigozzi (dubbed as a Frenchman…huh!)-the hulking American becomes their savior. But the evil Russians, led by the huge and hilarious Jakoda (Alex Vitale) has other plans. Kill ‘em all… and he does. Disneyland gets a mention before that can happen, and holding crushed bodies and yelling, Ransom must make the Russians, the Vietcong, the men in power who treat soldiers like dirt, tiny miniature boats, huts, logic and everything else PAY! And oh, they do. Along the way Ransom is tortured and almost forced to broadcast anti-American radio chatter, but no way, not Ransom. Hell, leaving him with a rotting corpse just stresses him out as his captors find… and when he is stressed, only a zillion bullets and a slow motion waterfall stunt can make him feel better. Well, a little better. People explode and THE END unspools as a wiseass Ransom disclaims any form of truth to the picture.

Mattei and Fragasso mashed together one perfectly silly action film, which becomes so zany you can almost feel the fun pouring off the video as you stick it in the player. Not what historians would call solid film making, it doesn’t even try. Reb Brown is delirious in his role, shouting almost EVERY line, be it tender talk of popcorn growing on trees to angered ramblings (“The rest of Strike Commando demands VENGEANCE!”)… This becomes so insane it would be hard to replicate on purpose… if anyone even cared to try. Everyone, be they good actor, non-actor or exploding hut takes the macho to heart. Christopher Connelly exaggerates his reactions like nobody else can while Alex Vitale steals the show with his scenes as the jumbo Russian who hates “Amerikanski” with such vigor that he embraces several fight scenes, lots of cackling and a steel set of chompers that spur the best line of the movie.

Mattei directs the action with the flair of a director who has found his calling, you can call him a hack, but you can’t say he didn’t know how to get people to fall down under a hail of bullets. Stuntmen line up to be shot in gloriously wild head flopping style, Brown is in all the right positions to wield a giant machine gun with unlimited ammunition and yes… the waterfall is here for all to see. Backed up by one strange script that Fragasso has concocted, there are endless odd lines of dialogue, mercilessly silly set ups and you have to pay attention as the dubbers obviously had fun… Just listen to what passes as Vietnamese. Sharpshooters should look for Rene (Tiger Joe) Abadeza getting conked in the face and composite ninja veteran Mike Monty in the opening sequence!

With a score by Luigi Ceccarelli that seems more fitting than usual, you’ll be humming it for days while repeating just some of the dialogue

“He’s our ENEMY… That dirt DOG gotta PAY!”

Head Clonking Hyperbole: It’s a grenade in the mouth lovin, raucously ridiculous smash a minute thrill coaster that will leave you with a surplus of spare shell cases littering your memory which only another trip through Reb Brown’s bullet laden Disneyland can satisfy. Truly a cult film in every sense, Strike Commando is essential trash.

5 Exploding Huts

Cross Mission – Al Bradley Magic and Mayhem!

CROSS MISSION / Fuoco Incrociato

1988 – A.M. Trading

Directed by Alfonso Brescia (Al Bradley)

With Richard Randall, Maurice Poli, Peter Hintz, Nelson de la Rosa

“How could you believe that one man alone, even a superman, could be victorious against a fortress?”

No sane person has accused Alfonso Brescia of creating “good” movies but for those who love their films cheap fast and weird, the man is an icon. I love finding a new one to watch, or even revisiting his greatest hits-and Cross Mission is incredible entertainment. ONLY Alfonso Brescia could make an 80s EuroAction flick like this! To put it simply… As War Of The Robots is to Star Wars, Cross Mission is to Rambo!

As General Romero (Maurice Poli) sets forth to prove his tiny nation truly does hate the drug trade, that we just know he runs, he demonstrates his military might on the “death plantations” in explosive fashion. But it just doesn’t seem right. United journalists from around the globe, who all happen to speak English of course, demand an audience with Romero to get the details. This includes sexy and feisty Helen-a gal reporter with a beautiful body and some fists of fury to boot. Catching her eye is William Corbett, a man of action that not only knows the General well, is also supposed to help him. He is a badass fighter as he demonstrates immediately as well. William tells her all about the bizarre Romero, not only is he a dictator but a BLACK MAGICIAN who can summon a TINY MAN called Astaroth. Uh, and that little guy can zap people with his mystic beams!

What? Well… thank you Al Brescia, this is something different.

The two end up crossed by Romero, join some rebels and blow the hell out of everything and everyone that looks vaguely bad. Bridges explode, micro-mini monsters zap and twitch, more bullets fly and a final satanic showdown is afoot!

Simple really…

To really “get” Cross Mission, you have to accept that the name Al Bradley is in the credits and conventional gloves are off. The movie may slow down in spots, it may be poorly made and it could be colossal waste of time, but sometimes Al got it right. This film is loaded to the top of the evil Astaroth’s head with bizarre dialogue, lengthy sequences of walking and driving, strange twists and silly “special” effects, making it one of the more unique entries into the Italian Action Genre. Brescia doesn’t exude style by a mile, he instead pours on strangeness to try to abate the boredom of the long transition sequences. The leads are wooden to say the very least, though certainly competent. All the rebels wear headbands and the explosions are lifted from Bridge to Hell, which was also produced at A.M. Trading by the king of recycling, Ettore Spagnuolo, so the standard conventions do get met. But it is impossible (for some admittedly) to not enjoy a movie that has little Nelson de la Rosa of Ratman infamy simply appear and disappear without so much as a poof of smoke at seemingly random times. Plus, it contains an amazing reaction shot of Maurice Poli in a death sequence… I don’t think it’s what he will want to be remembered for, but it is now etched into my cinematic memory.

A smattering of action scenes, black magic terror, demonic midgets, recycled Stelvio Cipriani music and a load of people being shot up and stabbed in the name of adventure and entertainment… Cross Mission delivers that in it’s unexpected package, and is a nice diversion for those who want to walk on the fringe of the fringes of Italian Cult Cinema. It’s a narrow ledge, but if you don’t slip off it, you’ll say Viva Brescia…hail Astaroth!