Saturday, October 30, 2010

Plenilunio (Uruguay, 1993)

Uruguayan shot-on-video horror maestro Ricardo Islas embarked upon his career as a director at the tender age of sixteen, when he convinced the program director at his small local TV station to produce a short film he had scripted titled Posesión. Eight years and five feature-length SOV productions later, Islas had worked his way up to a budget just scraping the underside of one thousand dollars for Plenilunio (translation: Full Moon), a distinctive, DIY take on the werewolf genre.

Plenilunio’s action centers around a group of kids who all hang out together at the local TV station (Channel 3 TV in Colonia del Sacramento, at least in name the same station that backed Isla’s debut). Seeing over them is the station’s news cameraman, Roberto, a soft-spoken and gentle soul (played by Islas himself) who does his best to fill a sort of big brother role for the brood. When a food stall operator is brutally killed in the woods outside of town, and the victim’s family refuses to accept the police’s explanation that a wild dog was the culprit, the gang –- whose imaginations, as we are shown, are fueled by South American horror comics and Spanish translations of Marvel’s Man-Wolf –- become convinced that a werewolf is to blame.

It turns out that the victim’s three children have also come to the same conclusion, as a couple of the kids from the TV station find out when they go into the woods searching for clues. Here they come across the grieving children laying out tainted meat in the hope of poisoning the perhaps not-so-mythical predator. However, they are thwarted in this attempt when they are attacked and chased off by a mysterious albino man. It is later learned that this man has recently purchased a small bungalow in the area where the initial murder occurred. After more killings and a piling up of evidence supporting their suspicions, Roberto and one of the older boys decide to pay the man a visit, on the supposition that he may, in fact, be the werewolf without being aware of it.

On the contrary, upon finding the stranger’s bungalow vacant and making their way inside, they find a series of meticulously dated VHS tapes documenting each of the man’s transformations. It turns out that this fellow is far from the hapless Larry Talbot type, and is instead a deliberate killer who not only revels in the vicious exploits of his lupine alter ego, but is also nearly as savage and deadly in his human form. This is proven when the stranger comes home and discovers the two, setting upon them with such ferocity that they barely escape with their lives.

Roberto and the kids take shelter in the offices of the TV station, which is deserted for the holidays, only to find that the albino stranger has followed them. After cutting off their communications, he stands vigil outside the building, killing anyone who attempts to leave or enter, all the while awaiting the arrival of the night and the full moon, when he will make his transformation and easily break through the feeble barriers that the kids have set up. Throughout this grueling standoff, Roberto –- fully stepping into his role as protector, and drawing upon presumably heretofore unknown reserves of courage to do so –- repeatedly tries to reason with the killer, pleading with him to let the children go. But this isn’t going to happen, for, as the wolf at the door explains, it simply isn’t in his nature to do so. And besides, he’s “hungry”.

Doing for The Three Little Pigs what Matthew Bright’s Freeway would later do for Little Red Riding Hood, Plenilunio is a film that shouldn’t work, but somehow kinda does. This is largely due to the fact that Islas, unlike so many other SOV horror filmmakers, keeps his ambitions firmly reigned within the scope of his means, and sticks with a story and characters that are both suitably ground-level. Furthermore, the naturalness of his young actors and the easy chemistry between them gives their scenes together a casual everyday-ness that both sits comfortably within the homeliness of the format and provides contrast to the surprisingly violent and gory kill scenes. It also has to be said that Plenilunio’s script is simply very well written, to the extent that the ideas themselves are unsettling enough to keep you invested regardless of how explicitly or seamlessly they’re rendered.

And to that point, Islas also makes the wise choice of never showing us too much… at least, not until the end of the film. I have to tell you that my urge to show you a screen cap of Plenilunio’s monster -- which Islas’ own site self mockingly boasts was “hand-made out of sponge and cotton” -- is almost too overwhelming to resist. But, since the director himself chose not to reveal it until the film’s final minutes, I feel to do so would be in defiance of the whole spirit of the endeavor. More importantly, I think that, while we all might get a lot of cheap mileage out of mocking such a shabby creation -- this is the internet, after all, and we’re all well practiced at it -- I fear that to get caught up in doing so might come at the expense of registering the many real charms that Plenilunio has to offer. In other words, this is one that’s well worth seeing for yourself.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

El Castillo de los Monstuos (Mexico, 1958)

I thought that El Castillo de los Monstruos would be the perfect antidote to The Haunted House, which, despite its title, proved to be more of a “gorilla on the loose” caper than a spook show. El Castillo, by contrast, promises us a whole fleet of supernatural beasties, including a Dracula, a werewolf, a Frankenstein, a mummy, a hunchback, and a gill-man. Of course, these classic monsters were no strangers to Mexico’s B cinema back in the day, but this represents one of the rare occasions in which none of them were fighting a masked wrestler.

Instead, El Castillo pits these creatures of the night against beloved Mexican funnyman Antonio “Clavillazo” Espino, who we last saw in Conquistador de la Luna. I knew when I saw Conqistador de la Luna that I was destined to see El Castillo de los Monstruos. That’s not because Conquistador de la Luna was all that great, mind you, but because El Castillo came on the same “Dos Peliculas” double feature disc with Conquistador, and I was determined to get my money’s worth.

El Castillo was produced under the banner of Producciones Sotomayor, a company that would prove itself to be really big on these kind of monster mash-ups. Two years later, they would produce the space critter enriched Ship of Monsters, whose title was a model for truth in advertising, and they would eventually go on to bankroll Santo and Blue Demon vs. The Monsters, a hallowed touchstone of masked wrestlers vs. monsters absurdity. As El Castillo shows, the company indeed took their monsters very seriously, even when presenting them in a comedic context.

For example: When the film isn’t focusing on Espino’s putatively hilarious shtick, great effort is invested in creating a deliciously spooky atmosphere, with some backstage players who we’re used to seeing do much worse really stepping up to the plate for the cause. Among these is composer Gustavo Cesar Carrion, perpetrator of many a wan lucha movie soundtrack, who comes forth here with a thundering orchestral score freighted with all the dark portents you could hope for. Less anomalous is the cinematography of Victor Herrera, who had already proved his way with ominous, German Expressionist-inspired plays of light and shadow in 1957’s classic Ladron de Cadaveres.

And then, of course, there is the sheer fulsomeness of the movie’s assortment of monsters. Only the most dedicated crank could find fault with this lineup. I mean, there’s even a toothy Neanderthal type who you could categorize as the film’s version of Mr. Hyde. And the realization of these creatures, by Mexican cinema standards, is really not that bad; You need only look at something like El charro de las Calaveras or the aforementioned Santo and Blue Demon vs. The Monsters to see how dire things could have been. (Though, I must say that this movie’s wolfman, who’s basically just a naturally hairy guy with fake fangs, looks an awful lot like VincenteLara, who played the part in similar fashion in Santo and Blue Demon vs. The Monsters, though I didn't see his name in the credits.) El Castillo even goes so far as to cast German Robles -- who became famous for playing vampires in more straightforward horror films like those in the Nostradamus series -- as its featured hemophile.

Espino here plays, as I assume he usually does, “Clavillazo”, a goodhearted clown whose trademark appears to be a suit that’s over-sized even by zoot suit standards. Clavillazo’s small town is troubled by a series of grave robberies, which are of course being perpetrated by the mad scientist Dr. Sputnik and his hunchback assistant for the purpose of makin’ monsters. Sputnik, who walks among the townsfolk masquerading as a harmless blind man, puts a hypnotic whammy on Clavillazo’s love interest, Beatriz (Evangelina Elizondo), and spirits her away to his creepy castle, where, in a nice Poe-esque touch, he tries to hex her into thinking that she is his lost love Galatea. Clavillazo, along with two of his goofy assed friends, then endeavors to breach Sputnik’s monster infested abode to set her free.

Of course, there’s a lot more to El Castillo de los Monstruos than that stripped down summary might lead you to believe. It is, after all, largely meant to serve as a showcase for Antonio Espino’s comedic talents, which means that a lot of screen time is dedicated to entirely non-monster-related character bits involving him. What those entail, however, I cannot, without the aid of translation, precisely say. However, I will point out that, while Espino does do his share of frightened sputtering (there are monsters, after all), he seems to be presented for the most part as being a shrewd and resourceful –- if somewhat clownish -- fellow, rather than the bumbling figure of fun that we so often see in these kinds of movies. During the film’s final act, when Clavillazo gets it in mind to take on the villain and his army of monsters, he’s like Jack the Giant Killer, a little man emboldened by passion to confront seemingly insurmountable odds.

El Castillo de los Monstruos is like a little kid’s Halloween party decked out with rubber spiders and cardboard skeletons, in that it basically celebrates the idea of being scared without itself being at all scary. Within this irrepressibly good natured context, Frank, Drac and the gang come across like cozy old friends stopping by to say hello. Sure, they go through all the menacing motions (raaar!), but, in the end, the fact that they are all defeated by a little guy in a funny hat sort of saps them of any potential to truly terrify. Not that that’s a strike against the film, of course. After all, no one familiar with Mexican B cinema of this era is going to look to a film like El Castillo de los Monstruos for anything other than goofy fun, and that it indeed delivers.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Haunted House (Egypt, 1951)

Let me share with you something that I know about comedy. The sight of people being terrified is never funny. But people with the heebie jeebies? HI-larious. It is perhaps for this reason that the haunted house comedy is such an enduring sub-genre. And, as The Haunted House -- yet another vehicle for beloved Egyptian screen comic Ismail Yassin -- shows us, that is true not just for Hollywood, but throughout the world's many film cultures, as well.

Of course, many Egyptian films from the pre-Nasser era give the impression that their makers would be more than happy to have them mistaken for Hollywood product. We've already seen that Egypt's Cairo-based film industry was capable of making just as good as it's American counterpart. Unfortunately, it should also follow that they were equally equipped to churn out half-hearted mediocrity -- a fact which I'm afraid The Haunted House is something of a testament to.

That The Haunted House is, to put it charitably, a bit loosely plotted and nonsensical could be explained by the fact that it is, unlike the comparatively sure-handed Ismail Yassin's Phantom and Ismail Yassin's Tarzan, one of the rare Ismail Yassin joints not scripted by the comedian's friend and mentor, Abo El Seoud El Ebiary, who was a respected playwright and journalist in addition to being a prolific screenwriter. Fatin Abdel Wahab instead handles the screen writing duties here, in addition to directing, and is, given those double duties, I'm afraid incapable of escaping receipt of at least some of the blame for the fact that the end product is something of a mess. The worst crime here is that Yassin, one of the rare screen comedians of his era capable of not being annoying when used correctly, is not used correctly. Thus it follows, I'm sad to say, that he ends up being kind of annoying.

The movie begins in classic fashion, with a group of extremely disagreeable people showing up at an isolated old mansion for the reading of a will. As the decedent's executor helpfully informs us, this mansion is not only remote and creepy, but also situated on the border with Sudan, and thus susceptible not only to the depredations of supernatural beasties, but also to those of more natural beasties. And it is indeed not too long before the guests are being threatened by what is billed in the credits as "Gu-Gu The Gorilla", but which in reality is a man in an absolutely ridiculous gorilla costume (though, remarkably, still not as ridiculous as the one in Ismail Yassin's Tarzan). Fortunately for them, one of the prospective heirs slated to arrive at the gathering is a world famous big game hunter by the name Mr. Lionheart.

Lionheart turns out to be Ismail Yassin, playing a broad lampoon of the pith helmeted jungle adventurer, who makes his entrance on a grass palanquin carried by a procession of scarringly stereotypical B movie African natives. Of course, the audience quickly learns that Lionheart -- real name Morsi -- is a complete, cowardly fraud, and that the whole big game hunter bit is just an act. Even Morsi's "African chief" companion, who he refers to as "Ka-Ka", is merely a friend of his, Borai, to whom he is in financial debt, and who has agreed to take part in this masquerade in the belief that it will somehow put Morsi in a more favorable position vis a vis the inheritance. How this might be, however, is never explained, and it is one of The Haunted House's greatest flaws that this absurdly elaborate deception that is so central to its action is never demonstrated to have any real or perceived utility.

In any case, as the reading of the will reveals, it is the desire of the recently departed to unite his feuding descendants by forcing them to live together in his eerie old ruin of a home for a month in order to receive their share of his loot. Acting as somewhat of a disincentive to this is the fact that -- in addition to the other obvious disadvantages -- there is now a rampaging gorilla making his presence felt on the grounds. This is especially problematic for the decedent's high-strung niece, Lady Mourad, who, in one of the film's few truly funny bits, follows every encounter with the beast with an exclamation of, "The gorilla ate me!" However, since Lady Mourad's conventionally handsome son, Sherif, has struck up an instantaneous and potentially incestuous romance with his comely young cousin Aziza (requisite eye candy Thuraya Hilmi) her leaving is the last thing that either of these newly minted lovers wants to see happen. Thus Aziza, unaware that he is really a yellow bellied huckster, beseeches Morsi/Lionheart to use his hunterly skills to fell the animal.

And it is thus, through all the proceeding hijinks surrounding Morsi's bumbling pursuit of the Gorilla, that The Haunted House seems to give the lie to its title. That is, until the film's final third, when someone involved finally remembered that a film called The Haunted House should probably have a few ghosts in it. And these -- including a Falstaffian sultan who carries his head in his hands, a couple of sheet-covered Caspers, and a ceiling walking apparition -- are enough to distract us momentarily from how little sense or purpose everything else in the movie seems to have. Until, that is, The Haunted House goes all Scooby Doo on us, introducing a baffling subplot involving a counterfeiting ring that in turn leads to a cops-and-robbers style finale that is as uncalled for as it was unforeseeable.

Granted, while The Haunted House goes about its business of being an apparently off-the-cuff mess, it also makes a sincere attempt at entertaining us. There are songs, fanciful dream sequences, a couple of sexy belly dancing numbers (the film indeed has almost as much belly dancing as Flying Saucers Over Istanbul), and what must have been, for the time, a fairly racy striptease by Thuraya Hilmi. And while this compensates for a lot, none of it makes up for the apparent fact that nobody involved had a clue what to do with Ismail Yassin. As in films like Ismail Yassin's Tarzan, he is surrounded by an assortment of pompous upper class ninnies who are ripe for the take-down. But rather than using him as a playing-field-leveling anarchic force -- something that Abo El Seoud El Ebiary proved adept at doing -- Fatin Abdel Wahab merely chooses to use him as a standard issue, bumbling comic relief stooge.

This is truly a waste, because in the best of Yassin's films, the casting of him in the role of hero, despite his homely looks and coarseness of bearing, has an enormously appealing quality of subversion to it. Fatin Abdel Wahab scuttles any chance of this happening by instead casting a traditionally handsome leading man in the role of Sherif, who not only ends up with the girl, Aziza, but also manages to take part in the two-fisted derring-do of the film's finale while Yassin, meanwhile, is sidelined in a locked dungeon.

Still it must be said that, if you just want to luxuriate in the old school mystique that classic Egyptian cinema so often provides, The Haunted House has got you covered. The film shows the slickness typical of Egyptian productions of its era, and both Fatin Abdel Wahab and cinematographer Robert Tamia really know how to shoot in that dramatic, shadow strewn Universal horror movie style. If that's enough for you, I completely understand. Normally, it would be enough for me, too. It's just that, having watched a few of Yassin's films now, I know that, in addition to a cozily nostalgic visual style, they can also be possessed of a modicum of satirical intelligence.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Now with hole

Tell me, why wouldn't I review Ghost With Hole? First of all, it gives me the opportunity to make a couple of  borderline misogynistic riffs on the title, and, second of all, it gives me the opportunity to heap praise upon Suzzanna, the undisputed queen of Indonesian horror cinema. Said review, just posted over at Teleport City, is a part of Teleport City's month long celebration of Asian horror (happy Halloween everybody!), so check it out. And while you're there, don't forget to also check out our other entries on the theme, which include Keith's write-up of the obscure Japanese yokai film Ghost Stories of Wanderer at Hojo, as well as my take on the Hong Kong classic Mr. Vampire.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini (Mexico, 1967)

It says a lot about Mexican spy films from the 60s that S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini is one of the more sober examples. In the case of most such films, the makers might as well have just made a movie featuring a guy in a sharp suit go-go dancing with a bunch of bikini girls on the roof of a Ferrari for ninety minutes. I mean, it’s not like anyone was demanding that any of them actually have a plot, right? Pero no, says S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini, and goes on to deliver what, to my trained eye, appears very much to be an actual story, complete with characters and a series of causally related events and stuff like that.

Though, not being fluent in Spanish, I couldn’t tell you what exactly that story was. Nor can I even tell you for sure what the conspiracy at that story’s center was. It did indeed, however, involve a bikini fashion show taking place at a resort hotel in Ecuador, so it was probably some kind of nefarious, cameltoe based scheme, or perhaps a plan to start some kind of worldwide wedgie pandemic. The bikini models, you see, are enemy agents. And if you’re looking for some kind of conspiracy-minded thread tying the events of S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini to those of our present day, it is possible that they are Muslims -- but, really, probably not.

S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini is positively riddled with familiar faces from 1960s Mexican genre cinema. Chief among these is our star, Julio Aleman, here taking his first of two turns in the role of Mexican super-spy Alex Dinamo. (This film’s sequel, Peligro…! Mujeres en Accion, would arrive two years later.) Aleman was a handsome fixture in the Mexican B movies of the day, being a regularly featured player in both the Neutron and Nostradamus series, as well as the star of the awesomely ridiculous Rocambole costumed hero capers. (One of Rocambole’s super powers is ventriloquism.) As our bad guys, we have lucha movie staples Noe Murayama and Carlos Agosti, a screen villain so reliable that the mere presence of his name in the opening credits counts as a kind of spoiler. And finally, we have the ever-welcome Maura Monti in the role of Henchwoman Most Frequently In A State of Near Complete Undress.

Behind the camera here we have the familiar hand of Rene Cardona Jr., who, though not yet as seasoned as his dad, was well on his way at this point to approaching the same level of obscene prolificacy. S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini was not blessed with the kind of budget that would allow for the kind of set pieces one would hope for in a spy film of its type, so instead we have an air of intrigue established by way of lots of sneaking around. People skulk suspiciously in corners, guns are furtively brandished, and folks listen at hotel walls with stethoscopes.

When there is evidence of production value, the attempts to milk it for all its worth are fairly conspicuous. An old station wagon is blown up, and we then get to watch it burn, and burn, and burn. And burn. For the climax, some boats, a seaplane and a helicopter were rented, and needless to say we are granted ample opportunity to get a very good look at them. Fans of frequent, inter-cut shots of people shooting alternately out of airborne and waterborne vehicles will find much to embrace.

Another way that S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini compensates for its lack of kinetic thrills is by featuring a lot of things that are absolutely as red as they could possibly be.

The world’s reddest car.

The world’s reddest jacket.

And finally, the world’s reddest jacket vs. the world’s reddest cardigan.

To be fair, S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini had the misfortune of being yet another spy movie in a month when I’d already watched quite a few. It’s really not bad. It’s just not novel enough to stand out above the accumulated noise of so many bullet-firing cameras, morse code blaring wrist watches, and exploding old junkers. It does have a great scene of sexy ladies dancing to a gringo garage band called “The Surfers” in a classy nightclub, which is exactly the kind of thing that will make it shine more brightly in my memory than it deserves to. At least I’ll have this review to refer to before I make the decision to watch it again.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

And you must be Mrs. Vampire

Teleport City is celebrating Halloween by dedicating the month of October to Asian horror, with my first contribution being a review of the Hong Kong hopping vampire classic Mr. Vampire. Why not hop on over and check it out?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bajing Ireng dan Jaka Sembung (Indonesia, 1985)

If you've seen Mondo Macabro's interview with Barry Prima, you know that he doesn't look too kindly upon those exploitation films that made him one of Indonesia's biggest stars during the 80s, nor does he hold in high esteem anyone who would seek such movies out. Well, guess what, Barry? I'm going to continue watching your shitty old movies, because they're awesome and you're a god. So screw you -- er, in the most respectful and heterosexual way possible, that is.

Bajing Ireng dan Jaka Sembung -- aka The Warrior and the Ninja, aka Warrior 3 -- is Barry's third go-around in his star-making role as the hero Jaka Sembung*. To be honest, I haven't seen the second film in the series, Si Buta Iawa Jaka Sembung, but the lovely and talented Houseinrlyeh has written a very thorough review of it over at The Horror!? if you want to get up to speed. As for this entry, it's helmed by H. Djut Djalil, who also directed Mystics in Bali, Lady Terminator and Dangerous Seductress, which bodes very well for Bajing Ireng dan Jaka Sembung indeed.

As the mournful introductory music would indicate, this film starts out with things pretty much already in the crapper for our hero and his people. For starters, the inhabitants of Java still have yet to get out from under the tyrannical boot heels of those bastards the Dutch. (Full disclosure: I am one quarter Dutch.... and 100% bastard.) To make things worse, a volcanic eruption has forced the righteous freedom fighter Jaka Sembung and his fellow villagers to flee their homes in search of safety elsewhere. After a long, solemn trek through the parched wilderness, they come upon a town that is under the control of the despotic Captain De Koeneng, who, as is so often the case with these colonialist types, maintains order through a cadre of local collaborators that include all manner of evil sorcerers and unscrupulous wielders of black magic.

Despite what you might think, though, it turns our that Jaka Sembung's services might not be needed, because this town already has a righteous freedom fighter of its own. That would be Bajing Ireng (Zurmaini), who is a humble peasant woman by day and, by night, an ass-kicking lady ninja who steals the wealth of the white occupiers for distribution among the poor townsfolk. Of course, since no one can imagine that anyone else could be as awesome as Jaka Sembung, the powers that be assume that he is responsible for these crimes, and so begin a reign of terror against the inhabitants of the town in order to shake him out. This indeed brings our hero out of hiding, and also into an alliance with Bajing Ireng, which makes for some pretty spectacular scenes of the Dutch forces being gorily dispatched by their combined fu.

If all of these goings on sound too sedate for your tastes, let me point out that, meanwhile, the volcanic eruption seen at the beginning of the film has freed an indestructible and apparently completely insane warrior who was confined to the bowels of the Earth some time ago by Jaka Sembung's old master. Volcano Guy, as I will call him, then rampages through the countryside, beating people with uprooted trees and giving them third degree burns with his hands, all the while grunting and growling like a rabid Bonobo. The Dutch, realizing a good thing when they see one, decide to recruit this excitable fellow for the purpose of putting paid to their accounts with Jaka Sembung once and for all.

The resulting confrontation is indeed a close match, but Jaka ultimately calls upon his magical powers, delivering a blow to Volcano Guy that literally shatters him into pieces. The hero then thoughtfully has Volcano Guy's head delivered to the colonial forces. This, of course, only leads to more suffering for the common folk, and the virtuous Jaka must eventually turn himself in to the authorities in order to put a stop to it. This in turn leads to the tableau of martyrdom that sits at the center of every Jaka Sembung film, in this case with Barry being stretched on the rack before being strapped underneath a razor sharp pendulum. (And it is in this moment that the lack of subtitles is most acutely felt, as we non-Indonesian speakers don't get to be privy to the impassioned patriotic speechifying that Prima engages in throughout.) Of course, the real thrill of this sequence is that, by the time Barry is going through his agonies, we have been thoroughly sucked into the moral logic of the film, and are eagerly awaiting the moment when Bajing Ireng will show up to free him and, with him, turn the tables on the white devils and their cronies with resounding finality.

And when this moment comes, it is indeed an occasion for much whooping and hollering. Bajing Ireng shows up with an army of rebellious townsfolk in tow, most of them women, and, after a chaotic, drawn out battle involving all hands, her and Barry take part in parallel fights in which each goes one-on-one against one of the big bads. In Barry's case, it's a crippled mystic who fights only with his hands while sitting in a lotus position. This may not, in fact, sound like a very involving match-up, but it's to Bajing Ireng dan Jaka Sembung's credit -- or perhaps my own willingness to buy into the crazy universe that it presents -- that it ends up being pretty kinetic and exciting. For Zurmaini's part, she pairs off against an evil sorceress, delivering the film's standout OMG moment when, in a final burst of rage, she grabs her opponent and quite literally tears her fucking face off.

With its wall-to-wall martial arts action, period setting, cross-gender ass kicking, and frequent one-against-all battles, Bajing Ireng dan Jaka Sembung reminded me of nothing so much as an old school Shaw Brothers joint that had been injected with a delightful dose of Indonesian mystical freakiness. And if you don't read that as a compliment, you're reading the wrong blog. Of course, as thrilling as it is, the film still doesn't live up to the fevered absurdity of the original Jaka Sembung, thought that is more a testament to the high bar set by Indonesian trash cinema as a whole than it is to any real shortcomings on Bajing Ireng dan Jaka Sembung's part.

In fact, the comparatively down-to-earth nature of the film's approach works in some ways to its advantage, as, with less reliance on wire work and effects, we get to see more of a display of both Prima's and Zurmaini's (or their stunt doubles') real world skills as martial artists, which are, in both case, indeed impressive. (Though Zurmaini, unfortunately, is ill served by a couple of poorly lit night time action scenes.) In other words, despite what he might say, Barry Prima has nothing to be ashamed of here. Really, Barry, I would think that the fact alone that you made a man who is really way too old to be enjoying these type of films whip off his shirt and drunkenly twirl it over his head in excitement would be a great source of pride for you. That's right, I said pride. (Though perhaps not so much for me.)

*I had originally thought that Prima only starred in the initial trilogy of Jaka Sembung films, but Jack J. from En lejemorder ser tilbage set me straight: There were two further Jaka Sembung films made in the 90s in which he also starred.