Classic ninja movie Ren zhe da is a kick in the head.
This chaotic poster was made for a 1986 Taiwanese kung fu movie called Ren zhe da, which in English was renamed Ninja: The Final Duel. It stars Wang Chi Chung acting under the name Alexander Lo, along with Alan Lee and Alice Tseng. We gather the film is distilled from an eight hour television series. Cutting all that footage down to a ninety minute adventure makes for a final product that's choppy (see what we did there?), but the basic idea is the Ji Ho Clan wishes to defeat the Shaolin Temple, which is protected by the heroic Lo, two Hare Krishna martial arts experts, a renowned African American monk from Harlem, and others.
The film is notable for Alice Tseng's pivotal fight scene, in which—à la Reiko Ike in Sex & Fury—she battles a group of men while naked. If you unrepentantly use the freeze frame feature on your telly the fight is a vulva memorable sequence. Also memorable is the Harlem monk, played by Eugene Thomas acting under the name Eugene T. Trammel. His dialogue is dubbed by a voice actor imitating black vernacular English, but with an appalling Taiwanese accent. As surprising as the explicitness of Tseng's nude sword battle is, the black monk's ghettofied dialogue is, in a way, even crazier. We can't imagine why the filmmakers thought that was a good idea, but as unintentional humor goes, it's top tier.
The fighting between Ji Ho Clan and Shaolin Temple builds to a climax, with various good guys making the uiltimate sacrifice, until finally, as in many kung fu movies, the grizzled (but surprisingly spry) Shaolin master shows up to restore order by whipping ass on the best enemy fighter. Why doesn't the old master just fight this guy immediately and save his loyal underlings a lot of effort and pain? The Buddha once famously said, and we're paraphrasing, "Be loathe to pull thine disciples' bacon from the fire, because, after all, there is nothing more replaceable than a loyal follower." Or something like that. In any case, Ren zhe da is a movie kung fu aficionados must see.
His martial arts are lethal and his wardrobe is killer.
Above is a poster for the Hong Kong actioner Quan Ji, aka Duel of Fists, which, based on the placement of the English text, you'd actually expect to be called Duel of Nuts. Or are we the only ones seeing that? Anyway, what you get here is the story of a nerdy engineer slash ace martial artist who learns from his ailing father that he has a long lost older brother, the result of a whirlwind affair with a Thai girl. Sent to Bangkok to find his sibling, geek boy eventually discovers him in a fighting ring. A series of circumstances that begins with big brother beating the local crime syndicate's champion brings the wrath of the bad guys, and the brothers have no choice but to go medieval on the entire mob.
This movie is worth watching for two reasons. First, some of the fighting is Muay Thai, which was obscure to westerners back then and makes Quan Ji one of the first films to showcase that particular discipline. And second, David Chang plays the unsophisticated younger brother while wearing a series of gaudy outfits that you'd absolutely love to have for your next ’70s party. Chang has made more than a hundred movies and was still active just a couple of years ago, but we doubt he ever surpassed the discofied wardrobe he wore here. Despite the Rick James flavor he brings to the party we'd describe the movie as merely adequate. But it did make us want to listen to "Super Freak." Quan ji premiered in Hong Kong today in 1971.
I've met so many girls. Then I come to Bangkok and meet one who sees as much value in primary colors as I do. What are the odds?
By the way in Hong Kong one of our official languages is English, and in English Bangkok sounds like... Well, I'll explain it in detail later.
I told her what Bangkok sounds like and she loved it. Total keeper.
I know every dojo in the Far East and I've never heard of your Studio 54.
You wouldn't shoot the best electric slider in all of Thailand, would you?
I'm going to demonstrate this one more time. It's called the hustle and I learned it in the East Village.
Everybody was Muay Thai fightin'.... HUAH! Those kids were fast as lightning...
You better run, losers and haters! Come back when you learn how to dress!
Depending on the opponent's particular style and what the deejay is spinning these dance-offs can get pretty violent.
Italian thriller offers viewers an entertaining world of trouble.
It’s probably fair to say Duello dans le monde, aka Ring Around the World has been pretty much forgotten in filmdom, but maybe it shouldn’t be. With a good premise, groovy-jazzy soundtrack, and location shooting in global hotspots like Bangkok, London, Hong Kong, and Rio de Janeiro, this was better than we had any right to expect. Richard Harrison investigates a series of seemingly natural deaths only to find that they were murders—in reality an assassin has shot the victims with pellets made of a frozen concoction that induces heart attacks. The pellets of course then melt and leave no trace behind.
We were drawn to this film by the excellent French language promo poster above painted by Giuliano Nistri, but were surprised to find a semi-competent thriller in the vein of James Bond. Interestingly, there’s a skydiving stunt here that predated the famous Moonraker opening sequence by more than a decade. The stunt isn’t exactly the same, but the idea is close, done low budget. The movie is probably too goofy and cheap to be called good, but on the whole it’s worth a look, and as a bonus it co-stars the wonderful Dominique Boschero. Originally released in Italy in 1966 and called Duello nel mondo, it opened in France as Duel dans le monde today in 1967.
Very little of what they wrote was factual, but at least they were bold about it.
Rampage returns to Pulp Intl. after a six month absence with this issue published today in 1973. The cover star and interior models are unknowns, and the stories are mostly fiction (a fiend stomps a girl’s guts out, a ghost rapes a girl in graveyard, a husband shoots out a rival’s eyes, a wife shoots her husband because he wanted a beer) but the editors do expend a bit of column space on two real people. The first is Richard Burton, who they call a hopeless drunk with violent tendencies—not a newsflash, since other tabloids had already covered his drinking issues to death. Of marginally more interest is a story on Peter Duel, a little-known figure today, but one who was a major star during the 1970s, half of the famed duo from the hit television show Alias Smith and Jones. Rampage claims Duel did not commit suicide in December 1971, but rather was murdered. The evidence? The testimony of a medium who communicated with Duel’s spirit and reported that the aggrieved entity said, “They… murdered….me! I… was… murdered..! Oh God..!” And of course, ghosts being famously elliptical, Duel transmitted all this across the ether without uttering the name of a single assailant.
The last item of note in Rampage is the group of predictions by Mark Travis. His predictions are usually so off as to be pure comedy, but eerily, he nails a few this time. For instance, he predicts the development of a cream that can allow a person to be whatever shade they wish. While many current day Americans have perhaps heard of these only in relation to porn stars whitening their anuses, skin whitening creams are in fact a multi-billion dollar industry in places like Japan, India, and China, where paleness is perceived as an indicator of wealth. The fact that people could so blatantly kowtow to racist paradigms is another issue entirely. We’ll get into that another time maybe. Travis also predicts that American highways will all become toll roads, and that’s of course a wet dream of today’s privatization sect, and one that’s coming closer to fruition every day. Okay, Travis missed a few too. Goat’s milk has not become a major part of the American diet yet. And as far as we know, Mexico has not yet offered instant citizenship to Americans who purchase property over the border. But here’s the thing about predictions—there’s no time limit. If they haven’t come true yet… just wait. We predict that we’ll have more issues of Rampage soon. Scans below.
You know the saying there’s a thin line between love and hate? Duel in the Sun shows just how thin.
Duel in the Sun was a huge movie. We mean important stars, vibrant Technicolor, David O. Selznick in the producer’s chair, King Vidor directing the action, and a gigantic promotional budget. It’s a movie made by people absolutely sure they’re dealing with the hit of the year. Not because the movie is good. But because with so many important people involved it simply had to succeed. And like so many other movies of that stripe, its failures are manifold. We could talk about the overcooked score, the bombastic acting, the improbable script, and more, but there’s no point. Let’s just say a story about two people who love each other so much they end up shooting each other in the final scene is going to be hard to pull off under the best of circumstances. Spoiler alert, by the way. Or were we supposed to write that first?
Well, in any case, the best of circumstances are not those provided by Duel in the Sun’s old West backdrop. Still, though, if a movie is big enough it can bludgeon people into acceptance, and Duel in the Sun today rates well on various review sites. But all of those reviewers are wrong. And the funny thing is they know it, too. They all say things like, “Preposterous but worth the ticket price because it’s beautifully shot.” One critic calls it “fragmented and ultimately destroyed by its obsessive producer,” yet goes on to give it a positive recommendation. You see what we mean? Even professional critics sometimes suffer from cognitivedissonance. A movie that is destroyed by its producer is not good—period—and movie going shouldn’t be a mercy fuck.
On the plus side, Gregory Peck is always fun to watch and Jennifer Jones as the dusky Pearl Chavez cannot fail to stir something inside you, but the whole proposition is just silly. Really. If you want to see a big studio flick implode spectacularly, this may be the one. And if you want to know how studios began to understand that they didn’t need to make good movies to make money, this is a prime example, because in adjusted currency it remains one of the most successful productions of all time. But at least the promo poster is a total winner. It was made for the movie’s Japanese premiere, which was today in 1951.
American actress Jennifer Jones, seen here in a promo shot from her movie Duel in the Sun, 1946.
Spielberg’s debut film about an everyman who battles a homicidal truck driver gets better with each passing year.
Stephen Spielberg’s road thriller Duel was a made for television movie. Watching it, you’d think Hollywood would have immediately taken notice that this was a guy who was going places. But surprisingly, it took another three years for Spielberg to get his first shot at the big screen. He’s since made twenty-five films and become one of the most celebrated directors in history, having created iconic films like Jaws and Schindler’s List. But Duel remains, in our opinion, one of his best efforts. If you haven’t seen it, the Richard Matheson penned script tells the story of a lone driver menaced by a demonic Peterbuilt eighteen-wheeler guided by a trucker we never quite get to see. Dennis Weaver absolutely nails his performance as a terrified man who reaches the end of his wits, only to push through his own fear to fight back. With little dialogue, no real subplot, and a desolate desert setting, Duel is a brutally straightforward movie that has aged well. Highly recommended. The two-panel poster above was made for the film’s theatrical premiere in Japan in 1973.
It's not easy eating Green.
When we wrote in our Planet of the Apes posting that Charlton Heston was capable of creating compelling film moments, his sci-fi mystery Soylent Green was the other film we had in mind. You see the French promo art above, and you’ll notice this is another film that played at the Avoriaz Film Festival. The first screening was today in 1973, and though it was well-received, the film lost the Grand Prize to Steven Spielberg’s made-for-television thriller Duel. Soylent Green’s vision of the future may look a little retro now, but its depiction of smart business as bad morals remains relevant. It’s also notable for being the last screen appearance of the legendary Edward G. Robinson, who died of cancer just three weeks after shooting ended. We recommend you check this one out. At the very least, it’ll make you think twice next time you’re in a crowd and someone starts making those mooing sounds.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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