Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Last Kamikaze (1984) review


Paul Naschy (Sergio Arandar), Manuel Tejada (Christian Parker), Iran Eory (Monica), Leticia Marfil (Irene), Julia Saly (Sylvia del Rio), Lone Fleming (Vera), Mirta Miller (Natasha Bredonda)

Directed by Jacinto Molina (Paul Naschy)

***WARNING! This review contains images of nudity and graphic violence***

The Short Version: Paul Naschy writes, directs, and stars in this celluloid hit job, a Spain/Japan co-pro about two hired assassins waging war between two crime syndicates. The micro-plot gets lost amid plenty of nudity, sex, graphic violence, blood squibs, bodies blown to bits, and a Nazi-haunted Naschy dressing up as bums, repairmen and little old ladies to get at his targets. The movie does take a few brutality breaks to pontificate on the nature of man's penchant for perversion and whether killers are justified in murdering evil human beings. Mediocre at best, the globe-trotting KAMIKAZE comes equipped with inert action sequences and unintentional laughs--like Naschy in drag and assassinating midgets in the middle of L'amour. The sleazy atmosphere is the sustaining factor for both fans of the trashier side of Eurocrime and those of Senor Naschy.

An international crime ring based in New York hires an assassin named Christian (codename: Danton) to take out members of a rival syndicate, the Giovicci Organization. Included on the list is the oppositions own contract killer, The Kamikaze--who happens to be a master of disguise. Since no one knows what he looks like, the ruthless Kamikaze massacres his way to the center of the criminal organization, ultimately leading to Danton, his long-time rival. Meanwhile, as the bloody back-and-forth between syndicates unravels, a secret meeting between members of both crime rings plot to work together and do away with their powerful contract killers.

Naschy is a triple threat--writing, directing and starring as a disturbed, guilt-ridden contract killer hunted by a rival criminal organization and an old nemesis. Unlike the assassins in the movie, the film fails on some important levels: the characters and the action. The picture could sacrifice one or the other but not both. Lacking focus on its intriguing antagonists (there are no heroes here), and unable to pull off even modestly engaging action sequences, the filmmakers instead rely on exploding bodies, blood squibs and bare flesh. For most, THE LAST KAMIKAZE will get by on that alone even if its more ambitious components are unrealized to the full potential of Naschy's penmanship.

KAMIKAZE was one of over a dozen co-productions with Japan--some of which were documentaries made for Japanese consumption while others were motion pictures; and, additionally, three television series'. Naschy's assassin pesudo-epic was the next to last picture he made in collaboration with the Japanese. The first such co-pro was the crime-horror combo HUMAN BEASTS (1980); and ended with the spy parody OPERATION MANTIS (1984)--a financial disaster as well as a film Naschy considered his worst.

Enriched by location shooting--particularly in Egypt--it's possible the travel expenses gobbled up a lot of the budget preventing the time needed for stronger action sequences. In his memoirs, Paul Naschy detailed his desire to see the country of the Pyramids and Pharaoh's so KAMIKAZE held a special place for him. Implementing some of his disquieting experiences in the movie, Naschy's harrowing ordeal while trying to film there sounded far more sinister and engrossing than what made it to the screen. 

Hidden within the written word of Naschy's script is a compelling thriller; even if all we're ever given are mere crumbs of a story. The idea of a tortured, guilt-ridden assassin desiring death makes for a fascinating character study... if only Naschy focused more on that than the futile attempt at making an action picture his budget is incapable of bringing to life, the proceedings could've been taken more seriously. 

The two killers are the main arcs of the plot. One is a hunter, the other the hunted. Both have obsessions that keep them alive. For Naschy's character, Sergio, it's to meet his own doom; for his pursuer, it's to make that a reality. One of these characters is far better realized than the other; it isn't too difficult to discern which one that is.

When he isn't killing clients, Sergio Arandar passes his time as a painter (inspired by Goya!) and collector of fine art. Arandar is one of the actor's most complex characters. Naschy crams every conceivable expository tribulation into Sergio to the point it becomes a detriment to there being any rational audience identification with him. There's little room to negotiate whether or not Sergio is anything less than a psychopath; but late-blooming devices such as his blood money earned being used to care for a retarded daughter we never see (outside of a picture) and a desire to eradicate memories of his Nazi father do little to derive sympathy.

Pretending to run an export business, Sergio keeps his real job a mystery (or so he thinks) to a beautiful woman of wealth (played by Julia Saly) who desires his company full-time. Sergio wishes for her to take care of his daughter for him in the event of his death. There's some good scenes between them, but writer Naschy scuppers sustaining the drama for very long when another tragi-romantic angle is explored with a younger, free-spirited pot smoker named Irene.

Ms. Saly does double-duty on this picture, acting as a co-producer. She acted in this capacity for several other Naschy pictures including NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (1981; a film which she also starred in as Countess Bathory) and THE BEAST AND THE MAGIC SWORD (1983).

Where the film fails to stabilize its dramatic aspects, Naschy excels in the exploitation department; the bread and butter of the picture, and the only reason to watch it. In so many of his horror pictures he often played multiple monsters like in DR. JEKYLL AND THE WOLFMAN (1972), VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES (1972) and HOWL OF THE DEVIL (1987). As the motorcycle riding Sergio Arandar Naschy is a master of disguise--decking himself out as bums, electricians, and, in a scene that's supposed to be played straight, a pistol-packin' old lady.

One highlight that precipitates a similar occurrence in PULP FICTION (1994) sees him pretending to be an electric repairman so he can mercilessly assassinate an Egyptian criminal while he's taking a shit! And yet another is a Spanish do-over of the brutal poolside massacre from MAGNUM FORCE (1973). In it, Naschy casually rides up on his motorcycle and begins lobbing grenades at the party-goers before mowing them down with his machine gun. The silliest is when Naschy dons a maid's attire--looking like an old queen while firing off two pistols in an attempt to snuff out an Arabic crime boss.

Regarding the bloody shootings and assassinations, there's an air of untended hilarity attached to them. Outside of the above-mentioned sequence where Naschy dresses as the ugliest woman on the planet, these gangsters have the slackest, most anemic security you've ever seen. Sergio has this dark, Zorro-styled label of no one knowing who he is--with an uncanny ability to always reach his targets and elude capture. This skill level amounts to little more than tossing grenades and firing guns basically out in the open and in broad daylight. Considering these mobsters haven't the money to properly finance protective services, it's no wonder Sergio is able to pull off his hits as easily as he does.

Then there's Danton, assassin #2; the one who has a debt to settle with Sergio. Played with little conviction by Manuel Tejada, he's one of the pictures' greatest weaknesses when he should be one of its best assets. An award winning actor of repute in his native Spain, the thespian of stage and screen seems disinterested, performing his bits of action with lackadaisical ease. When the two meet for the last time, this final confrontation has some mild tension, but it's not the sort of set-piece the film demands. 

While Sergio prefers to make lots of noise with explosives and machine gun fire, Danton's lethal arsenal is on the quiet side--compiling canes with retractable blades; darts ejected from a pipe; and golf clubs masquerading as firearms with built-in silencers. This is another area of the script that could've used some bolstering to enhance the rivalry between the two men.

Occasionally, the steady diet of bloody deaths is momentarily halted so the assassins can mourn their lives and whether they're truly insane for murdering the scum of the Earth. In Sergio's case, he blames his psychosis on his Nazi father who tried to brand the vileness of the Third Reich onto his consciousness. In keeping with the picture's gloomy tone, there's brief, gruesome footage of Holocaust victims. There's also a twist ending that hints a new trainee will be raised as the new Kamikaze. It's dramatic, gut-punching instances such as this that could've enabled the picture to thrive had it not laid its focus on half-baked action sequences with virtually zero energy and choreography.

For example, a chase scene (best appreciated by bad movie buffs) between Sergio and Danton is among the slowest, least exciting ever put to film; culminating in a lazy crash and burn of some conveniently placed cans of flammable liquids in what is supposed to be a gas station.

One bright spot is seeing three of Spanish cinema's scream queens together in the same movie; these ladies of horror being Lone Fleming (TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD; A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL), Julia Saly (INQUISITION; THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK), and Mirta Miller (COUNT DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE; SANTO VS. DOCTOR DEATH)

Fleming's role in the movie has an element of surprise surrounding it; she initially seems a vapid female interested only in materialism; later, her participation has a sinister air of ambiguity as just one cog in a purported global network of criminality. The same could be said of Saly--she isn't all that she seems. Ms. Miller is the most open characterization; a duplicitous crime boss whose last scene is arguably the film's trashiest moment. Naschy interrupts her lesbian love session, blowing big holes into both her and her lover with a sawed-off shotgun.


If only the budget could sustain them, all the ingredients are here for a really good movie to succeed as either a potent parable on the evil of man; or a trashy throwback to the Italian crime films of the 70s Naschy's movie emulates; the main theme comes from one of the best--Stelvio Cipriani's music heard in the trendsetting classic, EXECUTION SQUAD from 1972. Sold as an action movie, KAMIKAZE comes up short. On a par with the weakest of its Italian antecedents, EL ULTIMO KAMIKAZE's primary targets will be Eurocrime specialists and the most hardened of Naschy-files.

This review is representative of the Research Entertainment All Region PAL DVD. Specs and Extras: non-anamorphic 1.85:1; Paul Naschy Interview (78 minutes); Image Gallery; Biographies; Spanish language only; running time: 01:25:39

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Werewolf and the Yeti (1975) review


Paul Naschy (Waldemar Daninsky), Grace Mills (Sylvia Lacombe), Silvia Solar (Wandessa), Gil Vidal (Larry Talbot), Luis Induni (Sekkar Khan), Castillo Escalona (Professor Lacombe), Jose Luis Chinchilla (Temujin), Gaspar Gonzalez (Tiger Passan), Victor Israel (Joel), Ana Maria Mauri (Princess Ulka)

Directed by Miguel Iglesias Bonns

***WARNING! This review contains nudity***

The Short Version: Naschy gnashes his teeth as Waldemar the Werewolf for the 8th time (if you include the lost NIGHTS OF THE WOLFMAN from 1968) in this epic euro-trash--cramming werewolves, cannibals, bandits, sex, sorceresses, action, gore, a love story, magic flowers, and book-ended with superfluous appearances by a mangy Yeti. Additionally, there's enough characters and potential side-stories for a three hour movie. If all that weren't enough, the script deviates from the traditional tragedy of previous Daninsky-fests, giving Naschy an opportunity to play a heroic Lycanthrope who only kills villains. A real ladies (wolf)man, Naschy proves Wolfery isn't dead in Spain.

After receiving evidence recovered from a doomed Tibetan expedition that the Yeti exists, professor Lacombe mounts a second trip to Karakorum, an unexplored region of Katmandu in the hopes of capturing the creature. Because of his familiarity with the area and the Nepalese language, anthropologist Waldemar Daninsky accompanies the professor and his crew. Upon their arrival it's learned that bad weather has made the trek to Karakorum impossible. A half-crazed guide named Joel offers to lead them through an alternate route; the oft-avoided "Pass of the Demons of the Red Moon". Due to the dangerous conditions and superstitious warnings, only Waldemar opts to go. Lost in the snow, Joel mysteriously disappears. Exhausted, Waldemar stumbles upon a cave and is nursed back to health by two strange women. Later discovering they're werewolves, Waldemar is bitten in a struggle, becoming a wolfman when the moon is full. 

Meanwhile, professor Lacombe and his team are captured by vicious bandits led by Temujin--who takes them to the mountain stronghold of the bloodthirsty Sekkar Khan where certain death awaits them. Learning of a cure for his Lycanthropy from a Tibetan monk, Waldemar must now save them from both Khan and his sorceress caregiver, a wicked witch named Wandesa.

Naschy's 7th hairy concerto (8th if you count the still unaccounted for NIGHTS OF THE WOLFMAN from 1968) is easily one of the busiest and best in his werewolf series. The low budget is obvious, but the energy that ends up onscreen belies the impoverished means available to make it. Just under 90 minutes, there's an entire mini-series worth of characters that are thrown at us--many of whom we learn nothing about outside of the periphery. The finished product doesn't aspire for much more than quickie exploitation thrills so the limited availability of exposition is a bonus.

Written by Paul Naschy (under his real name of Jacinto Molina), Miguel Iglesias Bonns was a natural choice for director considering his filmography; while varied, was peppered with assorted thrillers and adventure movies. Made in five weeks on location and on studio sound stages, the picture was, according to Bonns, more successful outside of Spain than domestically. On the festival circuit, Paul Naschy was awarded a Silver Carnation Award for Best Actor at Sitges in 1975. It's easily one of the most fast-paced and wildly entertaining of the actor's extensive monster-ography for a variety of reasons.... 

The love story angle between Naschy's Daninsky and the character of Sylvia is stronger than normally afforded these movies. It's given some added weight since Waldemar is actually the hero of the movie--only killing the many villains that populate the plot line, eschewing the usually tragic, sometimes villainous, figure he played in other films.

Starring as the wolfman's lover is Grace Mills (Mercedes Molina; no relation to Jacinto Molina, alias Paul Naschy), a petite, beautiful actress whose debut was the object of possession in Juan Bosch's EXORCISM (1975), a production co-written by and starring Naschy. It was a stunning performance beginning what could have been a notable career. The character of Sylvia is put in the required peril and is also tasked with either saving Waldemar or killing him. For the only time in the Daninsky series, Waldemar is cured and lives. Unfortunately, after a promising debut and followup feature, Ms. Mills' career seemed to fade away.

Most of Naschy's monster flicks bring something unique to the table and this one brings a feast of ideas. Only THE BEAST AND THE MAGIC SWORD (1983) tops it for sheer creativity. There's everything from cannibalistic, nymphomaniacal werewolf women worshiping ancient fang-toothed deities; Mongolian tyrants with horrible skin afflictions requiring freshly flayed skin from enslaved women; a domineering, dominatrix witch woman with power over men; rare, magical flowers with the power to cure werewolfism; the first ever titanic tussle between a Wolfman and an equally hairy Abominable Snowman.

The man himself referred to it as a comic book brought to the Silver Screen, and that's exactly what it is--albeit one filled lots of sex and gory violence. There's barely a moment that some action isn't transpiring resulting in THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI feeling more like an action movie than horror. Even the werewolf sequences are within the action genre paradigm. This version of Waldemar is more acrobatic--often leaping across the screen or from the precipice of a cliff onto his enemies; or dueling with the villains in human form during a few satisfactory fight sequences. The only time this feels like genuine horror is during the beautifully lit, Bavaian cave sequence with the two strange women whose daily diet consists of sex and human flesh.

In it, a weary Waldemar wanders into the demon women's domain, succumbing to their sexual proclivities in the most kinetic humping session seen in any of the actor's monster movies. Both women are on top of Naschy; one appears to have her face awfully close to his southern border while the other feverishly gyrates, doing what looks like a horizontal version of the Lambada. Afterward, a refreshed Waldemar discovers his two hosts prefer human viscera to a cigarette after sex.

In his memoirs, Naschy recounted a story from 1952 when, at age 18, he became sexually entangled with two sensual sisters--daughters of a diplomat. The memory of these weeks long dalliances served as inspiration for the sole ménage à trois in the Daninsky canon.

As for the setting, these flesh-hungry succubi weren't living in a mansion but a spooky cave that was a real cavern found at Sant Quintí de Mediona.

Getting back to the movie, Waldemar finds his horny hostesses praying before a tomb housing what appears to be a warrior werewolf wearing armor and with a silver-bladed arrow jutting from its heart. It's reminiscent of Conan finding Crom in his crypt; only this sanguinary king has fangs. Waldemar is then attacked by the fang-toothed females and manages to kill them both; but not before one of them bites into his chest--successfully placing The Curse of the Beast onto him.

A thoroughly bizarre, well-edited sequence of horror, this established tone of eeriness melds with action movie tropes immediately thereafter. A curious blend that would crop up in American movies a few years later with Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978); and later popularized to an alarming degree with ALIENS (1986) and PREDATOR (1987); FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996) and those awful RESIDENT EVIL movies being other examples.

Additionally, it is during this sequence on the Blu-ray that a stretch of footage has been inserted from an inferior source for purposes of completion (see insert photo above)

Years ago, Naschy stated in an interview that none of the directors he'd worked for wanted to direct horror features, doing them strictly for the paycheck. Bonns's action-centric horror film is a clear example of that. He makes this strange brew work although Naschy would master this mixture directing himself in the aforementioned THE BEAST AND THE MAGIC SWORD (1983); wherein Daninsky's wolfman finds himself in Feudal Japan battling samurai and demons.

One of the memorable characters is Wandesa, played by Silvia Solar. Sekkar Khan may be the head Mongol in charge, but Wandesa the Wicked Warden pulls the strings. There's cursory hints that she may be in the process of usurping Khan's power, but the plot moves too quickly from one set piece to the next; and is too densely populated for an 87 minute running time to allow much of these narrative strands a chance to grow. Basically the Himalayan Ilsa (now that would've been an interesting team-up with Daninsky), Wandesa has a thing for flaying women alive and Waldemar's animal magnetism.

The wolfman makeup is more dog-like than previous incarnations; even less effective if some shots compared with other Daninsky outings. Elsewhere, the gore FX are very well done, though; one shot that is particularly potent is the fate of the Larry Talbot character (yes, a character is named after Chaney, Jr's classic howling man)--left for dead with a sharpened stake thrust into his rectum and exiting his shoulder; this being a popular method of torture and execution in European and Asian territories. Additionally, the realistic cuts and bruises on his face are beneficial to the efficacy of the artists involved.

With all the pluses this exploitation achievement has to offer, arguably the biggest disappointment of THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI is the appearance of the Yeti itself. You see him at the beginning and again at the end; both appearances amounting to maybe 2 minutes of footage. He's briefly mentioned early on, then quickly forgotten about. The movie is crammed full of everything else to the point that the abominable beast isn't missed at all. Once you see the Yeti suit, you wonder why they even bothered. 

According to the director, he was displeased with the finished costume and there wasn't time or money to furnish another. The clash of the title titans isn't much of a fight, anyway. Still, the goofy Yeti just adds to the trashy charm of everything.

Of passing interest is the fact that a Tibetan Yeti bite was the cause of Daninsky's accursed condition in the awful, but awfully entertaining, THE FURY OF THE WOLFMAN (1971). While Tibet was FURY's source of lycanthropic transference seen via a fleeting flashback, it's the primary locale of this movie... well, the Pyrenees subbing for it. Further, while the bite of an Abominable Snowman can turn a man into a wolfman in FURY's world, in the land of this YETI, a werewolf bite has the opposite effect on his shaggy opponent.

Another point of interest worth mentioning is that THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI is the sole Paul Naschy movie to be banned in the UK; making the Video Nasties list in Great Britain as per the Video Recordings Act of 1984. Such scenes as Naschy's three-way and Wandesa relieving a naked woman of the skin off her back being the likely culprits.

There's not a kitchen sink in sight, but there's a little bit of everything in this exotic cornucopia of carnage that is sure to please exploitation fans. The snowy location is unique and a nice change of scenery from the usual fog-enshrouded moors; isolated rural villages; and moldy castles indigenous to these movies. The actor's action-packed opus is a high-point of Spanish genre cinema, and an early example of the sort of action horror that would take hold years later in America. One of Paul Naschy's most kinetic productions, THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI is silly escapism that never fails to entertain.

This review is representative of the 5 disc Shout! Factory THE PAUL NASCHY COLLECTION II. Specs and Extras: 1.33:1 1080p HD master; English dubbed version; Spanish language with English subtitles; still gallery; running time: 01:27:38

Related Posts with Thumbnails


copyright 2013. All text is the property of and should not be reproduced in whole, or in part, without permission from the author. All images, unless otherwise noted, are the property of their respective copyright owners.