Tuesday, 8 April 2008
Tough to Kill
Written by Paul Cooke and David Zuzelo of Tough to Kill and Tomb it May Concern and available through Lulu.com, this 120 page PDF/print-on-demand book/ebook examines The European Action Cinema Explosion of the 1980s or, more specifically, the contribution made by Italian productions and co-productions to it.
The bulk of the volume is comprised of 80+ reviews of films like Alien From the Deep, Ark of the Sun God, The Atlantis Interceptors, The Barbarians, The Black Cobra (and II and III), punctuated by cheesy video sleeve artwork, almost invariably of grimacing steriod-amped types wielding large phallic weapons.
The write-ups tell you what you want and need to know about a particular film – who made it, who's in it, what it's ripping off (if the title alone doesn't give this away), how much action there is and how far things get bogged down by niceties such as characterisation and plot etc. – and finish up with an “exploding huts” rating of one to five to help the new viewer work their way through the minefield of the good, the bad, the ugly and the frankly inept.
They are also pretty damn entertaining in their own right:
“Ettore Spagnuolo and Alfonse Brescia, the gruesome twosome of European trash cinema, try to add together zero budget and zero market desire to equal a good feature film. It doesn’t compute. However, Miami Cops is the most entertaining movie with Miami in the title that NEVER goes near Miami. And it has chainsaw slashed bad guys going for it.”
“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.”
Reading as someone more familiar with gialli and horror from the 1960s and 70s, it's interesting to see how the pantheon of filmmakers changes somewhat with the shift in time and place. While Castellari and Margheriti are prominent names of the ever-reliable type, the likes of Larry Ludman (i.e. Fabrizio De Angelis) and the above-mentioned Mattei emerge as solid second rank figures at their best delivering brain-dead action fun.
Indeed, one half wonders in this regard if the decline in Fulci's fortunes wasn't correlated with De Angelis's emergence as a director in his own right, as if the canny producer worked out that by directing his films himself he could save money on hiring the likes of Fulci.
It was also useful to begin to piece together the flow of the action-adventure cycle over the course of the decade, with a prevalence of entries sullo stesso filone Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mad Max, Conan the Barbarian or Rambo etc. depending on the exact point in the 80s.
In this regard, however, I also wondered whether it might have been preferable had one of the concluding essays, “Pastapocalypse 80: After they Baked the Big Apple,” which gives something of an overview of key films and stages in the the cycle, come at the start to facilitate access for the newcomer.
Then again, it could be said that part of the joy of this kind of cinema is discovering things for yourself and that providing a short cut to finding out about the delirious like of The Last Match – which I won't describe here so as not to spoil things for you – not only takes some of the fun out of things but also makes it that bit easier for those who don't understand to misappropriate and mock.
The other concluding pieces comprise a tribute to Bruno Mattei and to some of the most notable performers within the cycle – Brent Huff, Lewis Collins (whom many UK viewers may find it hard to disassociate from The Professionals, as I did), Reb Brown and Mark Gregory – and an interview with Edoardo Margheriti, discussing his own work and that of his father, Antonio.
Or, to put it another way, the kind of things which will please the fan and leave the other 99 per cent nonplussed.
The point, of course, is that the internet and the ability to self-publish means that this majority reaction really doesn't matter any more: it's now so much easier for the other one per cent of us to make contact, support one another's endeavours and spread that Eurocult love...