The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Announcement

Announcement

Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.

--Matt

Friday, April 2, 2010

American Samurai (1992)

Photobucket

The idea of this film intrigued me. David Bradley paired with Mark Dacascos in a samurai film. Of course, only ten minutes in and I realize that Dacascos is the bad guy. Suddenly I was having misgivings...

American Samurai has Bradley as a kid whose family crashes a plane over some remote areas of Japan with an infant him in it. He alone survives, and a dude who runs a samurai training place takes him and trains him, much to the chagrin of the guy's real son, Mr. Dacascos. Dacascos swears revenge for the favor his dad has shown Bradley, and fast forward so many years and Dacascos hires some thugs to steal a sacred family samurai sword from Bradley's home in LA. That means Bradley, a journalist, traces the sword to Turkey, where he goes after it pretending to be after a story. A Romantic Comedy ensues, and then a rip-off of Enter the Dragon with weapons.

Photobucket

I don't know what to say. I imagine the idea sounded great on paper, but it only translated so well on screen. Fighting with weapons is only so entertaining, and when some of the people involved look ridiculous-- see Conan wannabe and Anachronism the Great, a viking-- it only looks worse. This is especially disconcerting when you have two quality martial artists and instead of them doing what they do best: hand-to-hand combat; you have them in a couple of fairly clunky sword fights. I understand that they're samurai, and samurai fight with swords, but if these guys aren't great at them, mix it up and have some martial arts stuff with no weapons first, just to let us know what we have.

Let's start with Bradley. Why doesn't he often work in these situations? I think here it was the material. He only had a few instances where he was the man, and just as often he was getting tasered and being ordered around by the baddies. That kind of thing just doesn't work in an action film. Why they needed to cram this story into an Enter the Dragon rip-off is beyond me as well. Make it a detective film, have him track down leads, get caught in traps of baddies, and have to fight his way out. Then at the end, Dacascos kidnaps his Romantic Comedy lead, and they have their final showdown.

Photobucket

More than Bradley, they really wasted Dacascos. Let this guy cut it loose and show the world what he can do. After seeing him in Drive, I have very little respect for any film maker that doesn't give us that level of action when he or she has Dacascos at his or her disposal. Not only that, but his long hair made him look feminine. At the beginning he was revealed as a Yakuza. Why not have him in Turkey on some kind of drug deal, and Bradley has to take him down. Throw in a couple scenes where a larger group of cops try to take him in, and he takes them all out with his bare hands.

There was one interesting scene at the beginning when Bradley first loses the sword and dreams about it. There's an Onibaba style demon samurai that Bradley faces in his dream. At first I thought this was telling us how this would be a samurai film in the style of x, y, and z; instead it was telling us that there are good films out there, and this is not one of them.

Photobucket

Maybe it's not the fanny pack moment from Cyborg Cop, but it's close. After another bad dream, Bradley wakes up in his tighty... err... orangies? Anyway, it wasn't a good look. Maybe not as bad as the fanny pack, but close. As we make our way through the rest of Bradley's brief period in the movie industry, I'm left to wonder how many more moments like this we have to look forward/fear coming. And we're still left with the mystery of why Bradley stopped making movies in the first place.

This could be good with a group of people making fun of movies, but there's just so much more out there with funnier scenes to choose from, so I'm not sure I can even recommend it on those merits. If it ever ends up on something like EncoreAction, I'd say DVR it and give it a look see. Otherwise, don't go too far out of your way.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106258/

32 comments:

  1. I was so-so on this movie. Also i'm surprised you didn't talk about the director the guy who gave us American Ninja, American Ninja 2 and Avenging Force.

    By the way make sure you know going in that Quicksand which reunites Dudikoff with said director that it's more in the vein of Phase IV and Jill The Ripper.

    Anyway this one was fairly brutal, In fact I wasn't surprised to find that this had been cut for violence. I thought the chick in this was actually not too bad, in that if given better material she could go far. Bradley was extremely wooden and Dacascos even worse. Which he turned around in later roles.

    I would extend this to, if you're a fan of bad movie action and you find this in a bargain bin (can't imagine where else it would be) for say 4 bucks it's worth it, but if they expect you to spend 9.99, say no way.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What is this, the fifth Firstenberg film we have up here now. You're right, I should've mentioned it, so I'm glad you did.

    The only really brutal scene for me was when the blond guy bit the top layer of the Conan guy's cheek off. I should've mentioned that too. There was a tinge of medieveal dungeon grossness to the whole film that just added to the overall feeling that this didn't work for me. I would also say $4 is too much. I might spend $.50 on it.

    And to catch up on a couple comments I didn't get to from Fast Getaway and April Fools, Michael, I'll consider Michael Madsen for induction, but I actually don't have any films of his up. He's also in that Roy Scheider style where he does a lot of everything, from big budget, indie, TV, video games and animation, all the way down to DTV, and for that reason I've never considered either for inclusion in the Hall of Fame, but we'll see.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I actually enjoyed Cyborg Cop,(didn't really notice the fanny-pack thing until I read your review of it actually) and Bradley also did a sequel called Cyborg Soldier, which was also enjoyable(and you'll be happy to know Bradley does not have a fanny pack in that film, so i['d suggest you check that one out if Netflix has it)as for this film though, I haven't seen it yet, i'll probably see it eventually to complete Bradley's filmography, but i'll most likely save it for dead last.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Not only that, but Netflix packages Cyborg Cop 2 with Cyborg Cop 3, the Brian Genese/Frank Zagarino classic. I should've probably mentioned that I had that lined up next for David Brasdley.

    And how could you not notice that fanny pack?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Eh, alot of times there are small details in films that I just plain don't notice, mostly due to me having Aspberger's syndrome, though i'd say that's more of a blessing then a curse, as there have been plenty of films that i've read about on IMDB and they'll mention some technical goof like a boom mike shot that I never noticed, and nothing takes you out of a film like noticing a technical glitch, so i'm grateful for missing minor details most of the time.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I always thought David Bradley sort of sounded like the dubbing of Ricky from Story Of Ricky. Indeed there's another reason to Hong Kong flicks.


    Another thing you gotta do Story Of Ricky sometime regardless of the poles.

    Also as for David Bradley, I also enjoyed Total Reality. That was pretty decent. Hard Justice though still remains his best movie to date.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh and uh I look forward to your review of The Debt, in which Lorenzo Lamas tries to go the acting route with disasterous routes, although Pare did very well. It could've worked with Dudikoff or Dolph but Lamas is just ridiculous as an actor.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I was just joking with you about the fanny pack, Michael, but I would say I guess that I have to spot everything I can about a movie to be able to fill eight paragraphs on it, and even then people still spot things that I forgot about or didn't see, which is what makes reader commenting great for me.

    Mr. Kenner, you're telling me if Hong Kong cinema wins out, of the ten films I review, you'd want Riki-Oh to be one of them? I was thinking I'd do Hard Boiled, try to get my hands on A Bullet in the Head, maybe do a couple from 1930s director Yu Sun, and definitely The Chinese Connection. That leaves you with five left, and you'd want Riki-Oh to be one of those? Really? I wonder if I still have it even...

    ReplyDelete
  9. I also noticed that you don't have Genesse tagged yet, some other films of his you should check out are Night Siege:Project Shadowchaser 2, Agent Of Death, Live Wire:Human Timebomb, Death Train, and Operation Delta Force 3:Clear Target. Also Genesse was in a TV series with Carl Weathers called Street Justice, which ran for 2 years and actually did get a DVD release.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Bryan Gennesse was best displayed in Cold Harvest in my humble opinion.

    Live Wire:Human Timebomb was mediocre. This was a rip off of Universal Soldier which didn't bother me, what did bother me was how mundane the movie was. It took too long to get going, the movie was extremely routine and while the climax was somewhat decent, the whole movie had too many long stretches.

    I actually never saw Agent Of Death or Operation Delta Force 3

    Nightsiege:Project Shadowchaser II was very dull in my opinion. That whole series is just tedious. I mean it looks good, but Cyberjack/Virtual Assassin is far more interesting. Part of it because the money went into the sets and not in the action. Once again just my humble opinion.

    I think Matt should get some Michael Pare in there before he starts with such D-grades as Genesse, Joe Lara and Frank Zagarino.

    Also Steel Frontier with Joe Lara though is actually pretty good, just saying, though you had Lara's dopey Lorenzo Lamas rip off presence balanced out by the coolness of Brion James and Bo Svenson.

    If Hong Kong movies win out, The Big Boss/Fist Of Fury is a must. In fact I wouldn't even worry about the 30s HK cinema, mainly because as far as influences go on DTD movies, it's Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and John Woo that did the most. Story Of Ricky though would be a must regardless of if Hong Kong wins, just because it kicks ass in the vein that we appreciate most. I mean there is actually a fight where the bad guy tries to disembowel himself and then uses said intestines to strangle Ricky with and how said guy dies (after getting his eye knocked out to which birds fly quick to eat it.) and he then dies by getting his head crushed by an epic kung fu punch. Or the climax which uses a meat grinder, a warden who has mints in his eyeball. It's greatness and worthy of a review regardless of the results.

    Meanwhile I would also say Five Fingers Of Death/King Boxer (a Shaw Brothers classic) and Master Of The Flying Guillotine are musts as well. Especially since that film finds a one armed kung fu expert going up against a blind man who uses a flying guillotine. Also these two films along with Enter The Dragon clearly inspired the Bloodsports, Kickboxers, Blood and Bones of the world.


    That said the last two I mentioned could easily qualify as wildcard posts regardless.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Street Justice was one of my favorite shows back in the 90s. Over here they'd air it on Friday nights after Renegade.

    Brian Genesse has always been a great trailer guy to me. Like his films look great when all the action is whittled down it's best parts, and then the great trailer voice comes in and tells us who's in it, finishing with "and Brian Genesse..." Let's see how Cyborg Cop III goes, with another of Kenner's faves, Frank Zagarino.

    I must say, despite the fact that you don't have the votes, you've made the best case so far. I looked up 1930s Hong Kong cinema online and I see what you're saying. It was a serial from 1928 that I wanted to check out, but that's like 31 hours long, so that's out. After doing some research of my own, I made a list of 8 + 2, consisting of: Hitman, The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, One-Armed Swordsman, Hard Boiled, A Bullet in the Head, Once Upon a Time in China, Bangkok Dangerous, The Five Venoms, and The Chinese Connection. I would like to think the first 8 are absolutes, and then the next 2 are up for debate, which would leave a place for your suggestions (other than Riki-Oh!), but if you think any of those first 8 don't belong let me know. I probably should throw in Police Story and something else with Jackie Chan actually, huh?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I another Jackie Chan film you should throw in-New Police Story, not only is it one of Chan's best films, it's also IMO one of the top 10 action films ever made, I loved pretty much everything about that film, I also always found Chan's THe Protector to be pretty underrated, to be honest I think the only reason people hate on that so much is cause of Chan being misused, I think if the Protector had someone else other then Chan in the lead, then I dobut people would hate it nearly as much, I think you also oughta throw in that film as a bonus post or something.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Police Story is an awesome movie. I mean the mall climax...I don't want to spoil it. But Police Story is probably my favorite Chan movie. It's also one of the best series around as Police Story 2 and Supercop (Police Story 3) are classics. The first is the best though which is usually the case.


    I actually don't mind Zagarino or Genesse, I call them D-grades because I think they are in movies well below that of say Michael Pares,Wincotts,Gruners,Wilsons,Daniels and Jeff Speakman. Indeed let alone to the Van Dammes,Dolphs,Seagals and Dudikoffs.

    Cyborg Cop III (AKA Terminal Justice) That was another one of those Eh-type of movies.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Also I think Big Boss and Fist Of Fury are the same movie, And Chinese Connection is Fist Of Fury in HK. I don't these titles are confusing for me too.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I was just giving you a hard time about the Zagarino and Genesse. You're right about Michael Pare, though.

    I figured out what you meant below. Fist of Fury was Chinese Connection here, and Big Boss was Fist of Fury here. I think as far as The Protector goes, it isn't exactly Hong Kong cinema, because, though it's filmed in Hong Kong, it was produced here. I'm looking for some Shaw Brothers or John Woo/Tsui Hark type stuff, and none of that Taiwanese BS either. Police Story, though, is a must.

    All of this may end up being a moot point, though, with Blaxploitation currently ahead. I already have a ten movie playlist set in my head for Blaxploitation, and I know I can get all of those films too. You may need a get out the vote campaign coupled with a page-long op-ed explaining your case, Mr. Kenner.

    ReplyDelete
  16. That's the thing a Blaxploitation thing is also a must.

    I thought the vote isn't as much as the reasonings? Actually I could make a great case for Blaxplotation as well but I won't cause I really want Hong Kong to win.

    I could also maybe make bogus blog pages and vote just to rig the vote. :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. The reasoning does matter more than the vote, but right now you're losing 2-1 on the vote, and if those four people or more come with reasonings of their own you could be in trouble. What's good is you have Michael in your corner, so we're getting two comments and two votes versus four votes.

    On the other hand, if set up a bunch of fake blogs, and had each one follow me and comment, you wouldn't even need to vote, I'd let you pick what 10 movies you wanted!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Bangkok Dangerous is a Thai film, even though the Pangs do the majority of their films in HK. I'm all for a HK cinema focus from the DTV Connoisseur, since it's de facto my favorite genre. Practically grew up watching that stuff...

    May I suggest the Untold Story w/ Anthony Wong, and anything with Simon Yam (esp. Man Wanted or Run and Kill), as those are two of the all-time greats in terms of actors from that industry. Also, Untold Story would fit pretty well with the exploitation factor rather than something more mainstream like Chan or Lee (even though I understand why they are included). Also, don't forget Tsui Hark (Chinese Ghost Story, Time and Tide) and Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs, Bullets of Love) too. Johnny To has some great films too in the past few years, while a director like Woo hasn't made anything truly classic since Hardboiled (though I just picked up Dragon Dynasty's highly recommended Killer reissue). That's the problem with HK cinema, it's so vast a terrain you really can't do it justice in 10 films.

    In regards to the Protector, filmed in HK, produced by Glickenhaus trying to turn Jackie into Bronson- that didn't work too well. An American release that I think made less than 5 million @ the box office so I could see it still going up. The only thing I liked about it really was Danny Aiello's potty mouth and Jackie trying to sound menacing saying "gimme da fuckin' keys!" The HK cut is almost a completely different film, with Chan directing large sections of it, removing nudity, and making better fight scenes. The case could be made for it being Hong Kong I guess. Even though we wouldn't have Police Story without this, it's still far from deserving to be in a 10 film retrospective, though.

    As far as American Samurai goes, it was decent. Sort of Bloodsport meets American Ninja (but not nearly as good as either). DaCostas got the shaft again, of course, but I had a good time with his overacting and rubber faces... Good job!

    ReplyDelete
  19. The Untold Story is a great movie but it's extremely mean spirited and gross. It makes Se7en seem like a Disney movie, I mean I don't know it's also gory and viscous.

    Another one The Killer, that's a must as well.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hmmm, I guess I could see it being interpreted as mean-spirited, I always thought the violence and gore were very tongue-in-cheek and played for laughs (even though it was trying to be serious, filmmakers in HK blur the lines between comedy and drama too much to tell)- when I saw it back in the 90s, the audience in the theater were laughing more than anything else.
    Yes, the Killer is a must- it reminded me that those Chingmy Yau sexploitation cat III classics 'Naked Killer' and 'Raped by an Angel' (Naked Killer more than RBAA) are deserving of reviews too.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Well I doubt anyone was laughing with the little girl got her head chopped off. I agree with you it being tongue in cheek but the family execution rough. However while I still respect as great movie because it serves a purpose and such is used as a great story telling device to balance it all out.

    Full Contact is another one. The problem is, Matt could do like 20 and I could come up with more. Full Contact also has the greatest closing line ever, even outdoing I Come In Peace and The Running Man. "Go jack off in hell!" is great especially when you see how it's used in the context.

    The thing that sucks is that I hope he does Blaxploiation down the road as well. It's just when up against Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Shaw Brothers,John Woo and Chow Yun Fat. It's obvious where my bread is buttered.

    The problem with Vampire movies is that it would be better suited for Halloween and that it's similar to such he did last year. Plus Vampire movies aren't nearly as big on the DTD status as Blaxploitation and Hong Kong, in fact the Slasher film would make more sense and such would deserve a binge before vampires. In all seriousness.

    I think nobody has voted Troma because that counts any day of the week, Seriously Matt, I can't believe you consider the guys behind classics as Toxic Avenger, Class Of Nuke Em High and such as independents. They are even more legit as DTD style as they were the Asylum of their day, though Troma actually put out some fun products.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Before I get into anything here, let me just say American Samurai has set a new record for comments on one post.

    Okay, let's start with Troma. I disagree that they're the Asylum of their day. They just feel like a low-budget indie production company that just happens to produce more silly horror than anything else. The Asylum's films just feel more cynical than Troma's do. Plus a lot of Troma's are made for small theaters and aren't in chain video stores like The Asylum's are.

    I will say, after this latest set of arguments, the Blaxploitation people need to step up, because it's Hong Kong's game to lose.

    Let me address some of the issues raised in the past few comments. As far as Bangkok Dangerous, I looked at that as the next step in the evolution of the genre, with the Pang Brothers exporting Hong Kong cinema to Thailand; where as I see The Protector as a failed attempt by American producers to make Hong Kong cinema and sell it over here, similar to the Nicolas Cage version of Bangkok Dangerous. I did love the Jackie Chan flying head butt in The Protector, though.

    As far as Tsui Hark, I was thinking Once Upon a Time in China, but you're thinking no? The Killer is a definite if I can find it. Maybe we should bump this up to 12 movies over 6 weeks like we did comic books. If that's the case, I'll need to take another couple weeks before I start it.

    Finally, I'm kind of disappointed you jumped in on this ElementaryBeatBox, because I was hoping to see Mr. Kenner's fake blogs stuffing the ballot boxes. (Kidding of course!)

    ReplyDelete
  23. Actually most of the votes for Blaxploitation were from me, but after hearing all these compelling arguments for Hong Kong cinema, i've decided i'd much rather have you do that instead, so disregard my votes if you will and do Hong Kong.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Well, the Killer was just re-released by the Weinstein's Dragon Dynasty imprint, as was Hardboiled, so it should be easy to pick up- I see them in Wal Marts all the time...
    Yes, Kenner, "jack off in hell" is one of my favorite lines of all time, and Full Contact is a great exploitation movie- featuring Simon Yam, btw-, which would, again, lead us down another aside of how great Ringo Lam is.

    Regarding 'Bangkok Dangerous' and your reasoning of how it pointed to the next step, I can totally agree. Esp. in the fact that places like Thailand and Korea are making the kind of exciting, adrenaline-filled movies HK can't seem to muster anymore since the take-over and exodus of talent to Hollywood and Van Damme-ville.

    Once Upon a Time in China, I can completely understand, but from my vantage point, I always found it very overrated. Yes, it's Li and Hark, and brought back the old style of Wu Xia back to 90s HK theaters, but it's hardly as great as Tsui's stuff from the 80s like Chinese Ghost Story, I Love Maria, or Xu. Sure, it's bigger, but it never entertained me as much as his other works.

    And the Protector was, for me, Golden Harvest's last gasp for trying to sell Jackie over here as an American tough guy in the 80s until they finally (gasp!) just let him be his goofy self and did it right with Rumble in the Bronx ten or so years later.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I agree I think Jet Li's Fong Sai Yuk and Fist Of Legend were far better than Once Upon A Time In China. In fact I liked the sequel better as well.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Well, that was quite a revelation by Michael. Wouldn't you have been upset Mr. Kenner had you lost out to Blaxploitation under those circumstances? Hahahaha.

    What do you guys think, if Hong Kong wins out, of ending with The Triangle? Have you seen it, if so, what did you think? The Killer is definitely available, but as you can image, Full Contact and any of those Tsui Hark ones you mentioned aren't. It's been forever since I've seen I Love Maria, but that's always been my favorite of his.

    Finally, I was thinking Hitman as another Jet Li one. What do you think of that?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Actually Full Contact is availible, I know that since I happened to come across it one day in the Foreign section at Hollywood Video, that was a truly great find. And BTW Hitman is also called Contract Killer in the U.S.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I guess I should've been more clear, Full Contact is not available via Netflix, but that's cool you found it near you. I'll check my local record store on Monday and see what they have. As far as the Hitman/Contract Killer difference, the former is in Cantonese with English subtitles, while the latter is dubbed. I've always been a subtitles guy.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Just buy Full Contact off Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Full-Contact-Yun-Fat-Chow/dp/B00008R9LX/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1270358610&sr=1-2 It's like 2.25 and with shipping five bucks and it's well worth it. I mean I'd pay 29.99 for it...if I hadn't gotten it for 12. Plus the link I sent you is subbed and dubbed. In fact this isn't even about HK cinema more than it isabout how a fan of movies could not have seen such a classic. Shame Shame Shame Shame on you.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I know, sometimes I wonder how I can wake up in the morning, let alone look myself in the mirror, knowing I haven't seen Full Contact. As I walk down the street, kids with lollypops, conctruction workers, hell, even dogs, all shake their heads at me because they too know, I haven't seen Full Contact. There's Tiger's sex scandal, Mark McGuire using steroids, and then there's me, the Direct to Video Connoisseur, not having seen Full Contact. TMZ first broke the story, but then Nancy Grace and her panel of pundits discussed it. She contacted me to be on her show, but I was too ashamed and cowardly to admit I hadn't seen Full Contact, so I ducked her. This isn't just about me, a fan of movies, not having seen Full Contact, this is about truth, justice, and the American way. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  31. It's even worse than that...I must admit I only posted about Full Contact (though in all seriousness it's more of an action thing.) so you would get to 30 posts. True story, sad as it is.

    Actually if were talking scandals I think the big one here is how you have tagged Sho Kosugi twice despite tagging him 3 times. (You forget Black Eagle, which as awful as it is does have Kosugi) Indeed if there is real shame it is that.

    Full Contact is more a tragedy you hadn't seen it but the aboce thing is more tragic.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I don't find it sad at all that you wanted to get this one to 30 comments, I think it's great. What's crazy is, that's more comments than we have followers! Anyway, I was just joking in my response too, if you couldn't tell already.

    ReplyDelete