Today's Retro Film Report takes a look at four action flicks that take place in four very different locales:Colpo in Canna (1975) in Naples, Hot Potato (1976) in Thailand, Cajun Justice (1988) in the Louisiana bayou, and Sangue di Sbirro (1976) in San Francisco. Action and T&A know no geopolitical boundaries.
Colpo in Canna (1975) AKA Loaded Guns
A European action flick directed by the man behind Inglorious Bastards featuring an often naked Ursula Andress and badass Woody Strode - you'd think this would be an automatic favorite. Yes, there's plenty in the win column in Loaded Guns... but the fail column is even longer.
Ursula Andress is Nora Green, a stewardess who's just landed in Naples for the night. As she steps off the plane, a mysterious man offers her a wad of cash if she'll deliver a message to a man named Silvera.
Unfortunately for Nora, the letter is basically a declaration of war by a rival gang. And Silvera (Woody Strode) isn't exactly the understanding type.
So, Silerva and his thugs rough her up and throw her to the curb. As you might imagine, Ursula's body is basically the only reason for this movie to exist. The camera spends a lot of time showing us Ursula's goods, and for that I am thankful.
Nora is rescued by a studmuffin ex-boxer who lives in a uber-cool loft. Naturally, he offers her a change of clothes, thereby offering another opportunity for Ursula-ogling.
Is it absolutely necessary that Ursula change clothes on camera while standing atop the bed? The answer is an emphatic "yes".
What follows is a long battle between rival Italian gangs with Nora in the middle. There's car chases, extended fight scenes, and even a police investigation. None of it is especially engaging; it's all fast-forward material. Just "FF" to the Ursula parts.... once scene in particular....
Any guy who has seen Dr. No, with Ursula coming in from the sea wearing that bikini, has contemplated the idea of a fully nude Ursula. Well, here it is.
A hitman tries to kill Nora while she's taking a bath, but she manages to hit him over the head with her radio.
The Good: A full frontal in good lighting of Ursula Andress.
The Bad: Jimmy il Fenomeno is the hitman. If you know who he is, you know what I'm talking about. The guy is not funny, and frankly hard to watch.
The Ugly: Jimmy's grundle. Yes, the hitman pulls his pants down before he's hit. He falls into the tub unconscious and we are treated to an ugly look at Jimmy il Fenomeno's taint. It's an image that is going to haunt me for years to come I'm sure.
If we cared about the gang rivalry, if the car chases were actually good, if the comedic bits were actually funny, if the dialog was well crafted, if the fight scenes were well choreographed, if..... well, we can dwell on ifs all day. The bottom line is that everything is filler between the Ursula eye candy; unfortunately, the filler is much more plentiful than the candy.
At least Nora isn't a complete damsel in distress. As the movie progresses, we learn that she's pretty confident and capable, and may not be the victim she appeared to be at the start of the film.
Hot Potato (1976)
Jim Kelly was awesome alongside Bruce Lee and John Saxon in Enter the Dragon. Then he followed it up with Black Belt Jones - a classic. So, I had a lot of hope for his next action flick: Hot Potato.... which turns out to be absolute garbage.
This is basically it: Jim Kelly opening up a can of whoopass on various inferior opponents (thank goodness they choose to fight one at a time, instead of as a group). The fights are meh at best; more 1960s Batman than a legit martial arts movie.
His afro is impressive, and I does look like they had fun with the fight scenes. But there's just no meat on the bone here; it's just fight after fight, interrupted only by intermittent yawn inducing filler.
Jim Kelly's two sidekicks are White Rhino (George Memmoli) and Chicago (Geoffrey Binney). Their bickering is supposed to pass as comedy, but it's damn near cringeworthy. And I can just about guarantee you will grow to hate the fat idiot White Rhino with a white hot passion. You will also grow to hate Chicago's speedo.
And, he does punch an elephant at one point. So, there's that.
The "Plot": Jim Kelly and his annoying crew are tasked with rescuing a senator's daughter (Judith Brown) from some made up jungle country. They search party is led by a Thai investigator (Irene Tsu) who, of course, falls for Kelly.
Chicago falls in love with the senator's daughter. It seems beneath his tough-guy exterior, he's just a softy down deep:
Kelly: "We've done a lot of jobs over the years. But you're getting kind of sidetracked."
Chicago: "Man for the first time in five years I feel love for a woman."
Whoops. In the film's climactic battle, the senator's daughter is shot and killed. NOOOOOO!
Oh, but wait. That was just a prostitute posing as the senator's daughter. The real hostage is alive and well. Whew.
In the end, Kelly gets the smoking hot Thai momma, Chicago gets the real senator's daughter, and White Rhino (above), well he gets a jungle native. And they all live happily ever after... except for you, who will be hating yourself for watching this.
Gatorbait II: Cajun Justice (1988)
The original Gator Bait is a cult classic. Claudia Jennings in Daisy Dukes on the bayou - how could this be anything other than awesome?
Then there's this, which loses all the campy, lighthearted charm of the original. Think I Spit on Your Grave or Last House on the Left - although not as graphic or nihilistic. I happen to like those movies for what they are - the dark, unsettling bottom of grindhouse cinema.... not what I'd expect from a sequel to Gator Bait.
The first 33 minutes of this film consist entirely of the marriage and happy relationship between city girl Angelique (Jan Sebastian) and backwoods redneck Big T (Tray Loren).
If you plan on watching this film, I recommend you start at the 34 minute mark - all you need to know is that Big T and Angelique are madly in love. Plus, Big T shows her how to survive in the swamp - a trick that may come in handy.
But things escalate quickly when Big T goes fishing and a band of filthy rednecks comes to sexually assault Angelique. Taking a page from I Spit on Your Grave's playbook, the rapists are drooling animals out to violate the poor girl.
And so, the sweaty, backwoods retards take Angelique to a filthy kennel where they take turns raping her. As one IMDb reviewer asked, "ARE WE HAVING FUN YET?"
This is just unpleasant. Where'd the fun of the original Gator Bate go? It's lost along, with my happiness and will to live.
It should be noted that one huge thing this sequel is missing is Claudia Jennings. Don't get me wrong, former Gorgeous Lady of Wrestling (GLOW) Jan Sebastian has a great body.... but she's no CJ if you catch my drift.
Angelique is eventually able to exact revenge upon her assailants, but it's nowhere near as gratifying as in I Spit on Your Grave. She's eventually reunited with Big T, the credits, roll.. and you take this VHS back to the video store full of regret. How could you have been duped by a video cover once again?
Sangue di Sbirro (1976) AKA Blood and Bullets / Knell the Bloody Avenger
I enjoy a good poliziotesschi (Italian crime film) if the mood is right. For the uninitiated, take an episode of Kojak and spice it up with a few scenes of R rated sex and violence. An episode of Kojak and a poliziotesschi have similar budgets, a similar machismo factor, a similar grittiness, and contain the requisite car chase and fight scenes.... just add blood and boobs for the poliziotesschi. Sangue di Sbirro is no exception.
He plays Dan Caputo whose father was murdered by the mob, and now, years later, seeks his revenge.
The opening scene is badass. Terrorists with hockey masks start shooting up an airport; innocent civilians are being laid to waste. But Dan Caputo is there with his pistol against five guys with fully automatic weapons. I don't need to tell you who wins. Dan is the man.
Caputo returns home to San Francisco (but actually filmed in Italy) and reunites with his old flame, Susan, played by Jenny Tamburi.
Tamburi was in a wide variety of Euro-sleaze throughout the seventies before finding a career as a television casting director - a career she stayed in until her death in 2006.
Caputo teams up with Jack Palance to help him take down his father's killer. Unfortunately, despite Palance's prominence on the movie poster, he doesn't figure into the story until well into the movie.
Maybe that's a good thing: I don't know if having two intense fellas like Eastman and Palance might result in a scenery-chewing critical mass.
I mean, my God, look at the way this man even drinks milk! He's like Shatner and Heston rolled into one, then multiplied by a factor of Pacino!
Of special note is The Gas Scene - perhaps film's greatest example of gratuitous nudity. Caputo and Susan are captured by the mob baddies and knocked out. When he Caputo wakes up, he finds that he is tied up on his kitchen floor, and there's a hose emitting gas from the oven..... and, for no reason at all, Susan is totally nude.
Okay, I guess I shouldn't say "for no reason at all" because it's explained later that this was meant to be staged to look like he killed her in a jealous rage. The mob would return to the scene, put her in the bed, shoot her with his gun, then put it in his hand and make it look like a murder-suicide.
Yeah, I know. It's a pretty weak attempt to conceal a gratuitous nude scene.
Anyway, they're rescued by Palance in the nick of time. Caputo now means business, and manages to finally deliver an unmerciful justice upon his father's killer.
You see the way Caputo flicks his matches? He flicks the match, it ignites, then lands directly in the ashtray. It's a pretty badass trademark shtick.... and he puts it use in the climactic battle when he sets his father's killer ablaze.
It sounds like a great action flick, right? Well, there are some problems...
Much of this film makes no sense whatsoever. I think it was so hastily edited together that it's impossible to follow at times. For seemingly no reason, people will just start beating the shit out of each other.
It isn't helped by the fact that the best way I could find to watch this is on a crap VHS tape. But the soundtrack is phenomenal (a throbbing 70s beat), the acting is dynamite (Eastman + Palance = Overacting Supernova), there's a car chase, gratuitous full frontal nudity, and lots of gritty violence on the streets of San Francisco. What more can you ask for?