Blastfighter (1984) Blu-Ray Review

bf1Blastfighter (1984)

Directed by: Lamberto Bava

Written by: Luca De Rita & Massimo De Rita

Cast: Michael Sopkiw, Valentina Forte, George Eastman

Running Time: 87 Minutes

UK Certificate: 18

Format: Blu Ray & DVD available now from 88 Films – HERE

Studio: 88 Films Italian Collection

Jake ‘Tiger’ Sharp, Michael Sopkiw, is an ex-cop who has been behind bars for 8 years. As he leaves prison he is picked up by a man in a car who hands him his service revolver and a shotgun. This shotgun has been adapted to fire grenades, darts, lead slugs, you name it, and this monster fires it. Tiger is going to use it to assassinate a man who was involved in a cop killing, which led to the murder of his wife. Tiger has had it tough; you can read it in his moustache. However he can’t go through with it, enough is enough, so he returns home to seemingly the town of hillbilly stereotypes.

bf4Whilst setting up home Tiger makes friends with a baby deer and upsets the local yokels. This escalates into a full out feud, eventually becoming a Rambo like vendetta against anyone who looks at him funny. Oh and his estranged daughter makes an appearance just to let the audience know this guy is really going through the mill, not just physically but emotionally.

Blastfighter is a classic but for all the wrong reasons. Borrowing from First Blood and Deliverance, scriptwriters Luca De Rita & Massimo De Rita, never find a new hook, instead cramming in exposition and characters that go nowhere and a back story that never finds resolution. Having said that, Blastfighter is an all out 80’s revenge, action movie, sense and reason is not required and what it lacks in subtlety, it more than makes up for in cinematic cheese.

Lamberto Bava, Director of DEMONS, directs with a kinetic style and puts the action as far in your face as possible. He isn’t ashamed to have people blown up in close up, or put his two leads in danger by hurtling them down white water rapids because stuntmen would be too costly. Being a co-production between the US and Italy meant a small budget and the shoestring is on show. I can forgive all this however because it reminded me of cult classics like John Carpenter’s They Live or Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing.

bf3The acting, although reminiscent of many episodes of The A-Team, never gets dull; it will raise a smile or two. Michael Sopkiw, starring in only one of four movies on his CV, gives it all he has. He has the steely stare down to perfection. He is every bit the proto D-Fens from the wonderful Falling Down, a man who has had enough and been pushed that little bit too far. The majority of the ensemble is made up of Italian actors such as Tiger’s daughter played by Valentina Forte. All the roles were dubbed but I would have liked to have seen an original audio version fir comparison, just to see if it affected the performances.

Fabio Frizzi’s score is pure synth heaven, a pure 80’s sound for a pure 80’s film. The only thing I found weird and off putting was the sun over the end credits, as out of place as ‘He ain’t heavy he’s my brother’ from Rambo III, we are treated to a random a country and western song about dreams written by the BeeGees.

Blastfighter was never going to win any awards but if you like your movies that are so bad, they are good, and then give it a go. Presented on a 25 GB disc with a sharp transfer, 88 Films have done a great job restoring this movie. Including trailers for forthcoming releases and a 12 minute interview with director of photography Gianlorenzo Battaglia, this is a solid release.

bf2Quentin Tarantino calls it Bava’s best film. Having only seen this and Demons I can’t really comment but I do know that if I ever need cheering up, I’ll be popping in Blastfighter. A fine edition to my so bad it’s good collection.

7/10

The Bloodstained Shadow (1978) Blu-Ray Review

bloodstainedshadow1The Bloodstained Shadow (1978) aka’Solamente Nero’

Blu-Ray release date: 25th May 2015 from 88 FILMS

Director / Co-writer: Antonio Bido

Starring: Lino Capolicchio, Craig Hill, Stefania Casini, Juliette Mayniel

Runtime: 109 mins

UK Certificate: 18

‘The Bloodstained Shadow’, the second horror offering from director Antonio Bido first released in 1978, emerges later on in the giallo period and is possibly one of the less well-known films of the genre. Now released on Blu-Ray, the film has been well-restored to accentuate the vivid orangey-reds so characteristic of gialli films and sharpen the grey, evocatively bleak backdrop of the Venetian town of Murano during the off-season colder months in which the story plays out.

That story revolves around likeable sheepskin-coated professor Stefano D’Archangelo (Capollichio), who has come to Murano to visit his brother Paolo, the community priest. While there, the murder of a local none-too-popular medium occurs and Stefano learns that a similar strangulation of a teenage girl happened a few years previously in the town, which remains unsolved. Whilst romantically pursuing tiger-eyed beauty Sandra (Casini, whom Dario Argento fans may recognise from ‘Suspiria’), Stefano assists his brother, who witnessed the more recent killing, in trying to uncover the identity of the strangle-happy assailant. However, Paolo is being warned through the subtle mediums of decapitated sheep’s heads and blood-stained type-written notes to keep schtum, and other residents of the town are gradually starting to drop in even more gruesome manners than asphyxiation…

bloodstainedshadow2‘The Bloodstained Shadow’ isn’t shockingly original even considering it’s nearing forty – there’s the well-trodden staple threat of the black-cloaked and hooded murderer present and even the quasi-twist of the killer’s identity will be guessed by most viewers before it’s revealed. The acting isn’t brilliant (although the main cast for the most part deliver) and as with many foreign films of the period the dubbing-over of dialogue can be distracting to the audience, but having said that the film isn’t without merit.

I’m personally not a seasoned connoisseur of the giallo but I enjoyed this piece well enough and was glad to get the chance to review a film from this sub-genre. The location of Murano, with its slightly derelict, blankly-decorated buildings and uninviting ports and canals provide an interesting setting and there’s a good use of its winding, maze-like back streets for the killer to carry out the old stalky-stalky action – in fact, there’s a sequence in which Stefano takes a turn about the canals and is watched by various suspicious locals which goes a little into ‘Wicker Man’ territory. Also, the French actress Juliette Mayniel is very unsettling as the matronly, cold-eyed midwife Signora Nardi – it is possibly worth a watch just for her performance.

The music, too, is rather well-placed – of course, it’s the usual blend of Starsky and Hutch-style bass riffs and jarring piano keys at the jumpy bits that leave you in no doubt that you are watching a 1970’s horror film, but the soundtrack here is more memorable than most films of its ilk and the sequence at the end in which the perpetrator is confronted by both their victims and their damnation is very well put together in terms of score and visuals.

bloodstainedshadow3The film also has something else going for it in terms of plot that many other gialli arguably do not – the victims meeting their maker are not almost exclusively young, beautiful Farrah Fawcett-haired women – older people of both genders are done in who happen to have become embroiled in the secret behind the murders in various ways, so props to ‘Bloodstained’ for breaking the mould there. Or is the staple of young attractive women being the hunted and often the heroine an essential component of the giallo? A point for discussion maybe, but either way, I found ‘The Bloodstained Shadow’ to be entertaining and charming enough and whilst maybe not a classic, certainly deserving of place in the annals of 1970’s horror history.

6/10