Graveyard Of Honor (1975)

Kinji Fukasaku (Battles without Honor and Humanity, Battle Royale) adapted Goro Fujita’s gangster novel of the rise and fall of real-life gangster Rikio Ishikawa, a man who lives up to the lack of honor or humanity references by Fukasaku’s other film.

How horrible of a person is Ishikawa? Within minutes of the opening credits, he steals money from the Aoki gang, robs a Sangokujin gambling den with Imai, stashes his gun with a geisha named Cheiko, gets arrested and returns for his gun and to assault the girl.

Meanwhile, the leader of his gang is running for Japanese parliament and the out of control antics of the film’s protagonist are too much for them. Despite a talking to by the family boss, he blows up the leader’s car. This unpardonable crime leads to the gang telling him to slice his fingers off in the ritual of yubitsume. He refuses and goes to the cops before leaving Tokyo for 18 months, drifting to Osaka and a drug-filled haze.

Of course, the first thing he does when he heads back to Japan — ten-year exile or not — he comes back for a whole other round of mayhem, which includes battling two Yazuka families and the police all at the same time, followed by driving Cheiko to suicide and, inevitably, cannibalism, a sword battle in a graveyard and suicide.

Noboru Ando, who appears in this movie, was an actual mob figure for some time, saying “In Japanese, the only difference between yakuza and yakusha (actor) is one hiragana character.” Very noticeable by the knife scar on his cheek, he appeared in plenty of mob-related movies, including movies directly based on his life, such as his sexual experiences while hiding from the police (Ando Noboru no Waga Tobou to Sex no Kiroku) and life of crime in Takashi Miike’s Deadly Outlaw: Rekka.

You can get this movie as part of the Graveyards of Honor set recently released by Arrow Video. It comes with Takeshi Miike’s 2002 version of the movie, as well as new audio commentary by author and critic Mark Schilling, a new visual essay by critic and Projection Booth podcast host Mike White and an appreciation of the director. Like everything Arrow releases, this is a great set.

The Iron Superman (1975)

Taken from footage of Super Robot Mach Baron — the sequel to Super Robot Red Baron — this Hong Kong version predates the notion of using native actors within a Japanese show that Power Rangers would perfect a decade or more later.

Stranger still, this was released in Spain as Spain Mazinger Z – El robot de las Estrellas, even though Go Nagai’s famous robot is nowhere to be found.

The Universal Rescue team and their Super Iron Robot struggle to battle the evil that is within the Bermuda Triangle in a movie that smashes together an entire season of a TV show into 86 or so minutes. So you know that it’s going to make no sense — and therefore be awesome — before you even start playing it.

Stephan Yip, who directed Lady Exterminator, acts in this, as does Godfrey Ho, who is probably better known for his multiple ninja movies and insanity like Robo VampireScorpion Thunderbolt and Kickboxer from Hell.

This was originally directed by Koichi Takano, who did the puppet effects in King Kong vs. Godzilla before doing the effects for several Ultraman series, including Ultraman: TigaUltraman Towards the FutureUltraman 80 and Ultraman Leo.

To see a modern version of this, the movie BraveStorm has recently come out in the U.S. on blu ray.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Lisztomania (1975)

Honestly, this movie is crazy. I have no idea how Ken Russell talked people into giving him money for this.

Actually, I do. David Puttnam’s Goodtimes wanted to make six movies about composers with Russel, with the first being 1974’s Mahler. He also planned to make films of Vaughan Williams, Berlioz and Gershwin, which was to star Al Pacino.

There was just a 57-page script and Puttman and Russell weren’t always on the same page. Seeing Liszt as the first rock star — the term Lisztomania refers to the sexual mania that female fans felt when in his presence — led to Russell making a movie where he eventually felt that “The symbolism…is a bit too relentless and the fantasy sequences tend to submerge the reality of the characters.”

Well, yeah.

Based somewhat on the book Nélida, a story in which Marie d’Agoult — played by Fiona Lewis in the movie — wrote a barely hidden confession about her affair with Liszt, the movie is barely a narrative and more a series of misadventures, starting with d’Agoult’s husband catching her in bed with the composer and the duel that ensues. After leaving the two trapped inside a piano on the train tracks, the movie quickly moves to the start of his rivalry with Wagner (Paul Nicholas), who hates the showmanship that Liszt uses to win over crowds.

Liszt is now married to Marie and constantly battling with her over his infidelities, unable to write music. He hopes to meet Satan so that he can sell his soul to be inspired again, a fact that his daughter Cosima prays for.

This makes him to Russia, where Princess Carolyn and her court seduce him into growing a ten-foot-long erection, which is taken to a guillotine, where he must give up his carnal needs if he is to create again.

How does one explain what follows? That Wagner is a vampire that uses Superman for propaganda and attempts to suck the musical soul from Liszt? That the Pope is Ringo Starr, who demands that our hero — who has failed at being an abbott of the church because he sleeps around — must stop Wagner and his daughter Cosima and their Reichian zombie death cult? That Rick Wakeman plays Thor? That a zombified Wagner — armed with a symbolic electric guitar machine gun — kills all of the Jewish people while Cosima uses a voodoo doll to kill Liszt, who goes to Heaven and reunites with all of his lovers — as well as his daughter, who has a change of heart in the afterlife — and flies back to Earth where he destroys Wagner and flies into space in his spaceship?

I have no idea what I just watched, but I loved it.

Never Too Young to Rock (1975)

In the future, music is banned from TV. That leads to Hero (Peter Denyer) and his driver Mr. Rockbottom (Freddie Jones, The Baron from Son of Dracula, as well as appearances in Goodbye GeminiThe Satanic Rites of DraculaKrull and many others) turn an ice cream truck into a Group Detector Van that can find pop groups that they want to play at a big concert that will save rock and roll.

If you’re a fan of the British glam scene of 1975 — including bands like Mud, Slik, Hello, The Glitter Band, Slide, The Rubettes, Scott Fitzgerald, Bob Kerr’s Whoopee band and The Silver Band — then you’re in the right place. In fact, Slik also has a very young Midge Ure before the days of Ultravox and Visage. Ure also wrote Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott’s song “Yellow Pearl,” which was the theme for Top of the Pops, and co-wrote “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

Mud are pretty fun, what with their wacky trousers and dance moves. And you may not know Hello, but you definitely know their song “New York Groove,” which was covered by Ace Frehley. The Glitter Band were also known as The Glittermen and were, of course, the back-up for Gary Glitter (the same creative team that made this movie also were behind Glitter’s film Remember Me This Way). The Rubettes were a studio band that had two hits, “Sugar Baby Love” and “Your Baby Ain’t Your Baby Anymore.” Their keyboard player Bil Hurd was in Suzi Quatro’s band. Bob Kerr’s Whoopee Band was an offshoot of the Bonzo Dog Band. Finally, Scott Fitzgerald represented the UK in the 1988 Eurovision contest — alongside Jigsaw’s Des Dyer, Julie Forsyth and her husband Dominic Grant — coming in second to Switzerland’s winning entry, “Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi” performed by Celine Dion. He’s best known for his song “If I Had Words,” which is in the film Babe.

This is one of those movies where my mother-in-law walks in and says, “What weird movie are you watching now?” and I find myself explaining how amazing mid-70’s British glam is to someone who has no idea what I’m talking about. Oh mama, weer all crazee now. And so crazee for it that we reviewed it twice, during our first “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week.”  Yeah, it’s that fun!

Cellat (1975)

The joy of Turkish cinema is that it allows you to relive movies that you already enjoyed, like Death Wish. And, well, Death Wish 2.

Orhan — the Turkish Paul Kersey — and his wife Filiz, along with his sister Sevgi and her boyfriend Jahit, have just come back to Istanbul from an escape to the country. Moments after that peaceful time ends, some drugged-up bad guys assault the women, killing Filiz and leacing Sevgi in a coma, much like Paul’s daughter Carol in the original. The police won’t be able to help outside of taking statements. Now, it’s up to Orhan to get the revenge that no one else will for him.

Director Memduh Ün may have been inspired by Michael Winner, but like all the best cover songs, he realizes that he has to put his own touch on the material. Serdar Gökhan seems more like an everyman than Charles Bronson. When Bronson’s Kersey pukes after his first night of being a vigilante, we’ve associated death and destruction so much with the actor that we realize he’s going to get over it. We want him to embrace the angel of death. Instead, we see Serdar’s take slowly descend from a man willing to attend to an injured dog in the midst of his vacation to someone willing to toss a man to his death. Somehow, this movie remakes the original and premakes the sequel, all with probably a tength of the budget.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Deafula (1975)

The first — and as far as I know only — horror film shot using American Sign Language, I’ve been looking for Deafula for a long time to see just how weird it is. The good news is that it’s totally strange and exactly what I hoped that it would be. In truth, it’s also the first ASL film ever made.

It was written and directed by — and stars — Peter Wechsberg, using the stage name Peter Wolf. As a student at the deaf-friendly Gallaudet University, he went on to be in the National Theater of the Deaf. In the world of Deafula, everyone is deaf.

Steve Adams (Wolf) is a theology student who starts to believe that he’s a vampire. His best friend, a detective, has hired an inspector who has already battled — and defeated — Dracula to discover who is behind the 27 murders that have already gone done.

Man, there’s so much weirdness in here that I barely know where to start. Steve has always been a vampire and his preacher father has been able to feed him with his blood until his heart gives way. Steve’s mother also left his father for Dracula and sleeps in his grave, while her mother’s best friend Amy — who disappeared many years ago — has a magic ring that tells her when Steve is a bat. Where has she been? Oh, she’s just been living with a handless servant named Zork.

This is the only movie I’ve seen where a vampire prays to God to forgive him.

While this movie was originally silent, they later dubbed it for hearing audiences, adding a really bad Bela Lugosi impression for Dracula.

Wechsberg signed an agreement with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to receive twelve copies of the film to show it to audiences. They would eventually bootleg the movie and start sending out VHS tapes, so the creator of this film had to sue the U.S. government for stealing from him.

This is worth tracking down if only to see how a deaf creator sees vampirism.

Take A Hard Ride (1975)

There is no Anthony Dawson, despite what the credits of this film would lead you to believe. That’s Antonio Margheriti directing this western, starring Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly in their second of three films together (Three the Hard Way and One Down, Two to Go complete the set).

If you’re making a Western, who should you get to be in it? Lee Van Cleef. Credit to Margheriti for bringing him in.

Pike (Brown) used to work for cattle rancher Bob Morgan (Dana Andrews, Lt. Ted Stryker in Zero Hour!), but now his boss is dead and he has to deliver eighty-six grand to the man’s widow. Helping him is the gambling man Tyree (Williamson), a prostitute (Catherine Spaak, The Cat o’ Nine Tails), a karate fighting Native American (Kelly) and an orphan. They’re all chased by a bounty hunter (Cleef) and a sheriff (Barry Sullivan, Planet of the Vampires).

Toss in Charles McGregor (Fat Freddie from Super Fly), Robert Donner (Exidor from Mork & Mindy), Western actor Harry Carey Jr. and Buddy Joe Hooker, who Burt Reynolds based Hooper on and you’ve got an action-filled romp.

You can watch this on Daily Motion.

Drive-In Friday: Kinski Spaghetti Westerns

So Sam came up with a “Spaghetti Westerns Week” (running from Sunday, August 16 to Saturday, August 22) . . . and me, with my Klaus Kinski-mania . . . well, it’s time for another “Drive-In Friday” salute to Klaus as we follow up our June “Drive In-Friday” tribute to the five-film oeuvre of Kinski with Werner Herzog.

Yes, we’ll supply the Parmesan.

Klaus made his first jump into the Western-pasta pot in 1965 as Juan Wild, the hunchback member of El Indio’s (Gian Maria Volonte) in Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More. Kinski then appeared in A Bullet for the General (1967; also starring Gian Maria Volonte), and Man, Pride & Vengeance (1967; starring Franco Nero).

As with Kinski’s oeuvre in other genres: I’ve seen some of Kinski’s westerns (the ones featured tonight), but not all of them (and probably never will), but seen most of them courtesy of the long since gone VHS grey market purveyor VSOM: Video Search of Miami, which excelled in making overseas films available in the U.S.

So let’s pop those RC Colas and ride, meho! The riches of the lands South of the Border await us!

Movie 1: The Ruthless Four (1968)

Known in its homeland as Ognuno per sé (aka, Everyone for Himself) — and in West Germany as Das Gold von Sam Cooper (aka, The Gold from Sam Cooper) — Kinski co-stars with Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Van Heflin (1942’s Johnny Eager), who wowed then little tykes (like myself) roasting under the black & white’s cathode ray glow of Pittsburgh’s WIIC Channel 11 with his roles in the iconic westerns Shane (1953), 3:10 to Yuma (1957), and Gunman’s Walk (1958).

By the turn of the ’60s, Heflin’s star — along with his Gunman’s Walk co-star, Tab Hunter (1988’s Grotesque with Linda Blair) — had fallen, but there was a huge market for American actors in Italian cinema. So Heflin made his first film there, Tempest (1959) and, along with Tab, was billed under Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth in They Came to Cordura (1959).

The title — and alternate titles — of this one pretty much says it all: Four men embark on a suicide mission for a fortune in gold from a mine owned by Nevada prospector Sam Cooper (Van Heflin). Always the heavy, Kinski is one of the greedy four, Brent the Blonde, a faux-preacher with blood on his hands . . . and one more body means nothing to him.

Up next for Kinski: 1968’s If You Meet Sartana . . . Pray for Your Death. He also worked on the sequel, I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death (1969). (Sartana was, of course, Gianni Garko, that ‘ol space scoundrel Dirk Laramie from Star Odyssey.)

You can watch The Ruthless Four on You Tube. There’s also a stream on TubiTV.

Movie 2: They Were Called Graveyard, aka Twice a Judas (1968)

Antonio Sabato (Escape from the Bronx and War of the Robots) stars in this film noir-inspired Spaghetti Western as Luke Barrett, a cowboy who regains consciousness with bullet-grazed head wound in the middle of the desert . . . next to a dead man — and a lone rifle with the word “Dingus” carved in its stock. Sabato gathers clues along the way to discover that a hired gunman is out to get him . . . and that he himself was a gun hired to kill Dingus. Yep: You guessed it: Kinski is Dingus and he’s out for blood.

Kinski also worked on Sergio Corbucci’s pasta-western, The Great Silence in the same year.

You can watch They Were Called Graveyard on You Tube.

Intermission . . .

. . . and, back to the show!

Movie 3: Shoot the Living and Pray for the Dead (1971)

After working with Antonio Margheriti (1966’s Lightning Bolt) on the western And God Said to Cain (1970), Klaus Kinski received top-billing in this desert noir that Quentin Tarantino* ranked as his 16th personal “Top 20 favorite Spaghetti Westerns.”

Kinksi stars as Dan Hogan, an ex-Ku Klux Klan member leading a gang of bank robbers on the run with $100,000 in gold bars. Hogan’s dark past comes back to haunt him in the form of John Webb (Paolo Casella, who also co-starred with Kinski in the 1970 western, The Beast, and the next film on tonight’s program: 1975’s The Return of Shanghai Joe), a stranger who killed the gang’s guide into Mexico and wants half of their gold for safe passage. And all of their blood. So he really wants all of the gold.

Klaus also starred in the westerns Adios Compañeros, Black Killer, Coffin Full of Dollars, His Name was King, and Vengeance Is a Dish Served Cold that same year. Next up for Kinski: 1972’s A Noose is Waiting for You Trinity.

You can watch Shoot the Living and Pray for the Dying on You Tube.

Movie 4: The Return of Shanghai Joe (1975)

The film noir-influence of Kinski’s previous pasta-westerns takes a turn into the then hot Kung-Fu genre — courtesy of Japanese-born martial artist Chen Lee (aka, Cheen Lie, playing a Chinese man here). As result of its martial arts plot, this also appeared on several ’70s Drive-In double and triple-bills, alongside more traditional Asian-action imports, as The Dragon Strikes Back (to trick you into thinking you’re seeing a Bruce Lee movie).

In the first film, 1973’s (My Name is) Shanghai Joe (aka, The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe), Kinski was Scalper Jack. In the sequel, Kinski is his usual, sinister self as new character, Pat Barnes: a town boss whose stranglehold over a dusty, desert town runs afoul of Shanghai Joe (actually an uncover U.S. Federal Marshal), who’s assisted by a smooth-talking traveling medicine show man he saved from Barnes’s bully boys.

And, with that, Kinksi was off to the giallo weirdness that is Footprints on the Moon.

You can watch Kinksi in The Return of Shanghai Joe — his last Spaghetti Western — on You Tube. The Fightning Fists of Shanghai Joe is on TubiTV.

The Kinski Westerns Completist Department: We found free-with-ads streams on TubiTV of And God Said to Cain, Black Killer, A Bullet for the General, His Name was King, I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death, and If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death. If you have a Vudu account, there’s a free-with-ads stream of Man, Pride and Vengeance.

If you like to review before you buy: Check out Sam’s pre-Spaghetti Week reviews of I Am Santana, Your Angel of Death and If You Meet Santana, Prey for Your Death.

* Back in July 2019, we had a “Quentin Tarantino Week” of reviews to celebrate the release of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Be sure to visit our “Exploring: The 8 Films of Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures” featurette that includes the links to all of our week’s reviews and examinations of the films that influenced Quentin’s work.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

The Return of Shanghai Joe (1975)

Bitto Albertini directed one of my favorite Eurospy films, Goldface, The Fantastic Superman, as well as both Black Emanuelle and Yellow Emanuelle. Here, he has a new actor as Shanghai Joe — Cheen Lee instead of Chen Lee — and has brought back Klaus Kinski in a new role as land baron Pat Barnes.

Honestly, Kinski is the only reason to watch this, as he lords over every scene and makes it his. This film sticks more to comedy than the strange all over the place insanity of the first movie, which makes this disappointing.

There’s also a bad Bud Spencer ripoff snake oil salesman. So yeah. I barely made it through this. I’m going to warn you now, the theme song from this will get stuck in your head and damage your will to live.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

Drive-In Friday Kinski

Don’t forget! We did a Klaus Kinski spaghetti westerns blowout for a “Drive-In Friday” featurette that runs down the mad German’s entire shoot ’em up resume. Join us, won’t you? We give full reviews — with a different insight to The Return of Shanghai Joe — and new reviews to The Ruthless Four and Twice a Judas.

Get Mean (1975)

Tony Anthony played The Stranger in four films — Stranger in TownThe Stranger Returns, The Silent Stranger and this film — plus he’s also in the Zatoichi by way of Italy film Blindman (Ringo Starr is in it!) and wrote, produced and starred in Comin’ At Ya! and Treasure of the Four Crowns, movies that’d start a short 3D boom which ended with Anthony claiming that he made an estimated $1 million worth of lenses before Jaws 3D, the film that ended the trend.

This movie is just crazy — closer to a fantasy movie than a Western — and has no care at all about the fact that it doesn’t follow any rules at all. It’s directed by Ferdinando Baldi, who also made the Mark Gregory-starring Ten Zan: The Ultimate Mission.

The Stranger gets dragged into a ghost town by his horse, who promptly dies. That;s when a family of gypsies pays him to escort Princess Elizabeth Maria de Burgos (Diane Lorys, Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll) back to Spain. There, the Stranger does battle with Vikings, Moors, barbarians, ghosts, a bill and a hunchback. That’s when he lives up to the alternate title — The Stranger Gets Mean — and lets the guns and dynamite do his talking.

Raf Baldassarre is in this, who you may have seen in everything from Hercules In the Haunted World and Eyeball to plenty of Westerns like Dakota Joe, The Great SilenceSartana Kills Them AllArizona Went Wild … and Killed Them All! and even played Sabata in Dig Your Grave Friend … Sabata’s Coming. He’s also in both of Luigi Cozzi’s incredbly entertaining films based on Greek myth, Hercules and The Adventures of Hercules.

Morelia is played by Mirta Miller, who somehow unites so many film genres that I love — HBO After Dark semi-sleaze (Bolero), Mexican wrestling films (Santo vs. Dr. Death), giallo (Eyeball), shark movies (The Shark Hunter), sword and sorcery (Battle of the Amazons) and Spanish horror (Vengeance of the ZombiesCount Dracula’s Great Love and Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf).

So yeah. An Italian Western with a four-barrelled shotgun carrying hero traveling through time who doesn’t respect the princess he’s trying to save. If this sounds like Army of Darkness at all to you, please remember that it came out 17 years before that movie.

You can get this from Blue Underground or watch it on Amazon Prime and Tubi.