Death Promise (1977)

Yet another example of the end of the world New York City of the late 1970s, Death Promise — not a threat, but a death promise — is all about the residents of a tenement building (but not Tenement) are being forced out of their homes by a realty company who goes past shutting off the air conditioning, power and water to murder, not to mention lighting fires in the hall and releasing rats, the bad guys kill off Charley’s old man boxer father, the man who was trying to keep the tenants all together in the face of these slumlord tactics.

Fortunately for the audience — and bad for the antagonists — Charley (Charles Bonet, Way of the Black DragonThe Black Dragon Revenges the Death of Bruce LeeDon’t Go in the House) and his friend Speedy (Speedy Leacock) are martial arts experts, making this movie the result of a one night stand between Enter the Dragon and Death Wish.

Beyond just ruining the board members of Iguana Realty’s lives, our friends are now planning on murdering each and every one of them. Well, it wasn’t called Maim Promise, so that makes sense.

To get his revenge, Charly’s master Shibata (Thompson Kao Kang, who was the action director of this movie, as well as a stuntman who appeared in movies like The Karate Killers; sadly he was killed by a Hong Kong cop in what was called a “trivial street quarrel”) reads him a letter from the dead dad, which sends him to study under Ying (Tony Liu, who was in The Big BossEnter the DragonFist of Fury and many more), where he learns how to take out everyone in his way. That means throwing stars, arrows to the head and death by rats.

Brought to theaters by Howard Mahler Films, the same people who brought From Beyond the GraveThe Big Doll HouseThe Killer Must Kill AgainDeep Red and Devil’s Express to your grindhouse, this movie boasts an incredible Neal Adams-drawn poster.

You can watch the Rifftrax version on Tubi or get the Vinegar Syndrome blu ray at Diabolik DVD.

Highway Racer (1977)

Armando Spatafora was known as an Italian “flying squad” police officer who drove a Ferrari 250 GTE as his patrol car. That’s because the Alfa Romero cars they were driving just couldn’t keep up with the crooks any more. This fast response unit — known in Italian as Squadra Mobile — was tasked with catching cops by any means necessary.

According to Super Car Tribe, Enzo Ferrari was involved with the project because he thought that he could sell police cars to all major cities in Italy. Amongst all the police officers, Spatafora proved to be the fastest and showed so much skill that Enzo offered him a place on the Ferrari factory racing team. Spatafora was loyal to the police force and said no.

This film features several of the real stunts from Sparafora’s police career, such as jumping over the famous Spanish Steps in the center of Rome.

Highway Racer was also the first of six films that Maurizio Merli (The Tough OnesMannaja) made with director Stelvio Massi (Mark of the CopConvoy Busters). If you’re looking for a high speed Italian crime movie with some out of control stunts, well, you really can’t do much better.

Highway Racer is one of five movies on Arrow Video’s Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977. These films are great examples of the Italian poliziotteschi genre and the set includes high def versions of this movie, Savage Three, Colt 38 Special Squad, Like Rabid Dogs and No, the Case Is Happily Resolved. There’s also an interview with historian Roberto Curt on this disc. You can get it from MVD.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Notti Porno nel Mondo (1977)

Not to be confused with Emanuelle and the Erotic Nights — that’s the safer one — this film finds Joe D’Amato and Bruno Mattei at the helm, starting things off with Laura Gemser appearing as Emanuelle with one m, saying, “It’s your old friend Emanuelle again…”  before taking us on a journey.

What a horrific journey it is!

Also known as Sexy Night Report, there’s a 70-minute edited version of this movie that’s still pretty rough. But man, the unedited one? You need to wash your eyes with fire after watching it.

Sure, this being a mondo means most of the footage is faked. So yesh, while a good portion of this one is beyond unreal, with scenes like a man in an ape costume “performing” with an exotic dancer and another where an Amsterdam red light girl shows off for a crowd before choosing a man from the window watchers, leaving his wife outside. Then, the movie descends into what I can only imagine Sodom and Gomorrah looked like to Lot’s wife before she was turned into seasoning.

Yes, in case you wondered if you were still watching a mondo, we have chickens getting their heads cut off, rituals in foreign countries, ping pong balls being launched out of a special place, a magic trick that turns someone into a hermaphrodite and, of course, a man’s member being chopped off again and again, as the scene is replayed from every angle, looking faker and faker each time.

It’s like Mattei — Jimmy Matheus! — and D’Amato — uncredited! — were thinking, “We’ve shown these raincoaters naked women for the last ninety minutes or so. Let’s show them a pisello get sliced off and then someone get their head cut off to remind them who we are.”

We get it, Bruno and Joe. Or Vincent Dawn and Aristide Massaccesi. Or David Hunt and David Hills.

Marina Hedmann — speaking of extra names, she was also known as Marina Lotar, Marion Bibbo, Bellis Marina Hedman and many, many more —  from Emanuelle in America, La PretoraPlay Motel and plenty of adult films (she was one of the first Italian actresses to appear in porn) appears.

If this looks way better than it should, despite being shot all in the same room even though they claim it’s all over the world, because Enrico Biribicchi shot it. He lent his skills to plenty socially unredeeming movies, including The Return of the ExorcistEmanuelle in AmericaEmanuelle and the Last CannibalsBuio OmegaErotic Nights of the Living Dead and Porno Holocaust. He was also the cinematographer for Antropophagus.

This being a Mattei movie, rest assured that plenty of recycled footage appears. There’s some stuff from several Erwin C. Dietrich movies, some of Jess Franco’s Mondo Erotico and even stuff from D’Amato’s Eva Nera*.

Notti Porno nel Mondo is absolutely ridiculous, a movie that I would never recommend to anyone but absolute maniacs with no taste whatsoever. If you read this far, that’s probably you.

*Thanks to Adrian on Letterboxd for figuring out where those scenes came from.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Women’s Camp 119 (1977)

After The Night Porter and Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS opened the sewer gates of sleaze, the rest of the world’s exploitation auteurs rushed to get their own German ladies of sin pictures into the grubby eyeballs of reprobates brave enough to find a grindhouse of drive-in willing to show these pictures.

Well, Bruno Mattei made two of them. This one and Private House of the SS, which has an absolutely berserk performance by Gabriele Carrara to go for it. This one has, well, a scene where dead soldiers are brought back to life by women rubbing their naked bodies all over them and homosexual soldiers try to get cured by watched naked women, which does not work.

Ivano Staccioli plays the camp commandant who gets things done, joined by Marta (Ria De Simone, who pretty much played the scheming wife in Mattei’s Cuginetta, amore mio!) to lead the women into whatever fresh hell Mattei has in mind.

If you watch one movie where a healthy uterus is transplanted into another one, followed by a scene of a female commandant forcing herself on a prisoner, you know…man, I really have no taste whatsoever, huh?

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Casa privata per le SS (1977)

As World War II comes to a close, the top Nazi officials have become crazed when it comes to discovering anyone who wants to overthrow Adolf Hitler. Their plan? Train ten of the most beautiful prostitutes to protect Der Fuhrer.

Sure, that seems like it’ll work.

The director may be listed as Jordan B. Matthews, but we all know that that’s Bruno Mattei, whose frenetic mania is on full display here, as nearly every fetish — and then some — is on display as these frauleins do their good girl best for the fatherland.

Hans Schellenberg (Gabriele Carrara) has been tasked with training the women, along with Luciano Pigozzi as Prof. Jürgen and the super-intense Frau Inge (Marina Daunia, Escape from Women’s Prison, Women’s Camp 119), who is gorgeous even with the gigantic scar on her face. Plus, Macha Magall (The Beast In Heat), Gota Gobert (Savage Island), Monica Nickel (A Woman in the Night), Tamara Triffez (Salon Kitty) and Ivano Staccioli as Oberstgruppenführer Berger show up.

The training montage — which includes everything from hunchback aardvarking to dressing up in togas and blasting machine guns — is simply astounding in its complete ridiculousness. Then Schellenberg begins dressing like a Nazi pope and conducting masses.

Man, this movie is as scummy as it gets and you may just adore wallowing in its brash inanity. I say this as a compliment, as if we’ve learned anything this week, it’s that I just can’t seem to hate a Bruno Mattei movie.

The Mighty Peking Man (1977)

The Mighty Peking Man is a 1977 monster film whose Mandarin title, Xingxing Wang, translates as “Gorilla King” in English. Yep, you guessed it: made to cash in on the 1976 King Kong remake. While Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder imprint reissued the film in 1998, MPM initially rolled out as a second-biller on the U.S. Drive-In circuit in 1980. It’s the same old story — only told with tongue firmly planted in cheek — featuring greedy explorers who exploit a very large Himalayan Yeti — with a twist: Peking Man raised a beautiful, Tarzaneque woman orphaned in a plane crash who pals around the jungle with a pet leopard. The climax: The Peking Man takes a header off Hong Kong’s Jardine Tower in a hail of helicopter gunfire and jet bombers.

And that Roger Ebert “Thumbs Up!” on the VHS sleeve ain’t no scam: it’s the real deal, as he sites MPM as “favorite Hong Kong monster film.” And mine too, Rog. Mine, too, as it’s a very well made film. And it should be, as The Mighty Peking Man had a budget of six million Hong Kong dollars under the Shaw Bros. studio (Corpse Mania). The film took over a year to complete — and that time and care shows, in spades — and it was shot in Mysore, India.

While I love it equally, the Shaw Bros. didn’t fair as well with their Hammer Studios co-production of their martial arts vamps going against Peter Cushing vamp hunter in The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires. Their other co-production — the lesser known Shatter — was intended as a weekly TV series, but ended up being a theatrical film dovetailed into the U.S. martial arts drive-in craze of the mid-70s. Oh, and Roger Ebert enjoyed The Mighty Peking Man so much that he re-watched — and upped on his two and a half star review for — the Shaw’s 1975 release, Infra-Man — 22 years after his initial review. That’s the power of the Q: you gotta love it. And when it comes to Hong Kong cinema, none meets the power of the Shaw Bros.: you gotta love it. As you will this film. Pure awesome.

In a production twist only a B&S Movies reader can love: Koichi Kawaktia, MPM’s assistant director, later worked on Yonggary, the 1999 South Korean remake by Hyung-rae Shims of Yongary, Monster from the Deep (1967). Yonggary ’99’s co-scripter is Marty Poole, who wrote the 1997 Richard Lynch-fronted Rollerball homage, Ground Rules (oh, you gotta watch that film!!).

There’s a lot of online opportunities to watch The Mighty Peking Man, but you know us: we always try to find you the freebie. So watch it on You Tube. It’s campy, it’s whacked, it’s funny and entertaining. Strap on the popcorn bucket and snap the caps off the Dr. Pepper sixer and roll it. It’s the perfect “must watch” of this week’s “Hong Kong Week” tribute of reviews to pencil into your schedule.

Don’t forget that you can learn more about the Q’s Rolling Thunder imprint with our “Exploring: The 8 Films of Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures” featurette.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

The Last Dinosaur (1977)

Also known as Polar Probe Ship: Polar Borer, this film was a co-production of Rankin/Bass and Tsuburaya Productions. It was directed by Tsununobu “Tom” Kotani and Alex Grasshoff, who also made The Wave, a TV movie we watched repeatedly in high school classes.

This movie was intended for theatrical release, but failed to find a distributor. That meant it ended up on ABC, with a 92-minute edit airing on February 11, 1977. In other countries, it played as a 106-minute film (it was a double feature with Sorcerer in the UK!).

Oil company owner and big-game hunter Maston Thrust (Richard Boone) — what a combination for a heel, right? — is using a laser drill to find oil under the polar ice caps when a T. Rex is discovered living in a valley that is heated by a volcano. The first crew that explores the area dies, other than geologist Chuck Wade (Steven Keats, who also appears in another Rankin/Bass and Tsuburaya film, The Ivory Ape), so a new crew is sent in.

Thrust himself leads it, along with Maasai tracker Bunta (NBA and ABA player Luther Rackley), Dr. Kawamoto (Tetsu Nakamura in his last role), Chuck and Frankie Banks (Joan Van Ark), a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who gets on the trip by sleeping with Thrust. Yes, that really happens. Also, it was 1977.

The laser borer gets destroyed fairly early and all modern conveniences fail in the face of multiple dinosaurs, all portrayed with man-in-a-suit techniques, which I absolutely loved. The entire crew is nearly killed by numerous kaiju attacks. Also, there are cave people and one of them, named Hazel, ends up washing Joan Van Ark’s hair.

If you love the T. Rex costume here, well you’ll be excited to know that it was reused as Dinosaur Satan Gottes for the simply baffling Japanese anime/live action mashup Dinosaur War Izenborg, which you can find in the U.S. as Attack of the Super Monsters.

Perhaps the best thing about this movie is its theme song, “He’s The Last Dinosaur.” It’s worth getting through the whole film just to hear it.

Dynasty (1977)

Qian Dao Wan li Zhu AKA Super Dragon AKA Dynasty was the first Hong Kong/Taiwan 3D film, as well as using the Sensurround 8-track stereophonic sound system. That way, the things you’ve come to expect from martial arts films — punches, kicks, swords and flying guillotines — mix up with things you will in no way expect — flying heads, crushed skulls, metal umbrellas as weapons and even a man battling with his amputated knubs — while flying directly at your face.

The prince of the Emperor is accused of treason against the throne by an evil eunuch and his sword-wielding henchman and must fight for his life, which is all the set-up you need for 94 non-stop minutes of fighting. It’s not the best martial arts you’ve ever seen, but it is one of the few that made it into the third dimension.

Director Mei-Chun Chang*also made Young Dragons: Kung Fu Kids and understand that we want to see 3D bust our eyeballs. And serving as the 3D advisor on this? Michael Findlay. Yeah, the very same.

Kino Lorber has released a special edition blu ray of this film, working alongside the 3-D Film Archive to create something that be viewed with either BD3D polarized or traditional red and blue glasses (it comes with one pair). That’s because this blu ray was made with Adaptive Multi-Band Anaglyphic Encoding, which they claim is a vast improvement over any previously used process for red/cyan 3D imaging. I’ll be honest, in my trial of this, it worked perfectly.

The disk also features a restored comic book, some 3D slideshows and a 3D music video.

Here’s to Kino Lorber — you can get this blu ray from them — is planning on releasing more in your face action. This is one of my favorite blu ray releases of the year and is begging to be in your collection.

*Chang also directed another 3D martial arts film, Revenge of the Shogun Women.

PS – This movie played on TV stations across the country with giveaway 3D glasses. In Pittsburgh, it played on Chilly Billy’s Chiller Theater, which got to use the Money Movie set for the evening.

SON OF KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Legend of Dinosaurs & Monster Birds (1977)

Toei president Shigeru Okada attended several film festivals and trade fairs in America and as he saw the way the film business was shifting toward blockbusters like Jaws, he felt that Japan should follow that trend. After all, who knew monster movies better than them?

Filming started the very same month that Jaws was released overseas. At the same time, everyone had grown obsessed with the Loch Ness Monster. Therefore, this was the perfect movie for Toei to appeal to not just the Japanese movie audience, but one across the world.

The film takes inspiration from the aforementioned shark movie, having attacks on boaters and swimmers and a build of the tension until the monster is unleashed. There’s even a gory scene where a headless horse is found hidden in a tree.

It turns out that not one but two kaiju are on the loose: a plesiosaurus and a rhamphorhynchus. They eventually battle and then fall into an erupting Mount Fuji.

Oddly enough, there are neither dinosaurs nor monster birds in a movie named Legend of Dinosaurs & Monster Birds. The plesiosaurus is a member of the sauropterygia and only a distant relation of dinosaurs while the rhamphorhynchus is a pterosaur, which is not a bird.

Perhaps even more strangely, this movie was a big deal in Russia and was, at one time, the 19th highest-grossing foreign film of all time in the USSR.

You can watch this on YouTube.

SON OF KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century (1977)

Somewhere deep in the middle of the Canadian mountains, Professor Wassermann (played by John Stacy and voiced by Gregory Snegoff, who was Scott Bernard on Robotech and Golgo 13 in the translated American version of his cartoon) is looking for a giant iceberg that has a yeti (Mimmo Crao, the only actor that I know that is in a Jesus movie — Jesus of Nazareth — and an Edwige Fenech sex comedy — Sex With a Smile — and this monster movie).

Morgan Hunnicut (Eddie Faye, who is really Edoardo Faieta from Plot of Fear, and also voice by Snegoff) owns a multination oil company that funds the expedition to study him but he really wants the yeti to exploit. He’s also brought along his orphaned grandchildren for some reason — what, a Fortune Six company doesn’t have daycare for their CEOs? — named Jane (Phoenix Grant*, AKA Antonella Interlenghi, Emily from City of the Living Dead) and Herbie (Jim Sullivan), who had been mute since the death of his parents and only communicates with his dog Indio.

There’s an astounding scene where the Yeti is fitted into what is basically a giant telephone booth and airlifted by helicopter to a height of 10,000 feet because the air up there is what he’s used to and it’ll be easier to thaw him out up there. This is bonkers Italian cinema science at its finest, dear reader.

The paparazzi wants to see more of the yeti and surrounds everyone, freaking him out as if he were in a Dino De Laurentiis movie from 1976 and sending him running with Jane, Emily and Indio in his hand. He gets so excited by Jane rubbing against his paw  — and I’m not making this up — that he gets erect nipples. Later, as he combs her hair with a giant fishbone — again, not making anything up — they are found by the professor who claims that she has been adopted as his wife and Herbie as his son. Cliff Chandler (Tony Kendall**, AKA Luciano Stella, AKA Kommisar X!) is one of the company men who comes to their rescue and he comments that she’ll have to put out soon for the ape man.

Speaking of putting out, the Yeti has been marked much like Kong was in the wake of Dino’s remake. You can find Yeti shirts that say “Kiss Me Yeti” — a phrase that makes no sense — and a disco song and a commercial for the gas stations that ask you to put a Yeti instead of a tiger in your tank.

Then things get bad when the new leader of Hunnicut turns out to be the evil Cliff. He decides to kill anyone connected with the big lug.

How bad do things get?

The kind of bad where autistic children are threatened, Yetis break free over the Niagra Falls, where old kindly professors are killed by Aldo Canti, who was once Angel the acrobat from Return of Sabata and even cute dogs get stabbed.

Somehow, however, Indoo shrugs off this 1d4 slashing damage and survives to come running across the field like Wuthering Heights at the end as the Yeti goes back home to the frozen Canadian tundra, leaving behind nothing but death, destruction and flipped over toy vehicles with dead industrialists trapped inside.

Oh yeah and Dr. Butcher himself, Donald O’Brien, is in this!

A lot of folks hate on this movie and for really poor reasons. This is the very best kind of trash, a movie blessed with great poster art and the worst in special effects. These people are morons that don’t understand the wonder of a film that has high budget dreams and bottom basement budget realities.

Writer Mario di Nardo also wrote another astonishing film, the revenge picture by way of slasher grossout Ricco AKA Cauldron of Death and one of the best giallo films ever, The Fifth Cord, as well as Five Dolls for an August Moon. He was joined by Marcello Coscia on the screenplay, who also wrote Mission Bloody MaryA Quiet Place to KillWhen Women Lost Their TailsThe Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue and Tex and the Lords of the Deep. There was some talent here, at least in the script.

Director Gianfranco Parolini went from writing peblum films to the scripts for all three Sabata movies and God’s Gun. His directing resume has some decent stuff on it as well, including several of the Kommisar X films, If You Meet Sartana…Pray for Your Death and The Fury of Hercules. He also produced this film. Again, he had a record of producing solid work, but I think they shot too high and paid the price.

And by paid the price, I mean made a movie that completely entertained me for its entire running time.

*According to Wikipedia, Jessica Harper (yes, from Suspiria) is the voice of Jane. This seems way too good to be true.

**Kendall and O’Brien are dubbed by Ted Rusoff, the son of screenwriter Lou Rusoff and nephew to B-movie titan Samuel Z. Arkoff. He relocated to Italy to dub movies — where he met and married Carolyn De Fonseca — and you can hear his voice in movies like Voyage Into Space, Deep Red and The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh.

You can watch this on Tubi.