Friday, January 08, 2016

027. Breakout From Oppression and 028. Night Fright

Jump to Night Fright (1968)

027. Breakout From Oppression aka Sha chu chong wei (1978)
Director: Karen Wang
Writer: Godfrey Ho
From: Cult Cinema and Drive-In

After serving time for murder, Fonda takes a job offer as an assistant newspaper editor at a seaside town. While she wants to put her past behind her, it's clear someone doesn't think she's suffered enough.

If you want hilariously bad dubbing, this is the film for you. What initially feels like it'll be some kind of chopsocky spy/thriller film turns into much more of a slow-boil suspense film, and to its credit. There are nods here and there to movies like Psycho and some real unexpected turns. It's really the dub that undermines a lot of the drama.

We open with Fonda on a boat remembering her first night of a twelve-year prison sentence for murder. She's holding a letter inviting her to do a job which is what raises the specter of this being an assassin movie or some similar piece of action. Likewise, the prison scene made me think this was going to be a women-in-prison film since I was expecting this to be some kind of exploitation flick. To be fair, the title is Breakout From Oppression I was surprised that it wasn't a blaxploitation flick.

All these expectations are wrong, though, and we get a bit of a psychological thriller. There are some initially cheesy moments: Fonda is haunted by memories of soap, for good reason, but they manifest as a bar of soap floating in a black void and approaching the screen at speed. It's hard not to find that funny. Also, the newspaper president has been absent on a business trip since before Fonda showed up so there are constant references to him being gone that just get funny.

Things escalate—someone is stalking her, cuts the brakes on her bike, puts glass in the dish she brings to the company picnic—and the key tying everything together and explaining why this is happening becomes obvious just at the moment where the movie itself reveals the final clue and tells you explicitly what's going on. So that was timed well.

The downside is the first half-hour drags and is too camp to marry well with the tone of the rest of the movie. Part of that is the dubbing and the script by Godfrey Ho. He made a career out of buying up Hong Kong films and editing them into the most absurd mish-mash and that may be in play here. That aside, it's pretty fun. The opening allows some laugh-at-the-movie riffs and the plot is compelling enough to make the movie worth watching on its own. Also, it has an awesome decapitation scene.

The ending makes no sense (there shouldn't be any questions left, but it seems the situation, for the characters, isn't settled?), but, again, that may be the dubbing. It's fun, though, and definitely worth a watch for a bad movie club.


028. Night Fright (1968)
Director: James A. Sullivan
Writer: Russ Marker
From: Cult Cinema, Sci-Fi Invasion, and Pure Terror

A government test rocket crashes in a small town unleashing a monster that starts killing local teens.

Behold Day-for-Night Fright, the film that bravely refuses to show its viewers any of the shocking material its characters stumble across. Through the use of cutting-edge smash-cuts, we guarantee to keep all the interesting parts of the movie from your sight longer than any other film of its kind!

Gloriously bad. How have I not seen this on a horror host show before? The, at least, first half-hour of the movie is people wandering through the woods looking for the movie. While this makes for nice autumnal photography, it is not cinema.

And it has everything we've come to love from early z-grade sci-fi: doughy white heroes, elderly teens, and those crazy punks cutting loose in the chastest of chaste dances. Shake those polyester pants at least three feet away from any other person. We even open on a couple making out in their car listening to exposition radio. This movie could be its own drinking game.

There's no point running down the plot because there is none. Rather, let's delight in what's here. People, upon encountering the monster in their car, get out and run instead of driving away. There's a fight sequence between two of the teens with receding hairlines where one uses the double ax-handle—that's right, they go full Kirk. To top it all off, one of the things preventing the sheriff from getting support from the state police is that he beat the previous sheriff in a landslide and that sheriff had a lot of friends with the staties.

Oh, you know there this is going.

The unrelenting drama of small-town politics! It's all I've ever wanted from a monster movie.

The monster itself is a guy in a gorilla suit and is kept off-screen for most of the picture. You're warned beforehand that this will be the case, though, by an appearance by the one true false god, J. R. “Bob” Dobbs, here billed as “Roger Ready” (no, really), playing Dr. Forester (not Clayton). Once he brings out the pipe, we all know where we stand—in the full shadow of the pinks trying to shoot down one of our yeti brothers!

Standard pink propaganda, but nothing can stand against our irony engines!

This movie is laugh-out-loud funny and public domain. I've added an MPEG to the Internet Archive here. Watch it with friends.

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