Friday, April 01, 2016

051. Bad Taste and 052. The Image of Bruce Lee

Jump to The Image of Bruce Lee (1978)

051. Bad Taste (1987)
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Peter Jackson with additional material by Tony Hiles and Ken Hammon
From: Chilling

Aliens are invading Earth and the government has no recourse but to call in “The Boys.”

What better way to celebrate April Fools' Day than by watching Bad Taste? The first feature-length film from Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, and that's probably the most notable thing about it. I'm not slagging the movie off by any means. It's a lot of fun, has respectable practical effects, and, at its core, has a clever idea: aliens harvesting humans as fast food ingredients. It's goofy, as is the entire movie, and that's great.

If it falls flat at all, it's in that there isn't really a story. Rather, this feels like a list of scenes that would be in a zombie/alien-invasion parody. It's all action sequcence-quip-action sequence-quip, squip, rinse, repeat. When I thought the movie was approaching its climax and conclusion, I saw that there was still a full half-hour left, and the movie's less than 90 minutes long.

That said, it's Peter Jackson's first movie and you can see the elements that would make him famous in Dead Alive present here in fairly mature form: the effects, the gore, and the wit are all pretty spot-on. Also, you can tell that the film is low-budget, but it never quite comes off as cheap. In fact, this could serve as a really effective text in working within limitations and maximizing strengths.

Of course it's a recommend, I don't think anyone would recommend against it. A nice, silly, New Zealand splatter-comedy. This has mistakenly been assumed public domain for a while so it's not too hard to find for free online.

052. The Image of Bruce Lee aka Meng Nan Da Zei Yan Zhi Hu (1978)
Director: Chuan Yang
Writer: Shao-Kuan Wen, Chuan Yang
From: Cult Cinema

A band of counterfeiters is preparing a new batch of American currency, but the police are closing in and there's dissension in the ranks.

A colorful little piece of Bruceploitation. Bruce Lee, of course, is not in this film, although Bruce Li is and dressed in a bright yellow jumpsuit ala Game of Death. In that first sequence, a man is threatening to jump off a building because he sold a batch of diamonds for counterfeit money. Li tries to stop him from jumping, but grabs what turns out to be the man's fake arm and he falls to his death.

After that, Hong Kong police try to find the gang responsible for the counterfeiting and end up in fights with them every five-to-ten minutes. The fight choreography is pretty nice even if the police aren't really characters. The movie focuses much more on the counterfeiters and the betrayals they're planning for each other. The primary gang that prints the money wants the gangster who's buying and distributing it to stop attracting so much attention. He wants to steal the plates and start printing his own money with the help of the woman who has the special paper. She's trying to play both sides against each other.

As I mentioned, this movie's colorful. It revels in that late-70's Technicolor aesthetic and really takes advantage of it in the actors' costumes. Even though these Mill Creek prints are generally muddy and washed-out, the colors still look good here and it's always clear who each character is.

There's a fair amount of nudity which is a little whatever. It's all gratuitous, maybe never moreso than the scene where the femme fatale, completely alone, takes off all her clothes, goes swimming, and then the scene cuts to her walking down the street. I was initially thinking this movie would be hard to edit for television, but those shots could be cut without affecting the plot or flow at all and that's a good barometer for guessing why they're in the movie.

It is a fun flick, though, and one I'd recommend. This version appears to be in the public domain so I've uploaded an MPEG2 to here. Unfortunately, it is hard-coded letterbox, but is easily cropped or zoomed in on in most players. Give it a watch.

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