When Rawshark told me that esteemed horror critic Jay Slater and his learned horror director friend Sean Hogan were coming along to the next Zombie Club, and were picking the films too, I thought that was a pretty cool idea. We don't usually let guests pick the movies, but - you know - why not? I mean, who knows what two disturbed minds like Jay and Sean's would come up with? It was certainly not going to be a run of the mill evening, that's for sure.
Then Rawshark let slip the full extent of his generosity. ”Oh”, he said, ”I've also invited Phil and James Moran”. Cool, Phil's been a mate for a while, posting here as Soulmining from time to time, and James's first screenplay turned major motion picture Severance opened at this year's FrightFest, so it was going to be great to have them both along.
Hang on - me, Rawshark, Zomblee, Jay, Sean, Phil and James? That's a full house, and that's before you include ZC stalwart and Rawshark's flatmates Matt and Ren and his other flatmate Morven who has an amusing habit of always turning up halfway through the second film and asking loads of awkward questions, like, ”what's actually happening?” She should know by now how little of the second movie we actually follow.
So, better get there early and secure a spot on the patented ZC sofa. Let the games begin.
Tonight’s visual splendour is bought to you by Jay and Sean in association with the Codfish Appreciation Society. Yes, we have a lot of time for cheap Brazilian Jaws rip-offs here at Zombie Club.
The Jail: A Women's Hell (2006)
Plot Women in a Pilipino prison. What do you expect?
Jim When Jay pulled out Bruno Mattei's brand new, unreleased The Jail: A Women's Hell, I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I mean, we've been there before with Bruno, having previously suffered through Zombie Creeping Flesh (which I have a soft spot for I admit), Rats - Night of Terror and the atrocious Shocking Dark at previous Zombie Clubs. We said we'd never go back and that that was that, and then Jay turns up with The Jail and - bizarrely - we all cheered.
Anyway, The Jail turned out to be your standard women in prison affair. It starts off with three new recruits arriving at the prison of lost souls - Jennifer, her mate with a good line in bitchy stares whose name eluded me, and their taller Caucasian friend whose named I also missed but it doesn't matter as the warden soon renames the trio 51, 52 and 53 while they watch another prisoner who's already dead receive 20 brutal lashings (Phil in particular really liked that). Then it's on to the obligatory cavity search (which got a big cheer from everyone), the first of many shower scenes ("This is brilliant!" - Zomblee), the allocating of bunks, and the inaugural indoctrination into Jim Gaines's sleazy titty bar for which the prison is some kind of front. No, I'm not sure who Jim Gaines is either but Jay was very excited to see him even if Zomblee did label him a "poor man's Ken Foree."
After that however you get a lot of the sort of things you'd expect from a film of this ilk, i.e. more shower scenes, more titty bar scenes and, of course, the kind of stuff that I'm sure goes on behind closed doors at any Pilipino woman's prison, especially in a Bruno Mattei film. Rawshark was as shocked as me ("She's being forced into watching her friends get raped to death?"), but luckily everything calms down as soon as the savages appear, the weird manhunt plot kicks in, and it goes all “Zombie Creeping Flesh” (Zomblee), which is quite a relief.
Yes it’s shot on video and yes it’s really quite crap in a nobody is going to be doing any thesis on this movie at film school any time soon kind of way, but the pace is snappy and it is very watchable (look out for the chuckling savages, they’re having a great time, Zomblee loved them!)
I have to warn you, though, some of the content matter is a little extreme – don’t even get me started on that ever so slightly exploitative snake scene business.
"The bed is mine!"
Zomblee Yeah, if you look closely enough, you will see cast members (or to be fair, extras) laughing in the background in Mattei's latest mess. Maybe they're laughing at the old fart in charge, musing as to how someone who clearly has trouble remembering his own name can possibly construct a motion picture. A popular comeback to this would be, ‘Well, he can’t, can he?’, but of course we know that he can. Sure, they’re not very good ones, but that’s exactly why we love ol’ Bruno here at ZC.
One of the most fascinating aspects of his oeuvre over the past 36 years is that, as Jay (who loves Bruno even more than we do) pointed out, he simply doesn’t seem to have learned a thing from all those years in the business. In fact, it looks like he’s getting even worse. Like an old, failed footballer who plays past his ‘prime’ instead of getting out at the right time with any small amount of dignity intact, Bruno has continued to unfurl upon us the crap from under your feet, the straight-to-video dregs, the worst of the worst… which is where The Jail comes in.
Shot on hi-def it already looks cheap, even by Bruno’s standards. This, in turn, makes the cast of not-so-professional actors look even worse. Even with their tits out. Of course the script doesn’t help make them look any better, with Mattei standard quips like “Damn bastards” dropped in liberally throughout. The plot, if it’s even worth mentioning at all, sees the inmates of a women’s prison being treated badly and manhandled (i.e. handled by men) before being sent to a “special night” where they get to take a break from the norm and have fun as whores in a nightclub, again being handled by men. All good clean fun, then, and did I mention the breasts already? Scattered throughout is a lot of flogging, whipping, beating (”So, they’re beating her up even though she’s already dead?” It certainly looks that way, Jim), a memorable snakes-on-naked-chick scene, all complimented with the most abysmal acting you’ve ever seen. These people make porn ‘actors’ look like Oscar material. Apparently though, according to Jay, Bruno’s movies are edited very well. That must be why we love him so much.
Rawshark What? Bruno Mattei? Again? I thought we vowed after the shocking Shocking Dark that we would have no more of that Vincent Dawn around these Zombie Club parts. But seeing as it’s Jay’s choice, and in his words ”this is the European premiere” then who am I to argue. And hey, it is pretty cool to get to see a movie that’s not even listed on IMDB yet.
So The Jail then. Well, the initial impressions aren’t too promising seeing as there’s a typo in the titles - A WOMEN’S JAIL indeed! Mattei’s done the zombies, aliens, hell, even rats, so I guess he’s due his WIP trash flick, and judging by the production values of this film, he must have been watching a lot of Prisoner Cell Block H in his spare time. Except this feels more like Prisoner Cell Block XXX, what with all the jet showers, lesbian bullying, whippings of the already dead, gory deaths, catfights, tits and random rape scenes it contains.
As always with these films, the wardens are as sexually frustrated (”See that sneaky boob-rub!” - Jim) and corrupt as the inmates. They laugh wickedly as they boss the women crims around before forcing them into dancing and whoring at a local nightclub, where we treated to, as Jim said, ”tubby Asian rape montage” (it’s ok, yellow bikini chick kicks tubby ass!) and a very uncomfortable scene with a snake and a close-up of a prisoner’s tufty crossing. As Jay commented, The Jail is indeed ”quite controversial”.
Some padding later (”Did I miss anything?” said Jim after a quick break. ”Just a lot of pushing” replied Zomblee), some girls escape and the chase is on as the prisoners run into the night while the guards follow on in apparent daylight (”They’ll never find us 12 hours in the future” - James). Then we get one or two gore moments, including a decapitation and a girl on a spike with a knife in her gash (so not nice), before wrapping up with the predictable twist that we all would have predicted, had we been even attempting to follow the ‘plot’.
Bad filmmaking, awful acting, cheap photography, extreme violence and ample nudity. Ah, they don’t make them like they used to in the 80s nasty era anymore. Well, not except for Bruno Mattei that is. And I guess that’s why we here at Zombie Club still salute you sir. Good on you! I'm stil only going to give it one and half stars though.
“I have a sensation we’re running in circles”.
Director Bruno Mattei (yay!)
Cast Who knows...
Runtime 90 odd minutes
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Zero Woman (1974)
Plot Undercover cop lady goes too far.
Rawshark Time for a quick wash, before moving swiftly on to Sean’s box of Pandorian DVD delights in the shape of the ‘pinky’ film, Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs. Pinky, in case you didn’t know (I didn’t!), is a Japanese sub-genre of soft-core thrillers that often feature a lot of rape scenes. Apparently rape is not as frowned on over there as it is here – must be a cultural thing. Well, all I can say after watching this is that if this is a good example of a pinky film, then I want more! Not because of the rape scenes you understand, but because it’s so goddamn good!
Zero Woman is an undercover cop who has ”gone too far” (Sean), and is jailed for shooting a man in the balls during the opening credits. Meanwhile, a nasty gang of louts rape a woman and kill her boyfriend before kidnapping ”some millionaire’s daughter” (Sean again – thank God he was on hand to explain the plot). The gang arrange a ransom, but the money drop-off goes wrong (check out the ace sound cut and the ”Japanese police patented ‘Stair Bundle’” - Jim) and they are almost caught, but are saved at the last minute from the cops by a mysterious woman. Hey waittaminute, that’s Zero Woman isn’t it? Is she still undercover? Or has she ‘turned to the Dark Side’?
Without beating around the bush, Zero Woman is indeed a very, very strong movie, with many horrifically intense scenes that take your breath away (in a good way). The direction is simply stunning, with endless scenes that had us shouting famous directors names at the screen; Scorsese! Kubrick! Tarantino! Leone! Tony Scott! Fulci! Bruno Mattei! (Only kidding on that last one by the way). This film really feels like a movie directed by a collaboration of all the above at their peak. Whilst downing sake. And snorting wasabi.
With a crafty plot and constantly switching genre styles all the way through to it’s Leone-esque ‘Western’ ending, Zero Woman is a cracker of a film that went down a storm at tonight’s Zombie Club. I honestly lost count at the amount of ”Brilliant!”’s that were uttered as the film raged on to it’s explosive climax. That’s how good it is. Simply brilliant.
“I feel it in my urine that something’s not right”.
Zomblee After being treated to some amazing trailers (the highlight of which was, for me anyway, Yakuza’a Law - wow!) our pal Sean Hogan introduced us to Zero Woman. It was a real pleasure to make her acquaintance, because this is a truly special piece of Asian cinema. Violence – sexual or otherwise – is clearly something that director Yukio Noda was not afraid to depict in great detail, and gives rise to shocked reactions on the faces of today’s inquisitors who are prompted to ask, “So, how old is this movie?” It’s pretty rough stuff in places, but shot with enough flair and style to impress even the most discerning of critics, tipping its hat to the great work of Eastwood enthusiast Sergio Leone.
Miki Sugimoto plays the titular character, AKA Rei, and she doesn’t take any shit from anyone, and if she does, you can be sure that she’ll give it back tenfold. Armed with her funky red handcuffs (which were quite reminiscent of the Flying Guillotine movies), she undertakes a mission to rescue a politician’s daughter from a pretty shady bunch of psychos. Cue unpleasant (but incredibly well-handled) rape scenes, and an enormous amount of bloody violence, all helped on its way to cult masterpiece status by a fantastic score courtesy of Daisuke Okamoto. I like this movie.
Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs starts off well, then gets better. And when you think it can get no better, it’ll come back and bite you on the arse with a wicked Castellari-esque pseudo-western sequence. This is Japanese exploitation at its best. The only thing that didn't go down so well with everyone in the room tonight was the lingering rape scenes, made slightly more awkward by the fact that Rawshark's female flatmate decided to sit in on this movie. Oops...
I don’t know how many times I said something along the lines of, ”I think that’s the guy from You Only Live Twice!” during this movie. Anyway, turns out I’m right - Tetsuro Kamba, who plays the kidnapped girl’s dad, excels as Connery’s Japanese ally Tiger Tanaka in that particular piece of Bondage. I love it when I’m right.
”Now we get rid of the panties.”
Jim Yeah, tonight's second film had a couple of things in common with Bruno's latest offering, namely the liberal sprinklings of violence and soft-core rape sequences (if you can ever call 'rape' sequences 'soft'), but that is where the similarities clearly end. Whereas our previous movie was laughably bad but great fun in a slightly controversial way, Zero Woman is a very well shot, very well acted and, well, just very good Japanese exploitation movie that features more than it's fair share of sexual violence. And corruption. And torture. Them last two topics, you understand, don't bother me one bit, but sexual aggression - done convincingly - kind of puts me off a bit.
The rest of the movie, however, is borderline amazing. The violent freeze frame beating montage intro, including Zero Woman giving us a flying red handcuffs demo before shooting another bad guy in the cock, knocked us all for six. Then the movie journeys off into that plot about that business man's daughter being kidnapped, and Zero Woman's undercover infiltration into their gang. Cue much violence, torture and rape, shot with stunning Japanese efficiency, until the also really rather good shoot-out ending.
There were a few laughs along the way, though. Zomblee getting increasingly frustrated by the high speed subtitles made me chuckle ("Some of the subtitles are really fast…” – Zomblee) and the punk that looks like Kenny Everett’s Sid Snot character got a few laughs, especially when he died (“They killed Kenny!” – Rawshark). But my favourite funny moment of the night came, as Zomblee hinted, when Morven came home halfway through the movie and asked the quite reasonable question, why are we watching a movie with rape scenes in? And at this point Jay pointed out that Sean had brought this movie along, while the rest of us looked at our shoes. Ouch.
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And that was that, what with the room being so busy that night we over ran slightly and it was a bit of a bundle getting out of the door and onto the last tubes on time, but thankfully we all made it, despite Jay being very keen to show us a glimpse of Richard Harris trudging through the jungle in Strike Commando 2. Hang on, Richard Harris in a Bruno Mattei film? A match made in Zombie Club heaven, surely.
We got to see another couple of trailers tonight too actually, including the impressive looking Yakuza's Law (Phil drooled over that one) and the not so hot looking Death Run, that I can’t even find on imdb.com. Watching the first 10 minutes of Turkish Star Wars was a real eye-opener too, as was Jay's admission that he actually had a copy of a movie called Rape Squad. Needless to say, we didn't watch the first 10 minutes of that.
Tune in next time, when it'll be back to just the three of us for a double fishy helping of Barbara Bach (circa 1979 - yes!) thanks to Sergio Martino. See you then.