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Giving DTV Action Films a Better Rep

Nemesis (1992)

Back in the late 80s/early 90s I was not allowed to watch the many horror films that adorned the plastic shelving of my local video store. Some might say that is wise parenting, considering I was only 5 or 6 at the time. But strangely action films were deemed ok to view (such as substandard fare from Cannon Pictures and Guild Video).

“Look, there’s a lot of us working to make a bad world better. Remember that.”

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American Ninja (1985, USA)

American Ninja (1985) Theatrical PosterOut of all the bizarre trends the ’80s hoisted upon pop culture, ninjas have to be among the most prolific. Suddenly, any two-bit action flick schlock factory received a license to render their product “mysterious” and “exotic,” just by decking out half their actors in black long johns. Never one to pass on a fad that could net them some extra bucks, the Cannon Group gladly hopped aboard the martial arts bandwagon, putting out a series of cult cheesefests that included 1985’s American Ninja.

“The deadliest art of the Orient is now in the hands of an American.”

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Guyver: Dark Hero (1994, USA)

Guyver: Dark Hero (1994) VHS CoverOf all the bad films I have had the guilty pleasure (and at times displeasure) to watch, none have be as sentimentally close to me as Steve Wang’s live action take on the Japanese Manga; Guyver. A sequel to 1991’s The Guyver (itself a mediocre Americanized take on the source material), Guyver: Dark Hero was everything its predecessor should have been. Granted many might think this is just Power Rangers with blood and gore, but for its minuscule budget it contains impressive practical effects and brilliantly choreographed wirework.

“The Zoanoids weren’t the failed experiment. The Guyvers were. The aliens created the Guyvers to fight their wars for them. The humans rebeled. Out of control. The Guyver is nothing more than a weapon…”

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Ran (1985, Japan / France)

Ran (1986) Theatrical PosterKurosawa’s epic movie Ran is a cinematic masterpiece that has survived the test of time. Dazzling cinematography on the mountain slopes and volcanic plains of Kyushu and spectacular battle scenes earned Kurosawa a Best Director Oscar nomination and made Ran the most expensive Japanese movie ever produced.

One of the elements that makes the film so compelling, is the skill with which Kurosawa remodels Shakespeare’s King Lear to Japanese legend…

“In a mad world only the mad are sane.”

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Ninja Scroll (1993, Japan)

1993’s Ninja Scroll is critically acclaimed with good reason. The Japanese animated action thriller has its roots placed within the groundwork laid by Ninpocho, a series of historical fiction by Futaro Yamada; specifically Makai Tensho. For me, Ninja Scroll is one of the most memorable Japanese animated films that I have seen.

“If you so want the company of devils, you’d better hurry back to hell…” PRESS PLAY ►






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Half a Loaf of Kung Fu (1978, Taiwan / Hong Kong)

The Lo Wei Motion Picture Company, particularly Lo Wei himself, was frustrated that their previous attempts to market Jackie Chan as the next Bruce Lee were not proving to be fruitful for the production house. As a result Lo Wei gave Jackie Chan a degree of creative control over 1978’s Half a Loaf of Kung Fu; a decision Lo Wei would initially regret.

“It’s my kung fu. It’s no good for anything, except laughs.” PRESS PLAY ►






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Enter the Dragon: A Cult Classic Amongst Martial Arts Fans

This is a movie that went on to become known as one of the greatest martial arts movies in history and maintains its cult status today. Sadly, the movie marked Bruce Lee’s final film appearance before his death. However, the movie and the actor himself continue to influence the world today in many different ways…

“The first American produced martial arts spectacular!” PRESS PLAY ►






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Ring of Steel (1994)

Our newest contributor Adam Carl Parker-Edmondston reviews Ring of Steel (1994), directed by David Frost.

Recently dumped from his sword fighting job Alex Freyer is at a low ebb after killing an opponent accidentally in combat tournament. Luckily his sadness is short lived as the mysterious man in black offers him a job at his club the ring of steel, where it’s no hold barred sword fighting with no rules and money on the line. Some great fight scenes mixed with some fun acting makes this a great pop corn flick to settle down to when you fancy a change from watching Bloodsport.

DEATH JUST BECAME A SPECTATOR SPORT! PRESS PLAY ►






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Kekko Kamen (2004)

Directed by Takafumi Nagamine, Kekko Kamen (2004) is based upon the shōnen manga series of the same name, written and illustrated by Go Nagai. Originally conceived as a parody of Gekko Kamen (aka Moonlight Mask), Japan’s first live-action TV superhero, Go Nagai created Kekko Kamen jokingly and fully expecting the concept to be rejected by his editor due to it’s explicit subject matter. It was not! PRESS PLAY ►






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Black Belt Jones (1974)

Black Belt Jones (1974)

Honestly there is one subgenre within the viewing habits of the average cult film enthusiast that needs a little more love. Specifically this would be the Blaxploitation film from the 1970’s to early 1980’s. These films where really a breed of their own and utterly perfect for their time period.

So Dominic has brought us one of his favs, the Kung-fu Afro kicking, jive talking, smooth mother shut your mouth, Black Belt Jones. PRESS PLAY ►






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Shogun Assassin @ The Rio

Vilified and disregarded for years, cast into the dark, scuzzy vaults of Vipco, it seemed as though we’d never have a chance to see this classic mash up of Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance and Baby Cart at the River Styx given any sort of love or care.

But you lucky people in London town get to see it thanks to Cigarette Burns Cinema at The Rio in Dalston.

As an added bonus you get an added review from my old man on Shogun Assassin. So head on in and find out all you need to know about how you can see this cult classic. PRESS PLAY ►