Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man (1973)

5.5 out of 10
You may as well forget all that stuff that you think you learned from Nicholas Hammond's portrayal of Spider-man. Because, you see, Turkey got there first. Indeed, it is the Turkish Spider-man that sets the benchmark. It is in his wake that the others are forced to follow. And, in the words of Tina Turner: We Don't Need Another Hero. Because Turkey had already set the gold standard. Honestly! In fact, Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man came out three years prior to the CBS series! So, The Amazing Spider-man is nothing more than a made-for-television, cheap, knock-off of a Turkish science fiction classic. And Tobey Maguire? Don't even go there! I mean, he seems nice enough 'n all. But going head-to-head with Doctor Octopus? Forget it! Too wussy! Besides, these newer films? They may well be polished but they are also, technically, a sequel, to a sequel, of an original. Albeit, a somewhat plagiaristic original adaptation of a well known comic book story. So, my American friends, listen up! It really is okay, if that is your wont, to make giggly cheap shots at the expense of Turkey's ridiculously hyperactive reboot of Star Wars. After all, who doesn't! But, remember this: it is certainly more fun than The Phantom Menace. And, fair's fair... Turkish cinema-goers can, in turn, ridicule your puny, web-slinging, do-gooder Spider-man. You see, for Marvel Comics, the original Spider-man, just like a real spider, had the power to climb walls and, erm, shoot webs from his wrists. But, so what? What makes your Spider-man so special? After all, he only has two legs. Four if you count arms as legs. Which you shouldn't! So, some fucking spider! He's closer to being a coffee table than an actual spider. Meanwhile in Turkey... Their Spidey, who also has the incorrect number of legs, can take down the entire Mob with a switchblade. Beat that! Surely this must count for something, right? However, despite all this, there is still a downside. This being that Turkey's Spider-man, of course, has little, if anything, to do with the original Spider-man story as imagined by Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko. Oh, and Turkish Spider-man, here referred to as The Spider, is fucking insane. As, incidentally, is the film! Written by Doğan Tamer, and directed by T. Fikret Uçaksees, Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man sees an Istanbul based Spider Gang engaging in the business of printing counterfeit dollars. On their tail, insofar as spiders have tails, is Captain America, his girlfriend Julia, superhero status undefined, and the masked Mexican wrestler Santo! As it turns out, though, our Spider-man isn't quite the hero that he first appears. Beneath the spider costume lurks a dark secret. No, he's not a pervert! Well, erm, okay he may be. What does it matter if I... I mean he... is a pervert? Besides, the secret of interest to us, here, today, is a different one altogether. Oh look, a squirrel! Because, as it turns out, our Spidey is, in fact, a bit of a global super-villain! Really! So, an evil Spider gang, here, is led by Spider-man! This means that he doesn't solve crime, he is crime personified. He is a fake hero; a poor role model. And how do we know this? Well, because Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man tells us this, that's how! Yeah, it's all as wild as it sounds. But, it is all too much for the senses. Thankfully, there are little moments that are so delightfully loopy that they somehow manage to create cinematic conviviality from all the chaos. Yet, it is still very hard to keep up. For, what remains is a bombardment of confused, often poorly realised, set pieces, designed to pad out the initial premise. In this cinematic world, as characters come and go, they seemingly blur into one. New faces are introduced, seemingly at random, in an endless parade of wrestling, karate, pinstripes, moustaches, flares and polo-necked sweaters. So, it's all a case of who's he? Who's th.. What? How? Erm, what the f... This is because editing is reduced to little more than an afterthought. Also, the ability of the borrowed soundtrack to coincide with the tone of the scene is, at best, mere happenstance.Anyhow, the first rule of the Turkish Spider lair... erm, web: if they are not with Spidey, then they are probably against Spidey. So, it is only when fights begin that we can be sure who the bad guys are. It is all a little confusing. So, just who is this Julia? Apart from looking nice, in a tasteful green jogging suit, does she actually have a job title in this? Why doesn't The Spider do something about those eyebrows? After, they loom large in proceedings. They are as anarchic as the film itself. You see The Spider has unruly eyebrows. Really, really, unruly eyebrows! Oh, and why does our wrestler hero squirrel things away in his underwear? So, nonsense arrives thick and fast. Regardless, the pace never lets up. There are fist fights. We get a Jess Franco-esque nightclub striptease, here, and a Psycho-like shower murder there. There is even a boat propeller decapitation. There is some fornication. This is rated R for rubbish. It comes with animalistic spider grunts and unconvincingly added oohs and ahs. So, as the "spider senses" begin to tingle, the famous, erm, green, all-in-one body stocking, gets cast, untidily, upon the bedroom floor. Anyhow, if there is a single highlight among all the mayhem, then surely it is a moment of "torture" by guinea pig. However, this has absolutely nothing to do with Flowers of Flesh and Blood. No! The much anticipated torture involves a tube that is placed over the face, and a pair of docile, domesticated, bundles of fluffy joy that are sent up the chute. Whoopie-fucking-doo! As a torture it is crap! Hopeless! But, on the other hand, had the tube been applied with a generous dollop of lube, then a good ole fashioned Gere-esque gerbilling may well have been just what the doctor ordered. The moral? If you want to create fear using guinea pigs then launch them, via a pipe, into the victims arse! Now, there's an image...

New York Centerfold Massacre, The (1985)

2.5 out of 10
In the fantastic world of cult cinema there are films that, for all sorts of reasons, attain a certain infamy. Some are remembered because they are plain weird, others because they are exceptionally gory. Truth to tell, there are many reasons. These are the films that stand out. They are the exceptional films. However, there are others which are sought after completely different reasons. For, some films are desirable simply because they are incredibly rare. In turn these then become the Holy Grails of exploitation film. These are the ones that the collectors seek. They are the quarry of the completist. At times, however, it may turn out to be the case that the films themselves are not actually that good. That, in itself, shouldn't matter. Not to the collector. Because worrying too much about that would mean missing the point somewhat. After all, it is all about the thrill of the hunt. It is the rooting around in archives, through esoteric film texts, catalogues, fairs and car boot sales. It is a compulsion in itself. It may be odd to outsiders, but to psychotronic film fans it's understandable enough. After all, there is a certain satisfaction that can be gained from seeking, and finding, a film that was long thought to be lost. For example, just imagine what fans of Pre-code Joan Blondell would feel were a copy of Convention City to turn up! Anyhow, one such rare film is Louis Ferriol's The New York Centerfold Massacre. It is possibly the holiest of holies for the slasher film fan. But question is: is it worth seeking out? For collectors, and traders, the answer would be a most resounding YES! After all, it is rare as fuck. It may just be the Penny Black of the exploitation cinema world. But for the casual film fan? Probably less so. The New York Centerfold Massacre was shot and distributed on video. So, it never made it into the cinema. Indeed, there was absolutely no chance, whatsoever, of it appearing as a double feature with The Breakfast Club, The Goonies or Out of Africa! But, even though it was only available on tape, it was also unlikely to appear in video stores. It most certainly wasn't going to show up in Blockbuster Video alongside Romancing The Stone, Starman, Splash, or any of the other popular rentals back then! No! You really had to go out of your way to find a copy of The New York Centerfold Massacre. This is because the original Vidimax release was only available, sans cover-art, through mail order from Macabre Video Underground. However, it's not as though there is a lot to The New York Centerfold Massacre. After all, there was only 39 minutes of it. That's all! This is because the rest of the footage was destroyed in a warehouse fire. What remains of the film was pieced together like some crazy, sleazy, collage. The result is a series of jarring, grainy images. So, there's some striptease, singing of hymns, torture and a repeated close-up of some newspaper ad. So, with any discernable plot reduced to ashes, it is all little more than a montage of random dispiriting violence, misogyny and bizarre theocratic interludes that are, here, provided by clips of a television evangelist. And it doesn't get any better than this. Honestly! It really doesn't! Early in the feature, a cop asks: "How high up did he put his hand? Near your crotch?". He then concludes that, without touching of the vagal area, there can be no sexual assault. OMG! Is this the whole tone that is set? Ugh! This all feels like horror entertainment for those poor souls who have a search history consisting solely of "upskirt"! Ahem... Right, that's not me, erm, by the way. Honest! Look, let's change the subject okay? I mean it! DROP IT! Anyhow, as I was meaning to say, despite this, the film does really possess something. It has a certain mood. Or, to paraphrase British indie veterans, The Shamen, it all feels naughty. Very naughty. This, incidentally, is a feeling that is somewhat enhanced by the non-acting performances of the cast. Indeed, It is just that something about The New York Centerfold Massacre feels a bit wrong. No! Scrub that! Everything about The New York Centerfold Massacre feels very wrong! It is just one of those films. You know? Those films that leave you with a certain unease? The ones that leave you feeling like you need a shower immediately after viewing? Well, The New York Centerfold Massacre is one of those films! There is a lot of films that fit this sort of tone. Downbeat films. Scuzzy films. Combat Shock is one, for example. New York Ripper is another. Or how about Island of Death, Nightmare in a Damaged Brain, Buio omega, Giallo a Venezia, The Sinful Dwarf, and so on and so forth. So what is it that links these films? What is it that they have in common? Well, it's possibly the setting. You see, these are the films that occupy a slightly grotty cinematic world. But, for all their lo-fi aesthetics they feel like masterpieces when placed alongside The New York Centerfold Massacre. Indeed, The New York Centerfold Massacre looks, and feels, just how you would probably imagine a snuff film to look. It's what we would expect to find on the tape in Tesis! Were Danish filthmeister Ole Ege, or indeed Color Climax, to make horror films, then this is how they would look. Probably! It's all that grim! Or, as one succinct reviewer commented on Letterboxd, the film is "Fucking nonsensical garbage. It shouldn't even be considered a movie". They're right!

Eagles Over London (1969)

6.5 out of 10
What's in a title? Well, if that title is Inglorious Basterds then the answer is: a whole lot of homage! Because, this is precisely what it is. It is a homage to Enzo Castellari's classic men-on-a-mission Macaroni Combat caper Inglorious Bastards. Indeed, thanks to this simple choice by celebrity Psychotronic magpie, Quentin Tarantino, Enzo G Castellari would finally get his 15 minutes in the eyes of mainstream audiences. And about time it was too! You see, while Enzo occasionally delivered excruciating pain, such as Cold Eyes of Fear, he was also responsible for such gems as Keoma, High Crime and the glorious Street Law. Of course, such largesse couldn't go unanswered. So, Enzo replied in kind. He would, in 2010, release his own Caribbean Basterds. The title, of course, being Castellari's homage to Tarantino's homage to, erm, his earlier film! It is also, incidentally, a homage to Clockwork Orange and it stars the lovely Eleonora Albrecht. But, sadly, the bandwagon rolls ever onward. So, with Inglorious Basterds forgotten, journalists could go back to their default mode: forgetting about Enzo G Castellari. Instead, mainstream media decided it could give us the benefit of their recently cribbed Django notes. So.. What's that you say ? Lots of unofficial Django sequels? Well, I never! You are all soooo clever! Who'd a'thunk it! Hey, wait a minute! You guys are reading from notes... It's enough to make any fan of Italian cult cinema spit feathers. One day the ignore us, the next they... Nevertheless, we don't care! Do we? Because, we know full well that there has always been a solid fanbase for Enzo G. Castellari outside of the multiplex herd. This will remain the case long after those with film tastes as bland as popcorn have moved on to the next cinematic fad. Anyhow, there are many, of a certain age, that will know of Enzo for another reason. This is because, during the VHS era, he was responsible for a number of popular dystopian features. These, of course, are Bronx Warriors and its sequel, both starring Mark Gregory, and The New Barbarians featuring Giovanni Frezza. He was the mop-topped kid from House By The Cemetery! You see, each of these were big-box rental favourites back in the day, and would bring Castellari's work a whole new international audience. Incidentally, these titles have since gone on to become bona fide cult classics. Deservedly so, too! However, also around this time, Enzo would also gain a little infamy due to the release of his L'ultimo squalo. Known in English as The Last Shark, it would be the subject of a lawsuit brought by Universal Pictures. It was simply too similar to Jaws! So, anyhow, what are Castellari films like? Well, to be honest, most of the time: fun! You see, what he specialises in could best be described as hyperactive budget-end actioners. Often these would be infused with a small pinch of slightly slapstick, and typically Castellarian, overthetopness. There was often a certain playfulness that would creep into his work. In the case of Eagles Over London, this comes in the shape of a random, and slightly silly, punch-up. It is executed with all the seriousness of Any Gun Can play. Despite this, any moments of levity are short-lived. Because, buried deep down within Eagles Over London, there is a serious film that is digging its way out. Indeed, this is evident in the desire to foreground real historical events. You see, Eagles Over London is concerned with events leading up to The Battle of Britain. As a result, the film is a uneasy alliance of fact and fiction. It deals in the plausible and the fanciful in equal measure. Eagles Over London exists in a sort of weird Interzone that resides equidistantly between The Winds of War and 5 For Hell. That, incidentally, isn't necessarily a bad place. To be honest, though, few Macaroni Combat films are likely to be described as epics. Not in the traditional sense anyhow. However, when it comes to Eagles Over London, the cap certainly fits. There are some delightful set pieces, especially early on. These give the feeling of something a little more than what is offered up by so many titles within the Macaroni Combat milieu. The question, of course, is how can a film attain epic status without an eye-watering budget or a cast of thousands? The answer? Why, special effects of course! So there are delightful split screen scenes, Antonio Margheriti-esque miniatures, exploding dummies and oodles of archive footage. Okay, it's no Bridge Too Far. But as Italian war films go it's still something of an ambitious affair. It all begins sometime between the dates of 27th May and 4th June, 1940. Hundred of thousands of troops, from the British Expeditionary Force, are being evacuated. This is thanks to the mobilisation of a flotilla of pleasure craft. However, it isn't just British and allied soldiers that are sailing westwards. Because, what if I what if I was to tell you that, among these evacuees, there was a cell of German spies? That'd be plausible wouldn't it? Of course! Yet at this point, things start to take a turn towards the ahistorical. In other words, from here on in, Castellari starts making stuff up. During the war Signal, the Nazi house journal of the occupied territories, would bizarrely suggest it was a "funny old war"!!! But, even by the standards of these weird claims, things in Eagles Over London start to spiral into oddball land fairly quickly. Indeed, things things just get curiouser and curiouser. Because, forget everything you ever learned about The Second World War. What really happened, apparently, is this... A bunch of undercover Germans, on a bit of a mission, head for a slightly Mediterranean looking Portsmouth, Hampshire. There they engage in a bit of a compound siege. Overpowering the guards, they manage take out the radar! Thus, with England's defences laid low, they lay the ground for the Battle of Britain. Yeah, I know, it's berzerk! But, but, erm... according to Enzo, It Happened Here! So, despite the fact that none of this makes its way into the official history books, it must be true. So, anyhow, I bet you thought that you knew all about World War 2, huh? After all, if you would only have spent an hour or two, per day, watching Discovery and then you'd learn tons of stuff. For example you would now be extremely familiar with tornadoes. You'd know everything there is to know about sharks. You would be clued-up on Hitler's Flying Saucers. You'd even now know that the Dunkirk evacuations were known as Operation Dynamo. But, I bet you'd never have heard about the time when a band German secret services laid siege to London's Fighter Command! I mean, does this sound familiar to you? No? Well, apparently, according to Eagles Over London, this is precisely what occurred! After all, they need to do this in order to win The Battle of Britain. Or something. But, thankfully for dear Blighty, the Germans spies were ultimately foiled. Hurrah! Yeah, yeah! I know! None of this was taught in schools! Yet, Italian exploitation director Enzo G. Castellari suggests that all this is precisely how it happened. But, if all this revisionism is a bit hard to swallow, then simply keep repeating it's only a movie, it's only a movie, it's....