Big Jake (1971) They Wanted Gold For The Boy. John Wayne Gives Out Lead.

There’s only one man brave enough and tough enough for the job. Yep, that’s big bad ass John Wayne. What’s the king of the cowboy’s up to this time? Here’s my review of Big Jake (1971)

What’s going down in Western town?
On the outskirts of the Mexican and USA border sits a peaceful family ranch run by the flamed haired Martha McCandles (Maureen O’Hara). Her children and grandson live with her alongside the stable and kitchen staff. The long horizon across the barren landscape foreshadows a warning as a trail of horses with their riders start to come into view. This is the The Fain Gang. A bunch of low down dirty killers with only death and money on their minds. When they arrive the carnage starts. It ends with Martha’s beloved grandson kidnapped with a ransom on his head for his safe return. The money needed for the kid?… It was a cool million and there was only one man for the job.

Who’s our righteous hero gunslinger?
Jacob McCandles (John Wayne) famously known as Big Jake was a formidable character. A no nonsense vintage man of the wild west. The turn of the century was beginning to change the landscape but you could sure guarantee that Big Jake wasn’t gonna be fitting into this new world any time soon. With Martha presenting him with his favourite two old trusty Greener shotguns there really was no doubt there was only one man to deal with this gang of thugs and murderers.

Does he have a trusty side kick?
Big Jake has his trusty four legged friend forever by his side. The collie is affectionately called Dog and does everything Jake says. A man’s best friend.

Cowgirl love interest?
Martha McCandles was the the estranged wife of Big Jake. He’d been unfaithful and left after having three sons together. You could see that they still loved and respected each other. She was a strong independent woman. With the ransom set at a colossal amount she would have to scraped together every dollar. Just the sheer size of the red strong box was tell that the number was huge. This was the safe return of her grandson she was paying for.

A collection of low down and dirty bad boy cowboys?
Oh my yes this bunch are real low down and dirty. Pure lawless killers. Lead by the charismatic John Fain (Richard Boone) with a twinkle in his eye of pure evil. His gang, The Fain Gang, are on this murderous mission to get their prize. The young boy, Little Jake (Ethan Wayne). The film begins with a fantastic introduction with the narrator going through each member of this formidable gang one by one. You can watch it on the video below. The beginning of that clip also shows the turning of the era and the big changing tides of the time.

Sheriff in town?
Buck Dugan (John Doucette) probably fits this part the nearest as the leader of the Texas Rangers brought in to help deliver the ransom.

Injun’s?
Big Jake asks for the help from his best and most trust friend, after Dog of course. Sam Sharpnose (Bruce Cabot) would be most welcome on any dangerous mission. He reads the land, good with a knife, even turns into a younger, different looking man, when he runs and jumps to take down a man on his horse. “You do realise it’s a stunt double Mikey?” “Oh really! I thought he had special morphing Native American mystical super powers?“. Ok! whatever, we all need a Sam Sharpnose as a right hand man, he’s got your back.

A rootin and tootin old fella?
There’s a few old boys about but no rootin and tootin. So I’ll add Scottish shepherd, played my Welshman Bernard Fox, condemned ready to be swung from a hanging tree. Luck shines down bringing our righteous hero along the path. I’m sure if he had it to hand that shepherd would sure be rootin and tootin on his bagpipes.

One of best scenes.
Big Jake is from the old era of the West. In front of him the future is slowly making its way in. Metal four wheel contraptions pumping out steam and smoke chug their way through the uneven ground. A man, his young son, in goggles whizzes about annoyingly on a motorbike. Big Jake looks as he sits proudly on his trusty four legged friend, “What! Not the poor Dog? How cruel! John Wayne’s eating way too many beans over the years. He’ll crush that poor little collie dog!“. “Oi doffus! His horse man, his horse!

Anyhow, there’s lots of great scenes. The final battle is great, Big Jake punching his kids out is pretty funny too and the big saloon brawl is silly but fun. If I had to pick one moment I might go for the two REO Motor Car Company early automobiles filled with rangers overtaking Jake and Sam on their horses and disappearing into the distance. Soon hitting trouble and with blown out tyres and steam escaping from the engines as they take gun fire. As Jake catches up he just strolls on by the carnage on his horse with a knowing glance to Buck Dugan and his Rangers as he carries on with the mission.

The quick-draw question shootout round.

  • Shoot-out ratio.
    Plenty of gun battles and pistol fisticuffs.
  • Someone has to have the fastest hands?
    The young and cocky Michael McCandles (Christopher Mitchum) sure thinks he is with his fancy brand new Bergmann automatic pistol. Which he soon shows he’s completely inept at handling. With bullets flying all over place and every one diving for cover. It’s time for yet another ticking off from Dad.
  • Saloon fight.
    The perfect distraction means to pick a fight with the big baddest brawniest man in the bar saloon. Big Jake takes a beating and then in a funny scene he puts his hands up and says hang on a minute this might be a case of mistaken identity.
  • Hang on a minute is that so-in-so?
    Way too many faces to write about so I’ll just go for Big Jake’s son. First up is moody pants older son James McCandles is played by John Wayne’s real son Patrick Wayne. With his good looks you will probably best know him as the hero Sinbad from watching the action adventure good fun film Sinbad and The Eye of the Tiger (1977). Well that is if you managed to take your eyes off Ray Harryhausen’s or Jane Seymour’s marvelous creations. Then there’s Michael McCandles (Christopher Mitchum). Wide-eyed and carefree he has a love for what the future technologies might bring, even when they don’t fare him well. With that surname and that chin he can only be the son of the legend, Robert Mitchum. Which leaves us with Little Jake, the kidnapped kid. Big Jake’s grandson from yet another son, Jeff McCandles (Bobby Vinton). Little Jake is actually played by John Wayne’s youngest son, Ethan Wayne.
  • Scalping?
    No not here. Scalping, I believe, hopefully, had stopped in the 20th Centry.
  • The best little whorehouse in the west?
    Passing through a party town of Mexico and the ladies are out ready to dance and make some coin.
  • Bank robbery?
    No bank robbery but there’s plenty of temptation with the reinforced red chest filled with a million dollars on show preached on the back of a bucking mule.
  • Spittoon, cactus, tumbleweed or beans!
    Don’t be stupid and find yourself in firing distance of our tobacco chewing Big Jake. You’ve been warned. He can take an eye out from 20 paces!! There’s lots of cactus on show but sure I didn’t noticed a tumbleweed this time round. We all know the raw power of beans was flowing through all these guys digestive systems!

How’s the look of the land?
Many incredible landscape filming locations were used across the state of Durango in Mexico. You get the classic western look of a vast cowboy driven regions with valleys and mountain in the backdrop. Plus a few rivers for the horses to gallop though.

Production stuff
Big Jake directed by George Sherman was a Western film making machine. He has so many credits to his name, though Big Jake would become his last big picture after 30 odd years behind the camera. It would become one of the biggest hits of the year at the box office too.

It is written by husband and wife double act of Harry and Rita Fink. They would create the legendary inspector with the 44 Magnum, the one and only Dirty Harry.

Did I learn a factoid?
I thought this bit of trivia was nice. Big Jake would be the final film John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara would work together on. They’d previously been in Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952), The Wings of Eagles (1957), and McLintock! (1963). It is said that Maureen considered John her first and best friend. Even going so far as naming a wing of the home she shared with her husband, General Charles Blair, the John Wayne wing.

One other piece of trivia on a personal note. General Charles Blair would be Maureen O’Hara final husband. He was a Brigadier General with the USAF and in their later life had a flying boat with a seat in the cockpit just for his wife. It was a Sandringham VP-LVE called the “Southern Cross” before having it’s name changed to “Beachcomber”. It is one of the star attractions at Solent Sky an aviation museum in Southampton. I’ve been a few times and sat in the pilot seat and in Maureen’s chair next to the ashtray she is said to have smoked like a chimney in.

Verdict
I’d missed seeing this one out of the Wayne’s gigantic film cannon. So it was a very pleasant surprise. It has big Sam Peckinpah influences, especially with the beginning and end shoot out however the comedy, which I very much enjoyed, does take the harshness out of it. I even liked the repeated “I thought you were dead?” line every time Big Jake turns up. It’s all very quintessential John Wayne and brilliant for it. I had a wonderful time. It’s on Amazon Prime at time of writing.

Score
8/10

Feel free to let me know what you thought of this one?

Keep those eyes TV shaped whilst watching great movies.

Mikey Wolf

What’s Been Watched This Month – December 2021

Here’s what square eyed Mikey Wolfman been watching throughout December 2021.

First up a MASSIVE BIG happy New Year to you and hope 2022 brings beautiful things.

The TV

Loki – I went and put my monthly Disney+ payments to the test this festive season. First up I gave Thor’s naughty and mischievous brother Loki a go. Transported to a kind of limbo land by a time agency of police enforcement to be sentenced for his crimes, Loki has to use his wits and skills to try and escape. Owen Wilson joins Tom Hiddleston for this witty and fun fantasy adventure. It’s also great to see a classic British thespian turn up and strut some fine ham about on screen later in the series. The story follows cleverly straight on from a screen during the Avengers Endgame (2019). It’s good fun.

Hawkeye – Festive Marvel with our bow and arrow human hero Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner). With the backdrop of New York Christmas this was an apt and entertaining short mini series. Aging reluctant hero Clint just want’s to go home and spent the weeks build up to xmas with his loving family. It’s all planned out until annoying rich kid Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) crosses his path and all hell breaks lose. Kate Bishop has mastered her skills around Clint Hawkeye ever since she witnessed him take on the alien invasion in The Avengers (2012). Soon the two are kind of working together as gangs and villains start to stack up against them. You know what, I wasn’t that into it with the first 2 episodes but I hang on in there as I enjoy talking to my son about these shows. Then right from episode three it had me hooked. It might actually be my favorite from all the Marvel Disney series. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and inter slices many aspects from newer comic book adventures. The story and villains twist and turn and you are blessed with a ridiculously entertaining final episode that has every enemy fighting against each other right outside the Rockefeller Christmas tree. Whereas most of the threat is done with a slice of lightheartedness it’s not until the addition of an old villain from a past Marvel Netflix series arrives and adds real danger to the escalating carnage. I had big fun with Hawkeye.

Ghosts – Had the third series of this wonderful little British comedy recorded on the Tivo box. Waiting for when my daughter was back for xmas as I did for last years series. It’s just the wonderful silly kind of humour we so love. This is from the original Horrible Histories crew. A brilliant children’s television show we watched together as the kids were growing up. The HH crew made the jump into more adult TV with the hilarious surreal show called Yonderland. Ghosts is about a collection of spirits that have died in or around an old country house throughout the ages and now inherited by young couple. Once again the writing team have really come into their game. Such a fun six episodes and another Christmas special too for the cherry on the top. BTW for the love of all things sacred why the fook has America thought it would be a good idea to remake it? OK if the original was say rubbish but as it’s not why can’t they just watch that and leave it alone? LOL…. It’s here Ghosts US

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing. There’s been four seasons so far and it was another lovely surprise to see they had made another hour long Christmas special. It’s such a chilled show and I’m not even into fishing. Two old friends, Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse tolerate each other as they go fishing together. Paul picks the fishing spots and Bob sorts the food and somewhere to stay. Both are comedians I’ve grown up with and in a funny way shaped our generation’s humour. Along the way they share personal and comic experiences of life as they travel around different picturesque landscapes the country.

“All roads lead to The Expanse final season next week, now that’s a sci-fi epic saga!!” Were my words last month. I’m halfway through the mini finale of just 6 episodes and it really doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. The main issue and I hate to say it is the main antagonist and his son. A cross between hammed up overacting and really annoying. The science fiction saga has been one of my favorites and have actually watched the whole thing twice already, which is something I never do. Maybe I’m just too close to it but I feel I’m gonna be disappointed before I even get to the end. I hope and really wish my feelings to be wrong and they smash out a perfect ending right on the eleventh hour!!! Yep I know I gotta keep the faith. Buckle up Mikey and get ready for the juice. Though to be totally honest I’m just happy to be watching Roberta ‘Bobbie’ W. Draper (Frankie Adams) squeezed into her Martian battle suit. She could throw me around in zero G 247/365 hehe

The Films

11 films this month and a total of 163 this year
1099 since the start of the blog in January 2017.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955) – Wolfman Rating 8.5 – IMDB Rating 7.7
Haha at last I got to this one. I know you want to know what I thought? Well if you do I got my review right here ready to go.

Dead End (1937) – Wolfman Rating 7 – IMDB Rating 7.3
Director William Wyler brings a young Humphrey Bogart to play the tough “Baby Face” Martin who revisits the New York City slum he had fought his way out of. All played out on one big set we watch as Sylvia Sidney and Joel McCrea try to live and hopefully crawl their way out of the slum. With all the focused drama around the three main stars there are also a gang of annoying youth called the Dead End Kids. Claire Trevor has a small but shocking standout role playing Baby Face’s old flame, Francey.

Escape Route (1952) – Wolfman Rating 5.5 – IMDB Rating 5.5
Also known as I’ll Get You. This on paper sounds amazing and a Cold War drama are always right up my street. After leading nuclear scientists are kidnapped and taken behind the Iron Curtain an American called Steve Rossi (George Raft) turns up in London and starts investigating. He is soon joined by the beautiful British agent Joan Miller (Sally Gray) as we try to decipher, along with them, what is going on. It’s pretty average to be honest which was a shame as it’s all there for some good old fashioned espionage fun.

The Rescue (2021) – Wolfman Rating 9 – IMDB Rating 8.4
I’m sure like me you were panic and distraught by the horrendous news of the twelve boys and their football coach who got lost and trapped deep inside a flooded cave in Thailand. This excellent made documentary uses real footage and brilliantly staged realistic reenactments that are a real gut punch of terrifying drama. The sheer scale of the operation is ridiculously unimaginable. The rescue mission is completely nuts and mindbogglingly horrifying. It’s hard to try and keep a dry eye whilst watching. I didn’t manage it.

Ladybug Ladybug (1963) – Wolfman Rating 8.5 – IMDB Rating 7.2
Cold War paranoia as a school’s missile warning alarm goes off. I did a review of this one here.

Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) – Wolfman Rating 7.5 – IMDB Rating 7.5
Much fun was had with the family watching this and eating dinner. So much crazy set piece action that at times you except to have Jackie Chan explode on to the screen. A Marvel hero I hadn’t heard of before but with that great title it had to be seen. The son (Simu Liu) of two powerful magical fighting legacies struggles to find himself after the death of his Mum and the rage of his father. Living in San Francisco he lives a normal life until his past comes looking for him. Michelle Yeoh still always looks gorgeous and Ben Kingsley and Awkwafina add comic relief. It’s has an old school kung-fu feeling and is all round great entertainment.

No Retreat, No Surrender (1985) – Wolfman Rating 6.5 – IMDB Rating 5.7
This was fun and I got to review this Kung Fu Fun Film right here.

Free Guy (2021) – Wolfman Rating 7.5 – IMDB Rating 7.2
Perfect family film entertainment for a Christmas day watch. This was really good fun. Even if you don’t get all the gaming references I’m sure they will still hit. It’s stupid and filled with many big laughs and giggles. Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a NPC (non-player character). One of many computer characters who’s role fills in background to make a story as the real game players fly around smashing and killing everything on sight. NPC’s are destined to have only a few routine repeated words and can be sometimes be seen glitching out in no man’s land in alleys and street corners for no reason. One day Guy kind of goes off script and starts to fall in love with a mysterious action girl called Millie (Jodie Comer). Back in the “real world” game programmer Keys (Joe Keery) tries to figure what’s going on under the nose of his tyrant boss Antwan (Taika Waititi). Get on it if you have Disney+.

Jimmy Carr: His Dark Material (2021) – Wolfman Rating 8 – IMDB Rating 7
Don’t watch if you don’t like dark comedy. You will be offended. I’m not a big Jimmy Carr TBH. He can be a bit annoying but it went up on Netflix and dived in with a few beers and laughed at all the stupid silliness. I felt like you could tell he’d been spending more time on the American stand-up scene with this new hour?

Central Intelligence (2016) – Wolfman Rating 5.5 – IMDB Rating 6.3
Goodness this was pretty bad! Not sure why as it has everything for a good time but something just didn’t click! Over long and needed to dial things back a bit. Ok I had a few laughs and like both Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart so maybe I wasn’t in the mood. Thing was I kinda of was and just wanted a silly action film. Yep got that but it could of been so much more.

Passport to Pimlico (1949) – Wolfman Rating 7 – IMDB Rating 7.2
Residents of a part of London declare independence when they discover an old treaty. This leads to the need for a “Passport to Pimlico” and of course a right British farce to ensue. It’s very silly and a Ealing Studio’s production ticked off my list. Lots of the usual faces from that era with Stanley Holloway and the always brilliant Margaret Rutherford bringing lots of the giggles.

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Thanks for popping on by my humble little movie site. It really is much appreciated. Rather than do my usual, of late, apologies for lack of posts and not having the time to read and comment as much I would so love to on your posts. Instead, I’m just say I’m gonna try harder this year and hopefully I will rectify this. Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2022 and hope to catch up soon.

A few reviews coming soon could be, a surreal British war movie, Bond doing robberies, The Duke making a big appearance, more film noir and of course the blog main tagline, more cult movies… Hope you enjoy.

Any goodies in there you have seen and liked? Thoughts, recommends etc always welcome if you fancy too.

Keep watching the screens. Thanks for having a look to see what’s been watched. All the best……… The howling one, Mikey

No Retreat, No Surrender (1985) Van Damme, Bruce Lee’s Ghost & Karate Chop Hip Hop

This weeks nostalgic look back at the rental movies from our youth brings me to the karate filled streets of…. Seattle! in No Retreat, No Surrender (1985)

Tagline –Tonight, He either fights for his life or he’ll be running for the rest of it.

Who’s our hero today?
No Retreat, No Surrender would be the debut film for our hero actor Kurt McKinney who plays Jason Stillwell. Kurt was straight out of Kentucky and at the young age of 21 was already a black belt in taekwondo and an amateur kickboxing champ.

Had I seen this one on VHS back in the day?
You know what I was positive I had! Remember the cassette case on the video store shelves. You’re talking more than 35 years ago and one hell of a lot of videos watched and rented but honestly I didn’t recall any scenes as I excitedly watched. This movie took me right back to those fun time, teenage years, of discovering random movies.

Quick plot run down.
Jason Stillwell (Kurt McKinney) trains under his father Tom (Timothy D Baker) at the family dojo in Los Angeles. His dad was an expert fighter and practiced the true and respectful way of the martial art. One fateful day the dojo is seized by an organized crime syndicate with the intention of taking over all the dojo’s in the country. Refusal meant a devastating beating from the gangsters prized fighters, one being Ivan Kraschinsky (Jean-Claude Van Damme) a no remorse Russian killer. With lost pride, broken bones and fear for his family, Tom sells up and moves them all to Seattle for a peaceful new life!

Tom Stillwell – “I will not fight. Karate is not to be used aggressively but if I have no other choice. HiiYaaah

Does the hero have a day job?
Jason was obsessed with karate. On moving to Seattle his first mission was to turn the garage into this training arena. He was a Bruce Lee fanatic and posters of the legend covered all the wall space. Punch bags hung from the rafters. Sat in the corner was his beloved Wing Chun dummy. The famous wooden training tool seen in many a martial arts movies training montage. Jason would happily just stay in the garage however he needed to go to school and hopefully make friends.

What’s our heroes special skills?
He is an accomplished fighter in his own right but doesn’t have the drive and focus to finely tune his craft. His special hero skills are taught to him from a very unlikely source!! All will be revealed further down the page…

Heroes weapon of choice?
Just his fists and legs and every bone in his body that he can smash down on his attacking enemy.

Heroes drink of choice?
If Jason was following in Bruce’s footsteps then maybe he’d try some Hennessy Cognac Big Boss style? Or maybe even come back from the dead and drink Johnnie Walker whisky in all it’s wrongness!!

Does hero have a sidekick?
He does and everybody needs a RJ (J.W Fails) in their life. Skateboarder, break dancer, BMX stunts, rapper, Michael Jackson impersonator, moonwalk specialist, fixer, comedy relief, training motivator and general all round best buddy you could ever dream of.

Hot girl? Damsel in distress or ass kicker?
Kelly Reilly (Kathie Sileno) is an old flame of Jason who’d also moved out to Seattle with her brother, the newly crowned US National Karate Champion Ian ‘Whirlwind’ Riley (Ron Pohnel). Her brother also runs the local dojo and has under his wing the arrogant pretty boy Dean ‘Shooting Star’ Ramsay (Dale Jacoby) who believes Kelly is his gal. She only has eyes for our Jason, especially, when he seals the deal with buying a bunny for her birthday. Infuriated, Dean decides to give Jason a beating and get back his love.

Who’s the main baddie?
Well, there’s the local chubby fat kid bully, Scott (Kent Lipham) who’s a right pain in the arse. Causing trouble where ever he can. He does get a few funny lines and is generally a laugh stock. But we all know who the real baddie is… The formidable fighting fortress of Ivan “The Russian” Kraschinsky (Jean-Claude Van Damme). He also shocks the crowd with his wincing nut sack stretching trademark between the ropes splits. It’s a sight to bring tears to the most hardest of men.

Baddies special skills?
Being Russian with a Belgium accent?

Psycho baddies rating out of ten? 8.5/10
A killing machine of devastating power. He can and will fight all and everyone. He has no fear. A psycho in and out of the ring.

Heroes balls of steel and anger ratings out of ten? 8/10
Kurt McKinney does a grand job as our fighting hero Jason. You can see his trained skills shine through in certain scenes. Especially in the end arena showdown where all the fighters (all actual martial artists) get to show off their skills.

Surely it features a training montage scene?
OH MY!!! Surely it did feature a training montage and wow did it deliver. We get a Rocky style running with RJ on his BMX, upside down sit ups, weights, spring tension curls, hours on the wooden training dummy etc. But best of all the montages has to be having the ghost of Bruce Lee put Jason through some ridiculous training actions while delivering ancient eastern proverbs. Yep this film delivers on it’s, should be included in every 80s movie, montage promise

Will I be needing to pause the video player? AKA are there any boobies?
No nothing at all though bully Scott might of known what Jason was up to on his alone time? “Beat it, Brucey! Go home and play with your wooden dolly!

Sex scene?
No nothing at all. Though Jason and Kelly get to play tonsil tennis on the dance floor watched on by a giggling RJ and oddly, two of his robotic dancer friends.

Any good totally random surprise scenes?
One I never knew, I’d imagined they made it up for the plot of the film, but no, Bruce Lee’s grave is actually in Seattle and he’s buried next to his son Brandon Lee at the Lake View Cemetery. What is random in the film is Jason goes to his grave and prays for help. Later that evening the ghost of Bruce turns up, played by Tae-jeong Kim and puts Jason through a tough and strenuous training program with added words of wisdom.

Films body count? Low/Medium/High? 
Low. There are no Mortal Kombat fatalities here.

Best death scene?
No death scene’s yet there’s a crazy stunt bit in the ring involving Ron Pohnel and JCVD. In the frantic fight Ron gets thrown through the ropes and spins round a few times tying him up as JCVD rains down kicks and punches from all angles whilst trying to strangle him!.

Explosion ratio? Low/Medium/High? 
Low. No explosions in this movie review time.

How many stuntmen probably really died making this film?
Reading the trivia section of IMDB it is said that JCVD was tough to work with in the early days. With mention of his dangerous but spectacular fighting movements on set would often connect. It is said that cast member Peter “Sugarfoot” Cunningham (Frank Peters) was knocked out a few times with spinning kicks. A court case would raise such issues when filming Cyborg (1989) resulted in an actor, Jackson ‘Rock’ Pinckney losing an eye in an accident with JCVD during a scene. It has to be one of the dangers of trying to get martial arts film look realistic, especially on a budget back then. One things for certain is JCVD acting might be cheesy but when he starts to fight he looks savage.

Best Line

RJ – “Hey, ain’t no shelves built to stop THIS dancin’ machine.

Production Credits
No Retreat No Surrender is directed by Hong Kong action star Corey Yuen in his first American production. He’d starred in many Hong Kong action films before going into directing. He would also start doing action directing for fight scenes and choreography for big Hollywood films like Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) X-Men (2000) and Romeo Must Die (2000) and The Transporter (2002) to name a few.

The screenplay was written and created by Keith W Strandberg who would return to script two sequels. Neither sound like they have anything to do with the original. In No Retreat No Surrender II (1987) an American kickboxer has to go to Cambodia to rescue his girlfriend from Russian and Vietnamese troops. I’ve not seen it but I see Cynthia Rothrock gets to unleash her fighting powers. And in No Retreat No Surrender 3 Blood Brothers (1990) two feuding brothers, one a cop and the other a karate expert are forced to work together to revenge their fathers death. Actually if you wanted more of this crazy nonsense there’s also The King of the Kickboxers (1990) that might really be NRNS 4? Of course feel free to let me know if they are in fact really good fun.

Jean-Claude Van Damme might be splashed across the poster for the movie now but at the time this was his first big part film credit. He only pops in at the beginning however its the end fight that he really shines and shows why he got to become the JCVD we all loved or hated later on.

Cheese-O-Meter! Low/Medium/High?
This is hard cheese I’d have to admit but of course that’s what makes it’s so much fun.

IMDB score rating – 5.7/10

Wolfman ACTION & FUN rating – 7.5/10

Wolfman over all film rating – 6.5/10

Closing thoughts………………………………………….
Big thanks to my brother Dan for giving me a nudge on this one after he enjoyed watching the cheese fighting fest. Seeing it was on Amazon Prime I had to join the fun. It’s The Karate Kid (1984) and Breakin (1984) influences are all to be seen and you can throw in some The Last Dragon (1985) alongside many kung-fu action films at the time. Ok the acting and plot might not be great but for a B-movie 80s action film, it’s a total blast and I’m sure you will have a great time with it.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts on the film if you want. But most importantly have fun with the movies.

Keep it filmy…. Mikey Wolf.

Ladybug Ladybug (1963) Cold War Nuclear Missile Threat From Frank and Eleanor Perry

A nice quiet rural elementary school on the outskirts of the countryside was busy just having a normal day. At the back of the Principal’s sat a device. It featured four different alphabet codes. One had suddenly lit-up and started emitted a dreadful high-pitched tone. Soon the Principal is calmly trying to decipher the code. Three teachers look on. “What does the Y symbol mean Mr Calkins?” one asked as he skimmed through the manual. With a slight baffled break in his voice he calmly says “Nuclear missile attack in one hour!“.

Now this was the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The air raid warning alarm system had been fitted as a precautionary measure. They would have weekly drills to evacuate the building and decide the next course of action. This would require lining up in the playground alongside their assigned teacher and therefore return to class when the test threat was over. However, this time it seemed real. With no response from constant phone calls to verify the warning threat, the Principal had no other choice but to send the children home. Each teacher would walk their class across the countryside roads as they passed each pupils homestead.

Tagline – Powerful! Fascinating! Startling! A Shocker!

Time was ticking. How much time had passed already? Fifteen minutes? Twenty minutes? Mrs Andrews (Nancy Marchand) the math teacher had wore the wrong shoes today. She was in heels and her feet where gonna hurt. It didn’t matter. She was broken. You could see on her face the realisation that she and everyone around her was likely to be vaporised in forty odd minutes. She looked straight forward and marched on ahead with the ten or so children of varying ages following behind. They knew the threat. The constant drills and radio reports had embedded the terrifying thought of death by bombs and explosions. They chatted among themselves. Who’s had a bomb shelter? A cellar or a basement. Would the basement be deep enough to withstand the blast? Who was home to tell, to warn? As they passed by their homes they would run with their imagination running wild. Fear and adrenaline racing.

Back at the school the heavily pregnant secretary Betty (Kathryn Hays) wanders the art class in a daze of confusion. Her perfect dreams of starting a family was soon to be wiped from the earth in a flash. The thought of such destruction was inconceivable. Meanwhile the dinner-lady Mrs Maxton (Jane Connell) was tasked with filling water canisters with one of the young students left behind. Confused by all the jars of water, why, he inquisitively asked. Back in his office, Principal John tried to keep it together, constantly trying to get through on the phone. Surely someone should know something? The clock is ticking! If you were to look at your watch, now maybe twenty five minutes to destruction? What would you do?

This is a terrifying somber paced melodrama. You ponder the horrific situation with them. Each kid runs off to tell their family of the incoming bombs. Petrified out of their young minds. Wishing to save their loved ones. There’s been no announcement on the radio, every one is oblivious to possible destruction. The kids sing songs as they walk the path of the unknown. Mrs Andrews is at the end, she is beside herself. Imminent death is just moments away? Tick tick tick…

Ladybug Ladybug fly away home,
Your house is on fire,
Your children shall burn!

Imagine if that actual happened? Shocking as it might sound, it has, and on way to many occasions. Ladybug Ladybug is said to have been inspired by the real events in an article that had appeared in a magazine publication called McCall’s the year before the film. Astonishingly it’s horrifying to remember back to one that only happened very recently!

In 2018 the island of Hawaii was thrown into unnecessary pure terror when a text message was received by many warning of an immediate missile attack! WTF! For real! A false missile alert sent across the island by television and radio broadcasts to messages sent to directly to mobile phones. The alert advised residents to seek shelter, and concluded: “This is not a drill“. It wasn’t until thirty eight minutes later that the threat was deemed false! 38 minutes of blind panic.

What Ladybug Ladybug does so well is the portrayal of the stressful blind paranoia and psychological effects heightened by the constant threat of all out nuclear war of the Cold War. An unseen enemy always looming ready to start the destruction of the world. The young cast are fantastic with their innocent wide eyed imagination of the terror they are about to face. Writer and director couple Frank and Eleanor Perry really get the most out of their inexperienced cast which includes film debuts from William Daniels who will be know to millions as the voice of the electronic talking car KITT the buddy to David Hasselhoff in the TV cult classic Knight Rider. Also the actress playing the Math Teacher on the long walk is Nancy Marchand who would become Livia the mother to the one and only Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini).

Ladybug Ladybug has become the fourth film I’ve reviewed from the work of Frank and Eleanor Perry’s which included their debut film, the psychological drama, David and Lisa (1962) The holiday vacation drama Last Summer (1969) and best of all, in my honest opinion, The Swimmer (1968) with Burt Lancaster. There remains two I need to see before they parted ways from each other, Trilogy (1969) and Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970). The duo were so very talented together, that’s for sure.

Ladybug Ladybug is on YouTube here to stream at time of writing if you wanted to see it.

So remember to use the wise words of Bert the Turtle and DUCK and COVER as it will help save you when the nuclear blast hits!!!!! DOH!

All the best and happy viewing hehe.

Mikey

Rebel Without a Cause (1955) Confession, Preconception And My Punishment.

Here’s some random waffle from your friendly movie blog host Mikey Wolfman and a review, of sorts, for Rebel Without a Cause. I do hope you are sitting down, not because the length of the upcoming ramblings but for the shock horror factor that this here “movie fan” had never seen it! Insert blood curdling death scream here. Then, if I may, I’ll try and explain my unforgivable sins and let you decide my fate. Feel free to pick one.

  • 30 minutes on the naughty step.
  • Stand in corner with dunces hat on for one hour.
  • The stock’s for a day with rotten fruit of your choice.
  • Medieval stretching table.
  • Electric chair.

OK the last few might be over kill! To be honest I don’t really know the proper punishment for this atrocity so feel free to make your own up. “I don’t why I’m making up my own but what about packing me, a tight squeeze I know, what with my middle-aged furry frame, into a cannon and blasting me into space? Just a thought“. Anyhow here we go…

Court In Session – In My Defence

You see with a film so famous, especially one steeped in popular culture, I find you can build such a picture in your mind that you feel you’ve actually seen something. References fill film magazines and books with iconic images of the young heartthrob James Dean. We all remember the movie posters, slightly off-centre, stuck with small thumb indented blobs of Blu-Tack on student digs walls in our youth. Then later, trying to be cool, fixed in fancy glass frames in hipsters loft apartments. Large format images showcasing this dashingly handsome young man with his futurist, at the time, flicked back quiff. A blood red jacket strikes a dazzling image draped over a white vest adding to that look of danger in his eyes. If James Dean image wasn’t enough to show this rebellious nature, pushed to entice both female and male fans then adding the muscle car of the 1949 Mercury Coupe would surely bring awe and wonder.

So that poster with James Dean portrayal of Jim Stark was not only uber cool and stylish it also conjured up all sorts of ideas about the content of the film. It had me thinking Jim Stark was a tough chain-smoking kid who rebelled against the system. A thuggish menace to society. A juvenile delinquent and all-round troublemaker. It was in the title, Rebel and he didn’t even have a cause to be one! Preconceived ideas that when I eventually sit down and watch it I’m shocked by how completely different James Dean’s depiction of Jim Stark is? It couldn’t be further from that image that I’d had in my mind all those years.

The narrative focus of Rebel Without a Cause is on the fateful, crossing paths, of three young characters. Teenagers with crashing hormonal changes racing through their young bodies driving them with confusing emotions. Desperate to understand their place in society. The need, desire, to have parental help, for something so simple as just plain advice. Our three protagonists all have this natural flaw which is magnified by the changing dynamics in their lives. Which alienates them, pushes them to the fringes of society, to become misfits. Yet, all they desire, is to fit in.

Whether it’s the desperate need for a father figure, or the love of a father. Baffled with life after the loss of both parental guidance and craving for any love, family, brotherly or otherwise. All three characters have deep flaws but can they be rescued before society casts them out?

Lets meet the three stars.

Jim Stark (James Dean)
Jim drinks and smokes whilst aloof with a brash and unpredictable temperament but under that red jacket is a fundamental caring and sensitive young man yearning to fit in, to have friends. He has a normal family. His mother, Carol (Ann Doran), is a little overbearing while his father, Frank (Jim Backus), loves him ever so much. However, he will never punish him, reprimand him. While he brings Jim tea dressed in his kitchen apron, Jim loathes his inability to stand up to his nagging wife or scream or yell some wisdom at him. To man up!

Judy (Natalie Wood)
Turning sixteen should be a joyous event. Anything different hadn’t ever crossed Judy’s mind. She was happily going about her life in what seemed the perfect nuclear family. Loving mother, cheeky little brother and her beloved Dad (William Hopper). Like many father daughter bonds they can be special but suddenly and unexpectedly kissing her father good morning was no longer allow. The love he’d shown had turned to strict sternness. She was now considered an adult and with it came a one sided barrier between them. Judy was distraught. She thrived for that love.

John “Plato” Crawford (Sal Mineo)
Plato has it the hardest. Well, he actually lives in a giant house filled with wealth. He also has a housekeeper (Marietta Canty) who dotes after him. However, he’s all alone and confused. Expected to grow up too soon. His father left when he was young and his mother is nowhere to be seen. Thought’s inside his mind twist and turn. He struggles with his sexuality, he desires to be grounded. All he really wants is the closeness of a loving family. Anxious and traumatised Plato tries to deals with life the best way he can, in a slightly manic way.

My thoughts on film and my final defence.

So you see, a films legacy can be altered by perceived expectations, unconsciously or otherwise. Like I say pop culture can have a big part in this, the trailer can be edited to show a different tale all together, the promotion poster may fail to show the hidden tender side or a sensitive manner. Join them all together with the films misleading title and there you go, a film’s preconception changed in 66 years, well in my head anyway.

Tagline – Teenage terror torn from today’s headlines

It’s a brilliant film with a strange and sad legacy with the tragic young violent real deaths of all three actors and not to mention a controversial behind the scenes production with the, I’ll get my kicks where ever I can, director Nicholas Ray. All three performances are first rate, especially when watching knowing that James Dean had died just a month before the cinema release. For me, I’d say, Sal Mineo’s Plato steals the show. Every time he appears on screen you feel the unpredictable nature to him and those wide open innocent longing eyes will break your heart.

Yep it took me a long time to finally see this film. To be honest I sometimes feel I appreciate them more in my older years. Especially looking back whilst doing my little blog post write up. I thoroughly enjoyed it and best of all was discussing it with my daughter who’d recently watched it and was about to embark on an essay for University. Proper adult writing, no talk of medieval torture devises or other forms of corporal punishment. So I leave you to decide my fate. Which punishment I deserve or will you have leniency with my plea?


So whats next on the preconception smashing watch list? Should it be Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953) because that is all homoerotic and set in The Blue Oyster Bar from Police Academy isn’t it? And I’m sure I read that the Village People have a cameo? Yep you guessed it, I’m larking around!

Thanks for having a read and you are most welcome to comment if you wish.

Keep on watching that wonderful squared screen. All the best.

Mikey Wolfman…

What’s Been Watched This Month – November 2021

Here’s what square eyed Mikey Wolfman been watching throughout November 2021.

Hey it’s almost Christmas and of course Die Hard is a festive film? Right? Haha the old ancient debate to get people fired up with seasonal joy. No, that’s not my movie cinema room, but man-o-man I so wish it was! So on to the film section below. You’ll see it took a beating this month as I stuck with some series to get my subscription fees paid for. As usual there were actually more films watched, one big one in fact that I hadn’t seen before and it might cause an upset!!!. I’m half way through a review for it so hopefully that will be next and you can decide my fate!! Anyhow Christmas is around the corner and I’m so excited to be having some family time and movie time. Bring it on and an early Christmas cheer to you.

The TV

Arcane… Perfection! Well I thought so. This one sneaked in from Netflix. Based on an online battle arena game called League of Legends. Yep me neither. Like with most game to film they rarely work. Going down the series avenue has given them the time to flesh out a story. I’ve know idea if it’s related to the game in anyway but I will say they smashed it out the park for sure. The animation is beautiful and very creative, the story arc’s thoughtfully achieved, characters you care for, whether good or bad. Plus the perfect editing to enhanced some truly emotion moments. The first 3 episodes are a story arc in themselves. So if you didn’t like it at that point, then move along. You would miss a deep poetic final episode though. Highly recommended if that’s your thing or maybe not…

Foundation… I grabbed a AppleTV subscription for a couple of months to watch this as I’m a massive science fiction head. Was very excited for this. The first episode was pretty epic. Then, unfortunately it got lost in it’s own psychobabble. I stayed with it and did enjoy many aspects of it. Another thing that let it down was the acting, or maybe the dialogue could be blamed. The ships and general space effects were first rate but then, occasionally out the blue, it looked cheap. I did love the idea of Empire and three generation of clones, it’s a great concept. Lee Pace was in ham overload at times but I was ok with it. The main problem was it never really went anywhere and you just didn’t care when it got to the end. I’ve never read Isaac Asimov’s book series so I can’t say anything on that. I do hope, if they do make a second series, that they introduce more from the robots and jazz things up. But putting slightly moany Mikey to the side, I love sci-fi and was just happy watching space stuff on the screen. All roads lead to The Expanse final season next week, I can’t wait, now that’s a sci-fi epic saga!!

Ted Lasso… Getting my sub dues in working my way through the American football coach, Jason Sudeikis, out of his depth, managing a British football Premiership team in London. It’s a comedy with a pure heart of gold. Always takes a nice left turn. The first series was brilliant. The second follows very closely but just doesn’t keep hitting. It’s very enjoyable and filled with that feel good factor and keeps to the trusted formula, well there’s one curve-ball episode! It’s a real oddity. You’ll know it when it comes. It’s like when Guy Ritchie, after his winning formula of films decided to try something different, Revolver (2005). OK that could of been pure creative genius, it certainly blew a few peoples minds. Well that episode is like that, they try a real random one shot episode that is either genius, a Lynchian effort or just a pile of bollocks. You’ll be pleased to know they go straight back into normal mode after the surreal detour.

The Films

10 films this month and a total of 153 this year
1088 since the start of the blog in January 2017.

Four Hours at the Capitol (2021) – Wolfman Rating 8.5 – IMDB Rating 6.8
Good God that was truly insane. Pure horror show!!!! The press photos etc at the time didn’t show the World War Z zombie style attacks the poor cops had to endure. Shocking footage and extremely tense documentary using footage from the attackers themselves! It’s a miracle there weren’t more deaths! This doc was just missing one thing?… John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 soundtrack!

Cast a Dark Shadow (1955) – Wolfman Rating 8.5 – IMDB Rating 7
Ooo I do love a good Dirk Bogarde film. This British Film Noir has him in his, quite often, usual dastardly fashion. You can read my review of Cast a Dark Shadow here and see what he’s up to this time?

Blithe Spirit (1945) – Wolfman Rating 8.5 – IMDB Rating 7.1
Rex Harrison and his second wife Constance Cummings are haunted by the ghost of his first wife Kay Hammond. It’s a wonderfully fun and very entertaining film version of a Noel Coward play directed by David Lean. And without doubt, the true star of the film is Margaret Rutherford playing a truly potty local mystic medium to the perfection. Just watching every minute she is on screen is a pure delight. Very recommended.

Finch (2021) – Wolfman Rating 7 – IMDB Rating 7.1
You get two Will Smith films, I, Robot and I Am Legend. Mix in Denzel doing The Book of Eli and roll those three into one Tom Hanks movie doing Castaway in an apocalypse with a robot Borat and a dog. AppleTv new science fiction movie is actually ok if not instantly forgettable with it’s dash of middle of the road. Still a good sit back and watch Tom gurning and interacting with a robot instead of his old friend Wilson.

The Forgotten Battle (2020) – Wolfman Rating 7 – IMDB Rating 7.1
This is an ambitious Dutch production of The Battle of the Scheldt. A lesser know battle but still a very important piece of the war effort as the Allied advancement tries to liberate the Scheldt estuary from German occupation. In doing so it would free up the supply line from the Belgium shipping lane of Antwerp. The Forgotten Battle loosely plays on the theme of Dunkirk with using three main character story arcs to follow through the film. It’s a very good film though something lacked giving it an emotional wallop. Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy does a great David Niven impression btw.

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) – Wolfman Rating 7.5 – IMDB Rating 6.8
A British comedy drama with gay love between the laundry machines and soap suds with Daniel Day-Lewis in an early role. What could be going on you may ask? You could read my review of My Beautiful Laundrette here and probably not learn much but hey that’s how it works at the house of Wolfman’s Cult Film!

The Big Caper (1957) – Wolfman Rating 7 – IMDB Rating 6.4
We all love a good bank heist film don’t we? One thing for sure is you gotta have a good gang. You can meet them on my The Big Caper review here

Lucy, the Human Chimp (2021) – Wolfman Rating 7.5 – IMDB Rating 7.3
This really should be called Janis Carter, the Human Chimp. She really is a remarkable woman. After two psychologist’s, stupidly raise a baby chimpanzee called Lucy as an experiment to see what will happen if she’s only taught life being a human daughter. When young student Janis replies to a job advert and is introduced into the family group it will change her life path… forever.

Cube (1997) – Wolfman Rating 8 – IMDB Rating 7.2
Low budget but highly imaginative Canadian science fiction horror. Six complete strangers with widely varying personalities are involuntarily placed in an endless maze containing deadly traps. I saw this when it was first released and loved it. Been meaning to revisit it for years. I managed to get my son sat down to join me in the boxed madness. A sequel was released called Cube 2 Hypercube (2002) which I recall liking however I never knew there was a prequel called Cube Zero (2004). Both sequels don’t get great reviews but the original is ace and worth watching if you get the chance. In a strange turn of events, I just noticed that there’s a recent Japanese remake just released this month! Cube (2021)

Another Man’s Poison (1951) – Wolfman Rating 7 – IMDB Rating 7
A mystery writer, Bette Davis, becomes involved in a tangled web of murderous deception not unlike the plots of her novels. Gary Merrill brings some mystery to the story and Emlyn Williams playing a doctor who can’t help but stick his nosey neighbour sniffer in the mix. I had high hopes for this one. It is good and has some fine moments but it just doesn’t quite hit. Always good to see Bette Davis but her acting is at times over the top.

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Thanks for popping on by my humble little movie site. Please stay safe.

Any goodies in there you have seen and liked? Thoughts, recommends etc always welcome if you fancy too.

Keep watching the screens. Thanks for having a look to see what’s been watched. All the best……… The howling one, Mikey

The Big Caper (1957) Let’s Meet The Bank Heist Gang.

A cool million dollars with a whole stack of change was sat waiting within the bank vault. The California Bank, in the small town of San Felipe, would hold the hefty payload over the weekend, ready for the payroll for every single Monday. It was too much to think even about. Sat there smiling, ready for the taking. Too tempting not to. What was needed for The Big Caper was an expert gang with a perfect plan. Lets meet them…

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Cast a Dark Shadow (1955) Sly Dirk Bogarde Just Loves Those Older Ladies

Edward “Teddy” Bare (Dirk Bogarde) looked well shifty. There was something about him. His handsome good looks were a facade that hid a sinister charm. You see, Edward had a thing for older ladies. Putty in his hands they would become. It wasn’t a fetish for cougars or a domineering mature mother figure that he needed. No, there was a criteria that had to be fulfilled if he was to spend his time dating an older lady. You guess it, money, they had to be rich. He had caught one too. A sweet older lady called Monica (Mona Washbourne). In whirlwind romance they were married.

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My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) Thatchers Britain With Gay Love and Soap Suds

The 80s was a weird and wonderful time. My era. Generation X. Born in the 70s and grew up in the 80s. Video rental, smoking cigarettes behind the school bike shed, underage drinking, sniffing glue!…… and those dreaded “Thatcher Years“! Good old Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dividing the nation. Tory rule went on forever. It always felt bleak times. Constantly surrounded by the threat of nuclear destruction, the narrative of pop culture at the time. Music videos and TV shows were awash with images of the triad of superpowers. America, The UK and Russia, all with itchy trigger fingers ready to push the button… Sniff some more glue! Vast unemployment swept across the land. Three million and counting were numbers said to be out of work and claiming benefits on the dole. The miners strikes, Greenham Common CND protests and the AIDS epidemic filled the news cycle… Pass the Evo-Stik!

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