The Bodyguard (Ali Khamraev, 1979)

When a Red Army detachment captures Sultan Nazar, the leader of a Basmachi contingent opposing Soviet forces, a decision is made to urgently escort the prisoner to the neighboring Bukhara province. The difficult mission is entrusted to Mirzo, an experienced mountain trapper and conscientious revolutionary whose expertise is essential to traversing the precarious paths and steep mountain ridges along the way. Mirzo, his brother Kova, the Sultan, his daughter Zaranghis, and his slave Saifulla set off on this journey, pursued doggedly along the way by Fattobek, the ruthless new head of the Basmachis, a cadre of loyal fighters, and his prophetic wife, Aibash. Recalling the Western psychodramas of Anthony Mann, The Bodyguard is yet another of Ali Khamraev’s harshly beautiful and action-packed Easterns.

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The Seventh Bullet (Ali Khamraev, 1972)

The Seventh Bullet is set after the Russian Civil War as Soviet power established itself in Central Asia and as opposing Basmachi rebels cross the border bringing death and destruction to peaceful villages. Local militia leader Maksumov struggles in his campaign against Basmachi warlord Khairulla who has captured most of his men and won them to his side. With little other option, Maksumov gives himself up in hopes of being reunited with his men and winning them back to the Revolution. Ali Khamraev’s take on the Red Western was an international hit, featuring rollicking action, reassuring heroism, and an unstoppable performance by its star, Suymenkul Chokmorov.

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The Rugged Odysseys of Ali Khamraev

Eclipse is a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple affordable editions. Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer.

An artist of rock-solid humanism and amazing expressive power, Ali Khamraev is a giant who sits astride the history of Uzbek cinema. A graduate of Moscow’s Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography in 1961, he went on to make more than thirty documentaries and twenty feature films – criss-crossing between romantic comedies, Western adventures, political dramas, TV mini-series, and art cinema. Through them all, Khamraev engages in the unveiling of traditional Muslim Uzbekistan and expresses a faith in the modernizing influence of Soviet values and technology. A wizard with landscapes and an instinctual expert of social dynamics, Ali Khamraev is truly an underappreciated master of world cinema.

White, White Storks (Belye, belye aisty)

Influenced by Mikhail Kalatozov’s black-and-white classic The Cranes Are Flying, the Italian Neorealist movement, and the interpersonal dramas of Yasujiro Ozu, Ali Khamraev traces the impossible romance of a married woman and an unconventional outsider in a small, traditional Uzbek village called “White Storks.”

The Seventh Bullet (Sedmaya pulya)

Set during the Central Asian revolts of the 1920s, a Red Army commander allows himself to be captured by a Basmachi warlord to reunite with his imprisoned battalion and lead them to victory in this Western-inspired adventure in the Soviet frontier.

The Bodyguard (Telokhranitel)

A grizzled mountain trapper and a conscientious revolutionary are tasked by a Red Army unit with the difficult task of transporting a captured sultan, along with his daughter and his loyal servant, through a harsh mountain landscape to a neighbouring province while pursued by a ruthless Bashmachi warrior.

Triptych (Triptikh)

This modernist political melodrama set in a small northern town in 1946 follows three women struggling with the social constraints of post-World War II Uzbekistan: an illiterate girl who wants to build a house on her own, a school teacher aiming to bring progressive ideas to the villagers, and an old woman kidnapped in her youth by a poor peasant and forced into marriage.

I Remember You (Ya tebya pomnyu)

In this semi-autobiographical meditation on the past, an adult son’s journey from Samarkand across Russia to find the grave of his father becomes a poetic voyage into his subconscious memory and an exploration of intersecting Uzbek and Russian traditions.

With notes by Kent Jones

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Body Melt (Philip Brophy, 1993)

HORRIBLE MUTATION IN ONE EASY-TO-TAKE SUPPLEMENT!

In the Melbourne suburb of Homesville, the residents of the Pebbles Court cul-de-sac enjoy their middle-class comforts unaware that they participate in experimental testing of a “dietary supplement” called Vimuville. Suspicions are raised by a mysterious man who crashes his car into their small community but no one sees the unearthly tentacles that erupt from the man’s gaping neck wound and force their way down his throat. Soon after, the folks in Pebbles Court quickly find themselves deforming, mutating, and exploding in hilariously frightening ways that involve living mucous, rib removals, killer placentas, giant tongues, exploding erections, collapsing craniums, cannibalism, and BODY MELT!

Co-written and directed by Philip Brophy of the experimental rock group → ↑ → and featuring the gory special effects magic of Braindead‘s Bob McCarron, Body Melt is a splatstick classic in the spirit of early Peter Jackson, hailed by Quentin Tarantino as “the best movie of its kind since Re-Animator” and “the best Australian film of the ’90s.”

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

  • 2K Remastered High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Audio commentary with writer-director Philip Brophy, writer-producer Rod Bishop, and producer Daniel Scharf
  • Audio commentary with Brophy discussing his score for the film
  • Making Bodies Melt, the making of Body Melt
  • Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat, Brophy’s 1988 experimental short film
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Complete storyboards
  • Stills gallery
  • Original trailer
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Australian film critic Adrian Martin and Philip Brophy’s 2004 article on the film’s making

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Wild Zero (Tetsuro Takeuchi, 1999)

JAPAN’S JET ROCK ‘N’ ROLL SCI-FI ZOMBIE HORROR MASTERPIECE!

Ace, a rockabilly fan who really wants to be cool, is on his way to see his favorite rock band, Guitar Wolf, when some strange things occur … flying saucers invade the Earth and flesh-eating zombies rise from the grave! With the help of the (real life) Japanese rock-punk band Guitar Wolf, Ace negotiates an array of misadventures involving crazy rock managers in very tight shorts, transsexual love-interests, naked women shooting guns in the shower, and blood-thirsty zombies ready to tear them all apart! Music video director Tetsuro Takeuchi packs his début feature with everything you need: leather jackets, screeching feedback, laser guitar picks, motorcycles, muscle cars, and LOTS of fire! Think Dawn of the Dead meets Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park with the humor of Evil Dead 2 and you start to approach riotous and ridiculous world of Wild Zero.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Original Japanese soundtrack with optional, newly translated English subtitles
  • Director Edgar Wright on Wild Zero
  • Behind-the-scenes music video
  • Guitar Wolf: Red Idol, director Tetsuro Takeuchi’s 2003 collection of videos, tributes, and live performances
  • Original trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Rockin’ Jelly Bean
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Japanese film expert Tom Mes

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Three Films by Ryan Prows

I had planned to wind up MMC!‘s coverage of the Chattanooga Film Festival with an imagined Arrow Video edition of Ryan Prows’s Lowlife (2017) but no sooner had I done my research and began writing did Shout! Factory announce a Blu-ray edition of the film slated for release on August 7. I’m usually pretty stoked to cross any film off my list of potential MMC! subjects as their circulation is far more gratifying than writing about them here, but I’m a little disappointed not to discuss Lowlife at greater length. I have stumped for Lowlife a fair amount already so let’s instead spend some time with three of Prows’s earlier shorts films, all of which seem to be working through some of the themes and concerns at play in Lowlife and all of which should be included as special features on the upcoming Blu-ray edition.

In case you’ve forgotten, here is a quick refresher on Lowlife taken from the film’s press kit.

When a simple organ harvesting caper goes awry, a twist of fate unites three of society’s forgotten and ignored: EL MONSTRUO, a disgraced Mexican wrestler working as hired muscle for a local crime boss. CRYSTAL, a recovering addict desperate enough to arrange a black market kidney transplant to save her husband’s life. And RANDY, a loveable two-strike convict fresh out of prison, cursed with a full-face swastika tattoo and a best friend guilting him into some hair-brained kidnapping scheme.

As the sordid lives of these small-time criminals collide, they must fight tooth and nail to save a pregnant woman from a certain, and surely gruesome, death.

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