The Giant Claw – 1957, Fred F. Sears


Science fiction and horror are two genres which play together very well. The sci-fi-horror subgenre presents scenarios which combine the inherent excitement of scientific discovery, with scares that could theoretically happen for reals. Possibly real scares are more potent than for-sure-not-real scares, you see. The Giant Claw is one such film, and it presents us with a terrifying scenario that all scientists agree is just waiting to happen; What would humanity do if we suddenly found the planet Earth invaded by a gigantic, cackling space vulture from the farthest reaches of the gallaxy? Probably we would shoot rockets at it until it freaking died, that’s what.

UNLESS, of course, it was an anti-matter-shield space vulture, in which case our Earth weapons would be powerless against it. Oh, shit! That’s right, you guys; Anti-matter space-vulture. What now?


And it looks just like Iggy Pop.

THE PLOT~ When capable pilot and respected radar expert Mitch MacCafee spots a strange, hulking object zooming through the skies during a routine flight exercise, he is chastised by army brass for making a stink over nothing, since they somehow didn’t notice the friggin’ enormous space-vulture we already know I’m referring to, and don’t believe his far fetched stories. Soon, however, both military and passenger planes begin to go missing under mysterious circumstances, and Mitch, along with Sally Caldwell (I think she’s a mathematician? Not sure) uncover the truth, big surprise, it’s a giant ass anti-matter space-vulture, just screaming it’s head off and tearin’ up our shit. Damn. Mitch and Sally work to find a way to defeat this horrible creature once and for all, and of course, they are successful. In this movie, since our monster is spawned of utter nonsense, so too is our solution, using some sort of science I’m sure is staggeringly inaccurate, they manage to kill this freaking thing, and soon the Earth is one giant monster corpse richer. Hooray! Pretty boiler plate.

As I’ve said, this is a straightforward, black and white monster movie from an era where straightforward, black and white monster movies were a dime a dozen. These films were more or less disposable, like the cinematic equivalent of chewing gum, sat through for lack of a better way to kill a Saturday night, and then quickly forgotten. While The Giant Claw is not as well known today as say, The Day The Earth Stood Still, people still seem to remember it more than they do other, comparable films of that era, and that’s mostly because it’s thought of as being particularly terrible. I would argue that this reputation is undeserved, frankly, I kind of like The Giant Claw. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and it’s not hard to find a 1950’s science fiction flick that sucks harder than this.

Really, it’s gotta be the monster. This freaking space buzzard is indeed a ridiculous looking frump of a beast, and unlike other films which would have left their monster mostly off-camera to conceal how laughably shabby it looked, our big dumb hell-bird is all over the screen in this flick. If the car from The Beverly HIllbillies was a monster, it would be this thing. It’s just a gigantic, cackling, gangly bastard of the skies, and I have no idea how in the hell it manages to go unnoticed for most of the film because it’s the very definition of an areal eye-sore, and it’s freaking gigantic. Also noisy as hell.


Anti-Matter Space Vulture: A Master of Stealth.

I’ve seen worse monsters, though, and anyway, for better or for worse, this giant, screaming bag of garbage is why we remember The Giant Claw today. Without this menacing sky-doofus, it’s doubtful that the film would have incurred enough cinematic wrath to stay in the game a whopping half a century later. Thanks, Space Vulture, you friggin’ idiot, we’ll never forget the good times you’ve brought us.

So, with our ridiculous monster out of the way, there is one last topic we need to cover before we wrap up; The Giant Claw’s ACTUAL worst quality; how badly it rubs that old fashioned 1950’s gender inequality in your damn face.  The courtship of Mitch and Sally is pretty cringe-worthy, it involves what must have been a common pre-1978 American Courting Ritual, which goes like this;

“If you meet a fetching woman, take every opportunity to disrespect her for three calendar days. On the fourth day, kiss her on the mouth while she is sleeping. She is now your property by U.S. law.” – The U.S. Constitution

Here’s the thing, though, you can’t really let this surprise you. Have you ever seen a movie before? Believe it or not, Western culture has come a long way, and there was a time when people of both genders could and did watch films like this without even flinching. Today, it’s impossible not to notice how male-centric a film like The Giant Claw really is. You can take whatever lesson out of that you wish, but the fact of the matter is; if you’d like to avoid any fun reminders of what life was like with significantly fewer victories for the Civil Rights Movement, then there are just several decades worth of movies out there that are NOT for you. Actually, psychotronic film in general is something you should probably just steer clear of altogether, unless you’re damn near impossible to offend.

Despite, or perhaps BECAUSE OF its many flaws, I do like The Giant Claw. Its crappiness is charming, and if you like goofy 50’s/60’s B-movies, this is going to prove adequately entertaining.


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Manos: The Hands of Fate~ 1966, Harold P. Warren

ManosposterIt’s a commonly held belief that Manos: Hands of Fate was made as part of a wager. Certainly, even relatively credible sites, such as IMDB, attest that director Harold P. Warren made the film on a bet, and human culture is happy to accept this explanation, because Manos: The Hands of Fate NEEDS and explanation; it’s so horrible that many sources feel comfortable with calling this the single worst movie of all time. So, how did this happen? And why? True or not, we have our answer; it was all an elaborate wager between industry outsider Harold P. Warren, and an unknown second party, who had been working inside of the American independent film community in the 1960’s. Warren did win this wager, of course, by virtue of the fact that Manos: Hands of Fate exists, but I really don’t feel comfortable suggesting that Manos: Hands of Fate is in any way, shape, or form a success. Having made this film makes Harold P. Warren a director in the same way that a summer job at Taco Bell makes one a chef.

But I digress; like many near-fatal pieces of soul poison that have been lazily splattered into the filthy slop-trough of American pop culture, Manos came and went in 1966 like a fart in the wind, garnering no acclaim, and soon fading into complete and utter obscurity, where it rightfully belonged. Shockingly, this would not be the end. In 1993, cult television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured Manos: Hands of Fate in what would go on to become one of it’s more popular episodes, thereby hoisting it back up, into the spotlight, and giving Manos an unexpected second lease on life; one which would prove much more generous than it’s first trip around the block thirty years prior. Today, Manos: Hands of Fate has an actual cult following, which is nothing less than unthinkable. Manos: The Hands of Fate has a fan base.

THE PLOT~ After driving aimlessly for like, a million years (which we are generously allowed to watch) a family of three winds up stranded at a strange secluded house out in the middle of the desert. It is here that America first meets Torgo, and don’t you worry, we’ll come back to him.


Here’s Torgo. Does he somehow have two sets of eyebrows simultaneously?!

Apparently Torgo serves The Master, who owns this house. The Master is a very religious man, but his religion is some bizarre hand-obsessed branch of Demon worship, focused on a deity called Manos; it involves polygamy, large bonfires, human sacrifice, and constant bullshit. This house is like, Manos central, complete with scary demon trinkets adorning every wall, mysterious creatures baying mournfully somewhere out in the darkness, and a damn sacrificial altar in the backyard. “Whatever,” our family says. “Let us stay here, Torgo, we’re tired of driving.” Torgo really tries to hammer home that this is a bad idea, but they ignore his opinion and pretty much demand a place to crash for the night. Should have listened to Torgo, folks.

The movie drags on for the rest of your natural life. The pace is agonizingly slow, and it’s filled with sequences that serve no purpose, and where pretty much nothing happens. When it finally does end, it does so with a deliberately open ended conclusion, you know, just in case it was a hit and Warren wanted to do a sequel. Honestly, I don’t know how there isn’t a Kickstarter for Manos 3D: Retribution, starring Sean William Scott right now.

As I mentioned before, Manos: The Hands of Fate is a staple of “Worst ever” lists you might see bouncing around the internet, but the truth is, there are hundreds of low budget genre films from the 1960’s which are all just as bad. Manos gets to wear this glorious crown of trash because we KNOW Manos, but if MST3K hadn’t come into the picture and elevated it to the level it now enjoys, there would be some other movie popping up on all those lists, and this one would have remained forgotten, possibly forever. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a horrible movie, and it deserves the infamy it has earned, but Manos is also a product of a very different environment; Small, crude productions helmed by inexperienced first timers were actually very common back in the American 60’s, and the lion’s share of these flicks are just as unwatchable, and in some cases, even more so. I would wager there are still many films out there, waiting to be rediscovered, which could blow this one out of the water. Is Manos; The Hands of Fate the single worst movie of all time? No, but it does belong SOMEWHERE on that list… Maybe just a little further down than most might place it.


In the three-ring turd-circus that is Manos: The Hands of Fate, Torgo is, for sure, the star attraction. This is a character absolutely riddled with peculiarities, none of which are ever addressed in the film, and very few of which make any sort of sense at all. Firstly, his damn knees: torgo2

Never mind why!

Torgo possess massive, swollen, fantastically giant knees, which impede his movements, and the movie never addresses or explains this. They kinda just ignore it, Torgo’s knees are a serious Elephant in the room, so to speak. There is a very popular myth on the internet that Torgo is actually supposed to be a Satyr, which would explain the knees quite nicely; he doesn’t have giant knees at all, he’s goat legs! We just don’t see them, because he’s wearing than Khaki colored Parisian Nightsuit all the time. This is, sadly, wishful thinking, and there is no truth to the satyr explanation. The reality behind Torgo’s suspicious getaway sticks is much less logical; according to IMDB, Harold P. Warren has stated in the past that Torgo was first meant to be a hunchback, but that felt particular deformity seemed too cliché, so instead, they gave him enormous, illogically swollen knees, thinking that this was an untapped cinematic goldmine, and Torgo would be first in line to cash in. “Knees, that’s where it’s at!” Thought Warren. Yeah. As a result, Torgo is barely even able to walk, but the first few times that you see him hobble around, an odd little piece of music plays as he meanders feebley about his bleak surroundings. This music stops when he stops, and resumes when he starts to walk again. There’s even a point at which the music picks up before we see Torgo, and then he wanders into frame, as if the tune is heralding his clumsy arrival. This gives us the impression that this is in fact Torgo’s walking music, and that’s hilarious. He can barely walk, but he has special music that plays whenever he does. I’m a big fan of that, actually.

Torgo also squirms uncomfortably at all times and repeats nearly everything he ever says. He’s easily the most memorable thing about the movie, and googling Torgo will show that I’m not the only person who feels that way; Torgo cosplay is a very real phenomena in 2015, something no one could have foreseen when this thing premiered back in the 60’s. And that’s not the only unexpected way that Manos: The Hands Of Fate’s influence is felt in the post-modern, media-saturated world we live in today, this movie has been the subject of a great deal of fan generated media. There’s fan art, there have been stage adaptations, and Manos was even remade with puppets in Rachel Jackson’s awesome MANOS: THE HANDS OF FELT.

Manos poster

If you’re mind isn’t blown yet, nip on over to your smartphone app store and pick up a copy of the Manos: The Hands of Fate video game. I did. It cost two bucks.


It’s absolutely bizarre that this film has managed to gain such traction decades after it’s disastrous unveiling, and it’s all thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000. I definitely recommend the Manos episode, without question, if you insist on watching this film, that’s the best way to do it. If, however, you want to see Manos the way nature intended, then be forewarned; Without Joel and the Bots putting this thing on blast, Manos: The Hands of Fate is no walk in the park. You might be laughing for the first twenty minutes, but then it’s a steep downward slide into the deepest circle of hell. Tread lightly.


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Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (A.K.A. The Man Who Saved The World, AKA TURKISH STAR WARS!) ~ 1982, Çetin Inanç, Turkey


For decades, poor old Ed Wood (Rest in peace) has frequently been labeled the single worst director of all time. Really? If you really think that the man who brought us Glen or Glenda? lives at the absolute bottom of the cinematic barrel, then buddy, my suggestion would be that you clear your calendar, get your hands on some Turkish Pop Cinema, and prepare to have your damn mind blown, because you have no idea how far down that barrel actually goes. During the industry’s golden age (the devil-may-care European 1980’s), Turkey produced some of the most bat-shit insane movies ever known to mankind, and by comparison, Mr. Wood’s body of work would have appeared mature, reserved, and relatively well made. Here we are, thirty years later, and even deliberate attempts to match that magical 1980’s Turkish crazy don’t even come close. That’s probably for the best, take my word for it.

Possibly the most famous movie to come out of these truly bizarre artistic circumstances is Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam, which, translated to English, apparently means The Man Who Saved the World, but to most psychotronic film fans around the world, it’s better known by it’s unofficial title; TURKISH STAR WARS.


I don’t know if Turkey even had copy write laws at this stage in the game, but Turkish film makers were evidently free to pilfer other people’s intellectual properties with impunity back in 1982. What you would get is this, Turkish folks would just go out and snatch up movies from The States (or wherever) and then Turkify the hell out of them, thereby crafting weird, Z-Grade, home grown imitations for the domestic market. Turkish Star Wars is, obviously, Turkey’s imitation of the Star Wars films, and while it doesn’t follow the plot of the Star Wars movies (it would have been a lot better off if it had) the movies DOES in fact use a good deal of stolen footage and music including numerous shots from Star Wars: A New Hope, as well as music from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and also Flash Gordon.

THE PLOT~ In the future, Mankind is finally at peace, or something, I think… Except that we got alien problems like you wouldn’t believe, so actually, we are very much at war. Yeah… Also, uh, the human brain is like, really amazing, or something… but aliens don’t have brains… so… That’s part of the story, I guess… Ummmm… Earth has, in what I would call a completely incoherent perversion of logic, been broken into several different pieces over the years, and these pieces have all drifted off into space, becoming independent planets… but really, that’s not ever adequately addressed… Nor is the fact that Earth is somehow protected by a huge shield, which was created by the united consciousness of the entire human race. Basically, that’s kinda like this movie’s answer to The Force, so you might call that THE TURKISH FORCE.

I’m sorry, I know that none of this makes sense, and frankly, it’s not going to get any better. Here we go!

So, we Earthlings launch all of our fighters off into space, and no surprise, the mightiest of all these warriors just happen to be two old, grizzled Turkish dudes, named Murat, and Ali. Turkish Star Wars generously provides us with a Turkish Darth Vader (called The Wizard), a Turkish Obi Wan Kenobi (an old Muslim holy man), and a Turkish Princess Leia (some trashy Def Leppard groupie who doesn’t even have any lines until the third act of the film), but they’ve got NO Turkish Luke Skywalker for us. Poor show! Instead, we get two lumpy Turkish Han Solos, in the form of Murat (played by somewhat legendary Turkish actor/psychopath Cüneyt Arkin) and Ali (played by Aytekin Akkaya, who looks like someone The Fonz would but pot from.) While “flying” their damn X-Wings (more on this later) into combat, Ali and Murat are apparently shot down, or magically transported, or SOMETHING to a floating chunk of Earth that was once…. Egypt? Maybe? I don’t know, you guys, but they wind up on a planet that has several important holy sites from Earth on it, and they have no space ships when they regain consciousness. They just wake up partially buried in dirt on an alien planet with no knowledge of how they got there, and the first thing they do after dusting themselves off is to try and formulate a plan to get laid by whatever alien chicks might be lurking around nearby. These guys!

From here it only gets worse. Turns out the evil Wizard (aforementioned Turkish Darth Vader, he looks like ass) wants to capture our heroes  and study their brains so that he can learn the secret of destroying Earth’s force field. Eventually, paths cross, but 85% of this movie is Cüneyt Arkin punching things like a damn lunatic. Seriously, this is worth taking time to discuss; Cüneyt Arkin is fucking ridiculous.


If you see this man, haul ass in the opposite direction, but it’s probably too late.

This film is just fight scene after fight scene, and Arkin appears to have formulated his own branch of martial arts without any previous knowledge of hand to hand combat, or just being a rational human being in general. For Arkin, it’s about hitting more, and most importantly, as hard as possible, every single time. Where a normal man would punch once, Arkin punches 11 times, and every single blow is 100% of Arkin’s mental and physical energy, his face contorted into a red mask of irrational Turkish fury, and the sound effects his blows create are bassy, over-driven explosions that could never occur in the natural world. He looks like a sixty year old man with the mind of a child, who just smoked a bunch of meth while watching Bloodsport and then decided to crash a Furry convention and beat everyone to within an inch of their life. (Oh yeah, the aliens in this movie looks completely terrible, most of them are just an unintelligible mass of synthetic fur with bike handlebar streamers attached to their fingertips. Really.)

10972267_galSo, there’s these guys, we see A LOT of whatever the hell they are.


And this fucking thing. Who okayed these costumes!??!

Late in the film, Murat is treated to some long, drawn-out exposition pertaining to Islam, and Jesus, who for some reason lives underground now, apparently, and when that’s finally over, Turkish Obi Wan is like, “look, bro, you gotta go get this ancient, magical sword, plus also there’s a human brain made of gold over there, too. Go get it, you can’t let the wizard get that shit, cuz then he’ll destroy Earth I think!” This brilliant plan totally backfires because everyone in this film is an idiot, but that’s besides the point. What I wanted to highlight about this sequence is that the sword he recovers basically amounts to our TURKISH LIGHTSABER, and damn is it stupid. It’s enormous, and the dumbest looking thing I’ve ever seen in a movie. Here it is:


“Just holdin’ my sword. This movie is every bit as good as Star Wars. Why you laughin’, bro?”

Murat does kill a bunch of monsters with the sword, but he quickly realizes that a life where he doesn’t constantly punch things just isn’t worth living. Having firmly made up his mind, Murat takes this priceless, centuries old relic of human culture, and melts it down into a liquid, thereby destroying it forever. That’s step one. Step two is that he takes his friggin’ hands and deliberately dunks them into his newly formed super-heated pool of molten metal. Yep! Step three SHOULD be him screaming his ass off on a gurney while being hustled into the E.R., but this is Turkish Star Wars, so rather than melting his hands off into cauterized stumps like we all know would really happen, Murat is instead endowed with giant, golden gauntlets, thus finally granting him the ability to punch again, only this time with all the added might of a Turkish Lightsaber. Now in glove form! I think he also does the same thing to his feet, I don’t remember the little gold sneakers before… But anyway, this is the extreme to which Murat’s need to punch drives him, and he spends the remainder of the film violently punching monsters into furry, disembodied corpses. The twist ending is that he doesn’t actually punch the wizard to death, but shockingly, goes for a karate chop, which actually slices his astro-nemesis in half, lengthwise. Don’t get too excited, the effect is garbage.


The last thing a Furry sees before it dies.

More than anything else, Turkish Star Wars is a romance about one man’s undying love for punching things. In this film, there is no Turkish Death Star. We do briefly see the American Death Star at the beginning of the film, but it disappears without explanation and is never mentioned again throughout the rest of the movie. I think the implication is clear; Murat just punched the Death Star into dust over the course of a few afternoons and that was that; no photon torpedo’s required.

Everything here is bad, bad, bad. The only parts of Turksih Star Wars that aren’t unforgivably shitty are the parts that they just stole from somebody else, and they don’t even do that right. The sequence I mentioned before, which has Murat and Ali flying off to engage in their outer space dogfight, is pretty frustrating. In essence, it’s a collection of close ups of either actor wearing a motorcycle helmet and sitting in front of a screen which is playing clips from A New Hope. They reuse the same shots over and over, and often, the shot playing on screen behind them will cut to a new shot while our foreground footage does not, and vice versa. Additionally, the footage behind them regularly informs us that our pilots, who are facing directly into the camera, are frequently flying backwards, and sometimes, backwards while at a 45 degree angle. Come on, they couldn’t do better than this?! It’s just terrible.


Good work, Cüneyt. You’re totally in space right now.

There’s another famous sequence in the film that basically amounts to Ali and Murat’s Turkish Jedi training, where Murat fastens enormous boulders to his ankles and jumps all over the place.


Plus, look at that physique!

People seem to remember this scene as the centerpiece of the entire film, but I’m not sure why. I’ll agree, it looks completely silly, but no more so than any other sequence. At one point in film, Turkish Darth Vader drinks human blood through a crazy straw. That’s pretty silly. Later on, the bad guys capture Ali and Murat, and devise the ultimate, most unbearable, most inescapable form of torture ever, being buried alive! The movie really hypes this whole deal up, they really want you to think that this is just the most grim fate imaginable, and that no one could possibly be mighty enough to overcome so gruesome an ordeal… Then, when they actually do it, they just sort of toss a few scoops of dirt on our heroes and call it a day. Ali and Murat don’t look the least bit pained, they just sort of sit up, and the aliens flip out. The movie flips out, too, this incredible feat (sitting up) is really glorified as being an unparalleled display of strength and fortitude, and honestly, they had very, very little dirt on them when it happened. You also could have sat up and survived this alien torture, were it you in their shoes. It’s absurd, but the film doesn’t appear to realize this, and the truth is, Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam is full of ridiculous shit exactly like that. All Turkish pop cinema is! Where Turkish Star Wars strays from the pack, however,  is that it’s both wacky as fuck, and somehow, boring as hell. Most of you wouldn’t survive this film in a single sitting, and that’s the sad truth. In order to reach Turkish Star Wars, you must first travel through numerous lesser nonsense films, or else it’s going to feel like the longest 90 minutes of your life.


That’s Turish Darth Vader, by the way.

Yeah… It’s not that great. Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam ‘s notoriety is 100% due to it’s unlicensed connection to Star Wars, rather than any distinction it may have earned in it’s own right, positive or negative. Clearly, this is a complete piece of shit, but it’s not the shittiest of its ilk, nor is it even the craziest. So far as that goes, Turkish Star Wars is actually pretty middle of the road. People who like these movies tend to do so because of their high spirited enthusiasm, and wild, reckless abandon, but if you don’t come into Turkish cinema with a positive attitude and some hardcore rose-tinted glasses, it’s going to give you ample reason to hate on it with every fiber of your being. Whatever your take on Turkish cinema as a whole, Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam is an experience to be had.


“FFFFUUUUUCCCCKKKK YYYYYOOOOUUUUUU, FFFURRRYYY MMMMAAANNNN!!!!!” – Murat. (P.S. This would make such an awesome poster.)



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RED SUN!!!!!

Red Sun ~ 1971, Terence Young


When a botched train robbery leaves a rascally gunfighter betrayed by his gang, he is forced to join forces with a mysterious Asian warrior on a secret mission in the American west. Though they are initially unable to see eye to eye, these two slowly form a mutual respect for one anther, and embark on a grand adventure set against the rugged backdrop of the American frontier, which climaxes in a dramatic, bullet riddled standoff in an old, Spanish style mission. Sound familiar? It damn should, because Shanghai Noon grossed over $99,000,000 worldwide, and that’s an exact description of that movie’s plot. The things is, though, I’m actually talking about Red Sun, the movie Shanghai Noon ripped off, and guess what? The plot is exactly the same in both films.

Some folks I’ve spoken to have claimed that Shanghai Noon was, in fact, an admitted remake of Red Sun, but after some research I have turned up no official acknowledged of the debt Shanghai Noon owes to this film, and therefore I think we can safely say this was probably not an official remake. If I’m correct, then a more accurate description of this phenomena would be ‘blatant plagiarism.’ Any argument that the concept isn’t identical is, frankly, silly, and even worse, the script for Red Sun must have served as a rough framework for Shanghai Noon, because the structure is completely identical in both films, aside from a few added subplots. There are even some gags and emotional beats from the 1971 original that you see repeated in the 2000 rip off, and it’s rare that any remake stays this close to it’s source material, even in the world of actual, and official remakes. You could convince me that my own mother was a sock puppet operated by sasquatch before you even had me considering the notion that the person who wrote Shanghai Noon had never seen Red Sun. No other claim could possibly be more unrealistic, without question, this was a calculated attempt to repackage something great, and distribute it as something original; Shanghai Noon is not homage, it’s theft.

Now, I’m not saying that I hate Shanghai Noon, far from it, in fact. Jackie Chan, who is basically the Mickey Mouse of martial arts, is a global treasure, and his cross demographic appeal doesn’t need to be defended. Similarly, that movie has Owen Wilson Owen Wilsoning harder than he ever has before or since, and all of our lives are richer for it. What I DO mean to say, however, is that if you liked Shanghai Noon the first time, then maybe you’d also like it the REAL first time; and Red Sun IS the REAL first time.

So, having established a little bit that these films are remarkably similar to one another, let’s quickly talk about the few things that make them different. First things first, Red Sun doesn’t have Jackie Chan, it has Toshiro Mifune.


Mifune was actually born in China, but to Japanese parents, and is most readily identified as a Japanese actor, so in this version, our Asian delegates come not from China, but from Japan. This changes some superficial aspects of the movie, and gives us more swords, and less kung fu, but that it in no way hinders Red Sun’s ability to kick ass and be awesome. Jackie Chan and his hand-to-hand hijinks are fantastic, yes, but Mifune is a bad ass the likes of which we only see a few times per generation, and in this movie he brings the unreasonably cool art of samurai sword fighting to the American wild west with many a guttural bark and angular scowl, which is every bit as awesome in execution as it sounds on paper. Comparing Mifune to Chan is a real apples to oranges type situation, but I’d say the two are equally cool, regardless of how fundamentally different they are.

Similarly, where Shanghai Noon had Owen Wilson, here we have Charles Bronson, the impossibly easy-to-like  murder enthusiast from the blood splattered Death Wish franchise.

RHSyHtXCharles Bronson’s natural habitat is pretty much anywhere, provided he’s pointing a gun at someone.

In Red Sun, Bronson totally kills it, literally, and figuratively. as an actor, Bronson always managed to balance sardonic, wry charm with gritty, violent menace in a way that made him equally intimidating and likable, and off the charts on both counts. He does that here as well as he ever has, making his character incalculably more bad ass than Wilson’s inept, gun-slinging charmer, but this feels entirely appropriate since Red Sun is a much rougher ride.

And it really is, Red Sun is darker, and much more violent than the good natured and outwardly comedic Shanghai Noon. Charles Bronson does tell a few jokes here and there, but his wisecracking never manages to outpace his body count, and Mifune only has two modes; scowl, and kill… Which is so, so awesome. Also, there’s some nudity in Red Sun, and the Lucy Liu/Princess Pei Pei character is absent  entirely. Instead, our female lead is a prostitute played by Ursula Andress, who Charles Bronson kidnaps in order to piss off the bad guy. So, yeah. Murder and hookers. Maybe not a film to watch with the youngsters around, unless you want to train them to be awesome or something.

While Red Sun’s legacy is felt in every single moment of Shanghai Noon, the two films actually have differing thesis statements. Red Sun is basically a redemption story, with Charles Bronson playing the real central character, and Mifune teetering over into sidekick territory. In that film, Bronson and Mifune’s characters are roughly equal in their status as capable warriors, but Bronson has no moral compass and no sense of honor whatsoever. Through his meeting with Mifune, he witnesses firsthand the sturdy foreigner’s unwavering dedication to the samurai code, and Bronson slowly comes to understand the error in living life as a murderous, wise-cracking shit head. Thus, he decides to turn over a new leaf, a new, blood drenched, bullet riddled leaf, and maybe pay attention to morality every once-in-a-while. Shanghai Noon, on the other hand is more about Jackie Chan’s character, who, through his adventures with Owen Wilson, realizes that his centuries old beliefs and customs about honor and dedication to the Chinese Emperor are totally silly, and that instead he should just do whatever he wants, because China is really far away. Seriously, that’s the moral to that movie, go back and watch it. There are multiple scenes in the film where Chan says something about his oath to protect the princess, or what have you, and Wilson mocks him dismissively, saying that he’s in America now, the sun may rise in the east, but it sets in the West, so he shouldn’t feel shackled to the honor code he’s lived by for his entire life. This is basically an existential version of the “if they’re in a different area code, it’s not cheating” defense commonly used by douche bags and adulterers to justify the antics of  their wayward genitals, and it’s also the exact opposite of the thesis statement seen in Red Sun. All things considered, I’m not wild about Shanghai Noon’s small minded and culturally reckless thesis statement. ‘Merca.

Anyway. This review has mostly been about how Shanghai Noon ripped off Red Sun, instead of actually reviewing Red Sun, so I guess did kind of a shitty job. Oh well. Sorry, folks! Let me quickly say this; Red Sun is awesome, and criminally under-appreciated. The Wilson/Chan dynamic you loved in 2000 actually worked even better in 1971 with Mifune and Bronson, and honest, the talent on screen here isn’t a step down from what you’ve already seen, it’s a step up. Plus, crazily enough, Red Sun is actually made MORE entertaining if you come into it having already seen Shanghai Noon like, a hundred times. It sort of makes the experience seem almost surreal, like you somehow found the “real” Shanghai Noon. It feels like some sort of secret movie that the world forgot, and that Wilson and Chan tried to bury. All in all, it’s a pretty great find, and oddly enough, I think that Red Sun is equally recommendable if you loved Shanghai Noon, OR if you hated it.

Well worth checking out.


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