The Hourglass Sanatorium

Polish director Wojciech Has harbored no desire to make a political film. But in Poland under Soviet rule, where film promoting social realism was the mandate, not being political was the most political thing he could do.

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

A fairytale about a young girl attempting to navigate the many predators surrounding her becomes an allegory for the challenges of womanhood and the trials faced by then Czechoslovakia in the face of Soviet aggression.

Colossus and the Amazon Queen

People unfamiliar with genre films sometimes have this weird idea that the movies all carry themselves with an air of complete seriousness, that a particular type of film can’t possibly be aware of its own cliches and pitfalls until some smarmy mainstream director steps in and makes a spoof. That spy movies, even James Bond,…

Legend of Suram Fortress

One of the great joys of watching movies from countries and cultures with which I have maybe, at best, a passing familiarity is discovering their language of film — both in their mainstream as well as their fringes. There is a thrill in discovering how differently one country, one region, one filmmaker can interpret how…

Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka

The Devil used to have a lot more to do on Christmas Eve than he does these days, having been supplanted more or less in the Christmas time evil business by retail store owners and Black Friday stampedes. There was a time, however, when Ol’ Scratch regarded the night before Christmas as prime soul-stealing time,…

Cultural Gutter: Punching Cthulhu in the Face

My latest on The Cultural Gutter is Punching Cthulhu in the Face. Pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard is best known as the creator of Conan the Barbarian. His stock in trade were fearless, muscular super-warriors who feared nothing and loved the red rage of battle against foes both human and supernatural. He was also…

Chinese Ghost Story

Partially a remake of a Shaw Bros. classic, partially an adaptation of an old Chinese folk tale, Chinese Ghost Story became one of the defining films of the Hong Kong New Wave and inspired countless imitations, including its own sequels and remakes. There is little in the short story “The Magic Sword,” part of the…

The Hell

Hell has always been popular cinematic fodder. Italian strongman Maciste has conquered it (twice, at least), Claude Rains has managed it, and Nollywood has done its best to make a basement look like it (see Die Danger Die Die Kill’s review of 666: Beware! The End is At Hand). Still, when it comes to off-the-wall…

Karel Zeman Galleries

Recently, we posted a look at the films of Czech animator and filmmaker Karel Zeman. Since basically every frame of each of his films is an amazing screencap, we went a little overboard. However, in an effort to keep the article itself from reaching epic lengths and load times, it included only a limited number…

The Fabulous World of Karel Zeman

If you took special effects film pioneer Georges Melies and combined him with stop motion animation genius Ray Harryhausen and surreal fantasist Terry Gilliam, then taught him to speak Czech, you’d have a film maker very close to Karel Zeman. I was strolling across Prague’s Karluv Most, as is the way of a jetsetting international…

Green Snake

Green Snake is set in a world between myth and reality. Zhao Wen-zhou stars as a young monk who spends his days hunting down demons and spirits who have crossed over from their own realm into the realm of mortals. Some of them come with malicious intent, but many of them seem only to want…

Great Yokai War

After making a veritable tidal wave with a slew of twisted DTV hits including the Dead or Alive trilogy, Visitor Q, and Ichi the Killer, Japanese cult film director Takashi Miike hit a rough patch in which most of his films went unnoticed or, worse, disliked by the throngs who had so recently celebrated his…