Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

The Z Channel was an early pay cable network that was very much like the current Criterion Channel (but began years before Criterion was even releasing laser discs). The story of it’s rise and fall, plus the channel’s influence is fascinating. You also get the tragic story of programming chief Jerry Harvey. I first saw this back when the movie was originally shown on the IFC cable channel. I never would have thought this doc would get remastered and made available again, but I’m glad it was. The filmmakers managed to get so many great interview subjects it’s amazing. The segments with Tarantino are particularly interesting. I didn’t understand the depth and range of his cinema obsession before seeing this movie. If you love independent and arthouse cinema, this documentary is essential viewing. I recall chasing down titles I hadn’t seen for years after.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Black Dynamite (2009) 

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Here we have the second-best Black Action Hero parody next to I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (and it’s an extremely close second). This was my favorite comedy to come out in 2009, and just as funny on a recent second viewing. Star Michael Jai White is best known for action films, but really shows his comedy and acting talent here (he even co-wrote the screenplay). I just wish he’d get offered better roles. Black Dynamite was spun off into an animated series that I personally couldn’t get into, but give it a try if you like the film.

Available on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures.

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Clan of the the White Lotus (1980)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Aka Fists of the the White Lotus. “Deadly Needle Kung Fu Against the Invincible Armor of The White Lotus!” Right out of the gate this Shaw Brothers flick will grab you (with it’s crotch). White Lotus features crazy-complex fight choreography, and a good sense of humor too (not in that goofy Jackie Chan / Sammo Hung way either). If you’re not sold before the opening credits are done, then hit stop and go watch a superhero movie. I gave this film a 9 out of 10 rating on imdb.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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Mesrine: Killer Instinct (2008)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

The first installment of a two part series on the career of criminal Jaques Mesrine (the second is Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One). This is the French answer to Scarface (1983), but based on true events, and much larger in scope. Other than the usual fake looking gun action, this movie is a total blast. Vincent Cassel is perfect, as usual. If you’d like to see him do something more fun / dumb I recommend you also check out his film Dobermann (looks like it’s available on YouTube if you sign in).

Available on Blu-ray from Music Box.

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Zana (2019)

Streaming on Amazon Prime (and Kanopy) | imdb | trailer

Zana is an excellent, dark drama from Kosovo. The film reminded me a bit of Tarkovsky’s work, but the pace is a little faster, and it’s only 97 minutes long. The cinematography is fantastic, and all the actors pull off top-notch performances. One word of warning, this movie is very sad. It maintains that tone from start to finish, minus a few moments. If you’re not in the mood for a downer, then maybe pick something perky from the Netflix Top 10 (you wimp).

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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The Kid with the Golden Arm (1979)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

The Shaw Brothers and director Chang Cheh bring the main Five Deadly Venoms cast back together for a completely different martial arts adventure. Golden Arm (who is hardly a kid) is part of an evil gang, and happens to be almost impervious to harm. He and his fellow villains Silver Spear, Iron Robe, and Brass Head aim to hijack a shipment of gold. Will they succeed?! Who could possibly stop them?!?! HOW?!?!?! You’ll have to find out for yourself. This movie is almost non-stop action, and looks beautiful too. Yeah, Kid with the Golden Arm is not a five star film, some extra cheese hinders it a tiny bit. Just be prepared to roll your eyes a few times while you enjoy one hell of a fun Kung Fu flick.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

The mighty Christopher Lee plays a murderous Count, who is back from the dead, and out for revenge. Sounds similar to the plot for Mario Bava’s Black Sunday right? That’s ok, because part of why I enjoyed this movie so much is that it reminded me of Bava’s work, and early Hammer Horror. It also is an extremely loose adaptation of “The Pit and the Pendulum,” so we get additional reminders of Roger Corman’s Poe horrors. All that may sound like this isn’t worth your time. Not true. The film has been lovingly restored and looks absolutely beautiful. The saturated color and deep shadows sold it for me. Torture Chamber… is an old fashioned horror film, and is not particularly smart, but I highly recommended classic horror fans see it. If you enjoyed the young and handsome Christopher Lee acting like a creep, make sure to check out Bava’s The Whip and the Body. This director made an earlier creepy horror movie called The Strangler of Blackmoore Castle, which is also worth watching.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This was one of the few good movies that was regularly shown on broadcast TV in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. I only had six channels to choose from until I was 18. That means that I have seen Three Days… many times. I am not sick of it yet. The only real flaw is that there’s a crazy violent scene towards the beginning, followed by a mostly slow paced thriller style for the remainder. This movie has brains though. I’ve always been impressed by the little details that our hero Turner (Robert Redford) picks up on, and survives because of. All the other main actors are great in this too. You’ll see many familiar faces. If you’re in the mood for a well-made thriller, this is a very good choice.

Blu-ray available from Paramount.

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Dead and Buried (1981)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is an excellent ’80s horror film that I have watched many times over the years. I’m not going to mention the plot, as it slowly reveals itself (in fact, maybe skip watching the trailer). In spite of the very intense opening scene, it does have a bit of a slow pace overall, but don’t let that deter you. Dead and Buried is a film made with care. It features moody cinematography, awesome performances, well crafted music, and a few of my favorite gore FX scenes. The man behind most of those was the legendary Stan Winston. The only blemish on this film is that they shot one murder set-piece when Winston wasn’t available, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. That’s ok, it is one wart on an otherwise creepy good time. I’m very jealous of you people seeing this for the first time.

Available on 4K / Blu-ray from Blue Underground.

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The Warriors (1979)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

You’ve seen this one right? I mean, if you like action films at all you MUST have. I suppose it’s possible this falls into that weird generation gap, so just in case… The Warriors are a New York City street gang. They get framed for murder. Every other gang is out to kill them. They have to cross a lot of enemy territory to get home. It’s a lot of fun to watch. Yep, this movie has aged a bit. However, it’s always been made of cheese, so that’s really ok. As you’d expect, some bits are pretty damned offensive by the standards of today. However, The Warriors remains a KICK ASS movie. This was directed by Walter Hill who made several solid action flicks. My favorites are: Southern Comfort, Extreme Prejudice, and Last Man Standing. If you like The Warriors, you might enjoy the book too. It’s WAY different than the film adaptation, but well worth reading.

P.S. The trailer linked above is a personal favorite. You may recognize the music. That is because it’s a bit of Tangerine Dream’s awesome score for Sorcerer (another must-see movie).

Blu-ray available from Paramount.

If you are a fan of Anomalous Cinema please consider donating any amount via Paypal using this secure link. A Paypal account is not required. Thank you.