Five Elements Ninjas (1982)

Main image – my photo of a hand-painted Ghanaian poster for “Five Elements Ninjas.”

Streaming on Amazon Prime and Netflix | imdb | trailer

Now THIS is a Saturday Night movie! Five Elements Ninjas is one of my top five favorite martial arts films of all time. The Shaw Brothers serve up a heaping helping of non-stop, insane, bloody ninja action. The film is often ridiculous, and utterly improbable, but it all works together beautifully somehow. Enjoy with your favorite psychoactive for maximum impact.

Available on Blu-ray from Tokyo Shock.

The Gift (2000)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Sam Raimi is very hit of miss for me after Evil Dead 2. This one I really enjoyed. Yes, even more than A Simple Plan or Drag Me To Hell. What we have here is a well-made horror mystery with some downright disturbing moments. I think what I like best about The Gift is that is that it is unique among Raimi’s work. It’s also pretty original among horror and suspense films period. While not prefect, it’s a damn good movie for sure.

Not available on Blu-ray.

Season of the Witch (1972)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I am a big fan of George A. Romero (through Land of the Dead anyway) but missed this one until just now. I think this will be hard for some folks to get into because of the fashion of the time and the average looking actors. Please trust me, it’s worth looking past all that and just enjoying this mild, but very good, nightmarish horror thriller. It’s got a lot of depth to it. Even after a few drinks I noticed multiple possible angles going on. I have to admire Romero for making this film. Watch Season of the Witch with a little patience and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Available on Blu-ray from Arrow.

Starsky and Hutch – Pilot (1975)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | no trailer available

If you are not interested in ‘70s TV cop shows you will want to skip this recommendation. I don’t normally talk about television series here, but the feature-length pilot of the this gritty old cop drama was too irresistible. Please note the following important features: Dirty old LA, Richard Lynch as an uncredited hitman, a scene in a porno movie theatre, an appearance by a young Gordon Jump from WKRP, music by Lalo Schrifin (Mission Impossible, Enter the Dragon, Dirty Harry) and Hutch / David Soul’s sweet-ass leather jacket. I was impressed by the quality of the film-making too. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that it was helmed by Barry Shear, who also directed Across 110th Street.

I used to watch this show as a kid and had never seen this pilot. Obviously it was a lot of fun for me. I think anyone not into ‘70s TV crime shows would think it was just an old police action movie with all the blood and nudity cut out. I understand but I still can’t believe this was broadcast to every home from coast to coast. Starsky and Hutch seems to have begun with the idea that they would push the limit of what network censors would tolerate as much as possible. It really was a different world back then. Note: this is listed as “Episode 0” on Amazon Prime, and on the tablet app it’s under “bonus” at the bottom of season one.

Not available on Blu-ray.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

If you’ve never seen anything from Werner Herzog other than his many documentaries, this is mandatory viewing. The two standout components of the film are Klaus Kinski’s amazing performance and the beautiful score by Krautrock legends Popol Vuh. Pay close attention to one of the early scenes of a seemingly endless line of people winding around a narrow mountain path. I have no idea how Herzog managed to pull off this shot. It’s one of the most beautiful moments in the history of cinema. Please note that at first the film may appear cropped, but the nearly-square aspect ratio (1.37 : 1) is how it was originally filmed.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory.

Out of Print (2014)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I bet you’ve noticed I keep mentioning my love for seeing revival film screenings. This documentary will give you a good idea why. It’s focused on the New Beverly Cinema in LA, but talks about revival theaters in general as well. When I visited Los Angeles a couple of years back I got to see A Boy and His Dog there and it was really a special experience. I suggest if you’re ever in that neck of the woods you make time for a night at New Beverly. Between you and me, they won’t give you a hard time if you bring your own booze. Just be discreet. Well, more discreet than me. I was cracking beers like a total jerk. Don’t do that. Thanks New Bev for not kicking me out!

Not available on Blu-ray.

Eye in the Labyrinth (1972)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer (not the original trailer)

This one barely squeaks by my usual standards for this website. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent giallo with a good twist at the end. However I’m recommending it ONLY for those of you that have seen all the other well-regarded giallo films. I’ve watched pretty much every decent film in the subgenre that I could get my hands on so this was a pleasant surprise. I did have some playback issues on Amazon Prime, stuttering and compression marks, but it cleared up eventually after pausing and restarting. Check out Eye in the Labyrinth if you think you’ve seen em all.

A Blu-ray was released by Code Red but it is currently out of print. They’re selling on eBay for $$$.

Coffy (1973)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

My girlfriend and I have an expression we use a lot – “Ten Times Pam Grier” (emphasis on ten times with pauses between the words). It works for many purposes. This comes from the time we saw a 35mm print of Coffy with a Pam Grier Q&A after. A very enthusiastic fan said the above words to Ms. Grier and followed by “I’ve seen this movie ten times” and many kind words about the actress. Pam loved it and I love this movie. It’s easily my favorite blaxploitation film and you can watch a nicely restored version on Amazon Prime.

Available on Blu-ray from Olive Films.

The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I could write a lot about the many pluses and minuses of Dario Argento, but I will restrain myself. I saw an interview where the director said he didn’t care for The Cat o’ Nine Tails because it was too straight-forward. I love it. This is a pretty bloodless murder mystery. It was rated PG no less, but I think they had to cut a couple of graphic death scenes to get that certification. Those scenes have been restored on both versions that are on Amazon Prime. The one with the red cover is in Italian with subtitles available. The other (cheesier) cover has the English language version that lead actor Karl Malden dubbed himself. The red cover is the latest Arrow transfer but both look great. This movie also features one of the catchiest Ennio Morricone theme songs. The Cat o’ Nine Tails is an excellent example of the giallo subgenre. Yes, it’s somewhat tame, but should not be missed.

Available on Blu-ray from Arrow Films.