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Full movies on YouTube (aka Netflix for cheapskates)


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Yellow Earth

A beautiful and mournful story in the rural hills of China.

Ju Dou

A richly-coloured melodrama that has unjustly become forgotten amongst Zhang Yimou's most famous work.

Green Snake

A sumptuous and sensuous adaptation from Tsui Hark.



An audiovisual spectacular, which comes as little surprise from a director who has made it his trademark.

Heavy Metal Parking Lot

Part comedy and part fascinating ethnographic time capsule.

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Three Outlaw Samurai


Three Outlaw Samurai is an incredibly accomplished debut feature from acclaimed director, Hideo Gosha. Dealing with familiar samurai themes of honour and loyalty the film distinguishes itself from the competition due to its unwavering cynicism. The film follows three distinctly different samurai as, one by one, they slowly side with the peasants who have kidnapped the magistrate’s daughter in order to negotiate a reduction in their taxes.

Whilst it would be generous to call any of the characters deep each of the main players, from the three samurai, desperate villagers, magistrate and his sympathetic daughter, are well realised and instantly identifiable. Tetsurô Tanba in particular as the moralistic ronin is brilliant and proves to be a compelling central focus. A number of samurai films have tackled similar stories of protecting the poor and dispossessed from a tyrannical ruler but Three Outlaw Samurai tackles this familiar conceit with a dynamic and infectious energy.

The recent high-definition transfer is simply stunning. The high contrast black and white photography is crisp and beautiful and shows off the Gosha’s keen visual eye and strong framing. At just over 90-minutes the film is briskly paced but never underdeveloped. Loyalties are tested and the fluid sense of morality that pervades the film help make it a fascinating and occasionally unpredictable watch. Although rather infrequent the action is expertly handled and possesses a genuine sense of peril that is often absent in other chambara films where the heroes never seem at any genuine risk.

Although not my favourite Gosha film (I still prefer the evocative atmosphere and character complexity of Goyokin) this is still an assured and memorable film that is essential viewing for fans of samurai cinema.

The Challenge

Even calling this a second-tier Frankenheimer film would be generous but I can’t deny that I really dug its rough and pulpy charms. Given those involved (directed by John Frankenheimer, written by John Sayles and starring the legendary Toshirô Mifune) you might be expecting something a little more refined but this is a bloody West meets East/Old versus New actioner with several impressive sequences (co-ordinated by Steven Seagal, fact fans!). Scott Glenn stars as a boxer hired to transport a samurai sword to Japan. Once there he falls in love with the culture and people and is thrust into the middle of a feud between warring brothers (Mifune and Nakamura).

Glenn has always been a pretty rubbish actor but he suits the outsider role quite well and because he is the pupil to Mifune’s master it sort of makes sense that he is out acted by his iconic co-star. Sayles’ script plays up the culture clash effectively, not only between the Westerner being thrust into this unfamiliar world, but also the clash between the old customs and modern ruthless business as represented by the two brothers.

Really the film’s appeal, and ultimate success, comes down to the action set pieces and the film delivers well enough. They are well choreographed and distinctive whilst delivering the bloodshed required for this type of movie. The film’s climax, a showdown in a well guarded state of the art building, is particularly noteworthy and has a great ebb and flow sorely missing from many modern action films (quick cuts and shaky camera work be damned). The Challenge is no forgotten classic but for a film I stumbled upon in the early hours of the morning it more than delivered.

The House is Black

Iranian poet and documentarian, Forugh Farrokhzad, only made one film before her untimely death at the age of 32. Although it would have been fascinating to see what else she may have created her lone film, The House is Black, is a striking work of documentary filmmaking: a poetic study of the human condition in the confines of an Iranian leper colony.

In twenty short minutes Farrokhzad juxtaposes the sad disfigured features of the community with their inherent humanity as they find joys in the same things we all do from playing board games to listening to music. Their appearance deemed too shocking for society, they are locked away and ghettoised yet their spirit remains unbowed and unbroken. Beautifully edited belying the director’s inexperience, and accompanied by her own poetry, this is a powerful document on the cruelty of society yet beauty of the human spirit expressed with clarity and genuine compassion.

Inspiring, moving, profound and unforgettable.

Yokai Monsters


I really wish I had been introduced to this film, and the trilogy it spawned, when I was a kid as I’m confident I would have loved it. I used to make regular trips to the video store to work my way through their selection of Godzilla and Gamera movies and Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare would have sated my Japanese monster habit nicely.

Yokai Monsters… is a ridiculous and enormously fun family film where ancient sprites and monsters are the heroes rather than the villains. The story revolves around a Babylonian blood-sucking, cone-headed demon terrorising feudal Japan when it disguises itself as a deceased magistrate. As it murders its way through the magisterial palace and surrounding villages it is up to the Yokai, a group of benign folklore creatures, to defeat the foreign menace.

As with nearly every Japanese monster movie from the period the film’s primary appeal stems from the creatures themselves. The unconvincing special effects and rubber suits are dated but packed with charm whilst the Yokai are a fascinating ragtag assortment of beasties and weirdos. Featuring a mute umbrella monster, a female draught excluder and a precursor to the Teletubbies in the form of an obese fox, each gang member is utterly unique and full of personality.

At 80-minutes the film rarely drags as it throws the audience straight into the action. The humour is broad and creaky but works well for a younger audience whilst the film throws enough strange creatures at the film that it is impossible to ever be bored by the endless weirdness. Those more familiar with Japanese folklore may also get more out of the Yokai as I suspect they all have their roots in proper legends (I did spot a kappa and kitsune though).

Having thoroughly enjoyed this original outing from the Yokai gang I can’t wait to explore the remaining films in the series.

Robo Vampire

Anybody who doesn’t think the 1980s was the best decade for movies has clearly never watched Robo Vampire. Godfrey Ho’s gloriously ridiculous film is part sci-fi, horror, martial arts epic and crime drama as a murdered narcotics agent is turned into a tinfoil Robocop and sent on a mission to rescue a sexy undercover agent from an evil drug warlord and his army of hopping vampires. Throw in a kung-fu ghost out for revenge and you’ve got yourself a classic.

It’s impossible to describe the plot let alone do the film justice with words. It’s a shameless amalgamation of disparate genres and movie knock-offs haphazardly stitched together without any regard for logic or continuity. The fact the version I watched had an audio track that was out by 15-seconds only added to the wonderfully bizarre experience.

One of life’s big questions is who would win in a fight between a guy in a fancy dress Robocop costume and a hopping Taoist vampire gorilla and thanks to the film we now know the answer. I can only assume the piles of cocaine seen throughout the film was genuine and regularly used by the cast and crew as it is the only logical explanation for the events on screen. The only thing more surprising than this fantastic and phantasmagorical movie is that it isn’t already a cult favourite.

Spectacularly stupid and stupidly spectacular; Robo Vampire is a forgotten masterpiece.

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The Man From Hong Kong. Australian/Chinese martial arts movie from 1975, which was originally going to be a star vehicle for Bruce Lee. But then he went and died, of course. His replacement, Jimmy Wang Yu, doesn't have the charisma or skills of Lee, but he's still watchable. Also, George Lazenby is great as the villain.


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