Cannibal Ferox (Make Them Die Slowly) – If you’re not quite down for the more serious nihilism of Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox is the best gateway drug into the Italian cannibal subgenre, with a slightly campier tone (and extremely campy dub), and a sense that an unrelated gangster movie was somehow separately purchased by the producers and badly spliced in at irrelevant points. Aside from the weird cops-and-drugs subplot, it hews pretty closely to theme – stupid westerners voyage down the Amazon, one winds up killing a native, and brutal jungle-style revenge ensues, along with absolutely amazing soundtrack music.
It’s best not to listen to the director’s commentary, though. Umberto Lenzi, in describing his movie, sounds like a complete moronic jerk who just wanted to shock (and kill real turtles), which may come as no surprise to people who hate these sorts of movies already. But if you dig what he’s done, you’ll come up with better justifications than he can.
Enter the Ninja/Revenge of the Ninja – You can thank Golan-Globus’ Ninja movies of the ’80s for introducing the concept that has since become ubiquitous in western pop-culture, particular at the hands of teenage turtles. The first two installments of a thematic trilogy starring Sho Kosugi, these films were most noteworthy in my own life for being banned by my uncle from our viewing the summer I stayed with him and my cousin wanted to watch one. Before the off-switch could be hit, however, I first learned the concept of throwing stars. I’ve still never seen any of them, but Ninja III, which deals with ghost possession and has already been available, sounds like the best of the bunch.
Seventh Son – An elaborately detailed fantasy world is completely sabotaged by Jeff Bridges’ curious decision to play his central role of a medieval sorcerer as a drunk asshole with a fake accent. Not a bad party movie to laugh at, but hardly the franchise-starter that was hoped for.
Yellowbeard – Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Cheech & Chong in a 1983 pirate spoof. One of so many comedies to be PG-rated over here, but age-restricted in Ireland for innuendoes or whatever (before it was the country to be first in popular-voted gay marriage, Ireland had extremely uptight views on sexuality, believe it or not). So I never saw it, but it sounds like fun. Can’t imagine how let down the teenagers who went to the “restricted” movie hoping to see some boob were.
Erik the Viking – In a thematically similar movie that I’ve also never seen but should have, Monty Python’s Terry Jones directs Tim Robbins as a reluctant Norseman who isn’t sure raping and pillaging is for him. Mickey Rooney and Eartha Kitt costar.
Madman – If you like ’80s slasher movies about summer camps terrorized by a crazed killer, this is certainly one of those.
River of Death – Cannibals, Incas and Nazis are all among the perils faced by Michael Dudikoff in this fine slice of ’80s cheese that also, inexplicably co-stars Robert Vaughn, Donald Pleasence and Herbert Lom. And it’s even based on a novel.
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus – Spike Lee made a vampire movie, and because he put “Jesus” in the title, Amazon listed it under “Christian video.” Seriously.
Those are my top picks. Anything else you’re checking out?