Category Archives: Filipino genre films

Emperor of the North

A couple of months ago I stumbled across the existence of Melbourne-based independent movie distribution company, Bounty Films. The movie that introduced me to them was their release of the hard to get 1955 heist film, Violent Saturday.

Following on from that, Ben Hellwig, Bounty’s Acquisition Manager, was good enough to send me a few of the choice selections from their rapidly expanding catalogue, including a film I’ve been wanting to see for ages called Emperor of the North (or Emperor of the North Pole as its otherwise know).

Made in 1973, Emperor of the North has three big things going for it.

First, Robert Aldrich, who did The Dirty Dozen and one of my all time favourite film noirs, Kiss Me Deadly, directed it.

Second, it stars one of my cinematic icons, Lee Marvin.

Third, it has steam trains. Lots of them.

Emperor of the North takes place in the Pacific Northwest of the United States at the height of the great depression. Economic chaos has created an army of drifters and hoboes who roam the countryside hopping trains when they can.

Except for the number 19, watched over by a sadistic train guard known as Shack (played with eye popping intensity by Ernest Borgnine). With the aid of the large hammer he carries in his belt, Shack ensures that no one rides the number 19 for free.… Read more

Machete Maidens Unleashed: American genre movies in the Philippine jungle

I love documentaries about filmmaking. Every now and again one of comes along that gives you a particularly fascinating insight into part of the world of cinema you never knew existed.

Machete Maidens Unleashed, the latest effort from the director of Not Quite Hollywood, Mark Hartley, is one of these films.

From the beginning of the seventies well into the early nineties, the Philippines was the location of choice for every American B movie hack (or visionary, take your pick) wanting to make a movie.

They churned out horror, action, and kung fu pics, Blaxsploitation, the classic Western-women-in-third-world-prison films (such as Big Dolls House), and a whole lot more, blurring all the lines and genres. They did a version of Jaws. They even ripped off James Bond in a low-budget cult classic called For Your Height Only, staring an 83cm Filipino dwarf called Weng Weng.

It is this largely unknown world of Filipino genre films that Hartley has turned his attention to in Machete Maidens Unleashed, which had its world premier in late July at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Hartley traces the origins of this wave of movies, from the first B-monster pics such as Brides of Blood to the arrival in the early seventies of independent cinema greats like Roger Corman, Joe Dante and John Landis, to Francis Ford Coppola’s bloated Vietnam era pic, Apocalypse Now.… Read more