It's the weekend. You're staying in. There aren't any video stores anymore, so why not find some streaming options for your movie urges. Amazon Prime is always a good place to start, with a deep and eclectic collection of films in their catalog. So this week, we've gone back to the 1970s again, specifically 1976, for a trio of films that should hold some interest for genre fans. We have Jackie Chan in a sequel to a Bruce Lee film, Brooke Shields in her big-screen debut as a child actress and a sci-fi film that contains the best scene ever of a dog murdering another dog and burying the evidence.
New Fist of Fury - This martial arts film from Hong Kong is early in Jackie Chan's career and was one of his first starring roles. This is supposed to be a sequel to Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury and includes some of the same characters from the original. Missing from this film is Chan's trademark humor that usually accompanies his action. The story concerns a brothers and sister that come to stay with their grandfather in Japanese-occupied Taiwan. A rival kung fu school operated by a powerful Japanese businessman wants to consolidate all the schools and control all of them. The good Jingwu school resists this notion, leading to violence...of course. This is dubbed over in English, which I prefer rather than having to read subtitles. The ending of the film is really outrageous and comes out of nowhere. It may even upset some of you who devote your time to the entire 105 minutes. Good martial arts action, horribly abrupt ending.
Alice, Sweet Alice - This unheralded gem from 1976 is probably remembered most for being the big-screen debut of Brooke Shields, then 11 years old. Directed by Alfred Sole, written by Sole and Rosemary Ritvo, the movie is a very good entry in the slasher genre, but also may transcend that genre slightly in terms of an intelligent screenplay. Shields plays a girl named Karen, about to make her first communion, when she is brutally murdered by a masked assailant. Many people believe her older, and much stranger, sister Alice is the culprit. The violence in Alice, Sweet Alice is quite realistic so be prepared to wince with every stab. Also in the film's favor is a good sense of time and place, as the setting and locations nail what a working-class Catholic community must have felt like in the early 1960s. There is plenty of religious imagery at work here to contrast with all the murder, making for a pretty creepy atmosphere. This is a legitimately eerie piece of work, with chills and suspense. Probably one of the better films you will find on Amazon Prime.
Embryo - This sci-fi/horror from 1976 can also be found in the public domain. It stars Rock Hudson as a scientist who is conducting experiments that hope to accelerate the growth process of a fetus outside the womb. After successfully performing the experiment on a dog, who believes he can duplicate the success with a human fetus. Of course, he makes the mistake of falling in love with his own creation and that is before things go horribly awry, as they are prone to do in stories such as this one. One of the highlights of this film is a scene where the dog (a Dobermann) quietly attacks and kills a much smaller dog and then hides the body in some bushes. It is both hilarious and a clue as to the aggression and intelligence of the test subject. There is also a cameo appearance by Roddy McDowall as a chess master, in a scene that is quite entertaining. Barbara Carrera plays the fetus-turned-woman in a pretty good performance. A solid film that is somewhat forgotten because it fell into the public domain, which most people tend to avoid. Check this one out.