It’s time for another Movie-watchin’ Kumite as 8 more films battle for cinematic supremacy. Once again, I’m sticking with the “all movies must be new to me” rule (though I HAVE seen Golden Voyage of Sinbad before, it has been probably 30 years since I last saw it, so I let it slide) as I scoured the internet for a rogues gallery of deep cuts. The theme this time? All movies must be 1970s cult genre fare, nothing A-list, and nothing with delusions of greatness. A lot of these genres are a little out of my realm of expertise, but they all had something to offer. Except The Beyond–that movie was just a big waste of time and I no longer trust Time Out Film’s 100 Best Horror Films to Scare You Senseless list.
Two tales of Sinbad the Sailor with special effects by Ray Harryhausen
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) VS Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1978)
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad typically wins these cult classic tournaments, but The Golden Voyage of Sinbad some 15 years later is actually the stronger fighter, featuring improved special effects, excellent color photography, the best Sinbad in John Phillip Law, and some excellent atmospheric direction from minor horror filmmaker Gordon Hessler. The script is pretty weak, but you hardly notice with all the homunculi hijinx.
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger on the other hand has by far the worst Sinbad with John Wayne’s nepo-baby Patrick Wayne–who makes you cringe every time he opens his mouth in his Hawaiian Shirt.
It was hardly a fair fight to begin with, but once The Golden Voyage realized that Eye of the Tiger was content to just copy every one of its moves (literally, it hit every single plot point from the earlier film), it was all over–despite a game effort from a young Jane Seymour.
Two highly influential Hong Kong Kung Fu movies
The 36th Chamber Shaolin (1978) VS Drunken Master (1978)
The 36th Chamber Shaolin, despite starting with a bit too much historical exposition quickly proved it wasn’t nothin’ to fuck with as it dialed in on a focused “watch a dude learn to be a kung fu master in a few short years” story that was as delightful as it was archetypal.
Drunken Master, despite having by FAR the superior fight choreography (featuring many stunning sequences–thankfully filmed in medium shot with a minimum of edits), was also disjointed, lazily plotted, and overly silly.
It really was anyone’s fight at first, but quickly the audience realized that Drunken Master was all flash with no plot or pacing to back up its choreographed pyrotechnics (which also overstayed their welcome by the end of each fight sequence). By the time the final bell rang, both the audience, and Drunken Master itself were exhausted and The 36th Chamber Shaolin picked up the pieces for an easy win on points.
Two bizarre Spaghetti Westerns with folk music sound tracks done by singers describing the plot
Keoma (1976) VS Four of the Apocalypse (1975)
Franco Nero’s half-breed Keoma came to FIGHT, all steely blue eyes, beautiful cinematography, and a really weird plot about [checks notes] protecting a pregnant woman and fighting his evil step-brothers while his spirit guide helping him overcome a group of racists profiting off of a town afflicted with plague.
Four of the Apocalypse was a lower budget affair, but equally weird as 4 minor criminals wander through a western hellscape that mined post-apocalyptic genre tropes for its set pieces. The titular four encounter murderous lawmen, skin flaying, deserted ghost towns, cannibalism, and even a town populated only by men as an extreme psychopath hunts them for sport across the frontier.
It was halfway through the fight before the audience realized that the soundtracks to both films were SING-describing the plot via 1970s folk music, though Keoma won easily on weird points as it had both a vibrato crazy Baez clone and some dude that sounded like Leonard Cohen trying out Tuvan throat singing (growling you “yeaaaah. I’m here.” for the main character’s final showdown). Ultimately Four of the Apocalypse lost its footing in an extremely overlong and over-sentimental ending childbirth sequence at the village of MEN, barely recovering for a reasonably satisfying shootout ending before losing to Keoma who wisely combined its OWN childbirth scene WITH the shootout.
Two Giallo Horror films from director Lucio Fulci
A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971) VS The Beyond (1981)
I don’t love Giallo horror, so this bracket had a tough road ahead of it, but after hearing that the overall interesting Four of the Apocalypse from the previous fight was done by a horror director, A Lizard in Woman’s Skin was added to the tournament.
A Lizard proved to be a pretty decent fighter with a lot of nice moves and only a few nonsensical ASMR bloodletting shocks (LO-F-ing-L at the ridiculous vivisected dogs that show up out of nowhere). When the ending proved to be a letdown of the highest order (and even invalidated the entire movie as its big twist unconvincingly reframed every one of the previous scenes that were SUPPOSEDLY from the point of view of the main character), it really appeared there was no way it could win.
However, unbeknownst to me, it was up against another fighter from Fulci’s school, The Beyond, and while it actually HAD an ending (an interesting one even!), the rest of the movie was absolute dogshit…just a lazy collection of overlong face-melting shots barely even strung together by the laziest plotting you can imagine.
Many in the audience screamed “work!” as there was no way Fulci could have fallen off that much in 10 years, but a win was a win, and A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin limped its way to the next round.
Two Weapon-heavy Actioneers Go Head to Head
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) VS The 36th Chamber Shaolin (1978)
Each film had the basics of plotting down (as long as you didn’t look too deeply at any of the words they were saying) so at this point it became a straight up battle of adventuresome delights. And while The 36th Chamber learning wrist strength was undeniably entertaining (seriously, each increasingly silly training room was a fucking delight), it had nothing on Sinbad fighting a goddamn statue of Kali with SIX motherfucking swords.
Sinbad wins through overwhelming magical superiority.
Two Nihilistic Meditations on Death battle it out
Keoma (1976) VS A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971)
With everyone at the tournament aware of A Lizard’s lack of both conditioning and an ending, this fight was expected to be quick. And while some thought that the reasonably high bar of acting would at least make things a fair fight for the giallo underdog, William Berger being in Keoma quickly crushed those hopes as well…
Keoma wins through actually having an ending, even if it is just Nero getting the fuck out of town when the old spirit lady tries to hand off the newborn baby to him.
Eastern meets Western in the finals of the 1970s Cult Kumite
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) VS Keoma (1976)
The finals were, on paper, going to be an exceptionally close fight. Keoma was fucking weird as shit, but strangely compelling nonetheless, while Sinbad had an eyerolling script that was hardly a liability considering the rest of its Saturday matinee delights.
And, both films remained strong in the early rounds until Sinbad noticed that Keoma kept using slow motion–for EVERY impactful move. From there on out the momentum shifted as Sinbad easily countered everything Keoma threw at it, just like it countered all SIX GODDAMN SWORDS that Kali threw at Sinbad.
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad WINS the KULT KUMITE through an overreliance on slow motion from Keoma.