I got an email from an Albert Pyun fan today, and I'm pleased to put his interview with the man up online for all to read! Thanks very much to Marco Freitas, B.A. in Film-Columbia College, Hollywood, film buff and genre supporter! Take it away Marco and Albert!
1-Were you a film buff while being raised in Hawaii?
Oh yes. I would try to see everything especially foreign films and a lot of Asian cinema which was popular in Hawaii.
Let us know some of your earliest cinematic childhood memories
I remember a Japanese studio called Toho built a spectacular cinema that was designed to look and feel like a temple. It was always magical to see films there. And I remember seeing Dr. No and From Russia With Love as a double bill really had an impact on me as a child. When I was older, 2001:A Space Odyssey and A Fistful of Dollars had strong impressions on me for their visuals an original creative sensibilities. I think my film making style is greatly influenced by seeing Godard, Bunuel, Leone and Bergman growing up. I loved their films. Each time it was so exciting to see how they would push the edges of cinema.
2-Can you tell what were the most important lessons you´ve got from Akira Kurosawa?
Preparation and total focus. The artistry I learned from his cinematographer Takao Saito (RAN, DODESKADEN, DREAMS). He taught about using composition and color to tell story, and reveal characters.
How did you become a protegé of legendary star Toshiro Mifune?
He saw a short film I had done and knew it was difficult for an Asian in Hollywood at that time. So he really supported my dream to become a feature filmmaker.
3-Please Talk about your sword-and-sandal influences (the Italian films of the subgenre peplum?) and sword-and-sorcery influences before conceiving SWORD AND THE SORCERER.
I was not influenced at all by the sword and sandal films. I really didn't care for them or the Sinbad type fantasy that was being made. It was really Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers and John Milius' The Wind and the Lion that were my biggest influences with The Sword and the Sorcerer.
3-The two lead characters in RADIOACTIVE DREAMS act like they don´t belong in the futurist era they live. Your films are mostly set in different ages and/or civilizations...is there a parallel there with your own person?
I guess there is, yes. I've always felt out of step and time with the film world but never more than now! The film world has changed so much since I started making films. So I do feel a bit out of place now. A bit of a relic.
The reason I select different ages or civilizations is I'm drawn to creating an entire world from my imagination. Always have been. Not the world as it is but as it might be.
4-Your movies have a very distinctive visual sense and atmosphere. A great cinematographer (George Moradian) was your DP in many projects. Can you tell us about your working partnership and the creating of the LOOK in some of your movies together?
The collaboration with George was certainly very productive and exciting. George and I see the world with the same eyes. We both share the same belief that storytelling in film is visual. George is an absolutely fearless and aggressive cinematographer. He actually came in and shot a few days on Tales of an Ancient Empire. He and I are dangerous together!
When creating a look, I look in the script for underlying meaning and themes that I can bring out visually.
5-RAVENHAWK, CYBORG, OMEGA DOOM, KNIGHTS and parts of the NEMESIS movies look like ´Spaghetti Westerns not set in the Old West´. Please tell us your western cinema influences.
Yes those were all influenced by Leone's operatic and theatrical stylization. My recent film, Left for Dead, is particularly that style of grand theater.
6-MEAN GUNS has a very ´Chinese Action Movie´ feel, with all the kinetic camerawork and intense shootout scenes. BLOODMATCH, KICKBOXER 2 and 4 are martial arts features. What Hong Kong filmmakers you ´emulate´ the most?
I think King Hu was a big influence as was Tsui Hark. I love their films. And Raymond's Chow ideas.
7-There are many tales of tampering from producers/distributors;money men in your movies and TICKER is supposed to have been heavily cut. What is the real scoop there?
At the last minute our budget was cut by 50%. Not the budget for stars but the budget for the movie shoot. So we had to cut the schedule and lost most of the larger action scenes. I heard our budget was cut with the idea that I would falter and Nu Image could come in take over and throw in a bunch of shots from their other movies. It was a very bitter experience.
8-Since you came close to directing a movie of SPIDER-MAN (in the 80s, to be financed by israeli cousins, Golan-Globus), did you like the films made by Sam Raimi?
Yes, I do. particularly The Quick and the Dead.
9-Film Director John Stockwell first got his first chance working behind-the-scenes writing DANGEROUSLY CLOSE, helmed by you. How was your experience working with him back in 1985?
Well, John's a very smart and talented artist. I enjoyed working with him because he's very aggressive with creative ideas and really courageous in what he'll try. He's also dedicated and an extremely hard worker, which I admire.
10-Norbert Weisser, Thom Mathews, Nicholas Guest, Scott Paulin and Vince Klyn are some of the actors that have worked with you in various occasions. Tell us about working with your ´Stock Company´
First what I love is the talent and presence they bring to any role their undertake. I like Norbert (15 movies with Pyun)for his honesty and fearlessness, Scott (6 movies) for his intellect and creative point of view, Thom (11 movies with the helmer) for his humor and flexibility, Nicholas (9 movies) for his professionalism and wry humor, Vince (11) for his raw physicality. My films have to be shot so fast I rely on their own ability to prepare themselves.
11-How could you describe in a few words your experience in the 80s working with Cannon (CYBORG, ALIEN FROM L.A., JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, CAPTAIN AMERICA, DOWN TWISTED?
Well, it was wild. My first experience in a sort of "studio" situation. So it was exciting because they had to fill a big pipeline with movie after movie. Once the financial problems hit, it wasn't fun but incredibly sad.
12-STREETS OF FIRE and SWORD AND THE SORCERER are films with fans scattered all over the planet. You have just made two semi-sequels to both. Considering the years that have passed since both were first released, do you think audiences of today could still be interested in seeing them?
I hope so! There was a magic to those films in the 80's that today's audience isn't that aware of. So the experiences will be fresh and fun.
First of all I want to state that I’ve always been very uninterested in superhero comics. Not my cup of tea. But some superhero-movies has become quite close to me, for example Superman 2, Ang Lee’s The Hulk, all the three incarnations of The Punisher (though I wouldn’t call him a superhero), the original Batman-series from the sixties and so on. I even like the ill-fated Roger Corman-production of The Fantastic Four, but loath the new movies. So it was with a lot of expectations I finally got the brand new DVD of Albert Pyun’s Captain America from Thailand. Most of the stuff I read about it is crap, but some people have a tendency not to like Pyun’s style. Well, I do…
I won’t go into the story, except both Red Skull (the bad guy of course) and Captain America is the creation of WW2-experiments. Our dear captain crash-lands with a rocket in Alaska and is frozen for fifty years, and wakes up to a world where the US president just is kidnapped by Red Skull!
Yeah, that was the story in five seconds. Of course he’s related to the president, it’s either his son or something else (the president that is), he wants to find his old girlfriend, find some new love, meet friends and so on. The usual business after coming back too life after fifty years frozen in snow.
Seriously, this isn’t a bad movie. What it lacks is that big fat budget that would have helped to include some even bigger and fatter action scenes, but if you can ignore that, this is a damn fine entertaining piece of cheese. The first twenty or so minutes is fantastic, and the WW2-setting is just plain awesome. The underground lair of Red Skull is mega-cool, Captain America is blowing stuff apart and everyone’s happy. Even Carla Cassola from such eurocult-movies as The Sect and Demonia shows up and shows us how to play a mad, but loving, scientist who loves to experiment on humans in the quest for peace. The middle of the movie turns it down a notch, but Matt Salinger is good as Captain America and keeps up the charm and energy with some goofy dialogue and good charisma. The last half hour is more in the vein of the first, but is a bit of an anti-climax because of the obvious lack of budget.
But as we all know, no one can frame a scene like Albert Pyun. This is still an ugly fullscreen-version (with second-hand VHS-quality), but it’s hard to deny the stylish camera compositions, the rapid and tight editing in the fight scenes, the ultra-slick sets… just pure talent on a very low budget. It also has a fun cast in smaller parts, like Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin and a great Scott Paulin as Red Skull.
I would have loved more action, more stunts and explosions. It would have made this movie the best forgotten superhero-movie ever made. Now it’s still a fun and cool movie (and colourful! Everything resembles scenes directly taken from a comic album). Matt Salinger is way better than some people claims, and it just deserves a much better (widescreen) restored DVD or Blu-Ray release. One day I hope…
In 1982 Albert Pyun released The Sword and the Sorcerer, which could be one of the funniest and most violent fantasy movies of the eighties. Lee Horsley was Talon and was fighting against the evil Cromwell (Richard Lynch). Now, 28 years later the sequel comes, another adventure… and it both teases you and disappoints you at the say time.
A demon sorceress awakens from her deep sleep and creates havoc on a small kingdom. She kills the queen, but the princess escapes and tries to find a couple of warriors that can help her to avenge her mother’s death and take back their country. After some minor adventures she finds her half-brother (Kevin Sorbo), who though he knows they are sibling still has the hots for her. Luckily for him there are more chicks willing to help the princess and together they continue their long and dangerous trip…
In my hand I have the recently released Thai edition of Tales of an Ancient Empire. According to Mr Pyun this is an earlier version of the movie that lacks some footage – and even actors what I’ve heard. This could be the case, because it’s a bit confusing here and there. First, let me be honest. In this version, the first five minutes are terrible. The graphics are awful, I’m not impressed by the processing of the footage, the editing is weird… and it just does not feel completely right.
BUT after those five minutes (it’s almost exactly five minutes), some idiots are entering the tomb of the demon sorceress, treasure-hunting of course, removes the lids and unleashes the demon – and from that scene and forth, the movie looks very good. Now, Pyun has a little bit different approach to this movie. It’s more nude women (some very talented actually) and more focus on dialogue than action. It’s not bad, it’s well made, looks good and has a good rhythm. But of course I would like more action and gore to the sequel. It has blood and some minor gore of course, but not like the first movie.
The budget is low, but it has a comic-style vision that works good in the bigger scenes where they couldn’t afford travelling to exotic places or build big sets. If you accept that, you will find that the movie works very good and gets your attention all the way to the cliffhanger-ending. Even my Gregory, who can be a bit suspicious to movies in this genre, got stuck watching the movie from the beginning to the end. That’s impressive.
It’s not a perfect movie, but has that visual and poetic atmosphere that Pyun can create from nothing. I will buy the finished version too, when it’s released in the US or Europe next year – mostly to compare, but also to see how the movie transformed from the fan-activity that Pyun kept going from the start, to this version until the final version and the sequel Red Moon.
Now Mr Pyun, please make give us that cool director’s cut of Nemesis that you teased us with some years ago…
Pre-Order access to the TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE trailer has been granted and it should be available for all shortly! A few quick thoughts run through my mind as I watch it for the fourth time....
First, what is most striking to me about Tales from the very top is the level of dedication that Albert Pyun and everyone involved in this production are putting forth. The trailer alone was done with care and shows lots of fantastic images, intriguing situations, weird special effects and a Tony Riparetti song that is damn near perfection. I don't think that Tales will be the ultimate sword and sorcery film. I don't think it will be the ultimate vampire film. But I do think that this film has the potential to be the ultimate Albert Pyun film, and for me that is more intriguing than making a picture that adheres to any single genre.
The Pyuniverse started out because I'm intrigued first by the ability to spot Pyun's work from a mile away-at least for his fans-no matter the genre. Science Fiction, Kickboxing, Science Fiction Kickboxing, Tim Thomerson getting slapped multiple times by a tiny gymnast ass kicker, Tim Thomerson the size of a human thimble kicking ass, Snoop Dogg the Ghost(??) or a barbarian with a tri-bladed sword...it really doesn't matter. Pyun has a vision-and while he will be the first to admit, and sometimes I think he sells himself short, his mental reach sometimes exceeds his physical grasp thanks to the harsh realities of making movies in an age where it is better to crank out a sequel to a dancing cheerleader film or a slasher than a film that straddles the line between ballistic madness and thoughtful neo-samurai cinema. The vision seems to be coalescing.
Bulletface blew my mind...I admit it. A storm of appreciation for everything he has accomplished, regardless of the brickbats of people that have accomplished less (like myself for example), was whipped up. It inspired me to see a filmmaker that has straddled the line between commercial and personal so many times-never afraid to go straight to your wallet with the stories you want to see...but to tell them the best way he could straight out of his head and in to your video machine of choice. It inspired me to start writing again...and it inspired me to hope that Victoria Maurette gets to be a huge star, but that is entirely a different point. Bulletface was also the filmmaker stepping out of line in an intriguing way-self made, self released, self marketed and a story that only he could have pulled off. A noir comics explosion done on a micro-budget? It works...and it certainly set the table for a shot at doing a completely self contained release of what could be the ultimate Pyun film. Familiar tropes...strange takes...
So, the trailer itself...what did I think? I really loved it in the same way I really enjoyed the Inferno edition of Left For Dead. It tells you it is something, and then becomes something utterly unique. A companion to his first major spectacle, The Sword and the Sorcerer, TALES is something I figured would leave no swash unbuckled and no entrail safe from being strewn all over the screen. I hoped for all the quirky humor of Nemesis to collide with all the uncertainty of what COULD even come next that films like Deceit deliver..but mostly I expected to see beautiful men and women battling to the death. I got that, but not the way I thought I would. Emotional beats. Epic moments that I can't wait to slot in to my own imagination in the context of the film. The trailer is very pure Pyun. In my humble opinion it could use a little more action to bring in the undecided, but this viewer was plenty pleased.
Then again, I work on a blog called THE PYUNIVERSE (an extension of one of my little dream projects of writing a book on the director's career)--so I'm a bit pre-sold. Victoria Maurette gets the best red band moments, but I am really looking forward to seeing Kevin Sorbo here. Mind you this is only impressions from the trailer, but I couldn't help but think of Fritz Leiber's FAFHRD AND THE GRAY MOUSER bouncing around in a fantastical late 80s Wuxia film complete with flying vampires. I'd love to see a hopper in there...
I harp on it a lot, but after being knocked around by the images it sounds to me like Tony Riparetti has taken up the gauntlet and forged one of his scores that supply the aural glue to every sequence in the best of the films he has collaborated on. Swords, Sorcery and Synthetic Pulse Pounding? Well, it isn't traditional, but it sounds amazing. I can't wait to listen to this film with as much attention as I put towards admiring Melissa Ordway as she punches people about!
So...I'll see you ALL there when our limited editions arrive I hope...onward in to the breach for what may be the reflection of pure Pyun conception.
Some days you just need some TICKER! Well, maybe not, but the countdown to TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE is ticking in my head. One mental leap in my head and we have a round up of artworkf for TICK TICK TICKER!!!
Every member of the Pyunomatic Cine Defense Force should check out the recent posts from the Albert Pyun blog at AlbertPyunMovies.com and get caught up. With the film in it's final stages there are lots of interesting thoughts on the process of this coming together and a look at the future! Check it out today.
Personally, I can't wait to see it and check out all the limited edition items as well!
The limited edition is sold out, so be sure to check the store for ordering options ASAP.
In the time it will take you to read this post you can go to the official GOLDEN COB AWARDS site and vote for BULLETFACE to win several well deserved accolades. Take a second and click on the Pyunigilistic indy film maestro Albert Pyun for best director, the sultry and sweet lady with a face worth staring at for 90 minutes Victoria Maurette AND the man with the atmosphere and poptones Tony Riparetti and lets see them all get what they deserve.
Bulletface really struck me head on, a nifty and inexpensive blend of violence, action, sex and spinal fluids... I think it is the best movie indy made and indy distributed in years. You can check my rather lengthy review out here and certainly head on over to AlbertPyunMovies.com for more information.
VOTE or Bulletface is comin' to get ya!
Albert Pyun and Full Moon may seem like a great idea, and Dollman did turn out pretty well, but I think that the Pyun touch relies on him being left alone to his own devices a bit more. Honestly, this is a pretty simple little film that takes a few popular films and squashes them together efficiently enough to be enjoyable. The biggest issue in looking back at Arcade is how outdated the effects look to our eyes, but if you think of this as a visit through 16 bit terror land (and try to pay in artificial game points if possible)...you are in for a pleasant 80 minutes.
So, have you ever wanted to watch a movie that could be called A Nightmare on Tron Terrace, starring Ralphie from A Christmas Story, Seth Green being exactly the same screen persona he always plays and Lucas from Days Of Our Lives (and includes a hectic screen chomping cameo of pure awesome from Norbert Weisser)...then ARCADE is your film!
Alex Manning (Megan Ward) has all kinds of personal problems and loads of stress to deal with, so she is lucky that her boyfriend is a bit of a dolt that hangs with some hip arcade loving pals and a cybermonster game kidnaps him and gives her a mission to play the game, win and save his souuuuuul. ooouuuul. Ol. Our Freddy here is a game that seems to be learning and seeking to conquer Elm Street with his devious addictive gameplay and enjoys threatening the players. I expected this to be a cry against the corporate nature of videogames and a slam on the development process of creative projects-but Arcade eschews all that and plays very straight faced without many of the usual touches of humor or just utter oddballness I enjoy so much.
That is, until Weisser arrives and plays an Arcade programmer that understands the out of control machine and fears it to a degree that I would almost think he was channeling a quivering real worlder in a Lovecraft scenario where Dagon is going to bust up the village! Awesome...Pyuniverse dwellers will not want to miss this.
It all comes together in a cyber showdown that feels much like the games made about 5 years before this movie was released...down the hall, avoid the spikes, clear the room and game over. But...it never gets boring and it is quite short. Heck, I enjoyed it!
Now, we are on the Pyuniverse blog, so lets take a look at the good parts and the stuff that is missing. With Charles Band sitting atop the production it is obvious that things are going to feel more like Puppet Master than Deceit-and they do. As Full Moon movies go, it is very solid (and I'm a Full Moon Fan) and PyunPlayers do get a chance to shine. The leads are all good, but it is damn trippy staring at the screen trying to solve out who the hell is...that is...no! RALPHIE! Yer gonna shoot your eye out with that Arcade popgun!
Yeah, it is terrible and wrong to nail someone in to a role, but he looks exactly the same, just larger. I'm glad to see Billingsley doing well, now he is director A-List films! Awesome. Bryan Datillo has almost 1000 episodes of Days Of Our Lives under his belt, so lets just say that he was so great in Arcade and Albert Pyun drew out such a magnificent performance that he will be an honorary veteran of the Pyun Academy Of Action. John De Lancie is also fun as the oooga booga corporate guy.
Sadly, no groovy game score from Tony Ripparetti for this film, but hey...Alan Howarth is no slouch and he does a solid enough job. But...it ain't Ripparetti. Sorry Alan.
So, a good 80 minutes in a 16 Bit Hell, with a 32 Bit Script by David S. Goyer off an Albert Band story and 64 Bit direction from Albert Pyun. I have to say, there is a line Arcade says that reminds me of the Pyuniverse a lot... "If you won't play the game by my rules then I'll play in your world!"
After watching the "Directors Cut" version of NEMESIS I have found that I"m ready to really put forth the effort to find the last bit of the puzzle of this particular film. I found one listing for this Laserdisc for $199.00 which is out of my grasp right now, but I'm sure that someone has a copy of this...somewhere!
You can read about the alternate footage and scenes right here!
Talk about nerd nirvana...I remember finding this one in Chinatown buried under a stack of Category 3 films very well. Odd that it is rated 1 really-but what can you say. Small children love Adrenelin!! Here is every bit of the art on this tiny little release.
Buried in the detritus of my collection are a stack of VCDs, including the IVL release of NEMESIS. I had high hopes this would be the same version released to the Japanese market, but it is not. The most interesting item on the packaging is that it was licensed to Hong Kong via Scanbox in Denmark. That just seems odd...
Kevin Sorbo is feasting on this deal...and so should you. Damn, that is one big leg o' lamb!
If you have been following along at the official director's blog you have seen the images from Tales and heard some of the score-if not, you really should check it out. But wait, there is more!!! Tales slices, Bulletface punches and between these two sets Albert Pyun practically* *imagination required* makes you dinner, cleans your house and massages your tired tootsies as you watch the films.
First up, the package for Tales includes a lot of interesting material!
"Tales of an Ancient Empire" Feature Film (of course) Commentary by Director, Albert Pyun (this should be very interesting, Pyun does great, and really honest, commentary tracks) Behind the Scenes: The Making of Tales Video Footage (the clips on the blog reveal just how much digital artistry is on show and really puts the scale of the film in perspective) Soundtrack by Composer: Tony Riparetti (BoooooYah! Riparetti CDs, I want 'em all.) Free Bonus: Albert Pyun's CYBORG Commentary (Very exciting, no studio cutting and I bet there are some fun tales of JCVD to be heard.)
Well, that sure is a lot, and the final packaging for the special edition should be very cool as well.
Now, I'm already happy with my order, but you want more? How about the 30 dollar release of Bulletface with 5 discs as a bonus?? I reviewed the items here.... BULLETFACE and LEFT FOR DEAD: INFERNO and the two CDs are worth the price of admission. Oh yeah, and you get killer commentary as well.
This is a great LD sleeve from Hong Kong for Kickboxer 4-The Aggressor (reviewed in maximum Pyunomatic fashion here)... First, it is directed by Albert Pynn and then it stars JCVD (in a groovy Breakin' 2 singlet!). Classic!!