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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Crime > Exploitation > Cops > Italy > Adventure > Dark Ages > Blaxploitation > Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man (1976/Raro Video DVD)/Sword & Sorcery Collection (1983 – 87/Shout! Factory DVD Set)/Tactical Force (2011/Vivendi Blu-ray)/Women In Cages Collection (Shout! Factory Blu-

Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man (1976/Raro Video DVD)/Sword & Sorcery Collection (1983 – 87/Shout! Factory DVD Set)/Tactical Force (2011/Vivendi Blu-ray)/Women In Cages Collection (Shout! Factory Blu-ray + DVD Sets)/Women In Prison Triple Feature (1983 – 85/Panik House DVD Set)


Picture: C+/C/B-/B- & C+/C     Sound: C+/C/C+/C+/C     Extras: B-/C/C-/C+/C-     Films: C+/C/D/C+/D



The following releases show how thin the line between action and exploitation can get, as well as many of the good, gritty films being treated like B-movies.  By the 1980s, thanks to home video and ideological shifts, a new kind of B-material form arose as more acceptable and blurred the A/B levels.  Here are six new releases to give you an idea of how and why this is.



Ruggero Deodato’s Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man (1976) is another Italian answer to the gritty U.S. Cop and Gangster films that were experiencing a strong, quality cycle since the late 1960s (furthered by more breakthrough films and even TV series by the early 1970s), but this film was able to be more bloody, sexual and violent.  There is comedy too, but the action is best as two motorcycling plainclothes officers (Ray Lovelock and Marc Porel) chasing brutal robbery suspects in Rome and get as tough.  They have a boss to report to (Adolfo Celi of Thunderball) but are usually in fight after fight after chase after gunfight.  A huge hit in its time, it has some great moments (Tarantino loved it enough to have an innertextual reference to it in Kill Bill) but it can also be silly and not always consistent.  Director Fernando Di Leo wrote the script and it is definitely worth seeing once, especially for the moments you would never see in a U.S. equivalent.  Extras include a paper pullout inside the DVD case with text info., while the DVD adds a 42-minutes long documentary Poliziotti Violenti in which everyone involved is interviewed and a reel of TV advertisements directed by Deodato with his commentary, but no isolated audio or subtitles of the commercials in English or even Italian are offered.  They were all a very pleasant surprise.


Shout! Factory has issued four films by Roger Corman meant to capitalize on the box office success of Milius’ 1982 Conan film with Schwarzenegger called the Sword & Sorcery Collection and includes four films desperate to cash in on it success: Deathstalker (1983 with Richard Hill and Barbi Benton), Deathstalker II (1987 with John Terieski and Monique Gabrielle), Barbarian Queen (1985 with Lana Clarkson) and The Warrior & The Sorcerer (1984 with David Carradine) and WOW are they bad.  The only charming thing is the lack of digital effects, but the actors are left with bad scripts and none of these ever really work.  The nudity, violence and bad sets may be amusing, but this was a subcycle at best and even Conan had a sequel and spin-off as horrible as the rest, so this is for nostalgia and fans only.  These were never good and do not hold up, plus the tough guy (and gal) semi-militarist/solider/warrior approach is as corny as anything.  The two Deathstalker films have the only extras, which include theatrical trailers and feature length audio commentary tracks, while the first film also has a photo gallery.


Even worse is the most recent release on the list, Amado Paolo Cultraro’s Tactical Force (2011), yet another awful romp by the wrestler Steve Austin who has never made anything with a narrative worth watching, though he at least is joined by Michael Jai White as his cop partner, but this is a formula of formula of formula of formula tale of police versus gang violence, with betrayal, tired twists and clichés to spare.  Even the fights are rather weak and forgettable, but then the whole affair is too.  Without any charm, fun or energy (everything seems tired and forced) and is at the wrong end of the genres represented here, running on an empty sense of militarism and thinking it is more than B material, which it is not.  This is definitely a dud to skip.  Extras include a trailer, Fight Sequence piece and Inside Tactical Force featurette.


Another Roger Corman set, the Women In Cages Collection, has been issued, but this one is available in both Blu-ray and DVD formats, though we actually covered this set a few years ago as a PAL DVD import from Umbrella Entertainment at this link:




The only difference with the sets are that The Arena is not included in the U.S. editions due likely to a lack of a good print.  That leaves extras, with Baadasssss Cinema nowhere to be found here and Cages itself has a trailer and TV spot, but no stills or Corman interview like the import set.  Bird has trailer and TV spot, plus the same audio commentary with director Jack Hill.  That leaves House with the most extras, with trailer, TV spot and same audio commentary with director Jack Hill (different from Bird) from the import DVD, but no Corman interview.  We also get radio spots not on the import and a brand new documentary on the making of the film called From Manila With Love.  Diehard fans will want the import and either version of the U.S. release which has the same extras, plus all will want to see the new documentary Machete Maidens Revisited, reviewed elsewhere on this site.


That leaves us with the Women In Prison Triple Feature, with three awful imitators of the Corman women in jail films above that showed the cycle was well past its prime.  The curio here is in names that might have been bigger and were not.  Linda Blair of The Exorcist (see Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) insanely never got another good role, but made a living signing for B movies all over the place, including Chained Heat (1983, uncut here) and Red Heat (1985, not to be confused with the Schwarzenegger/Walter Hill Cold War film) mixing it up with Tamara Dobson, Sybil Danning (who was poised to be the female equivalent of Schwarzenegger, but this oddly never happened despite her potential), Stella Stevens and John Vernon.  Blair goes to jail for 18 months for killing a man and the punishment goes as far as the crime, then is in East Germany (remember that?) in the latter film, accused of being a spy and paying a price for not being a spy.  Sylvia Kristel of Emmanuelle also stars.  That leaves Jungle Warrior, another production as generic as its title with models going to South America for a photo shoot and landing up in prison.  Danning and Vernon are the known names.  Unfortunately, these are all duds made cheap and taking advantage of the then new home video market and likely barely (if at all) making it to any theaters (at least in the U.S.) and rightly so.  These are awful and a waste.  Extras include Mr. Skin intros, trailers and video interviews with Stevens and Danning.


And I am making these all sound far more interesting than they are.  The appeal of the older versions by Corman of such films is that they were new and more exotic, while you can note that the 1980s versions have all-white casts for the most part, which is peculiar considering a more diverse cast means the exploitation will go further, but rollback politics are not compatible with good genre filmmaking and that is why by the early 1980s, such films were a joke.  Now you can see for yourself.



The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Blu-rays are on par with each other despite the fact that the 1970s Corman films show their age and have some print damage, but Tactical is shot on what looks like bad blur-loaded HD video and never has the depth, color or character of the films form 35 years ago!  The anamorphically enhanced DVD version of the Women In Cages Collection manages to look a little better than the PAL DVD imports, but not by as much as the Blu-rays which will surprise and please fans.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Cop has good color, but is sadly softer more often than I would have liked, though I wonder if a Blu-ray would fare better.  That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the four films on the Sword & Sorcery Collection which are very warn out and weak, even brittle at times.  I see why they wanted to get them to market, but these are on the low end of the Shout! Factory/Corman DVDs for picture quality and that says something.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Tactical should easily be the sonic champion of all these releases, but the design (if you can call it that) is too much towards the front speakers with recording issues (a few audio dropouts) and too much center speaker.  That leaves the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 lossless Mono mix on the Blu-ray and Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the DVD sets of Women In Cages being about equal unfortunately as well as on Cop offering audio as good, if aged.  That is weak indeed, but the Women In Prison Triple Feature and Sword & Sorcery sets have the worst, most worn out audio with awful Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono that makes them even tougher to watch and that says something too.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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