Saturday 30 May 2020

Plague Times Diary (34) - Ben Cho comes up with A Trashy Defence of Prime Video

If you’re in Australia you’re not exactly starving for choice when it comes to movie streaming services: there’s Netflix, Stan, Disney Plus, Foxtel, you can watch stuff on SBS On Demand, Tubi (with ads) and there’s now a service called Binge (their website boasts they have a “huge” catalogue of films). Sadly I’m yet to find all those all those classic Rank movies I binged on late night ABC when I was younger showing up on iView (any suggestions?). 

Just because we’ve got a lot of options to stream movies doesn’t necessarily mean access to many movies from around the world is getting better (try finding many recent Hong Sang-soo films on these services) but that’s a different blog post altogether. We are at least improving access with these streaming services to many films I didn’t think would be easily seen in Australia outside of the festival circuit: I recently saw Carlos Reygadas’ Our Time (I reviewed this on a recent Film Alert post), Joao Pedro Rodrigues’ superb The Ornithologist, four Suzuki Seijuns, Ryusuke Hamaguchi's Asako I & II and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives all show up on Stan for instance. 

One streaming service I didn’t mention from the above list is Amazon Prime Video and regardless of what you think of Amazon’s business practices or their treatment of their own staff, I want to focus on the streaming service available with a Prime subscription. If, like me, you tend to do a reasonable amount of grocery and consumer shopping with Amazon then the annual Prime fee pays itself off pretty quickly in shipping savings so having their streaming services for music and movies/TV is just an added bonus given the main reason I subscribed was to take advantage of the free shipping offers over $39 for Australian warehouse items and $49 for American warehouse items (full disclosure: although this paragraph probably reads like a disgusting advertisement for Amazon I can assure you I’m getting no special treatment for writing that). 

When I logged in to the Prime Video app on my phone I was a little surprised by some of the titles available: Lars von Trier’s recent serial killer shocker The House That Jack Built, Cronenberg’s Naked LunchDogs in Space, Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don QuixoteCinderfellaArtists and ModelsBird of Paradise, the recently released Diego Maradona doco, John Carpenter’s Memoirs of an Invisible ManThe Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell, and on and on I could go. They don’t have the kind of prestigious festival fare Stan is releasing and they don’t have a huge amount of original content like Netflix (the “Amazon Originals” include the Suspiria remake, Chi-Raq, Beautiful Boy, Peterloo, Anna and Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot to name a few) but what really got my attention was the sheer amount of genre cinema available on offer. 

There must have been some sort of deal brokered with either Celestial Pictures or 88 Films because many of the Shaw Brothers kung-fu and horror titles are now available to watch on Prime Video but, purists be warned, some only have English-dubs. I was pleased to see Ho Meng-hua’s trashily brilliant Malaysian-set monster movie The Oily Maniac available in Mandarin with English subtitles but alas, his Mighty Peking Man and Black Magic are available with English dub only. From one of the Shaw studio’s best filmmakers Liu Chia-liang (Lau Kar-leung) there’s The Lady is The Boss, the masterpiece 36th Chamber of Shaolin (sorry, English dub only), Executioners from Shaolin (English dub only), Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (English dub only) and Shaolin Mantis (English dub only). There’s also a bunch of titles from Chang Cheh and Chu Yuan too. 

On the topic of Asian cinema, anime fans will be pleased to see Oshii Mamoru’s Ghost in the Shell 2.0 available and there’s Sion Sono’s Amazon Original series Tokyo Vampire Hotel. 

Horror seems to be a strong point of Prime Video with recent films like Midsommar (the standard cut), Child’s Play, Ma, Overlord, Escape Room and The Babadook all available. At least five of the Leprechaun series are online (Australian filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith directed a couple of them), parts two to seven of the Friday the 13th series are there, the first three parts of the Scream movies and Hellraiser 2 and can also be found. I should also note a trilogy of films I greatly enjoyed in my youth and influenced my relationship with the boys in blue ever since: William Lustig’s Maniac Cop trilogy, a series of films which makes you question whether you really should be so deferential to anyone who flashes a badge and says they are police. 

Some of the more intriguing genre movies available include Stuart Gordon’s Dagon, an icky adaptation of a HP Lovecraft short story; Chopping Mall, a fun thriller about a group of young people being chased around a locked down shopping mall by murderous security robots which is actually better than it reads (and stars Barbara Crampton who has appeared in a few Stuart Gordon films); Lucio Fulci’s Voices from Beyond, Silver Saddle and Touch of Death; Jack Hill’s Spider Baby; Curt Siodmak’s Bride of the Gorilla; Ruggero Deodato’s Live Like a Cop Die Like a Man and Body Count; and Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare Beach and Nightmare City

I could go on and on but ultimately Prime Video is a surprising feast of genre flicks and their library in this arena is just as strong as other major services. Is it worth it as a standalone service like Netflix? That’s debatable, but if you’re thinking of subbing to Prime for the deals and shipping freebies then this is a great bonus to dive into kung fu kicks and bloody massacres. ​

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