FILM REVIEW: THE HEALING

The Plot: – “…Stories about the Filipino tradition of going to faith healers for guidance and treatment of ailments have not yet been tackled in-depth in movies. And in our film, the viewers will not just be horrified, they’ll somehow be challenged to think as to how faith healing has already been part of our culture…” – ABS-CBN News (READ MORE)

The Reviews: “…Created in the same campy mold as Chito Roño’s other horror “Feng Shui”, the film gambled on giving Vilma Santos a project that was expected to earn money and provide cheap thrills. I am not sure about the box office returns but it did provide some scares when I saw it. Plot is about a neighborhood who is embroiled in a karma-like situation. The neighbors are having a second lease on life with their own set of illnesses after a life insurance agent’s dad was attended to by a faith healer named Elsa (who happens to be the name of Nora Aunor’s character in the masterpiece “Himala”). It may be low in coming up with a compact and weighty story to connect with but at least it gave its main chunk of meat a good production value and execution. The one involving a Chinese temple is my favorite. I also have to note that Jerrold Tarog did a wonderful job in the editing department. The ending, for instance, did not linger much on the drama and the realizations. Star Cinema also released two versions of the film. One is R18 which contains more gore and the other, to reach to a wider audience (read: more money), R13. Friends who might appreciate it: Vilmanians, no less…” – Manuel Pangaruy Jr., Tagailog Specials Presents, 28 October 2012 (READ MORE)

“…We are glad director Chito Roño has found his mojo in making effective horror flicks. After “Feng Shui,” which was truly scary, his next works like “Sukob,” “T2” and “Bulong” were quite inferior. He’s now back in top form in “The Healing,” which really works as a thriller. After seeing it, we’re no longer surprised the MTRCB gave its uncut version a rating of R-18 (although there’s an expurgated version that’s R-13) as he really upped the ante in the violence factor. It has a decapitation scene right in the middle of a busy street, a self immolation scene, necks being slashed, a stomach split open with the intestines spilling out, a bloodbath in a massage parlor where several defenseless people were killed and in a Chinese temple were monks were massacred, and most ruthless of all, a little girl being impaled in a flagpole. Those scenes are already shocking and horrifying enough as they are. In “Feng Shui,” the series of terrifying events was triggered by a cursed bagua. This time, the killings take place after Vilma Santos as Seth, an insurance executive, takes her ailing father (Robert Arevalo) to a faith healer (Daria Ramirez).

Her dad gets healed overnight so her ailing neighbors ask Seth to accompany them to the same faith healer: Ces Quesada who can’t speak, Ynez Veneracion who has a breast tumor, Janice de Belen’s blind daughter, Pokwang and Cris Villanueva who are afflicted with skin disease and Kim Chiu, who has a kidney problem. They do get healed, but the healing also doomed them and turn them into violent killers. We won’t go into detail as to why this happened, so as not to spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that Roño and his scriptwriter, Roy Iglesias, try their best to come up with a believable explanation of its root cause that stems from the concept of “huwag mong buhayin ang bangkay.” Chito manages to sustain the feeling of dread and anticipation throughout the movie. And of course, it works because we feel for Ate Vi as Seth. It’s not her fault that the series of gory incidents happened but she’s the one being hounded by the ghostly spirits in the story since she’s the one who brought all the patients to the faith healer. Running against time, she then tries to reverse the curse by going to its source. All the graphic killing scenes are staged convincingly for maximum gruesome effect and it’s effective as all the actors deliver.

Pokwang is truly quite chilling when she turns into a monstrous entity with superhuman strength throwing people down from a tall building. Even perennial Roño actor Jhong Hilario stands out in a short but menacing role, the nature of which we can’t reveal here. The special effects involving the bulging and rotating left eye of all the killers is a touch of genius. Vilma is subjected to a lot of stressful scenes in the movie as she fights for dear life. We have to suspend our disbelief a bit in the scenes where she gets violently mauled, stabbed, hit by a chair, repeatedly hurled down into the floor, but it did elicit a lot of deafening screams from the theatre crowd. Some of her fans feel she should have just done another drama but we can understand her desire to flex her wings and do a vehicle of this sort. When we saw the movie, a lot of viewers were young people who enjoy watching scary films like this. With this, Ate Vi has successfully reached out to a new demographic, with the help of a young star like Kim Chiu, who in all fairness, also does well in her dual roles. For us, it’s a very wise decision indeed. And Chito Roño shows here to younger horror directors like Topel Lee, Richard Somes and Jerrold Tarog (Tarog did a fine job of scoring and editing the movie) that he remains to be the master of the genre who can be even playful with the orchestrated color scheme of the costumes worn by his characters in the movie…” – Mario Bautista, Malaya, Aug 6 2012 (READ MORE)

“…Director Chito S. Roño is a veteran in doing horror movies. In 2004, he helmed the box-office hit Feng Shui, an answer to the Asian horror movie phenomenon. The Healing, on the other hand, can be considered an answer to Hollywood’s torture-and-gore horror movie phenomenon. It may be the first local horror film to do so, and thus it is refreshing to watch. There is no shortage of shocking gore in The Healing. There are lots and lots of blood; horror movie fans will not be disappointed. The movie is also made more fun by moments of fan service, that recalls several niches of pop culture that seem to be taboo in Philippine mainstream cinema. There’s a small child wielding a ninja weapon killing groups of monks, before jumping to her death. There’s a beheading using a giant knife. There are many more. The story also offers something new, away from familiar themes like haunted houses and vengeful ex-girlfriends. It exploits the Filipino tradition of faith healing, and the consequences of tapping this alternative form of therapy. What’s most admirable is the fact that The Healing’s actors went to great lengths to provide credence to the story. Vilma Santos, for instance, gets stabbed multiple times that you’d wonder how she can take these intense physical scenes at her age. Kim Chiu should also be praised for her handling of her character, Cookie. Her early scenes when she needs to act sick are believable and downright affecting. In summary, The Healing is suited for Pinoy horror fans. It is fun as it is shocking, and non-squeamish viewers should have no problem having a good time…” – Mark Angelo Ching, PEP, July 30, 2012 (READ MORE)

“…Santos’ spine-tingler is far from original, but as it tweaks the narrative conceit that has made “Final Destination” a box-office-busting film franchise, the movie finds innovative ways to establish an atmosphere of impending doom that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats: You feel that something gruesome is about to transpire, you just don’t know how it will play out—or when! The Star for All Seasons decided to make the film because she wanted to add something “new” to her formidable oeuvre—and, with “The Healing,” Santos accomplishes exactly that. The role doesn’t require her to do much except run in circles or look worried or scared. But, she displays flashes of dramatic brilliance when she is hounded by guilt, a motivation that presents her with forks in the road that just might lead to the resolution of the horrifying story’s main conflict. More than anything, it’s a treat to see the durable actress on the big screen again. The horror-thriller genre she dabbles in effectively introduces her to a younger (and wider) viewing demographic that derives pleasure from getting scared out of its wits…” – Rito P. Asilo, Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 28, 2012 (READ MORE)

“…The reason I like Chito Rono’s horror movies, and the reason I see most of them in the theatre, is because suspense-horror is a completely original genre, completely divorced from the hang-ups and expectations of movies that involve real people doing somewhat credible things. I remember when Chito Rono did a suspense project DAHAS, topbilled by Maricel Soriano and Richard Gomez. It was one of a kind. Very engaging just like the Healing. Kim Chiu, among other characters has lesser exposure here but a huge revelation. She epitomizes the typical Asian character on every horror films we watched. Her make-up was perfect and she looks so fresh on the movie. Pokwang, Janice and Martin Del Rosario did a great job as support role. Their characters are very important and happy to see Janice De Belen again on the big screen. Pokwang gave a little taste of comic on her dialogues, which gave everyone to catch their breath in preparation to next scene. Martin Del Rosario is a real charmer. Again the focus of the film is the story, its suspense package and for Vilma Santos, which they succeeded. I suggest everyone should watch the uncut version, brave the director’s cut as there seems to be obvious reason why some of the scenes are not included on R13. DISLIKE: There’s one thing I don’t like, they are trying to blur some of Vilma Santos physical feature. That looks very obvious on the big screen. But you will love the color coding (that’s for you to find out). Star Cinema gave another reason for everyone to go back to movie houses and appreciate local films. It’s another excellent film of 2012…The Movie is in honor of Vilma’s 50th anniversary, Star Cinema gathered an all-star highly acclaimed powerhouse cast composed of Kim, Janice de Belen, Mark Gil, Martin del Rosario, Allan Paule, Cris Villanueva, Daria Ramirez, Ces Quesada, Ynez Veneracion, Simon Ibarra, Abi Bautista, Joel Torre, Chinggoy Alonso, Mon Confiado, Carmi Martin and Pokwang. I am giving THE HEALING 10 out of 10…” – Rod Magaru (READ MORE)

“…After the first character dies, you already know how the story would go. The suspense you feel as you watch grows, but this is in anticipation of the gory way the next character will die, not because you do not know what will happen next. To Rono’s credit, each “death scene” would top the last one as far as gore and blood are concerned. The cast did well, too. Vilma Santos is Vilma Santos. She will always be bigger than her roles. This is not to say that she did not perform well; she did. But, watching her, you see Vilma more than Seth – too strong to ignore. Kim Chiu appeared in very few scenes despite her second billing. As with her performances on TV, she would have done better if she injected more energy into her role. I did not know Martin del Rosario before this movie, but he delivered very well in his crucial role as Jed. I’m not really sure why Ynez Veneracion had to show her right boob in a scene – maybe for old times’ sake.

Several camera angles used by Mr. Rono were very well-planned and executed, maximizing the tension onscreen. Like other productions (movies and theater plays) I watch nowadays, there was color coordination in the outfits/costumes of the characters onscreen. In “The Healing,” though, I did not quite get why a certain color was chosen to be the “theme” of a scene. It was too obvious, that when a scene’s color scheme continued into an unrelated scene, it became distracting. Many common scare tactics and music were employed in the film. Thankfully, there was no Sadako-like creature in this one (if you still don’t know who Sadako is, Google “The Ring” Japanese version — or search on YouTube). Overall, “The Healing” is okay. It is similar to other horror films in the way the friends of the lead female character are dying around her and it is up to her to break the curse. If it was Kris Aquino who played Seth instead of Vilma Santos, the movie would just be “Feng Shui” all over again…” – Fred Hawson, Rappler, Aug 12 2012 (READ MORE)

“…The movie has a cohesive plot. The editing is brisk. The story telling is to the point. The jolts, the surprises, the building tension as the plot thickens makes you squirm from your seat. You can’t take your eyes off the screen so as not to miss the details, the foreshadowing, the conflict resolution. From the impressive opening credits, to the alternate theme colors of blue, red, yellow & white, you know the movie is special. The ensemble acting reminds you of such sleuth movies as Murder on the Orient Express & Death on the Nile, where Rono is able to flesh out the best from each actor or actress, no matter how small the role is, whether in a group or singly . I particularly like Janice De Belen, Pokwang, Robert Arevalo (in a groovy role that Sildenafil users could relate to), Kim Chiu, Joel Torre & Martin Del Rosario. Vilma Santos is in almost every frame. It is a most restrained performance, akin to her Urian winning Amanda Bartolome character in Dekada 70 where she has mastered “doing less is more.” As the key figure or the cause of the sad fate of her friends, Vilma is able to effectively use her eyes to show fear, guilt, sadness, even remorse. Her best scenes are when she tells her son Martin to not leave Kim from his sight, while calling from a cell phone, her confrontation scene with Kim in a car while Martin is driving the van & her hair raising, thrilling confrontation scene with Kim, the evil twin…” – Mar Garces (READ MORE)

“…The film is, by turn, violent and the sexy episode given clinical treatment. The breast of Ynez Veneracion (as Greta) is fondled matter-of-factly to show that the cancerous lumps are no longer there. The series of death – suicide and murder, keep the moviegoers on the edge, screaming here and there and up to the very end when the ‘sanib’ victim Kim Chiu (as Cookie) opens her eyes. Rono has a perfect acting ensemble to make this film credible and engaging. Even with the limited exposure and dialogue that she had, Daria Ramirez was great acting personified in The Healing. Pokwang (as Alma) was another revelation. Here, Rono doesn’t allow her to take another crack at her comic talents and emerges a natural performer. Everyone has defining moments in this film from Kim Chiu (as Cookie), Janice de Belen (as Cita), Robert Arevalo (as Odong), Martin del Rosario (as Jed), Mark Gil (as Val), Carmi Martin, Cris Villanueva (as Ding), Allan Paule (as Ruben), Ces Quesada (as Chona), Chinggoy Alonzo and Simon Ibarra (as Rex), among others. Joel Torre -as the healer’s brother- turns in another winning performance. This is my first horror film with Vilma Santos in it and I must say that she acquitted herself very well. Her subtle acting in The Healing was reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark. I think she should do more horror film with Rono. Like it or not, The Healing is my Horror Film of the Year…” – Pablo A. Tariman (READ MORE)

“…The movie queen has also reached out to new media. In the weeks leading to the movie’s showing, and during its entire run, the blogosphere is abuzz with news and features on its star. Bloggers, who are slowly eclipsing the legit press in prestige, a powerful bloc who are not paid purveyors of gossip and publicity stunts, are one in their admiration and praise for the screen icon. One thing that “The Healing” has achieved is it gained for Vilma Santos a new following. Not only has Vilma encroached on the horror-suspense niche, but with the film’s R-13 rating, she has also reintroduced herself to the younger segments of the population. Vilma’s insistence on challenging herself by doing different projects paid off, she has just made herself current, still, and very much a big, dominant fixture in popular culture, notwithstanding the new crop of stars that have come up and populated the scene. One palpable proof is her movie has set a trend in Philippine cinema: a slew of horror-suspense flicks followed suit after its huge success in the box-office. Philippine horror-suspense is usually associated with Kris Aquino, but Vilma has given the genre a new meaning and dimension…” – RRI Espinoza (READ MORE)

“…Whilst the script is somewhat threadbare the vistas, cinematography and overall presentation feels on par with that of its contemporaries. It’s just a shame that the screenplay fails to capitalize more on its own interesting premise. Whilst some light is shed upon the peculiar push-pull of Healers and the country’s strong catholic heritage; more time seems to of been placed upon moving the characters to the next set piece, complimented by some overly expository dialogue and a few to many ham-fisted deliveries. Having said that though, The Healing marks the mid-point of an exciting time for the Filipino horror industry. With titles such as Feng-Shui, Ouija and The Road seeing some overseas success, one hopes that a marriage of script, production and budget isn’t to far away. For now though The Healing represents a curio for the discerning viewer, or perhaps instead, a seed from which greater films will eventually flourish…” – John H. Marshall, Japan Cinema (READ MORE)

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Film Review: Edgar Loves Vilma (1970)

FILMS - Edgar Loves Vilma 3

Relesed: September 27, 1970

The Plot: – Daughter of a nightclub singer, Vilma met Edgar whose father, like Vilma’s mother is also single parent. While dating, their parent also fell in love. Some twists of events happened, like the sudden break-up of their parent due to Edgar’s grandmother’s disapproval of her son’s relationship to Vi’s mother who is a night club singer, which was a societal taboo for the upper class during those days (the 60s-70s). Another twist was the kidnapping of Vilma. But all we’re ironed out in the end, just in time for the final musical production number, showing the whole gang dancing and singing to Vilma’s hit song, “Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Love You!”

The Reviews: – “Edgar Loves Vilma” (1970) started with suitor Oscar (Jess Lapid Jr.) calling Vilma about a party they’re attending, he’s trying to make sure Vilma will be his dance partner. The following scene, Edgar is also talking over the phone, and his girlfriend was also trying to assure herself that Edgar will be her dance partner. A premonitions? The two attended the party, both did their usual singing number and both ended up in the dance floor leaving their partners. As Vi and Bot became lovers so is their parents, both single and lonely. Vilma’s mother who is a nightclub singer (Perla Bautista) falls for Edgar’s rich father. Edgar’s grandmother who lives with them discovered his son’s new affair and visited Vilma’s mother.  She insulted her, being a “nightclub singer!” and asked her to leave his already engaged son alone. Vilma’s mother followed the old witch’s request.  At the same time, she had an argument with her daughter, resulting with Vilma to run away. Missing for two days, Edgar helped to find Vilma while his father ironed out his own affair with Vilma’s mother, who is now sick.  Edgar found Vilma asked her to go back home.  She agreed.  Vi and her mother reconcile and we thought this is the end but Vilma’s suitor Oscar kidnapped her. Thankfully, Edgar rescued her after the usual fight scenes. The film ended in the typical musical production number. Vilma singing her recorded hit song, “Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Love You.” Rico Bello Omagap’s story and screenplay was poor and so is Leonardo L. Garcia’s direction. There were so many unnecessary scenes particularly Edgar Mortiz’s several singing segments in his house back yard garden, while being watch by his two young siblings.  Another one was Ben David’s character despite the attempt to add some comedy.  At times Perla Bautista was convincing but some scenes can be edited shorter. After watching Edgar Loves Vilma, you will not feel the love. – RV

Edgar “Bobot” Mortiz (born September 8, 1954) is a Filipino movie/TV actor and director. Mortiz is married to Millette Santos (born 1960; sister of Charo Santos-Concio) on April 3, 1977, with 4 children: Edgar Francis “Frasco” (born 1978), Edgar Albert “Badjie” (born 1980), Ma. Carmela Catalin “Calin” (born 1981) and Ma. Frances Camille (born 1983). Frasco, Badji and Camille are now married giving Edgar five cute grandchildren named Joaquin Edgar, Julien Alva, Edgar Carlos, Jayla Sophia and Francis Marcus. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

FILM REVIEW: DARNA VS THE PLANET WOMEN


The Plot: She is just a simple woman-a lady gifted with disability that she cannot leave her crutch. Narda/Darna (Vilma Santos) is very much contented with her life – having the company of her little brother and their grandmother not to mention her someone special who already accepts and love her for who she is. She has a greatest dream of helping and touching the lives of many but buried that in her heart given the situation that she has. Who would imagine that she will be chosen as the saviour of the Mother Earth against the dangerous attempt of the aliens from other planet? She was chosen to be strong and powerful “Darna”, a local superhero whose role is to depend the people and stop the plan of invasion from women in another planet. They want to use the earth as the extension of their planet by killing its people especially the experts in all areas such as metal, nuclear, moral and others. Darna has to act and who knows how much she is going to sacrifice with the given MISSION… Kabayan Central (READ MORE)

The Reviews: “In this 1975 film (the 3rd in a 4 Darna film franchise), the story of Darna is rebooted as this new installment is NOT a continuation of the 1st and 2nd films. In this revamped version, Narda (Vilma Santos) is a cripple who dreams of accomplishing great things for the betterment of humankind despite her physical limitations. One day, she discovers her suitor (Zandro Zamora) paralyzed after having been attacked by a UFO. Together with her brother Ding (Bentot Jr.), she prays for help and offers to sacrifice herself for the sake of her suitor’s survival. A voice from beyond answers and sends her an enchanted amulet of power. The power of Darna contained within the magic pebble. With her newfound powers, she battles The Planet Women- Alien Amazons who are trying to transport the Earth to their own star system.” – Eric Cueto, Mars Ravelo’s Darna (READ MORE)

“Vilma Santos 3rd Darna movie.another thrilling episode in highly-popular Darna series. Narda (Vilma Santos) is a pretty, provincial lass whose only desire in life is peace and brotherhood for all humanity. Narda’s prayers are answered when she recieves a gift of of supernatural powers as the super woman (Darna). Darna has a motley crew of beauteous female alliens for nemesis. The girls have come to planet earth to literaly suck in the minds of brilliant scientists. Their ultimate goal is to use this knowledge, along with their own, to produce amaster race capable of ruling the entire universe. Stars Rosanna Ortiz as (Elektra), Zandro Zamora as (Ramon), Bentot jr as( Ding), Lita Vasquez, Eva linda, Liza Zobel as The planet women…” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…the truth is that Santos didn’t appear in the Darna movies out of hunger, and was in fact already a star at the time of first taking the role. I think this says as much about the stature of Darna as it does about that of Santos. Darna was, after all, an iconic figure in her own right at that point, having been the star of both a best-selling comic book and a popular series of movies for over twenty years. Given that, I imagine that the offer to play her, despite bearing with it the risk of ending up looking a bit ridiculous, was a difficult one to refuse — just as the opportunity to play such freighted pop cultural totems as Batman or Superman has been for many Hollywood actors who might otherwise have been loath to parade before their audience stuffed like sausages into form-fitting lycra…With its dodgy technical execution and resolutely rural sensibility, Darna vs. the Planet Women is third world pulp cinema at its purest, with the most extreme example of conspicuous consumption seen on screen being the destruction of a chicken shack. Still, you just know that I’m going to say that I enjoyed it anyway, and I did. Vilma Santos makes for an appealingly plucky heroine, and it’s not hard to see why she is such a beloved figure in her country. On top of that, the film, like the most savvy hostess, shows that it knows how to entertain on a budget, delivering up a generous amount of cheesy thrills with the simple application of colored paints on an impressive expanse of exposed flesh, some imaginative repurposing of discarded household objects in its cash-strapped sci-fi sets, and some truly head-slap worthy primitive special effects. That’s enough to guaranty that I’ll be taking another return trip to Darnaland in the very near future.” – Todd Stadtman of Lucha Diaries (READ MORE)

Darna is a fictional character and Filipino comics superheroine created by writer Mars Ravelo and artist Nestor Redondo. In her more popular incarnations, she is a deceased warrior from another planet manifesting herself through a girl from Earth, named Narda. She first appeared in Pilipino Komiks #77 (May 13, 1950). Darna is a retooling of Ravelo’s earlier character Varga, whose stories he wrote and illustrated himself. She first appeared in Bulaklak Magazine, Volume 4, #17 (July 23, 1947). Ravelo left Bulaklak due to differences with the editors.

“…Starting in 1951, several Darna movies were made. Some made from 1973 onwards starred the future multi-awarded dramatic actress and politician Vilma Santos. In these 1970s films, Darna’s origin was changed; no longer a little girl, Narda was now in her late teens. Also, she herself becomes Darna, unlike the original where she just “channels” her (not unlike Jason Blood and Etrigan). Only Ding knows her secret in this version. Also, the stone comes out of Narda’s mouth every time she changes back; she has to swallow it every time she wants to transform (This became standard for following versions). Darna is not specified as coming from Marte, just as a “warrior of Light”. This version of Darna became most people’s idea of the character for about 3 decades. A catchphrase popularized by the movies and said by Narda runs, “Ding, ang bato!” (“Ding, [give me] the stone!”) – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

RELATED READING:
IMDB: Darna vs. the Planet Women (1975)
IMDB: Mars Ravelo (1916–1988)
IMDB: Rosanna Ortiz
IMDB: Eva Linda
Official Mars Ravelo’s Darna web-site
Filmography: Darna vs. the Planet Women (1975)
Eva Linda sa Wish ko lang
“Actress Then, Housemaid Now” and “Gov. Vilma Santos Surprise!”
Gallery for Darna vs. the Planet Women
Vilma Santos: The Best Darna Ever!

Film Review: Leron-leron Sinta (1972)

FILMS - Leron-leron Sinta 2

The Plot: – Leron Leron Sinta stars Vilma Santos, Edgar Mortiz, Jay Ilagan, Florence Aguilar, Lillian Laing, Karlo Vero in this film that fuses music and film perfectly. Witness their characters explore the world of love and the beauty and madness that come with it. Watch them as they perform certain scenes with song numbers bringing pleasure and entertainment to the next level. – Kabayan Central (READ MORE)

The Reviews: – “Leron-leron Sinta” (1972) started when Gigi (Florence Aguilar) and Beth (Vilma Santos) moved to a new house and found new suitors, Spike (Jay Ilagan) and Noel (Edgar Mortiz). The two pairs swapped partners a couple of times that by the time they decided to elope they decided to stop their civil wedding at the last-minute after they realized they’re all not ready.  Leron-Leron Sinta reminded us of Glee, with Florence Aguilar auditioning to a school choir and with several cover songs like Lennon’s “Imagine.”  It also featured a funny scene where Edgar Mortiz did a duet with Florence, he, singing in his window while she answered back, singing in their house balcony.  Feeling irritated, both Vilma and Jay sarcastically screamed, “wow! ala-Romeo and Juliet!”  Leron is watchable but has some noticeable flaws.  On the first part, suddenly, we see both Jay and Edgar cross-dressing and we realized that this was a continuity scene of the later part of the film, where Gigi and Beth decided to entertain other suitors (as both got fed up with Jay and Edgar’s courting antics).  Like most musical films in the 70s, there’s the typical travelogue scenes.  The film showcased the city of Antipolo while the four main characters did some sight-seeing, like tourists.  As part of the story, the film showcase Edgar and Florence’s singing talents which were justifiable as both were member of their school’s choir unlike other musical films where the singing scenes were just added with no connections to the film’s story.  This can be attributed to a much equipped team of writer,  Nestor Torre Jr. and director, Emmanuel Borlaza, who also came up with Vilma’s first significant drama, Dama de Noche.  But like so many film in this era, Leron-leron Sinta, also ended with a musical production number, this time, it’s a Christmas medley.  Child star Beth Manlongat and Angelito provided some funny moments.  And Lilian Laing too.  But the one star who stole the film from the four main characters was veteran comedian, Bayani Casimiro who was very funny as the forgetful judge and who tried to marry the four undecided teens.

Film Review: Biktima (1974)

FILMS - BIKTIMA

Release Date: June 23, 1974 (Philippines)

The Plot: – In a strange turn of events, Dolores (Vilma Santos) moves in to live with her grandfather, who has sole custody of her ever since her mother was imprisoned for the murder of Dolores’ father. Mystery unfolds as Dolores stays with her grandfather when members of the household are murdered one by one. Will Dolores escape the chaos unraveling around her or will she be the next victim? – Kabayan Central (READ MORE)

The Reviews: – Hired by Don Rafael Valdez (Joe Sison), Attorney Andrade (Leopoldo Salcedo) finally convinced Dolores (Vilma Santos) to live with her rich grandfather, Don Rafael. This is despite the warning of her aunt, Tiya Dadeng (Patria Plata) and the warning of her mother, Lourdes (Perla Bautista) who is in prison. She was framed-up and wrongfully convicted of her father’s death. When Dolores came to her grandfather’s mansion, one by one, people are starting to die. This includes her grandfather’s young wife (Elizabeth Vaughn); Monica Valdez (Celia Rodriguez); Magda (Divina Valencia); the gardener (Yoyoy Villame); and Marita (Helen Gamboa). By the time the last victim died, the surprise killer was expose, the killer was Dolores. She tried to revenge her mother’s imprisonment and her father’s death. It was also revealed that her aunt’s husband (Bert Le Roy Jr.) was the one who killed her father. Her father tried to rape their grandfather’s nurse, Marita (Helen Gamboa), she fought hard and stabbed her father. Bert Leroy Jr. framed-up Dolores’ mother who was the first person on the scene of the crime. In exchange for his silence he blackmailed Marita with sexual favors. Marita didn’t know that Dolores’ father was still alive but Leroy finished the job by stabbing him more.

Written by Jose Flores Sibal with writing credit from the film’s lead star, Vilma Santos, Biktima was surprisingly watchable. Compared to other Vilma Santos films that Nilo Saez directed like Kampanerang Kuba, he did a convincing job in ironing out the many characters of the film (maybe except for Divina Valencia’s role who was one of the first to die). This is perhaps due to the excellent cast. The one who stands out more were Celia Rodriguez and Helen Gamboa. Both gave subdued performances. Edgar Mortiz’ role as assistant investigator was just to appeal to the loyal festival followers of Vi and Bot. By this time, it was clear that Vilma’s career are heading upward while Mortiz was heading to a different path. The ending of the film, showing a bald Vilma Santos in preparation for her demise was the film’s dramatic highlight.

FILM REVIEW: KARMA

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Plot Description: Sarah (Vilma Santos) is forced to defer her wedding when she scheduled to flight was delayed. At a hotel where she is staying, Sarah encounters Eric (Ronaldo Valdez), a regular guest who forces himself on her. The incident leaves a stigma not just on Sarah but more so on her fiancé, Alfredo (Tommy Abuel) whose dream of marrying a “virgin” is dashed. Strangely, Sarah and Eric’s paths cross again at a time when their respective marriages are in disarray. Their meeting strikes both as “déjà vu.” Could it be that they have met each other in the past? Their suspicious are confirmed after Eric consults a psychic. As it turns out, Sarah and Eric are the reincarnation of Guada and Enrico, two lovers who had an illicit affair sixty years ago. When Guada’s husband, Limbo (Ruel Vernal), learned of her affair, he went on a murderous rampage. Now Sarah and Eric seem destined to follow the same path. But in whose spouse does the spirit of Limbo rest? Is it the disabled Alfredo? Or Eric’s estranged wife Cristy (Chanda Romero)? – Viva Films

Film Review: The technical preview of “Karma” the other night was delayed for about an hour but I did not mind waiting because I was quite certain that I’d be seeing a fine film. To while away the time, “Firecracker,” co-starring American actors with local talents like Chanda Romero, Vic Diaz, and Rey Malonzo was shown. Chanda and Vic delivered their lines themselves but surprisingly Rey didn’t. Before one whole reel could roll, the prints of “Karma” arrived. “Don’t stop it yet, a bed scene is coming,” Mario Bautista protested. Happily, “Karma” turned out to be as good as I expected. It’s performers are first-rate – Vilma Santos, Ronaldo Valdez, Tommy Abuel, Chanda Romero – so their award-winning acting didn’t surprise me at all. The script was outstanding but even that was expected, coming from director Danny Zialcita. What impressed me was that minor parts were played by name actors. The housekeeper who appeared in one short sequence could have been played by any elderly woman but those who made the movie wanted nothing less than Etang Discher. The psychiatrist could have been played by any decent-looking man but they didn’t settle for anybody less than Vic Silayan. The male lover at the start of the story had to be acted out by Dante Rivero, that at the end by Christopher de Leon. The movie boasted of several bold scenes. Those involving Vilma weren’t much as we know for a fact that Vilma could show only so much. One scene showing Chanda was a different story. It showed her with absolutely nothing on, yet it didn’t offend anybody as it was executed in style, shot with great care. There was just one thing, which looked unnatural to me – the way in which one of the main characters killed himself. “That’s all right,” Danny assured me. “Before we shot it, we double-checked its possibility.” Reincarnation and transference are undoubtedly mind-boggling subjects but, to his utmost credit, Danny managed to present them simply, bringing them down for everybody to understand. “Bala lang yan. Katawan lang ito. Babalik at babalik kami sa mundong ito,” Dante vowed. Come back they did as they promised building the foundation of the story. – Bob Castillo, People’s Journal Dec. 12, 1981 (READ MORE)

Sa pagbabago ng estado ni Vilma Santos, tila nagbabago na rin ang kanyang approach sa kanyang career. Dahil hindi na career ang unang priority niya sa buhay, lalong nagiging professional ang kanyang tingin sa trabaho. Dahil hindi na twenty-four hours a day ang kanyang buhay artista, alam na niyang I-apportion ang bawat minuto na walang aksaya. Sa set ng Relasyon ni Ishmael Bernal, hangang-hanga ang director sa bagong pang-unawa ni Vilma sa trabaho. Dumarating sa oras, kabisado ang linya (memorizing lines for Vilma, of course, was never a problem even the days she was shooting five pictures simultaneously), full attention sa sinasabi ng direktor, walang problema. Kung pagbabasehan sa naging resulta ng Karma, lalong maganda ngayon si Vilma, mas mariin ang kanyang pagganap, mas mature ang kanyang approach at understanding sa kaniyang papel. Swerteng-swerte ang pagkapanalo niya ng best actress sa nakaraang Film fest. Sayang at wala siya upang tanggapin mismo ang tropeo. Pero lalong naging makabuluhan para sa kanya ang sinabi ng kapwa niya artista sa Karma nang sabihin ni Chanda Romero na “napakaganda naman ng karma ni Vilma. Mayroon na siyang Edu, mayroon siyang Lucky, ngayon ay mayroon pa siya nito (ang ibig sabihin ay ang best actress trophy),” sabay tilian ng mga fans sa loob ng Cultural Center, walang makapigil, walang makasaway. Pero, gaya ng dati, hindi naging madali kay Vilma ang pananalo. Nagpatas ang botohan ng dalawang beses – triple tie sila ni Gina Alajar at Charo Santos, hanggang ma-break ang deadlock at nakaungos ng isang boto si Vilma sa dalawa pa niyang kalaban. Tinawagan si Vilma ni Cirio Santiago, pinasundo sa isang limousine, pero nagdahilan ang Vilma. Ayaw niya sigurong umasa dahil minsan, sa isang awards night din, sinigurong siya ang mananalo pero hindi ganun ang nangyari. (I understand that Vilma really won but the verdict was changed afterwards through the representations and machinations of some influential press sectors.) Kunsabagay, wala rin si Charito Solis noong awards dahil sabi sa akin ni Chato, talagang hindi niya inaasahang manalo ang maliit na papel na iyon sa Kisapmata. Noon pa mang preview pa lamang, maugong na ang balitang baka si Charito ang manalo bilang supporting actress pero hindi niya yun pinansin dahil tiyak na tiyak siya na si Vic Silayan ang mananalo. Sinabi pa niya sa interview niya kay Armida Siguion-Reyna sa Let’s Talk Movies na napakagaling ni Vic. Sa set pa lamang daw, natitiyak na niya halos na si Vic ay mananalo sa Kisapmata. Sa naturan ding programa, sinabi ni Armida sa pagre-review niya ng Karma na talagang magaling ang pagkakaganap ni Vilma sa Karma na parang nakuha nitong punuan ang ilang mahalagang kakulangan ng pelikula. – Oscar Miranda (READ MORE)

“26 years after we first seen “Karma,” the film remained Vilmanians’ favorites and one of Dany Zialcita’s best film. Glossy with crisp dialouge, the film was a big hit at the 1981 Metro Manila Film Festival and earned Vilma the festival’s best actress. Here was what movie reporter Mario Bautista said about her acting: “Ibang-iba” rin ang Vilma Santos sa “Karma.” Subdued na subdued ang performance ni Vi rito unlike in other films na all out ang emoting niya. Dito’y restrained siay at napaka-effective. Halimbawa sa eksena after the rape sa kanya ni Ronaldo Valdez. Nang sabihin niyang siya’y patungo sa kasal niya’y halos hindi na marinig ang kanyang tinig pero talaga namang damang-dama mo ang kirot sa kanyang dibdib. O kaya’y sa mga tagpong sinusumbatan siya ni Tommy Abuel na nanatili siyang kalmado at soft-spoken. We never thought Vilma can be that versatile!” – RV (READ MORE)

Zialcita’s first movie with Vilma was the 1980 festival entry, a drama about bigamy, Langis at Tubig. The following year, Zialcita and Santos joined forces again in antoher festival entry, Karma. The film earned Vilma her second Metro Manila Film Festival Best Actress. The following year, Ziacita’s Gaano Kadalas Ang Minsan broke box office record, Earned P7.3 million during its first day of showing in Metro Manila and assured Vilma Santos the box office queen of 1982. The total number of Vilma Santos and Danny Zialcita colloborations were four (Gaano Kadalas ang Minsan? 1982, Karma 1981, Langis at Tubig 1980, T-Bird at Ako). – RV (READ MORE)

“One of the most misunderstood occult concepts. The nearest equivalent in European thought is contained in the idea of fate, though the oriental term indicates the fate is not a haphazard sequence of events of experiences, but is dependent on actions of previous lives or spiritual conditions. The idea is that a spirit undertakes to live in an earthy body for a given period of time, usually in order to learn something which cannot be learned in a disembodied state, and has to accept rewards and punishments for good and bad deeds committed in previous incarnations. In order that understanding may grow, any evil committed against another person will have to be experienced by the perpetrator. The working out of Karma is not done consciously by ordinary people. The real reasons for the majority of people’s actions and relationships may be understood only when nature of their Karma is grasped – which is tantamount to saying that it is virtually impossible to understand or judge another person when seen in the context of one material lifetime only. Vilma Santos fits the role to a T. For the past years that she has suffered a string of major misfortunes and setbacks in real and reel life, she has hone herself as promise, a common objective: to give the viewing public what it wants – entertainment with a capital E. For Danny Zialcita, aside from having a good screenplay, good direction and brilliant actors and actresses, the movie should have artistic values. Karma promises to be a very good vehicle not only for Zialcita but also for Vilma Santos and the rest of the cast. Will this movie be a good KARMA for director Danny Zialcita, Vilma Santos and the rest of the cast? Watch the movie! It’ll be a different kind of feeling you’ll get after viewing it.” – Bond De Leon (READ MORE)

“…First, Karma is a quality picture. According to Mr. Ernie Rojas ng Sining Silangan, it was produiced not only to make it good in the box-office kungdi maging sa mga awards. Kungsabagay, may laman ang sinabi ni Mr. Rojas simply because Langis at Tubig, which was also producede by Sining Silangan last year, placed second in the tops earners and bagged the Best Actor Award for Dindo Fernando. Second, matagal na ring naipalabas ang latest film ni Vi na Hiwalay. Samakatuwid, maganda ang spacing ng mga pelikula niya, ‘Ika nga, hindi over-exposed ang beauty ni Vi. Dahil dito, nandiyan pa rin ang pananabik ng manonood kaya’t siguradong dudumugin ang Karma. …” – Manny A. Valera (READ MORE)

“…In my limited understanding it takes lifetimes to work off one’s karma. Movies, however, only run for two hours so filmmakers have to take liberties. In Danny Zialcita’s 1981 film Karma the protagonists have the added advantage of knowing exactly who they were in their past lives, thanks to a psychiatrist (Vic Silayan) who practices regression hypnosis. Eric (Ronaldo Valdez, who is smoking, and not just in the library where he researches his former incarnation) and Sarah (Vilma Santos) have already met under awful circumstances, but it turns out they’ve known each other much longer than that. In the past they were Enrico and Guada, illicit lovers murdered by Guada’s husband, Limbo. Limbo vows to follow them to the next life, but which form does he take? Is he now Enrico’s mentally unbalanced, pathologically jealous wife Cristy (Chanda Romero), or Sarah’s cruel, sadistic husband Alfredo (Tommy Abuel). It’s not a whodunnit, it’s a who-will-do-it? Vilma Santos turns in another fine portrayal of emotional turmoil. Nora Aunor had the advantage of expressing volumes with her eyes; Vilma expresses with her face, hands, and entire body. Nora was inward, Vilma outward. Ronaldo Valdez gives an understated performance, coolly delivering lines like, “In love there’s no measure of time”. Tommy Abuel overacts ridiculously, even for a guy so suspicious that he has his wife examined by a gynecologist to see if she’s had sex. Chanda Romero is fabulous. Her Cristy is a psychotic who never raises her voice; you can tell she has tranquilizers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The first time Cristy and Sarah meet is at the antique store Sarah manages at the old Virra Mall. Cristy breezes in, picks out a bunch of stuff, and announces that she doesn’t carry cash or credit cards, just send the bill to her husband. She points to another piece she buys, and Sarah says, helpfully, “That’s P9,500.” “Ok lang,” Cristy says, “Nagtanong ba ako? (Did I ask?)” One thing about Danny Zialcita movies: his rich people looked and sounded like rich people. He made movies for sophisticated grown-ups. If they don’t make movies like Zialcita’s anymore, it’s because people are no longer that articulate. Nobody casually tosses off bon mots anymore, everything has to be overstated for the dim. So we Zialcita fans are reduced to reciting favorite lines from his movies: “Puede bang makausap ang asawa ko na asawa mo na asawa ng buong bayan?” (May I speak to my husband who’s your husband who’s everybody’s husband?)…” – Jessica Rules The Universe (READ MORE)

Film Review: Makahiya at Talahib (1976)

FILMS - Makahiyat Talahib 3

The Plot: – “…Arturo (Rudy Fernandez) is a convict on the run after being framed for rape. Aurora (Vilma Santos), a sculptress at odds with her overbearing mother (Gloria Romero), falls for him and is convinced of his innocence. When Arturo takes revenge on those who framed him, Aurora helps him plot his escape. This, while her sister Beatriz (Trixia Gomez) has a brief affair with Arturo…” – Music & Laughter TV (READ MORE)

The Reviews: – Produced by Goodwill Productions, Makahiya at Talahib (1976) featured Rudy Fernandez as Arturo Clemente, an escapee who was wrongly convicted for rape and murder of a child.  He was rape in jail and psychologically tortured and successfully escaped.  The film started with Arturo attempted hijacked a vehicle from two men.  He took their clothes and truck while allowing them to run for their lives naked.  He went back to his hometown and hide in the forest.  The following scenes were the introduction of Aurora (Vilma Santos, whose voice was noticeably dubbed by someone), Arturo’s lover, a wood carver.  While at work, she and Steve (Romeo Rivera) heard the news about Arturo’s escape.  The radio broadcast mentioned the killing of a prison guard and that Arturo is armed and dangerous.  Meanwhile, her sister Beatrice (Trixia Gomez) was seen making out with a man in the rice farm, an obvious ploy to get the attention of male movie goers, as even with this scenes deleted, it will not affect the movie’s main story.

The news of Arturo’s come back made the guilty party scared, Ingo (max Alvarado) and Steve together with their gang discussed their next move, both warned about Arturo’s possible revenge.  Also worried is Aurora’s mother (Gloria Romero), she told her two daughters about the looming danger and reminded Aurora of not to get involve.  Baldo, (Rocco Montalban) was the first goon to die.  Arturo met him.  They fought and Baldo, was seen collapsing. Arturo left assuming he killed the goon.  The next day, Beatrice warned her sister that she still likes Arturo.  Aurora found Arturo in the forest, she confronted him and realized that Arturo was confuse but convinced he is innocent.  But she convinced him that he should turned himself in.  She asked for their town’s parish priest help but it was too late.   The real killer, Steve and his gang together with the town’s police group surrounded Arturo’s secret hide away.  He was shot and killed.   The end.

Written and directed by Emmanuel H. Borlaza, Makahiya’t Talahib spooned-fed its story to its viewers.  No element of surprise, as we already know from the very beginning that Arturo is innocent.  It was obvious that the film tried to sell sex.  The ending, showing the kissing scene of Rudy Fernandez and Vilma Santos despite it’s limitation was use as the film’s promo.   Trixia Gomez’s several unnecessary sex scenes would be more fitting to entice the male movie goers.  Unfortunately, Gomez’ daring scenes weren’t enough and even with Rudy and Vi’s tame sex scenes, the film failed both commercially and artistically.  Although many considered this film as a prelude to Vilma’s career transformation the following year via “Burlesk Queen.”  Testing her fans with her  first screen kissing scene.  But this milestone was eclipse by her decision to allow someone to dub her own voice.  Meanwhile, Rudy Fernandez tried very hard to portrayed Arturo but lack the intensity.  Like Aurora’s unfinished wood sculptures, the supporting cast needs more sculpting.  Gloria Romero’s acting was ordinary.  Trixia Gomez’s was bland.  Romeo Rivera, Rocco Montalban and Max Alvarado were all stereotypically uneventful.  It was reported that Borlaza was so in-demand, he was shooting two films at the same time while doing Makahiya.  In an interview, he admitted “his film was more commercial than Brocka or Bernal but he’s not bother by this criticism.  As he’s more concern on what his audience wants to see and making sure his producer made profit.”  Unfortunately, “Makahiya at Talahib” needs more work to be credible and believable otherwise like what Aurora did on her wood carved sculpture in the end, the film should be throw and trash.  – RV