Monday, November 30, 2009

Eddy Woody: Jail Bait (1954)

Right off the bat, let me make one thing clear: this film is not about hot, under-age girls. If it were, I would have reviewed it a long time ago. Ba dum bum ching! But seriously, there is a film about that: Lolita. Mind you, there is also Child Bride, but that is a film for another day. Today's film is, of course, by Ed Wood. It is a fairly-forgotten movie of his, mostly due to the ironic notoriety given to Plan 9 From Outer Space and its ilk. Is it a good movie then? Well, it's a crime thriller made by Ed Wood, so, no. It is an interesting one, if for no other reason than to see Wood do a film that has no sci-fi or horror elements to it. Besides, The Sinister Urge is terrible and it was either that film or this one. Did I make the right choice? Find out in my review of...
The film begins with a woman (Dolores Fuller) showing up a police station to bail her brother out of lock-up. The guy is not exactly repentant and has a bit of an attitude. He was arrested for carrying a gun without a license (ah, the 1950s). In the movie's funniest part, he actually demands to be given his gun back! Naturally, the police say 'no.' Back at home, the sister tells him to stop with his criminal ways, but he will have none of it. It is at this point that she utters the film's title line in exclaiming that carrying a gun is 'jail bait.' Yeah, that's a real stretch, Ed! We learn that the duo are the children of Doctor Gregor (he is not given a first name), who is a world famous plastic surgeon. I don't know how you get 'world famous' as a surgeon, but whatever. A bit later, the young man meets up with his partner in crime, an older man who is pulling the strings. Fun fact: the actor that played the villain later went on to be a cop in real life- no lie! Meanwhile, the cops hang out and talk about the kid is going down the wrong path. Is there crime to be solved guys? Another fun fact: the young cop is Steve "Hercules" Reeves in his very first role. Mind you, it is hard to tell since he is not all that buff or has a beard.
*
Later that night, the two men hang out at a bar when the cops show up. They act threatening, but do nothing. That was quite pointless, thank you. Later that night, the sister meets up with the father. Final Fun Fact: Herbert Rawlinson, who played the father, died the night after shooting wrapped. The role was meant for Bela Lugosi, who would end up dying before shooting started on Plan 9 from Outer Space. The next night, the pair of criminals decide to pull of a theater heist. But, before that, the movie gives us a five minute comedy routine with a man in black face! I appreciate you guys preserving the film in it is original form, but I could have done without this, DVD producers. After that randomness, they break in, shoot the guard and a secretary, although the latter survives. The event makes the papers and it becomes clear that the son is the one that committed a murder. He freaks out over this and talks about turning him in. This spurs the career criminal to kill him in order to cover his own ass, an act that his girlfriend has no problem with. This is going to get complicated soon, isn't it?
*
When the heat does not die down, the criminal decides that he has one option: change his appearance. I wonder who has the skills to perform such an operation? If only there was a world famous surgeon in town...hey, wait a minute! Under threat of death and the 'reveal' of his son, the surgeon does the operation for the man. There is your usual stalling and bravado beforehand, of course. All the while, the police do...well, nothing. Thanks for being part of the plot, guys. Finally, they show up just in time for the big reveal. The bandage-wrapped criminal talks about how he is not who they think he is, which comes off a bit, um, odd. They pull off the bandages to reveal his face to be...that of the doctor's son. Faster than you can say 'oh crap, you had better run,' the man makes a break for it, but gets shot to death. The doctor explains that he never trusted the criminal and is pleased that he got his just deserts. The End.
*
While it's not terrible, this film is very dry. You go into an Ed Wood film and expect certain things. You expect funny dialogue, silly special effects and some hilarious acting. What you get here, however, is not quite that. The dialogue has some moments, but it's not that funnier than your atypical 1950s crime film. There are no special effects, save for the scar make-up at the end. I could count that minstrel show make-up, but I'm 99% sure that Wood did not film it. Can you say 'studio filler,' boys and girls? The acting is...pretty bad across the board. Rawlinson is not terrible, but Fuller and the rest underwhelm, to say the least. Reeves appears to be barely-alive in his role. Give the man some Red Bull, guys! This is an interesting film to watch as part of history, but comes off as an easily-forgotten part of Wood's filmography. When you see the final two parts of my Ed Wood Quintology, that will not be the case.
*
Up next, an 80s horror film returns to DVD print in time for my review. I hope you like claymation demons! Stay tuned...

Mondo Dictionary: Christopher Walken Role

We all know who Christopher Walken is. No matter what movie he's in, the man is always good. Not all of the movies he chooses to appear in are, however. Usually in those films, he has a very small role, which makes you like him even more. It's like the tiny crack of golden light that made its way into Danae's room while she was locked up by her father...but I digress. Here are some examples of other Christopher Walken Roles not played by the man himself.

Laserblast: Roddy Mcdowall briefly appears in this crappy movie as a doctor. In only his third scene, he is killed off and the movie suffers for it. Mind you, it's about a teenager who discovers an abandoned alien weapon in the desert, so it was not great to begin with.

Cyclone (1987): Jeffrey Combs has a small, but pivotal role in this Fred Olen Ray film. Sadly, the plot is centered around his character's death. This is not a SPOILER, mind you, as the film's own plot synopsis mentions it. As the only good actor in it (save for Robert Quarry in his last gasps of stardom), he needs to be, you know, the star!

Jason Goes To Hell: Let's face facts: Steven Williams as Creighton Duke was the best character. While he survives most of the film and has a bunch of scenes, he is often forgotten about for the main story featuring John D. LeMay, who is not up to par. Besides the fact that Kane Hodder's Jason is written out of most of the film.

Every bad kung-fu film with Pat Morita: This is a given, right? I mean, the man has appeared in so many of these movies. The man was in American Ninja 5, as well as Bloodsport II and III! In Ninja, he appears once in the first ten minutes and once in the last five. If there ever was a man who embodied the Christopher Walken Role besides Mr. Walken himself, it was Pat!

I could go on, but you get the point. This is a standard of all genres, ranging from action to comedy to horror. It would be nice if movie-makers would figure this out and focus their films on the good characters. I'm asking for too much, aren't I?

Up next, a new term for really over-done writing. I think you'll get my drift. Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Castle Crasher: Mr. Sardonicus

You should all know this name: William Castle. Even if you have not seen any of his films, you should at least know the name. The man got famous for his film gimmicks, even if his films are not as memorable. Another strange honor given to Mr. Castle is that he is a very popular subject of movie remakes. Of his works, there have been remakes of The House on Haunted Hill (plus a sequel to that) and 13 Ghosts. The only person who seems to be more popular in this department is Vincent Price (House of Wax, House on Haunted Hill, etc). I'm not here to talk about those films today though. I am here to talk about a Castle original. Of course, by a 'Castle original,' I mean that it is based on a book (i.e. 1975's Bug). It is an odd little film with an odd little gimmick. I will get into that part later. Let's begin...
Our film begins in London- only in some exterior stock footage- at a hospital. A brave, smart and super unrealistic doctor is helping a young girl who can't feel her legs. In true General Hospital fashion, he manages to do it, all the while being the most gallant man ever created in the history of mankind. He gets a mysterious letter and tells his assistant that he has to go. One travel montage later and he is in a vague, made-up country in Europe. By the way, since this movie is set during the late 19th Century, the trip takes months. He runs into the ticket taker as he leaves who proceeds to give him the old 'don't go to that house' routine. Interesting idea in 1931's Dracula, but this film was made in 1961! He shows up and meets his old girlfriend from years past. She acts very strange about the whole situation and does the 'saying something without saying something' bit. If you want to avoid genre cliches, look elsewhere, is the gist of it. He runs into a maid who is being 'treated' with leeches & puts a stop to it. He also runs into Krull, the weird assistant to the titular house-owner. Something is weird is going on in this house and only one man can explain it: Mr. Sardonicus.
*
The man finally makes his entrance and...wow, is he strange! He is wearing a plastic mask that covers his face. A pre-cursor to Jigsaw or just a crazy man- you decide! He does not eat around the others and just generally acts odd. He goes to his basement and meets up with a bunch of random women from town. What do he and Krull have in mind? The movie is sort of vague about the whole thing, but, whatever it is, it ends when the girl pulls off his mask (off-camera). She screams and it all goes to hell. More vagueness until our villain decides to explain the situation. It goes back to several years ago when he was once happy with his wife and father. His father bought a lottery ticket and left it in his coat. When he died that night, he was buried in it. Lo and behold, the ticket is a winner and our man begrudgingly decides to dig him up. When he opens the coffin, he is scared dramatically and runs away. When he gets home, his wife sees his face and screams. Why? This is why. Back in the present, he explains how he got rich, bought the title of Baron and how he wants his face to be fixed. Is there a doctor in the house? Oh right, there is!
*
You ever wonder how a movie continues for another forty minutes after the big reveal? Find out here, of course. Our hero initially refuses to do anything for Mr. Sardonicus, but relents when his choice is either do it or watch the woman be tortured. We get a long series of scenes of him testing his formulas on animals, which proves to be tormenting to his potential patient. He pressures the doctor to finally test on him, which he does. Before this, however, we get a scene where he explains what a syringe is. The whole 'old-timey setting' thing was fine in The Abominable Dr. Phibes, but really arbitrary here. You don't have to stick to the story this tightly, Castle. His curing method proves to be odd. Basically, he injects Sardonicus with some fluid and locks him in a room that contains his father's dead body. Yeah, he kept it, by the way. After a bit of theatrics, the man comes out and is cured. He agrees to let the doctor leave with the woman (his wife, by the way) and stays behind to let the treatment stick. At the train station (way to re-use sets, William) they get stopped by Krull. He explains that the master cannot open his mouth. The doctor explains that he gave Sardonicus a placebo.
*
This is where the ending gimmick comes in. Castle re-appears and explains that we, the viewer, get to vote on whether or not we Sardonicus gets the good ending or the bad ending. We 'vote' via cards given out at the theater. Since I only rented the movie, I didn't get one. The bad ending involves Krull coming back and lying about catching up to the doctor. He proceeds to eat all the food as Sardonicus suffers. The End.
*
This movie is actually good, but definitely has some faults. To begin with, the stagy is a bit dated and does not hold up too well. Secondly, the whole 'voting' angle is a lie, as only one ending was ever shot. The confusion about this came when a second ending was 'discovered.' This was actually an alternate version made for drive-ins in which Castle told viewers to flash their lights to vote, as opposed to the cards. The acting is pretty understated, although the man playing Krull is quite good. Our hero is just so bland and only really shows any spine in the last twenty minutes. As the villain, Sardonicus does a good job, but does not stand out in comparison to Castle's most famous villain actor: Vincent Price. Mind you, that is a big performer to live up to! All that said, the movie was enjoyable and did get the desired effect. I can't ask for much more from a William Castle film. Even Price himself admitted in 1989 that Castle was much more flash than substance, albeit in a loving way.
*
Next up, an early Ed Wood film. This one involves crime, police and surgery. Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Blockbuster Trash: Vampire Assassin (2005)

As my page has taught us, some things are simply too good to be true. When it came to today's movie, my friend and I thought: 'a low-budget version of Blade- that should be funny.' As you may guess, the film turned out to not be. It's not a serious film, mind you, but it is a bad one. The movie was designed to be a showcase for some wannabe martial artist named Ron Hall. In fact, not only is he the star, but he is the writer and director as well! Can you say 'vanity piece,' boys and girls? By the way, if the name 'Ron Hall' is not ringing a bell, don't be surprised. Even with all the crappy, low-budget kung-fu films I watch, this is the only film that I have seen by him. After you finish the review, you will see how much of a blessing this truly is. I welcome you into the world of...
The film centers around our protagonist: Derek Washington. His life was a good one until it was marked by tragedy: the death of his father. He was unfortunate enough to witness this event, which gave him a phobia of blood. Oh God, Blackjack flashbacks! Anyhow, this is a little bit strange of a reaction to get. There is an actual fear of death or murder, so why not use that? It's not like there is a ridiculous story device that hinges on this idea. Oh wait, there is! Nevermind then. Fortunately, the man grows up to do the world's safest and most blood-free job: a police officer! You just couldn't be an accountant, huh? Being an action movie, he has to go on a big drug bust. Being a horror movie, something has to go horribly awry. As you may have already guessed, this involves vampires. If you have had the chance to see Spoony's Let's Play on Terror Trax: Track of the Vampire, it is pretty similar. Unfortunately, we are not *blessed* by the presence of an American Gladiator in the cast. Anything would have helped here!
*
After the incident, our hero is a bit spooked and needs to figure out what happened. Fortunately, he runs across a vampire killer that just happens to also live in the inner city of L.A. as well. What lazy screen-writing...I mean, what are the odds? This killer is played a well-worn character actor named Gerald Okamura, who has been in both Ninja Academy and Pocket Ninjas. Thanks, Wikipedia! This part gets a bit dull, given that we go through all the conventions in quick succession. Cliched bit about not believing in anything supernatural- check. Training montage- check. Terrible acting all-around- big check! The only interesting thing is the collection of authentic-looking weapons. Of course, put these in the hands of our lead and he manages to take all the interest out of them too! On the plus side, Rudy Ray Moore (R.I.P.) is entertaining in his usual fashion. Mind you, his role is criminally-small, since they probably did not have enough funk in the budget to get more out of him. He really is The Christopher Walken role (upcoming Mondo Dictionary entry). Blah blah blah, the vampire is evil and must be killed by our hero.
*
Do you know what 'over-choreographed' kung-fu looks like? Well, if you watch this movie, you sure will! Basically, it is when the people involved never look like they are fighting, but, instead, look like they are doing a dance routine. This movie is full of that crap. Hall tries to look bad-ass in his leather coat, but does not succeed. I should also mention that he does not look like the guy on the DVD cover. I don't know who that guy is, but they should have hired him for the actual movie. Any high-points here? Besides our hero's obviously-sheet metal sword, not really. One funny bit comes from when they cheap out on having an arrow pierce a box in the background. They blatantly shove the arrowhead between two of the boxes to create the effect. As per the Obi Wan Kenobi Rule, the master must die before the student can transcend to achieve success. Of course, the only thing this movie did successfully was put me to sleep. The End.
*
Did I mention that this is a bad movie? If you did not get the hint already, don't watch this movie! The direction is flat, the script is dull and the acting is...direct-to-DVD action movie quality. As much crap as people give Ed Wood before being a writer/director/actor in his own films, but he usually made them funny in an ironic way. Mr. Hall, on the other hand, made a boring film about people fighting vampires with swords! It takes a special hand to achieve such a dubious feat. All of the so-called action stars do not exactly excite and the only fun on hand involves Moore's appearances, as brief as they are. I never thought that I would look forward to seeing the star of Petey Wheatstraw, The Devil's Son-In-Law appear! This is just another feat that Ron Hall has achieved. For your next trick, make a good movie!
*
Up next, a long out-of-print film from William Castle returns to DVD. Is it worth smiling about? Stay tuned...

Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: Deliverance

This is another one of those 'the movie is good, but...' situations. I'm not hear to say that Deliverance is bad. I'm here to say that this poster is awesome.

Doesn't that look neat? It's like if David Lynch or Dali did the film! Also, that eye injury looks quite painful.

Up next, another foreign movie poster that makes you wonder what movie they watched. Stay tuned...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Poor Bastards of Cinema:12 Rounds/The Deadly Spawn

Today I want to cover a pair of guys whose punishment is doled out in different ways for the same so-called crime.
12 Rounds
The plot of the film involves an odd revenge scheme by a crazed terrorist man. Basically, while he was fleeing, his girlfriend was killed and he blamed the cop for pursuing him. It's sort of like suing the curb for damaging your hood. Anyhow, the man has planned a very elaborate way to get revenge.
*
The first round of the titular revenge scheme involves blowing up the man's (WWE wrestler John Cena) house. This is bad enough, but there was a plumber left inside. His only offense: giving the cop advice for fixing his life. That bastard!
The Deadly Spawn
In this odd monster movie, a pod full of aliens has landed in a nice neighborhood and begins to wreak havoc. Early on, they hide out in one of the basements. Dun dun dun!
*
An early victim of the monsters is an electrician, who was called in earlier to fix a problem. The poor guy does not even get a single line of dialogue or a name! He just becomes a big pile of gore and viscera. At least give the guy a name!

Up next, a priest learns the lesson about being a bit player in a kung-fu film. Stay tuned...

Import/Export: Fist of the North Star (American)

If you are a fan of anime and its ilk, then you may already be familiar with this movie. Most of you do not like it one bit. In fact, two of my friends- one in particular- have been pushing me to do this one. Is it because they don't like me? Maybe. Or is it more likely that they want my peak level of cinematic rage directed at their object of hate? Probably a bit of both, but that's alright. This movie is based on the famous anime that features massive bodily dismemberment. Since this movie is not Rated X, you automatically know that you aren't getting the full treatment. Now, that said, the movie does feature more blood fountains that most of your kung-fu beat-em-up movies. The only other thing I will say is that the few points where this film really sticks to the source material also cause some odd problems. Without further delay, this is...
The film begins with a long-winded narration by Malcolm McDowell of all people. He speaks about how the world as we know it ended, but never really says how. You want to explain this apocalypse, guys? He is more focused on the struggle between the Southern Cross and the North Star. In a rare movie instance, he gets to narrate his own death. Don't worry- he gets to be all Obi Wan Kenobi here. His son is Kenshiro (Gary Daniels), who is a muscular white man with peperoni-shaped scars on his chest. I'm sure that there is a good explanation for those...in some other movie. I should also mention that McDowell does not cover his accent (as a character named Ryuken) and Kenshiro has an Australian accent. What kind of crazy apocalypse is this? Anyhow, a man named Shin has become a dictator and established a force of Road Warrior wannabes to enforce his rule. They attack a small village (whose residents include Melvin Van Peebles and 'Downtown' Julie Brown) with their weird car/motorcycle things. The high point of their rampage is Clint Howard riding around on a motorcycle and shooting people, smiling the whole time. There is also a wannabe tough guy (Dante Basco aka Rufio) and his blind sister. You want to save someone, Ken?

After staying with a couple in the wastelands (the husband is character actor Tracey Walter), he awakens to find them being attacked by thugs. They are so powerful that they make Tracey go from standing to on the ground with no action! Ken bursts into action quite literally as he kicks through a wall and dislodges one man's jaw. He punches another man in the back and causes his chest to burst forward, but without any blood. The last man gets the Five Point...er, 1,000 Point Exploding Heart...er, Head Technique. It looks silly and is one of the main points that pisses of the anime fans. Guys, there was no way that was going to look good. So Ken comes to town and uses his powers to cure the blind girl. Wait, what?!? Unfortunately, Ken/Jesus does not stay to help, so Bat (Basco) follows him around to convince him. Yeah, he's one of those characters. After two 'build up the town's defenses,' the villains return and meet no real resistance. It is not until the formerly-blind girl screams that Ken decides to go help. Don't ask me to explain how is supposed to be hearing that, by the way. To pad the film out, we get tons of Chris Penn scenes and cutaways to Shin being evil. When the plot moves forward, Ken kills a bunch of them (including The Man They Call Vader). In this fight, he does his really silly posing. Time for the big fight!

Our hero rides into Southern Cross and into the lobby of the building of evil. He proceeds to run into about forty no-name thugs and defeat them. Want to guess about whether or not they land a single blow? I didn't think so. For more padding, Penn is guarding Ken's girlfriend, who he thinks is dead. I should mention that Ken's scars came from an earlier torture scene where Shin poked his finger through his chest several times! Logic and physics are on vacation, guys! Penn chases her around and steals the scene. Meanwhile, Shin (in a weird apron/shirt) and Ken face off. The problem: the fight is never even. First, Ken beats him up (with spin kicks), then Shin beats up Ken (with punches) and then Ken beats him up again. He survives Shin's super special-effects punch- which causes blood to shoot out of his arm joints and chest- and wins the day. Fun drinking game for you: take a shot every time Ken does a showy jump-kick. Around this time, the girlfriend defeats Penn by taking off his head-wrap, which causes Ken's earlier exploding head punch to finish. Don't ask me to explain that either, please. The lovers reunite and all is well. Although, Bat is still dead from a knife wound. The End.

This movie is...well, not good. There are plot holes so big that Ken seems to have punched them, the acting ranges from dull (Gary Daniels) to over-the-top (Chris Penn). Shin (Costas Mandylor) is a very underwritten character who usually seems to be staring off into the distance. The writing on him is curious, as he seems to want to be sympathetic sometimes and just plain evil at others. It does not come off as deep- just bi-polar. Daniels could not act his way out of a bag, although I'm sure he could still flex his way out of one. The special effects are silly and not up to par for the gore you would expect from this title. As far as live-action adaptations of animes go, you can do worse. The big crime of this movie is not sticking to the source material in many key ways, although they make a *decent* movie at times. This movie could have worked if they had committed to the over-the-top nature of the story and given you some real gore. Oh wait, someone did that. It's called Riki-Oh! I'd rather just watch that movie again, thank you.

Next up, a film that leaves a big stain on Rudy Ray Moore's acting legacy. Wait- did I just say 'acting' and 'Rudy Ray Moore' in the same sentence? Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Real Turkey: Pocahauntus

First off, thanks for spending some time with me on your holiday. Unless, of course, you are reading this for the first time on Friday or Saturday, in which case, screw you. I kid, I kid. Today's film is one I stumbled across on Netflix and thought 'I'm not going to find a worse holiday film to review on Thanksgiving than this.' Of course, had I noticed ThanksKilling, I may have ended up with that one. This time of year is all about sharing though, so why not cover more than one crappy movie on this day? This movie ties into one of the more controversial elements of this holiday: the Indians. Yeah, yeah- we killed all of them and stole their land. It's all very tragic, but it's not like someone will ever use it as a premise for a bad horror movie. Oh right, there is this one...Our film begins by introducing us to our oddly-large cast of characters. When a film can't write one good character and feels the need to give you 20, I'm worried. One of them is introduced in a slow-mo shot of her washing herself with a garden hose. The film juxtaposes that in a *wacky* manner by having a guy do the same thing. Ha ha...it's funny because its immensely-stupid. By the way, that man is played by Barry Ratcliffe, who also wrote the movie. Fun fact: he also gives an 'unbiased' review of the movie on its Netflix page. Anyhow, we have more characters to introduce. We have a porn star who wears a wig and berates her horrible gay stereotype of a stylist. His name is Mangina, although it is pronounced Man-geena. If you're not laughing yet, you never will. We also meet a blond woman who throws up a party and is *ironically* introduced as a socialite. There is a man as well, a stoned-out loser who has a shrill girlfriend. This pays off later...sort of. Lastly- at least for my purposes- we meet a gynecologist who is named Dr. Beth Anigav. No, really. This is the kind of movie that we are going to have to deal with. Anyhow, our giant cast is all invited to a weekend in the woods. I guess nobody has ever read '10 Little Indians,' huh?

So yeah, the middle part of this movie is all about these terrible characters interacting. My soul hurts, which may or may not be related. Stoner guy hits on the porn star girl, which goes nowhere. The two lesbians hit on each other, but don't really do anything. In fact, with this cast, you would expect copious nudity. You would be wrong, which makes the experience all the more painful. At least if there are boobs on screen, I can tune out the dialogue, but, no, I had to listen to every painful word! After a long period of nothing but awful writing, we get to see our villain: Pocahauntus. She is the spirit of the Indian girl who cannot rest since the slaughter of her people lingers over her. This synopsis is something that the movie takes over thirty minutes to actually get around to explaining. What could possibly be more important than actual character back-story? How about the lesbians making seven or eight jokes about 'eating out' in roughly two minutes? How about one of the male leads flashing his shiny, sparkle-covered speedo. Priceless...I mean, worthless. Tomato, tomato.

For the love of God, would someone get killed please! Either its me or you people! The movie is sort of vague about its kill scenes, which is never a good thing. One fat man is shown being stabbed, but shows up in the next scene. Huh? About three scenes later, he is stabbed in the stomach again and actually dies. Thank God, we did not go for a hat-trick! The 'socialite' is stabbed and left stuck to a tree. One of the men- who looks/dresses oddly like Bruce Campbell on Burn Notice is sort of ho-hum about the discovery. Another pair are killed in a car via some weird bit of Indian magic. I would explain it, but they don't, so screw it! Pocahauntus appears in front of another pair of people and sends a weird, magic symbol at them. What it does is anyone's guess. After over an hour of this crap, my brain has given up. It all ends with one woman being left alive and apparently framed for the killings. The real guilty party is the people on the other side of the cameras. The End.

Oh dear God, was this terrible. It was a bad comedy, a boring film and a non-gory horror film. We get one shot of gore, mind you, but I've seen worse things on CSI: Miami! The advantage of doing Independent Horror is that you don't have to play by the rules, but they don't even bother. The film wants you to laugh at annoying and ugly people. Maybe the idea is that we want them to die. In that regard, the movie is a major success! The premise could have worked with any one of the following things: real actors, an actual screenwriter and any direction. As someone who has tried and failed to make a movie, I know it is not an easy process. That said, I would rather be a failed director than the director of Pocahauntus!

Next up, a film that my friends are *adamant* about me doing. This live-action adaptation of an anime can't be as bad as everyone thinks, can it? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

'70s Trash: Blood Freak

You should already know that I hate this movie. I mean, it is my Litmus Test for how bad a movie can be. With that said, if you have not seen this movie or even heard about it in great detail, you need to. It is a bizarre piece of film history that shall never- I hope- be repeated. Of course, now watch McG remake it in 2013. The movie's plot and execution are beyond all logical belief. You will spend the whole movie thinking 'who thought that this was a good idea?!?' Of course, that's if you manage to stay awake during the first hour. I challenge you to stick with me, since I already sat through this piece of crap for you. This is...
As the credits roll, a woman's car apparently runs into some trouble and she pulls off to the side of the road. Fortunately for her, a nice young man (co-director Steve Hawkes) on a motorcycle pulls up and helps her. In repayment, she invites her to come to her house, but not for what you think. You see, when the pair get there, they discover that the other sister is there with her druggie friends. The sister talks down to them and tells them that Jesus is the only drug they need. Okay, she doesn't really say that exactly, but that's pretty much the implication. Our hero- Herschell (ha ha)- proves to be the most boring man ever put on film as he just sort of stares at them. This 'hip young man' delivers some droning dialogue about how drugs aren't 'his bag' or some nonsense. The sound editing here is so crappy that you have to really focus to hear anything. Later on, this will prove to be a blessing. In spite of this reaction, he grows to be friends with the druggie sister, despite his protests about drug use. The good one gets the man a job at the dad's turkey farm. Yeah, this movie is boring, but it will get better...in a way.
*
After all of his talk about not using drugs, Herschell eventually relents and smokes up. Say it ain't so! Not only that, but he has taken to recreational sex outside of marriage. That's a good enough segue to mention the other big problem with the film: the narrator (aka the co-director). The man randomly pops up in what appears to anyone's den from the 1970s and talks about Herschell's journey. To really ramp up the irony, the man talks about the dangers of drug addiction while constantly smoking. Near the end, he actually has a minute-long coughing fit, which was somehow kept in. I'd make a joke about them not knowing how to edit, but it is far too true! In spite of all of that, the man's job at the turkey farm is going well. A pair of scientists there- why they work there, I don't know- want to test an experimental turkey meat. Naturally, they choose to do it on poor Herschell via some 'free food.' He goes outside and passes out. When he wakes up, he has...a giant turkey head. I'm sorry, run that by me again.
*
So yeah, he has a giant turkey head. As ridiculous as this is, the joke is killed by the movie's low-budget. As if to cover their stupid paper mache mask, they shoot all of his scenes in such a dark manner that you can barely see crap. You give us a funny effect and hide it? Screw you. Anyhow, Herschell's drug addiction causes a problem: a need for blood. You see, to get his fix, he *has* to kill drug addicts and drink their blood for sustenance. Go ahead- read that sentence again. Back now? Good. This is the only interesting part of the movie and boy, is it short! The guy grabs someone, kills them and immediately runs off for another. Either he is the world's worst vampire or the world's best! Incidentally, I should ask why he doesn't just use their drugs, but I guess I'm just being silly. After numerous kill scenes in the span of five to ten minutes, he indulges in one of the film's subplots involving a drug dealer going after Herschell's girlfriend. After having his way with her, the man is attacked by Herschell. He uses a power saw on the man's leg that is so powerful that blood appears before he cuts it! Oh yeah, the actor they used was a real amputee, which was sure helpful on the overhead costs. So, are you ready for the kicker?
*
The sisters and their friends find out what is happening and decide to take drastic action. They confront turkey-headed Herschell and he can't control himself. He realizes the tragedy that his life has become and stops fighting. Mind you, I'm inferring this because he can only gobble and his face is an expressionless mask! They cut his head off...which causes him to wake up. That's right- it was all a dream! He realizes that he needs help, goes to rehab and ends up with the good sister. Screw you too, movie. The End.
*
Yeah, that ending is a bitter pill to swallow. Mind you, the rest of the film is utter shit too. Most of it consists of bad writing performed on barely-audible recording equipment in dimly lit rooms. You have to wait nearly an hour for the turkey stuff and it is not worth it! Hearing him gobble is kind of funny, but the cheap mask kills any ability to emote. Mind you, Hawkes had all the personality of an over-cooked ham before this too. This movie is nothing but a vanity piece for him and is about as convincing as the 'young stud' in Season of the Witch (future review, I'm sure). This movie is not worth the time you will spend on it, no matter what its cult status is. Just take my word for it and go spend your time doing something more productive for an hour and a half. How about you just watch The Abominable Dr. Phibes? That movie is actually good.
*
Next up, I celebrate Thanksgiving with a crappy horror film. In fairness, it is how I spend most holidays. Stay tuned...

Forgotten Toons: Freedom Force

I will preface this whole thing with this statement: if any of you have seen this, I would be surprised.

To begin, this show is actually a spin-off of another forgotten cartoon entitled Space Sentinels, which I will cover at a later date. It was produced by Filmation in the late '70s and aired on a show collection entitled Tarzan and the Super 7. This was a popular idea back in the day and used often by Filmation, but I digress.

The premise of Freedom Force was simple: make a group of Super Friends that were Filmation characters, both old and new. Their choices are what make the show unique though...

*Hercules
*Isis
*Sinbad
*Merlin
*Super Samurai

Does one of them sound like they are out of place there? Yeah, they stuck a generic superhero on the team amongst the famous icons. I should note that this Hercules is a bit different, as I will cover in my piece on Space Sentinels.

The plots are weird. One of them involves a fellow with similar powers to Super Samurai tricking him, although my favorite is odder still. A scientist from the future comes back in time to be a hero with his giant robot. However, he also causes the events that require saving too- nice guy. He learns his lesson when he improperly caps a volcano, despite the fact that he has mastered time-travel and advanced robotics.

Sadly, this show died a quick death. It failed to connect with kids and only got its original 5 episode run. On the plus side, it is weird as hell and obscure to boot.

Up next, a popular comic strip character goes to the future and brings along some odd art design in the process. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mondo Trivia: The Corpse Grinders II

Did you know that Dolores Fuller (aka Mrs. Ed Wood) has actually worked in the last fifty years. I sure as hell didn't until recently. There were only three of them, but it makes sense when you consider that two of them were by Ted V. Mikels!

Some things are worth coming out of a thirty-plus year retirement, but The Iron-bound Vampire, Dimension in Fear and a film about cat aliens are not! Stay tuned...

400th Post Special!: Van-Damme-sploitation

I really don't care for Jean Claude Van-Damme and, quite frankly, I never have. Don't get me wrong- I liked Timecop as a kid, just like everyone else. However, to me, his appeal was pretty limited and he really only played maybe one or two roles. Then, of course, came Double Team, which pretty much showed how much he had to offer. Fun fact: the spin-off film- Simon Sez- features Dane Cook as the 'wacky sidekick.' Just don't base your opinion of him on that shitty film, please. Aside from the films he has made, Van-Damme is notable for the films that he did not make, despite them being sequels to his own films. Much like Bruce Lee, he is plagued with films starring wannabes. You're known solely as a wannabe/fill-in for Jean Claude Van-Damme- that's royally sad. Let's take a look at some of them, shall we?

Kickboxer 2-5 (yes, 5): In the wake of Jean Claude's film, the series focused on an unseen/unmentioned third brother named David. The second film establishes in the opening that the villain from Part 1 (Tong Po) killed both recognizable characters in the interim. Lazy screenwriting or clever ass-covering- you decide! They replaced Van-Damme with Sasha Mitchell, who is actually pretty decent, even if he is only known from being on the sitcom Step by Step.

However, this series does have some real issues. Part 2 continues the Tong Po story, but that is forgotten for Part 3, where he battles crime in Rio De Janeiro. Part 4 brought it back, while Part 5 is something of a mess. Basically, they kill of Sasha's character and introduce ANOTHER new hero- Matt Reeves, as played by Mark Dacascos. Oy vey!

Bloodsport 2-4: This series ignores the first film and pretty much just focuses on a random guy who happens to do martial arts. He is played by Daniel Bernhardt, a man whose career lived in the 1990s solely based on his vague resemblance to Van-Damme and his martial arts skills. Most people will just know him as the new Agent in The Matrix Reloaded though.

The upside with this series is that it stars a slew of genre actors that deserve better. James Hong, Pat Morita and John Rhys-Davies play parts in it. As for Bernhardt, the less said the better. The man has less emotional expression than Van-Damme ever had! Fun fact: Bloodsport 4's plot involves Bernhardt going undercover in prison, which is the plot of a different Van-Damme movie- Death Warrant. Double-dipping in the rip-off department, huh?

Timecop 2: They have only made one of these (so far) and it is not made to be a real sequel to the Van-Damme one. This was made in the vein of The Net 2.0 and Wargames 2, which are pretty much just rehashes. The film stars Jason Scott Lee, who has been on a downward career spiral since Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. It's pretty sad that his only major work in the interim has been Dracula II and III.

Universal Soldier 2-3: These ones are a little complicated. Basically, between Universal Soldier and Universal Soldier: The Return, some company made two TV movies in the series. They are pretty much ignored by everyone and are not canonical. Let's just move on, shall we?

Cyborg 2-3: Most people know Cyborg 2 as Angelina Jolie's first real film of note and the confusion it has caused. Basically, Mrs. Jolie has been vague about her actual age and, depending on reports, she may have been under 18 when they made this. As for Cyborg 3, it is a non-canonical film with Malcolm McDowell. More on that film in the future.

So yeah, that poor man has been exploited. At the same time, however, he has a semi-comeback in the works thanks to JCVD. Maybe in a few years, he will make a whole new slew of movies to have bad sequels made out of them. I, for one, cannot wait for DB.

Up next, I cover the film that nearly broke me. Since I am still here, you get to feel the pain with me. Stay tuned...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bi-Polar Theater: Moon Child (2003)

Why make one movie when you can make two? That is the question addressed in Moon Child, which dares to turn into a drastically-different movie right at the twenty minute mark. What inspires this? What builds up to this kind of atonal shift? Now to be fair, I should know what to expect just by the name of the movie's star: Gackt. Yes, that is a real name that someone actually uses. He is a Japanese pop star that actually embraced the idea of playing a vampire so much that he told a reporter that he was born in 1540! The film also stars a singer named Hyde, proving that this movie is full of people that don't follow logical nomenclature. Bear in mind that these facts prove to be far more interesting than the movie does. It is...
Our story begins with a pair of youths living out on the streets. Life is not good for them, especially when a scary man tries to mess with them for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fortunately, a strange adult (Hyde) shows up to save them. He does not hang around though, choosing the more Man With No Name approach. The boys grow up to be thugs for hire and run across the same man...who has not aged. That should be the first thing that draws your attention. They decide to partake in a fun action scene involving kung-fu, shooting and wire-work. This movies sounds fun, right? This is where the fun stops, readers.
*
After this, the movie gets really melodramatic. In the aftermath of this fun scene, the group argues and breaks up. We get a poignant shot or two of Gackt staring at Hyde longingly, which is a staple of this movie. The movie is not about them being in love or anything, so why is this there? Did they just leave the cameras on or something? Either way, the film gets mopy as all hell and does another time jump. Gackt and Hyde meet up and the former tries to convince the latter to turn one of their female acquaintances into a vampire. Why? Because she is dying of a brain tumor. Yeah, good plan there, Einstein! You want her to be immortal with a brain tumor as opposed to dying from it! I should let you write American war strategies, I think. Much like another vampire who is in theaters right now, he refuses, which causes them to fight. To add to the melodrama, by the way, the scene takes place in the rain.
*
The movie gets a little better after this, but ends in a really dumb way. I won't spoil it for you though...if you are actually crazy enough to watch this. The End.
*
Oh my God, this movie is a giant lie. They lure you in with some fun action scenes, but quickly turn the film into Fried Green Tomatoes...with Gackt and a gay vampire. The DVD release in America is disguised as a horror film, making the whole thing all the worse. Much like Snuff, the whole thing is built around a lie and marketed as such. They should be ashamed of themselves for doing this. Over in Asia, the film is marketed as it actually is. This is pretty much on par with the whole Zombi(e) thing in America. Nothing should be compared to that marketing travesty.
*
Up next, my 400th post covers a pair of films that dare to be sequels without the actual stars. To make it better, they are both built around ripping off the same guy. Stay tuned...

Magical Moments: Jack the Giant Killer

Leave it to me to make a segment about a film only really notable for being an unofficial Ray Harryhausen film, huh? Well, I did it and you have to live with it.
*
The story: Jack is a farmer who gets caught up in a battle to save a Princess from an evil man named Pendragon (not Arthur). He joins up with a Viking and a Leprechaun in a bottle (more on one of those next time) to save the day. Oh and he brings a little kid around for no good reason.
*
The reason for the film's induction relates to the ending battle. After sending monsters after Jack, skeletons after Jack and even turning him into an animal, Pendragon apparently runs out of ideas. His last act as a powerful wizard is to turn himself into a monster to fight Jack.
*
Yeah, he goes to fight in person- so to speak. Guess what happens. Yeah, he dies.

Up next, a Leprechaun in an '80s sex comedy. I can't think that this will end well. Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

WTF Japan?!?: Izo

I mentioned in a comment my issue with seeing Takashi Miike films. I mentioned how I have seen very few of his more famous films (i.e. Audition, Visitor Q) and had only seen his more obscure ones (Zebraman, The Happiness of the Katakuris). While I am making steps to fix that, this does lead me to the subject of today's film. On the same DVD that I saw the trailer for Wind & Cloud: The Storm Riders, I saw the trailer for today's film: Izo. It looked really weird, crazy and entertaining. Looking back at it, I wish that I had ignored my morbid curiosity...not that I ever will. I will say that my opinion of this movie may not coincide with everyone's, but it is still my site. If you didn't care about my opinion, then you must have just come for the awesome picture of the ninja I have on my front page. With all that said, let's jump right into...
Izo
This film is nearly beyond logical description, but I will do my best. To make it simpler to follow, I will do it in bullet point form.
  • Izo is a famous samurai who has done some unspeakable deed. As such, he wanders around and fights people.
  • He fights two samurais in feudal Japan, only for it to turn into a modern Japanese road.
  • He jumps into a lake, only for the screen to flip and turn into a classroom full of Japanese schoolgirls...who turn into zombies and attack him.
  • While hiding in a cave, he is attacked by two vampires in business suits (vampire lawyers). They stab him repeatedly with small knives, but he pulls a blade out of his ass. Don't ask for more details, please.
  • He runs across a woman who is apparently Mother Earth (but sounds nothing like Whoopi Goldberg) and he...rapes her. Nice, movie.
  • As the film progresses, his outfit gets more ragged and darker. So much so that, when he gets a mask, he looks like a low-rent Batman. Huh?
  • In the one scene that I do like, Izo's normal form is being put on trial in a modern courtroom. Dark Izo breaks in and cuts Nice Izo in half with a sword. Good-bye, time-space continuum, I barely knew ya.
  • Near the finale, Izo runs through a hallway, only to be blocked by...a giant, black Buddhist monk (Bob Sapp, who is a big fighter in Japan for no reason). He cuts him two, but does it like an 'X.' I guess normal dismemberment was just too boring.
I won't spoil the ending for you, although I doubt that my attempts to would really help things. Apparently this is all Izo's battle for his own soul or something. I only know that because I read it online. Between this and Wind & Cloud, my brain was turned into mush for a while. Don't worry- I got better. The End.
*
Good Lord, is that movie weird! Even if you try to rationalize the concept (everything is a battle for his soul), there are still issues. If he is a feudal Samurai, why is the film going randomly into present day? Does he know about the future? How is he able to picture it so accurately? Maybe if they had done a story like this about a man in the 1950s and had him view the future as full of flying cars, I could accept that. I should mention that this film stars Takeshi Kitano, who is all about bleak movies that make no sense logically. As for Miike, I could see how this is all neat if you deconstruct it into separate scenes. As a whole film though, the parts are so disparate that it makes your brain hurt. Ultimately, my stance is this: I could accept the weird, but not the disturbing. I don't need to see Mother Earth being sexually-violated, movie. Thanks anyways. Do yourself a favor and skip this one in favor of other Miike films. Those are at least crazy, but understandable. Of course, watch this seem incredibly ironic when I finally watch and review Visitor Q.
*
Next up, I continue the season of giving thanks with another film that I hate. This time, it is a foreign film that starts off great and dies a horrible death. Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blockbuster Trash: Growing Out

You know, I don't like musicals, but I somehow keep seeing them. I would imply some sort of fault about myself, but, having already seen Blood Freak in one sitting, I have no true standard of quality. What do have, however, is a sense of expectation. For example, if I rent a movie called Lucifera: Demon Lover (which I have), I know that I am getting a bad Italian horror movie. That's exactly what it was, by the way, albeit a washed out, VHS print of one in the three dreaded words of any DVD buyer: pan and scan. You get my point though, I think. So guess how I feel when I watch a movie that is billed as a horror film and is not? If you guessed 'really damn annoyed,' then you would be right. In fairness, I should note that this was a Netflix rental, albeit by my brother. The thing, though, is that the movie was not ever near a theater and was a direct-to-video release, hence its qualification. With all that out of the way, let's tighten our grips for...
Growing Out
The film's premise simple, but grows complicated. Basically, this young singer-songwriter is out of work and trying to make a living. He takes on the task of house-sitting an old Victorian home that is inexplicably located in a bad neighborhood. It is sort of like how Lizzy Borden's house is across the street from a bus terminal, I guess. He taks this as a chance to work on his song catalog and performance skills. This was the first sign that something really bad was going on. The movie tries to lure you back with a curious premise, albeit one that feels 100% out of place here. While checking out the attic, our protagonist discovers a human hand growing out of the dirt floor. That's certainly an odd feature. Naturally, he is a little curious and confused about the whole thing. Using a bit of presumption and connective logic, he begins to water the damn thing! You, sir, are no doctor. That or you were given a really weird 'birds & the bees' speech as a kid. That leads us into our movie's second plot, which involves a nice young woman who moves in next door. Hey movie, keep focused!
*
Unfortunately, our movie has decided that the romantic sub-plot should be the dominant one. Basically, he befriends her, they get romantically-involved and sing together. As my teaser said, the movie really tries to be Once, the musical tale of a couple that sings together on the streets. While I don't particularly like the film (considering that it combines two genres I don't like: the romance and the musical), I can see the quality that was put into it. This movie- which is written and directed by a pair of relatives- is all about flimsy pretenses for the pair to do their songs. Back in the promising plot, the hand grows into and arm & only keeps going. When it grows into a partial person, that being appears to be a fully-functional human. He befriends our hero, who repays him by *sigh* singing his damn songs! He must be thinking, 'I grew out the ground for this crap?!?' The guy actually turns out to be nice and normal...well, all things considered, anyways. This lack of both plot and drama is hurting me.
*
In spite of my wishes, this movie continues to move at the speed of a government vehicle in a school zone. Our hero ends up having some drama with the girl due to her past (*cough*Chasing Amy *cough*), while he gets along fine with the mysterious entity in the basement. This leads me to the worst part of the movie: the lying. I'll explain it a bit more clearly. Our hero will experience something crazy- like the hand attacking him in his sleep- only for it to turn out to be a dream! This works maybe once in a film as an accent, but even then it is debatable. Case in point: 2009's Halloween II and its use of such a sequence early-on. The problem here is that the movie so boring and the only interesting parts all turn out to be dreams. Given that the film uses this trick at least three times, you and I have every right to be pissed. The last ten minutes tries to gain some horror cred, but at the cost of both logic and story. One word: fail.
*
This movie hurt. It was that slow kind of hurt, like when you get a long, deep cut on your leg that takes weeks to heal. It lingers and lingers for at least 90 minutes in this case. There is an interesting idea, but it is cast aside for a boring romance and an excuse for this guy to sing his songs. It is bad enough that he sings them in lieu of plot, but they also play it during montages! We all get it- you write songs. This definitely had some promise to it, but no budget, no screenplay editing and no good producer on set to wrangle in the stupid has left this film a mess. I should mention that- like The Displaced- it has its roots in a short film. Maybe you should not do that, guys. What works in short form, does not do so in long-form. If you need any proof, just rent A Night at the Roxbury or The Ladies Man.
*
Up next, I begin my Holiday celebration. I thought that I would put things into perspective this Thanksgiving season and cover some movies that I am really not thankful for. First on the menu, a Takashi Miike film so bleak and confusing that I needed to go online to figure out what the hell I just saw. Stay tuned...

Mondo Dictionary: Wrestling Haircut

You guys probably aren't as big wrestling fans as I am, but this one is still sort of interesting. Pro-wrestling is an industry built around one mantra: make everything a story. One of your wrestlers (Brian Pillman) has injured his ankle, so what do you do? Have another wrestler (Steve Austin) attack his ankle with a chair, thus creating the term 'Pillman-ize.' Of course, the most famous example of this is the Montreal Screw-job. I don't need to explain that one, do I? With all that said, let's get into today's word: the Wrestling Haircut.

Basically, if you want to change your look dramatically, make it a story. I'll give some examples.

Kurt Angle- the man's hair was fading out in the front, so he wanted to go all 'Mr. Clean.' Thus, a match between him and Edge was made in which the loser was forced to shave his head. Guess who won.

Roxxi- the woman's gimmick as a voodoo queen (just go with it) required her to have purple hair for well over a year. All that dye was killing her roots, so she wanted to go short. Thus a Knockout (read: women) match was made where the loser had their head shaved.

Kevin Nash- this successful wrestler had gotten hired to play 'The Russian' in 2004's The Punisher. But, the character needed a buzz-cut, so Nash needed to cut his locks. Guess who got booked in a Loser Must Get Their Head Shaved match?

Big Show- the man's hair was fading out in the front, so he wanted to pull a 'Mr. Clean' as well. Rather than being booked in a match, he was booked in a bizarre angle. In a feud with The Angle Alliance (one of two groups on Smackdown at the time), he was shot with a giant dart full of elephant tranquilizer...and had his head shaved.

Yeah, that last one was weird. Just picture Kurt Angle going to a website to order animal tranquilizers and a dart gun that is used by circuses and zoos. Back now? Okay then. Remember- the wrestling industry is built around nothing but reality. Stay tuned...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mask-Off!: Phantom of the Mall

I thought I was done with odd Phantom of the Opera films after Argento's Phantom, De Palma's disco Phantom and Robert Englund's turn as the man. Fortunately or unfortunately for you, I was wrong. A film emerged from the deep dark crevice onto the world of the DVD release market. It comes to us from the 1980s and was made as part of the last gasp of these low-budget horror films. Given the quality of this film, it is not a big surprise that these films disappeared until 1995's Scream. On the plus side, this film does its own take on the Phantom tale and does not involve time-travel/dreams. While it was made in the same year as the Englund film, it has its own motif. However, that motif is built around filming in a mall (the same one used in Chopping Mall and Terminator II). Is it good? Well, you'll just have to wait and see in my review of...
The film begins with the grand opening of a new mall. Sadly, this movie does not feature a cameo by the stars of Eating Raoul too. We also are introduced to a cute young woman who has gotten a job there, as has her friend. They meet up with a young male reporter, the Mayor (Loni Anderson) and their weird friend (Pauly Shore). Why did it have to be Pauly Shore?!? I'd take Frank Caliendo any day over Pauly Shore. Unfortunately, there is some chicanery going on in the bowels of the mall. A mysterious man has created his own little den and broken off part of a mask to wear. Why? We'll find out that later. In the meantime, there is some dark back-story involving our young heroine. We get a hint of it earlier, which is followed by some PG-13 sex that is *sigh* a dream. Or is it a remembrance of things past? Let's move on, before I start channeling Criswell's narration from Plan 9. At the mall, there are some guards that are Peeping Toms towards the woman in the changing rooms. Faster than you can say 'they stole this from Welcome to Spring Break,' one of them is killed and has his eyes gouged out. A creepy piano player meets a similar fate, although his has a more comical twist. The killer puts a cobra in the toilet, which proceeds to come up and bite him on the F-Sharp.
*
All while this is going on, the owner of the mall is keeping a lid on things. We get another sex dream,- change those sheets honey!- but this one ends in fire. Either you have mental problems or you were dating The Undertaker's dad. I wonder how many people are going to get that joke. Anyhow, the reporter proceeds to both woo her and find out the truth behind her story. You see, her boyfriend died in a fire after his parents refused to sell the land to the mall developers. Our heroine escaped, but remembers a man with an earring. In spite of this flimsy evidence, finding the culprit is easy, since he works at the mall now! You guys don't understand the concept of hiding evidence, do you? One silly chase scene later and our reporter hero has some evidence, but is also a target. The mysterious killer gets another victim, although this one did not actually commit a crime. Well, unless you consider working in a comically-large vent to be a crime. We get a ridiculous car chase thrown in as well, proving that this movie is going to try anything that might work. It's like a five-year old who is throwing a hissy fit, really. Incidentally, Ken Foree has a small, but wasted role here as a guard.
*
Finally, the truth about the events is revealed...in case you couldn't figure it out. The Phantom is really Eric, the young woman's boyfriend. We get the classic 'unmasking scene' rehashed here with some silly 80s make-up. His burns are really bad, but yet, he has survived without seeing a doctor for the last year. Good-bye, logic. His advances towards her are strong, but spurned. Why? She has fallen for the reporter, of course. This makes him mad and forces him to turn his attention to the reporter. Meanwhile, our comic relief character and our ancillary best friend are looking into the mall owner in some lovely filler. Despite being dumped in a pit with the same snake,- he must have worked for scale- our hero escapes and runs into our supporting losers, I mean, characters. The Mayor and the owner conspire to keep everything secret, but that falls through when The Phantom appears in their office. He makes short work of the former Mrs. Reynolds by throwing her through a window and impaling her on a giant glass ornament. We get a silly chase scene in the form of our heroine deciding to climb across a giant pole that is parallel to the ceiling, as opposed to THE DOOR. The whole thing ends with the mall blowing up and the 'he's not dead' shot that littered every 80s film, from Werewolf to Space Mutiny.
*
This movie is alright, but definitely has some flaws. I like the direction they went with the story, but the execution is off. The Phantom is violent, but vindicated in most of his actions. However, he also kills some random people for no reason and turns all Single White Female in the end. Where did that come from, exactly? He has some reasoning that I can understand: he finally gets the girl back, but she loves someone else. Across the board, the acting is not too bad, but it has moments of ridiculousness. Pauly Shore is actually the most subdued here that I have ever seen, but he is still a bit annoying. You can do worse than this movie, but you can also do far better. Don't you just love it when I'm so non-committal? This movie is a fair rental, but ownership is not really required.
*
Up next, I tackle a movie that claims to be a horror film, but is really just a bad demo reel. Once can only work once! Stay tuned...

Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: The Birds

Don't get me wrong- Hitchcock's animal revenge tale is clearly one of the best of all time. Mind you, most of those movies suck & Hitch's film does fail to explain the reason for it. In spite of that, it is still a classic. That said, it is not as cool as this...

I really want to see that movie! It looks like the inside of Salvador Dali's head! Thank you, Czech Republic!

Up next, a tale of the woods turns...surreal? Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Real White Meat: Slave of the Cannibal God

There were women beautiful women in the films during the 60s and 70s. However, there was only one Ursula Andress. Of course, to men who lived in this time (i.e. not me), she is affectionately-known as 'Ursula Undress.' You can't tell me that you don't immediately think of her exiting the water and approaching James Bond in Dr. No when you hear that name. In addition, today's movie is by a lesser-known Italian director known as Sergio Martino, the man who brought us All the Colors of the Dark, Big Alligator River (future review) and Island of the Fishmen (also a future review). He is also the man responsible for one of the longest titles in the history of cinema: Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have The Key. Is it good? Eh, not really. While the man never became a big name in America, he did make some interesting genre films that need to be explored. Today's film just so happens to be one of those. It is...
One quick note: This film has also been released as Mountain of the Cannibal God. It is the same film. There are also at least two cuts out there: theatrical (found in most movie bundles) and uncut (found on recent DVD re-release).
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The story is a simple one: a woman (Andress) and her brother hire a rugged man (Stacy Keach) to take them out to find her explorer husband. He was last seen around the Ra Ra Me Mountain, which is an area inhabited by some dangerous cannibals. The government does not want people going there- cannibal murders do hurt tourism, after all- which makes the trip all the more complicated. Fortunately, the man is up for the job, even if our other visitors are not exactly naturalists. This is where the movie goes into full 'cliche' mode. We get the people riding in a raft, seeing snakes and all sorts of nature footage. Like most of these films, you get scenes of animals being killed on-screen, although it is tame by comparison to films like Cannibal Holocaust. Mind you, this is only in the uncut version though. The group also runs into another explorer named Manola, who is staying at a mission camp. Fortunately, the movie really picks up at this point and introduces some interesting ideas.
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By way of dream flashbacks (Writing Cliche #638), we learn that the group's guide has an ulterior motive for going to the mountain. As we learn later, he is not alone in this though. A few years earlier, he had been captured by the villagers there, but managed to escape with his life. His goal now: find out if they are still alive and take them out! After all of the build-up, our heroes are captured by said cannibals and taken to their lair for dinner. It is there that our heroes discover the skeleton of Andress' husband, who is worshiped as a God for some strange reasons. You see, the Geiger counter he had on him is beeping, which makes the natives think that his heart is still beating somehow. Why does he have a Geiger counter, you ask? It is quite simple, really. The whole thing about looking for her husband was really just a cover story. The pair are actually after some uranium that is kept inside the mountain. That's slightly different than what you told him.
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This part of the movie that you are most going to remember. The group is surrounded by natives who partake in much debauchery. One of them goes so far as to hump a nearby pig! You've got to admit- you don't see that in American cinema! Meanwhile, we get the most famous and worthwhile scene: Ursula Andress being rubbed down with gold paint by two female villagers. By the way, this scene is also only available in the Unrated cut. I bet I know which one you'll want to watch now. This whole thing gets one of the cannibals all hot and bothered & he dares to touch the woman. Bad idea, buddy! His comrades grab him and physically-emasculate him. Thanks, movie, I needed to see that special effect. Rather than being a human sacrifice, the villagers opt to turn Andress into their new goddess. Sucks to be everyone else, huh? In spite of this, Keach and Andress manage to escape by diving into the river and floating away. Of course, they lost their friends and achieved nothing. The End.
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The movie is good, but definitely rife with cliches. What you have to understand is that this sub-genre was not thriving for decades like the Western or the Kung-Fu film. Most of these movies were made in the mid-1970s to early 1980s. So, in less than 10 years, most of these cliches came out you in machine gun like succession. This is not something that only happened with the Cannibal/Jungle Peril genre, but it is pretty shameless. That said, this movie does toss a few twists into the story to disguise this fact pretty well. Unfortunately, it also contains that graphic animal footage that makes people on the fence shy away and has made video distribution a little tricky. In his defense, Martino claims that this was added in later at the behest of his producers, but that is simply conjecture. As far as films go, this is pretty good, given the handicaps that it has. Of course, it is not the pinnacle of this genre. You have to wait for that one a little longer.
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Up next, the Eighties brings us the pinnacle of Horror cinema. Oh wait- wrong movie. This is actually a Phantom of the Opera film with Pauly Shore. Stay tuned...

Forgotten Toons: SWAT Kats- The Radical Squadron

What can I say about this show? How can one truly describe what makes this show so great? If only I could sum it up in one sentence. Oh wait, I can-

Talking (K)Cats That Fly A Fighter Jet!

Seriously, this show was great, in spite of it making pretty much zero sense. The whole world is Kats, from the Mayor to the Police Chief to the evil Wizard. In a nutshell, our two heroes are T-Bone and Razor & they used to work for the Enforcers (read: police). After being fired, the two started to work in the city's scrapyard and decided to build a jet. All logical so far, mind you. Afterward, they decided to fight crime as the SWAT Kats.

One thing this show had going for it was variety. With a jet motif, you think it would be all jet/helicopter villains. You are wrong, good sir!

*Dr. Viper- a snake mutant man who makes weird monsters.
*Hard Drive- basically, a Kat version of Spider-Man's Electro
*The Metallikats- two dead gangsters that are reborn as robots thanks to a dumb scientist.
*Red Lynx- the undying skeleton of a WWII...I mean, MegaWar II pilot who seeks revenge.
*Rex Shard- a prisoner who inadvertently gets merged with a gem monster in the Earth.
*The Past Master- an evil wizard who sends our heroes to, well, you know. Yes, this was made after Army of Darkness.
*Mad Kat- a failed comic who seeks revenge on a David Letterman avatar by way of a mystic artifact that turns him into a Mr. Mxyzptlk wannabe.

That's SWAT Kats in a nutshell. Despite its sheer awesomeness, the only way to catch this show is through rare VHS episode releases or YouTube. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Next up, a show whose cast is beyond logic and description. Of course, it comes from the 1970s, so who is surprised? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Forgotten Sequels: Night of the Ghouls

If you are a normal person (what are you doing here?), you are probably wondering why you have not heard much about Night of the Ghouls. 'I've heard about Glen & Glenda, Plan 9 From Outer Space and even Bride of the Monster, albeit because of the film Ed Wood.' The answer is simple: it was not released until the mid-80s. You see, Mr. Wood made the film, but lacked the funds to pay the man at the film lab to process it. As such, it went unreleased until long after his death. The problem with this movie is that it is worst kind of Ed Wood film- which is saying a lot. The plot is bare-bones, the effects are laughable and the acting is just as bad. The problem is that it lacks some of the truly great laughs of Plan 9 and the rare touches of decent writing that showed up in Bride. On the plus side, the introduction to Ed Wood is taken from this movie. To be fair, I'll let you know about the movie and decide for yourself. This is...
Night of the Ghouls
The film begins with Criswell- I miss you, buddy- sitting up in a coffin and telling the tale of a conman who will eventually get what is coming to him. If you have never had the chance to hear this false psychic (talk about irony) deliver a monologue, it is a must-see. The man also warns that the tale might 'make you faint' and that it could take place in 'any town...your town!' Of course, this is a direct sequel to Bride of the Monster, so it is obviously that town. The story proper begins with an old couple showing up the police station and reporting a tale of a monster. The man is played by the same actor who was the police captain with the tiny bird in Bride. The reason for his demotion becomes clear later. Listening to their tale is Officer Kelton (Paul Marco) and a new inspector in the form of Lt. Bradford. He talks about how he worked on the case involving the mad doctor's atomic experiments. Fun fact: his character was never in Bride of the Monster. Never letting logic get in the way of a good time, Wood gives Kelton a line talking about how exciting the town is with 'that mad doctor, those aliens and now this!' This single line of dialogue is what makes this 'The Kelton Trilogy.' Thanks, Ed. God forbid you have an actor appear in a similar role and NOT be the same person.
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To keep Wood's theme of odd character quirks that serve no purpose, our new lead spends the whole movie in a tuxedo. Why? He was going to go on a date and got called in. What does this add? Jack shit. They go to the house previously owned by Bela in Bride, only to discover a new owner: a man who talks to the dead...and charges big time. The man's name, by the way, is Dr. Acula. No, really. His house is full of people trying to communicate with their dead relatives, haunted by a 'ghost' in white and inhabited by the not-dead Lobo (Tor Johnson). In a rare moment of decent work, Lobo's scar make-up is actually pretty convincing. Mind you, he is still played by Tor Johnson, so he has all of the range of an over-cooked steak. Another fun fact for you: Wood was not satisfied with the female actor playing the white ghost's performance, so he subbed in for her on a couple of scenes. The high-point of the film is the seance scene, which features all the classic Wood cliches like cheap skeletons and objects flying on strings. Much like the Invincibility Star in Super Mario Bros, it does not last long enough and makes you feel let-down.
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If you can stick with the movie, you are treated to a finale that is a bit 'eh' for my taste. When the police get too close, Lobo is sicked on them. Why he works for Acula is actually never explained, but what's new in an Ed Wood film? The big man proves to be better at tossing around Bela Lugosi's stunt double than he is at taking out armed cops & he is killed by the gun-wielding authorities. As Acula tries to get away, he is surrounded by the ghosts that he pretended to communicate with. One of them is played by Criswell, which makes the introductory monologue a bit more confusing. Is he the same character or was Wood just out of actors? These are questions that come to mind when a movie is this dull. The End.
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This movie is quite a chore to get through, although you can see a good film in the cracks. The idea has promise, even if nothing about it is all that engaging. The acting is tepid at best and from Paul Marco at worst. Fortunately, Ed learned a lesson from Plan 9 and did not give Tor dialogue. He continued to give Marco lots of lines, something that he never seemed to learn. The movie is bereft of Wood's angora fetish, although it is also bereft of his funny dialogue. You get nothing on par with 'future events such as these will affect you in the future' this time around. Maybe it was not that bad of an idea to lock this film up in a vault for 26 years! This was Wood's last real shot at making his own movie as far as it regards to both writing and directing. After this movie's failure, he was reduced to doing semi-porn films and, ultimately, actual porn films. We still have three more stops on the Wood failure train, since I am leaving out his porn films like Lady Godiva Rides and others.
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Next up, we visit another foray into the Cannibal/Jungle Peril genre. What does this one have to help it stand out? Two words: Ursula Andress. Stay tuned...

Syndicated Incorporated: Cleopatra 2525

Syndicated action/adventure shows had their heyday quite a while, but continue to come back every so often. When one of them does well (i.e. V.I.P.), everyone thinks that the genre is back and makes 600 more! Ultimately, this genre is more defined by the losers (Beastmaster) than the winners (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys). As such, I will cover some of those, be them good, bad or simply misunderstood. Let's start out strong with...
The show is set in the Dystopian future where robots control the surface and humanity lives underground. I know what you're wondering and 'yes, this is ripping off The Matrix.' This came out in 2000, so it was early to the party. Our heroes are Sarge, a tough blond woman, Elle, a sassy black woman and 'Cleopatra.' Her back-story is that she went into surgery for a breast augmentation in 2001, had a weird reaction to the anesthetic and was kept frozen for 500 years. For no apparent reason, she wakes up when our two heroes shows up and goes along for the ride. Incidentally, she is in a lab with a cat man (hello, Wing Commander) and a snake person. They only show up for this brief bit, so this is sort of a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment.

So our heroes are fighting for mankind's survival and restoration of power. This is done by jumping through tunnels, only stopping themselves with wrist-mounted web launchers a la Spider-Man. How do their shoulders stay in their sockets for this? Given the time and the budget, the blue screen effects are terrible, as are the post-production laser effects. These are in nearly every scene, so get used to them. Oh yeah, they are also led by a mysterious voice who talks through an earpiece that Elle has. Since this show was canceled, I doubt the pay-off is really there. Because of that, I will instead end with this out-of-context image of our lead heroine looking like a blow-up doll.

Mondo Bizarro- keeping it classy since February 2009. Up next, Bruce Campbell proves that lightning can only strike once. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rare Flix: Deadly Friend

Wes Craven has made a lot of movies. Many of them are well-known amongst horror fans, such as the Scream series, The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. However, he has also been responsible for many films that did not exactly stick as well, like Deadly Blessing, The People Under The Stairs & Shocker. Today's film is one of those, although it does deserve a bit better. This film came out during the middle of his popular period- 1986- but fell the wayside amongst other films that year such as The Delta Force, Friday the 13th Part VI and Cobra. In the last couple of years, some clips of it have ended up in some 'great movie deaths' video collections, alongside the infamous 'Garbage Day' clip from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 and Troll 2's iconic line. The film tells the tale of love, loss and robots. I could probably stop there, but the review will make things more clear. This is...
The movie begins by introducing us to our young lead and we immediately learn that we can never be him. He is a young adolescent who already has a college degree, is studying the human brain and has a scholarship. Oh yeah, he also has a robot! That is probably the most important thing to mention isn't it? His buddy is sort of a cross between the robot from Short Circuit, but built more like Wall-E. It follows basic commands, but he implies that the robot learns on its own. I think there's foreshadowing somewhere, but I can't find it. He becomes friends with another young man after the robot pushes around some bullies by grabbing one of them by the junk. See you in the third act, guys. The pair also meets a feisty young woman (Kristy Swanson) who has some secrets that she is keeping. One bonding montage later (no, really), the group is now an inseparable trio. Gee, why are they rushing all of this exposition? I wonder if something is going to happen at the halfway point that will change everything. In the background, we get hints of some abuse issues in Swanson's house.

We get more build-up about our hero's improbable intelligence. He is studying the human brain and how it can be assembled and disassembled. What's that sneaking up behind me? Is it really obvious foreshadowing? Nah, it can't be. A bit after this, we get the build-up of a mean old lady with a fence around her house. After losing their ball to her, the robot tries to go get it, but meets double-barreled death at the hands of her shotgun. Ah well, the bad times are over. Come Thanksgiving, our hero, his mother and the girl have a lovely dinner together. I hope nothing bad goes wrong to ruin the mood. Oh wait, he shoves her down a flight of stairs. Our hero is, naturally, upset by this, but has a plan- put the robots brain chip into her body. Wait, that is a terrible idea and would never work. I am sure that there is no way that...he's doing it right now. Somehow, nobody reports the body missing and our hero manages to make his plan happen. His remote actually works on her too, which boggles the mind. He is not creeped out by any of his actions here either. You're a real kid?

This is a Wes Craven film, so things just have to turn bad in the third act. In the most famous part of the film, she breaks into the mean woman's house and takes the ball back. Oh look, she's giving it back to the lady- how sweet. Oh wait, she's actually throwing it at her...and completely obliterating her head. I love you, physics. She also kills her dad, which prompts our hero to yell at her...and hide the body. You're sending mixed messages, pal. His friend finally 'mans up' & tells him just how crazy everything he does is. After he yells at our hero, the living dead girl-bot shows up and reveals herself. She flees the police- way to finally show up, guys- and our hero chases her. Along the way, the gang leader shows up- I told you- and beats up our hero. This does not last long, however, as the girl tosses him across the street and into a car window. She flees back to the house, but this does not last long. In dramatic slow-motion, she runs at the cops and gets shot to death. I'm sorry- why does that kill a corpse? If you want to know the twist ending, read on. If not, skip to the summary.

Some night later, our hero finds the girl's body and tries to restart her. However, she grabs him and her skin peels off....to reveal a robot body. Okay, I give: how does that make any damn sense?!? She talks in the robot's voice and chokes our hero as the film fades to black.

This movie is good, but definitely hinges on your suspension of disbelief. How is that kid so smart? He's like super Doogie Howser! Incidentally, the movie predates the show by three years. The horror elements of the movie come late in the film, but are built up pretty well as a whole. As I joked about in the review itself though, the foreshadowing is really, really forced. Honestly, the acting is good and covers up some of the flaws. Mind you, the blue eye shadow used to make Swanson look like a corpse is still very, very laughable. Plus, that ending...is something. Do yourself a favor and check out this film if you are open-minded. If you are very strict about logic in your films, go elsewhere.Up next, I present you with the conclusion to the 'Kelton Trilogy.' If you actually know what I'm talking about, I would be surprised. Stay tuned...