Friday, May 2, 2014

Listomania: Thomas' Showers of Gold for April 2014

My desk is buried under notes made on literally dozens of movies that never got reviewed, either due to real life interruptions, priority changes or just a shiny ball of tinfoil flying past my periphery. Here are a few. Hopefully this will be interesting to the people who don't just read our blog for the porn parody reviews, because there aren't any. Just parodies made by pornographers.

TRAPPED (1982): Revisiting BLUE MONKEY (1987) has led me to revisiting much of William Fruet's work, and seeing a few of his films for the first time. How I never managed to stumble across this, his quasi-DELIVERANCE with the great Henry Silva as a southern hillbilly (!) with a killin' streak a mile wide, I'll never know.

After having a heated debate over the potential positives of murder in a college classroom a group of twenty-somethings head out to the hills to do some camping. Unfortunately for them they picked the wrong hills and witness a rural village leader Henry Chatwill (Henry Silva) killing a man that they had tarred and feathered for sleeping with his wife. Of course Henry ain't going to let a group of big city kids get this information to the local law man, who happens to be his stepbrother. As it turns out ol' Henry has been taking the unwritten law into his own hands on a regular basis as anyone who gets near the settlement ends up permanently disappearing.

While TRAPPED doesn't engage in any major twists in the plot, it is so well done with such pitch-perfect performances that it becomes a major player in the hillbilly horror genre. Silva was always an actor who gave 110% and here is no different. Nobody can hiss and spit profanities quite like he does and if you want "unhinged", Silva delivers it in spades. As utterly miscast as he is, Silva tears up the scenery in a way that is only rivaled by his sweaty, psychotic performance in SHARKY'S MACHINE (1981). If this genre is in your wheelhouse, this is essential viewing.

HAMMERHEAD (1987): Even on a bad day Enzo G. Castellari makes great exploitation cinema. My least favorite of his films, 1971's COLD EYES OF FEAR, is not a bad movie, it's just not my kind of movie. This Miami and Jamaica shot action flick may be the cheapest film he's ever made, pre-turn of the century, but since it's Castellari, it still manages to be well executed fun in the right frame of mind.

Daniel Greene (of HANDS OF STEEL fame) is Hammer, a tough, loose-cannon Miami cop who just lost his buddy to a none-to-subtle hitman (Frank Zagarino). What do you mean, "that's all"? What more do you need? Time to crank up Guns and Roses (I'm guessing you could liscense a G&R song pretty damn cheap in '87)! Says Hammer "I'm comin' after you muthafuckaaa!" At which point he does. This leads to a car chase (with some painful wrecks), a motorcycle chase, and an awesome slo-mo shootout on a Miami subway platform accompanied by fuzzy guitars on the soundtrack. Honestly the movie could end here and I'd be happy, but there's more! Naturally all this muthafucka activity causes his chief (with Miami-esque borscht-belt shtick) to blow his stack and sends Hammer on vacation to Jamaica! Damn, maybe that's why there are so many police shootings in the US. Need a tropical vacation to get away from it all? Smoke some dude in the subway and you're set! Once in Jamaica (looking suspiciously like Florida), Hammer discovers that trouble has followed him.

For no adequately explained reason, all of Hammer's Nam buddies are in Jamaica running a motorcycle club called The Storm Riders (yes, in Jamaica). Shortly after rekindling their bromance, the bikers start getting killed off one by one. Naturally this means he has to... wait for it... go after those "muthafuckaaaas!" Oh, and Nancy Lee, of Paul Kyriazi's WEAPONS OF DEATH (1981) and NINJA BUSTERS (1984) also pops up, amusingly miscredited as "Nandy Lee".

Castellari does an amazing job of covering up the fact that this movie was made with a budget so low even the producers of EXTRA LARGE would wince. I remember when I was working corporate catering, I asked my boss what the budget for a particular event was going to be and was told "start at zero, then work your way backwards." I get the feeling Castellari was given the same numbers to work with. Even so, he works in plenty of high-speed chases on land, water and by foot and bullets fly at the drop of a biker. It moves so fast and throws in enough hilarious dialogue, inventive set-pieces and great camerawork that you never really notice how much money the production doesn't have.

PARKER (1985): Not to be confused with the recent Jason Statham/J Lo vehicle, this grim arthouse crime-thriller stars Bryan Brown as an Australian toy salesman who lives in England, frequently visiting Germany on business and pleasure. After a visit to the opera, he is suddenly kidnapped and held for 11 days in a small concrete room by balaclava-clad captors. Oddly, he is released unharmed in the middle of the woods and the police are having a hard time buying his story. Apparently in Germany, when someone gets kidnapped, they have the scars to prove it. Parker (Brown) becomes obsessed with finding his kidnappers and learning why he was kidnapped and who paid his ransom. To elaborate on the movies details would spoil it.

Veteran British TV director Jim Goddard would follow this up with the wildly different, and far more notorious Sean Penn and Madonna fiasco SHANGHAI SURPRISE (1986), which pretty much sent his career right back to the small screen. It's pretty amazing since PARKER hardly seems like a mainstream movie. It's told in a non-linear fashion which makes it far more interesting to follow than if it was told straight-forward with Parker simply being kidnapped and then gunning for justice. Not that I wouldn't watch that movie either, but this film is actually well crafted in all respects and embraces minimalism, particularly in its approach to the score. Scenes are allowed to play out without music blaring constantly on the soundtrack. Aside from the modern plot details, the film has an interesting sense of being disjointed in time as well. The film opens with cowboys riding through the forest and making camp complete with harmonica, mouth harp and a coffee pot over the fire. At other times it is almost a gothic chiller with deep shadows, flickering lamps and a foreboding sense of claustrophobia and sweaty paranoia. Maybe not a perfect film, but it is certainly interesting and memorable. Far more so than the video box implies, and well deserving of a cleaned-up, widescreen release.

ARMSTRONG (1998): What can you say about a movie that stars Frank Zagarino, Richard Lynch, Charles Napier, Joe "Chicken Legs" Lara, was written and directed by a post-Cannon Menahem Golan and has the clumsy tag-line "The Cold War Has Just Heated Up"? If you are anything like me and feel that grammatical errors in association with film marketing is an indication of quality, you will no doubt say to yourself and anyone within earshot, "I have to see that!"

Ex-Seal Armstrong (Zagarino), a freelance securities consultant in Russia, is visited by his old commander Bob (Napier) who has come to Russia with his daughter, err, I mean wife (Kimberly Kates) to get Armstrong to do (wait for it) one last job for his country. Apparently there are some very angry men who are selling nukes on Russian soil and the Prez wants Armstrong to take 'em out. No covert-ops team sent in with pin-point surgical skill, just a rogue mercenary who no longer answers to the American brass. I'm sure that'll be fine, congress probably refused to back the real plan and this is just all he could come up with on short notice.

Joe Lara, working on his membrum inferius complex.
As soon as the villains learn of this plot, they are on top of it, attacking Armstron in his tiny apartment, by lobbing grenades while using an end-table for cover. They also try the old "room-service" ploy with the villain's right hand (Lara) growling at the room-service waiter "not one word or you serve your food in hell!" The waiter wisely keeps mum, as I'm sure hell serves nothing but gas station sandwiches and nobody tips.

Minor amusements aside, the showstopper is Kates exiting the shower buck starkers and only having enough time to throw on a flimsy, see-through blouse and skirt before being chased through the streets of Bulgar- err, I mean Russia, over roof tops, cars and everything else in her path! Seriously if the Oscars weren't such a back-slappin', glorified high-school clique, this woman would have had an award... well, at least her stunt double would. Much like the tagline implies, there are a lot of left-overs being microwaved here and while I can't say it was a thrill-a-minute lost Cannon epic (more like a lost mid-range PM actioner), it isn't the worst way I've spent 90 minutes.

NEW YORK'S FINEST (1990): Chuck Vincent is one of the most erratic filmmakers I can think of off the top of my head. While half of his repertoire I will gladly *ahem* take other's at their word for, I've seen a few of his straight adult films and comedies and it can be a real case of Vincent Roulette. Some are interesting, some funny, others can be nerve-shredding endurance tests. Much like a side-street shell game, you pays your money and you takes your chances, except with Chuck, you have much better odds of coming up a winner.

Here Vincent takes a premise that would be considered marketable in the late '70s and works it at the beginning of the '90s! And I thought I was stuck in time. After helping the cops bust a drug lord who celebrates his birthday in a tub full of coke surrounded by topless prostitutes holding candles, three loud "Nue Yawk" hookers (Jennifer Delora, Ruth Collins, and Heidi Paine) decide that earning money on their backs ain't all what it's cracked up to be. The solution to their dilemma of poor career choices? They need to find some rich husbands! I guess everybody has to have their own goals in life.

Problem is these dames are about as classy as, well, three loud New York hookers. In order to turn into high-society ladies they steal a wad of cash from their female pimp (who is inconceivably louder and more New Yorky than they are) and enlist the help of drag performer Dougie (Scott Baker) who is apparently an expert on the subject. Dougie doubles as both their uncle and aunt, not to mention their etiquette obsessed drill sergeant. Lots (and I do mean lots) of situational goofballery ensues with gags that will take you right back to the days when you wasted your afternoons watching "Three's Company" reruns. Fortunately, aside from two torturously unfunny drag musical numbers that make nails on a chalkboard seem like Giuseppe Verdi, it is fast, breezy and frequently funny. Even the groaners are worthy of a chuckle, such as when a restaurant matre'd asks the girls about a reservation, the blonde says "you have indians here?" It also helps that Chuck, being Chuck, features tops flying off faster than hats at a grad ceremony. Works for me, anyway.

A candid photo from Will's last birthday party.

2 Reactions:

  1. "late, great Henry Silva"? As far as I know he's still alive and kicking...

  2. Oops, thank you for catching that. Corrected.


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