Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Vehicular Violence: THUNDER RUN (1986)

Watching Cannon movies is so much more than just sitting and watching a movie. If you are like us and you are completely incapable of turning off your brain when watching a movie, you will find yourself wondering what exactly the meetings were like. Not on a project here and there, but on, like, everything. Their bizarre logic would make a Harvard professor break down into an incoherent, blubbering mess. It’s not pretty, I assure you. But it is pretty damned entertaining.

Case in point: THUNDER RUN. While this is not actually a Golan and Globus production, it’s easy to see why they would want to distribute it. It fits perfectly into their mise en scène.

The film starts out in high-gear with a nocturnal ambush of some terrorists by the US military. After they proceed to shoot the living crap out of the lot and blow up their Datsun, the head of the operation angrily demands that they hold their fire. Hey, at least they saved us the long hearings over inhumane and illegal treatment of detainees. Apparently this subtle raid is part of an on-going CIA operation to flush out terrorists hiding in the US. You see, sleeper cell terrorists have been hijacking US plutonium shipments and CIA needs a plan, a plan so crazy it just might… be really crazy. The CIA (who for no adequately explained reason is operating on domestic soil) decides that what they need to do to snag these terrorists is set up a plutonium shipment with real plutonium and a civilian driver to make a cross country delivery, attracting the bad guys like moths to a bug-zapper. Since the terrorists would catch on if they used military transport and personnel, they are going to have to go covert and all they need is “the best driver in the world”. Nerves of steel! Reflexes of lightning! A senior discount at Denny’s! Yes, according to top CIA brass, 67 year old Charlie Morrison (Forrest Tucker) is the man for the job.

These days the casting would be completely different, to say the least. A twenty-something TV actor would be cast and we would never get amazing septuagenarian flirty banter and a date night at a square-dance complete with a jug-band playing Cotton-Eye Joe and another song who’s chorus is “Bullshit!”. Seriously. Not to worry though, the youth contingent is represented by Morrison’s grandson Chris (John Shepherd). Chris is into illegal street racing for no other reason to provide us with what is unquestionably the most gratuitous chase scene in the history of cinema. A black-clad motorcyclist flips off a squad car and the chase is on. But wait! This is merely a diversion to distract the cops from a drag race for a cool grand! Yes, that was a gratuitous chase-scene that provided an excuse for a gratuitous chase scene! Sheer genius.

Can you hear it? Wah, wah, waaaaaaah!
Seems Charlie Morrison is the owner of a mine and is in the process of unsuccessfully trying to sell it when CIA man and ex-Nam buddy George Adams (John Ireland) swings by with his offer-you-can’t-refuse: go on an almost certain death run hauling live plutonium to attract the deadliest villains in the country who will try to kill you every step of the way. Shit, who could say no to that? To sweeten the deal Adams throws in a quarter of a million dollars. Morrison needs time to mull over that proposition, but comes to a quick decision after the potential buyers manage to piss off the staff by pinching one of the girls causing her boyfriend to flip out and use a loader to run over their car and demolish the office, which falls over and reveals a cowboy sitting on a toilet with a newspaper! Man, that time tested gag is every bit as much of a chestnut as Tucker himself.

How to Spot a Terrorist Lesson #1:
Terrorists are mean to the waitstaff.
In order to get this plan in gear, a special truck is going to be needed, as is a montage of everyone pitching in and adding on all the lethal doo-hickey’s. Oh yeah, we got a big-rig of doom! Or, rather, a Kenworth with a V8 from Freemont with the logo “Thunder” painted on the side. Eh, it’ll do. Since the rig really isn’t much to look at (BATTLETRUCK, it’s not) the filmmakers try to play the audience with the old, “it’s got lots of cool stuff you can’t see” angle. For instance, it’s the ‘80s so computer technology is factored in. Of course, since it’s the ‘80s, computer failure is factored in. You see, Chris’ street racing buddy Paul (Wallace Langham) is a waifish computer nerd with an impossibly hot girlfriend that he has almost no interest in (yeah, I don’t know), who sets up a program that communicates directly with an army base security system via some sort of wireless device that the filmmakers can’t be bothered to explain. Hey, it just works, ok? Except that after all the build-up, we find that it doesn’t work and the last half of the film uses the error messages and the frustrated Paul as cut-aways from the action. To be fair, it’s used as a tension builder as the computer is supposed to be disabling the truck-destroying traps that guard the base. Why the army can’t just turn them off when the truck arrives I have no idea. But they can’t. Like so many things in life it takes a teenager to accomplish this task.

Speaking of action, once we get this truck into gear and on the highway, the terrorists do not disappoint. Sporting attacks ranging from a girl riding shotgun on a motorcycle whipping out a double-barrelled shotgun (that must have special terrorist modifications as it fires three shots without reloading), to VW Bugs with mounted missile racks! At first you may scoff at the idea of terrorists driving Volkswagons, but if you think about it, the Beetle was the car of the Third Reich. The VW plant was taken over by Hitler’s regime and the Beetle was created by Hitler’s designers as the super efficient car of the super arian race. So the fact that terrorists are driving them makes perfect sense! Right? Plus, any film that gets a semi airborne is gold in my book, but any film that launches a semi over a train, even if it's just a flatbed rail car is aweeeesome!

THUNDER RUN is the brainchild of veteran special effects / pyrotechnics guy Cliff Wenger who worked on everything from WHITE LIGHTNING (1973) to THE DEVIL’S RAIN (1975) and MEGAFORCE (1982) to FLETCH LIVES (1989). Usually it takes a stuntman to cobble together such a sprained-brained but totally entertaining bit of cheese, but here Wenger, who wrote and produced, pulls off a gloriously cartoon action pic that gleefully wallows in its clichés. In one amusingly politically incorrect moment, in an effort to cut off the big rig, one of the terrorists instructs the token black terrorist to drive his car in front of the big rig. The black terrorist thinks this is a fine idea and is promptly immolated in a twisted mess of steel and flame. This is, of course, played for laughs. Phew! Yep, Cliff was pandering directly to his core red-neck audience with this one, but that’s actually what makes it fun. If Hollywood was doing it today, it would probably star Nicholas Cage (who never turns down a part), it would be loaded with CG effects and would play directly to the urban highschool crowd. Phhhhuutt! Who needs that?

On a sobering note, the film is dedicated to Cliff Wenger Jr., Cliff Sr’s son and protégé, who worked simultaneously on this film and RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985). During a pyrotechnic stunt that went wrong on the Mexico set of RAMBO, Wenger Jr. was killed. It certainly would have been interesting to see what his career would have brought, if he had gotten behind the camera as his old man did. Instead we’ll just unspool this one again and wonder why the hell no-one has released it on DVD. Widescreen. With extras. Seriously.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cinemasochism: CRYSTAL FORCE II: DARK ANGEL (1994)

The original CRYSTAL FORCE must have made a profit of over $700 bucks on video so prolific producer Jerry Feifer (aka Mr. WITCHCRAFT) got this sequel rolling through his Vista Street Entertainment.  He is like Roger Corman on chemo.  And how do you make the positively anemic first film look amazing?  Why you shoot the sequel on video!  After having viewed this follow-up, I suddenly look back on CRYSTAL FORCE with fond memories. Oh, that beautiful film look.  Those semi-professional actors. Damn you, CRYSTAL FORCE II, damn you!

Sad sack bartender Jake (Chris Zawalki) pines for waitress Allison (Betsy Gardner), who is abused by her boyfriend (“Joe may be a son of a bitch, but he’s my son of a bitch”).  He loves her so much that he says he would give his soul for her.  Uh oh. Enter Virgil Starkweather (Paul Brewster).  Yes, Starkweather, this is about as subtle as part 1’s Mr. Beazel.  Anyway, this messenger for Satan drifts into the Royal Oak Bar and proceeds to befriend our lonely spirits slinger.  Virgil uses mind control on a patron via the tiny crystal (yay semi-continuity!) around his neck to start a bar fight which he clumsily breaks up (let’s just say he ain’t no Jackie Chan).  This so impresses owner Big Slim (who is fat, LOL!) that he immediately hires Virgil as a bouncer and gives him the keys to his brother’s place to stay at. Damn, he good.

Of course, Virgil be bad too.  After all, he does have a goatee.  And, for some odd reason, this minion from hell has fangs and we see him bite into a rat and a dude in an alley.  Ol’ Virg here starts working overtime on his Satanic Make-a-Wish foundation for Jake.  He gets him to drink a potion made of his blood and suddenly Jake is full of confidence, even having the amazing courage to tell Allison his favorite movie is THE GODFATHER.  That totally gets her into the sack. You go, boy!  Naturally, this comes with a price and Virgil wants Jake to sign away his soul. The deal is 25 years of Charlie Sheen-esque “winning” on Earth in exchange for your soul burning in eternity.  Hmmm, something seems a bit uneven there.  When Jake refuses, Virgil takes him to hell’s waiting room (the same bar with red lighting) where they play a game of cards for his soul.  THE SEVENTH SEAL this ain’t.

Goddamn, son, this is some rough stuff.  I mean, the WITCHCRAFT series didn’t start doing shot-on-video until WITCHCRAFT IX (1997). To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen (too highbrow?), “I served with WITCHCRAFT IX, I knew WITCHCRAFT IX, WITCHCRAFT IX was a friend of mine.  CRYSTAL FORCE II, you’re no WITCHCRAFT IX.”  I know it is a cliché line, but I really have seen pornos with better production values.  And porn filmmakers often have the sense not to let a dog walk into the frame to ruin a "sexy" scene.  You’ll notice a majority of the screen shots involve the nekkid ladies on display and that is probably because that might be the only thing this “film” has going for it. And even there you are a bit starved as this is like GIRLS GONE WILD minus the production values. How cheap is this film?  I’m not kidding there are two instances where someone where someone is supposed to hear a voice in their head and the filmmakers have someone whispering behind the camera!

Even worse is the connection between the two films.  Since Virgil is only seen rubbing his crystal every now and then, the plot point about it being a satanic instrument is completely reliant on one having seen the first film.  Of course, I knew that because I (foolishly) watched it the day before.  I really shouldn’t be too demanding though.  After all, this is the kind of movie that has Virgil describing average, useless non-Alpha males as guys who “watch a lot of sports but give money to public television.”  To quote our good buddy Jack Burton, “I don’t even know what the hell that means!” The acting is about what you’d expect.  Zawalki is actually decent in the lead, but Brewster’s voice started to annoy me, sounding like an Ambien hopped up home shopping host while looking like Kevin Dillon’s evil twin (goatee!).

Director James MacKinnon is a vet of the WITCHCRAFT series, having served as the make-up department head on parts IV-VII (“throw some blood on her breasts!”).  He also plays the “beast from hell” (meaning: werewolf costume day rental) that shows up for about 30 seconds to try and attack the comatose Jake in the hospital (see pic). Believe it or not, he might give the film’s most spirited performance.  He has since gone on to work on big budget Hollywood fare like THOR (2011) as a make up guy and I couldn’t be happier for him.  Whatever keeps him away from the video camera is good in my book.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Cinemasochism: CRYSTAL FORCE (1990)

One of the dumbest things you can ever do as a Video Junkie is trying to prove your bravery to others.  I did this a few years ago by vowing to watch all of the films in the direct-to-video WITCHCRAFT series.  Young and naïve, I thought if a series had reached 13 entries (the longest in horror film history) that it had to have some kind of merit, right?  Wrong!  It was a long and painful journey that left me a changed man afterward.  The sun no longer shined as bright and the world seemed darker.  How in the world could executive producer Jerry Feifer keep getting returns on such a diminishing product?  And when encountering something this bad, the natural reaction is, obviously, to check out every title from his Vista Street Entertainment.

CRYSTAL FORCE (isn’t that a porn star’s name?) opens with the camera swooping around a cemetery while a narrator goes on and on about an evil force that “strikes at a time of grief and mourning.”  Damn, this force might attack me while I’m watching this cuz I know my grief level will be through the roof.  The film proper begins with Beth (porn star Sharon Kane billed as Katherine McCall) and her mother recovering from the sudden death of her father.  She lets mom stay with her and vows to keep running her in-home beauty salon.  To give you an idea of how subtle this film isn’t, at the wake her bitchy friend Lurleen (Ash Graham) tells a friend that this is the best time to try and seduce Beth’s cop fiancé Jack (John Serrdakue).  Even better, this plot point is never returned to.

Beazel like rock candy!
Anyway, Beth and her friend Val (Ray McLikian) decide to get out of the house and go shopping.  They stop at the mysterious place Beazel’s One-of-a-Kind Shop.  Yeah, really, Beazel.  If you can’t figure this one out, you might be Feifer’s dream audience.  Beth buys a crystal from Mr. Beazel (Tony C. Burton) for $25 and you know this thing is bad news when she gets it home and visiting Rev. Peters (Dick Gammon) gets all queasy on the family.  As cinematic law dictates, priests are the vessels of good so anything that makes them ill is baaaad.  Some kind of demonic force is within this crystal, homeboy.  In her infinite wisdom, Beth decides the way to cheer up her depressed mom is to – wait for it – hold a séance!  So a gaggle of ladies settle in for a night of gossiping and palm reading.  Of course, Beth seems like a real good interior designer and has plopped the rock candy looking crystal right in the center of the table.  Everyone gets freaked out when some monster quickly flashes in and, later, rips off the alone Lurleen’s top (but no one believes her).         

Of course, after such a freaky experience the women all agree to never do this kind of stuff again.  Haha, yeah right!  They think another session the next night will be perfect.  Even with Beth having crazy dreams of being raped by a demon and hallucinating seeing the dead priest mauled by docile Dobermans on her beauty shop floor (“I’m telling you there were dogs in here drinking blood!”) isn’t enough to dissuade them.  Hell, even Lurleen being killed by the demon in an alley and not showing up doesn’t stop these ladies from having their séance.  Mama needs her psychic fix, y’all.  So we rinse-and-repeat the event from the night before and this time the demon emerges from a pentagram on the wall and proceeds to whoop some ass while Beazel looks in from a window and laughs.  Damn you, crystal force, damn you!

CRYSTAL FORCE was made around the same time as the Feifer-produced WITCHCRAFT II: THE TEMPTRESS where they decided to decrease the horror factor and increase the emphasis on sex.  After all, their demographic loves them some nekkid titties, right?  What does that say about me?  Anyway, if you are a “fan” of that type of film then there this is more of the same – positively undemanding semi-horror with an emphasis on silly Satanism and baring female flesh.  Somewhere I imagine a wannabe Satanic dude in his middle 40s dressed all in black who really digs these films.  Director Laura Keats focuses on the women more than a male director would, which means it is really boring with lots of talks of pedicures and stuff.  She also seems to have no idea how to unfold a plot.  We have that aforementioned bit with Lurleen talking about stealing Beth’s man.  It haunts Beth in an erotic dream even though she wasn’t aware of it and one assumes the creature kills Lurleen because of this jealousy.  But we can never know for sure as there is never a confrontation between these two characters over this matter.  You know you are in trouble when a top ripping is the film’s highlight: 

The only really amusing thing about this flick is the hilarious tagline “the door to hell swings both ways.” I don’t think the filmmakers thought that one through when they came up with it. Also, the demon monster gave me a laugh. When it first appeared (via Vista’s patented shoddy post-production video effects), I thought, “Damn, that looks a lot like the monster from the Roger Corman-produced THE TERROR WITHIN (1988).” With each passing glance, I realized it is the same monster suit from that film. That is hilarious. Even funnier, this might be the most sexual adventurous screen demon I’ve ever seen as, midway through its dream rape, it turns Beth over to get it on doggy style! I wonder if Kane – a veteran of over 600 porn flicks – found herself thinking “this is really degrading” during that scene. It is strange because, once again, a porn star proves to be decent in the lead. Everyone else in the cast appear to be one-and-done types. This is such dire stuff that little fun is to be had from it. Given how they went wild with the WITCHCRAFT sequels, I’m shocked they never did a follow-up here titled something stupid like CRYSTAL FORCE II: DARK ANGEL. Oh crap, they really did make that? Guess I know what I am watching tonight. Damn you, crystal force, damn you!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The "Never Got Made" Files #58 - #60: More Charles Band Unmade Madness

Well, gotta do some sort of update to let the world know we haven't overdosed just yet.  And no better person than reliable ol' Charles Band and his plethora of unmade projects to give us some interesting blogfodder.


How something with such amazing artwork didn't get made is truly a travesty.  Listed producer-director Robert Amante is a pseudonym that Band used as a producer on the later SAVAGE ISLAND (1985) starring Linda Blair.  So perhaps SHACKLED somehow morphed into that project?


"The violent rise and fall of a powerful and corrupt man." So this is a documentary about Empire Pictures?  This one is a real curiosity - a seemingly normal gangster film from a time period where Band was all about little aliens and creepy monsters.


"The Intergalactic theatre of terror is about to be cancelled..." reads the tagline. Gotta go to my standard Jack Burton response and say, "I don't even know what the hell that means."  This was from the fall of 1984 and appears to be some kind of sci-fi flick.  Credited writer Robert Goethals appears to be a real dude with only 3 credits to his name.  What is really interesting is the attachment of producer Brian Yuzna on this, as he would produce RE-ANIMATOR with Band's help the following year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The XXX-Factor: More Classic Adult Ads

A bit too busy for a big review post (yeah right, you say), so here are some more great classic ads for the adult films of yesteryear.  This was back when mainstream industry mags like Variety and Box Office had no problem advertising smutty product right across an ad for a PG-rated kids flick.  Enjoy!

Finally, here is a funny as hell article from Box Office about the set of a John Holmes flick being raided by the cops and shut down.  First, I love that the whole thing was found out by Peeping Toms, er, cops peeking through a window. Second, poor Roberta Findlay getting no respect in that last paragraph with her name misspelled.  Click to embiggen!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Gweilo Dojo: THE LOST EMPIRE (1983)

It’s times like these when the tragic loss of fine exploitation talent hurts the most. When Bill Wynorski took over after Jim’s tragic accident, it was clear who was in the front of the talent line in that family. None makes this point more clear than Jim Wynorski’s freshman outing. When people ask us why we like Jim Wynorski (which, to our dismay, no one ever does), this is what we’re talking about. Virtually exploding with cinematic enthusiasm, young sonny Jim grabs all of his favorite movie clichés and frappe’s them on high. The result? The polar opposite of “suck”. Sporting a fantastic b-movie cast, catchy electronic score and lots of eye-candy, it's amazing nobody has seen fit to give this a full-blown special edition DVD. 

Opening with an oddball scene that really sets the stage for the oddball antics to come, a busty blonde is trying on jewelry in an old Chinese man’s store only to have three ninja-lookin’ dudes with spinning shuriken on chains appear out of nowhere. The old man busts all Dirty Harry on them, but they are able to deflect the bullets with their stars! Faster than you can say Sho Kosugi, the cops are on the scene and for some inexplicable reason are able to shoot the bad-guys (firearm training, perhaps), but not before being taken out themselves. One cop, mortally wounded, ends up in the hospital.

At least she dressed
for the occasion
As it turns out, he is the brother of tougher than leather karate copette Angel Wolfe (Melanie Vincz). Before he dies he passes on one of the stars and a cryptic, rambling message about the devil and hands off one of the ninja's shuriken. Of course this makes perfect sense to Wolfe’s fed boyfriend Rob (Paul Coufos), who sees the star and declares “I’m talking about international terrorism, mass murder and a legend of supernatural horror that goes back over 200 years!” Of course he is talking about the legend of Lee Chuck (not to be confused with the legend of LeChuck), an asian crimelord who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for immortality. Apparently he had a lousy agent at the time because there was a stipulation in the contract that stated that Lee Chuck had to provide one soul every twenty-four hours to stay alive. Even on a Sunday? What a pain in the ass!

Lee Chuck, as it turns out, is after the Eye of Avatar; a set of jewels created by a long forgotten race called the Lemurians. Ummm… ok. If the eyes are joined then the wielder becomes all powerful. Fair enough, though this sounds a bit like DEATHSTALKER (1983) and damned if Lee Chuck doesn’t smack of Lo Pan, who came along some three years later. Anyway, the presumed guise of Lee Chuck is Dr. Sin Do (Angus Scrimm), a megalomaniacal cult leader who has an island fortress, is plotting to take over the world and… wait for it… holds secret deathsports in his private arena! I wonder if he ever invites Master Bong Soo Han over for tea?

So now Wolfe has got it all figured out and there is only one thing to do… sign up for the tournament of course! But not so fast! See Dr. Sin Do is a little crackers (and who wouldn’t be after killing people every day for 200 years, the tedium would surely drive you mad), so he has a stipulation in the entry rules. Entrants must be in teams of three. I’m sure you can see exactly where this is heading, right? Now Wolfe must search for a duo of hot female ass-kickers so she can enter in the tournament. First stop? The local Indian reservation to summon an ex-policewoman named Whitestar (Raven De La Croix) who arrives on a white horse and cracks one liners like May West and dispenses pearls of Indian wisdom. When learning that Wolfe’s brother is dead she offers her sympathy by saying “you’ve endured great sadness… the winds will take care of him”. What the hell is that supposed to mean? Who wants to have a breeze be actively involved in their well being, even if they are dead?

Wolfe and Whitestar decide that they need a couple cans of redneck champagne in order to figure out what their next move will be. To achieve that end, they get up in a couple of skimpy outfits and head to the local Saddle Rack. C’mon, you know that this will not end well. Sure enough, on their way out the door a couple of shitkickers decide they are going to get some… the hard way. This leads to a bout of busty femme-fu that would make Russ Meyer shed a tear in appreciation.

At this point the movie begins to feel a bit episodic, but hell, the episodes are so much fun, who cares? Next on the whistle-stop tour through the exploitation cinema chestnuts is a women’s penitentiary! Wolfe decides she’s going to recruit a tough (and yes, busty) badass named… err, Heather (Angela Aames), what? No special name for her? The only problem is that they have to wait to talk to her until she is done having a brawl in the yard with superbitch Whiplash (Angelique Pettyjohn) who is attired in what must be a prison-issue sectional leather dominatrix outfit (yes, you read that right) and their brawl is conveniently located near a big patch of mud. Fuckin' A, Jim, you are, errr, I mean were, the man! Since this whip-cracking, top-ripping brawl is perfectly acceptable for this prison, also acceptable is the fact that you can go visit inmates, not in a visitor’s area behind bullet-proof glass, under heavy security, but you can just go and hang out with them while they take a shower! Yep, Heather’s release back into the free world is negotiated while she is naked, wet and soapy. To be honest, it took me the third viewing for it to actually dawn on me that this might not actually be very realistic. I don’t know why it never occurred to me before. No idea.

Lost Empire Girl Fight by Sleazegrinder

So now that we have our team together, it’s time to head off to Sin Do’s island, courtesy of his henchman Kodo (Robert Tessier) who’s giant, fluffy eyebrows seem to appear and disappear throughout the rest of the film. Once on the island the girls are run through a battery of tests (many of which involve a noticeable lack of clothing) before the tournament. They also discover that the island is a prison for failed combatants and that the security team will hunt down escapees with a gorilla on a chain! Add to that killer robot-tarantulas, a UL approved death ray, and a decapitated, smack-talkin’ zombie head and you have a movie that packs in so much entertainment value, that you might actually forget that it really doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. Actually, it makes very little sense, but trust me even if you do notice, you'll never care.

You could criticize THE LOST EMPIRE for hitting tons of cinematic clichés on it’s way to it’s ultimate goal, which is yet another staple of drive-in cinema, but that would cheapen it. And it’s already cheap. This is Wynorski paying homage to all of the things we love about drive-in movies and exploitation flicks in general, almost in the vein of a spoof, but with without the cynicism. Without actually ripping anyone off, he utilizes influences from James Bond, Jack Hill, Dirty Harry, Bob Clouse, Russ Meyer, and many more, all done at a breakneck pace and tongue-in-cheek style. In a great bit that introduces us to Officer Wolfe, a group of thugs are holding some gradeschool kids hostage. The captain (Kenneth Tobey) calls for Wolfe to go in and kick ass, while Sgt. Prager (Blackie Dammett) is calling for moderation. Naturally Wolfe goes in guns-blazing on a black motorcycle, blowing away perps left and right and when it’s time for the bad guy to go down, he’s sure she’s out of ammo “Ok, pig, that’s six, you are all mine!”. Wolfe blasts him across a desk and says “if you are going to come to school punk, you better learn to count!” and if that doesn’t get a chuckle out of you, you should probably pass this one up because you will never understand the true genius of Jim Wynorski... not Bill.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The "Never Got Made" File #57: THE OVERLORDS

It is always sad to see an unrealized project.  It is especially sad, however, when a project dies because someone behind it literally dies.  Such is the case with the proposed THE OVERLORDS.  Riding high on Lucas and Spielberg's coattails post-STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS respectively, exploitation director William Girdler was planning an epic sounding sci-fi flick.  In just a few short years, Girdler had established a keen exploitation eye.  When THE EXORCIST hit big, he came out with the blaxploitation version in ABBY (1974).  Warner Bros congratulated him on his success and even sent him flowers.  Yeah right, they sued his ass off and got the film pulled from theaters.  Of course, this didn't stop Girdler.  With THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE raking in big bucks, he put out THREE ON A MEAT HOOK (1975). When Spielberg hit it big earlier with JAWS, Girdler transported the action inland and gave us GRIZZLY (1976).

There is no reason to doubt his riff on aliens and close encounters would have been awesome.  Tragically, it never got made as Girdler was killed in a helicopter crash on January 21, 1978 in Manila.  He was there scouting locations for this upcoming sci-fi project that boasted it would be shot in 17 (!) countries.  Here is a mention of the soon to be abandoned project in Starlog circa 1978:

And here is a trade ad that Avco Embassy ran for the film in Variety in 1978.  Listed screenwriter Harry Kleiner gave the world FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966) and BULLITT (1968), so you know it would have at least had a good script.  I don't know about you, but seeing this ad makes me sad for whatcouldahbeen.  I, for one, would have welcomed our new film THE OVERLORDS.

Here is THE OVERLORDS in an Avco Embassy ad from the same issue.  I like the filming location being listed as "the universe."

UPDATE (to be said in Robert Stack voice)! Reader Jerome alerted us to this project living beyond Girdler's demise (see his link in the comments section below).  A little further digging unearthed some additional details. Here is a small item from the June 12, 1978 issue of Box Office promising Marvin J. Chomsky taking over as director with filming to begin in August 1979.

And this news item appeared in Starlog in April 1979.  This gives plenty more plot details and still lists Chomsky as taking over as director.  Ultimately, it never got made but it still did manage to kick around for a while after Girdler's untimely passing.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cinemasochism: SAVAGE VENGEANCE (1993)

If there is one subgenre of horror films that I particularly don't like, it is the rape-revenge flicks.  They tend to reinforce any misconceived notions about the genre being overly mysoginistic and I visibly cringe when someone says they “enjoyed” something like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978).  But we have to remain professional here at Video Junkie and take the bad with the good.  And who am I to pass up something described as "not worthy of spit" on the IMDb?  So while most horror neophytes were going nuts over the recent remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (“oh man, it is so much better than the original and I love hardcore horror”), we decided to take in writer-director (I use those terms lightly) Donald Farmer’s shot-on-video semi-sequel SAVAGE VENGEANCE (aka I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE PART 2), where he somehow managed to convince Camille Keaton to reprise her role from the original film. Yeah, we're talking true hardcore horror here you sissies!

The “film” opens with Jennifer Hills (Keaton) pulling her car off the side of the road and trapsing through the woods so she can go read a magazine by a waterfall.  Really (there’s gonna be a lot of those)! For some odd reason four dudes in a Volkswagen pull off the same road and park next to her car.  What is it with this place?  They then head out into the woods as well, spot Jennifer and then rape her. Before you have flashbacks to the griminess of the first film, I should tell you this is the tamest rape ever as the guys just tend to dry hump her.  In addition, director Farmer actually captures shots where you can clearly see Keaton still has her jeans on.  Yeah, we’re dealing with this kind of sophisticated filmmaking.

When the ordeal finally ends, we get a graphic that says “5 years later” and cut to skuzzy Tommy (Farmer, proving to be a triple threat and looking too much like Randy Quaid) trying to pick up a chick in a bar (with future scream queen Melissa Moore badly lipsynching on stage). When his “can I buy you a Slim Jim” line doesn’t work, he stabs her outside the bar when she leaves. Cut to a college law class. The professor wants to test the knowledge of his class and asks if anyone can name a famous case from the past few years.  One girl mentions the case of Jennifer Hills and the professor recounts the details of the rape, her subsequent revenge and the not guilty verdict.  Yup, the opening rape was supposed to be a recreation of the first film.  Even better, the professor says he heard this famous female vigilante is even in this very class (they never actually show Keaton in the classroom).  Really!  The next scene has Jennifer running into her friend Sam (Linda Lyer) in the student union and saying she is quitting college on the first day because of that professor.   “I need to get away,” she says and invites Sam with her to a rented house in the country (did she rent this house between leaving class and now?).  Sam is reluctant until Jennifer says she will buy some beer. Really!

"Can I buy you a Slim Jim?"
On their way to the rental house, the ladies stop at a gas station where Sam runs afoul of Tommy, who is thrown out by white knight Dwayne (Phil Newman).  Such a chivalrous act results in Sam inviting Dwayne out for a visit at their place, but she doesn’t know that Tommy and Dwayne were doing the ol’ good rapist/bad rapist routine.  Jennifer and Sam make it to the house, but Sam is offened by the condition of it and says she is going for a walk in the woods. She gets lost and ends up at Dwayne and Tommy’s cabin where they rape and kill her.  Really!  Jennifer goes looking for Sam, who she claims has been missing for a few hours even though we went from day to night and back to day.  She meets Dwayne and Tommy back at the gas station and they say that Sam is back at their place and invite her back for some pork belly pie to which she agrees. Really!

Once at the cabin, Jennifer sees that Sam is dead and splits into the woods with our two killers in pursuit.  She fights off Tommy and proceeds to beat Farmer with a big stick; an act I am truly envious of.  Dwayne finally catches her in the world’s worst cinematic sneak up. Seriously, watch this clip and tell me how he snuck up on her.

We get another full-pants rape scene that ends with Tommy cutting Jennifer on the chest.  For some reason they think this has killed her and go about their small town lives again.  They get a visit from the Sheriff, who just wants to warn them to “stay clear of them new girls.”  Too late, we’ve already killed them.  But Jennifer has survived and stumbles out of the woods (with no cut on her chest) and stops a passing motorist. No joke, the next scene has Dwayne at a country and western bar where his buddy Bulldog says some redhead was asking about him while she was at the hardware store buying a shotgun and chainsaw.  She said to meet her in the woods tomorrow at noon. Really!  Anyway, Dwayne shows up and Jennifer slices his head in half with a chainsaw (the only worthwhile FX).  We then cut to Tommy in his house playing with his corpses.  Jennifer shows up with a shotgun, calls Tommy out and then shoots him in the balls (they never actually show it). The end. Really!

Sorry if that summary is all over the place, but that is exactly how this movie monstrocity unfolds.  Watching this gave a new meaning of cinemasochism and this epic launched right into my top 5 of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Hell, this might be top 3!  How director-writer-star Donald Farmer convinced anyone, let alone the star of the first film, to appear in this is beyond me.  It was shot in the late 80s but didn’t hit video until 1993.  Original GRAVE director (and Keaton’s ex-husband) Meir Zarchi apparently sued Farmer over it and this resulted in changing Jennifer’s name.  How did they do this?  By blanking the audio any time someone says her last name!  Of course, this is a "film" that opens with a title card that reads SAVAGE VENGANCE.  Yup, you know you are in for a good time when the capable filmmakers misspell their title.  Don't believe me?  Check it out:

But copyright infringement is the least of this film’s worries.  It is so horribly shot that you will be begging for the sophistication of SOV epics like BLOOD CULT or THE RIPPER.  The plotting is also so bad that you have to wonder if Farmer is touched in the head.  I mean, he can’t even properly convey how many days this action unfolds in. Plus, he couldn’t even arrange to have a scene where Jennifer is actually shown buying her instruments of revenge? Instead we get a guy named Bulldog giving us plot exposition!  I never listen to guys named Bulldog.  Of course, this might be because rumor has it Keaton apparently walked out on the filming, er, videotaping.  She took the pseudonym Vickie Kehl on the "finished" product.  I don’t know if that makes me happy or frightened.  I'm sure Farmer wanted this to be hard-edged and shocking like the original.  But, in fact, the only thing that made my jaw drop in this flick is Jennifer getting ten gallons of gas for $10.50.  Really!  The only positive thing about this “film” is that the thing runs 65 minutes, which is still pretty tough to endure.  Well, that and the misspelled title.  I'm just glad my saintly name, William Wilson, has never been associated with something this bad.  Oh, goddamn it, Farmer!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Clonin' the Barbarian: The End...for now!

Hope you enjoyed the coverage on CONAN THE BARBARIAN rip-offs.  After a month of staring at nothing but swords and loin cloths, we figured it is time to end it.  And what better way than with the best Conan spoof ever put to film?