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 9, 2011

Fangs for Nothing: FRIGHT NIGHT PART II (1988)

True story that will make you cry - I never got to see FRIGHT NIGHT PART II in the theater. Living overseas at the time, the Armed Forces entertainment system depended mostly on big releases.  If it got into 1,000 theaters in the U.S., chances are it would hit the military base theaters within a few months time.  Oh, and for some reason we got every Cannon Films movie.  Yay Charles Bronson!  So with this vampire sequel slipping into only 150 theaters in May of 1989, chances were slim that I would get to see it unfold on the big screen.  I eventually got to see it on VHS and enjoyed the hell out of it.  It is a great sequel that hits the similar riffs of the first film, yet slightly alters them.  But, even back then as semi-formed Video Junkie, I knew the transition to home video had cropped off a lot of the action.

In 2003, Artisan pulled a big screw you on the fans by finally releasing the popular film on the FULLSCREEN format.  Yay.  It looked like a widescreen release would never see the light of day as the execs would probably say lack of interest in their shoddy fullscreen release means no one wants to see it widescreen so they can't re-release it. Thankfully, some Video God intervened and the film was shown in its proper aspect ratio on the short-lived channel Monsters HD.  Why is this so important?  Well, director Tommy Lee Wallace was an longtime friend of John Carpenter.  And, like his buddy, he loves to use the widescreen framing to full effect.  Homeboys know how to compose the hell out of a 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio.  And here are just a few comparison shots (fullscreen vs. widescreen) to show you what the hell I am so giddy about when, after 23 years of waiting, I finally got to check out the full FRIGHT NIGHT PART II.















Pretty wild, ain't it?  Some weren't as unfortunate as me and did get to see this on the big screen *cough, Tom, cough* but at least I can get some semblance of what it was like.  I'm telling you, once I get that time machine working, I am totally going back to check this thing out in the theater.  Save the world from Hitler?  Stop Ted Bundy?  Kill the ancestors of the Kardashians?  All of those can wait.  I gots to see me some FRIGHT NIGHT PART II on the big screen.  

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mondo Millard: SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING (1974)

As board certified bad movie enthusiasts, it is our job to journey into the netherworlds of cinema in order to unearth the worst films of all-time.  One of the more consistent purveyors of cinematic punishment has been director Nick Millard (aka Nick Philips), a man whose films are so cheap that H.G. Lewis has been known to watch them and scream, “Jesus, this guy knows how to cut corners!”

Millard got his start in the early 1960s, delivering b&w skin flicks with evocative titles like NYMPHO (1965) and THE SLUT (1965).  I wonder if anyone ever got those two confused.  Like most folks, my first exposure to Millard came via his later CRAZY FAT ETHEL (aka CRIMINALLY INSANE; 1975).  Sporting one of horrordom’s best titles and smallest budgets, it is a cult classic in every sense. But it appears Millard’s first foray into the horror genre came with SATAN’S BLACK WEDDING, which can only be described as ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) with plastic-fanged vampires on a budget of $10.78.

Mark Gray (Greg Braddock) returns to his childhood hometown following the suicide of his sister Nina (Lisa Milano).  According to his Aunt, Mark’s younger sis was writing a book titled “High Satanic Rites” and her research led her to an old abandoned church, where her frequent visits started a dark change in her.  What no one in the family knows is that Nina has fallen under the spell of Father Daken (Ray Myles), a 200-year-old priest who happens to worship Satan. And, screw it, he is a vampire too.  Daken has been courting the now vampire Nina so that she can help him perform a ritual to resurrect the ol’ Prince of Darkness.

Man, I wish my plot summary could be longer but that is really all there is to this flick.  Released on a double bill with the aforementioned INSANE, Millard’s dip into scarier waters offers no pretenses of being a classy horror film.  Hell, it doesn’t even offer a legit running time (62 minutes!).  I know if I found out I had 3 months to live tomorrow that I would spend it watching Millard films as he can make an hour seem like years.  This is why we love his films.  They are so cheap, wrong headed and inept, that they become lovable works of trash art (now you can accuse me of getting all “Jess Franco scholar” on you).  I’m not kidding - the vampire fangs used here are literally those plastic fangs you would buy as a kid.  That is nothing compared to the glimpse of Satan we get in the film’s final minute.  Millard is content to shoot the eye of some animal (probably a poster he found on a wall) that looks surprisingly like the US GODZILLA (1998) remake poster. Seriously, take a look at the Eye of Satan:

Technically, the film is a total mess.  The piano score sounds like it playing on the wrong speed and prepare to cover your ears anytime someone says a word beginning with an S as the audio makes sure to scratch that all up (“Ssssatan sssseeks ssssoulssss”).  The technical deficiencies are nothing compared to the plot’s lapses in logic.   There is a scene where Mark arrives at his sister’s place after the police have taken her body away and he goes to use the phone. Midway through his call, he notices a pool of blood and her severed finger on the counter.  The cops show up again with the chief detective admonishing a guy and telling him to do a better job looking around the crime scene next time.  I’m not kidding!  Later, the detective delivers what is easily now one of my favorite lines of dialog ever. Mark and his love interest get scared by a painting of Nina as a vampire that shows up mysteriously in their house.  They show it to the cop and he says, “I’ve never seen anything like that. There’s no point in calling in the lab boys because they haven’t either.” Seriously, say it out loud.  Two lines of dialog that perfectly encapsulate what we love about Nick Millard films.

Another fun thing is trying to guess when this flick was actually made.  The IMDb incorrectly lists a 1980 release year on it, but Millard says on the Shock-o-Rama special edition DVD (worth every penny, buy it!) that they made the film in 1974. Dude is definitely playing hard to find.  Millard pops up on our radar every now and then with crazy pseudonyms for some truly wonky action pictures (.357 MAGNUM; GUNBLAST; THE TERRORISTS) that have release dates harder to locate than Osama bin Laden (too soon?).  Just another reason why we love Nick and his unique brand of moviemaking – it is like a cinematic treasure hunt.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Theatrical Trip: DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (2010)

I honestly had no intention of seeing DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT in the theater as the trailers did little to sell the flick to me.  And, after all, we are Video Junkie and not Theater Junkie.  That is probably another blog of some loser who spends all his time in the theater watching movies.  But when I read that it opened on 875 screens and came in #18 place at the box office this past weekend (grossing $754,779 with a sickly $863 per screen average), I knew I had to see it. After all, you want to have the kind of unbelievable “I…was…there” horror stories to tell the Grand Video Junkies one day.  So I bravely made my way to 1:30pm showing – with an older lady being the only other person in the theater – as a recorder of theatrical release history.  Hey, who just whispered “loser” under their breath?  I heard that!

The film opens with Elizabeth (Anita Briem) finding her antique importer father dead from a werewolf attack.  She requests the services of private investigator Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh) and his assistant Marcus (Sam Huntington).  Seems Dylan is an expert in the paranormal world but – you guessed it – gave that world up a long time ago after the death of the love of his life.  Gee, I wonder if something will happen to get him to take the case.  Indeed it does as Marcus is killed by a 7-foot tall zombie on steroids and this gets Dylan back into the game.  As he explains to Elizabeth, Dylan is the one guy selected by the undead to be the human gateway between their world and the world of the living.  If you have a problem, he is the one who takes care of it.

And, of course, there is a big problem. Seems the vampire and werewolf factions are feuding over an ancient silver dagger known as the Heart of Belial. Whoever possesses this will be able to resurrect a demon that will wipe out all of the undead at their all-powerful bidding. So we are basically looking at undead class warfare (or the plot of BLADE [1998]). Since he was bitten by a zombie, Dylan’s partner-in-crime solving Marcus is resurrected, but doesn’t fancy the zombie lifestyle.  Their investigation leads them to a bunch of creature characters from Dylan’s past including vampire Vargas (Taye Diggs), who is grateful to Dylan for taking out his competition back in the day, to werewolf kingpin Gabriel (Peter Stormare) and his son Wolfgang (former Olympian and pro-wrestler Kurt Angle).  So Dylan has to bust out his old bag (literally) of supernatural tricks to solve this mystery.

There isn’t really a whole lot to say about this film – it isn’t great, it isn’t terrible, it is just sort of there.  Director Kevin Munroe (TMNT) makes his live action debut here and everything is serviceable. Well, except for making the vampires emo goth TWILIGHT wannabes with bad haircuts.  Can we put a stake through the heart of this trend already?  There are some cool monsters with actual prosthetic effects and the film is never boring.  Unfortunately, Munroe is let down by a really terrible script by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer (soon to bless us with the CONAN remake).  Man, this stinker is bad as they hit every film noir cliché in the books.  I’m sure their defense to that criticism is “we meant it to be like that” but that is unacceptable (and unbelievable in my book) when you have lines like, “I never knew what love was until I lost it.”  I seriously wish I had a pen and paper handy to write down all the formula lines these poor actors had to utter.  I’m glad I didn’t though as I might have full-blown arthritis by the end of this film’s running time.  For every little cool thing they did (vampires selling their blood as a drug; silver knuckles for fighting werewolves), they matched it with bad things (zombie support groups; the obligatory vampire dance club).  Even worse, from the grievances I’ve read online by Dylan Dog comic fans, the screenwriters have apparently taken out all of the source material’s more eccentric elements to make it blander. Don’t you remember Pa Kent telling Superman that being different is a good thing?

And speaking of the Man of Steel (worst…segue…ever), you have Brandon Routh, the now unemployed Superman, in the lead role here and he looks the part. The filmmakers cleverly capitalize on his fame by reteaming him with Huntington (aka Jimmy Olsen) from SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006).  The duo definitely has good chemistry, but that is ruined by the horrible script (“they were out of Caucasian arms in your size”).  The rest of the cast is blah.  You know you are in trouble when Kurt F’N Angle gives one of the film’s better performances. Briem, who can’t keep a sweater on her shoulder to save her life, is sort of just there as the female love interest.  Believe it or not, Routh and Huntington have a better romantic chemistry. Taye Diggs is doing what he always does – suave Taye Diggs but with fangs this time.  And finally there is Peter Stormare. Whooboy, he must have really taken his role as a werewolf seriously as he chews on more scenery than should be allowed.  Seriously, this makes his performance in Romero’s BRUISER (2000) look subtle.

As it stands, DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT is the embodiment of average, straight down the middle of the road horror filmmaking. It won’t insult your grey matter like PIRANHA 3-D (2010), but it ain’t going to replace the other Tiziano Sclavi adaptation DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (aka CEMETERY MAN; 1994) any time soon. Oddly enough, the opening credits of this appear to have several visual nods to Michele Soavi’s classic.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery they say, but it won’t get on the same level, Mr. Munroe.  Dylan’s business cards succinctly read “No pulse? No problem.” Ha, you guys are making it too easy for me as this film definitely suffers from no pulse, but that is a huge problem.  If you are hankering for some neo-noir monstrous mayhem, I would suggest the vastly superior CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991) instead.  That’ll be $20.

Just for kicks, an ad for the Dylan Dog Horror Fest in Milan from the early 90s:

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.