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!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Halloween Havoc: MY SOUL IS SLASHED (1991)

Once upon a time there was a movie about a giant lizard that trampled buildings and was shot down by the military. That movie was such a huge, global success that it spawned a film from a rival company about a giant turtle that was… erm… a friend to kids everywhere. That movie was such a success that decades later, after the big lizard made a grand return, so did the turtle.

Arguably Shusuke Kaneko’s GAMERA trilogy (1995-1999) are the pinnacle of kaiju cinema. Kaneko seamlessly integrated a variety of special effects techniques and brought the camera down to a human eye level to deliver some of the most impressive rubber monster battle sequences ever filmed. They also managed to be family friendly without being cloyingly cute or dripping with saccharine. An uncommon attribute among Japanese kiddie monster flicks (*cough* MOTHRA *cough*). So what the hell did Kaneko do before he raised the bar on the kaiju? Well, there was an exceptionally err, “cool”, entry in the Lovecraft inspired anthology NECRONOMICON (1993) and if you were one of those people who lived in an urban cave constructed entirely out of VHS tapes, you would have seen a movie called MY SOUL IS SLASHED floating around the grey market. Inconceivably this was pre-internet days, involving paper, stamps, and waiting for sometimes weeks for a movie if not months, if not never (*cough* Donald Farmer *cough*). Excuse me, I seem to have an itch in my throat. Bearing an amazingly cool title, but no subtitles, I passed on it back in the day, but after NECRONOMICON and the GAMERAs came and went I finally decided to see if Kaneko’s early effort showed the potential that he realized in his next few efforts. It’s taken me over a decade to get around to it, but I’ve finally gone there courtesy of a typically crap-quality Floridian bootleg that I digitally enhanced to make it barely watchable.

The film opens with an incredibly cool credit sequence featuring scenes from the original Dracula story done with puppets in a hyper-gothic style, which surely made Tim Burton green with envy. The camera pulls in and out of the scenes and rotates around the sets giving the scenes an extra dimension. This is so effective that it makes me wish the entire movie was done using this technique and with perhaps a different script as well. Not that the script is terrible, but the atmospheric visuals and gothic score really set the tone for a movie that this certainly is not.

During a modern-day revolution in Romania, a blood sample of a well known historic figure is lost in the scuffle. The sample ends up in Japan in the hands of Izoku, a hospital phlebotomist whose life-long obsession with Dracula (and her family inheritance) has lead her to this moment. While analyzing the blood sample, and realizing that it is indeed Dracula’s, she is suddenly called back to her duties and has to hide the sample in the plasma cooler.

Meanwhile typical cute and silly Japanese school-girl Saeko (Hikari Ishida), amusingly pronounced “psycho”, is turning 17, but her father is too busy with his work for a medical company to notice. Ishikawa (Ken Ogata) is in upper management and the project lead on a new pharmaceutical product that has taken years of his life to produce and is now suddenly being accused of being tainted. The scandal is all over the news and Ishikawa is certain that it is a result of sabotage from within the company. He is right, of course, and worse still is that the corporate connivers are not content with causing the corruption of his career. So they decide to run him over with a car. Not exactly as smart or subtle as their scheme to bring down the powers that be, so that they can take the reigns, but seemingly effective. Or is it?

Ishikawa is rushed to the hospital where, yes, of course, he is accidentally given a transfusion with Dracula’s blood. Next thing you know Ishikawa is dead, his company has been taken over and his family is in mourning. Not quite what I was expecting, but hey, I’ll go with it. At the funeral Izoku makes the most awkward introduction ever by asking Saeko if she is a virgin and informing her that her blood can bring pops back from the grave. She neglects to mention in what shape he might return, but that oversight is no doubt due to the fact that she was being dragged off the premises by angry pallbearers. Saeko eventually gives it a shot and dad eventually does return, though not in rented formalwear, but completely in the buff leading to, again, the most awkward of reunions.

Ishikawa is desperate to resist his new nature and Izoku is desperate to be a bride of Dracula, trying to romance Ishikawa while teaching him how to use his new powers. One of her lessons has him jumping off the slide at a playground while wearing a red and black cape. Being a Japanese movie, Ishikawa is still obsessed with his work and finding out who sabotaged his new drug, which has now been re-branded and has made the company a financial success.

The movie isn’t bad, but it’s pretty disappointing after seeing Kaneko’s greater works and particularly those fantastic opening credits. It’s a pretty lightweight, almost sit-com style, movie in which some of the jokes are amusing, but they don’t really build as the movie progresses. One of the more amusing bits is when Ishikawa returns to work after a year of being dead, oblivious to the past and the reactions of his former co-workers. These gags are sprinkled throughout the script making the film sort of a comedy, sort of a romance, sort of a vampire movie and sort of entertaining. To me the most interesting moment in the movie was when they introduced Ishikawa’s wife’s new love interest; the chef at her restaurant who is the slowest moving chef you will ever see in your life. He barely can crank out four plates and even then there's it's just a protein on a sauced plate! No sockle, no garnish! It’s a good thing they only have one table booked. Maybe if the customers are lucky they’ll get to eat something before the restaurant closes. Ermmm... anyway...

MY SOUL IS SLASHED (the title being derived from the Mylène Farmer pop song that is played during the end credits) is pretty amiable entertainment only made better by seeing some of Kaneko’s recent efforts. Although I have somehow managed to miss his recent film THE POLEDANCING BOYS (don’t ask, I don’t know), I did catch the first of his manga-based DEATH NOTE films and I would definitely recommend MY SOUL over that as it may not be the best of his oeuvre, it certainly isn’t the worst.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Halloween Havoc: THE MILPITAS MONSTER (1976)

Damn, are we already a week into October without any horror reviews?  Who let this happen?  I blame management. We unleashed Halloween Havoc last year during the month of October and focused on slashers.  This year we’ve got a creature subtheme where we will be highlighting the claws, fangs and tendrils of horror cinema’s well-known and obscure monsters.  Kicking it off is…

THE MILPITAS MONSTER!  Truth be told, Tom should be handling this movie as the city of Milpitas, CA is right in his backyard of San Jose.  Located within Silicon Valley, it is a town that offers – according to their official website – “life @ your pace.”  And apparently this place was really cool in the 1970s as the whole town got involved in the making of a monster movie that started as a high school project.  How awesome is that?  And while the end result might leave a bit more to be desired, it is a cool back story and probably the film’s main claim to fame. After all, how many high school productions can you name that got limited theatrical releases?

The plot of this one is beyond simple – thanks to an overwhelming amount of garbage from the town, a monster grows out of the muck to attack the city (it may or may not have started its life as a fly; it is never really clear).  The monster has a craving for more trash and heads into Milpitas at night to chew up garbage cans.  If there is one thing you don’t want to do, it is mess with the garbage cans of Milpitas residents (Milpidie? Milpedia? Millipedes?).  “I had to buy two new garbage cans at $8 bucks a piece,” bemoans one angry suburb dad.  The only clues left behind are some huge footprints.  Soon the town folk are down town protesting at City Hall (one sign reads: “What happened to our garbage cans?”) and the Mayor decides to go to the State government for help.

Meanwhile, we are treated to the exploits of some of the locals.  “Crazy” George is the town drunk (played for laughs because addiction is funny), who is the only one who keeps seeing the monster. Does anyone believe him? Hell no, he is “Crazy” George the town drunk and, as Mel Gibson has shown us, drunks in California ain’t trustworthy.  We also witness the life of some teens, including the painfully awkward courtship between Priscilla and Jeff (aka Penguin).  The highlight of this blooming romance is them going to a carnival where Jeff complains endlessly about being nauseous and Priscilla wins an ashtray at a kid’s game (yes, an ashtray). When Jeff says he isn’t having a good time, she says he is a total drag and ditches him.  Also a thorn in Jeff’s side is local high school rebel Keith, who tools around town in his fancy 1950s station wagon with his cronies while smoking cigarettes.  Damn, someone get that man Priscilla’s ashtray. Anyway, this all builds to a high school dance where, in KING KONG-esque fashion, Priscilla is kidnapped by the monster and rivals Jeff and Keith are forced to work together (alongside every Milpitas emergency personal) to save the girl.

Created over a period of three years from 1973-1976, THE MILPITAS MONSTER is definitely one of a kind as it is the only high school production that I can think of that got an actual theatrical release.  And, to be honest, it is the film’s “making of” history that makes it so intriguing and endearing. Director Robert Burrill was the photography teacher at the (now defunct) Samuel Ayer High School and gave his kids an assignment to make a 10-minute movie.  What happened next was the whole town got behind the project and suddenly they were in the motion picture business.  Town shops opened their doors to allow filming, parents and kids made costumes, police and firemen offered their services, and even the Mayor tried his hand at acting by portraying the Mayor (he is so-so in the part, ha!).  It is an amateur effort no doubt, but an obvious labor of love for the community that translates to the screen.  The film itself is okay as it focuses too little on the monster and too much on other random stuff.  I can’t really criticize the acting as high school level as it really is. The VHS I have runs 79-minutes and that is painful at points.  According to Burrill, the original cut was 120-minutes (this longer cut was recently screened and will screen again this month in Milpitas) and I can’t imagine how more drawn out it is.  Obviously, the monster bits are my favorite and they really pulled off some great stuff for the tiny $11,000 budget. The monster is cool and there are some pretty impressive miniatures.  One effects crew member, Ben Burtt, went on to work with some dude named George Lucas as a sound guy and editor.  He has since won 4 Academy Awards, but is no doubt probably brooding due to lack of recognition for his work on THE MILPITAS MONSTER.

It is pretty wild to think of a community coming together to support a film project, but I guess anything was possible in 1970s California.  You’re not going to get anything that will be replacing GODZILLA any time soon, but the MILPITAS MONSTER is a fun little film and probably a total trip for local residents (that means you, Tom!).

Alexander Beck sales sheet featuring 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Life in Poster Art: Charles Napier (1936-2011)

Damn, we were hoping to get our Halloween Havoc 2011 stuff rolling this week, but we figured this deserved a mention.  Yesterday the world stopped to mourn the loss of Steve Jobs (no joke, they interrupted JEOPARDY to tell us), but the B-movie world lost an even bigger star.  A lot of folks might not know the name Charles Napier, but they would recognize his face. Probably best known as the evil bureaucrat in RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985), Napier appeared in well over 200 movies and television shows over his 40-plus year career.  One thing is for sure, you could always count on a solid performance from the man, even when the production might not be as solid.  As a good guy, bad guy or ordinary guy, he was always tops.

The most recent viewing I can recall seeing him in was Fred Olen Ray's DEEP SPACE (1988) where he played a cop (a role he was often in).  The film actually had a bit where Napier's character tries to seduce a girl by playing the bagpipes (!) and he made it work.  I know Tom recently saw him in the direct-to-video actioner FELONY (1995).  And while the final product was subpar, I'm sure Napier delivered in his role.  Of course, the biggest career achievement one can obtain is working for the Italians in low budget flicks.  Like all truly worthy thespians, Napier traveled there to turn out some of our favorite flicks of his including Fabrizio de Angelis' THE LAST MATCH (1990), where a football team break some falsely accused American kids out of a their football jerseys.  Tom adds: One of my all time favorite lines was in THE BLUES BROTHERS and his reading of it really made it the great line that it is. “You’re going to look pretty funny trying to eat corn on the cob with NO FUCKING TEETH!” Classic.  RIP, Mr. Napier!

The Italian years:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Listomania!: Will's September 2011 Viewings

Damn, another month gone already?  I was able to cram in 26 flicks during September, which isn’t too bad.  The number breaks down as follows: 20 DVDs (I include DVD-Rs in that), 2 VHS, 2 streaming online, 1 laserdisc and 1 venture outside to the theater.  It was, per usual, a collection of the good, the bad and the ugly.  The biggest question is what does it say about movie watching when the best thing I saw all month was released in 1985?  Of course, I need to get the bad out of the way quickly.  Consider this first one a huge warning *inserts sounds of Public Emergency Announcement*

GEORGE A. ROMERO PRESENTS DEADTIME STORIES vol. 2 (2011) – Fearless friend Mark Tinta warned the public about volume one of this direct-to-video anthology series back in July of this year.  Did I listen?  No, of course not! Horror fans never listen.  Honestly, I knew this would be low budget, but I went in with the hope that I could get at least a semi-decent episode to bring back that old TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE or MONSTERS vibe.  Nope, not even close.  What I got was a complete amateur hour (and a half) from filmmakers who should know better.  What we get here are three stories introduced by Romero.  Matt Walsh directs "The Gorge," where three spelunkers get trapped in a cave. They are stuck for 27 days before two of them decide it is time to eat a bit of the wounded one. Jeff Monahan directs "On Sabbath Hill,” about an uptight college professor who impregnates a student. After she commits suicide (in front of the whole class), he starts to see visions of her. Finally there is "Dust" directed by DEATH SPA helmer Michael Fischa, where a experimental lab security guard steals some dust from Mars after a doc tells him it might cure his wife's cancer. It does indeed and she turns into a nympho. But when she reverts back to her ill state, he needs more.

Good GAWD!  This is some rough stuff.  First, you have these awful stories where you can guess the twist about 2 minutes into each segment.  Gee, the guy who stole the miracle Mars dust lives next to a cemetery…I wonder what will happen?  Second, I’ve seen better production values on made-for-Youtube shorts.  Monahan and Walsh have been in the business for years, yet they still manage to look like complete amateurs.  The worst sting comes from Fischa.  That guy has actually made an entertaining exploitation flick (the glorious DEATH SPA) so he has literally no excuse.  Finally, there are the Romero segments.  The filmmakers cut between two different recording sessions where he is wearing completely different clothes and looks to be just sitting in his living room.  No set up and zero atmosphere.  The segments are introduced with generic, “You ready to get scared?” lines and are followed with some bad pun.  This was a Pittsburgh-shot production so I know they probably pulled on Romero’s heartstrings there to get him to do this.  It is just embarrassing stuff.  Think of me as your personal Crazy Ralph (the town loony from FRIDAY THE 13th), “If you go anywhere near this title, you’re doomed.  You’re all doomed!”

ASSASSINATION GAMES (2011) – I’m secretly a Van Damme fan, but even I can’t keep up with all of his direct-to-video outings.  I knew about this one because Scott Adkins was involved and I dig his work.  Sadly, this is just as disappointing as their previous teaming on THE SHEPARD (2008).

Two corrupt Interpol cops decide to clean house and get rid of Roland Flint (Scott Adkins), a retired assassin who knows the dirt on them but is in hiding with his incapacitated wife (Bianca Van Varenberg, Van Damme's daughter). They have the gangster who raped Flint's wife released as to draw him out for one last job. But things get complicated when another assassin, Vincent Brazil (Jean-Claude Van Damme), also takes the $1 million contract. Gee, I wonder if these two will learn to respect each other and work together to achieve their mutual goal. This is just another tired entry in Van Damme's filmography. I guess it is better than some of his most recent work, but we are still dealing with a cliché ridden mess. Are we really still doing the "two assassins confront each other with guns pointed at their faces" shot in 2011? And are we still doing the "assassin with the heart of gold" routine? And are we still doing the "cultured assassin" practice (VD listens to classical music and plays chess and the violin)? The film benefits from the addition of DTV staple Scott Adkins and the two leads have a good rapport onscreen. Unfortunately, director Ernie Barbarash has no idea how to shoot a fight scene and Adkins' considerable talents are wasted. Barbarash also turns in one of the ugliest pictures I've seen in a long time. He thinks he adds style by completely bleeding the film of any color, resulting in something that looks like the sepia toned retro-western gag photos you get at an amusement park. Seriously, look at this:

The DVD box says color on it, but that isn't what you are getting. The finale is filmed in normal colors, making me surmise Barbarash thinks he is displaying the cold world the assassins work in until they "do good" and things are suddenly colorful. Well, it doesn't work at all.

DEATH BY DIALOGUE (1988) - Perhaps the world's only possessed script movie? Cary (Lenny Delducca) and four of his friends (including A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3's Ken "Kincaid" Sagoes) go to visit his crippled Uncle Ive, who lives on a sprawling ranch that used to be a movie location in the 1950s. Trouble starts when Shelly (Kelly Sullivan) finds an old script for a film titled VICTIM 67. The kids start getting offed and the script title and plot line keeps changing with each victim. So how did the script get possessed? Seems an ancient tribe the Uncle was friendly with in South America had put the soul of a nosy reporter they killed into an ancient urn and it got loose on a film set in the 1950s and entered a script. Makes perfect sense, right?

This little horror flick was from City Lights, the earlier company from PM Entertainment producers Joseph Merhi and Richard Pepin. It is like a lot of their early stuff, flatly shot but with enough technical sheen to put it above most horror muck. Director Tom DeWier is primarily a stuntman in Hollywood and gets a few cool stunt bits in here, including a girl being blown out of a barn mid-sex. The film's biggest attribute is its M.S.U. (Makin' Shit Up) quality like when one victim wanders into the woods only to see an 80s metal band jamming out before they make his head explode with a guitar to the cranium. Co-star Sagoes must have hated his agent, thinking, "This is the best you could do for me after ELM STREET 3?" Even worse, the filmmakers have him dress exactly the same as his earlier, popular character so audience know he is "the kid who survived A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3" (as the VHS box proudly proclaims).

Two reasons to watch EVIL TOONS
EVIL TOONS (1992) - Roxanne (porn star Madison Stone), Jan (porn star Barbara Dare), Terry (Suzanne Ager), and nerdy Megan (Monique Gabrielle) are hired by Burt (Dick Miller) to spend a weekend cleaning up an old house. You know Megan is the nerdy one because she wears glasses. Anyway, they are delivered a Necronomicon looking book by Gideon Fisk (David Carradine) and, after an incantation is read aloud, a cartoon wolf creature springs forth and starts killing folks. Leave it to Fred Olen Ray to call his film EVIL TOONS, yet only have one cartoon in it with only roughly a minute of animated footage to boot. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT this ain't. This is deliberately goofy stuff and it serves its purpose (topless scenes) for its 82 minutes. The funniest bits are nearly all from Miller, including a scene where he DOESN'T want to get it on with his horny wife (Michelle Bauer). Carradine probably only shot one day on this for drug money and Ray hilariously cuts to reaction shots of him to make you think he is just chilling outside. See David Carradine slink behind a tree! Helping beef up the "name" factor is Arte Johnson as a perv neighbor. It is filmed at that same recognizable house where Ray also did TEENAGE EXORCIST and SPIRITS. Wynorski also did SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II there.

THE CURIOUS DR. HUMPP (1969) - A reporter and a detective try to figure out who is behind a series of kidnappings of young couples making out. Their only clue is a hulking monster seen around town picking up girls and pharmacy orders (oddly, no one freaks out about when they see it). The man behind the mysterious abductions is Dr. Humpp, a mad scientist who is hellbent on turning humans into "veritable sex machines" to increase physical and mental performance. Wait, why is he a bad guy? Well, he also has the talking brain of an old Italian doctor in a bottle and uses fluid from his prisoners' libido (huh?) to keep himself young. This softcore T&A horror flick from Argentina is curious indeed. If you took out all the sex scenes, you might have a 25 minute movie. Lots and lots of shots of naked bodies (the first real line of dialogue isn't until about 12 minutes in). This import does have some really nice B&W photography though and you'll be surprised at how expertly dubbed it is.

And finally, the best movie I saw in all of September 2011…

THE LOST EMPIRE (1985) – Tom previously reviewed this one of the blog here, but I feel it deserves another mention because it is that damn good.  Three bosomy babes go undercover to the island of Dr. Sin Do (Angus Scrimm) to find out why Angel's cop brother was murdered by some ninja looking dudes. The diabolical doctor holds a martial arts tournament, but it also using his conquests for slaves to be sold while staying young by drinking their blood. Oh, and he is also looking to gain world power by combining the ancient Eyes of the Avatar stones, one of which just happens to be in Angel's purse. This was director Jim Wynorski's directing debut and it is delight from start to finish. It is incredibly pulpy and definitely has its tongue-in-cheek. The most surprising thing here is all three female leads (Melanie Vincz as Angel, Raven De La Croix as Whitestar, Angela Aames as Heather) are actually really funny in their roles, showing they were on the same page as Wynorski. Of course, seeing as this is Wynorski, you know that the screen will be covered in busty babes who get topless. Hell, his opening shot is a James Bond-style scope that pans across a pair of boobs! He doesn't disappoint and Russ Meyer would be proud. It is such a strong debut for Wynorski that it saddens me that he basically stopped giving a damn 10 years later and now just cranks out generic action and T&A messes. Co-starring Paul Coufos as love interest Rick, Robert Tessier as evil sidekick Koro, and Blackie Dammett (aka Anthony Keidis' pop) as a corrupt cop.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Listomania!: Thomas' September 2011 Viewings

THE MAN ON THE ROOF (1976): Bo Widerberg's cool, gritty, realistic police thriller based on Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's Martin Beck novel of the same title. An old cop is brutally murdered in a hospital room in a genuinely creepy opening sequence that feels like it was straight out of an Argento movie of the same era. As detective Martin Beck investigates the case, it becomes clear that this was one bad cop and that a lot of people may have had it in for him, even worse, one of those people could be a police officer. Gritty and stark, Widerberg plays out the scenario with an almost documentary style (aside from the opening scene), with minimal music, allowing the silence to heighten the sense of realism. The last half of the film where a sniper pins down an entire police force is an absolute classic of the genre. Not just a gripping police thriller, the story takes some great unexpected twists that would undoubtedly be completely reworked if it were made today. It's pretty obvious that the source material has been cut down to fit in a 110 minute movie, which will cause some Sjöwall and Wahlöö diehards (like my father) to grumble, but taken for what it is, it's a great movie. One of these days, I should get around to reading those books. One of these days.

SKY PIRATES (1986): When I watched this back in the day I was bored stiff by it. I guess it just didn't push the boundaries of a PG rating like RAIDERS did. I watch it now and I am stunned by how much I enjoy it. Arguably one of the best Indiana Jones rip-offs simply because it creates its own little world that exploits all of the things people loved about RAIDERS, but goes about it's business in an entirely original way. Legendary air force pilot Dakota Harris (John Hargreaves) is commissioned with flying a mysterious crate off to Bora Bora along with a priest (Simon Chilvers), and his former WWII rival and now superior officer (Max Phipps). After crashing into the sea due to a bizarre electrical storm, Harris must escape from the stockade to search for the missing priest and the mysterious crate of ancient power. Yeah, well, if you watch it, you’ll get the INDIANA connection (or just look at the German DVD cover). Great Aussie cast with Hargreaves playing it cool as a cucumber in that huge fleece-lined flightjacket and Phipps setting a fashion-statement for the next decade of Asian films with a tall, peroxided flattop. Meredith Phillips is also thrown in as the priest's hot daughter with whom Hargreaves (again) has zero chemistry. Director Colin Eggleston does an about face from his disturbing-as-hell LONG WEEKEND and who knew John Lamond could produce such a fun, sleaze-free film?

AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK (1975): John Lamond's notoriously shoddy excuse of a mondo film promises FACES OF DEATH meets MONDO TOPLESS by a rather carefree narrator and delivers some of the most embarrassingly amateurish staged "events" of a totally unshocking nature as padding between a staggering amount of full frontal nudity. Some of the brutal mondo footage includes body painting; three not-terribly attractive middle-aged women roll around in paint for what seems like a freakin' eternity. More crotch shots than a fistfull of Franco flicks, but the rest of it is painfully uneventful. I guess there is a reason that Australia never was very competitive in this sub-genre.

THE RATS (1982): Aka DEADLY EYES. Bob Clouse. The best deaf director in Hollywood. I see you snickering. Yes, it's got Terriers dressed up as rats, yes it has a teenage girl trying to seduce an older man (happens every day, right?), no it doesn't have Peter Weller. Suck it up, punk. Sure it’s probably one of Clouse’s lesser works, but it’s still pretty damned entertaining and you have Scatman Corruthers playing a character, who one assumes, has a history of naval service due to his sodium-rich dialogue.

CHOKE CANYON (1986): Ovidio G. Assonitis makes the most out of his meger budget (for once) with this actioner about an oiled-up, iron-pumping, knuckle-brawling, six-gun shooting, dynamite blowing-uping physicist (Stephen Collins) who is working on a project to save the environment via clean energy. Problem is, some big corporation with a load of toxic waste to dump wants to use his canyon. They aren't going to take no for an answer and he ain't going without a fight! You may want to take a moment to let that sink in. Completely ludicrous, even by Ovidio's lofty standards, but loaded with enough crazy-ass vehicular and pyrotechnic stunts to make Hal Needham green with envy. Plus you have Nicholas Pryor as the evil Pilgrim, Lance Henriksen in George Romero's glasses and Bo Svenson as a soft-spoken uber-mercenary badass who gets his butt soundly kicked by a scientist. What more could you want? Serena Grandi running around naked? Well, yes, but that would just be too much of a good thing.

Ooooooh, snaps! Holmes is down!
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND DR. WATSON, PART FOUR: DUEL TO THE DEATH (1980): Not quite up to par with the first set of films from '79, in part due to the fact that this entry based on "The Adventure of the Final Problem" which details Holmes' meeting and subsequent battle with Professor Moriarity. This is a bit premature in the series as Moriarity has barely been introduced and it's supposed to end with the death of Holmes. Still entertaining, but not as good as the previous films, in part due to some wildly melodramatic over-acting by Viktor Yevgrafov, who appears to believe he is a villain in a silent movie. Someone give that man a mustache to twirl!
HARD KNUCKLE (1987): The CITIZEN KANE of dystopian pool movies. Seriously, one of the best movies I've seen this year. Check out the full review here.

HOODWINK (1981): Wrong-headedly marketed as a crime-comedy, this Aussie drama starts off on the right foot as a solid crime flick about a bank robber / con-man (John Hargreaves) who gets busted for his latest robbery and figures that the only way out is to pretend to be blind. This quickly stumbles into a romantic angle with a married bible-thumper (Judy Davis) who is moon-eyed by the dashing con and the film crawls to it's inevitable conclusion. Great casting, including Dennis Miller (no, not that one), Max Cullen, Colin Friels and for a minute or two, a very young Geoffrey Rush as a cop with an attitude. This film is loaded with issues, one of which is that it is clearly made by and for those who enjoy seeing Hargreaves in as little clothes as possible. Hargreaves is sweaty and stripped to the waist. Hargreaves in the shower. Hargreaves in speedos running on the beach (looking like he's about to pimp a product that promotes "freshness"). Hargreaves in the shower again. Hargreaves wearing only a little towel that conveniently falls open. Fer chrissake John, keep your damn clothes on! If that isn't a clear enough example of what the main focus of the movie is, Hargreaves and Davis have the most akward chemistry (for obvious reasons) and provide some of the most awkward and passionless romance in cinema history. Hargreaves has always had issues playing it straight, with none of his female relationships really coming off well (except maybe LONG WEEKEND, in which he is supposed to be madly in hate with his wife), but this one is particularly painful since it takes up the last hour of the movie. Gotta love that Yugoslavian poster though. Clearly P.T. Barnum had some cousins in the film distribution business.

LADY OF THE NIGHT (1986): Now you'll see how I really don't have any integrity when it comes to objective film viewing. This Serena Grandi soft-core drama probably found a home on Cinemax back in the late '80s due to it's clumsier than average dubbing. Plot-wise it's a pretty straightforward drama about a newly married, but sexually restless wife (Grandi) who cheats on her uni-brow husband in dangerous situations (dangerous, like getting caught or with strangers, not dangerous like on a rollercoaster, unfortunately). On the one hand, it's got a pretty mediocre plot, on the other, it has a lot of Serena runnin' around nekkid, stripping out of a rain-drenched white dress, spread open in medical stirrups, showering after an aerobic work out, etc. Oh, yeah, there were characters that talked and stuff too. Not sure what that was all about. Did I mention Serena Grandi gets naked a lot in this movie? There's some interesting fetishistic stuff for those who are looking for it. Upskirt shots, consensual rape, objectification and the always popular jazzercise sequence complete with lingering close-ups of Danskin-clad crotches. The reason I didn't even bother doing a full review of this is there is nobody reading at this point. Hello? Anyone? You're welcome e-bay.

Serena Grandi playing Intellivision in her jammies? Haaaaaaawwwt!