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!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The XXX-Factor: THIS AIN'T CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2012)

You know how guys are. Always screwing around, trying to get each other into trouble. When you're kids it's "I dare you to lick the frozen flagpole"; when you're in your twenties it's "dude, you could totally kick that biker's ass"; and when you're middle-aged movie nerds it's "you should totally do a review of that new Hustler porn parody!" Yep, that's why I'm here today. It's not bad enough that I sat through that crap-even-by-modern-remake-standards CONAN remake with Jason Moma posing his way through an embarrassingly dull and idiotic film, now I have to sit down and watch one of Hustler's grueling parodies that, as usual, is neither funny, nor erotic. To paraphrase Mako, while the manacled children were hauled from the village, "this is a tale of sorrow."

Opening with an admittedly cool Poledouris-esqe brass/percussion score that could easily fool the casual viewer, THIS AIN'T CONAN, tromps from A to Z in workman-like fashion, re-envisioning a handful of scenes from the film in totally budget-starved fashion. Actually, that's doing a disservice to workmen.

This ain't Conan

The first scene introduces Conan (Lee Stone) in his slave cell, looking like Harvey Kitel and Gerard Depardieu's love child. When the jailer throws a slavegirl (Jayden Cole) in the cell to mate with Conan, he continues to play with his scimitar leaving the slavegirl to attempt to get his attention by fondling herself and eventually getting into some multipositional masturbation. This actually goes on for a full 15 minutes before Conan realizes the sword in his codpiece needs to be sheathed as well. Taking a cue from the Jason Moma remake, Conan shows his tender side and after delivering the money shot, wraps the slavegirl in a faux fur for a little cuddle time. Kill me now. Amazingly this scene actually delivers the best production values of the entire movie. Someone actually made some bamboo and leather bars for the cell and hauled in a real hay bale in a spray foam stone-wall set. Heeeeey, did Hustler hire Ann Perry?


Once Conan is freed, he stumbles out into CGI weather that makes Sid & Marty Croft look like masters of exorbitant production values. While Conan slogs through a snowstorm and subsequently a sandstorm, the droning narration (that doesn't even try to parody Mako) tells us that "he headed out in search of adventure... unfortunately, he forgot to pack a lunch." Oooof! Did that hit you right in the gut too? Yes, that's the level of the joke writing here, if you can call it that. Fortunately the uncredited screenwriter(s) frequently forgets all about joke writing in their hurry to get this mess over with.

If you were to go about selecting scenes from CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982) that would be good for a porno, there are plenty, but the obvious choice has to be the witch scene. Here we get a sloppy rendition where Conan bangs away at another average-looking wannabe pornstar (who really should be more gothnasty if she's going to use the name Asphyxia Noir), before discovering that she spilled oatmeal on her face and wants to hug him with a dagger. Or she's a witch and is trying to kill him. I'm not sure. One thing I am sure of is that I've seen better sets on Gilligan's Island. Though, I guess I really shouldn't complain, because that is one of the last real sets we are going to see! From here on out it's mostly CGI backdrops that makes TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE (2010) look spendy. I mean, if Joe D'Amato, who admittedly made a couple of stultifyingly dull movies in his day, could make porn with enthusiastic, attractive performers on real sets with some effective results, why can't Hustler. I'm pretty damn sure they have pockets and connections far in excess of Senoir D'Amato.

The dagger, as it turns out, is the same one used by... well, the guy who is never named, but slaughtered Conan's village and sold him into slavery (Sean Michaels desperately trying to do a James Earl Jones impersonation). So Conan, vaguely annoyed, sets out on his path of revenge, running into a thief-y type, Subotai (Tommy Gunn) and a, uhhhh, Sandal Bergman type, Valeria (Jazy Berlin). They run across a merchant's wife, whose large breasts are strangely marked with scars around her nipples, no doubt from some pre-matrimonial gladiatorial contest... or something. Next up is the temple of the snake cult, or rather a badly rendered CGI hallway with CGI torches that would have looked lame in one of those awful SOV PC games from the early '90s. Suddenly a golden image of a cobra pops up for something like two frames and we're done. This is where I start cursing at my TV. I mean, seriously, Hustler has gotten so fat and lazy, they can't be bothered to even compete with all of the really impressive productions that have been coming out lately. It's all about cranking 'em out as fast and cheap as possible and reelin' in the suckers.

This ain't Max Von Sydow

The follow-up scene in the tavern, includes the famous face-pant in a bowl of... something, and we are then treated to a rendition of Max Von Sydow's speech that goes on way too long, contains nothing remotely amusing and in general makes me wish for something with some sort of production values, like say any DEATHSTALKER sequel. Oh, and Conan schtupps Valeria in another by-the-numbers, uninspired sex scene, where are the positions are rotated in the same order as the scenes before. This actually makes me feel really old. Not because the performers are younger than I am, but because if I was a teenager, the bland, passionless sex scenes wouldn't have bothered me that much at all. Now it's just tedious, particularly when they have nothing else to offer other than an hour rental of couple of horses for two shots in someone's backyard.

In the final scene in which our unnamed Thulsa Doom gets it on with the princess (Missy Maze), only to be busted in on by the trio, we get the final insult. Valeria is killed, but while our Thulsa is making his "I made you" speech, Valeria's ghost pops up and shouts "just finish him already, so we can finish this movie!" Yep, if you needed proof of their desire to just get it over with, there it is. Definitely an example of screenwriting from the gut. As if to add injury to insult, Conan takes a swing at Thulsa and we cut to credits. Not even going to give us a lame decapitation? Seriously, you guys suck.

It'll be a very long time before I give Hustler another shot. If I'm going to sit through shitty, no budget porn parody, I'll take the Arentinian porno parody LAS TORTUGAS MUTANTES PINJAS... No, really, wtf is growing out of that pizza?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Strung Out on Slashers: SKARE (2007)


We love covering the obscure here at Video Junkie, but just how obscure is obscure?  I mean, names like Ted V. Mikels, Donald Jackson and Nick Millard are surely going to get you a resounding “who?” (in Carter Wong voice) from the average folks.  Despite that, these men have detailed filmographies at the IMDb and garner plenty of discussion in print and online by knowledgeable folks over the years.  So who, in our estimation, is really obscure?  My vote goes for British film director Michael J. Murphy, a guy who has been working steadily (commercially) for over three decades and made over 20 films, yet only three of them (INVITATION TO HELL, THE LAST NIGHT, DEATH RUN) are actually listed on the IMDb.  If we were Horror Hipsters, we would coo a sarcastic, “I’m surrrrrre you’ve never heard of him.”

SKARE opens with Dan (Warren May), an escaped mental patient, bolting through the English countryside.  He soon finds himself at the Skare Valley Country Club and is taken in by its owner, Martha (Judith Holding).  She clothes and feeds the young lad (including her special green “vitamin” concoction) in exchange for his help in various labor chores around the estate. Martha has been given the affectionate nickname “Mad” Martha by the locals, but they don’t realize how true that moniker really is.  You see, she likes to take in strays because they help provide the meat for her lodge and she has been priming Dan to be the best meal he can be.  Of course, the unexpected happens and Martha actually falls for this hunk of meat.  At the same time, Dan falls for restaurant manager Charlotte (Trudi Tyrrell), who also just happens to be Martha’s former lover.  Poor Dan!  Not only has he found himself residing at MOTEL HELL (1980), but he’s hanging out with the cast of BASIC INSTINCT (1991) too.

A latter day production for Murphy, SKARE keeps up with the themes seen in his earlier short INVITATION TO HELL (1982). While the Satanism angle is dropped, we once again focus on a character being held against their will in the English countryside by someone with ulterior motives (human meat production replacing a satanic ritual here) while playing kinky sex games. Interestingly, Murphy weaves in some flashbacks about formers land owners (also played by the leads) having been burnt at the stake for witchcraft.  It gives the film a slight supernatural edge, as if this location is destined for love and murder. The sex is plentiful, although Murphy does tend to spend more time having his camera ogle the male lead.  The gore is equally plentiful and there is an ending involving a severed head that reminded me of Lamberto Bava’s MACABRE (1980).  As far as I know, this was Murphy’s first time shooting on digital video and he makes it look serviceable.  While not overly stylish, there are some well done nightmare sequences with some nice superimpositions in them.  I’m sure Murphy would have preferred film, which brings us to SKARE’s interesting cinematic history.

Based off a short story that Murphy wrote in the 1990s, SKARE was actually filmed completely twice.  The first time was in 2001, where the director shot it on 16mm with a budget of roughly £10,000.  According to Murphy on the DVD’s “making of” segment, trouble arose when the Royal Mail actually lost a majority of the footage sent to be developed in the mail.  That give’s new meaning to their tagline, “With us, it’s personal.”  So the original version is forever lost, no doubt probably resting at the bottom of a pile of hoarded mail by some insane Royal Mail worker.  Not to be deterred, Murphy returned to the material several years later and reshot it on digital video (a small surviving snipped of the original film is shown as something the lead is watching on TV late in the film; the Murphy production MOONCHILD also cameos in the opening).

SKARE (2001):


SKARE (2007):


Sarcophilous Films gave SKARE a loving special edition DVD presentation.  Like their earlier Murphy double feature INVITATION TO HELL/THE LAST NIGHT, it is a nice special edition that includes a “making of” segment and audio commentary by Murphy and his lead actress Holding.  The DVD also contains both scripts in PDF format and a extensive still gallery that includes several stills from the first shoot of the film.  Sacrophilous were planning on doing more Murphy productions (including BLOODSTREAM and ATLANTIS) and even some Renato Polselli films, but, sadly, nothing has been heard from the company since 2010.  Like the subject of their only two DVD releases, they are destined to become as obscure as the man they are paying tribute to.  Let’s hope that changes in the future.

 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Listomania!: Will's Funky February 2012 Viewings


The year’s shortest month proved no challenge for me as I got in 33 movies during the 29 days of February (thank you, Leap Year!).  Of those, 27 were films I had never seen before and 6 were revisits.  I caught a bit of Sho Fever mid-month thanks to Tom so 4 of those revisits were Sho Kosugi ninja flicks.  The other two were Nick Millard revisits from January’s case of Millard malaria I had.  Once again, DVD dominated as only 4 of the 33 were on VHS.  My player must have been angry at me for the neglect as it tore up my tape of Millard’s GUNBLAST (1986).  I was so pissed I fired three gunshots into my door. Anyway, here are some of the better new flicks I experienced during February 2012.

FIND THE BLACKMAILER (1943) – I just finished up the 6-film Warner Archive Mystery set.  All of the films were entertaining, but this one turned out to be one of the best.  Down-on-his-luck detective D.L. Trees (Jerome Cowan) is hired by Mayoral candidate John Rhodes (Gene Lockhart) in order to find a real-life crow. Seems this porky politician is being blackmailed by a mystery person who claims the crow can utter some scandalous material about the man (I guess the courts were more accepting of evidence back in the day).  While the plot doesn’t sound like much, this one is highly enjoyable thanks to the performances and snappy dialogue.  Cowan, who was Bogart’s doomed partner in THE MALTESE FALCON (1941), sort of resembles John Waters and his Trees character is a hoot.  He is always cracking wise ("the last four plays she was in had to be raided,” he says of the femme fatale’s stage skills) but is always one step ahead of the cops.  The plot may be absurd (yes, a political candidate is scared of a bird ratting him out in a court of law), but director D. Ross Lederman keeps it moving so fast for its 55-minute length that you won’t be that bothered.

THE SCARECROW (1981) – I had never heard of this New Zealand horror-thriller until I saw an ad for it in Variety a few years ago. Then Video Serendipity hit as Tom sent me a copy without us ever discussing it.  It was truly meant to be.  Young Ned Poindexter (Jonathan Smith) and his buddy Les (Daniel McLaren) are just twiddling away their summer vacation in the 1950s. The same night they steal some chickens, a young girl is found murdered and the arrival of a stranger (John Carradine) coincides with this event. Ned begins to fear for his sister, Prudence (Tracy Mann), as she is fast approaching womanhood and he suspects she might be the killer's next victim. This is definitely more of a mood piece than a FRIDAY THE 13th-style slasher (no murders are onscreen) and director Sam Pillsbury pulls it off the "dark town with even darker secrets" incredibly well. Ultimately it is a story about the loss of childhood innocence, be it through the kids finding out about murder or Prudence finding out about sex. Carradine is actually very creepy as the stranger and, despite his clear illness, has one incredibly powerful scene where he performs some magic tricks for the family and briefly hypnotizes the young girl.  Just try not to laugh when the director has him thumping some folks during a fight scene.

NIGHT FLOWERS (1979) – For anyone who found TAXI DRIVER (1976) too damn cheery, here is this bleak 70s drama. Two Vietnam vets, Tom (Gabriel Walsh) and Nordi (Jose Perez), live pretty sad lives in a crumbling New Jersey town. Sharing a one room apartment, they talk about their inability to hold down real work, struggle to get noticed at the VA and fail to connect with women. Things change for Tom when he meets Marcella (Sabra Jones) and they begin a relationship. However, he can't escape his past with Nordi and the co-dependent, toxic relationship soon takes a gruesome turn. I wasn't quite sure what to label this independent flick, but I guess cult drama is the best term since not a lot of people have heard of it. This is one depressing flick, but I was captivated by it the whole time. Walsh also penned the screenplay and he gives a really good, subdued performance. Director Louis San Andres does a great job of capturing a decaying New Jersey and New York to match the characters mental breakdowns and increasing isolation. There is also a really harrowing scene about 40 minutes in that is totally unnerving, thanks mostly to Andres filming it in a wide shot done in one long take. Sadly, this was his lone feature.

NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984) – Telephone line worker Christie (Lucinda Dickey) becomes possessed by an evil ninja spirit after she tries to help a bullet-ridden ninja in the middle of the desert. Lesson learned?  Never help bullet-ridden ninjas in the middle of the desert.  Her supernatural task is to kill all of the cops who sprayed led into her, er, him. This proves pretty easy as she starts dating a cop and every one of his colleagues was in on that shootout. Yamada (Sho Kosugi) is called over from Japan to settle this mess as he has a history with this evil ninja.

The last of Cannon's Kosugi ninja films, it is also one of the strangest films in U.S. ninja history (note I said U.S. ninja history as the Asians love them some wacky and strange ninja films).  It is as if Golan and Globus decided to mix every popular genre at the time, resulting in a ninja film that also utilizes parts of FLASHDANCE and THE EXORCIST. Fans of Sho will probably be disappointed as he takes a supporting role here. He first appears onscreen around the 30 minute mark and doesn't throw his first kick until the 60 minute mark. Returning REVENGE OF THE NINJA director Sam Firstenberg handles all of the action well though, although the violence has been considerably toned down. It looks like they also utilized that turning set from BREAKIN' 2 for a scene in this that resembles POLTERGEIST. Kosugi left the chambers of Cannon after this film and started doing ninja films (like PRAY FOR DEATH) on his own.

THE MISSING ONE (1972) aka EL AUSENTE – Last year I professed my love for Mexican action star Valentin Trujillo. This was one of his early 1970s westerns. When he finds two kids bullying his sick son, Valente, Sr. is forced into a standoff with their parents and is killed. Young Valente, Jr. wanders off to another town to live with his Godfather. 20 years later, the grown Valente, Jr. (Trujillo) returns with revenge on his mind. He finds the town is under control of the two families, Beltran and Landeros. The objects of his rage haven't fared well though as one is crippled and the other is dead. Naturally, Valente creates new enemies in his old enemies the two bullies, Alberto (Fernando Balzaretti) and Jorge (Octavio Galindo). Matters get more complicated when Valente falls for Julia (VerĂ³nica Castro), who has been promised to Alberto for marriage. This western is mucho dramtico, but enjoyable and interesting if you want to see a young Trujillo. In his early 20s at the time, he hadn't yet fully grown into the bullet spraying tough guy I know from his 80s efforts, but he is still very good here. Love interest Castro is quite attractive as well.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Listomania!: Thomas' February 2012 Viewings

TNT JACKSON (1974): Just because Cirio H. Santiago is the man, doesn’t mean everything he does is a classic, but for some reason this movie is one that I keep coming back to. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a bad, bad movie. Diana “TNT” Jackson (Playboy Playmate Jeannie Bell) arrives in Hong Kong looking for her missing brother who has been killed by karate badass Charlie (Stan Shaw) for double crossing the local drug cartel. After the mob catches wind of her plans, the hit is on and many badly choreographed (and I mean badly choreographed) martial arts brawls ensue. Sure Bell can’t kick her way out of a doggie bag, but if you came for some Corey Yuen fight scenes, you are missing the point. Cirio decides that shooting on location in Hong Kong is much too costly, so he makes a hilariously feeble attempt at dressing up the sparse Filipino locations with a random Chinese banner or movie poster. Presto chango! Manila is now Hong Kong! But wait, we need some “chinamen”, what to do? Don’t worry, we’ll just throw a bunch of Filipinos in kung fu uniforms! Nobody will know the difference! For the lingering doubters in the audience, Santiago throws in a couple of scenes of an alleged Chinese New Year’s celebration with a Dragon Dance that wouldn’t fool a nine year old. He doesn’t even worry about the police uniforms; they are just typical Manila cops. If that isn’t enough for you, there are lots of bad attempts to imitate the tough trash talk of black action classics such as SLAUGHTER (1972) and COFFY (1973) and as far as I know, Santiago pioneered the topless fight scene. Yep, ESCAPE FROM THE BROTHEL (1992) and the stunning ANGEL OF DESTRUCTION (1994, produced by Santiago) were just bowing their heads in respect for the master. It should be noted that most of the prints of this movie were in really bad shape, some of them being from censored 16mm prints. The recent Shout! Factory DVD is nothing short of stunning in its uncut and widescreen glory.



SON OF DRACULA (1943): I haven’t seen this since I was a kid and at the time I did not appreciate its finer points at all. The concept itself seemed so lame at the time, but I now feel it is a stroke of brilliant outside-of-the-coffin thinking. Ok, “brilliant” may be pushing it, but seriously, the idea of transplanting Dracula’s dirt from a European gothic castle to a Southern gothic plantation took some real ingenuity. I can’t even imagine how the pitch meetings must have gone over. The Universal execs must have been really broad-minded in those days. In addition to the Louisiana setting, the film is more of a pulp-noir thriller than a horror movie and is actually conceived as a sequel to Bram Stoker’s novel, rather than a direct sequel to the Bela Lugosi film! Pull that shit in a pitch meeting these days and Universal’s security would work you over with a rubber hoses before throwing you out into the street. Sure, you could say that Lon Chaney jr. was hooooooribly miscast as Dracula and I can’t really argue that point other than to say that I think it adds to the movie’s charm. Chaney’s sad, hound-dog visage adorned with a stylish (for the era), little mustache is, errrm, unique to say the least. He genuinely seems like a fish out of water. Maybe not exactly what you would traditionally be looking for in an interpretation of Dracula, but hey, it definitely makes the film interesting and unusual if nothing else. Of course, I’m one of those that thinks A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985) is the best sequel of the lot, simply because it is so completely off base.


ENTER THE NINJA (1981): Damn, I love this flick. I had forgotten about all the things that made me obsess over it back in the day; Susan George jiggling braless on horseback, or really in every single scene; the guy with the rubber neck, the cool ninja outfits (before Godfrey Ho turned ninjas into a rainbow coalition). There's lots of stuff that I never really picked up on before though. They were totally trying to rip off Lalo Shiffrin’s score for ENTER THE DRAGON, but actually turned out a really cool percussion based theme that makes what are some of the cheapest opening credits, really entertaining. I never really picked up on the fact that Franco Nero has absolutely no martial arts skills whatsoever (check out the scene where he’s practicing with the nunchucks - phew!). Remember that awesome scene where he punches the tall guy with the rubber neck? If you look at Nero’s expression, he actually looks concerned, until the guy’s head swings back around. The Japanese guy they allegedly go to Japan to get to help the bad guys find a ninja? Totally Filipino. I need this on DVD with audio commentary. I’d love to know how they got the idea to set the badguy’s office in an indoor swimming pool. The movie is so great that second unit director Emmett Alston went on to direct 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA in 1985! He must have caught the Sho bug like the rest of us and spent four years working on his dream project, only to be laughed at. Damn, I love that movie too. Blackie Dammet in a wheelchair dressed up like Prince? What's not to like?




REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1982): Why did it take me so long to revisit this? I haven’t seen it in years! I remember being obsessed with it back in the ‘80s, but I had totally forgotten why. It’s like Sam Firstenberg was so excited to have a budget and a white-hot genre to exploit that he went nuts with ninja awesomeness and forgot that movies usually have plots! Of course, it’s got slightly more plot than a Tony Jaa movie, but that’s beside the point. It’s non-stop action complete with a sequence that Jackie Chan totally ripped off for POLICE STORY (1985), except with a van instead of a bus! That’s right, Jackie Chan ripped off Sho Kosugi and Sam Firstenberg. Is that not freakin’ awesome? As usual Toru Tanaka is completely wasted in another big-guy-who-beats-up-on-hot-chicks role, but the action is really well done for a cracker martial arts film of the era and in its uncut form, it is really violent with a plethora of ninja weapons being put to good use. In addition to the action there are some pretty damned amusing moments, such as one of the best lines ever to be uttered in a ninja movie: "do you really think I forgot my pants?". Plus, you have the thugs stealing the drug-filled dolls and, as Will pointed out, taking the time to carefully pack them in newspaper-filled boxes and best of all, the scene in which Sho goes to meet some hardened ex-cons and finds them sitting in a children’s playground looking like a Village People cover band. Priceless.



SPITFIRE (1994): Albert Pyun decides to try his hand at some international espionage and ends up with a hit and miss hodgepodge of IF LOOKS COULD KILL (1991) and GYMKATA (1985). Permanently tuxedoed, international super-spy Richard Charles (Lance Henriksen) is kidnapped by a spurned ex-lover and rival spy Carla Davis (super-evil Sarah Douglas), who also shoots his main squeeze (1978 Playboy Playmate of the Year, Debra Jo Fondren) in probably the most prolonged topless death scene ever filmed. The McGuffin here is a set of nuclear missile launch codes and Charles takes a moment to slip them into the purse of one of his many illegitimate children, Charlie Case (1987 US Champion gymnast Kristie Phillips). Case is conveniently on a global gymnastics tour which allows her to be chased through locations such as Greece, Malaysia and The Bahamas. Pyun clearly has a decent budget to work with (unlike, say, his follow up film, NEMESIS 2), and sets up a great first act. It’s fast-paced, the breezy send-up is amusing and the fights with Phillips using her gymnast training are cheesy, but a lot of fun (it’s clear that they had to shoot around the fact that she is not very good at choreographed film fights). Unfortunately, Pyun commits two cardinal sins that plague the rest of the film. First and foremost he forgets to exploit the thing that got us to buy a ticket in the first place: Kristie Phillips using her mad gym skills to kick butt. This is really what cripples the movie. The second crime is miscasting one of the greatest comics-turned-actor of our generation, Tim Thomerson. Thomerson is consigned to play a klutzy, booze-soaked, tabloid journalist, which doesn’t sound like a tough gig for a one-time comedian (because alcoholism is inherently hilarious), but the part completely plays against his strengths and is so poorly written that it is painful to watch. Aside from that, it’s still worth a spin for those of us who, in spite of repeated beatings, still keep coming back for more Pyunishment.

Albert Pyun: "Ok, we only pay scale, but you'll get to go to bed with a Playboy Plamate!"
Lance Henriksen: "I'll take it!"

THE CONCORDE AFFAIR (1979): In between his two infamous cannibal epics of the late ‘70s Ruggero Deodato tried to ride the wave of popularity for the AIRPORT disaster epics with some seriously yawn-inducing results.
A divorced, washed up, and burned-out reporter (James Franciscus looking as perfectly flossed and scrubbed as always), finds himself in the middle of the murder of his ex-wife and a conspiracy by terrorists to bring the Concorde project to its knees. The terrorists plot? To have their man in the food service line hide vials of heat-volatile acid in the in-flight meals, so that when they go in the oven, they will rupture and the acid will eat through the trays and destroy the sensitive electrical wiring for the entire plane which is conveniently bundled directly underneath the hotboxes! Now that is what I call a plan! I really, really wanted to like this movie, but damn, it’s tough. It's a bone dry plot pushed along by flat dialogue delivered by talking heads in little rooms. The action is minimal and equally flat, plus we get lots of padding that really does a lot to crush any entertainment value mustered by the bloody scuba-diving scenes and cheesy model miniatures. If only Enzo Castellari had made this, then we’d have something.


COHEN & TATE (1988): I remember liking this quite a bit back in the day. Eric Red has always been a bit erratic with well-crafted exploitation like NEAR DARK butting heads with stunningly inept dross like BAD MOON (1996). If you’ve ever read some of his unfilmed scripts (such as his proposed X-rated ALIEN 3 draft), you will know that he is either out of his freakin' mind or that his deformed, basket-dwelling twin occasionally uses his typewriter. In spite of Red's stability issues, COHEN & TATE holds up today as one of his better outings. To be honest, I'll take it over THE HITCHER (1986) any day of the week. I get irritated by movies in which the hero is just a completely helpless twit. In COHEN & TATE, there are no heroes.
Essentially a gritty crime drama that could have easily been a stage play, a pair of mismatched buttonmen, Mr. Cohen (Roy Scheider) and Mr. Tate (Adam Baldwin), execute a family of mob informants, kidnapping the 9 year old son in the process. The film is essentially their attempt to take the boy back to the mob and avoid the police, while the kid uses the tension to bait them into fighting each other. Fairly simple, but the tension is well paced, the performances are excellent (particularly from the late Mr. Scheider), and Mr. Red does a great job of punctuating the effective character drama with fiery car stunts and bloody shootings.
Speaking of bloody shootings, Red had a run in with the mafia of the filmmaking world with this movie. Originally the two major scenes of gun conflict were so extremely bloody that Jack Valenti and his mob of bible-thumping housewives refused an R-rating without significant cuts. In the opening execution is cut in half with many of the killings completely deleted from the R-rated print. The end sequence where Cohen and Tate resolve their differences in an oil field is also shorn of nearly half of its original running time. The film builds up to this point and the audience knows it’s coming, but in the R-rated version it’s a pretty quick affair. The uncut version is so brutal and bloody, that there is a great moment where Tate cannot slide his pump-action shotgun because it has become slippery due to all of the blood on it. Maybe someday this will get an uncut release, but since Mr. Red has, err, understandably, fallen out of favor in Hollywood, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The XXX-Factor: STAR BABE (1977)

A long time ago, in a cinema far, far away, there were some really pissed off filmgoers. People left theaters screening STAR WARS in droves furious because their hopes of seeing Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper double-team a hot babe on a bale of hay never came to fruition. Ok, maybe not droves, but it was at least one. Porn actress and director Ann Perry certainly did. Or maybe she thought she could make a quick buck with the first STAR WARS parody. Yep, beating the classic HARDWARE WARS to the punch(line) by several months, this budget-starved quickie gave people the cheap (oh, and I do mean cheap) thrills so cavalierly denied them by Lucas.

In the year 2088, three intergalactic hotties Star Babe (Tomi La Roux), Twinkle Toes (Cindy Lynn), and Milky Way (Cinthia Lee Scott), are on an intergalactic assignment from The United World Space Agency. Their mission? To head out to the planet Phallus, “interrogate the government men” and steal “the plans for the Earth overthrow”. Was this translated from another language? Who talks like that? Anyway, yes, rumor has it that the Phallus is going to take over Earth, so the three chica’s who look like they just escaped a from a roller derby must do a looooot of space travelling to get to the planet Phallus. Once there, after an embarrassing amount of stock Nasa footage and uhhhh “effects” that I’m guessing are supposed to represent a space ship passing through argyle, they must give out blow-jobs like raffle tickets at a bake sale in the effort to find those plans. Damn, are you sure this isn't an Alfonso Brescia flick?


Ann Perry, who to her credit has made some marginally entertaining sex flicks such as the women’s prison baseball flick BALLGAME (1980) and the infamous porno-western SWEET SAVAGE (1979), which to my knowledge marks the only time Aldo Ray has appeared in an adult film… and before you ask, no, he does not skin his smoke wagon. Here Perry clearly is taking the modern Wynorski approach to filmmaking: How fast can I crank this out to get it to market before the buzz wears off? Too bad she didn’t realize that she could have taken her time, because over 30 years later you can still cash in on the idea of Vader firing up his meatsaber and cumming to the dark side.

Sadly Perry really doesn’t even bother with lampooning STAR WARS at all and really doesn’t bother featuring any good sex scenes either. The very first scene is when the girls are stiiiiill travelling through space and they decide to entertain themselves by going to their bunk-bed in their tin-foil papered room where they keep a guy in a gorilla suit that talks jive. No, really. He just kinda hangs out there. Don’t ask, I don’t know. After peeling his banana, they arrive at the planet Phallus, which apparently is an amusingly trashy ‘70s bar (complete with red-leather booths and bar-tender in a Nixon mask). After ordering cocktails, the break off to find and get it on with the “government men”. The bar scene, which does feature a shot of two toy robots that, I'm guessing, are supposed to give the impression of the famous droid duo, is literally a bunch of guys in Don Post masks wrapped in bed sheets and blankets! Why the bar tender is wearing a Nixon mask is not clear. Equally unclear is why they recorded his dialogue live, through the mask, and didn’t loop it in post! I guess that would be one more thing that would delay it from going to market.

Perry is clearly obsessed with oral sex, as that is what most of the sex entails here. A guy in a mask getting a blow-job is pretty much all she has to offer. Although, Vader and a Stormtrooper do bust into the bar and kidnap one of the girls (at plastic sword-point) and have proper (if badly shot) sex with her in a tiny set with fake stone walls and a couple of hay bales (wtf?). That's really about all you get of actual STAR WARS references. The best looking girl of the lot (and hey, I’m getting old, so they all look good, really) is Star Babe herself and she barely even gets her clothes off and when she does, we don’t even really get to see her in the nip, but we do get to see her do a 69 with a guy in a mask who laps her bearded space-clam, but instead of the standard reciprocation, she tears a hole in the ass of his pants and plays lollypop with his hairy knothole. So basically what we have is a deficit of production values, no actual STAR WARS spoofery and damn, this is about as erotic as a copy of Inspire Magazine. Thanks Ann.

I was actually kind of hoping for an obscure gem that might run like a low-budget porn version of GALAXINA (1980), but in fact is just as cynical an attempt to cash in on STAR WARS as you’d expect, actually a bit more so. It’s a damn shame too, because there are some moments where you think it might take off into campy, zero-budget fun and then it simply gives up and can't be bothered. If nothing else, it shows how far the porn parody has come. Well, except for Hustler’s THIS AIN’T series. Serioulsy, did Will just pressure me into watching another one of those no-budget crapfests? Dammit Will!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The XXX-Factor: STAR WARS XXX: A PORN PARODY (2012)

We’ve been molesting our blog every now and then with reviews of the X-rated parodies hitting DVD seemingly every week.  Our category of choice has mostly been horror spoofs (with reviews of SAW, FRIDAY THE 13th, WET DREAM ON ELM STREET and the two HALLOWEEN spoof) as that is the genre we are probably most familiar with. Yeah, we’re still waiting on Tom to hit up that THIS AIN’T CONAN XXX.  But there is one film that nearly the entire world is familiar with.  It is a film that has crossed cultural and generational boundaries, still permeating our society nearly 35 years after its initial release.  The most recent Super Bowl had yet another commercial cashing in on its familiarity.  You can evoke it just by doing some heavy breathing. And, hell, one of the films spawned from it is once again haunting theaters. Of course, I’m talking about George Lucas’ legendary STAR WARS (1977).

It is frankly shocking that a straight up porn parody of STAR WARS – one of the most well known and revered films of all-time – has taken this long to get off the ground.  Perhaps it was a fear of Lucas’ notorious ability to dispatch his legal Stormtroopers faster than Han Solo’s Kessel run that kept porn producers away, but fearless Axel Braun Productions and Vivid have decided it was finally time to stand up to the Dark Side and give the legendary sci-fi film it official seal of approval as a true cinematic and cultural icon.  After all, can any film truly be considered a masterpiece until it has depictions of its characters doing the nasty onscreen?  No it can’t, which is why CITIZEN KANE (1941) won’t truly be considered a classic until we see CITIZEN SHARON KANE.  Get on that one quickly, producers, before we need to call it SENIOR CITIZEN SHARON KANE.

Opening with a theme that reminds me more of 1970s BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, STAR WARS XXX: A PORN PARODY lets you know right off the bat that this will be serious parody business as they perfectly recreate the opening text crawl (the rebels got the Death Star plans by hacking Vader’s Spacebook page) and the iconic big Destroyer ship reveal. On board the rebel ship, C-3PO (given campy voice by legendary gay director Chi Chi LaRue) and R2-D2 sneak into an escape pod while Darth Vader (Lexington Steel) keeps screwing up and choking rebel hostages to death.  Once on Tatooine, the droids split up (“Go that way, you rusting little Twink,” cries C-3PO) before being captured by Jawas.  On the Death Star, Vader interrogates captured Princess Leia (Allie Haze), resulting in our first sex scene at the 8 minute mark.  Vader tells Leia that he knows her father and that “he’s had more tail than a Nerf herder.”  For some reason she gets turned on and begins to play with herself before giving him a blowjob. *Nerd voice: wait a sec, knowing what I know about Darth Vader and his past, this scene is creeping me out* Well, for once I guess the really heavy breathing fits in a sex scene.

Meanwhile, C-3PO and R2-D2 are picked up by Luke Skywalker (Seth Gamble) and his Uncle Owen.  Instead of looking for a droid that knows the binary language of moisture vaporators, Owen is looking for one “that understands women well enough to tell me what my wife is saying half the time.” Ha, good luck with that.  The family picks up the units and, while Luke is cleaning them up, R2 shows his hologram message from Leia (“Come for me Obi-Wan. Come for me.”  Ha!). R2 refuses to show the message again (“The first taste is always free,” coos C-3PO) and bolts to find this mysterious Obi-Wan. Meanwhile, Vader chills with Grand Moff Tarkin, who tries to get the location of the rebel base out of Leia (“I feel like breakfasting somewhere civilized and then perhaps blowing it up.  Set your course for Alderan.”).  Luke and C-3PO eventually locate the paranoid droid, but Luke faints when he sees one of the Sand People. *Nerd voice: they’re called Tusken Raiders!*  Thankfully, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Tom Byron) shows up to save him.  Well, kinda. He uses the Force to subdue the female Sand Person (Jennifer White) trying to attack him.  “Don’t be afraid. You won’t need your weapon…or your clothes,” he says.  Why you crafty old Jedi.  Here’s our second sex scene and most of it takes place on the hood of the Lightspeeder.  Have you no shame, Obi-Wan?  I won’t tell you how the scene ends, but let’s just say Obi-Wan’s blast points have far too much precision for the Sand People chick.

Back at Obi-Wan’s place, the elderly Jedi confirms he once fought alongside Luke’s father in the Clone Wars and the duo decide to head to Mos Eisley (“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.  Believe me, I’ve looked,” says Obi-Wan) to hire a pilot to fly them to Alderan.  After a funny play on the Jedi mind trick scene with two scantily clad Stormtroopers, our heroes head into the cantina and meet up with Chewbacca (Dick Chibbles) and Han Solo (Rocco Reed). After the flight arrangements are made, director Braun deviates from the original by having two long sex scenes. The first is a lesbian scene involving the two Cantina Tonnika twins (Aiden Ashley, Kimberly Kane) with braided hair.


The second has two couples (Gia DiMarco, Rihanna Rimes, Danny Wylde, Derrick Pierce) going at it with Rimes dressed as Oola, Jabba’s dancer.  *Nerd voice: wait a sec, that character was from RETURN OF THE JEDI! It’s a trap!*


We then get the famous Greedo scene, where Han not only shoots first, he shoots his green adversary about 8 times.


Meanwhile, the evil Tarkin has ordered the Death Star to blow up Alderan, but they miss on their first try.  The Falcon boys hits hyperspace and soon arrive to find the planet all blow’d up and then they get sucked into the Death Star by the tractor beam.  Once inside, Obi-Wan heads out to shut off the tractor beam while Luke and Han sneak into a control room. This leaves Chewie all alone and what can the poor walking carpet do? Why get it on with two female Stormtroopers (Brandy Aniston, Eve Laurence), of course!  The resulting sex scene is truly terrifying, the stuff your nightmares are made of (although I’m sure it will get a strong reception from some Furries).  As everyone already knows, R2 locates the Princess and Luke, Han and the satiated Chewie go to break her out (“Aren’t you a little hairy for a Stormtrooper,” she asks). They escape into a big turbo laundry dryer filled with jock straps (really!) and get out just in time to watch Obi-Wan and his flask get sliced down by Vader.  Okay, I think you know what happens next.  The rebels get their shit together and blow up the Death Star and everyone gets medals.  Oh, one small difference, Luke, Leia and Han have a threesome before the ceremony.  The sex scene culminates with Han apologizing to Luke for cumming before him.  “Sorry, farm boy. I always shoot first,” Han quips.  No better way to wrap up the STAR WARS porn than with some good ol’ geek “Han shoots first” sex humor.

With the XXX parody genre at an all-time production high, I’m glad that a full on takeoff didn’t happen until now.  If it had happened it the 1970s, it would probably have only had someone in a bed sheet wearing a Stormtrooper helmet (that actually happened in STAR BABE).  The 80s and 90s would have just given us a double entendre title and not much else. The 2000s gave us things titled STAR WHORES, but they were just compilations.  And Private did a PORN WARS series, but those spoofed the prequels (boooooo!).  Yes, a film of such magnitude as STAR WARS required a spoof with a certain level of technical expertise alongside some loving hands. Thankfully, director Axel Braun was the man who decided to do it.  The son of porn pioneer Lasse Braun, Axel began his career in the adult entertainment industry in the late 1990s.  Since 2009, Braun has been dabbling almost exclusively in the porn parody genre with the THIS AIN’T… series that has seen him lampoon everything from STAR TREK to superheroes like SPIDER-MAN and SUPERMAN to GLEE (!) to AVATAR (which, like its source, was the most expensive film of all-time).



As a director, Braun brings an incredible eye for detail.  There is some dodgy CGI here and there (C-3PO and R2-D2 are 100% computer generated), but Braun actually trumps Lucas in that he uses it sparingly.  As far as the sex goes, what can I say that won’t make you think I’m even creepier than the notion that I’m reviewing a STAR WARS porn?  It is all handled well and Braun casts attractive women in all of the roles.  I’m just glad he didn’t do an Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru scene.  And, thankfully, Braun did us all a favor and didn’t shoot this in 3-D (ouch, what is that in my eye?).  There are even some sci-fi in jokes for the ultra geeks (check out the photos of the droids a few paragraphs up).  Sure, most of the acting is done in front of green screens, but the few sets they do utilize copy the source material very well.  And speaking of copying the source material, some of this stuff is so dead on that you might actually think you are watching STAR WARS for a split second.  The attack on the Death Star is a great example.  I’m sure the computer effects folks making these scenes followed the original as a blueprint very closely.  Braun is well aware of the foundation and even takes the pains to recreate the camera sets up to look similar.  Oh wait, Obi-Wan was supposed to be on the other side.



One of the more important aspects is the film’s script (really!).  Co-written by Braun and Mark Logan, the screenplay follows Lucas’ film pretty close.  In fact, I’m sure they probably just copy and pasted a version found online and then added their own dialogue in places.  The writing is infused with a real knowledge about the STAR WARS universe though, both on film and in fandom.  The “Han shoots first” closing line is a great example.  Or during the final threesome where Leia seduces Luke with “I’m an orphan too.  So since we’re not related to each other…” (insert porn music). Believe it or not, I actually laughed out loud at several gags in the film. For example, the “stay on target” bit has a female fighter repeating that popular line over and over as she focuses on her scanner before she slams her X-wing right into the wall.  There are lots of plays on familiar STAR WARS lines that will make long time fans laugh.  One of my favorites is when our heroes escape Mos Eisley in the Millennium Falcon and we get one of Luke’s famous whiny lines.

Luke: I thought you said this thing was fast?
Han: I was talking about your momma, farm boy.

Of course, this semi-witty, semi-large production also requires the actors to pull it off and that is no easy feat in the porn industry.  Thankfully, Braun has managed to cast a group of capable actors who seem up for the task.  In the lead roles, Seth Gamble and Allie Haze (if those are your real names) are both good as Luke and Leia, respectively. Haze is very attractive, a plus since she is playing the equivalent of every boys 1977 to 1983 fantasy.  Most importantly, they both look the part.  Rocco Reed is good as Han Solo, but I wouldn’t say he really looks like Harrison Ford.  The casting of Lexington Steele as Darth Vader is clever (he is black, after all), but the voice acting for Vader leaves a bit to be desired. I’m not sure if it is Steele or not, but there is little attempt to mimic the deep voice of James Earl Jones.  And speaking of voiceovers, Chi Chi LaRue portraying C-3PO as a camp drag queen is fantastic.  In the non-sex roles, Bryn Pryor shines as Grand Moff Tarkin (I’m shocked they didn’t name him Grand Muff) and does all of Peter Cushing’s great lines with gusto.  Last but definitely not least is Tom Byron as Obi-Wan Kenobi.  A veteran of the adult industry for over 30 years, Byron delivers a performance for the ages as the veteran Jedi Knight.  Not only does he look like Sir Alec Guiness, but he has his voice and inflections down.  Not only that, but he is actually funny. Seriously, it is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in a porn parody and the man deserves the porn equivalent of an Oscar.  It is a performance that could have easily been done by lazy line reading, but Byron gives his all to the role. I am officially knighting him as Sir Tom Byron (not to be confused with Lord Byron).

What has been seen can not be unseen:

   
So STAR WARS XXX: A PORN PARODY is a smashing success and probably better than any fan could have hoped for.  Not only is it a technically superior adult film, it is actually funny too.  That is more than I can say for something like those terrible ______ MOVIE spoofs by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer that Hollywood keeps puking onto the public. I applaud Braun and his entire cast and crew for the effort.  We can only hope that THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK spoof is coming soon.  Just, please, no Yoda sex scene.