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!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The XXX-Factor: THE DARK KNIGHT XXX (2012)

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Listomania: Thomas' July 2012 Summertime Beatdown

Man, this was a month of highs and lows. Out of the mere 18 films watched this month, there were a plethora of clunkers. Though, I gotta say, the clunkers sure make you appreciate the gems. While there were some instant classics, there were a lot of groaners. Here are the most notable ones:

REYKJAVIK-ROTTERDAM (2008): Damn, I really wanted to like this movie. Icelandic director Óskar Jónasson (who went on to adapt JAR CITY) collaborated with JAR CITY novelist Arnaldur Indridason on a thriller about a smuggler Steingrímur (Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson), who finds himself pressured into returning to the life after his druggie/loser son-in-law screws up a deal with the mob. To make matters worse, his best friend Kristófer (Baltasar Kormákur) is actually setting him up so that he can move in on Steingrímur's wife, who used to be Kristófer's woman. Seriously, this should be amazing. In spite of all the talent working on this film, it manages to be a rather evenly-paced set of predictable moments, crime clichés and an incredibly out of place very happy ending. Not the worst ever; Jónasson directs well (though nowhere near as well as he would with JAR CITY), Kormákur is excellent as a very real human villain, and there are a few great moments (mostly involving Kristófer's vicious right hand, played by up and comer Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson), but they are few and far between. The irony here is that it was remade with Mr. Funky Bunch as the financially successful CONTRABAND (2012), which in spite of annoying critics and moviegoers is helping pave the way for more remakes of recent Scandinavian films.

NEWSMAKERS (2009): Solid, if a bit too linear Russian remake of Johnny To's BREAKING NEWS, directed by Swedish Anders Benke (responsible for the groan-inducing FROSTBITEN). A stakeout of a gang of bank robbers goes pear-shaped when a couple of beat cops stumble into the scene and start hassling the thugs until they snap. A massive firefight ensues spreading out into the streets of the nation's capital. The police chief at a loss, decides to let the daughter of a respected official turn the hunt for the gang into a media opportunity, a reality show that will get the cops some good PR and bring in the perps. This sounds great until the gang holes up in a tenement and starts broadcasting PR spin using videos from a cell phone. Also in the mix is the detective (Andrey Merzlikin, of THE INHABITED ISLAND) whose stakeout was ruined, determined to bring in the bad guys dead or alive, orders from some woman be damned! Yeah! Or rather, meh... I've never been a big fan of Johnny To (let the hate mail commence) and never saw his original, BREAKING NEWS (2004), but it feels like they have captured his essence. Trying too hard to be clever, yet lacking any interesting character exposition or plot twists. The action scenes are fairly intense, a field day for firearms enthusiasts who could spend days, if not weeks, identifying all of the hardware on display. On the one hand, it is pretty straight-forward, on the other hand Merzlikin is good in his one-dimensional role and there are an assload of bullets being thrown about. Entertaining, but totally forgettable.

BEYOND TERROR (1980): Odd hybrid of your typical juvenile delinquent killing spree / sadistic home invasion / satanic horror movie co-written by J.P. Simon. The first half of the film is typical, hyperbolic youth gang stuff and the second half is sort of a Lamberto Bava-style horror movie. The gang wildly over-acts and tediously shoots and kicks every upstanding member of society that crosses their path. After beating up an elderly woman in her home, they find some catacombs with a satanic shrine underneath the house. They decide to hang out there and we get some very tame masturbation and fornication, after which the kids accidentally summon some zombies. Trust me, it sounds so much better than it really is... Unless you are one of those people who absolutely loves overwrought JD/home invasion flicks.

WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1969): I've been meaning to see this for years and years and after finally pulling the trigger… Meh. Even the brief bits of unclothedness included in the European version can't prop up the total lack of production values and story. Plus, after years of press concerning the babes in prehistoric bikini factor, it really is only three girls, the rest are a bunch of toothless crones who have absolutely no right to wear anything close to a bikini, prehistoric or futuristic. As if that wasn't bad enough, watching this is really made me feel like I walked into the wrong bar. There is so much well-oiled manflesh (complete with buffalo shots) on display that I imagine this was aimed for a more specific audience than I had expected. On the other hand, all is not lost since MGM released it on a double bill DVD with MOON ZERO TWO (1970), which I still maintain is absolutely brilliant.
THE PRIEST OF EVIL (2010): Slick, highly stylized Finnish serial killer film based on the novel, one of a series, "Harjunpää and the Priest of Evil" by Matti Yrjänä Joensuu. After Inspector Harjunpää's (Peter Franzén) daughter is senslessly and brutally attacked and killed, a hooded killer stalks the subway. Photographing his victims and attacking abusive males, Harjunpää, awash in a sea of prescription drugs, starts thinking that perhaps there is a connection between the hooded killer of his daughter and the stalker in the subway. Borrowing themes from SE7EN (what is with the Finns? Quit watching Hollywood movies already) and some well-worn detective cliches, director Olli Saarela keeps things just barely engaging enough to get you to the next scene, helped out by the always cool Jorma Tommila (of RARE EXPORTS fame) and the seriously attractive Jenni Banerjee who is really given little to do except be a rather unbelievably nice cop. The real coup de grace on this movie is the complete lack of consistancy with the story and characters. After all of this stuff about the uber-christian killer saving the innocent from evil, next thing you know he's raping and torturing a woman simply because it is an easy convenience for the plot. Oh, and there is a white dove shot in slow-mo in the subway. Did I just hear you wince?

THE APOCALYPSE CODE (2011): Damn, those Russkies! I keep thinking they are going to pull it out and give up some crowd-pleasing blockbuster with the quality of content that they are historically known for. Don't get me wrong, I'm not expecting Leo Tolstoy reworked with Ian Flemming's sensibilities, but I can't say I'd be against that either. Instead we have Ian Flemming re-imagined by Michael Bay. It should be noted that this has nothing to do with the wing-nut book by Hal Lindsey. But anyway, here we have a super-slick contemporary thriller in which an Arab terrorist (he's wearing a thawb, therefore bad), named Jaffad, has stolen four nuclear warheads off of a sunken US submarine and planted them in four major cities. These warheads can be detonated by entering in a series of codes on a remote detonator hidden away in his Pakistani compound. Jaffad's safeguard is by giving one section of the code to four of his friends around the world. Since Soviet Intelligence knows that one of the warheads is somewhere in Russia, they put their top agent on it; the ridiculously hot agent Mari (Anastasiya Zavorotnyuk). After Jaffad is killed during an assault on his fortress, Mari heads to Paris with the one lead she has, Jaffad's banker Lui (Vincent Perez). Attempting to romance him out of his part of the code, it turns out the Lui has his own meglomaniacal designs on the codes (this is not a spoiler). Instead of killing each other, Mari and Lui must grudgingly team up to get the codes, then kill each other. Lots of cutesy, flirty moments ensue.
As usual for a Russian blockbuster, it is a stunning film to look at. The scope is huge as we hop around the globe to eye-dazzling locations such as Italy, France, Japan and Russia, the sets are detailed and the costumes are so haute couture that they make Vogue look like Abercrombie. And this, aside from one of the thinnest plots ever, is actually a major stumbling block. Mari is so ultra-glamorous, even when she's dressed down in jeans, she looks like she's ready for a Maxim cover shoot. She is actually so stunningly attractive that I cannot for the life of me suspend my disbelief enough to accept her as a cold, lethal agent of the SVR. In addition to that, the biggest problem the movie has is that while it does have a fair amount of action scenes, they are quickly over. The biggest and best set-piece happens in the first ten minutes of the film. The assault on Jaffad's compound with swarming missile-firing attack helicopters and machine-gun toting black-clad footsoldiers is stunningly composed, loud as hell and appears to be quite possibly completely free of CGI. After getting all pumped up, it's a bit of a cold shower when we settle in to Mari and Lui's flirting and catfighting. Oh, did I say "shower"? Oh yeah, Zavorotnyuk does give us one of those, which, also comes in the beginning of the film. Think of this as sort of the cinematic equivalent of a Summer beach novel.

RING OF FIRE II (1993): Total DTV anarchy! Don “The Dragon” Wilson plays Dr. Johnny Woo (that’s right, doctor) who manages to upset the local beefcake badasses (headed up by legit kickboxing champ Ian Jacklin) who grab his girlfriend (Maria Ford) out of the hospital and take her down to The Underworld. Apparently, below the streets of Los Angeles, there is a network of tunnels that is an underground city (complete with crossdressing radio DJ) where there is no law and gangs run rampant. Woo grabs his posse of fighters (including Eric Lee who seems to be reprising his role from the unreleased 1984 Paul Kyriazi film NINJA BUSTERS) and meets up with a crazy vet (Sy Richardson in fine form) to fight his way to his woman! Mere words cannot describe the insanity of this film. It’s the kind of thing that you could only get made in the early ‘90s when the demand for DTV action movies was so high that you could get away with anything, the more outlandish the better. RING OF FIRE II is like Alex Cox directed BLOODSPORT (1988) after watching THE WARRIORS (1979) on acid. Also, Will made a very good point that the scene where the guys have to fight off a bunch of day-glo attackers was borrowed two years later by Joel Schumacher for his day-glo crapfest BATMAN FOREVER (1995). Admittedly, I haven’t seen all of Mr. The Dragon’s output (that would be Will), but this has to be the pinnacle of his career. He’s made plenty of hilariously crazy movies, but this is the number to put all your chips on. Oh, and to the reviewer on IMDb who said this was a "typical Dragon affair" and that it has "they (sic) guy whose been in all those awful Cyborg Cop movies" is on crack. Neither is it typical, nor does share any cast members with the CYBORG COP series. And for the record, the first installment of CYBORG COP is freakin' amazing. Thanks for listening, had to get that off my chest.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

El Terror de Mexico: TERROR, SEX & WITCHCRAFT (1968/1984)

Mexico has never really had the funds to be a major film capitol back in the day, like say Italy, Hong Kong, or Britain. That never stopped them from trying though and I think that's what makes Mexican films so much fun. The breakneck enthusiasm for filmmaking combined with a dire need to be commercially profitable may not lead to a plethora of high-brow metaphysical dialogues, but who cares? Pretension is something we are well endowed with on this side of the border.

Case in point. Prolific filmmaker of exploitation cinema Rafael Portillo shot a satanic horror film CAPTIVE OF THE BEYOND in 1968 with several veteran actors, and then 16 years later went back and re-edited the film with one of Nick Millard's garden tools, splicing in some punchier horror footage creating the masterpiece TERROR, SEX & WITCHCRAFT! You couldn't ask for a better back story than that.

Vicky (Ana Luisa Peluffo) is all worked up about her man, architect Ricardo (Carluis Saval sporting a Groucho Marx mustache), being hung up on some blondie named Barbara (Barbara Wells, if I'm not mistaken). Like all jealous women she takes it up with the local witch who consoles her by telling her of her dream: "to dream of a bride in her wedding dress is... death! But if the groom is Satan, like I saw in my dream, death is caused by forces from beyond!" Uhhh, thanks? The witch (who is clearly taking things seriously by chewing gum while checking her tarot cards), says she can definitely put a stop to the floozie putting the moves on her papi chulo with black magic! After a misfire with a snake that Ricardo blows away with his 9 mil (an important accessory for any architect, as Paul Kersey would attest), the witch decides that she needs to get serious. First she creates a love spell that will bind the two together for eternity, second she places a death curse on Barbara's father (represented by a shot of a white golf shoe on the brakes of a car, the sound of tires on gravel and an "aaaaaahhhhhhh" on the soundtrack) and then she plays the trump card...

What Vicky needs to do is simply embrace Satan and she'll get everything she wants, including riches and power over men. The Witch easily arranges this and Satan, ever the businessman, says that in exchange all he wants is to possess her body and soul... Oh, and he wants to see her tits. Yep, Satan is a dude. Now topless (no, I wasn't kidding), Satan gives Vicky a special knife that she can use to kill people without ever being caught. Damn, a freebie? Sweet! That Diablo dude ain't such a bad guy after all. My only question is, if she now has all this richness, why does Vicky still have to work in a Cuban club as a fan dancer? Maybe it's just a way to meet men to have power over, that must be it. The Witch's final curse on poor Ricardo is a curse that leaves him impotent with anyone other than Vicky. Faster than you can say "pinche bruja!", Ricardo is handing over the keys to his hacienda to Vicky's eager hands. Damn that little head. Will it ever learn?

After getting a phone call from a private investigator Barbara hired to snoop on him, Ricardo finds out all of the juicy details. That Vicky is trying to keep him away from Barbara and... is in league with the devil! Of course Ricardo finds all of this terribly funny, at least until Vicky puts her satanic knife through his throat and he coughs up blood all over the expensive carpeting. Ok, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "damn, that'll never come out." But wait, there's more! Because it is the Cuchillo del Diablo, as soon as she pulls the knife free, all traces of the murder disappear, even the blood stains on the carpet. You know Billy Mays Hays was jealous as hell.

Now I know what you are thinking, really this time. You're thinking "dammit, you are giving away too much of the movie!" Oh, and you are wrong again! I am here to tell you this comprises less than the first 30 minutes of the film! Director Rafael Portillo has his foot through the floor with this one. The first half of the pelicula moves so fast that Portillo doesn't even have time for segues, transitions or even a freakin' cut-away. He's just throwing scenes at you so fast to make room for the new footage (almost all of which is at the end) that some times he forgets to completely cut scenes out so you get a split second of the beginning of a scene and then, BAM! you slam right into to another one. In the second half of the film, you do get cut-aways, but if you blink, you'll miss them.

The main body of the film concerns Ricardo's spirit coming back from the grave at night to possess his twin brother Carlos (Carluis Saval, of course), who looks nothing like Ricardo, since he doesn't have a fake mustache. His plan while in possession of Carlos is to get revenge on Vicky and the Witch who ruined his life. This movie has it all. A doctor (Roberto Cañedo) who submits Carlos to a polygraph test to find out if he is possessed by an evil spirit. A court trial in which David Reynoso plays a defense attorney who takes the case because the defendant's claims are so outlandish and then uses the science of astral projection as a legitimate means of providing evidence. A zombie who, while trying to attack his victim, is forced to kill a mugger first. A firing squad. Full frontal nudity. A nifty little twist at the end... I mean, what more could you ask for? Oh yeah, the title does in fact say "sex". Well, there is none, really. The closest you get is a hilarious scene in which Carlos is seducing Vicky and clearly he is trying to pull her top off, which she is firmly holding in place while supposedly swooning in his embrace. But! It's got damn near everything else.

Rafael Portillo may not have had much dinero to make the film, but he goes to great lengths to obscure that fact with some very atmospheric nightmare and horror sequences. Sure, it's pretty easy to see that some of his tricks are nothing more than gel filters, one being the cheap psychedelic party light with multicolored gels that rotate over a single bulb. However, combined with oblique angles, double exposures, lighting, fog and wind, Portillo achieves some great, surreal moments that actually evoke some of the classic horror films of the Italian era. Add the bizarre lapses in logic, the often hilarious facial expressions from Saval and you have a damn fine evening's entertainment.

Released on video in 1989 under the title NARCO SATANICO, I can't imagine how many little hopes and dreams were crushed by the fact that there are no narcotics, satanic or otherwise, neither are there any narcotics officers, embracing satanism or otherwise. Add to that the blatant lie of having Reynoso wearing a kevlar vest and brandishing an automatic weapon. On the other hand, Peluffo's portrait, holding a bloody knife is, in fact, completely accurate. Either way this is quite the gem for fans of '60s era horror. Because it was cut up to squeeze the new footage in, it moves incredibly fast compared to other horror films of the day, plus they throw in so much mierda loco that it's impossible not to be entertained by something.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Backwoods Bastards: SENNENTUNTSCHI (2010)

Seems like every country has their own version of backwoods horror. Every country has some scary, inbred mutherfuckers living in hills that just ain't right in the head and are liable to use your filleted corpse as a dancing partner in the pale moonlight as soon as set on that thar tree stump. Half-baked myths and legit legends are always a good basis for a movie, I reckon, and with SENNENTUNTSCHI (gesundheit!) it seems particularly appropriate since this is, allegedly, the first Swiss horror film ever made.

There is an actual old Swiss legend that tells of three lonely herdsmen in the Swiss Alps who decide that they will make a woman out of a broom, some straw and some rags. The "woman" helps with the chores and at night keeps the men company. The Devil takes pity on them and makes the woman real. The herdsmen rape her and she exacts a poetic revenge. Sorry, that's all you get out of me, no spoilers for this one. This Swiss, Austrian and French co-production is all about following the twists and turns and picking up the clues.

Set during 1975, for reasons that aren't readily obvious, a priest is found hanging from the bell tower. In spite of his apparent suicide the pastor decides to give him a proper burial (very Christian of him). A filthy and disheveled young woman stumbles into the town and collapses, dropping a carved figurine of a goat. While the villagers get lathered up, goaded by the pastor's escalating indictments of satanism, the village's police officer, Sebastian Reusch (Nicholas Ofczarek), takes pity on her, finding that she cannot speak or write and seems to have the mind of a child... except for one thing. She keeps trying to put the moves on him. While the priest tries to lather his flock into lighting their torches and sharpening their pitchforks, Reusch digs deeper into the mystery trying to figure out where this girl came from and how she found her way to the remote village... if she did at all.

A city slicker, Martin (Carlos Leal) decides to get away from it all and volunteers to help out on a farm in the hills above the village run by a cantankerous old hillbilly, Erwin (Andrea Zogg) and his backwards boy Albert (Joel Basman). In between herding goats and making cheese, Erwin also makes his own worm-wood absinthe. One night a few drinks turns into a deranged drunken bender in which Erwin tells of the legend of the sennentuntschi and its horrible consequences. Apparently at the command of the green fairies, Erwin demands that Albert make a sennentuntschi and offhandedly remarks "he's made one before". Oh, this is not going to end well, is it?

All of this is bracketed by a completely superfluous wrap-around set in modern day that feels tacked on and unnecessary. It seems like the 1975 setting was just another pointless hipster filmmaker wallowing in kistch (see 8MM, LET ME IN, etc), but in fact it is a point in history where technology had yet to make the big leap to personal computers, cell phones and all of the other things that would bring the rest of the world to a little Alpine village. It adds a sense of claustrophobia and makes police work much more primitive.

Yep, that's all I'm going to give you for the plot. While the cinematography is simply stunning the best thing about the film is the structure and editing. Rarely does a film come along in which time is manipulated so cleverly and the editing of scenes are very specifically made to give the audience enough information to think that they might just have figured out the truth, only to have you guessing again the next minute. Is she really a hellborn succubi, or is there some deeper, more twisted human plot? Director Michael Steiner and writer Michael Sauter, with editors Ueli Christen and Benjamin Fueter have very carefully crafted this film minute-by-minute, dropping pieces to the puzzle every couple of minutes along the way until the very end where all of the pieces fall into place.

Well, almost the very end. There is that wrap-around segment that just feels tacked-on and a little cheesy and adds nothing to the film, even detracts a bit from the strong finish. Ironically the only real problems I have with the film is that is almost too gorgeously photographed, as if they were so proud of the scenery that they felt that having any darkness would be an insult to the countryside. While it's creepy, engaging, and has some seriously nasty stuff going on (including a few rape scenes), it's never really scary. Some deep, textured shadows go a long way to build atmosphere. Still, finding a movie that's scary these days is a rare thing indeed, and this film does offer that other rare thing, a horror-thriller that is really well laid-out and keeps you guessing to the end.

Sadly Steiner's follow up that is now in production is the (groan) horror-comedy THE MISS SWITZERLAND MASSACRE, in which a killer is stalking a beauty pageant. I guess everyone wants to get on the teen-comedy-with-fake-blood bandwagon after PIRANHA (2010) made a killing. Dammit.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


There are a handful of American low-budget exploitation movie actors that verge on hero-worship around the VJ HQ. Ok, to be fair, there's more than a handful and "verge" is probably not the right word, but high up on that list is Jason Williams. No, no, not the guy from the Nick Millard films, that's Marland Proctor, man! Focus here. I'm talking the man who put the err... "flesh" in FLESH GORDON (1974)! Hmmm... how about the "killer" in COP KILLERS (1973)? Would you believe the "wild" in CHEERLEADER'S WILD WEEKEND (1979)? As slim as his repertoire is (a mere 15 films, if the IMDb is to be believed, 16 if it's not), almost all of them are damned entertaining and you can always count on Williams to give 110%.

Nowhere is this 110% more evident than in his own exploitation epics, THE DANGER ZONE series. Playing an undercover cop Wade Olsen, a biker who is hell bent on taking down the sadistic drug-smuggling outlaw biker Reaper (veteran TV actor Robert Random), Williams pulls out all the stops going *ahem* hog wild with so many ideas over the course of the series, it is completely eye-popping, gut-busting and brain-straining. Williams wrote, produced and starred in all four entries in the series (the IMDb is strangely unaware of the fourth one, released in 1992 and titled THE DANGER ZONE 4: MAD GIRLS BAD GIRLS), not counting a budget release titled DEATH RIDERS (1994) that edits the first three movies into one massive trainwreck of awesome.

In part one, we had a pretty straight-forward (bear with me) tale of a bunch of colorful '80s high-school girls who decide to drive out to Las Vegas to enter in a singing competition (they had those before American Idol?). Of course their car breaks down and a scurvy band of iron horse cutthroats kidnaps them and takes them to their hideout in the middle of the desert where an old prospector and his dog live in the catacombs underneath, unbeknownst to them, and they try to smuggle drugs with a remote-controlled airplane. Olsen infiltrates the gang, in spite of being the most obvious undercover cop EVER and foils their plans by strapping a giant signal box to his chopper that causes the toy plane to crash, and Reaper to get arrested after a shoot out in the desert. Yep, that is straight-forward, uh huh. Compared to what was to follow, that is!

Apparently THE DANGER ZONE sold well enough to make a sequel. Not just well enough, it must have sold shitloads, as the budget for the sequel is multiplied by roughly π.

THE DANGER ZONE II takes us deeper into the life of Wade, opening with a bust gone awry at Chuck's bar, which oddly enough, looks like a junkyard from the outside! Wade plays it cool making the deal happen, when suddenly the sellers try to take the money and the dope (concealed in a canned ham), only to find out that they are busted! Furious at being crossed by the man, when he was trying to double-cross the man, the biker shouts at Wade "motherfuckin' porker!" To which Wade replies "hey man, whadju expect? Sellin' ham to a pig." I always knew there was something addictive about ham. I'm going to have to be really careful who's around the next time I order at Denny's.

We also get a little of Wade's home life complete with a girlfriend Donna (Jane Higginson of 1987's SLAUGHTERHOUSE fame), a swimming instructor, who is demanding some serious commitment, venting her frustration with the old line "you sound like a police computer!" Man, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that old saw... Unfortunately for her, she is about to get a lot more attention in a way she never anticipated, as suddenly Reaper's conviction is thrown out due to an "improper jury selection" which allows him to walk. And walk. Until he is picked up by an Oldsmobile. Hey, at least it's not an auctioned squad car, right? Anyway, Reaper is only interested in one thing: paying back the sumbitch cop that wrecked his airplane! The plan? Kidnap the girl, take Polaroids of her topless in front of the Christmas tree, kill the dog and inscribe riddles on the back of the pictures leaving them strewn all over Nevada for Wade to follow. Yes, I said riddles. The first one goes like this:
"Olsen, if you want to get your bathing beauty back alive, get in the wind on highway 5. Ride to the Good Springs and stop and have yourself a fling. Ain't life a bitch."

I'm guessing Reaper had a lot of time on his hands during the two years he spent in the joint and took a couple of correspondence courses in creative writing. Wade tosses his badge, grabs extra bullets and rides out to the historic Pioneer Saloon. Tapping the vast experience, skill and wisdom that comes with being a veteran undercover police officer, Wade decides the best way to get a lead on Reaper's whereabouts is by shouting "Where's Reaper?!" and busting the heads of the bar patrons. As luck would have it, a stockbroker named Doug (Walter Cox) is in the bar and he too is seeking Reaper! Though his methods, err, differ, he offers to team up with Wade who, incidentally has found another photo/riddle taped to his bike. Doug manages to pull on Wade's cold, hard heartstrings with a story about how he got into a shady deal with Reaper (no shit? A deal with a dude named Reaper went bad, you say?) and unless he gets Reaper's signature on some documents he is going to lose his family, who apparently will leave him because he is not worth anything without money.

Heeeey, is this The Elk's Lodge in Oak View?

Wade spits. Wade contemplates the night fire while thinking about Donna. Can a brother get a power ballad up in this bitch? Meanwhile, accompanied by the same power ballad, but for some reason during daylight, Reaper leans on a rock in the desert, strokes his beard and fantasizes in slow-motion of tasering Wade. Whaaaaa?? Why don't you just shoot him now? I mean, I'll go get a gun. We'll shoot him together. It'll be fun. Yeah, I don't get it either. Reaper says he doesn't do coke, so I guess he's just naturally confused. That natural confusion would explain why, when he is handing out pound bags of coke for distribution, he decides to send six pounds to Santa Cruz and only four pounds to Fresno! What?! Come to think of it, I guess it makes sense, because SC would want the natural product, while the cheap bastards in Da No would rather take meth. Oh, and while were on the subject of cocaine deals: Mr. Composer, a little FYI for you. The moody Chinese flute music on the soundtrack is for scenes involving opium or heroin only. Or, perhaps, a ninja meditating on the floor of an empty dojo - but that's it. Thank you for your cooperation in this matter going forward.

While following Reaper's riddles, Wade is ambushed by extras from "The A-Team" (we know this because the only thing they can shoot with deadly accuracy is inanimate objects), negotiates tripwire traps, and finds another companion in an old man named Rainmaker (Barne Wms Subkoski), who ironically can't make rain, not because he's some random white dude who looks like the love child of Frederick Offrein and Kenny Rogers, but because Reaper gave him a cursed bracelet that will prevent him from making rain until he gives it back! He also gives Wade and Doug some protective rocks, which are presumably not affected by the curse.

You'd think at this point, we're good with the stable of travelling companions and we're set for some good revengin' (yes, that's a word)! ...And you'd be wrong. Williams apparently ate the wrong kind of cactus while out in the Nevada desert and things get even more bizarre. We get a fortune-teller in a wedding dress (Texas singer/artist Carol Cisneros) who sings a Reaper riddle, a stripper with a clue tattooed to her boob (Stephanie Blake), another stripper Francine (Alisha Das), who is a snarled ball of hate because Reaper ruined her life and stole her baby. So vicious is this woman, that she takes down all the road signs, thus blackmailing the trio into letting her join the posse, lest they be lost for, presumably, perpetuity. Brother, hell hath no fury like a stripper mom. And, just in case you were wondering at this point we are only about halfway through the movie!

Oh, the humanity!

Critics have made a cliche out of comparing films with roller-coasters. If DANGER ZONE II was a roller-coaster, it would be a wooden roller-coaster in desperate need of structural reinforcement. It moves at breakneck speed and rattles, slams and occasionally slips right off the track and plows through a fruit stand. Reaper is probably one of the most entertaining villains in a low-rent DTV action flick. Not only is he an evil, sadistic, drug lord, but he's sometimes kind of a whiny hypocrite. Case in point when he complains that Wade's goals aren't as lofty as his and all Wade is interested in is revenge. Wait, what?? So just who was it who got out of prison and kidnapped someone's girlfriend and killed his dog? Did you not see the title card, Mr. Reaper? In another scene, we find out that Reaper knows how to apply make-up and yet another he has an understanding of psychology, telling Donna that he knows Wade will never save her because she has no ring on her finger. Oooooooh, ouch, buuuuuurn!

Of course there are plenty of brawls, shoot-outs (including the spectacular ending sequence in an airport and hotel), and random bits of thuggery (during a party scene a biker clocks his old lady for absolutely no apparent reason). As if that weren't enough, there is a staggering amount of visuals from seedy bars and strip-clubs (I love the run-down massage parlor with a sign that says "se habla espanol"), to great little bits like the paperboy throwing a paper into the Blessed Virgin's face in front of Wade's house. All of this adds up to a fantastic way to spend 95 minutes of your life.

With all of the mind-bending insanity of THE DANGER ZONE II, can you even imagine what part III will hold? Not even a singing psychic in a wedding dress could predict that!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The "Never Got Made" Files Mini-update: Green Giants and Evil Priests emerge

We interrupt our (not so) regularly scheduled “never got made” pieces for a tiny little update on a couple of rare unfinished titles – GODZILLA VS. THE WOLF MAN and THE EVIL CLERGYMAN – that have left fans wondering for decades. Footage from both unfinished films has long been sought after and it appears to have finally surfaced via the convention circuit.  So let’s take a look at what is going down in fandom town.

GODZILLA VS. THE WOLF MAN is the simplified Western titling of a Japanese fan film originally titled DENSETSU-NO KYOJU OOKAMI OTOKO TAI GOJIRA. That literally translates to WOLFMAN, THE LEGENDARY COLOSSAL BEAST VS. GODZILLA.  This was a fan-made flick was started in the late 1970s under the direction of Shizuo Nakajima.  While Godzilla’s home studio Toho was not involved with this, rumor has it that they did offer their blessing for the film. Nakajima created a Godzilla suit alongside effects man Fuyuki Shinada (who would later go on to work on the real Godzilla films) that resembled the 1960s era green monster.  A few stills from this 8mm epic surfaced over the years, but nothing else much in the way of footage.  Well, that all changed this month at the annual G-Fest in Illinois.  Our blogging buddy Dr. AC was on hand and got to check out the minutes of super rare footage screened.  Check out his blog about it here (scroll down a bit for the write up) for the lowdown on the footage and how it came to screen.  And if that weren’t enough, some kind soul uploaded the footage (shot via handheld phone) onto Youtube, which you can see at the following link.  So if you ever wanted to see the G-man tangle with a big, albino werewolf, your dreams have finally come true.

Hot on the heels of that amazing convention premiere, Charles Band is now preparing to screen the long-considered-lost THE EVIL CLERGYMAN.  This H.P. Lovecraft adaptation was 1/3 of an anthology title PULSE POUNDERS that Band shot during the dying days of his Empire Pictures in 1987.  Something for the ADD crowd, it featured sequels to two of Band’s more popular titles – TRANCERS and THE DUNGEONMASTER – alongside this standalone Lovecraft adaptation. Band’s company had struck pay dirt mining the work of Cthulhu’s daddy with the films by director Stuart Gordon.  So he recruited Gordon screenwriter Dennis Paoli to adapt Lovecraft’s 1939 short story that originally appeared in Weird Tales.  Not leaving anything to chance, Band also brought back RE-ANIMATOR stars Jeffrey Combs, David Gale and Barbara Crampton to star.  Joining them was veteran actor David Warner.

This horror short shot in early 1987 under the direction of Band, with the two sequels filming later in the summer.  Unfortunately, the anthology became one of several films that got caught up in Empire’s financial collapse and subsequent sale.  Until recently, very little footage of the film has been seen.  Stills emerged for both THE EVIL CLERGYMAN and the TRANCERS follow-up, but little has been seen from THE DUNGEONMASTER follow up.  In late 2011 when Band launched, he announced a workprint of the film had been found.  He teased fans with a tiny bit of footage and the promise that THE EVIL CLERGYMAN would be available to fans one day.  Well, it looks like that day is finally upon us as Band is giving the film its world premiere at the Flashback Weekend convention next month in Chicago.  Lucky fans will not only get to screen this rare 25-year-old film, but actors Combs and Crampton will also be on hand to discuss it.  More info about the film’s premiere can be found here and info about the convention here.  If you’re in the Chicago area, definitely try to check it out.  Oh, and make sure to harass the guy running the Kitley’s Krypt table.  Thanks!

Rare PULSE POUNDERS ads circa 1987/88: