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!

Friday, March 14, 2014


Chances are you were as shocked as everyone at the untimely passing of Harold Ramis in February 2014.  Equally surprising was the sheer amount of amazing work the man packed into his four decades in the entertainment business. We’re talking film that are certified classics that are still quoted today.  I’d like to think Ramis truly didn’t feel he had made it though until 2011 when Hustler unveiled their XXX parody of GHOSTBUSTERS.  Sure, there had previously been SPERMBUSTERS (1985) starring Ginger Lynn (now that title is forever listed in my Google history *sigh*) but that was just a title/cover spoof only with nary a horny Dr. Egon Spengler in sight.  Not only does this 2011 version parody the comedy classic almost scene-for-scene, but director Axel Braun went – ahem – balls to the wall in copying it.  Who you gonna call?  This Ain't Ghostbusters XXX!

The film opens exactly as its influence with a scene of a ghost haunting the New York public library.  Of course, the librarian here is male and played by Ron Jeremy.  A quick aside – this is actually quite a historic moment in cinema as it marks the first and only time an actor has appeared in both the original film and the adult parody of it. (Yes, the porn industry never capitalized on Scotty Schwartz’s films when he made a brief run there.) “What? Ron Jeremy wasn’t in the original GHOSTBUSTERS,” I hear you cry.  But, actually, he was.  He appears as an extra in the crowd scenes. Seriously, check it out.

Of course, the filmmakers here fail to capitalize on that as Jeremy never utters a single line. Hell, he only has one scene and isn’t even given a sex scene (half our readers just breathed a sigh of relief; the other half breathed an even bigger sigh of relief).

Irony: Ron Jeremy terrified at a 
white blob heading toward his face:

Anyway, we get our first sex scene as Dr. Peter Venkman (Evan Stone) is in his office doing the psychic reading test with a male and female student.  He shocks the poor guy so much that he says “fuck this” and walks out.  Naturally, Venkman takes a fancy to the female student (Lily Labeau) and soon they are going at it for about 20 minutes.  Or, as he so aptly puts it, “we need to concentrate on your special gifts.”

Right at the end of their tryst, Dr. Raymond Stantz (Alec Knight) enters and excitedly tells Venkman about the ghost sighting.  “Little busy here, Ray,” he says. But this is the big one Ray has been waiting for, as he says, “It blew the books off the shelves and nearly blew every guy in the place.” Haha.  The two docs soon become a trio as they are joined by Dr. Egon Spengler (James Deen) in the bowels of the library to check on this ghost.  First, Venkman is forced to collect a slimy white substance (you figure it out) dripping off the books.  They spot the ghost (Alexis Texas) and she does the “shhh” bit before kneeing Venkman in the crotch as he approaches her.  Naturally, there is only one course of action here and Egon and Venkman shout “fuck her,” a play on the famous “get her” line.  Poor Ray is then forced to get it on with the ghost girl, who materializes into the flesh in order to accommodate the deed.

Meanwhile, we get the introduction of Dana (Raven Alexis) and her neighbor Louis (Jeremy Conaway) in their apartment building.  After Louis admits he went into her apartment to turn down the TV (and left with a pair of panties), Dana goes into her place with her groceries and spots an ad for the Ghostbusters on her TV.  After being attacked by flying hotdogs (seriously missed opportunity here, guys; you couldn’t do a reverse shot of one landing in her mouth?), Dana opens her refrigerator to find the gateway to hell.  Who’s she gonna call?  So, of course, she heads to the office to report the paranormal activities in her fridge.  She has trouble getting the attention of the secretary Janine (Sarah Shevon) though as Egon is under the desk eating her out. Venkman is more than happy to oblige as he sits her down to hear her story and becomes smitten with her. Can someone be smitten in a porn movie?

Anyway, the guys get their first call and head to the Chateau du Braun (boooooo!) in order to take out a ghost.  As everyone knows, this is where they meet Slimer, the XXX variation of which is sporting a penis. This gives a whole new context to the “he slimed me” line which appears a few minutes later.

They capture the little beast with probably the best CGI trickery in the film that echoes the original film really well.

This segues into Venkman heading to Dana’s place with some flowers to charm her.  But it is too late as she is already possessed by Zuul.  “Do you want to fuck Zuul,” she asks and we dive into the film’s third sex scene as quickly as Venkman dives into her crotch.

Post-coupling, Venkman calls Egon to tell him about Dana’s current state (and, no doubt, brag about getting it on with a demon).  Egon informs him that he is aware of all the strange on goings as he and Janine have the Keymaster in the office in the form of Louis.  Hold on a sec…Egon, Janine, Louis…porn movie law #RU469 decrees a threesome must happen!  Not to break porn movie edicts, Braun provides the ménage à trios.  All you folks who pine for an Annie Potts look-a-like sex scene or have a serious ‘80s big glasses fetish will be sufficiently satiated.

The film quickly jumps to the finale as all four Ghostbusters are on the building’s rooftop to confront Gozer (Jennifer Dark). Wait, all four Ghostbusters?  Yes, Tee Reel (if that is your “reel” name) shows up as the Ernie Hudson character Winston Zeddemore.  It’s like they read my notes where I wrote down “where is Ernie?” and underlined it…twice.  This actually leads to the films funniest exchange as Stone says, “Who the fuck is this guy?” and Reel replies, “I’m Ernie Hudson.”  The sudden appearance of Zeddemore actually is integral to the finale as Gozer asks, “Do you have a 13 inch cock?” When Ray says he does not, they all get zapped, leading Venkman to utter the film’s second funniest line of “Ray, when a girl asks you if you have a 13 inch cock, you say yes!”  Gozer tells them to choose their destructor and we get a bit of a deviation from the original as the final villain ends up being a 20 story tall MILF (Joslyn James, famously Tiger Woods favorite hole-in-one).  So, sadly, all you folks yearning for some XXX Stay Puft Marshmallow Man action will be let down.  Damn it, I just opened our blog up for “XXX Stay Puft” searches. Anyway, Zeddemore is the man for this job as he gets it on with this monstrous mother I’d like to fuck.  Thankfully, she shrinks down to regular human size.

Once Zeddemore finishes the job, all the evil disappears and he exclaims, “I love this town.” Roll credits to the parody theme written by one Harry Nutsack with the chorus of “who you gonna fuck?”  Ah, Harry, you’ve seen better days.

Okay, time for my obligatory “I just wrote 1,000 words about a porn parody” cry. My alma mater would be proud.  If any of you are actually reading this and not just drooling at the pictures, I should say that THIS AIN’T GHOSTBUSTERS XXX is a surprisingly decent parody.  Director Axel Braun is so inconsistent in his product (some stuff is so dead on; other stuff is like cosplay with fucking) that you never really know what you are going to get. Thankfully, this is more enjoyable than most.  A lot of it has to do with the performance of Evan Stone as Dr. Peter Venkman, a role in which he just owns.  Sure, his Bill Murray impersonation sounds a bit more like Murray’s Carl with a cold in CADDYSHACK (1980), but the man commits 100% to the role and seems to have been born to play it. Damn, how much must that suck to say, “I was born to play this actor in a porn parody.”  I kid, I kid.  Actually, Stone is so good that he routinely outshines the other folks around him (Knight and Deen are seemingly lifeless in their respective roles) and it garnered him a Best Actor nomination at the AVN (one of eight nominations the film received).

Braun’s attention to detail is also great. Some of the CGI is pretty darn good, like a simple shot of the ghost trap rolling across the floor.  Sure, a lot of the scenes are just performed in front of green screens, but the costumes are top notch and they really made some of the performers look like their cinematic inspirations.  I was just sad that Jennifer Dark, who looks dead on as Gozer, didn’t have a sex scene though. They obviously had a budget as evidenced by the 3-D Bluray version.  I didn’t watch that because a) I don’t have a 3-D television and b) I don’t want to have that embarrassment moment when I die and my life flashes before my eyes and I see where I was watching a 3-D porn parody of GHOSTBUSTERS.  As always, it brings up the idea of missed opportunities, like the aforementioned Ron Jeremy overlook. I can’t believe they didn’t take an opportunity to recreate the floating blowjob scene from the original GHOSTBUSTERS. Also, I can’t believe that – sorry I’m about to write this mom – they didn’t capitalize on the “he’s slimed me” line following a cumshot.  Pardon the pun, but how did that fly past you guys while making this? All that said, THIS AIN’T GHOSTBUSTERS XXX is by far the best porn parody we’re ever going to see of the, ahem, seminal comedy classic.  It is also probably the only GHOSTBUSTERS to feature jerkoffs…that is until Seth Rogan is in the inevitable Hollywood remake.  R.I.P. Harold Ramis.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Adrenaline Shot: FIRE, ICE & DYNAMITE (1990)

When I was a kid I remember sitting in second or third grade and the teacher asking the easiest question in The Big Book of Things to Say to Kids: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" One at a time, my male classmates stood up and proudly declared their intent to be "a fireman!" or "a policeman!" or inevitably the old saw, "an astronaut!" When it came my turn, I stood up and said "I want to be a stuntman." This wouldn't be the first or the last time that I was summarily removed from the classroom and taken to the nurse's office where they would, hopefully, be able to find a pill that would make me behave like the rest of the kids.

Unfortunately the closest I ever got to realizing this profound ambition were the many times I threw myself off of perfectly good rooftops and buried the needle of my Chevy Nova. At a tender age Hal Needham became my idol with SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977) and CANNONBALL RUN (1981). Sure, they are considered classics of a sort, but they made a big impression on me and subsequently I've felt that any movie made by a stunt man is a good movie. I'm sure you agree. When talking about stunts in movies, there is one name that springs to mind. Bond, James Bond. Becoming obsessed with the stunt work in the Bond films is as easy as a southern belle on prom night. Some of the best stunts in the motion picture industry were in Bond films and it took some pretty amazing stunt people to pull them off. One of those people is German-born skiing expert Willy Bogner.

Willy Bogner, son of German and Nordic ski champion Wilhelm Bogner (who invented the first form-fitting ski pants and thus an entire genre of teen sex comedies), started out his career in the '50s as an alpine ski racer in West Germany. His meteoric career saw him competing with the German ski team in the 1960 winter Olympics and afterwards winning multiple championships. In 1966 Bogner caught the movie bug and shot a short film titled SKIFASCINATION which exhibited the stunts of world-class skiers. This led to his work on the first of several Bond films, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969) and a slew of his own thinly plotted skiing movies that have littered the "Special Interest" sections of '80s video stores around the world.

When I say thinly plotted, what I mean is virtually no plot at all really. The closest thing that Bogner ever got to a plot was the sequel to his hugely successful ski-stunt film FIRE AND ICE (1986), titled FIRE, ICE AND DYNAMITE. As you can see, it's one better.

A wealthy industrialist, Sir George (Roger Moore), has found himself on the wrong end of his accountants when they discover that all of his tree-hugging philanthropy has left him in debt to literally dozens of major corporations. Sir George loves rhinos and tells his accountants that (I am not making this up) "saving these rain-forests just might save our planet." He says this right before throwing himself out of a Leer jet at altitude, without a parachute. You'd think he could have picked a less risky or dramatic way of faking his own death, but where's the fun in that? This provides the first big stunt scene in which Sir George, plummeting to Earth, is met mid-air by a couple of parachutists who have brought an extra chute for him. Nothing left to chance, you see.

After his artificial demise all of his creditors are gathered along with his three bastard children, a snotty rich git, Stephan (Stefan Glowacz, a professional rock climber); a pop singer with an attitude, Lucy (Connie De Groot, a professional pop singer); and the flamboyantly gay Alexander (Simon Shepherd, a professional actor). During the reading of the will a pre-recorded video is played with Sir George stating that the vast sum of his estate totaling a rather pitiful $135 million dollars would be paid out to the winner of his new race, the Megathon. Consisting of a massive, intense course over the Alps, the competitors will assemble teams and climb, skate, ski, bicycle, snowboard, bungee jump, kayak, hang-glide, paraglide and drive their way to victory using any means necessary.

Of course to get the games in gear the teams need to get in training which allows for many, many bad jokes about homosexuals being bad athletes. While learning to ski, we get a Alexander flying down the slopes completely out of control screaming like a little girl. Aside from the fact that the premise is cringe-worthy, the execution is fantastic as it comprises a lengthy sequence with some amazing stunt work and elaborate set pieces. It makes up for exchanges such as this one:
Lucy: "You must be good at something."
Alex: "Curling, I suppose."
Lucy: "On ice?"
Alex: "No dear, with heated rollers."
Fortunately moments like those are well spaced out. So well spaced out that it's easy to forget about them until the next one pops up. Did I mention this movie has stunts? It is essentially a whole mess of insane stunt-work set to music, which pretty much describes Bogner's cinematic repertoire, but it moves so fast and is so well produced, you never feel like you are watching a "sports video."

The competing teams themselves are something to behold as well. I'm going to have to take a deep breath for this. The cast is made up of... Ready? Set? Gooooo!
Windsurfing champion Robby Naish
Champion Alpine skier Frank Wörndl
Olympic yachtsman Dennis Conner
Champion Formula 1 drivers Niki Lauda and Keke Rosberg
Champion rally driver Walter Röhrl
Tennis champion Erich Scherer
Olympic speed skater Günter Traub
German pop star Jennifer Rush
Global icon Buzz Aldrin (yes, the Buzz Aldrin)
Global icon Isaac Hayes (yes, the Isaac Hayes).
Not to mention German uber-actors Siegfried Rauch, Uwe Ochsenknecht, Ursula Karven and Osman Ragheb. Best off all, Marjoe Gortner stars as the race announcer! Oh and Shari Belafonte is in it too, for some reason. Phew! Did I miss anyone?

Did I mention the theme song is by Deep Purple? How is it I have never seen this movie before now? Inconceivable! Actually, I remember it playing theaters and I'm pretty sure the reason I skipped it was because it looked like a silly ski-comedy (it is) and I was sure that the poster lied (it does not). It's too bad because this movie is more fun than the Sochi Olympics and just as dangerous.

Essentially we have a live action version of the Hanna-Barbera "Wacky Races" cartoon, complete with a Boris and Natasha-esque brother and sister (with the family name of "Debris") who dress in black and put the "dynamite" in the title. We also have a monk (Jochen Schweizer) who celebrates his victories by passing around a bottle of water from the Ganges to his disciples. Plus we have drunken Barvarians that shoot the rapids in a beer barrel, rocket powered skis, cars crushed by a monster truck, hang-gliders being blown out of the sky with explosives, ski-cyclists base jumping into a lake and a skier smashing into a Swiss chalet, landing in a bathtub with a nude woman, smashing out of the house (in the tub) and paragliding to the bottom of the mountain. That doesn't even cover a fraction of the action. This movie spits out stunts faster than Scott Atkins punks out ninjas. Hell the first five minutes of the movie sports a castle, a helicopter, a jet and a Rolls Royce!

Sir Roger has fallen out of favor in recent years, particularly among modern Bond fans. I get it, I understand. He was charming and quippy, but at no time did you ever feel like he could rip-off his tuxedo and square off against, well, anyone really. Robert Shaw would have picked his teeth with Moore's bones. On the other hand, the screenwriters are to blame for the truly atrocious efforts such as 1985s A VIEW TO A KILL (for which incidentally Bogner directed the ski stunts). I'm pretty sure Roger Moore did not show up on the set and say "I say, chaps! We should have James Bond bake a quiche while wearing a tuxedo!" Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson are to blame for that. I feel that Moore actually has a nice sense of comic timing that belays his upper-class demeanor. It was well utilized in CANNONBALL RUN, and is again in good form here. Not that he really does much other than get the wafer-thin plot rolling in character as Sir George and in disguise as MacVey, Sir George's Scottish manservant. But still, he lends a certain charm and gives the film a sense of grandeur that would be otherwise missing in less talented hands.

The shit
I spent my days in a public school and thus have never set foot on a pair of skis outside of the old Atari 2600 game SKIING (1980), which was pretty awesome back in the day. In spite of that, Bogner's enthusiasm for the sport is positively infectious and it's hard not to enjoy the action for what it is. This is not so much THE STUNT MAN (1980) with deep contemplation of the human condition, but more CANNONBALL RUN with slightly fewer cameos. FIRE, ICE AND DYNAMITE is essentially 95 minutes of stunts and questionable humor and about 10 minutes of silly exposition and dialogue. Quite frankly, I see absolutely nothing wrong with this.

I'll bet my Atari cartridge that this guy went to the hospital

Friday, March 7, 2014

Monstrous Mayhem: BLUE MONKEY (1987)

Throughout history there have been a lot of monkeys, barrels of them, if you will. Some amusing (Coconut Monkey), some scary (Sock Monkey) and some annoying (Brass Monkey), but only one of them is a giant insect. That's right, insect.

Opening with a great scene in which a dottering old lady, Marwella (Helen Hughes), is chatting with her plants while being chatted up by local handyman, Fred (Sandy Webster). While inspecting one of her newest acquisitions, a plant from Koh Kahi, which Marwella tells us is "a newly formed volcanic island just south of Micronesia" (never mind that Koh Kahi is actually in Thai waters), Fred cuts his finger. This is odd as Marwella is sure that none of the species has thorns. Fred waves off the notion of seeing a doctor because he has a date, and in a stroke of luck that I can completely relate to, Fred collapses and has to be rushed off to the hospital.

Also being rushed into the emergency room is Jim's (Steve Railsback) partner Oscar (Peter Van Wart) who has been shot. Jim is a police detective, don't go there. While fussing over Jim's partner, a large white worm escapes Fred's mouth. The doctor, Rachel Carson (Gwynyth Walsh), is a fat lot of help as she has no idea what the parasite is, nor is she very proficient in gunshot wounds, saying "it's not often we get a gunshot victim in County Memorial, they'll be talking about this day for a long time." So big, fat parasite erupting from an elderly man's mouth happens every day, but a gunshot victim is unheard of. Seriously, where the hell is this hospital? Canada? That would explain an awful lot about David Cronenberg's films.

In addition to being unfamiliar with gunshot wounds, this hospital hosts a laser research facility which, as all laser research facilities are, is lit with blue neon and staffed by guys in clean suits with goggles. Of course Dr. Carson invites Jim to check out the clean room in their regular clothes with no eye protection. I'm beginning to have some seriously doubts as to the credibility of this hospital. As if that wasn't bad enough, when a group of terminally ill children (one of whom is a very young Sarah Polley) is discovered wandering the halls, Dr. Carson advises them to run back to their rooms, endangering the well being of them and the patients simply trying to make it down the hall.

Also running amok in the hospital is Marwella's blind friend Dede (Joy Coghill), who smuggles in some likker (nothing funnier than the drunken elderly); Roger (John Vernon), the hospital head, who wants to keep this whole "parasite" thing hush-hush; an expectant couple (Joe Flaherty and Robin Duke) who might be a bit too expectant; the head of hospital security, Tony (Philip Akin), who is asked to leave the hospital to pick up an entomologist (Don Lake) to inspect the site of the incident instead of, oh I don't know, provide security in a hospital that is being over-run by a parasite that's been let loose by those damn pesky kids!

Yes, it's all the fault of the terminally ill children and the hot doc that just wants to get stoned and boned. The kids decide to dump some NAC-5, a growth hormone that was just laying around the lab, on the insect and the next thing you know, we have an hospital that is infested with giant bugs! This is another big tip-off that this isn't America, particularly Florida or Louisiana. A giant bug infestation wouldn't cause a single eyelash to bat.

There are so many great moments, to pick out just a few is difficult, but some of my favorites include a shot of a nurse who screams in utter terror, only to cut to a slightly trashed room. When the hospital is quarantined and surrounded by armed soldiers, the nurses all decide to quit so that they can leave due to the danger. The LIDC doctor demands that "we initiate a class four, immediately!" His colleague looks shocked and says "that's impossible!" To which the doctor replies, "of course it is." I have no idea what that means, but it sure sounds important! Oh, and the massive mutant insect roars. Then again, maybe giant bugs do roar, you don't know.

In addition to a big rubber monster running around killing people for no apparent reason, we discover that like Homer Simpson once said, "alcohol [is] the cause and solution to all of life's problems." Pass the Molson, eh!

As you may have guessed, it is in fact Canada as Jim says that he drove over from Williamsburg, which you might be thinking is Virginia, except the police uniforms give it away. It is clearly Williamsburg, Ontario. The characters refer to a fictitious LIDC (Lincoln Institute for Disease Control) center that sure sounds American, but in fact refers to Lincoln, Ontario. Factor in a nurse who wants to go out for a "smooke, eh." Then there is the fact that nearly everyone in the cast and crew is Canadian. It's interesting how this is one of those movies from the '80s where Canada is not actually being passed off as America, but that doesn't go out of their way to try to make any noise about the fact that it's Canadian. Of course, that is to be expected from the denizens of the Great White North.

Note that in the movie it is "County Memorial Hospital."

Clearly Jim Wynorski is doing
the hiring in this hospital
Directed by Canuk maestro William Fruet, who also gave us many great, off-beat outings such as SEARCH AND DESTROY (1979), FUNERAL HOME (1980) and SPASMS (1983). Fruet this sucker humming along at such a fast pace that there really is never enough time to question any of the completely ridiculous events in George Goldsmith and Chris Koseluk's surprisingly eventful script. There are multiple subplots rapidly speeding along that only seem patently absurd after the movie is over. For instance, one of the impossibly hot nurses is enticed by her boyfriend to take a break from keeping the parasite company and go outside for a joint. At first I was kind of shocked by this sort of behavior from a Canadian, then I realized that Rob Ford has held elected office for 14 years.

Unless there was another title on the original script, the film started out life as GREEN MONKEY, which was then changed to BLUE MONKEY prior to distribution. If I could ask Fruet one question about his entire career it would be "what makes a non-existent blue monkey more marketable than a non-existent green monkey?" One of the biggest bones of contention, at least here in the US, was that very title which was changed for it's UK release to the almost equally nonsensical INVASION OF THE BODYSUCKERS. In addition to a lack of sucking, bodily or otherwise, it's hardly an invasion, is it?

Critics seemed to like the movie during a time when most of them hated everything with a genre bent, much less one that featured Steve Railsback fending of a giant cockroach with a medical grade laser. In spite of being rather favorable, the reviewers spent an inordinate amount of time hashing over the perplexing title. As any fan of the movie will tell you, the title only comes into play during the film when the kids (who are thankfully not too cute) decide to go exploring and one says that "I bet we're going to find a big blue monkey!" We never find out if that is the case as one of the girls needs to pee. So basically if women could hold their bladders, the title of this movie would make sense. Thanks for letting us down ladies, now we'll never know.

This is one of those movies that I have fond memories of playing at the local drive-in, where it played far longer than anything with such an incomprehensible title should have been allowed. While a handful of Fruet's films have been given beautiful DVD releases, this (the most important, in my opinion) still has not. The only DVD release that I am aware of is a German issue that was simply a shoddy VHS transfer bearing the European title INSECT! (yes, with an exclamation point). It's a damn shame as the poorly cropped and panned video release leaves a lot to be desired, but even in this age of shiny disc technology, it's still one of the few tapes I've given a prominent spot on my video shelf.*

* [Edit] As it turns out this is a baldface lie, as I had forgotten that I sent my copy to be ensconced in the VJ Archives of Williamsburg. Virginia, not Ontario.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sci-Fried Theater: DEAD SHADOWS (2012)

Well, after a month of Bud Spencer reviews, it is time to slide back into our normal weird reviews.  Let’s focus on (throws dart into a map of the world on the wall)…France!  The land of liberty, equality, and fraternity (thank you, Wikipedia) has been a hotspot for horror in the 21st century.  Filmmakers like Marina de Van, Gasper Noe, Pascal Laugier, Xavier Gens, and the directing duo of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury have contributed to the French Horror New Wave in ways that, for better or worse, have redefined French frissons.  Hell, even Alexandre Aja stumbled into success with wholly unoriginal material (one day, he promises, he won’t adapt a book or do a remake).   So when a cool looking monster flick from France titled DEAD SHADOWS (2012) appeared on our radar, we figure we would give it a shot.

The film opens with a massive comet heading toward Earth. (English press materials on this film refer to it as Halley’s Comet, but the film never specifies this.)  As it sails over a two story French home, it awakens scared-of-the-dark kid Chris.  His father pops in to assure him everything is okay and then the parents head downstairs to check out some strange sounds.  Oddly, this somehow turns into a fight about their sissy son (“Are you sure he’s even my son?”) and, when Chris arrives at the kitchen, he sees dad standing over mom with a knife.  Cut to ten years later and the now grown Chris (Fabian Wolfrom) is living on his own in Paris and is apparently the world’s most annoying computer technical support person.  He doesn’t have time to work as today marks the return of the comet to Earth and everyone is excited for it.  In addition to not working, he also has time to spy on his neighbor Claire (Blandine Marmigère), who has just thrown out her cheating boyfriend.  Yes!

A top secret look at Video Junkie headquarters:

Heading out to the store, Chris gets bullied by your generic French apartment complex tough guys before being bailed out by local badass John (John Fallon). Surprisingly, this isn’t the oddest occurrence of his day as the trip has him encountering a weird lady looking for her dog, a couple dissecting an insect, a guy ranting about aliens in the convenience store, a guy with a rash on his face walking around zombie-like, and a lady who uses his choice of beverage as a segue to asking if he wants to fuck her.  Wait, this isn’t normal activity in France?  Anyway, he gets home and finds Claire’s door open and steps in.  It was apparently all a ruse on her behalf to get him to come in so she could invite him to an Apocalypse themed party that evening.  Naturally, he accepts. Heading out to the party later, Chris runs across a son and father looking for the comet in a telescope.  He helps them find it and then the dad tells his kid, “When you see this, we realize how infinitely small we are in comparison to the universe.”  Gee, thanks for the quality father-son time, pops.

Chris arrives at the party and is sad to not find Claire there. After a drink makes him ill, a girl named Laure (Johanna Seror) takes Chris into the restroom where he promptly passes out. Waking up, he discovers a weird blotch on his stomach but no worries as Claire is now here. While Claire is getting her party on, Chris notices the rash-faced man at the party and sees him take a girl into a bedroom. Spying on the couple, he sees the man insert a tentacle in her doggy style and it shoots out of her mouth. Sacré bleu!  He bolts to the bathroom, just in time to watch Laure’s face melt off.  Chris dashes back to his apartment (because warning anyone there would be too much effort apparently) and gets back right as the power goes down citywide.  Naturally, he must do one thing – pass out!  But not before seeing some weird ass tentacles crawl out of his closet. When Chris wakes up, the bullies from earlier in the day – navigating the stairwells with a camera on night vision - burst into his apartment.  He wipes them out by some unknown means (you’ve probably got it figured out by now) and soon teams up with heavily armed John to get out of the apartment building.  Will our hero conquer his fear of the dark? And, more importantly, will he validate his declaration of “I must get to Claire” in the chaos?  You know, because a girl he met just a few hours ago is the most important thing in the world.

Honest admission: I rarely watch modern horror films.  It takes a real hook to get me paying attention and seeing some of the creatures from DEAD SHADOWS in still form got me interested in the film.  Somehow I forgot that movies were moving pictures.  If  I had to give out an award for “Most Unreached Potential” it would easily go to this film.  Debuting director David Cholewa throws some interesting ideas into the film and there are a number of great effects. Unfortunately, the screenplay by fellow newbie Vincent Julé is weaker than Tom staring at a plate of foie gras.  There is really nothing in this scenario that is original, as if Julé just wrote down a list of favorite scenes from other films and felt that copying them would be enough.  The build up is surprisingly effective, but completely taken from SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004), a fact seemingly confirmed when Chris rests up against his bookcase and two SHAUN action figures appear over his shoulder (groan!).  Take the film’s final shot of buildings in Paris exploding and crumbling.  It just happens as if they said, “We have to have a scene of Paris blowing up.”

What is original is entirely muddled and done solely for the sake of convenience.  For example, that little telescope kid from the build up?  He shows up sans dad toward the end, just so Claire can have a kid to defend.  It is ridiculous.  Or how about the scene where Claire watches the thugs’ video camera and sees her new beau is a vicious killer. Yes, for some reason Chris felt the need to bring the camera from the men he killed along only for the narrative to have this scene. Even worse, this opens up the idea about what exactly Chris is.  Was he infected as a kid? Were his parents infected? We’ll never know as the filmmakers never bother to sufficiently explain this.  Hell, I doubt they even knew.  I’m not asking for a detailed explanation, but at least act like you know what is going on.  They put as much thought into the film as they did their title. Seriously, could you come up with a more generic (and less descriptive) title than DEAD SHADOWS?  The lack of a well thought out screenplay (the film’s end credits start at 70 minutes) is doubly disappointing when you see some of the cool creatures on display.  There is one half woman/half crab thing (see pic to the left) that is very impressive.  Why is it there? Probably because the director said, “That would be cool to have in there!”  The premise of tentacle monsters/aliens taking over Paris is ripe for the taking/making.  Hell, I bet some guy in Japan just got excited by me even typing that sentence.  Sadly, that film badass film you imagined in your head just now is not this film.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Here is an easy way to navigate our EXTRA LARGE month of Bud Spencer. From the introduction, to the final episode. We hope you enjoy reading our coverage as much as we did writing them!

INTRODUCTION to Bud Spencer and Detective Extralarge

SERIES 1 (1992): Bud Spencer and Philip Michael Thomas

Guest star: Lela Rochon

Guest stars: Christopher Atkins, Vadim Glowna

Guest stars: Juan Fernandez, Ursula Karven

Guest stars: Lou Ferrigno, Andrew Stevens

Guest star: Erik Estrada

Guest stars: Dionne Warwick, Helmut Griem, Frank Zagarino

SERIES 2 (1993): Bud Spencer and Michael Winslow

Guest stars: Chao Li Chi, Jen Sung

Guest star: Nikolas Lansky

Guest star: Sonny Landham

Guest stars: Ulrich Mühe, Jill Whitlow

Guest star: Erik Estrada

Guest stars: Pat Morita, Suzee Pai

Click here for our coverage of Bud Spencer and Philip Michael Thomas' series WE ARE ANGELS (1997) and Bud Spencer's BIG MAN (1988).

Thursday, February 27, 2014

This Bud's for You: EXTRA LARGE: NINJA'S SHADOW (1993)

This has been a surprisingly uneven, roller-coaster ride of a trip through twelve EXTRA LARGE movies, but we have finally arrived at the final entry in the final series. There were laughs, there were tears (seriously I'm traumatized by the sight of a Native American now), and there were amazing displays of very expensive dentistry. Now we've reached the episode that I've been waiting all of my life for. Bud Spencer vs. Ninjas. Seriously, I ask you, how could you possibly fuck that up? Well, I'll tell you.

Jack spends a lot of time at Harry's Place (I feel sad for the owners of The Blue Monkey) blowin' the sax, so you know what that means. Peeps are gonna get jacked! First a guy in a three piece suit in a mechanic's shop in the dead of night (yeah, I don't know either) is attacked and killed. The news hits the front page of the paper complete with a police composite sketch of the assailant: a ninja! Of course, this can only mean one thing. It is the perfect time for Jack and Sam to take a fishing trip! Their vacation takes place on a small boat, in a small, overgrown river with a portable radio. These guys know how to live! Meanwhile, a second brutal killing takes place, this time the sleazy owner of a strip club (is that redundant?). Jack and Sam hear the news on the radio to a rousing chorus of "meh", which is understandable as that must be a daily occurrence in Miami. Besides they are gone fishin' (sic), and like all good Americans, they are not going to let minor trivialities like "unsolved ninja murders" get in the way of their good time.

To ensure we couldn't heckle their newspaper mock-up
in this episode, they made sure not to do a close up. Bastards.

Dumas gets an urgent call from Senator Robbins (Günther Maria Halmer) who feels his life is in danger and it's imperative that Dumas drop his dinner date with Maria and run over to his mansion immediately! So great is the emergency that Dumas finds the senator casually sipping a cocktail and relaxing in his living room. Of course this is the perfect time for a ninja attack! During the poorly orchestrated attack (the ninja simply walks into the living room), Dumas grabs the senator's gun and empties it without seeming to scratch the shadow warrior. In the fracas Dumas sprains his shoulder and tells the media that it was an official case from the Dumas Detective Agency. After this makes the news, that tears it! Fishing trip over! It is now imperative that Jack and Sam get involved.

As it turns out, the ninja is a Vietnamese guy (!) who is seriously pissed off about decades old war crimes in a small Vietnamese village led by then Colonel Robbins. Robbins not only turned the village into a hub of prostitution, drugs and murder, but he also raped and kidnapped the girl who became his wife Syu (Penthouse Pet of January 1981, Suzee Pai, best remembered for playing "a whole girl" in 1986s BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA). Syu tracks down Jack (it's not hard, she follows him home from the club) and spills the adzuki beans on the ninja plot while walking braless in a white blouse on a windy day. This is a good thing because it distracts from the fact that Pai really isn't much of an actress and the long, dreary emotional dialogue scenes with her are almost enough to make me want to commit seppuku with a rusty butterkinfe.

Actually, I take that back, the most unbearable stretch of murine-enhanced dialogue comes from Pat Morita, who enters the drag-on episode at the 70 minute mark as the unnamed Japanese ninja father of the revenging Vietnamese ninja. Yes, Pat Morita is supposed to be a ninja. Confused? Morita will clear things up. Except it will take five solid minutes of long winded, drawn-out, tear-stained talking-head cinema for this to happen of course and by the end of it, you absolutely will not care. That Morita's only scenes contain not even so much as a ninja outfit is just soy sauce on the wound. In addition to this plot to kill all of the ex-soldiers who committed these crimes under Robbins' command (who, 25 years later, all conveniently live in Florida), Jack and Dumas begin to suspect that Robbins might be manipulating them into cleaning up his mess. Ain't that just like a senator?

As if the lethargic pace and the mostly lackluster ninja action weren't bad enough, Jack's grudging acceptance of Dumas has oddly become outright animosity in this entry. If you have a garage band playing a sloppy cover of a classic tune, many may not notice an off note, but everyone will notice if that off note is played when accompanied by utter silence. If there had been lots of action and the jokes were flying fast and furious as in "Diamonds" I don't think I would have noticed Jack's curmudgeonly behavior taking on a rather acrimonious hue. How exactly did this come to be? There is only one answer. You hire Marco Barboni (son of the great Enzo Barboni) to write the script.

Barboni wrote several things for Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, none of which rank in their best efforts. He also was responsible for the ploddingly dull "Cannonball" and even worse, my most deeply loathed of all of Bud Spencer's work, SPEAKING OF THE DEVIL (1991, aka A CHILD IN PARADISE). Fortunately this is nowhere near as wrist-slittingly saccharine as that film, and to be fair, none of his other work is either. I actually did enjoy Hill's solo outing RENEGADE (1987), but I kind of attribute that to the fact that his father directed it and three other people share credit with the screenplay.

"Ninja's Shadow" is the kind of episode where you start grasping at straws for moments of entertainment. My favorite bit is in the beginning when Jack is about to get on his boat, he shakes a stern finger at Dumas and tells him "don't you touch my baked beans!" This being a reference to Spencer's many Western roles in which his characters would never be too far from a skillet of saucy legumes. Also, I liked that the ninja calculated that the best way to terrorize and subsequently kill the strip club owner is to go down into the basement kitchen (yes, the strip-club has a large professional kitchen, presumably for weddings or baby showers) and roughly chop vegetables with his sword until the guy arrives. Damn, I thought being a ninja would be hard! Stand in a basement kitchen for hours chopping vegetables? I've done that (thank you Chef Hix), so therefore I could be a ninja! Awesome. There are a couple of decently choreographed fight scenes involving the ninja and actor/stuntman Jeff Moldovan, who has worked for everyone from the Italians to Cannon to Full Moon, but they are nothing to get excited about. My dreams of seeing Bud Spencer attacked by a horde of ninjas were shattered. I'm not sure if I'll ever be the same... today.

Seems a shame to be ending our coverage of both series' on such a down note. We've had a lot of fun doing it and while on paper the lows seemed to outnumber the highs, we have seen a lot worse. Except "Indians". Maybe one day we will tackle Spencer's first series "Il Professore" (aka "Big Man"), but first Will will need to go through several intense therapy sessions before Bud Spencer will be able to smack him around again. Until then I may have to revisit the FLATFOOT (1973-1980) series, and maybe BUDDY GOES WEST (1981), CAT AND DOG (1983), or maybe I'll finally get around to watching his straight-faced crime flick BLACK TORINO (1972)!