Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Gweilo Dojo: HONOR AND GLORY (1993)/ANGEL THE KICKBOXER (1993)

As we crawl toward our four year online anniversary (“What!?!” I can hear Tom say), it is still amazing the amount of favorite subjects that we haven’t touched upon.  Case in point: Cynthia Rothrock!  The first American queen of martial arts cinema is woefully underrepresented here at Video Junkie, but it certainly isn’t from lack of love.  Rothrock is like a hipster woman ass kicker – she was totally doing it before it was cool. The Delaware born actress began training in the martial arts in her early teens and, after relocating to California, she began participating in karate and weapons tournaments and ran a martial arts school.

Filmmaker/genius Leo Fong cast Rothrock in her first film with the San Francisco set 24 HOURS TO MIDNIGHT (1985).  However, it was the keen eye of a Golden Harvest suit that catapulted her to martial arts movie stardom as she headed to Hong Kong to perform alongside greats like Jackie Chan (R.I.P.), Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Michelle Yeoh.  Working steadily overseas proved to be an asset to her career as it allowed Rothrock to really show off her skills.  A return stateside saw her hooking up with ENTER THE DRAGON (1973) helmer Robert Clouse for two CHINA O’BRIEN films, making her the only female martial arts star in the U.S. market at the time. Rothrock’s growing popularity saw her splitting her time between the United States and Asia, resulting in a rather disparate filmography in terms of quality.  Eventually these two cinematic worlds collided in the early ‘90s when she teamed up with veteran HK exploitation filmmaker Godfrey Ho on two movies (HONOR AND GLORY and UNDEFEATABLE) filmed in America.

HONOR AND GLORY opens with a slideshow about a nuclear missile and its trigger that have recently gone missing. Naturally, all of the military men in the board room (really a tiny office) are concerned and they have every reason to be as it appears evil billionaire Jason Slade (John Miller) is willing to purchase it for a hefty sum on the black market.  How evil is Slade?  He tells the board members at B.B.I.T. (Bank of Business and International Trade) that he is “chairman of the board for life” while fondling metal balls in his hand.  What, the producers couldn’t spring for a cat on his lap?  Integral to Slade’s impending downfall is news reporter Joyce Pride (Donna Jason), who is as swift with a kick as she is with a microphone.  Don’t believe me?  Check her out:

Man, the streets of D.C. are rough!  Now, I don’t want to sound hyperbolic, but when a film has lady kick a soda can onto another woman’s forehead in the first 10 minutes, I’m pretty sure it is going to be a classic.  After handling her kung fu business, Joyce heads to the airport to pick up her sister Tracy (Cynthia Rothrock), a Federal agent returning from doing overseas work in Hong Kong.  Joyce fills Tracy in on her Slade efforts (she apparently houses a full editing suite in her home) and the sore subject of their father comes up.  Seems Joyce is holding a grudge that daddy didn’t pay enough attention to her, resulting in two very different sisters.  Or, as Joyce so eloquently puts it, “you chase honor, I chase glory.”  Damn they should make a title out of that.

Later, Slade is heading out of his office building when he is ambushed by Joyce, who beats the crap out of all of his henchmen when they try to mess with her cameraman.  Well, she doesn’t beat down new hire Jake Armstrong (Chuck Jeffreys), who was fetching the limo. Armstrong is good.  So good in fact that his business card reads, “You couldn’t be safer in the hands of God.”  I don’t know about that, God has a pretty mean roundhouse kick.  Anyway, Joyce heads to her old kung fu school to catch up with her Sifu (Tai Yim, who also did the film’s action choreography) and abuse her wannabe suitor Mickey (Yip Yim Hing).  Okay, HONOR AND GLORY drinking game: take a shot every time someone says “sifu” in this scene (even if it sounds like they are saying “seafood”). Dude, you would get totally wasted.

Meanwhile, the filmmakers continue to reinforce how evil Slade is by having him talk about his reasons for enjoying tennis. “Winning’s the easy part, Jake,” he says to his bodyguard, “It’s toying with them that I enjoy. I like to draw them to the net and let them think they have a chance. Then I crush them on the baseline.”  Whoa, chill out, Patrick Bateman!  Outside the gym, a couple of hitmen try to get Slade but Jake takes them out with ease.  I assume they were hitmen…or guys who really don’t like people who ruin the ethics of tennis.  Either way, Slade hires Hideo (Richard Yuen) to kill the two board members he thinks set him up.  After all, they nodded toward each other knowingly when Slade gave his “for life” speech earlier.

Wait, wasn’t there something about a missing nuclear trigger going on here?  Oh yeah. Slade is contacted by a white pimp who goes by the name of Silk (Gerald Klein), who is brokering the deal for the device.  Our hustler actually says his deals always run “smooth as silk.”  After making the arrangements, Silk calls another contact in John (Leo Rocca), who just happens to be…insert suspenseful music build here…the father of Joyce and Tracy!  And guess what case Tracy just happens to be investigating here in the States?  Yep, that’s right she is tracking the disappearance of a certain nuclear device. My God and you thought your family had drama?  Joining Tracy on her investigation is Dragon Lee (Robin Shou), her old partner from Hong Kong.  The filmmakers really establish his character well by showing him just jump into Tracy’s car during a stakeout and having her say, “I thought you were in Hong Kong.”  Slade is oblivious to all this heat though as he is planning to get the device for $5 million and sell it to a Saudi prince for $3 billion. Now far be it for me to interfere in high stakes illegal weapons sales negotiations, but I’m pretty sure that dude is overpaying on the resale.  Jesus, what a mark up!  What is this AMERICAN NUCLEAR PICKERS?  Not so oblivious during all of this is Armstrong, who is not only beginning to suspect his boss might be crooked, but is also starting to fancy Joyce (by breaking into her home and asking her where she learned her kung fu). Naturally, it all comes to a head in the designated location for modern martial arts flicks – a warehouse!

Fans of crazed Hong Kong action and bizarre plotting will no doubt get a kick out of HONOR AND GLORY.  While Cynthia Rothrock is top billed, it is probably Donna Jason who is the star here.  Not that I mind as Jason has the same combination of attractiveness and martial arts talent that Rothrock has. Well, she doesn’t pull off that crazy backwards scorpion head kick that Rothrock always does, but I was pleasantly surprised by her skill.  It is a shame that not much is known about her and that she didn’t do more.  John Miller is also pretty accomplished skill wise as the villain of the film and his bulging eyes performance is just what the doctor ordered for a film like this (“I am like a God! I piss on you from a great height,” he tells Silk at one point). Rothrock, Jason, Hall and director Ho would also make UNDEFEATABLE around the same time, resulting in one of the internet’s favorite kung fu fights.

Also impressive in his role is Chuck Jeffreys.  A Washington, D.C. native, Jeffreys also got his onscreen start across the country in San Francisco in a series of films for Leo Fong and George Chung.  One of the things that will immediately hit viewers is how much Jeffreys looks like ‘80s Eddie Murphy. Not only does he look like him, but he sounds just like him too (listen for the bit where he tells Slade to “kiss my ass” and tell me it doesn’t sound just like Murphy).  The resemblance is so uncanny that I wondered how he didn’t become Murphy’s stunt double, but then I saw on his filmography that he did double Murphy in BOOMERRANG (1992).  On the upside, Jeffreys is a much better martial artist than Murphy and gets plenty of opportunities in this film to show off his moves.

With so many ass kickers, Robin Shou, future star of MORTAL KOMBAT, seems almost like an afterthought here.  It is like he walked onto the set unannounced and asked, “You need anybody?”  He only gets two fights, but they are both well done.

Now if you know the name Godfrey Ho (working under the oh-so-subtle pseudonym of Godfrey Hall here), then you know the kind of insanity the man can deliver.  Frankly, Ho is a cinematic slut (see what I did there?) and this has led to a whacked out career of over 100 movies that are literally all over the map.  Rather than one of those slapped together ninja edits that still give Richard Harrsion night terrors, HONOR AND GLORY is a legit film with Ho obviously working with a bigger budget than usual.  Of course, that doesn’t stop any of the goofy Ho-isms like an establishing shot of the United States Congress with a Washington, D.C. tag on it or Joyce driving up to her old kung fu school to find people just randomly in a Chinese dragon costume in the parking lot.  We get it, they are Chinese!  Believe it or not though, Ho was up to his usual behavior and actually offered up two edits of this film with the alternate version ANGEL THE KICKBOXER featuring a returning Robin Shou and Yukari Oshima as cops. “We make two-for-one,” I can hear Ho squeal in a voice that can only sound like James Hong in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986). Of course, only a sucker could get fooled by that.  Wait, Video Junkie head honcho Tom got hoodwinked by this?  I mean, hey, it can happen to anyone.  Damn, that is one tricky Ho.

ANGEL THE KICKBOXER is actually a totally bizarre experience to watch after HONOR AND GLORY because it does adhere to the storyline presented in the US shot footage and incorporates several of the same actors.  This version actually opens with cop Dragon Lee (Robin Shou again) being told by his superiors to look out for hitman Hideo (Richard Yuen again), who is called Suzuki for some reason in the subtitles.  We actually have a small scene where Rothrock’s character meets up with Lee in the office (apparently breaking into a spar session is welcomed) and she tells him she is heading back to the U.S. on a top secret mission (the plot of HONOR AND GLORY).  Lee and his girlfriend (Yukari Oshima) head out looking for Hideo/Suzuki and, in a rather humorous continuity error, flash a picture of him to guys.  Why is this funny? The picture is a B&W copy of a still from the final showdown from HONOR AND GLORY. I love it.  Anyway, Hideo/Suzuki is in Hong Kong to take care of some crooked bankers led by Li (Waise Lee).  Seems he didn’t deposit all of Jason Slade’s $100 million into a Swiss account and the bank has now been seized by the Hong Kong government.  Naturally, this allows for lots of fights (including two fights set to stolen music from GREMLINS) before Lee tells his girl he has to head to the United States to continue his work.  Oshima does the typical grumpy girlfriend routine seen in nearly all Hong Kong flick.  When Lee asks her what is wrong, she says she is afraid he will catch AIDS.  Okkkkkay.

Believe it or not, a person online actually edited these two alternate versions together to create one super long version. Yes, a two hour plus Godfrey Ho film! What more could you ask for?  Well, besides sanity. Amazingly, this version also includes U.S. shot scenes that were not included on the Imperial VHS that I have.  One scene has Slade sitting down with his concerned father for some whiskey as they calmly talk about their business.  What?  The egomaniac Slade has parents?  Even better is Slade saying, “When this thing blows over, the publicity is going to be great for the bank.”  LOL.  Also, there is a scene where Silk, the whitest pimp on Earth, is in a car getting money from one of his charges.  “Don't get smart with me, bitch” he says when she tells him that the girls aren’t making money. Pimpin’ ain’t easy, indeed.  There is also a new U.S. filmed scene between Rothrock and Shou towards the end that came from the Asian version.  Once the case is wrapped up, he tells her that he is heading back to Hong Kong to wrap up the case on that end.  Of course, their scene starts with one of them sneaking up on the other and them jumping into a sparring session. Jeez, get a room already, you two!

Note: Tai Seng released the ANGEL THE KICKBOXER version on VHS and DVD in the U.S. To make matters even more confusing, they later released an earlier Yukari Oshima film under the new title ANGEL OF KICKBOXER.  (As Jack Burton would say, “I don’t even know what the hell that means!”)  With such similar titles, the internet believes they are the same film.  They are not.  Thanks to some detective work by John Charles, we can now say that ANGEL OF KICKBOXER is A PUNCH TO REVENGE (1989).  Confused?  I hope so.

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.