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!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Revenge of 3-D: DARK COUNTRY 3D (2009)

I like weird movies. I like movies that make me wake up in the morning in a cold sweat thinking "what the hell did I watch last night?" Some folks wake up and wonder what the hell it was that they drank, or what the hell it was that they screwed. More power to 'em. I dig cinema that would make David Lynch stumble bleary-eyed out of the theater scratching his head in confusion. I also dig expressionist thrillers and mysteries, whether or not you want to call them "noir" is up for debate. The noir era according to most folks doesn't start until the '50s. Personally I think that line of thought discredits a huge amount of great noir-style films of the '30s and '40s, such as Fritz Lang's M (1931), which certainly fits the description of "Film Noir".

Semantics aside, this genre of film has a niche audience and tend to be hard to come by in the modern era. The closest we've come to a mainstream hit in this area is SIN CITY (2005) which used a noir influence as a springboard to a complete clusterfuck of a movie. A popular clusterfuck, but a clusterfuck all the same.

With all that in mind, it is amazing that I never saw DARK COUNTRY until five years after Sony Pictures unceremoniously dumped it direct to DVD in a barebones 2D release with zero promotional push.

A suddenly middle aged man, Richard (Thomas Jane) awakes in a shabby motel room outside of Vegas with his new wife, Gina (Lauren German). As we find out, they had an alcohol fueled whirlwind romance that resulted them waking up with rings on their fingers. Richard has quit his job, cleaned out his bank account and hit the road in his well-worn 1961 Dodge Polara looking for the girl of his dreams. Their playful new romance begins to slide into dark waters almost immediately when Richard picks up a few things at a diner and notices a missing persons flyer taped to the register with a woman's face that somewhat resembles his new wife. If that wasn't ominous enough, a slick guy in a suit, sitting in a booth starts asking questions and telling him that he should take care not to get lost on the roads at night and that nothing happens to his pretty new bride.

Once on the road, night descends and after playing sex games with the lights off, they come inches away from running down a blood-soaked man who has barely survived a horrible car accident (make up designed by the one and only Bernie Wrightson). Deciding the best thing to do would be to take him to a hospital, they discover that they are lost and their mutilated passenger starts becoming somewhat aggressive, mumbling cryptically "have you ever been murdered before?" To give any more details would spoil the film that is a superb homage to film noir, Hitchcock and even a bit of BLOOD SIMPLE by way of highly stylized comic book visuals. Where SIN CITY went to the extreme with it's highly polarized black and white imagery, DARK COUNTRY uses CGI to paint the screen with a slightly surreal brush, echoing the color palette and style of a graphic novel without falling headlong into overkill.

The film itself has a fascinating out of time design to it. It feels like it could be the 1940s, except there are plenty of deliberate anachronisms to lend an almost disorienting feel to the movie. There is a scene with a cellphone (usually the bane of my cinematic existence) that is very carefully done to make it look as if the cellphone was made in an era in which cellphones hadn't been invented. It is probably something that you will either love or hate as it as it is a device to keep the audience off-balance. There is a part of your brain that will nag you that things aren't right, which is the point. Things aren't right, they are very, very not right.

I have never been much of a fan of Thomas Jane. I thought he was horribly miscast in THE PUNISHER (2004), which had the added burden of being a horrible adaptation. I thought he was fine in THE MIST (2007), but this film made me change my entire outlook on the man. Sure it is a flawed film; due to it being a niche film, it was a very low budget and only had a 25 day shooting schedule, as opposed to the average 60 day shoot of a Hollywood film. Then again, it is about three times longer than Jim Wynorski takes to shoot a BARE WENCH sequel, which should give you an idea of how important time is to filmmaking. Because of the short shooting schedule, there were some concessions made, and Jane himself is very open about the films flaws. I think he's harder on the film than I was, but he has talked about how wasn't able to devote more time to editing the film and has expressed disappointment that they had to resort to CGI for a car stunt.

When you see the car stunt in question out of context, you might think that Jane's heart wasn't in the right place. However there are many outstanding elements in the film that erase that cynical notion. The opening craneshot (done in one take, no cuts) of the '50s era hotel sign took them half of a day to shoot. That may not sound like much, but when you have a 90 minute movie to make with location shooting (enhanced by CG), spending a half a day on one small shot digs pretty deep into your resources. For me, the shot is crucial and completely sucks you in, letting you know before a single actor shows up, before a single line of dialogue is uttered, exactly what kind of film you are about to experience. In addition, the film was shot in stereoscopic 3D. Jane made intricate notes while storyboarding on what style of 3D he wanted for each shot. Some sequences have enhanced depth, some have pop-out effects, some are a very subtle layering and some transition between the three. The effort taken to make the 3D work in the context of the movie is truly stunning in an age of cynical post-conversion.

Jane wanted a slightly shorter cut, trimming down some of these scenes that he felt went on a bit too long. He's right, it does need a little tightening up here and there. Unfortunately Sony Pictures stepped in and shut down post production right in the middle of it. Everyone seems to be tight-lipped on the specifics, but I think it's pretty obvious that it had to do with money and marketability. Sony halted the editing process and demanded a finished cut be handed in for review. After seeing the cut, only then was Jane allowed to go back to the cutting room and reassemble the film, almost from scratch, pushing back post production to the point where it interfered with the start of his next projects (presumably his cameo in 2010s SCOTT PILGRIM). Because of this, some of the editing and post was done while Jane was out of town and the film suffers a little from it. To add insult to injury, Sony decided that they were not going to release the film theatrically and instead dumped it on DVD with absolutely no marketing push whatsoever. Studio executives love to start production on something strange, but when faced with a strange movie they wet themselves in a panic and try to scrape it from the soles of their shoes, so that nobody can accuse them of stepping in it. As of this time, the only way to see it in 3D is via the French double disc release in blu-ray 3D and anaglyph DVD. The discs also include a making of featurette and audio commentary. Sometimes the French are pretty damn cool... sometimes.

The movie took a lot of flack from internet sites for being too obtuse (it is definitely a strange bird) and many viewers found it too confusing and too dark. Jane has stated that he made it for the kind of people that used to stay up late to catch "Twilight Zone" or "Outer Limits" as kids. While this has been used as a negative, to me it's a positive because I was one of those kids. It successfully captures that feeling and adds a layer of pulpy darkness in the vein of POINT BLANK (1967), except without the psychedelia. Jane even admits he told the composer to take his cues, so to speak, from composers such as Bernard Herrmann.

Unfortunately it's also one of those films were you can stumble across a spoiler on the internet completely by accident (thank you IMDb) and it's not too difficult to figure out what is going to happen if you were one of those "Twilight Zone" kids. Again, it is a flawed film, but a very detailed and compelling one.

Jane's return to the director's chair was to be with a film titled WET HOUSE, about an in-patient clinic in which hopeless addicts go to live out their final days. The clinic's doctor begins to suspect that the place is haunted, or could it be that he is losing his mind? Based on THE SIGNALMAN by Charles Dickens (not to be confused with Charles Dikkens the well known Dutch author), what sounded like a pretty amazing film has gone MIA for the past year. The reason for that as it turns out is the producers decided to divorce Jane from the project wholesale and cast a female lead and a new director. After viewing DARK COUNTRY, I think it's pretty obvious that the producers got cold feet and thought a safer (ie dumber) more by the numbers film would make them more money. It's really a shame as the premise sounds fantastic, it has a literary source and Jane is clearly a director who doesn't feel the need to set the bar at an 8th grade comprehension level. Something of a rarity these days.

It is now being reported that Jane's new film is Glenn Ford western homage A MAGNIFICENT DEATH FROM A SHATTERED HAND which stars Jane and Nick Nolte. Jane has stated that he wanted to do it in 3D, but it was so difficult to get the backing on a western in the first place, that getting a 3D western greenlit was impossible. It's a damn shame that Hollywood has insisted on crushing the 3D format through abject apathy and outright laziness, as a gritty western shot wide in 3D would have been amazing. Even so, I am really interested in seeing how he follows up DARK COUNTRY.

Monday, March 24, 2014

No Reservations: THE GHOST DANCE (1980)

Maybe it is because I was growing up during that time period, but it seems like 1970s America was obsessed with Native Americans.  Perhaps it had something to do with the 1976 Centennial (“Happy birthday to us for the land we stole!”) or American Indian Movement?  Or maybe that littering commercial?  Nah, it was totally because of THE MANITOU (1978).  All jokes aside, Native Americans in non-savage roles seemed to figure prominently in the motion picture industry (and not just when Marlon Brando was attention whoring) in the ‘70s and early ‘80s and nowhere was this more apparent than in horror cinema as the mysticism of Native Americans proved to be fertile ground.

Perhaps it was Stephen King mentioning in his novel “The Shining” about how the cursed hotel was built on top of an ancient Indian burial ground, but soon medicine men of both the good and bad variety were filling up the screen with chanting in titles such as the aforementioned MANITOU, PROPHECY (1979), NIGHTWING (1979), WOLFEN (1981) and SCALPS (1983).  One of the most obscure entries in this subgenre is THE GHOST DANCE (1980), a regionally shot horror film that not only got in on this Native American craze but also jumped on the slasher train rather quickly.

The film opens with a group of anthropologists removing a coffin from a burial site in the desert.  This is obviously bad news.  How do we know?  Because an Indian guy is standing nearby with his arms crossed and shaking his head side to side.  That evening a man named Aranjo (Henry Bal) sneaks onto the site and digs up a pot containing a satchel. We also know this is bad news because when a security guard comes out to check on things, he is bitten by a rattle snake and then impales himself on a piece of metal.  Aranjo returns home only to get his wife nagging at him.  That doesn’t bother him as he has discovered “the source…the power” as he tells her. Soon he is conducting a ceremony and is possessed by the spirit of Nahalla (also played by Bal).  That is bad news for the wife as she gets her throat cut by him.  It is also bad news for a family friend who shows up the next day as Nahalla sicks the family dog on her (or maybe he turned into this dog, we’re not quite sure).  Damn, that is a lot of bad news for the first ten minutes of a film.

Back at the University, we met Dr. Kay Foster (Julie Amato, looking a lot like Judith Light from WHO’S THE BOSS), who was responsible for the unearthing of the burial ground and keeping this Indian mummy under wraps (ah, boo yourself!). She teaches a class about “The Ghost Dance,” an ancient Indian religion created by Wovoka.  Remember this kids because it has nothing to do with the rest of the film.  Back at the site, some workers get into an accident straight out of THE OMEN (1976) as Nahalla causes their truck to back up and crush the legs of one of the workers (one worker is played by Don Shanks, who would go on to play Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN 5 [1989]).  Kay heads out to the site with her beau/Indian reservation liaison Tom Eagle (Victor Mohica). Okay, out of all the character names you’ve encountered so far, care to guess who is going to be the hero of the film?  At the site they encounter some grumpy tribal elders, who get in a dig at Tom by saying, “You of all people should understand.” Also attuned to this spiritual disturbance is local medicine man Ocacio (Frank Salsedo, the old Indian chief from CREEPSHOW 2 [1987]).  He sends a little girl he hangs out with (!?) to the University to get a piece of Nahalla’s corpse so he can dispose of him the old school way. They are a bit too late though as that evening Kay’s secretary and a local newspaper photographer (their relationship is set up earlier when the secretary says he is stopping by and said she was cute) are having sex in a stagecoach exhibit.  Have you no respect?  Our boy Nahalla shows up and dispatches of them both in graphic fashion – she is impaled on a spear and he is thrown through a glass display and then has a shard pushed through his stomach.  This causes Tom Eagle to wake up in a panic.  Now either he is spiritually plugged into what is going on, or that dude had the world’s loudest scream.

Oddly, Kay and her associate Paul (James Andronica) don’t seem too bothered by these two deaths.  To paraphrase ROBOCOP: “Too bad about the secretary, huh?” “That’s life in the big city.”  Of course, Kay has way more trouble on her hands.  Nahalla seems to be stalking her as she sees him popping up outside of houses and on the roadside.  She even goes to the cops to report him.  He also gets her attention by whispering “Melissa” throughout the exhibit hall, which is odd since her name is Kay.  This mystery is solved by the determined Paul, who uncovers that Nahalla was an Indian rebel who started his own dark religion in 1894 and, like any good renegade, kidnapped a white woman named Melissa and made her his wife; ten dollars to the first person who can shout out who is a dead ringer for Melissa.  As you can guess, Tom Eagle must soon deal with both Nahalla and the possessed Kay and this can only be solved in one way – sitting around a fire in a cave and chanting!

While not 100% successful, THE GHOST DANCE is certainly one of the better Native American themed horror films. There are a couple of dull stretches, but it is an interesting combination of ideas. What really interests me is how quickly these filmmakers got onto the slasher bandwagon.  Sure, HALLOWEEN (1978) had hit a few years earlier, but the gore factor in slasher films didn’t amp up until FRIDAY THE 13th (1980).  That they managed to get this out in the same year is pretty impressive.  Sure, the effects aren’t on the level of Savini, but the murders are surprisingly bloody.  Co-writer-director Peter F. Buffa also manages to have a few creepy scenes thanks to some Indian chants on the soundtrack. Interestingly, he was one and done with features when it came to this film.  It appears he moved into politics in California and became the Mayor of Costa Mesa (no doubt pandering to the GHOST DANCE demographic).  Shot mostly in Arizona, the film benefits from some great desert locations. The cinematography by Fred Murphy, who is still working today, is impressive, especially one serendipitous scene that has Nahalla on a mountain with a huge real storm lighting up the skies behind him.  Sadly, the film has only been released on VHS here in the States and the transfer is very dark during the nighttime scenes.  So if you are looking for a Native American horror flick for your next powwow, give THE GHOST DANCE a smoke in your peace pipe.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Gweilo Dojo: IRONHEART (1992)

As always I'm going to nail my colors to the mast straight off. Bob Clouse is the man. Even his minor work in the '70s and '80s is entertaining. Say what you want about GYMKATA (1985), it certainly hasn't slipped into obscurity. GOLDEN NEEDLES (1974) and FORCE: FIVE (1981) are never going to compete for popularity with ENTER THE DRAGON (1973), but they are still great fun. His post-apocalypse film THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR (1975) was without question the basis for MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981). He contributed to the '70s killer canine subgenre of the nature-gone-amok subgenre with THE PACK (1977) which is one of the best examples of it's type. Sure there was GAME OF DEATH (1978), but look at what he had to work with. An unfinished film and no budget. Besides, I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to try to break into the film industry, much less become successful when you are completely deaf. Even so, GAME is not the low point of his career. IRONHEART is his last film and unfortunately it is without question his worst.

A rich businessman, Milverstead (Richard Norton) and his henchman Ice (Bolo Yeung), are operating a white slave ring by having hot girls picked up by pretty dudes in his club in order to kidnap them and shoot them up with smack. Why is he wasting his money injecting them with heroin when he keeps them locked up in the hold of a ship where they can't escape? Apparently, it for the same reason that Donald Trump digs firing people; just for the sadistic pleasure of it. A newly promoted cop, John (Britton K. Lee), is on the case looking for the missing girl. Not very hard mind you as he is the absolute worst detective in the history of motion pictures. How bad is he? Let me tell you.

One day while tooling around in his red Porsche he sees a female jogger being attacked by a group of pot smokin' trash. After watching her get torn apart and screaming for help for a while, he presumably realizes that this situation will not resolve itself peacefully and slowly walks down the hill to confront the thugs who even though armed, don't bother to actually shoot him and proceed to get their asses kicked one at at time. In another scene he and his new way-too-hot-for-him girlfriend (Karman Kruschke) are attacked by Milverstead's goons causing her car to be rendered inoperable. John decides that the car can't be left where it is because Milverstead would be able to trace the car back to her and, presumably, find out where she lives. He is a newly promoted cop so his solution is to have it towed away for being illegally parked. Just kidding. No, his solution is to pull out his sidearm, shoot a hole in the gas tank and then shoot the leaking gas causing the car to explode in a giant ball of flame and burn in the middle of the street. Makes perfect sense, aside from the fact that he just violated about 20 laws and ordinances.

The fight scenes are sadly few and far between and shockingly, none of them feature Norton. In Bolo's first of two fight scenes he makes a big display out of slowly taking off his jacket, slowly pulling out a headband, slowly tying the headband around his head, then punching the guy twice, backing off and shooting him with a submachine gun. Why even bother taking off your jacket for that? There are a few longer fight scenes at the end, sadly they suffer from a cropped image and heavy handed editing. Even worse there is clearly some graphic violence that has been cut to receive an R-rating. The tell-tale sign of foleyed sound effects for images that aren't on screen (such as the sound of blood squirting) indicate some heavy editing.

Actually the movie wouldn't be so bad if it had less padding and more fighting. Without the fighting we are left with Lee's acting and it is atrocious. The man has one expression for everything and it's usually reserved for something with a hook in it's mouth. This may be due to the fact that it appears that he his reading his lines phonetically off of cue cards. I guess there's a reason he never appeared in anything else. Even his haircut makes him look like a dork.

Unfortunately in his later years Clouse suffered from kidney disease and ultimately led to his death five years after this film was made. I can only assume that the debilitating effects of dialysis and medication made it difficult to direct a low-budget movie, to say the least. Sadly, it really shows with unimaginably long sequences of padding, including a five-minute long opening scene of people enthusiastically dancing in a club to a cheesy hip-hop song. The second unit director must have shot hours of this footage and it is used and abused to the point where it makes up probably a third of the film's running time. Add to that a staggering amount of footage of people walking, driving, shooting pool, exercising and sometimes, just to break up the monotony, there is some terrible, droning voice-over work to advance the whisp of a plot.

With such a fine legacy behind him, to have Bob Clouse go out on such a low note is a crying shame. Still, because it's a Bob Clouse movie, it must be watched. Now if only I could get my hands on THE LONDON CONNECTION (1979)...

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.