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, December 1, 2017

December to Dismember: KRAMPUS 2: THE DEVIL RETURNS (2016)

 As you may have the unfortunate luck to remember, two years we talked about a few Krampus movies and leading off the much exploitable Mass of Christ was Jason Hull's shot-on-video, mind-dullingly incompetent KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL (2013). It was by far the most brutally tedious chores to sit through that I have endured in a long, long time. And I sat through DRACULA: LIVE FROM TRANSYLVANIA (1989). Well, I say that, but KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING (2015) was so bad that it didn't even get reviewed. And if you know us at all, you know that is bad.

Apparently ITN made enough money off of suckers digging though Walmart bargain bins that three years later we have been blessed with a follow-up that has no idea where it's going. Oh, and this write-up will be full of spoilers, but really, I'm doing you a favor. If you read this, you won't have to watch it.

Opening with a scene in which a couple of jackass kids are busting up an unoccupied house, after finding beer just sitting out on the counter (!), the titular devil apparently takes offence at the fat kid spray painting "Mary X-Mas" on the wall and promptly... well, does nothing because we fade to black and get a lengthy title sequence. So lengthy, in fact, that the opening and ending credits comprise almost 10 minutes of the scant 80 minute running time. I'd say that was a good thing, but the movie portion is 70 minutes that goes on so long that it makes BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017) seem like a sizzle reel.

Once again, it is a White (trash) Christmas in whatever town this is supposed to be and our biker-bearded Santa (Paul Ferm) is working the local mall or portrait studio and having bratty teenagers sit on his lap and ask for videogames. Santa is apparently one of those progressive tough-love types and says that the kid should give his thumbs a rest. After yanking on his beard, in a bizarre reference to MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947), and calling him a phony, the kid goes down on Santa's naughty list. And you know what that means! It means that eventually, when the screenwriters (yes, there are two) get around to it, Krampus is going to bag his ghetto ass! As it turns out, literally.

Apparently, in the time between films, the town has been in an uproar over the constant disappearance of children that the police have been at a loss to explain. This Christmas handfuls of people are rioting around the police station making things so bad that, yes, they have no choice but to bring back ex-officer Jeremy Duffin (A.J. Leslie). You may unfortunately remember that Jeremy's daughter was taken by Krampus leaving him an obsessed, frequently out of focus, suicidal cop who tracks down the Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber of the Bon Noel.

During the years after he quit the force, Jeremy has grown hair and a beard, setting the scene for the "back in business" sequence where he is convinced to go after Krampus and Santa (who, again, is working in a public place) because they found his daughter's cheap-ass bracelet dangling off of a bush. This could only mean one thing! She's still alive and Jeremy must shave off all his hair while muttering to himself in the mirror, for a very, very long time.

Ironically considering the title, but not so if you've actually seen the first movie, Krampus barely even figures into the plot and could have been left out entirely. Mainly he wanders around looking like a yuletide homeless guy (when you can actually see him!), peeking in windows and pissing off The Clause who reads him the riot act about his "rouge bullshit", straying off the list. These two knuckleheads hang out at an abandoned house outside of town where they keep all the kids that they have napped. Some are in cages, while some are just sitting on the floor, within easy reach of the door to freedom, just waiting for Santa and Krampus to return to dish out some whippings. Fuck it, these kids are idiots and don't deserve to escape.

Just when you have come to grips with the tedium, director and co-writer Hull decides that he's bored with these characters (possibly more so than the viewer) and decides that he wants to make an entirely different movie about a biker guy named Stuart (R.A. Mihailoff) who may be some sort of gang boss, or maybe not, we are never told. What is explained is that, in the last movie, Stuart's brother (the short, skinny home-invader who looks nothing like Mihailoff) was shot by Jeremy, so now he must have his revenge! Why has he waited three years to wreak his wrath on a guy who lives in the same freaking town? Who knows? But he does, and his master plan is to send a couple of guys and his apparently stripper girlfriend, Natasha (Melantha Blackthorne), out to a bar that is the hang out of the entire police force, to kidnap him and take him to the old abandoned house outside of town. Can you see where this is going? Yeah, after a while it'll get there.

Of course these geniuses, once in the bar, realize that trying to kidnap a cop in the middle of a thriving bar filled with cops, may not have been the best possible strategy. This leads to a female cop (Tiffani Fest) chasing down Natasha and engaging in the most embarrassingly clumsy cat-fight ever staged. Yay? It also features the most idiotic dialogue of the movie (which is saying something) during this ho down - err, I mean, throw down. Says Natasha "my mom always told me to fuck what you kill!" I'll leave you to make sense of that on your own.

During the arrest in the bar, one of the perps drops his car keys which leads to Jeremy finding a cell phone in the car with the address of the abandoned house that he was supposed to be taken to on it. If this was a real movie from the '70s or '80s they would have just had a car-chase that lead there and none of this contortionist scriptwriting. Wait, wasn't this supposed to be a Krampus movie?

Arriving at the abandoned house Jeremy is promptly knocked out and tied to a satanic alter while a topless girl in a plague mask humps him and carves an infinity symbol in his chest. After waking up, we find out that not only was it not a dream, but the girl who is doing the humping is his daughter! What? Wait, what?! This culminates with a slow-mo shoot out between the white trash guys and the, uhhh, white trash guys, that is so poorly staged and doesn't even bother to splatter any blood on the victim of a shotgun blast to the chest. Maybe Maihailoff's paycheck dipped into the squib and fake blood budget... or Jason Hull is just the laziest motherfucker ever.

After everyone except Jeremy is dead, Santa blames him for ruining his family life by shooting his daughter and the infinity symbol is representative of the fact that "this will never end". I may have started weeping in despair at this point. I really, really wanted it to end. Santa and the Krampmas gimp wander off leaving Jeremy tied to a chair and the audience dreading another sequel. No, really, that's it. You're welcome.

Brother, if anyone deserves to be on the Naughty List it's Jason Hull. He actually manages to make a Christmas horror film that is barely Christmas and almost not at all horror the second time out. It seems like he realized that nobody would pay for the pathetic cops vs biker film that he wanted to make, so he stuffed in a few scenes of Santa and Krampus and called it KRAMPUS 2. Not that the original was much better, but it did feature a little more of the X-mas villains, so I guess that's... good, maybe?

You know the old joke that goes "at least it's in focus"? Unlike the first one, I can finally say that (mostly) about this one. Yes, Hull has learned how to focus his video camera, or at least do retakes when his shots are blatantly blurry and in that respect he has grown as a film - uhhh, I mean videomaker. This time the sound levels aren't equalized. While one scene is fine, the next is will be so quiet that you have to crank up the volume to hear the dialogue and then wonder why the hell you bothered. In addition to that, he still can't write, choreograph, or really any of the other things that typically go into a writer/director's job. There are people out there who start off in video who you want to see grow as a filmmaker. Unfortunately I don't have enough time in my life to see Jason Hull grow into a competent filmmaker and neither does he.

Friday, October 27, 2017


Tomorrow is the big day - the release date of IT CAME FROM THE VIDEO AISLE from Schiffer Publishing. Some folks might have noticed a downturn in productivity on our blog and this is part of the the reason why. A sequel book to EMPIRE OF THE Bs, this chronicles the nearly 30 year existence of Charles Band's second company, Full Moon Entertainment. 480 pages with over 400 photos and words taken from over 60 exclusive interviews with some of Full Moon's best actors, screenwriters, directors, producers, and FX folks.

We were lucky enough to be brought onto the project in November 2014 by Dave Jay and Torsten Dewi and have spent the ensuing years doing lots of interviews, writing and generally pestering folks to get the inside scoop on this little indie movie company that could. VJ head honcho Thomas Sueyres pens two sections in the book - one dissecting the complicated history of DOCTOR MORDRID (1992) and the other focusing on Band's black comedy HEAD OF THE FAMILY (1996). In addition to that, Tom got to interview prolific Full Moon screenwriter Benjamin Carr (granting his first ever interview!). As for myself, I'm all over the book to an embarrassing degree with lots of write ups and interviews. Perhaps my biggest contribution is an overview of the PUPPET MASTER films, Full Moon's crowning series. If you were ever a fan of the films (or just b-movies in general), I recommend checking it out.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Halloween Havoc: INTENSIVE CARE (1991)

Even to an American that is not enthralled by the Hollywood system and lives on a steady diet of foreign exploitation films, the Dutch are pretty hit and miss. Matter of fact when it comes to horror movies, you can lump the whole of Scandinavia in there. They clearly like watching horror films, but when it comes to making them, they just seem to miss the boat. Don't get me wrong, they have a ticket and are standing on the pier, but the ship has sailed. Case in point: INTENSIVE CARE.

Allegedly set in America (where everyone speaks Dutch), a surgeon, Dr. Bruckner (George Kennedy) flips out in the operating room when one of his assistants questions his approach. Bruckner stabs the patient twice and storms off to his office. Just to make his day worse, his boss intrudes to - no, not fire his crazy ass for stabbing a patient in the OR - but to inform him that his request for a grant has been denied.

Bruckner had been working on an experiment to help comatose patients via shock therapy and brain transplants. Sounds perfectly reasonable, right? How could that go wrong? Enraged that his genius is being denied, Bruckner drives angry on a country road. Why is he suddenly on a country road? My guess is that is the only place the state of Washington (or so say his vehicle plates) would let the filmmakers blow up a gas tanker. Yep, Bruckner plows into the gas tanker resulting in a massive explosion that, in a stroke of irony, leaves the badly burned doctor in... yes, a coma.

Seven years later, still comatose in the very same hospital where he was so badly snubbed, a couple of Euro douche-bag male nurses (who are drinking white wine in stem glasses on the job) decide to put goofy cartoon animal masks on all of the patients in the coma ward. The coma ward is, of course, simply a few rows of beds with no monitors or life-support machines of any kind. Remind me never to check into this place. One of our douche-bags, Peter (Koen Wauters), thinks it will be funny to send the female nurse Anna into the ward by herself while all the patients are wearing masks. Hi-larious, amiright? The strangely terrified nurse suddenly has a reason to be scared as Dr. Bruckner decides that this is the moment to return to the land of the living and wreak his revenge. Unfortunately, it is also Peter's quitting time, which means we are stuck with this immature dumb-ass for the rest of the movie.

Following the tried and true formula of American slasher films, all three of the credited screenwriters manage to mess all of this up by having the doctor lurking around outside of the houses of three characters for most of the movie. Peter is obsessed with the girl next door, Amy (Nada van Nie) who has broken things off with him to see the wimpiest leather-boy ever, Ted (Dick van den Toorn), all of whom live in the same block. Peter, when not being an obnoxious twat, plays the saxophone... to his cat Dennis. Seriously, I couldn't make that up. Finally after spying on Amy and Ted with binoculars, he sees that they are fighting and he can move in on Amy again.

After inviting himself over to Amy's house to pick her up on the rebound, Peter and Amy make sweet, sweet music together. Literally. Peter plays the sax, Amy plays guitar and her little brother Bob plays the piano. Uhhhh, wasn't there a horribly burned, deranged killer on the loose?

This is genuinely the first hour of the movie. Peter constantly bitching that Amy doesn't want him "like that" and Amy sending mixed signals and poor Bob is just trying to stay above it all. After slapping around Ted (who is supposed to be a motorcycle riding badass, but doesn't even try to kick the shit out of the stick-figure Peter), Peter decides that the best way to get Amy's affections is to force her to kiss him and rip her top open. Just like in real life, this works like a charm and suddenly Amy's anger turns to hot monkey lov - err, well a brief hump on the bedroom floor. Seriously, there is a psycho killer in this movie, right?

Because Peter is a douche, he ruins the moment by again being a whiny dick and stomps off to his house to watch TV while sulking in his frilly silk bed. The news runs a live story about a massacre of three people (now you know this ain't America) in the hospital and just as Peter is starting to think that this news might be slightly alarming, Dr. Bruckner jumps out of his closet and stabs him repeatedly with a large scalpel. Yay! Or not, as (*spoiler*) Peter is not quite dead. Booo!

Fortunately for the viewers that have made it through an hour of this infantile bullshit, the movie kicks into gear, albeit a low one, as Bruckner kills cops and stalks Amy in her house and, for some reason, out in the woods presumably next to her house. To be fair, once into the final 15 minutes of the film, we get Amy and Bob desperately trying to fend off Bruckner with guns, knives, a power drill and even (*spoiler*) commercial fireworks that Peter just so happens to have in his backpack!

While this movie conspires to truly test the patience of even the most die hard slasher fan, first time director, Dorna van Rouveroy, does manage some atmospheric and stylish camerawork when she feels like it. As the daughter of a cinematographer that should be expected, but unfortunately she frequently gets lazy and simply nails the camera in place resulting in either bland or ridiculous scenes. Ridiculous, as in the scene where after stabbing Peter, the horribly mangled and deranged Dr. Bruckner decides to sit on the edge of Peter's rather effeminate bed and watch the news story about the hospital "massacre". This is essentially a head shot of Bruckner who is reacting to the story while roaring like a lion (no, really) every time someone takes a potshot at his beloved coma experiments. Like many scenes in the movie, this could have been just a quick bit where Bruckner catches a couple of lines from the TV before marching over to Amy's house, but instead is dragged out far longer than it should have been.

Considering the short running time of just over 71 minutes (the IMDb lists 91 minutes, but that is incorrect), it shouldn't feel as if one of the writers was tasked with padding the film out to barely feature length. They could have easily added some scenes with George Kennedy actually doing his unethical experiments, but I guess that would raise his fee. Once Bruckner goes ka-blooey, Kennedy is not needed anymore, which probably explains why he's so grumpy. They could have also shown the hospital rampage as the movie seems to be in a big hurry to get out of the hospital and start shooting in the main character's houses. Once again, I'm guessing scenes of petty arguing are cheaper.

While I haven't seen the other five films that make up van Rouveroy's directorial career, it appears that she moved on to dramas, which is clearly where her severed heart lies. As it is, INTENSIVE CARE is a minor curiosity with some solid moments.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Newsploitation: Is there a DOCTOR MORDRID in the house?

“When things get a little crazy, someone always remarks, ‘Must be a full moon tonight.’” - Dr. Anton Mordrid

With the publishing of IT CAME FROM THE VIDEO AISLE just weeks away, it is amusing that this film anniversary popped up when I was doing some research. Although Full Moon Entertainment has been around (in various fashions) for nearly 30 years, it is still hard for me to process that one of their films is turning 25 years old. Yet this is the case as everyone’s favorite “Master of the Unknown” turns a quarter of a century old this month.

Like most Band productions of this era, there is a long history behind the eventual product. DOCTOR MORDRID’s roots actually started growing in Charles Band’s previous company, Empire Pictures. Band was never mum about his love of comic books and by 1986 he steered his first company in that direction in a big way with the hiring of comic icon Jack Kirby. The legendary pensman signed on to tackle two very comic book oriented projects in MINDMASTER and DOCTOR MORTALIS. Advertised heavily in Variety, both projects never saw fruition and Kirby’s legacy with Empire ended with some nifty trade ads.

Variety mentions for DOCTOR MORTALIS:

That said, when Band started his new company, Full Moon Entertainment, he brought the concept with him. To flesh out this character, Band looked to the typewriter of C. Courtney Joyner. The screenwriter established himself by co-writing the terrific anthology FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (1987) and had previously written PRISON (1987), which Band’s Empire had a hand in. Two other elements probably factored into Joyner’s selection. One: He was a bonafide comic book fan who understood what Band wanted. Two: He had just written PUPPET MASTER III (1991), which had been the studio’s biggest success to date. Joyner was the ideal person to bring this “prescription of movie magic” (as the Videozone called MORDRID) to life. Joyner created the character of Dr. Anton Mordrid, a wizard who guards Earth while under the tutelage of the Monitor. His skills are put to the test when outlaw sorcerer Kabal begins a series of thefts to allow him to open Hell.

MORDRID saw Charles Band sharing directing chores with his father Albert (this was the senior Band’s first outing for Full Moon). In regard to casting, they wisely chose Empire vet and fan favorite Jeffrey Combs to essay the lead doctor and veteran b-movie bad guy Brian Thompson as the villain. Beginning principal photography in January 1992, MORDRID had one of the largest Full Moon budgets to date (an estimated $2,000,000). As the VJ boss Thomas Sueyres mentions in his VIDEO AISLE chapter on MORDRID, the expense certainly makes it onto the screen as MORDRID is one of the more lavish films from that era.

Production was rather quick by Hollywood standards and the film was ready to screen by June 1992. This is pretty amazing considering David Allen Productions was working on some really fantastic effects pieces (the most memorable being the dinosaur skeleton brawl in the film’s finale). The film was given a rating in late June as it received a R-rating (for “language and a scene of sexuality” according to the MPAA notes posted in Variety on June 18, 1992). Although it did carry the restricted rating, MORDRID was perhaps not fitting of this distinction. It lacked the bloody horrors of previous Full Moon films such as PUPPET MASTER or SUBSPECIES. In fact, MORDRID is relatively tame in comparison and is more in the vein of Band’s comic book ideal. 

Storyboards from DOCTOR MORDRID:

MORDRID was an instant success for Full Moon when it hit video shelves in September 1992, with the VHS on every Blockbuster shelf in America. The film was such a success that there were plans for a number of sequels for the further adventures of Dr. Anton Mordrid in the ever expanding Full Moon portfolio. In fact, Full Moon had hired a certain screenwriting duo to pen DOCTOR MORDRID 2 and 3 and they complete a full draft of MORDRID 2 that was well received within the company. Also, a director was in pre-production on the second film when the company’s deal with Paramount abruptly ended. Who were these mysterious folks? Well, you’ll have to buy the book to find out.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Newsploitation: From a Whisper to THE OFFSPRING

Hard to believe but the classic tales of terror FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (aka THE OFFSPRING) turns 30 years old today. George Romero’s CREEPSHOW aside, SCREAM is for me easily one of the best horror anthologies of the 1980s and perfectly captures that dark EC Comics spirit. It is also another great entry in the long running history of the “little horror indie that could” as it defied the odds to become a cult classic and launched a bunch of careers.

The film was born among a group of USC students (Jeff Burr, C. Courtney Joyner, and Darin Scott) looking to make a horror feature. Burr had some early directing experience with DIVIDED WE FALL (1982), a USC project he co-wrote and co-directed that Joyner had also done some work on. The film even played some festivals throughout the U.S. After this Joyner wrote a vampire script called NIGHTCRAWLERS for Burr to direct (you can read more about that unrealized project here). When that idea fell through, the idea of a horror anthology began to take shape.

Notice of DIVIDED WE FALL at a Florida film festival: 

SCREAM has the distinction of being listed in Variety’s “Production Log” twice with two locations all the way across the United States. The first mentions were in November 1985 when the film was listed as having shot in Dalton, Georgia with a start date of 8/1/1985. The film popped up in the listings again in April 1986 with Los Angeles listed as the filming location. According to what Burr told Fangoria at the time, this happened as they ran out of money during editing. This down period allowed them to raise more financing. It also allowed for SCREAM’s biggest casting coup as they got horror legend Vincent Price to do the wraparound segment opposite Susan Tyrrell (an early Fango report mentioned Carol Kane was considered for this role). With production wrapped, the film was given a multi-page profile in Fangoria #62, where it was mentioned the filmmakers were hoping to sign with a distributor.

That hope became a reality a few months after the magazine streeted as independent distributor The Movie Store picked up the film. Formed in 1981 by former HBO acquisitions exec Ken Badish, The Movie Store had seen earlier success with films like TOO SCARED TO SCREAM (1985), which made their next move unusual. From Variety on August 26, 1987:

TMS (The Movie Store) Pictures has acquired full North American rights to two full-length feature films, THE OUTING and THE OFFSPRING, and is planning an early September regional rollout for the duo in various markets throughout the U.S. THE OFFSPRING, filmed under the title FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM, is produced by Darin Scott and William Burr for Conquest Entertainment. 

Box Office notice on the pickup:

Yes, the film was unceremoniously renamed THE OFFSPRING. While the title certainly fits the film’s town legacy theme, it isn’t quite as evocative as FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM. Marquee title changers nationwide, however, loved the title switch. The Movie Store wasted little time getting the film to theaters via their TMS Pictures imprint as it debuted in 55 theaters on September 4, 1987. Locations during this initial rollout included Chicago, Illinois and Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Indianapolis Star review on September 4, 1987: 

Ad from The Indianapolis Star:

The retitled THE OFFSPRING did decent that weekend, amassing $154,991 over the Labor Day weekend. The film continued to open in markets throughout September and October. Despite lacking a million dollars plus P&A budget, THE OFFSPRING kept performing solidly in every market it opened in. The Movie Store was apparently proud enough to take out a full page ad in Variety’s MIFED issue in October 1987 touting the amount of money the film had collected so far. The good fortune continued as Badish spoke to Variety in December 1987:

TMS (The Movie Store) attributes majority of its 300% boost over $2,500,000 generated during the same period last year to tail-end video sales of MEATBALLS III, proceeds from its entire library, and the bulk of box office take from latest theatrical releases THE OUTING and THE OFFSPRING. 

The exec predicted “he expects video sales to exceed 65,000 units when the horror/thriller films go on the market in the second quarter of 1988.” As mentioned in Variety on January 23, 1988, the U.S. home video rights for both films were purchased by IVE (International Video Entertainment). And this is where your humble writer comes in as my own personal relationship with the film started on VHS. My family was living in Munich, Germany and the military base stores used to get everything. As a horror junkie, I already knew about it and was probably thrilled the second I saw it on the new release shelf. I loved every minute of it and took special note of names like Burr, Joyner, and Scott. Smart move as the would soon be providing tons of stuff to feed this horror junkie’s habit. For more on the history of the film, I highly recommend Daniel Griffith’s excellent documentary RETURN TO OLDFIELD on the special edition disc of FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dr. Jones I Presume: BLOODSTONE (1988)

I’ve always had this weird loyalty thing with directors who cut their teeth in the horror genre. Not sure why, but it just makes them more endearing to me. Such is the case with Dwight Little, a helmer who first caught my eye with the serviceable sequel HALLOWEEN 4 (1988) and the Robert Englund version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1989). A good one-two punch that showed Little had a good visual eye. He quickly transitioned to action pics with MARKED FOR DEATH (1990) - unofficially Steven Seagal’s best film - and RAPID FIRE (1992). He even endeared himself to Tom by shooting the live-action footage for the video game GROUND ZERO TEXAS (1993). (“Where my damn re-release of that?” shouts Tom.) Now I’ll admit I got off the Little train by the time he was making FREE WILLY 2 (1995), but it was cool to see the guy rise up the ranks. I’m not so sure I would have been as enthused if BLOODSTONE was the first film I saw from him.

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, BLOODSTONE is about a giant ruby and not an adaptation of the Judas Priest song (many thanks to Tom for the info there). The film opens in India in 1221 with some onscreen text about a Princess dying in an accident. At her funeral her father points a clear sword at the titular gem in her crown and says, “May your blood bring fortune to those who have good in their hearts. May your blood bring death and destruction to those who have evil in their minds.” This causes a lot of wind, so we know it must be magic.

Anyway, cut to the present day and the film proper begins as we are introduced to a myriad of characters. First, newlyweds Stephanie (Anna Nicholas) and Sandy McVey (Brett Stimely), who are on a train bound to Bangalore. On the train they meet Paul Lorre (Jack Kehler), a thief who has stolen the priceless bloodstone (sadly, the heist occurs offscreen). Lorre has planned to sell it the evil Ludwig Van Hoeven (Christopher Neame), whose evilness is established by sneaking up on a guard and threatening to slice his throat. And by being named Ludwig Van Hoeven and having a haughty accent. LVH dispatches some thugs to meet Lorre at the train station. Also waiting for him is Inspector Ramesh (Charlie Brill) and his deputy. When Lorre spots the cops, he slides the bloodstone into Stephanie’s tennis bag. Not a wise move as we find out Sandy’s job in the US is being a street smart cop who can spot trouble anywhere...except when it is stuffing a big ass jewel in his wife’s luggage. Also entering into this fracture plot is taxi driver Shyam Sabu (Rajinikanth), who unwittingly ends up having the bloodstone in his possession when it slips of of the tennis bag in the trunk of his taxi.

Thanks to this modification of the old satchel switcheroo trope we now have a group of bad guy folks chasing after a group of newlywed folks being followed by one dude who is being followed by a group of cop folks. Got all that? Before you can scream THE PERILS OF PAULINE (1914), Stephanie is kidnapped and Sandy must team up with Shyam to locate her. The streetwise Shyam says he is looking for the bloodstone ruby, which is really weird as he has already found it in his trunk. “A man of all things, I am,” he says in his Yoda. All things except recognizing you don’t need to be involved in this danger. Van Hoeven gives them a call and arranges a prisoner-for-bloodstone exchange at a waterfall. So at the 50 minute mark we finally start to get some Indiana Jones-ing going on as we head into the jungle.

An American-Indian co-production, BLOODSTONE should have been better than it turned out to be. For example, look at the cover at the beginning of this review. There is truth in that advertising as everything depicted on there happens in this film, yet it never seems as cool as the poster implies. While it gives a distinct Indiana Jones flair (hell, that art is why we grabbed it for this theme week), this is actually more of a ROMANCING THE STONE (1984) clone than anything. Perhaps the most surprising thing for me as a Little fan is how poorly he stages the action. Very much along the “over the shoulder, punch, cut” line and shows he definitely improved over time. There is one impressive sequence though on rickety bridge over a waterfall, which benefits from the India locations. Even more unforgivable is a definite emphasis on comedy and that might be the film’s downfall. It is rough. How rough? We get one shot where a guy gets pigeon poop falling on his face and instead of a drum rim shot, we get a sting of sitar strings. Most of this comedy comes from Brill as Inspector Ramesh, which might be the most stereotyped portrayal of Indians since Fisher Stevens in the SHORT CIRCUIT films. Nothing says Indian more than a guy from Brooklyn.

Such casting also is also dubious when one finds out that co-star Rajinikanth -given top billing in the end credits, but relegated to small dude on the poster - is actually one of India’s biggest cinema stars. As one of five films he had in released in 1988, this is sort of Rajinikanth’s THE BIG BRAWL (1980) or THE PROTECTOR (1985), the first two films to try to introduce Jackie Chan to the American market. (The Chan analogy is also apt as, according to Wikipedia, Rajinikanth was the second highest paid actor in Asia at one point in time.) A veteran of over 150 films by this point, Rajinikanth has a natural on screen charisma so you can understand why he was so popular. Interestingly, it was after BLOODSTONE that his career became huge, but there were no more crossovers with American cinema. He is still working to this day and his hit KABALI (2016) even made it to US screens in July 2016.

There is one really odd thing I learned from BLOODSTONE though. It is the second film I’ve seen where Christopher Neame quotes Shakespeare to someone and gets a modern quote thrown back at him.

Christopher Neame: “What’s in a name. William Shakespeare.” 
Brett Stimely: “Fuck you. David Mamet.” 

 A few years later he was the baddie in STREET KNIGHT (1993) and we got this exchange: 

Christopher Neame: "Good night, sweet Prince, may flights of angels wing you to thy rest. Shakespeare." 
Jeff Speakman (shooting Neame): “Hasta la vista, baby. Schwarzenegger." 

That’s about all I got out of BLOODSTONE. Well, that and the fact that Rajinikanth has some mad cigarette-to-mouth catching skills.