Archive for the 80s Movies Category

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Takes on DEADLY PREY (1987)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, 80s Movies, Action Movies, B-Movies, Bad Acting, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Exotic Locales, Grindhouse, Independent Cinema, Just Plain Fun, Tough Guys!, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , on June 6, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

By William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

DEADLY PREY (1987)

bbbpreyposter

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

The 1980’s offered a veritable cornucopia of action heroes at the drive-ins and the grindhouses.  If you had a good set of muscles, an unidentifiable accent, and a glorious mullet, you could star in your own action movie.  We saw the likes of Dolph Lundgren, Rutger Hauer, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Oliver Gruner, Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, and, of course, Arnold Schwartzenegger.  You also got Ted Prior.  “Who?” you may ask.

Ted Prior’s brother, David Prior, was one of the owners of Action International Pictures (you know, the other AIP that made ultra-low-budget flicks).  When you are also the head screenwriter and director for the studio, what do you do to help your family?  You make them into action stars, foisting them onto the general public like huge slabs of meat.  With mullets.  Ted had starred in a few other low budget movies, including SLEDGEHAMMER (1983), KILLER WORKOUT (1987), and SURF NAZIS MUST DIE (1987), all of which I recommend, but his career was stalled in direct-to-video-Hell.  David wrote a screenplay for him, a FIRST BLOOD (1982) rip-off called DEADLY PREY (1987).  Shot on the extremely cheap, this must be one of the greatest bad movies of all time, the kind you can watch dozens of times with friends and (hopefully) a few cases of beer.  You will never forget it.

We open on a man in rags, fleeing from a small group of what look like National Reserve members in a thin forest.  As the terrible synth music pounds away, the rock-band-meets-military-looking group close in on the man, shooting and throwing hand grenades. One of the hunters shoves a gun into his navel, claiming, “You’re dead meat, fat boy.”  The fat boy hits him with a rock, knocking him out, but soon a black-tank-top-wearing, Rayban-sporting, mulleted guy shoots him and then shoots the poor jerk he hit with the rock!

David Campbell (KILLZONE, 1985, THE KILLING MACHINE, 1994) plays Colonel Hogan, who recruits men who like to hunt other men for fun, recruiting them for his own private army of mercenaries.  However, they need practice, so they randomly kidnap people so the new recruits can stalk and kill them through the aforementioned thin forest.  He tells Black Tank Top Guy to go find another victim, “a mean one this time!”

This prey fights back!

This prey fights back!

Mike Danton (Ted Prior), complete with the greatest mullet ever sported in any movie, is awakened by his wife Jaimy (terribly played by Suzanne Tara).  Half asleep, he takes out the garbage wearing tiny cut-offs and a long sleeved t-shirt.  The evil dudes hit him over the head and throw him in a van as Jaimy watches.  She runs inside and calls – no, not the police – her father, played by the great Cameron Mitchell (CAROUSEL, 1956, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS, 1978, NIGHTMARE IN WAX, 1979, WITHOUT WARNING, 1980, and over 225 more movies and TV shows!).  He’s an ex-cop, and he tells Jaimy he’ll see what he can do.  The actress playing Jaimy can barely remember her lines.  She is truly dreadful, and Cameron Mitchell just looks like he wants to strangle this bimbo, like he is yearning for the times when he co-starred with Jayne Mansfield.

Meanwhile, Col. Hogan gets a visit from the man who pays the bills, Don Michaelson, played by the a sleep-walking, barely awake Troy Donohue (A SUMMER PLACE, 1959, MY BLOOD RUNS COLD,-1965, and CRY BABY,-1990 ), who gives Hogan three months to get these mercenaries trained…”Or else!”

Black Tank Top Guy has taken Mike Danton’s shirt away, leaving him in just his cut-offs.  He growls, “Run.”  Mike growls, “You’re gonna die.”  But, he does run, and the rest of the movie is pretty much Mike running from these mercenary-wannabes and setting traps and killing them off by what seems like the hundreds!  You see, Mike Danton was a Vietnam Vet ex Green Beret (never mind that he looks about twenty-three years old).  He starts leaping out of bushes, and from behind trees, stabbing them one at a time until only one man is left alive.  He questions the terrified man, and it turns out Mike knows Col. Hogan. 

Another group of soldiers is sent out after Mike, looking suspiciously like the actors in the first group.  I think they could only pay twenty stuntmen, so they just keep reappearing.  This time, Mike is hurling sharpened sticks and twigs at them, killing them like flies.  Curiously, he never takes their guns so he could shoot at his enemies.

More than once, Mike is four feet off the ground in a tree with no leaves and nobody sees him until he leaps on them.  Sometimes, he wears a little garland of leaves as a disguise, but sheesh, people!  Look up sometimes…or at least raise your eyes.  You’re supposed to be soldiers!

Cue our clueless bad guys!

Cue our clueless bad guys!

Coming across a couple dozen bodies, Col. Hogan remarks, “I know this style.  Mike Danton?”  Black Tank Top asks, “You know him?”  Of course, the music swells, and the Colonel answers, “Know him?  I trained him.”  Cue audience groaning.

Meanwhile, Mike drowns some guys, pops out of hiding holes in the ground to growl at people, shove more twigs through men’s chests, snap his dislocated shoulder back into place, eat a live worm for nourishment (ew), and, in one of the greatest scenes in movie history, he rolls a bunch of obviously Styrofoam boulders off a ridge at a mercenary.  The rocks miss the dude, but he looks around, probably embarrassed, and then just falls over dead.  I suppose the boulders scared him into a heart attack!

There’s even a touching part where Jaimy sits by her fire at home, yearning for her husband, while Mike sits by a fire, roasting a rat he’s caught.  Ah, romance!

Mike sneaks up on Hogan and threatens him, though he doesn’t look too scary in those cute little cut-offs.  Instead of killing the head bad guy, he talks some trash then leaves him alive so he can return to the woods and slaughter a few hundred more mercenaries.  If you think I’m kidding, you haven’t seen Mike Danton in action.  This movie must have one of the highest body counts in the history of crappy action flicks. 

At one point, a mercenary actually shoots Mike, but his pecs deflect the bullets.  There’s also a Rambo-esque scene in which Mike rises up with a machine gun from the water and blasts ten men away. 

These pecs deflect bullets! In DEADLY PREY

These pecs deflect bullets! In DEADLY PREY

Yes, Jaimy’s going to get kidnapped.  Yes, her father will try to infiltrate the compound.  Yes, one of the mercenaries will switch sides to help Mike because he saved him back in Nam.  No, nobody ever does call the cops, who could’ve easily handled the situation. 

But who needs cops when you have Mike Danton?

DEADLY PREY is chock-full of bad acting, hilariously clichéd dialogue, dubbed gunshots,  ridiculous fight scenes, terrible synthesizer music, headbands galore, continuity errors (the director couldn’t keep track of who was dying either, as bodies move position and the same soldiers keep popping up), and mullets galore.  There’s really nothing good in it—and that’s what makes it so ludicrously wonderful!  Everyone acts like they’re making SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993), the screenplay delivered with such gravitas and earnestness that it ratchets the film up to a whole new level of awful.  A glorious level!  I mean, there’s this huge compound with tanks and trucks and helicopters everywhere, located seventy five miles from Los Angeles, and nobody’s suspicious?  Mike fights five bad guys, but when we cut back to them there are now seven and when we cut back again there are five!  Not to mention the speech Cameron Mitchell gives about the way the rich treat the poor in a vain attempt to add some kind of theme to the film.  Or the trap Mike sets in which a soldier steps into a lasso, the rope tightens around his foot, pulls him across the ground, and then flings him into a tree full of spikes!

AAARRRG! Our hero in action!

AAARRRG! Our hero in action!

And according to IMDB, later this year, Ted Prior and David Campbell will be reuniting for a sequel, DEADLIEST PREY!  Be still my heart! 

I wonder if he can still fit into those cut-offs?

I give DEADLY PREY three and a half mullets out of four. 

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

 

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Suburban Grindhouse Memories: SPRING BREAK (1983)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, 80s Movies, Comedies, Drive-in Movies, Grindhouse Goodies, Nick Cato Reviews, Sex Comedies, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Teen Sex Comedies with tags , , , , on January 10, 2013 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories No. 59:
The ULTIMATE Party Flick
By Nick Cato

spring_break_poster_01

March, 1983. President Reagan refers to the Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire.” A transit strike cuts off train service for 70,000 New Jersey commuters. Pope John Paul II begins an eight-day, eight-nation tour of Central America. And here on Staten Island, my friends and I went to the opening night premiere of SPRING BREAK, a FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH / PORKY’S-like teen comedy that features more beer-guzzling, wet T-shirt contests, and bad jokes than any other film in existence. We may not have been politically conscience at the time, but at least we had our priorities straight.

Directed by Sean (FRIDAY THE 13th) Cunningham, SPRING BREAK was another in a long line of early 80s teen comedies, and while it’s not all too funny, it is remarkably entertaining (at least if you’re a high school freshman, as I was upon this initial viewing).

Nerdy buddies Adam and Nelson rent a room in a party-motel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But just as they’re settling in, two cool dudes (Stu and O.T.) show up and claim they had already booked the same room. Figuring it’d be easier to score chicks with two cool guys as roommates, Adam and Nelson agree to let them crash there. The first time we see O.T., he enters the motel and chugs a large bottle of Miller like it’s spring water as bikini-clad babes run around looking for their rooms. He’s a big, shirtless dude with a goofy headband, on a mission to party like it’s the end of the world…and along with Stu, his mission is accomplished less than twenty minutes into the film.

During the first night with their new roommates, Adam and Nelson watch from the corner of the bedroom as Stu and O.T. shag two Playboy model-looking girls. It’s a private lesson neither one of them will ever forget, and their spring break is off to a rockin’ start.

BUT (cue villain music)…not wanting his stepson to have any freedom (or give his political career a bad name), Nelson’s stepdad shows up to try and stop the fun. His right-hand doofus henchman, Eddie (played by legendary character actor Richard B. Shull) is also some kind of building inspector who attempts to shut the motel down, but of course is thwarted every step of the way by Stu and O.T. via cases of Miller beer and inflatable sharks(!).

SPRING BREAK is a silly film that was created for no other reason than to make money off teenage boys (::raises hand::). It suffers from some lame acting, a terrible script, and basically exists to show off some of the hottest bikini babes the producers could find (they did quite good). Among them is a fictional all-girl “rock” band called HOT DATE that performs a song unsubtly titled “I Wanna Do It To You.” O.T. even falls head-over-heels in love with their singer (played by gorgeous former Penthouse Pet of the Year Corinne Alphen) and doesn’t care if he has to let his coolness factor down to try and get her. Also on hand (besides the fantasy girls) is the cute, all-American girl next door Susie (played by ‘Seventeen’ magazine cover model and then-future TV star Jayne Modean) who eventually hooks up with Nelson and “turns him into a man.”

In one scene (to show how these two-pairs of unlikely friends are all now true buds), the four of them take a drunken leak into the toilet at the same time. It’s more heartwarming than you’d expect! Another is when the foursome goes to buy pot off some older freaky Latino hippie who lives in a van. It’s probably the funniest scene in the film (although that’s not saying much).

I’m pretty sure Miller Beer had something to do with the production: not only is it chugged and product-placed all over the screen, but it’s used to wet down the participants of countless wet T-shirt contests and poured over everyone else’s head (apparently in Ft. Lauderdale you’re supposed to wear your beer before you drink it). At least this is what I took away from the film, besides the idea that having cooler guys than yourself as roommates can get you laid easier.

The soundtrack features Cheap Trick and .38 Special’s hit song ‘Caught up in You,’ which is used during a rather frustrating sequence (Nelson gets lost after he attempts to get back to Susie’s room after he runs out to grab a can of Coke!). And even though Hot Date’s song is terrible, the band is easy on the eyes, so we’ll let their lack of musical ability slide…

Perhaps this film was the inspiration for those GIRLS GONE WILD videos that ruled late night infomercials in the early 2000s? Or maybe even a vehicle to try and popularize the infamous sport of belly-dive competitions? Or maybe SPRING BREAK issimplya standard to the coming-of-age, nerds-lose-virginity, party-animal films of the 80s done the right way. Sure, it’s a mindless exploitation film, but the characters are a lot of fun (especially the motel’s manager Geri, who will remind you of your cool elderly aunt) and it’s a great way to forget both the dreary winter months and adulthood: use it to get away to a much more fun time and place, even if it’s for just 90 minutes.

Judging by the laughs and applause from the crowd I watched this with, everyone had a blast. SPRING BREAK is probably the best way to vicariously enjoy spring break if you’ve never made it down there or can’t afford to do so.

An extras-free DVD was finally released in 2009, so if you’re curious, check your brain at the door, kick back, crack open a Miller, and enjoy the fun. You also might want to have a towel handy to dry all that beer off your head.

(BEST SCENE: O.T. doing a drunken belly-flop from the top of a tall palm tree as an equally drunken crowd cheers him on!)

© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato

Our four party animals (Nelson, O.T., Stu, and Adam) in a publicity shot for SPRING BREAK.

Our four party animals (Nelson, O.T., Stu, and Adam) in a publicity shot for SPRING BREAK.

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: HEAVY METAL (1981)

Posted in 2012, 80s Movies, Aliens, Animated Films, Anthology Films, Based on Comic Book, Cartoons for Adults, Gore!, Monsters, Nick Cato Reviews, Outer Space, Soft-core, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Sword & Sorcery with tags , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories No. 57:
A Universe of Aliens, Dragons, and Boobs…
By Nick Cato

While most young men got their kicks by swiping a copy of Playboy from their dad’s secret stash in the closet, nothing brought me more joy than an issue of HEAVY METAL, the illustrated fantasy magazine that has been going strong since its first issue in 1977. And in 1977 or ‘78 (when I was in the fifth grade) I managed to obtain an issue and was instantly hooked. But it wasn’t just the sex and violence that grabbed my attention; many of the stories were just so much better than what you found in “regular” comic books, and I was familiar with some of the artists and writers whose work appeared within its pages, even at my young age.

Needless to say, I was beyond psyched when I learned HEAVY METAL was going to be adapting several of its more popular stories into an animated film. After what seemed like an eternity, August of 1981 arrived, and a Saturday afternoon trip to the (now defunct) Hylan Twin Cinema left my buddies and me a bit nervous: sure, this was an animated film, but it was rated R and we weren’t sure if the Hylan would let us in (this was one month before I started the 7th grade!). But the space gods shined their light upon us and we walked right in…apparently they were too busy turning people away from their other feature, Blake Edwards’ S.O.B.  Go figure.

The film opens with an astronaut returning to earth via intergalactic sports car in a segment titled ‘Soft Landing.’ The blaring soundtrack (that’s not all heavy metal bands) kicks into high gear with the song ‘Radar Rider’ by some band called Riggs, who to this day I’m still in the dark on who they are. The whole look and feel of the animation brought several stories from the magazine to life, and my blood was pumping like crazy. The man then walks into his house, and the film’s inter-locking story, ‘Grimaldi,’ begins. Grimaldi has brought his daughter home a green sphere, which then proceeds to melt him to the bone before introducing itself to the terrified girl as “The Sum of all Evils.” The sphere then goes on to show the girl several stories of good vs. evil throughout the universe, with itself involved in each one.

The first tale, ‘Harry Canyon,’ is a neo-noir tale set in a distant Manhattan about a cabbie-anti-hero who gets involved with protecting a famous scientist’s daughter from criminals. I think this is the first time I saw animated sex on the big screen, and at the time it was a real hoot! Kudos for the gore level here, too. (NOTE: to this day I am convinced the screenwriters of THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997) robbed this hook, line, and sinker). A great opening story and one of the best in the film.

A scene from the “Harry Canyon” sequence in HEAVY METAL.

Next up is ‘Den,’ based on Richard Corben’s famous character, who is a nerdy teenager, transported to another world where he becomes a bald-headed, muscle-bound hero. The film does a great job bringing Den to life, and John Candy’s voice works well as both versions of the quirky character. As soon as Den lands on this strange new world, he witness a sacrifice to a Cthulhu-like creature, and before long he’s battling crazed religious zealots and having sex with big-breasted women. Yeah…they pretty much nailed the magazine with this one!

I was all too happy to see one of my favorite Bernie Wrightson stories from the magazine make the film: ‘Captain Stern’ is a short but sweet tale of a corrupt starship captain in a courtroom full of weird aliens as all kinds of charges are brought to him. The green sphere happens to be in the hands of the court ship’s janitor, turning him into a Hulk-like maniac who then goes after Stern (and kills most of the ship’s occupants). Crazy little segment, highlighted by Cheap Trick’s great, seldom-heard song ‘Reach Out.’ The crowd loved this one, too.

Next up is a genuinely creepy EC-comics type of tale titled  ‘B-17.’ A B-17 bomber is taking heavy damage from enemies (in space!) but the crew manages to get through. When the co-pilot goes to check his men, he finds them all dead and notices the green sphere following the plane. The sphere turns the dead crew members into zombies, and only the main pilot escapes onto a plane-graveyard island. But what awaits him is anything but safety. It was nice to see one horror-oriented story here, even if it didn’t have the best plot.

So Beautiful and so Dangerous’ is the weirdest piece here, about a scientist trying to talk to the Pentagon about a series of strange mutations that have been showing up across the United States. He goes crazy when he notices the green sphere attached to the cute stenographer’s necklace. But just as he attempts to rape her in front of the entire Pentagon personnel, a huge space ship lowers a tube into the room and sucks the two of them upward. The scientist’s body explodes while the stenographer, Gloria, loses her clothes and soon has sex with the ship’s mini-robot. Meanwhile, two Cheech and Chong-like alien pilots are sniffing more cocaine than you’ve even seen before and partying like maniacs as they attempt to land aboard a humongous space station. I still don’t know what the point of this one was, but it’s hysterical and ridiculously entertaining.

Sexy Pentagon stenographer Gloria meets two Cheech and Chong-like aliens in one of HEAVY METAL’s stranger segments.

The film ends with a serious (and its longest) segment titled, ‘Taarna.’ The green sphere has now become gigantic and crashes into a volcano, where it mutates a bunch of outcast workers into a vengeful gang, bent on taking over a nearby peaceful city. They kill everyone inside…but the elders manage to summon the last of a warrior race (the Taarakians) to come help them. Taarna (a beautiful but tough-as-nails swordswoman who doesn’t waste time talking) arrives too late to save the city, but goes on a bloody course of Conan-style revenge with her pet dragon. (The sequel, HEAVY METAL 2000, was basically a 90-minute remake of ‘Taarna’ with heavier music). The scene of the workers being swallowed by green lava while Black Sabbath’s ‘E5150/Mob Rules’ plays in the background is a real site to see/hear. Taarna is standard sword and sorcery fare, but well done, and with great animation.

‘Taarna’ and her flying dragon from HEAVY METAL.

In the brief epilogue, the young girl from earlier in the film witnesses the green sphere (or “Loc Nar”) explode and destroy her home. She then goes outside and finds a dragon similar to Taarna’s, and takes off into the moonlight.

HEAVY METAL still holds up well all these years later, and while I’ve enjoyed it on cable and VHS (and DVD), this is one film that truly needs to be seen on the big screen to enjoy all its nuances, and with the proper sound system to appreciate it’s killer soundtrack (the soundtrack album still sells well today). The packed theater I witnessed this with featured countless cheering teenagers, moms dumb enough to take their young kids (uncomfortable giggling was heard at each and every sex scene), and fans of the magazine like myself who went back the next day for a second viewing. Too bad the long-awaited sequel was so sub-par; I wish they would’ve done another anthology film like this, with other tales that had appeared in the magazine.

As far as animated cult films go, I’ll take HEAVY METAL over FRITZ THE CAT (1972) any day.

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou: FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1982)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, 80s Movies, Action Movies, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Just Plain Fun, Just Plain Weird, Martial Arts, Nazis, William Carl Articles, Wrestlers with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2012 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This Week’s Feature Presentation:

FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1982)

Fantasy Mission Force

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable—then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

Every once in a great while, a film comes along that is so weird, so twisted, so indescribable that you can only sit back and marvel at it. . . hopefully while inebriated.  I caught this week’s offering, FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1982) or Mi Ni Te Gong Dui, at a double feature chop-sockey martial arts festival with a group of disbelieving friends.  Now, as I re-watch it, all I can think is “What.  The.  Hell?”  This is no typical martial arts film.  This is no typical film at all.  What it is could best be described as a whirlwind homage to every genre known to man.  If every past and future Quentin Tarantino film were placed in a blender along with several Tex Avery cartoons and a Three Stooges short, you might just get something like FANTASY MISSION FORCE.

In some unknown time period (in various parts the movie looks like it could take place in the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1940s, or the 1980s), the Chinese and the Japanese are at war.  A Jeep with the brave Lieutenant Don in it gets through several booby traps, machine gun wielding Japanese in blackface, some bombs, and arrives at the tent of two other Chinese generals, General Johnson and General Thompson (!).  A group of Western generals, including Abraham Lincoln (again, what?), have been captured by the Japanese and are being taken from Luxemburg back to Tokyo to use in propaganda films for WW2.  According to the generals, Snake Plissken’s been dead for years.  Rocky isn’t suitable for action, and James Bond has gone missing.  It’s up to Lieutenant Don to recruit a rag-tag ‘Dirty Dozen type’ of group of commandos to set the generals free before the Japanese convince the world they have won World War 2.

Then, the titles start over “la-la-la…wooo wooo…lalala….wooo wooo” Chinese pop music from the 1960s that I swear I heard in BEACH BLANKET BINGO (1963).  A group of singing and dancing waiters, led by a Chinese man dressed like a Mexican Bandito (I ain’t makin’ this up folks), all drink tons of beer during an insane musical number (“What a way to treat a wife…la-la-la ha-ha-ha!”)  A black man in a tuxedo and a red headband tells the bandito to call him Pappa then gives him a gun, which he uses to rob the restaurant.  The Frito Bandito is actually a friend of (now) Captain Don, and he joins the force.

The Frito Bandito as an action hero?

Next, we find a group of prisoners working on the chain gang, and after a brief martial arts fight, a gun battle, and a pick-axe fight, one prisoner named Greased Lightning escapes.  He discovers an elegant candle-lit banquet table full of food in the woods.  While he eats, he is recruited by Captain Don and the bandito.

Next, we have a wrestling match between “the killer from Japan” and, from New York City, “the China Doll Sammy,” played by none other than Jackie Chan (RUMBLE IN THE BRONX– 1995, RUSH HOUR – 1998).  Rumor has it Chan owed the director a favor for saving him from a Triad, so he played a small part for star power in the flick, but his boxing match is a great scene and a fun highlight.  His beautiful consort (and partner in crime) Emily wears all black with huge plastic boots up to her knees.  During the entire scene, I kept thinking of the Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes cartoon where Bugs fight The Crusher.  There’s even giant cigars that explode and sumo jokes, and it’s genuinely hilarious!  As they run off with the money, Sammy and Lily are stopped by corrupt military police, bribe them, and escape.

Jackie Chan wrestles under the name “China Doll Sammy.”

Next, in a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) type of drinking contest, in which a beautiful woman and a man take turns drinking shots then shooting away a tied-up woman’s clothes, the woman wins with her terrific knife-throwing skills.  Turns out it was a sting operation, and her partner, the man, and the half naked girl, all have to fight their way out of the bar.  A Wayne Newton look-alike comes for her, and they slap the crap out of each other while confessing their love, despite the fact that he can’t remember her name…Lily.  She is played by the terrific Brigitte Lin (POLICE STORY1985, THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR1993, and CHUNKING EXPESSone of my all time favorite filmsfrom 1994).  After a tender love scene between Wayne and Lily, Captain Dan offers the guy a job, and Wayne Newton leaves Lily tied up and gagged as he takes up the Captain’s offer.  She, of course, doesn’t take kindly to this, so she does what any woman would do.  She grabs every weapon known to man, armors herself up, and uses a bazooka to take out their house and all his possessions!

The lovely Brigitte Lin.

Suddenly, we’re in a Benny Hill skit with Chinese men dressed as Scots doing maneuvers in fast motion in kilts to bagpipe music.  (Still not making any of this up.)

Back to Lilyour heroine takes out almost the whole Scottish army base while doing fabulous gymnastics all the while.  She captures Wayne Newton at gunpoint, but she is also recruited along with two inept Chinese “Scots” (the Laurel and Hardy of the East), the Mexican Bandito, Greased Lightning, and Wayne Newton.  This is the group that’s going to rescue Abe Lincoln?

Off they go in jeeps to Luxemburg (from China?).  Along the way, Jackie Chan and his girlfriend attack the group of misfits.  They are defeated and leave again.  High jinks and shenanigans ensue.  The two Scotsman seem to be developing a love affair.  The group spends a night in a haunted house, complete with floating ghost heads, the soundtrack of Walt Disney’s “Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House” on the soundtrack, hopping vampires, ghosts playing mah-jongg, a beautiful female seductress who turns into a living skeleton, a monstrous toilet,  a Midnight Mass, and demons!  Turns out, ghosts and monsters blow up real good when hit with a bazooka shell!   A group of sex-starved Amazon Ninja women who use brightly colored bolts of cloth to capture everyone, takes the group hostage.  They’re led by a tuxedo clad cad who is an artist who destroys everything imperfect around him.  Luckily, just as a new musical number starts with all the Amazons in leopard skin mini-dresses, Jackie Chan shows up and leads a bloody revolution with our heroes blowing up everything in sight.

Scotsmen from China??

They finally arrive at the Nazi headquarters in Luxemburg (which is in a desert?  The things you learn. . .), where huge swastikas fly, one on an orange banner and one on a lime green banner.  They find all the Japanese dead, and the generals are missing.  However, Jackie Chan and his girl Friday show up!  Out of the night drive the Nazis in weird Mad Max cars, rigged out with all kinds of crazy weapons and swastikas spray painted on the sides.  And the Nazis are all tricked out like they’re about to enter Thunderdome! And they’re all Chinese!   Once again, I just can’t make this stuff up, folks.  It’s all there on the screen to see.  If you dare.

The group discovers a hidden stash of money in the Nazi headquarters.  It’s going to be a fight to the finish.  Whoever lives through the battle gets a share of the money.  The following eight minute battle scene is an insane mélange of explosives, machine guns, sword fights, car chases, tanks, bulldozers, and more.  Even though the music is the silly song from the beginning, it looks an awful lot like THE WILD BUNCH (1969).  Most of our heroes don’t make it to the end, the death scenes accompanied by a slow, sad harmonica version of Camptown Races!  Doo-dah!   Doo-dah!  Then, there’s a surprise twist ending!

Evil Nazis are the bad guys in FANTASY MISSION FORCE.

FANTASY MISSION FORCE moves so fast, it’s quicker than the speed of thought, because if you think about any of it for more than a second, it makes no sense, but if you just let it flow over you, the gags are pretty funny, the girls are just pretty (even with weird 80s hair and Pocahontas headbands), the action is deftly handled, and the Nazi muscle cars are pretty bad-ass.  It’s all a lark, just as if someone gave the director a whole lot of drugs and money and said “You only get to make one movie; so you’d better put everything you like into 80 minutes!”  And so was born the world’s only martial arts, World War Two action, romance, adventure, prison escape drama, ghost story musical!

Speaking of the director, it happens to be Yen-ping Chu, who has directed more than forty films and is still at it.  I haven’t seen any of the others he has done, but their titles (such as ANGEL HEARTS1995, SEVEN FOXES1985, and ISLAND OF FIRE1990) make me suspect he moved on to more mainstream fare.

Our heroes, humiliated by Amazons.

Adding to the fun is the dreadful dubbing of the movie.  Whoever rewrote the script (originally by Hsin Wei), knew how silly the whole thing truly was, and they had great fun with reworking the dialogue.

Some favorite lines:

“Wow.  You’re pretty when you kill.”

“The nice people are always the first to die.  Do I look nice?”

“Is THIS what you call horniness?”

FANTASY MISSION FORCE is very poorly edited.  It’s as if an axe was taken to the film and it was all scotch-taped back together.  I’m not sure if it was this way to start, or if the foreign distributors have hacked away at it over the years, but the poor movie looks terrible.  This in no way diminishes the fun to be had with such a crazy flick.  This is the exact movie you want at hand when your buddies come over for a night of drinking and movies.  You are guaranteed to have a good time.

I give FANTASY MISSION FORCE three and a half Frito Bandito musical numbers out of four.  And that’s saying something!

© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: GALACTIC GIGOLO and SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-A-RAMA (both 1988)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, 80s Movies, Aliens, Campy Movies, Demons, Grindhouse Goodies, Nick Cato Reviews, Scream Queens, Sexy Stars, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , , , , on August 1, 2012 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES
Nerds, Babes, Baritone Imps and Intergalactic Broccoli
(Or, SGM returns to Times Square!)
By Nick Cato

Just a few months after the first Urban Classics double feature hit New York City (covered in the 17th edition of this column right here). I returned to Times Square to see another double bill of exploitation insanity. On a mild January afternoon in 1988, I took a solo trip to Manhattan to see one film that featured the three (at the time) reigning scream queens, while the opening feature was made by those responsible for one of my all-time favorite horror comedies, PSYCHOS IN LOVE (1986).

GALACTIC GIGOLO (1988) is a wonderfully funny sci-fi comedy, starring the amazing Carmine Capobianco as an alien who—after winning a game show on a planet where all the inhabitants are vegetables—wins a trip to Connecticut where he proceeds to chase women and drink bourbon, all the while being chased by a bunch of brain-dead gangsters. In his new human form (if you don’t know what Carmine looks like, Google him), he drives the ladies crazy and turns into a total party animal. On his home planet, he’s a 6-foot tall stalk of broccoli! It’s goofy and stupid but MAN did I laugh myself into tears, even among a noisier than usual Times Square crowd. Fans of PSYCHOS IN LOVE who might have missed this should do themselves a favor and get the DVD, as most of the PSYCHOS came back for this one under the direction of PSYCHOS’s Gorman Bechard (who has since become a semi-successful author and pop / art film director).

In classic NYC style, the main feature was delayed, I’m assuming due to projector trouble. But once SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-A-RAMA (1988) began (after continuous screaming and snack-throwing that lasted a few minutes into the feature), the mostly teenaged / early 20s crowd sat transfixed as sleaze director David DeCoteau unreeled his latest celluloid abomination to his thirsting fans.

Brinke Stevens and Michele Bauer (here credited as Michelle McClellan) are two sorority pledges being stalked by a trio of super-nerdy frat boys. When the boys are caught spying on a secret hazing/spanking ritual (that goes on for WAY too long), the house mother catches them and forces them to join Stevens and Bauer on the only mission that will allow them into the sorority: they must break into a local bowling alley and steal something to prove they were there. Okay, so the plot is lame, but the opening scenes of Stevens and Bauer running around in g-strings and showering butt-nekkid had the place cheering and drooling like typical degenerates that go to a Times Square double feature like this in the first place. (Wait…did I just insult myself?).

The bowling alley is located inside a shopping mall, and shortly after our group arrives, they meet up with a tough biker-chick named Spider, played by the legendary Linnea Quigly, who uses the F word more than Joe Pesci did two years later in GOODFELLAS (1990). Instead of grabbing a bowling pin or a pair of silly-looking shoes, our group decides to take a trophy, which is quickly dropped and unleashes a small demonic imp who speaks like Bo Diddley (I stood around for the closing credits to make sure it wasn’t him. It wasn’t) and looks about as threatening as a toy from a crane game. The imp begins to grant everyone personal wishes, but of course doesn’t answer them they way anyone had hoped. Chaos ensues, including our sorority girls becoming possessed and Spider kicking both nerd and imp ass, each time sending the crowd into a screaming frenzy.

The late Robin Stille (of 1982’s THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE fame) shows up (apparently EVERYONE decided to break into the joint on the same night) and has a less-than exciting cat fight with Spider before becoming imp fodder, but the few of us who recognized her from her classic duel with the driller killer let our satisfaction be known (mine in the form of a loud “ARRR-YEAH BABY!”).

Back to the imp: I found out its voice was done by Dukey Flyswatter, who sang for horror-punk band HAUNTED GARAGE (if you can find their double 7” with the 3-D cover, you’re in for a real rockin’ treat).

As far as double features go, this second (and I believe final) offering from Urban Classics was a real hoot. In the long run I enjoyed GALACTIC GIGOLO a bit more, as I’m a huge fan of the cast and crew, but SORORITY had its moments, the best being Michelle Bauer showcasing her flawless rack for about three-quarters of the film’s running time, and thinking back this is one of the more memorable characters in Linnea Quigley’s arsenal. What hurts SORORITY is its nearly impossible to decipher plot and/or point, whereas GIGOLO is a solid spoof of sci-fi and sex-comedy cinema.

Both films are now available on DVD, but I doubt either is as fun without a proper grindhouse crowd behind them.

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

SORORITY’s infamous deep-talking Imp doesn’t play games!

The Geisha of Gore Practices Some KUNG FU FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE (1982)

Posted in 2012, 80s Movies, Action Movies, Asian Horror, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Geisha of Gore Reviews, Ghosts!, Kung Fu!, Martial Arts with tags , , , , , , on July 31, 2012 by knifefighter

The Geisha of Gore Reviews:
KUNG FU FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE (1982)
By Colleen Wanglund

Everybody was kung fu fighting…..including the dead…..in this action/horror flick from the legendary Shaw Brothers. For those of you who don’t know (could there be that many of you?) the Shaw Brothers began their enterprise back in 1924, making and showing their own kind of silent films. The 1950s saw brothers Run Run and Runme Shaw establish Shaw Brothers (HK) Ltd., and that would lead to the most prolific decades for Shaw Brothers movies. Not only did they run their own movie studio/production company, but their film empire also included movie theaters and distribution companies. They even had exclusive contracts with many actors and actresses, just like the old Hollywood system. Their logo is, in fact, modeled on that of Warner Brothers Studios. In 2002 Celestial Pictures bought the rights to the entire Shaw Brothers library of over 760 films, and until this happened very few of the studio’s movies had appeared in any format other than original theatrical releases.

Enough with the history lesson, on to the film!

Directed by Chiu Lee (who also worked as an actor, writer and stuntman) KUNG FU FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE (1982) begins with the Chinese Ghost Month, an annual festival that takes place in the seventh month of the lunar calendar, when it is believed that the spirits of the deceased visit the living from the lower realm. Chun Sing (Billy Chong) is visited by the ghost of his father, who tells Chun that he was murdered by Kam Tai Fu (Lieh Lo), a powerful lord, and that Chun must avenge his father’s death. On his way, Chun comes across the body of a sorcerer and finds the book of magic that the Dark Sorcerer killed him for, but couldn’t find (it was cleverly hidden in the hilt of a sword).

In the meantime, Kam has employed a Dark Sorcerer (Sai Aan Dai) to perform a series of rituals that will ultimately make Kam invulnerable to weapons of any kind. A series of murders have occurred at a local inn, among couples whose hearts have been removed from their bodies. These hearts are what the Sorcerer requires for his bloody rituals. A government agent has been sent to investigate the murders and is staying the inn when Chun arrives. Chun goes to Kam’s home and tells him who he is and that he is out to avenge the murder of his father. After some fights with Kam’s men, Chun leaves and goes back to the inn. Chun is told about a man who may know where his father’s bones are buried and is led to a hidden burial ground in the forest. The man, his daughter and Chun are attacked by an angry spirit and must flee for their safety.

The government agent and his recently arrived partner know what is happening and must put a stop to it. Two of Chun’s allies pose as a young couple in need of a room at the inn and they ultimately foil the plans to steal two more hearts for the final ritual. There is a final battle between the good guys and the Sorcerer with the help of the book of magic and some prostitutes with their monthly female business (don’t ask) and Chun and the government agents manage to rally the town against Kam, with a final fight between Chun and Kam in the hidden burial ground.

My bootleg copy of KUNG FU FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE came to me through a friend of mine who didn’t know what they were giving me. As a fan of Asian films, I knew immediately this was a Shaw Brothers B-movie….and watching it, you will recognize its very low-budget quality.

As to the horror aspect of the film, it’s kind of weak and cheesy. I still am not sure if the dead seen in the movie are supposed to be ghosts or zombies; I know the mythology used says they are ghosts but the laughable special effects seem to have them looking more like zombies. I do think the rituals using the hearts from a couple killed at the height of orgasm was a very cool concept, however I would have liked to have seen more in the way of the black magic and the Ghost Month and its significance to the story. There is a truly bizarre scene when Chun and the Sorcerer meet up and some ghosts “fight” for Chun—the Sorcerer calls on Dracula to come fight the spirits. These particular effects involve the sky turning to night and a wolf howling, introducing the only non-Asian guy in the cast. Alas, Dracula is quickly dispatched by garlic cloves that cause the vampire to explode. It’s weird and out-of-place, as though it was added as an afterthought to boost the horror of the film. I could have done without it. There was also an attempt at humor with these particular spirits, but in my opinion it falls flat.

What really makes KUNG FU FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE worth watching is the kung fu. The fighting is awesome to watch and is beautifully choreographed. Billy Chong is an Indonesian martial artist who also starred in KUNG FU ZOMBIE the same year. His character, Chun, is still just a martial arts student, so he is not the best fighter and that is what makes things interesting. Chun gets his ass kicked more than once but doesn’t give up and finds help along the way….from both the living and the dead. The movie’s bad guy, Kam, is played by another great Indonesian martial artist, Lieh Lo, who also starred in one of the best kung fu films ever made and really established the genre, 1972’s FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH. Lo seems to play his role with much glee, reveling in the badness of Kam. Lo joined the Shaw Brothers in 1962 and was a kung fu superstar before anyone had heard of Bruce Lee.

There isn’t much dialogue, which is at times a blessing, as the film’s English dub is atrocious—but makes for some very funny moments. There is also a lot of ghostly moaning and groaning going on in between the ghosts speaking actual words, of course. The basic story is pretty cliché—“find my body, bring it home, and avenge my death!”—but it works to set it all up, so I guess you just stick with what works. And as I’ve said the special effects are cheap and cheesy. The ghosts’ faces all look as though someone just threw some oatmeal at them, the wire work isn’t too impressive and the magic book shoots really bad looking laser beams to combat bad magic. Yes, I was rolling my eyes and laughing my butt off.

I will say, for all of its faults, KUNG FU FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE is an entertaining little flick. Not quite campy enough to say that it’s so bad it’s good, but close enough. What is especially disappointing to me as a B-movie fan—no matter what country it comes from—is that the latest DVD release of the film from 2003 gets the title wrong. That needs to be rectified when or if it’s ever rereleased to Blu-ray.

© Copyright 2012 by Colleen Wanglund

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: CHAINED HEAT (1983)

Posted in 2012, 80s Movies, Exploitation Films, Grindhouse, Prison Movies, Sexy Stars, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Women in Prison with tags , , , , , on March 8, 2012 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES
Blair Behind Bars!
By Nick Cato

Welcome to the 46th edition of my Suburban Grindhouse Memories, where I’m finally getting around to look at a requested subgenre: Women In Prison films, or WIPs, as connoisseurs of the subgenre so affectionately refer to them. WIPs were a hot ticket in the 70s and early 80s, and as far as I’m concerned, none were as fun, sleazy, and downright mean-spirited as CHAINED HEAT (1983), especially when you consider it played not only in grindhouse theaters, but in respectable multiplexes and duplexes all across the U.S. of A.

What sets CHAINED HEAT apart from others of its ilk is the amazing cast.  When I heard Linda (THE EXORCIST) Blair was starring in this WIP film, my 15 year-old rump made no hesitation getting to the (now defunct) Island Twin Theatre, Staten Island’s best bet for unusual and midnight film offerings, where the opening night line wrapped around the place like a new STAR WARS film had been released.  On top of Blair, cult film legend Sybil Danning was in her prime here and delivers one of her most memorable performances as a tough inmate, plus CLEOPATRA JONES (1973) herself, Tamara Dobson, plays Danning’s African American rival and is tougher than a bucket of galvanized nails.  Topping off the list of cult film icons is John (ANIMAL HOUSE-1978) Vernon as a corrupt warden and his first in command, TV star Stella Stevens (!), plus we get sleaze ball king Henry Silva (you saw him in 1,000 films, including 1980’s ALLIGATOR and 1973’s BATTLE OF THE GODFATHERS) who runs an escort service comprised of inmates along with Stevens’ character.

And those are just at the tip of the iceberg.

Like most WIP films (from 1972’s THE BIG BIRD CAGE to BARBED WIRE DOLLS (1975) to 1982’s THE CONCRETE JUNGLE), CHAINED HEAT follows a typical plot of one woman being busted for some kind of unusual crime (this time Blair is arrested for accidentally killing a man).  Her sentence is 18 months in one seriously hellish prison, overrun with gangs, rapist security guards, and more corruption than your standard presidential campaign.  There’s also a racial sub-plot here, as inmates take sides with either the white or black gangs, and there’s more pot and crack smoking going on than in three Cheech and Chong films combined.

Before the inevitable prison riot, Blair is chosen to leave the jail at night to be an escort, and of course she, being morally better than the other inmates (not to mention the highest paid actor in the film), doesn’t get down and dirty like the other girls do, and in fact manages to help one of the weaker ones fight a rough costumer.

There’s also a sequence that caused us EXORCIST fans to question if Blair was ever truly exorcised: a lengthy nude shower scene where Sybil Danning forces herself on the former teenage devil-doll; I can’t remember ever hearing a theater full of teenaged horn-dogs whistling and screaming “GO FOR IT!” with so much enthusiasm (then again, this WAS less than a year after the blockbuster sequel ROCKY III was released, so pretty much everyone was still yelling “GO FOR IT!” at something or someone).  Unrealistic lesbianism has always been a major part of WIP films, and CHAINED HEAT has its share of it (no doubt helping lead to its successful theatrical run: although rated R, this was about as close to an adult film a teenager could get their hands on at the time, both in theaters and a few months later on VHS).

My favorite sequence is when the warden (John Vernon) reveals to a sexy inmate (in his private office) that he makes his own porn films as they’re making out in his Jacuzzi.  He flicks a button and she realizes they’re being filmed by a bulky video camera mounted above the hot tub.  For some reason she gets into it, despite the balding, unattractive old goat.  This guy gets an A+ for one of the slickest, sleaziest wardens in WIP history.

After the drugs, rape, lesbian sex, straight sex, razor blade murders, knife fights, catfights, and stern speeches by the warden and his right hand man (or in this case, right hand woman), the inmates finally decide it’s time to turn the tables.  They quickly take over the joint, breaking heads and messing the place up, both white and black gangs now working side-by-side against THE MAN.  The best sequence features a male prison guard (who had raped most of the inmates) being SLOWLY stabbed in the throat; it was a simple but effective effect that caused audible groans from the crowd.

While WIP films are quite similar and can get tiring, CHAINED HEAT is simply THE one title to see if you feel the need to experience the subgenre.  It’s not pretty (even the sex scenes are kind-of disgusting), has many technical mistakes (the worst being a sound mic in nearly every-other shot), and it’s about as violent as an R-rated film gets.  In some ways, this is the perfect grindhouse film which I’m STILL amazed had such a mainstream release.

I’ve yet to watch THE EXORCIST (or any other Linda Blair film) the same way again.  Be warned.

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

Ericka (Sybil Danning) lays down the rules to Carol (Linda Blair) in the women in prison classic CHAINED HEAT (1983)