Archive for the Campy Movies Category

RED 2 (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, All-Star Casts, Barry Dejasu Columns, Based on Comic Book, Bruce Willis Films, Buddy Movies, Campy Movies, Comedies, Fun Stuff!, Government Agents with tags , , , , , , on July 23, 2013 by knifefighter

RED 2 (2013)
Movie Review by Barry Lee Dejasu

RED2PosterSeveral months after the events of RED (2010), former CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is trying to happily move on with his life, now truly retired and living with his girl Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker).  When Frank’s old buddy Marvin (John Malkovich), also a former CIA agent (but with a bad case of paranoid eccentricity due to decades of LSD experimentation), shows up, it’s clear that trouble won’t be far behind…and sure enough, trouble comes for them, in spades.  With conspiracies, assassins, and weapons of mass destruction abound, it’s up to Frank and his R.E.D (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) friends to save the day again.

Director Dean Parisot (best known for his 1999 film GALAXY QUEST) turns in a decent action-comedy with RED 2.  The film is rated PG-13, which is understandable, since it’s aiming for a widespread audience; as a result, there are numbers of pulled punches—sometimes literally, as an early fight sequence left me a little confused as to what was happening at times.  There’s lots of gunplay, fistfights, and explosions, and a few well-staged sequences, but nothing particularly new or unusual—which was probably the idea, since the movie is played more for laughs than anything else.  Still, a few of the fight scenes might benefit from an “Unrated” cut, and one can hope that such may show up on the eventual home video release.

Like with the first film, however, what I enjoyed most in RED 2 was its cast, which, even with an occasionally stilted conversation (more on that later), gets along very nicely, and works together well in some genuinely screwy scenes.

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich in RED 2.

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich in RED 2.

 “You haven’t killed anybody in months,” Marvin says at one point, and the same could be said for Willis at this point in his career, with A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD and G.I. JOE: RETALIATION having been released just earlier this year. Bruce Willis has become one of the main go-to guys for action movies the past couple of decades; generally speaking, his presence brings a fun and laid-back (yet simultaneously rugged and smarmy) presence in the middle of the cinematic chaos—and this movie is no exception; he nicely chews up the scenes with his relaxed (and occasionally grumpy) persona, and while this vehicle is nothing new or unusual for him, it’s hard to ignore his charm.

Mary-Louise Parker is a hoot in her return as Sarah.  Although her character is now quite familiar with Frank’s former career and skills, she’s also his dedicated lover, and will do anything to help him—including eagerly stepping in to fight alongside him in every situation he’s faced with.  This of course leads to much bickering about her safety versus his, and more than a few times she has to “prove” herself in action.  If you think Mary-Louise Parker can’t handle an action scene, well, think again—that’s the whole idea with her here, and because she’s a capable actress, it worked quite nicely.  (Coincidentally, Parker also appears in this past week’s fellow acronymic action-comedy R.I.P.D., directed by the original RED’s director, Robert Schwentke!)

Now, traditionally, I’ve disliked John Malkovich as an actor; I find him to be very hammy and more than a little unpleasant most of the time, even when he’s portraying (allegedly) sympathetic characters; yet, I have softened a bit towards him in recent years, and that reason, I now realize, began with RED, and continues now in RED 2.  He portrays Marvin in a very goofy, dopey-eyed manner, and I genuinely laughed a few times with him in these films.

Dame Helen Mirren steals every scene she’s in, which is to be expected when you put an automatic weapon into the hands of the Academy Award-winning actress.  She portrays Victoria every bit as tongue-in-cheek as she did the first time, coolly portraying a charming lady who’s more than ready to deliver asskickery.  (There’s also one scene of hers in particular, which I won’t spoil, that had me seriously cracking up; I’ll just say that for anyone who’s familiar with her career, it’s a real treat.)

Helen Mirren + gun = scene officially owned.

Helen Mirren + gun = scene officially owned.

Alongside Malkovich, Byung-Hun Lee was the real surprise for me in this film.  Previously, I’d only seen him in the two G.I. JOE films of recent years – coincidentally alongside Willis in the second one; and as a result, I didn’t really have much of an opinion of him.  Here, however, I got to witness just how charismatic he can be, and he’s gracefully capable of some truly jaw-dropping stunts.  He was also very funny, which went a long way towards fleshing out his role as Han Cho Bai, a contract killer seeking revenge.  (“You stole my plane!”)

When Catherine Zeta-Jones appears, everything seems to stand still—and I’m not just saying that as a longtime fan of the actress (here portraying former KGB agent Katja, also an ex-flame of Frank’s).  She comes sweeping across the screen, in full movie star glamour, just before delivering a hard kiss on Frank (much to Sarah’s disgust).  Her screen time is unfortunately a bit limited, and her character’s nature a bit uneven, but if the filmmakers were seeking a memorable and gorgeous actress for the role, then they succeeded.

It’s also quite funny that Anthony Hopkins is in this film, and for more than one reason.  As an eccentric scientist (and weapons maker) being kept in a mental institution, Hopkins turns in a rare comedic role in this film.  Oddly enough, he has starred alongside not only Jones and Mirren in previous films (respectively in 1998’s THE MASK OF ZORRO and last year’s HITCHCOCK), but even has a face-to-face appearance with “the other Hannibal Lecter” himself, Brian Cox (1986’s MANHUNT).

Anthony Hopkins once again finds himself in a mental hospital.

Anthony Hopkins once again finds himself in a mental hospital.

Like the first film, RED 2 is based on characters and a general setup from the DC Comics graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.  This film takes a nice wink at this origin with various screen shots of the actors transitioning into stills of their respective comic characters; it helped serve as a reminder that this isn’t a film to be taken too seriously, and thus was all the easier to enjoy.

That said, there were times where I found the plot kind of hard to follow (mostly in the shell game of different characters’ shifting loyalties and/or revealing their true natures), and there were a few stretches of wooden dialogue, but then again, the script (written by the first film’s team of brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber) exists solely to set up one funny scene after another, and it works well for that.

So ultimately, RED 2 was a bit of a retread of the first film, but it took all the elements that worked well and put them to good use here, starting and ending with a fun and enjoyable cast.  If you liked the action-packed screwball antics of the first film, then you’re in for more in RED 2.

I give it two and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by Barry Lee Dejasu

Barry Lee Dejasu gives RED 2 ~ two and a half knives.

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Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Dances the LAMBADA (1990)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Dance Crazes, Dancing Girls! with tags , , , , , , , on July 18, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

By William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

LAMBADA (1990)

bbblambadaposterWelcome 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.

It’s summertime, and my series on the Golan-Globus years at Cannon Films continues with something a little different for the Israeli cousins, Menehem Golan and Yoram Globus.  Things were getting rough for Cannon, and they owed a lot of people a lot of money, especially after SUPERMAN IV (1987) flopped at the box office.  They needed a cheap hit, something they could exploit and make a few million for capital.  However, Pathe’, headed by Giancarlo Parretti, bought Cannon Films in 1989.  Golan didn’t like the way the company was going, so he left Cannon.  Globus, however, stuck around and put out many more dubious features.

But what about that hit?  Even with the infusion of money Pathe’ brought to the table; the company needed something to give them clout.  Menehem Golan and Yoram Globus had big hits with their dance musicals BREAKIN’ and BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO (both 1984).  What if they went back to their 1980s musical roots (Menehem Golan had even directed THE APPLE, a ludicrous futuristic musical in 1980).  Oddly, the cousins hit upon the exact same exploitable fad at the same time, releasing two movies within a month of each other about the same topic—Brazil’s “forbidden dance,” the Lambada!  With Cannon and Pathe’ behind him, Yoram Globus managed to get BREAKIN’s director Joel Silberg and as choreographer, the immortal Shabba Doo (one of the original Soul Train Gang).  The movie was titled simply LAMBADA, sometimes accompanied by the subtitle SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE!  Goram created the jaw-droppingly awful THE FORBIDDEN DANCE, in which a Brazilian princess tries to save the rain forest by shaking what her mamma gave her.  But we are here to discuss LAMBADA, universally considered the better of the two competing Lambada movies.

First, let’s clarify—just what the hell is a lambada, and can I get it with refried beans?  The lambada is a two-beat based dance that became popular for about ten minutes during the 1980s, especially in South America.  Originating in Brazil, it is similar to the salsa or the meringue, except the legs are kept arched.  Men are to wear long pants and either no shirt or a wife-beater while the ladies are supposed to wear extremely short skirts which would twirl around and expose the still-popular thong underwear.  This is most probably why the dance is forbidden.

Enough with the educational lecture.  Let’s watch LAMBADA (1990), and let’s dance!

The movie starts at a huge pool party, with one annoyingly preppie guy emerging from the water, fully clothed, screaming, “Brewskies!”  Everyone is waiting for Dean, your typical blonde, muscular jerk from every 1980s flick, played by Ricky Paull Goldin, a major soap opera star who was in THE GUIDING LIGHT, ANOTHER WORLD, ALL MY CHILDREN, and THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.  Everyone is dancing to a terrible rock and roll song, including one couple that gets so caught up in it that they end up underwater in the fountain.

At Stonewood High, math teacher Kevin ‘Blade’ Laird, played by J. Eddie Peck of DANGEROUSLY CLOSE (1986) and a regular on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, teaches his privileged white class, the gals all drooling over his buns sheathed in his tight pants.  Student Sandy, played by Melora Hardin—who played Jan Levinson on THE OFFICE as well as roles in movies like 17 AGAIN (2009) —even asks if he would consider posing for a calendar, but he gets her back on track to geometry excellence.  Laird seems rather dull, living quietly with his pretty wife and his son, Rudy.

Melora Hardin as Jan in LAMBADA.

Melora Hardin as Sandy in LAMBADA.

Sandy catches her boyfriend Dean with ‘some ditz’ with four looks and nine breasts.  She slams her ice cream cone into his groin and joins some friends to go to a hot new dance club called No Man’s Land (no, it’s not a lesbian club).  This place has a cop car hanging upside down from the ceiling, so you know it’s awesome!  Aaaand, there’s our first thong sighting to the song ‘Gonna Set the Night on Fire.’  Everyone is doing the lambada to a Gloria Estefan wannabe!

Guess who pulls up to the club on a motorcycle?  Yep, at night, Kevin Laird takes off his glasses, changes his name to Blade, loses his shirt, and dances like it ain’t forbidden anymore.

Sandy asks, “What is that?” and her friend answers, all agog, “The Lambada!  Can you believe they outlawed it in Brazil?”  And Sandy spots her math teacher dirty dancing with a thong-master (you could have a drinking game where you do a shot every time you spot a thong!).  Sandy flees.  Perhaps, she was afraid of being sent to the blackboard?

There is a master plan at work.  After some lambada dancing, Blade takes a bunch of underprivileged kids into the back room and teaches them calculus!  If only he could get his rival Ramone, played by Shabba Doo himself, to join them in their lessons.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to do math problems when everyone is dancing and drinking in the next room.  I know I’d pick math – NOT!

Sandy is finding it difficult to concentrate in her own math class, letting loose with some crazy fantasies involving various angles and salsa music and a shirtless teacher.  It’s DIRTY DANCING (1987) meets STAND AND DELIVER (1988).

Principal Singleton appoints Laird to head math instructor, but he’s a prude who fires teachers for dating other teachers.  What is he gonna think about Laird’s alter-ego Blade?  Laird’s son, Rudy, has a discussion about ‘greasers’ and why Daddy is a ‘greaser’ because he is Mexican.  The wife is even giving him crap about not seeing him enough.  Pressure from all sides!

Back at No Man’s Land, Sandy decides to dance with Laird, as she’s hot for teacher.  The feud with Ramone heats up.  “You gonna make those girls coconuts, man?  Brown on the outside and white on the inside?” Ramone taunts.  That’s enough for Ramone’s girl to dance with Blade.  And, yes, her name is Pink Toes.  Sandy cuts in while the song lyrics go, “Say you got a big one?  I’m the kind of girl who likes to do the nasty dance!”  Yowza!  At first, Blade resists her charms, but soon he’s teaching her how to do the forbidden dance.  She says, “Math class is over.  Next is biology, and if you’re lucky, anatomy.”  He says, “School’s over, Sandy!”  She ends up with Ramone.  Shabba pulls a shiv, and there’s a fight on the dance floor.  It ends with Laird taking Sandy home on his motorcycle, which he rides into and out of the club, parking it by the dance floor.  I want to be this cool.  I will never be this cool.

This student gets an "A" in LAMBADA.

This student gets an “A” in LAMBADA.

Dean happens by when Mr. Laird is dropping Sandy off at her house.  He hates that she’s with some biker, but he likes that she’s dressed “like a slut”.  Trouble is brewing for our favorite teacher/artiste.

The night class is going to get their GEDs in the pool room, including an African-American guy dressed like Jughead and called Ricochet.  Ramone misses a shot at billiards, and Mr. Laird teaches him the rectangular coordinate system, aka the geometry of pool.  Bets are made, and a protractor is pulled out of his pocket and used to calculate the angles needed to make a shot.

The next day in the all-white school, during computer class, some geek called Egghead programs one of the computers to play some beat box music, and the class erupts into a choreographed dance number you have to see to believe.  There is a lot of leg grabbing and hopping.  And every damn kid in the class can actually bust a move, including, yes, some break-dancing moves.  They are nearly caught by the principal and a member of the school board.

The entire computer class busts a move in LAMBADA.

The entire computer class busts a move in LAMBADA.

Sandy will not leave well enough alone, trying desperately to seduce Mr. Laird.  She really is a little tramp.  When he finally convinces her he isn’t interested, she heads for the club…and Ramone!  They proceed to dance it up like there’s no tomorrow in a very good scene where the two actors/dancers go wild on the floor.

When Mr. Laird takes the underprivileged kids to his school to take a test-run on a GED test on the computers, Dean finds out and sets out to expose the math teacher for the hip-shaking, shoulder-swaying, motorcycle-riding stud that he is.

Will the principal discover Laird’s night-time extracurricular activities?  Will Sandy seduce him away from his wife?  Will the ragtag motley group of adorable poor kids beat the rich kids in a super quiz?  Will anyone know what a Lambada is in five more years?

LAMBADA is a silly movie—ok, a very, very silly movie, but it was made for teens and on that level it isn’t bad.  The plot is stale, but the actors give it their all, even the ones who can’t act a lick.  Enthusiasm counts for a lot, and this movie has that in spades.  It’s a goofy little movie with super-sexy leads, some decent dancing, a nice message for the young ones, and some winking, knowing dialogue.  These guys knew they were making a dumb movie, and they did it with the utmost sincerity.  Thus, making it all the funnier.  I don’t know to what extent the filmmakers wanted to poke fun at themselves, but they succeeded nonetheless.  This film’s a hoot!  It helps that this is a flick trapped in the late Eighties.  The hair is high, the make-up is garish, the costumes include a lot of pastels, and the music is loud and trapped someplace between Miami Sound Machine and Ricky Martin.

Mr. Laird teaches Ramone about the  rectangular coordinate system!

Mr. Laird teaches Ramone about the rectangular coordinate system!

On a side note, the cinematography is quite good, full of neon and smoke.  LAMBADA was shot by Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli, who also photographed STARCRASH (1978), TENTACLES (1977), MIDNIGHT RIDE (1990), and the unbelievable SONNY BOY (1989).  He raises the whole movie up by a half a star.

I give LAMBADA two and a half rectangular coordinate systems out of four.  Math rocks!

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Takes On NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1980s Movies, 2013, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Evil Spirits, Kung Fu!, Ninjas, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , , on June 20, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

By William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984)

bbbninjaposter

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.

It is summertime, and a young(ish) film critic’s thoughts turn to summer movies.  I don’t need authentic period atmosphere, beautifully written scripts, believable characters, or somber drama; I need explosions, monsters, muscular men with huge guns, explosions, beautiful women partially clothed, crazy action scenes, and explosions.  When I was growing up, one studio really embodied the world of summer entertainment.  Even most of their fall and winter movies seemed like displaced summer features.  Join me as I enter the world of Cannon, as owned by Golan and Globus.

Cannon Films, aka The Cannon Group, had been around since 1967.  Owned by Chris Dewey and Dennis Friedland, they produced and distributed many films, both artistic and exploitative over a twelve year period, including JOE (1970), FANDO AND LIS (1970), and NORTHVILLE CEMETERY MASSACRE (1976).  In 1979, facing heavy debt, the two men sold Cannon to a pair of Israeli cousins, Menahem Golan (who had already directed the horrifying disco musical THE APPLE – 1979, as well as the Israeli version of AMERICAN GRAFFITI, LEMON POPSICLE – 1978) and Yoram Globus who had served as producer for Golan’s films.  During the 1980s, the team managed to tap into the zeitgeist, releasing a massive amount of B-pictures.  In 1986 alone, they released 43 movies to a film-hungry public.  And, yes, most of them contained some form of explosions, monsters, or other exploitable/marketable production facet.  The two cousins were notorious for attending Cannes and selling pictures to the money men with nothing but a one-sheet poster or a concept or a billboard for a movie yet to be written.  This is how the world discovered such gems as ENTER THE NINJA (1981), THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN (1982), TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS (1983), BREAKIN’ (1984) and BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO (1984), MISSING IN ACTION (1984), RAPPIN’ (1985), LIFEFORCE (1985), DEATH WISH 3 (1985), THE DELTA FORCE (1986), THE NAKED CAGE (1986), COBRA (1986), INVADERS FROM MARS (1986), THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986), MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (1987), and CYBORG (1989).  Interestingly, they were also known for their distribution of art films, releasing many of the 1980s best quality films.  For every Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling opus, we got John Cassavetes’ LOVE STREAMS (1984), Andrei Konchalovsky’s RUNAWAY TRAIN (1985) and SHY PEOPLE (1987), Neil Jordan’s THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (1985), or THE ASSAULT (1987 – winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film).  By 1989, the cousins had spent themselves into a very large hole.  Following several box office flops, Cannon was taken over by Pathe’, an arm of the MGM Studios, and Cannon changed forever.  Interestingly, for a brief time, Cannon was the low budget arm of Pathe’ and was run by Italian horror maestro Ovidio G. Assonitis (BEYOND THE DOOR – 1974, TENTACLES – 1977).  The end of the 1980s brought the end of Cannon Films as a Golan and Globus production.  Still, they left a legacy of outrageously whacky summer movies.  I will be writing about many of them during this summer, reliving those days at the drive-in when Chuck Norris blasted away hundreds of Vietnamese without a trace of irony, when ninjas raced across American rooftops, when monsters invaded the earth in new and wicked ways.  Welcome to the world of Cannon Films.

We begin our look at Cannon with NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984).  Why should we start with part three, you may ask?  The answer is simple.  Not only does this movie have ninjas running rampant in America, but it also has ghosts, exorcisms, and medicinal Jazzercising.  Cannon had already released the hit films ENTER THE NINJA (1981) and REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1983), tapping into a public’s undiscovered love of a great ninja movie.  Both starred Sho Kosugi, an All Japan Karate Champion and character actor.  Strangely, in ENTER THE NINJA, Kosugi was the bad guy, facing off against an aging Franco Nero.  After the amazing success of the first film, Kosugi became the good guy for the second movie, whooping ass in Salt Lake City and putting evil drug dealers in their place.  Despite his problematic English, Kosugi had the martial arts skills, and the ninja was scheduled to be brought back a third time.  In the meanwhile, however, POLTERGEIST (1982) had been a huge hit, and the country was also in the throes of aerobic-exercise fever.  What better way to bring back a master ninja than to have him battle a demonically possessed Jazzercise instructor?  Umm…

NINJA III: THE DOMINATION begins with a ninja in a Bronson Canyon cave, rolling back a big fake rock to reveal a cache of ninja weaponry, beautifully lit from below.  How the electric light was rigged in a cave in the middle of nowhere is a matter for others to ponder.  We are already off to the next scene…Ninjas stalk the golf course!  A rich white guy who is playing golf with his six bodyguards is attacked by the evil ninja.  Within a few minutes, the rich guy, his girlfriend, and all bodyguards are dead.  The police arrive in force, but despite being shot more than twenty five times, the ninja manages to kill at least thirty cops (I lost count) and escape into the desert.  He even manages to bring down a police helicopter using ninja stars, a hilarious scene that was obviously shot on the ground!  Lucky for him, a sexy telephone line repair woman, Christie (Lucinda Dickey, en ex-Solid Gold dancer and star of the forthcoming BREAKIN’ and BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO—both 1984—and possibly the worst actress to ever headline a motion picture) is in the neighborhood.  When she tries to help him (who doesn’t want to help a bleeding guy with a sword wearing ninja gear?), she is possessed by the evil ninja’s spirit and takes the sword back home with her.

Ninja Shokosugi vs. Black NInja

Ninja Sho Kosugi vs. Black NInja

When she is interrogated by the police, one of them comes on to her as if they are in a sleazy singles bar.  This is Officer Billy Secord, who was at the blasting of the evil ninja along with several other cops who managed to survive the massacre, played by the smug, hirsute Jordan Bennet.  He stalks Christie, calling her home (which is uber-Eighties cool, complete with actual arcade games, a dance floor, neon signs on the walls, and a Nagle print).  Christie, it turns out, doesn’t only fix the phone lines, but she is a Jazzercise instructor as well!  Billy follows her to one of her classes, and she shuns him again.  On her way out of the gym, she prevents a bunch of guys from raping a woman from her class, ripping a metal beam from a fire escape and beating the crap out of them.  Billy, turned on by this display of martial artistry, drives her home, where she seduces him in the unsexiest seduction of all film history.  By utilizing one gruesome bit of product placement, she covers her chest in V-8 Juice, which the lucky cop slurps up.  Then, Billy removes his shirt, exposing shoulders and a back so hairy he appears to be wearing a sweater.  Later, while Billy sleeps, Christie wanders to her closet, which glows.  She watches as the ninja sword she took from the evil black ninja floats on a visible string all over the room.  When Billy awakens, he proves his detective skills by telling her how beautiful her sword is . . . forgetting that the sword is evidence in a multiple murder of a few dozen policemen!

Take that yuppy scum!

Take that yuppy scum!

As their vegetable-juice based romance blossoms, Christie sees Billy’s partner and recognizes him as one of the men who shot the ninja who possesses her.  That evening, her arcade game goes all TRON on her, zapping her with lasers as wind blows through her room, and maniacal laughter rings through the place.  Her hair gets much bigger, making her resemble Adam Lambert with less make-up.  She heads for the Bronson Canyon Cave, retrieves some ninja weapons, and kills Billy’s partner.  Christie knows something is terribly wrong, although Billy remains blissfully unaware.  When she starts losing larger amounts of time, she decides to work out, doing hours of aerobics in her apartment to heal herself.  Jazzercise as alternative medicine doesn’t work, so Billy takes her to a doctor first, who tells her that, “Medically, you’re a very fit young woman. No evidence of any abnormality in the brain, no tumor, you have a strong heart, your diet is better than average. You are under severe stress, of course, but otherwise Doctor Bowen, the psychiatrist you saw, says there’s nothing out of the ordinary. Aside from your exceptional extrasensory perception and your preoccupation with Japanese culture. No harm in that!”  He then consults a cop in the “Asiatic Division” who recommends a healer, played by James Hong (BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA – 1986, THE VINEYARD – 1989).  He ties her up, and her hair grows bigger than ever, really making her look like Adam Lambert!  He tries to exorcise her, but he isn’t strong enough.  Fire erupts, lightning and thunder resound in the room, and Christies does some amazing gymnastics while being chained up.  “You fools!  You cannot stop me!  I am ninja!”  The Asian Max Von Sydow informs Billy that “Only a ninja can destroy a ninja.”

Finally, Sho Kosugi shows up, called by several elders in the Chinese community.  He wears a stylish eye-patch, and he follows the various crime scenes of the evil ninja/Christie picking up on clues we, the viewers, don’t get to peruse.  The ways of the ninja are, indeed, inscrutable.  Through a flashback, we find out that Kosugi has been hunting the black ninja since he killed Kosugi’s family and threw a ninja star into his eye.

Christie doesn’t recall the exorcism, but she finds two more of the cops who had shot the black ninja during the slaughter of half the police department.  When our heroine returns to her home, she faces all kinds of poltergeist activity in her apartment.  “No, you don’t,” she shouts.  “Not again!”  While things blow up around her, fog and evil laughter flood the apartment, plates float around along with the sword.  She does what anyone would do when confronted by the occult.  Yes, she’s back to trying to Jazzercise the demon from within her, working out to loud, dreadful disco music and ignoring the chaos around her.  It doesn’t work, and the forces pull her into the closet a la Tobe Hooper’s POLTERGEIST (1982).  When she emerges, she is in full-on ninja mode.

Ninja Possesses Lucinda Dickey!

Ninja Possesses Lucinda Dickey…or is it Adam Lambert?

At Billy’s partner’s funeral, she climbs some tall trees and shoots several cops with arrows, killing the two she recognized.  It’s another police massacre, with at least ten dead officers by the end of the chase scene.  There are some pretty cool stunts here, with Christie (or her stunt double under all that ninja gear) pulling men off the back of motorcycles and fighting her way through the cemetery, swinging from tree to tree.  Luckily, Sho Kosugi appears and pursues the rogue ninja.  There’s a good fight between them in a half-finished abandoned house with ninjas hanging from beams and bursting through floors.

The cops, thinking Kosugi is the bad guy, take him into custody, while Billy finally figures out his girlfriend is killing every cop in the county, returns to her apartment.  He confronts an amnesiac Christie and marches her at gunpoint to a Japanese Temple above the town (what?!) where orange-robed monks practice kendo and where the final confrontation will occur.  Thus begins the final battle, which is over-the-top crazy, filled with great stunts and shoulder pads on Christie that have to be seen to be believed.

Ninja Adam Lambert Lives!

Ninja Adam Lambert Lives!

Will Christie kill Billy, the last police officer left alive who shot the black ninja?  Will Kosugi smack the evil out of Christie?  Will I ever be able to drink another V-8 Juice again?

NINJA III: THE DOMINATION is certainly not a good film, but it’s a fabulous sort of time capsule for the Eighties.  Full of blaring disco music (Body Shop by Dave Powell is especially atrocious), martial arts, aerobics montage scenes, video game references, and more bad acting than you can shake a Japanese sword at, it is never boring!  The hair, the tight jeans, the sheer number of leg warmers – combining ninja action and supernatural horror into one huge laughable concoction, NINJA III never fails to entertain.

I give it three V-8 Juices out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

 

Bills’ Bizarre Bijou visits the COMMON LAW WIFE (1963)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, 60s Movies, B-Movies, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Drive-in Movies, Exploitation Films, Hillbillies, Just Plain Fun, Revenge!, Romance, Swamp Movies, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , , , on April 25, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

by William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

COMMON LAW WIFE (1963)

VideoBox 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.

In the wild, wild world of exploitation films, bits and pieces of one movie can often make a ‘guest appearance’ in another film, spliced into the new film as padding for the running time, or as a way to save on the budget.  Most of the time, this created annoying sequences that have nothing to do with the movie you’re viewing at your local drive-in, distractions to the main plot.  Other times, the footage was inserted so well a casual viewer never noticed he’d been duped.  A lot of film buffs, such as me and you, my fans in the dark, take great pleasure in noticing such scenes and shouting out, “Hey, that was stolen from INVASION OF THE STAR CREATURES!”  It’s a fine, old exploitation tradition, and we at the Bijou salute the filmmakers who managed to pull it off.

In 1960, Larry Buchanan, the infamous director of such sublimely awful fare as THE NAKED WITCH (1961), ZONTAR, THING FROM VENUS (1966), MARS NEEDS WOMEN (1967), and THE LOCH NESS HORROR (1981) started shooting a hicksloitation epic called SWAMP ROSE.  Starring Lacey Kelley (NUDE ON THE MOON – 1961, THE DEAD ONE – 1961), the unfinished film dealt with a moonshiner obsessed with a woman of easy virtue.  This footage was purchased by M.A. Ripps, who wanted to make it into a hit drive-in feature, as he so famously transformed the movie BAYOU into POOR WHITE TRASH (1957).  New director Eric Sayers used many Buchanan regulars: (Anabelle Weenik (going by Anne MacAdams) of CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION (1967), A BULLET FOR PRETTY BOY (1970), DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (1973); Max W. Anderson of HIGH YELLOW (1965), IN THE YEAR 2889 – (1967); and THE NAKED WITCH herself Libby Hall (as Libby Booth)).  Sayers shot a whole new storyline with these actors, including an unbilled woman to take Lacey Kelley’s role (and they don’t look much alike) using only bits and pieces of Larry Buchanan’s SWAMP ROSE.  There is a scene with Lacey Kelley walking down the street, her boom-boppa-boom stride mocked by a little girl, some scenes in a park, and a chase between a crazed hillbilly moonshiner attacking Lacey that make up most of the old footage.  Everything else is newly shot with actors from other movies.  Confused yet?  You won’t be once you watch COMMON LAW WIFE (1963), Sayers’ adults-only white-trash melodrama set in Texas.  It’s easily one of the greatest exploitation films from the period.  Other than a few film stock mis-matches and a character that switches actresses several times, you’d never know this was once two films edited into one trashy grindhouse gem.

But what about the story of COMMON LAW WIFE?

The film opens on a typical night at the Raineys’ rather tacky abode.  Old man Shug is playing darts in his bathrobe before drinking the biggest damn glass of wine in existence.  When his live-in mistress, Linda, tells him he’s not supposed to drink, he throws five darts at her head, embedding them into the wicker chair behind her.  He asks, “Do you want me to put one right between your eyes?”  Turns out, she’s lived with him for five years, and it’s taken a toll on her beauty.  He wants her to get out so his niece Jonelle (“Call me Baby Doll”) can come live with him.  “What’s she got?’ she shrieks.  Shug answers, “My attention right now, which you haven’t.”  Linda, shocked says, “Why she’s your own blood niece!  That’s incest!”  He replies, “Words don’t mean much to me.  I’ve already sent for Baby Doll.  Go pack your things.”

In New Orleans, we are introduced to Jonelle, a gorgeous stripper in a nightclub who resembles Traci Lords.  She packs her dresses and heads for rural Texas to stay with her uncle (Eww).  Turns out, Jonelle’s sister, Brenda, is married to the Sheriff, Jodi, who was having flings with both sisters during high school.  Jodi’s more than a little interested in rekindling his torrid affair with Jonelle, while good wife Brenda stays at home.

Shug and Jonelle, what a cute couple!

Shug and Jonelle, what a cute couple! (Ewwww)

Meanwhile, Linda consults a lawyer and discovers she’s lived long enough with Mr. Shug Rainey to be his common-law wife.  Mrs. Rainey buys herself a wedding ring and informs Shug that she is his legal wife, and if he wants his niece serving him in his house (Eww), he has to divorce her and pay alimony or give her the house.  Secretly, though I have no idea why, she loves the old dude.

Jonelle kick-starts her affair with Jodi (what a nice sisterly thing to do), but she throws a hissy fit after he says he doesn’t want to help her murder Shug for the old man’s money.  In spite, she gets up and starts stripping and dancing in front of what looks like several farmers and their wives who are either shocked or bemused.  She leaves with another old beau, Bull, who takes her out to the swamp to see his moonshine still.  Ah, romance in Texas!  When he gets fresh, she runs away through the swamp.  This whole part is Larry Buchanan’s, and it’s a bit rougher and grittier than the newer footage. 

She runs all the way back to her sister’s house (the actress changes here), but Brenda has figured out what’s happening between her husband and Jonelle.  She tosses her sister out of her house, but not before Jonelle steals the booze.  With nowhere to go, Jonelle hunts down Bull and they return to the swamp (wait, wait, didn’t he try to rape her the previous night?  Ah, romance in Texas!) 

The original Jonelle.

The original Jonelle.

Jodi goes after her (the heel!) and tracks her to Bull’s house, where a gunfight erupts over Jonelle.  He abducts her to his home, where the cold facts about their past relationship come to light.  Brenda catches them together and holds them at gunpoint!

Will Jonelle get one over on Linda?  Who will get old man Shug Rainey’s money when he dies? What about the cyanide-laced bottle of whiskey?  Will we ever get to see a full print of SWAMP ROSE?  Probably not, but this common-law version is a real hoot!

COMMON LAW WIFE is filled with great, hateful dialogue delivered in authentic, delightful accents.  It was Grace Nolan’s only writing credit, and I wish there’d been a lot more.  Some choice cuts of the nasty, mean-spirited dialog include:

“I was a stray cat lookin’ for a home, and I took it however I could.”

“Folks around here might think the circus has come to town.”  “They might be right!”

“From now on, this is my house.  And I don’t want any tramps hangin’ around it!”

“The only way I’ll see any of that old man’s body is over his stinkin’ dead body.”

“You couldn’t hit a bull with a bass fiddle.  Let alone that cap gun.”

“I met a couple of strangers in town today, and they claimed they didn’t know you.  You want their names so you can bat a thousand?”

“You’ve put on weight.  City food must be good.”

“A girl can learn a lot of lessons in the dark.”

Vengeance, thy name is Linda!

Vengeance, thy name is Linda!

The black and white photography is crisp and full of noir shadows.  The music is great jazz, heavy on the sax and trumpet, but the composer is unbilled.  Who knows where that great score came from?  The acting is campy and over-the-top, as it should be in a swamp melodrama like this one.  And the ending is brutal and shocking in a way few films of that era ever were.  COMMON LAW WIFE may be confusing sometimes, what with actresses switching and film stock not matching, but it’s loads of fun.  It’s like Douglas Sirk on tainted moonshine. 

I give COMMON LAW WIFE three and a half revolving actresses out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Watches WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1960s Horror, 2013, B-Movies, Bad Acting, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Detectives, Evil Doctors!, Just Plain Fun, Mexican Horror, Mummies, Secret Codes, William Carl Articles, Wrestlers with tags , , , , , , on March 28, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964)

bbbwrestlingposter

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.

K. Gordon Murray imported a second Luchadoras (Lady Wrestler) movie directed by Rene Cordona one year after the initial series entry, DOCTOR OF DOOM (1963).  Once again, kiddie matinee audiences were treated to the adventures of a tag team of female wrestlers—Mexican Gloria Venus and the American Golden Rub—against an assortment of hissable villains and monsters.  They are once again played, respectively, by Lorena Velazquez and Elizabeth Campbell, each looking as gorgeous as in the first movie.  Their boyfriends, the pair of bumbling Mexican detectives, are also back as the WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (aka ROCK ‘N ROLL WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY) flutters across our disbelieving eyeballs.  My goodness, but this one is even weirder and crazier than the first.  And that’s sayin‘ something!  On to the story!

Oh!  According to the credits, the cast includes the Milagros India Ballet!

We start off with a bang, as a bloody man is tossed onto a city street from a speeding car.  The headlines shout (in Spanish) “Black Dragon Gang Kills Archeologist!”  A second body is tossed from a car, this time in the desert.  “Black Dragon Strikes Again!  Dr. Van Dyne Disappears!”  Yet another scientist is tortured by a Fu Manchu/Yellow Menace-type.  Another scientist is chased from his home by a carful of thugs.  He drives to the coliseum where a wrestling match is taking place between two tag-teams, Gloria Venus and Golden Rubi (whose hair has turned brunette since last time!) and two rather butch, um, ladies.  If the wrestling footage looks familiar, it’s because it was lifted from the first movie.  The wrestling gals are cheered on by their detective boyfriends in the audience.  We aren’t even five minutes into the feature, folks.

The girls go to their dressing room and discover a man lurking in the shadows, Dr. Mike Sorba, who wants to talk to Mike the Detective, Gloria Venus’s fiancé.  He informs the detective that the Black Dragon is making threats against him and the detective’s uncle.  The older scientists have discovered something, and the Black Dragon is killing and torturing all the scientists who have a certain codex.  Now, only Dr. Sorba and the uncle remain.  Well, until Sorba is suddenly killed in the locker room by a poison dart.

The mysterious Black Dragon.

The mysterious Black Dragon.

The thugs head back to Fu Man…I mean…the Black Dragon and his evil sisters.  He tells his henchmen to go after the last scientist remaining, Detective Mike’s Uncle, Dr. Tracey (from THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO?).

The group, two detectives and two lady wrestlers, drive to the uncle’s house, where Dr. Tracey tells his nephew about the codex.  The Black Dragon has half and Uncle Tracey decides to give the two wrestlers and his nephew each a third of the half he has.  A pretty blond girl has become Dr. Tracey’s ward, Charlotte.  Within minutes, Charlotte is kidnapped by hoodlums while Dr. Tracey sneaks off to get his half of the codex.

Dr. Tracey digs the codex from between bricks in an abandoned house and splits it into thirds as planned.  He disburses them in the girls’ lockers and a post office box.  Meanwhile, The Black Dragon uses a flashy machine and injections to brainwash Charlotte to hate the ones she once loved, and she’ll do exactly as he orders.  His sisters are impressed (although one speaks with a Natasha Badinov Russian accent; who knows why?).  Under the Black Dragon’s influence, Charlotte returns to the scientist’s house.  First, the foursome split up, following clues to find the thirds of the codex.

So far, no one has explained the what or why of the codex.  Everyone just wants it badly.  And the Black Dragon has bugged the house, so he has sent his thugs to intercept the heroes before they find the hiding places.  Golden Rubi and her boyfriend are captured. Luckily, Gloria Venus and her detective follow and everybody brawls.  The thugs get away with that part of the codex.  The Black Dragon decides to set his judo-expert sisters against the two wrestling broads.

All sorts of shenanigans occur until our heroes have one part of the codex and the Black Dragon has all the rest.  Black Dragon bets all his parts against the one in a tag-team match between his sisters and our gal wrasslers, and it’ll be held in public in the coliseum.  Seems a lot easier than just calling the police and arresting the gang.  Yeah, right…

They must have waited a few days and advertised, because the place is packed for the judo vs. wrestling match.  I swear, during the crowd noises, I heard someone shout, “Andelay!  Andelay!”  And we get the pleasure of watching four women in tight clothing beat the crap out of each other for a good eight minutes.  Hey, there are certainly worse ways to spend eight minutes.

Of course, Gloria Venus and Golden Rubi win the match.  The Black Dragon gives away the codex (well, he’s a bad guy with honor, don’t ya’ know), and just as he was going to be arrested, his sisters judo chop their way through the cops and break him loose.  The Dragon hatches a plan to follow the good guys to wherever the codex leads them and get…whatever the hell is the goal.  Coherency isn’t given a second glance in this flick.

Our heroines snap into action.

Our heroines snap into action.

The codex leads the group (and The Black Dragon and his henchmen) to Tezomoc’s Burial Ground, a witch doctor who can change his shape, just like the moldy mummy in DEATH CURSE OF TARTU (1966).  As the professor reads the translated codex, we get to watch a flashback to Aztec times that shows a maiden who was to be sacrificed to the gods and the witch doctor who saved her by carrying her away.  The lovers were found and returned to the temple where the man, Tezomoc, was buried alive and required to maintain a vigil over his lover’s burial ground and the gold breastplate placed over her chest.  And, yeah, the tomb is cursed if the breastplate leaves the grounds.

The tomb is easy to find (did no one ever spot the ninety foot pyramid above it?), and the group fumbles around in the dark for what seems like three and a half hours.  Finally, they find the temple.  As they are about to read the breastplate, a tomb opens and Tezomoc pops out like a dusty Kate Moss.  It’s extremely skinny, bony, and hideous.  Bullets can’t stop it, and it moans, stretching its mouth open so wide it looks like its cheeks could split.  It also turns into a bat, which is really hard to wrestle.  “Look, Loretta, he’s a vampire now!”  Who’s Loretta?

Will our heroes translate the breastplate and send the mummy back to the land of the dead?  Or will the Black Dragon and his minions find it first and get the treasure?  Is there ever any doubt?

K. Gordon Murray’s dubbing techniques for his Mexican imports lend a tone of the surreal to the proceedings.  Being one of the first to dub movies into English from another language, he hired a sound technician from Disney, Manny Fernandez and a bilingual writer, Ruby Guberman, to change the words coming out of the characters mouths.  Instead of trying to make a literal translation, the team attempted to match the lip movements as closely as possible, which resulted in pretty good synchronization, but truly bizarre phrasings.  An example from tonight’s film: “Now, just as the Dragon heard this, and what motives he has have yet to be explained, he hunted down all the others and he tortured them without pity to get them to reveal who had been designated to guard the records.”  Whew!  What a mouthful.

WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY isn’t as much fun as its predecessor, DOCTOR OF DOOM.  We don’t even get to the Aztec Mummy until the seventy minute mark, and then, despite the title, the mummy is on the side of good.  The pacing is all over the place, too.  Sometimes, this movie flies by at a lightning pace, and at other times the characters get so bored they stop all forward plot motion and play cards.  I am not kidding.  And where in the world was the Milagros India Ballet?

Beware Tezomoc, the AZTEC MUMMY!

Beware Tezomoc, the AZTEC MUMMY!

Still, we get lots of wrestling, beautiful women, fun gadgets, the Yellow Menace, judo-chopping twin sisters with different accents, crummy dubbing, and a creepy mummy.  It’s still worth a gander, even if it doesn’t rise to the heights of silliness of the first movie.

I give WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY two and a half breastplates out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Has An Appointment with the DOCTOR OF DOOM (1963)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1960s Horror, 2013, Action Movies, Apes!, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Bizarro Movies, Campy Movies, Mad Doctors!, Mexican Wrestlers, Wrestlers with tags , , , , , , on March 14, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

DOCTOR OF DOOM (1963)

bbbdrposter

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.

K. Gordon Murray strikes again!  The infamous importer of Mexican kiddie matinees has delivered another badly dubbed (at Soundlab!  In Coral Gables, Florida!) arrow to my heart with a film I love beyond any reasonable credulity.  It’s truly awful, but in all the right ways.  I should turn away in horror at this vivisection of artistic film, this shadow of celluloid, but I can’t take my eyes off the terrible thing.  It goes beyond bad cinema to become one of the most entertaining stinkers of all time.  Yes, I’m talking about that “gorgeous ladies of wrestling versus the mad scientist south of the border” opus, DOCTOR OF DOOM (1963), aka ROCK ‘N ROLL WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC APE, aka THE SEX MONSTER!

The amazing movie begins with a pre-credits attack on a woman by what looks like Captain Caveman, followed by two rather burly gals wrestling in a ring and stock footage of an enthralled, applauding audience.  Gloria Venus, the winner, has a moment with her sister, Alice.  Then we’re suddenly in a mad scientist’s laboratory, where an obviously mad scientist tries to perform a brain transplant on the girl who was kidnapped by the hirsute horror, whose name is Gomar.  The operation is a failure, because the brain they transplanted wasn’t strong enough.  The doc believes this is because they’ve only used women with low IQs, and they need to find an intellectual woman with a stronger brain.  The mad doctor keeps Gomar locked in a basement.  Gomar is a man with a transplanted gorilla’s brain, a perfect half man / half beast, his animal instincts dominating the human in their the symbiotic relationship.  Yes, one day, Gomar will turn into a real gorilla.

How lady wrestlers train.

How lady wrestlers train.

The next morning, the papers proclaim “Mad Scientist Strikes Again!”  Alice works in a scientific laboratory, with a Professor Ruiz who really, really likes her.  Two detectives are on the case of the Mad Scientist Murders, discovering the fourth female with her brain scooped out of her skull.  The short one  is intended to provide the dubious comic relief.  Really, the flick is funny enough without his shenanigans.

Next, we are in a room where two men wear strange white masks that resemble KKK hoods.  One of them, the mad scientist, instructs a room full of crooks to go with Gomar and his nifty new bullet-proof mask and shirt, and kidnap a smart woman….and it’s ALICE!  Sure enough, she’s easily hijacked, shoved in a cab, and Gomar has a long fight with patrolling officers before escaping.

Back in the lab, the masked surgeons operate on Alice and, even though she’s an intelligent woman, she also dies on the slab.  “Isn’t there any human being who can survive the shock?” the mad doctor asks.  His partner suggests an athlete, a powerful woman . . . like a lady wrestler?

The taller detective goes to the lady wrestler training gym.  He asks Gloria Venus (who is in training) to accompany him.

“It’s your sister,” he says.

“Is she sick?” she asks.

“She’s suffered a very bad accident.”

“Alice is hurt?”

“Would you accompany me?”

“To the doctor’s?”

“To identify her.”

“OH!”

Yes, the dialogue is certainly on par with that of Robert Altman.

Alice’s boss, the scientist (a scientist . . . hmm. . . ) mourns the girl, offering his services if the police need any help.  Gloria Venus is understandably upset, but the detective tells her, “You must trust in the local police.  Although, we haven’t got a single clue.”  Yeah, I’d trust them with that kind of confident revelation.

Back in the training gym, Gloria Venus gets a new partner, Golden Rubi, when a fight breaks out amongst the lady wrestlers.  Both women have that glamorous 1960s look, and they look nothing like any real female wrestlers.  Gloria Venus is a dead ringer for Elizabeth Taylor and Rubi resembles a ponytailed Marie Windsor.  They decide to shack up in an apartment together (now that’s more like the lady wrestler’s I’ve seen in the past) and they win their first tag team match together soon afterwards.  The detectives are in the audience to watch the match, falling for the two women in the process.  This match goes on for a good five minutes, and the choreography is pretty good, actually.  It ends happily, with dinner and dancing between the foursome!

And in this corner..Golden Rubi and Gloria Venus in DOCTOR OF DOOM.

And in this corner..Golden Rubi and Gloria Venus in DOCTOR OF DOOM.

Later that night, the girls awaken to discover several kidnappers climbing in their apartment window, and they proceed to beat the hell out of them!  This disappoints the hooded mad scientist.  The cops recommend they allow themselves to be kidnapped if these men try it again (What?  What?  What?).  The cops will follow them and arrest the bad guys.

Later, after the women work out, Gomar stalks the two girls in his bullet-proof duds, and he easily overcomes them and places them in the crooks’ car.  The detectives follow, but they set off ‘the danger signal’ at the lab.  They are assaulted by the criminals, but they fight back.  Gloria Venus awakens on the slab, and she gets Rubi and they join in the fighting.  They unmask one of the white hooded scientists and discover it is Boris, the assistant to Alice’s boss, the professor.  Boris demands police protection.  They want to know who the main mad doctor is.  He stand, says, “The mad doctor is… is… argh!”  He has a heart attack! During the autopsy, they find a needle in his skin covered in poison.  It was murder, and it was the killer was someone in the policeman’s office at the time!

The chief mad doctor (still at large and still disguised under a hood) orders his number one crook to find three or four other bad guys and kill those two detectives.  The guys give the wrestling gals watches that have transmitters and locators in them.  Within twenty four hours, the two detectives are kidnapped, and the girls are going to have to locate and rescue them!  Feminism thrives in low-budget Mexican horror films!

The boys are taken “to the death chamber,” locked in a room near Gomar.  Suddenly, the walls grow spikes and start contracting towards each other.  Soon, they’ll be speared and squished, but they turn on their transmitters, and the gals drive the streets of Mexico City until they find them at the same warehouse/laboratory where they were nearly brain-transplanted.  They break in and are immediately attacked by teams of bad guys in black, wearing black hoods.  Let the brawling begin!  They save the day just in time.

The detectives chase after the mad doctor while the girls attack his new assistant, splashing acid all over his hooded face and setting the place on fire.  They leave the mad doctor to burn to death (not very sportsmanlike, but, hey, he tried to take out their brains), but Gomar breaks loose and saves his creator from the inferno.

Later, the girls find out one of their fellow lady wrestlers has been missing for several days, taken by the professor, Alice’s boss, who is the remaining mad doctor.  Well, duh, who else could it have been?.  Sure enough, she’s been kidnapped by the crazed quack, and he has transplanted Gomar’s brain into the woman’s head.  “She’s alive!  She made it!”  He names her Vendetta, and he commands her to destroy Gloria Venus and Golden Rubi in the wrestling ring in front of thousands of spectators, wearing a nifty cape, Spandex leotards, and a cool lightning mask. Hahahahahahahahaha!

Who will win the match?  Will Alice’s death be avenged?  Well, this is a family film.  What do you think?

The movie is capably directed by that Mexican auteur Rene Cardona, who supplied the world with Taco-Trash flicks for decades.  He made such inspired exploitation films as SANTA CLAUS (1959), NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES (1969), the soccer players-turned-cannibal epic SURVIVE! (1976), and numerous Santo masked wrestler flicks.  Interestingly, his son Rene Cardona Jr. has continued the exploitation tradition, upholding his family name with such hits as GUYANA, CULT OF THE DAMNED (1979), TINTORERA: KILLER SHARK (1977), BEAKS:THE MOVIE (as opposed to BEAKS: THE STAGE MUSICAL? 1987), and the ultra-trashy CYCLONE (1978).  Ah, the grindhouse family tradition continues.  It almost brings a tear to one’s eyes.

Apeman Gomar models his new bullet-proof duds.

Apeman Gomar models his new bullet-proof duds.

The wrestling women are quite beautiful.  Gloria Venus is played by Lorena Velazquez, who is still working today in Mexican soap operas.  She’s much better than the material here, although the dubbing makes nearly everything she says amusing.  She can also be seen in PLANET OF THE FEMALE INVADERS (1967), SANTO VS. THE ZOMBIES (1962), and the great SHIP OF MONSTERS (1960).   Golden Rubi is played by American Elizabeth Campbell, who co-starred with Velazquez in several Luchadoras (female wrestler) movies in Mexico before dropping out of sight and returning to America.

DOCTOR OF DOOM is an insane movie, full of campy dialogue and wrestling women thrashing the crap out of each other.  It has bumbling cops and robbers, brain transplants, pretty women in short nightgowns, great jazzy bongo-filled music, tacky comic relief, a finale atop a water tower with police shooting at Vendetta, and Gomar the ape-man.  Honestly, what else do you need in a cheap movie? A lot happens in only 80 minutes, so there’s never a boring second.

Plus, there’s a sequel, THE WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964)!

I give DOCTOR OF DOOM three half-nelsons out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou wants you to GET CRAZY (1983)

Posted in 1980s Movies, 2013, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Cult Movies, Drive-in Movies, Just Plain Fun, Rock 'n' Roll Movies, Roger Corman with tags , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

GET CRAZY (1983)

gcposterWelcome 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.

After director Allan Arkush released the wonderful drive-in hit ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL in 1979, he was tapped to make the big budget Christmas release, HEARTBEEPS, co-starring Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters in 1981.  Have you seen it?  Neither did anyone else, so Arkush returned to the genre that gave him his biggest hit – rock and roll comedy!  In 1983, he found a great script about the final concert given at a rock theater and all the people involved in that New Year’s Eve show.  In his wayward youth, Arkush had been an usher at the Fillmore East, and he’d seen more than his share of great concerts.  So, this was a project close to his heart.  Once completed, Arkush gave the world its first Robert Altman multi-storylined, actor-centric movie by way of the Zucker Brothers (AIRPLANE, 1980).  GET CRAZY is rock and roll heaven.

Daniel Stern and Gail Edwards get involved with some monkey love.

Daniel Stern and Gail Edwards get involved with some monkey love.

Max Wolfe (Allen Garfield of THE CONVERSATION, 1974 and THE STUNTMAN,  1980) owns the Saturn Theater, and he’s had one chili-dog too many, causing a heart attack.  He decides to throw one last, huge concert on New Year’s Eve, invite everyone who’s played there, and turn the reigns of the Saturn over to one deserving soul.  His kiss-ass nephew, Sammy (played by Miles Chapin of THE FUNHOUSE, 1981 and THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT,  1996) wants to sell the theater to big-time promoter Colin Beverly (Ed Begley Jr. of AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON, 1987 and the ST ELSEWHERE TV series), who only cares about how much money he can make by bulldozing the hall and putting up a shiny new theater, getting rid of the sex and drugs and rock and roll forever.  Max wants to keep the place as it is, so the kids can see the artists, afford the tickets, and enjoy themselves.  He is followed by his two minions played by none other than (former teen heartthrobs) Fabian and Bobby Sherman.  Meanwhile, the stage manager, Neil Allen (Daniel Stern of HOME ALONE, 1990 and CITY SLICKERS, 1991) is falling in love with the new girl on the crew, Willy Lomann, played by Gail Edwards (star of TV’s FULL HOUSE and BLOSSOM).  She once worked for Max years ago, but gave up the rock when she thought she had a future with a bigger promoter.  Neil’s little sister is desperate to see the concert and sneaks out of the house, but Neil must make certain she doesn’t get into too much trouble.  Plus, their unobservant parents are played by the great Dick Miller and Jackie Joseph (LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, 1960 and GREMLINS, 1984)!  Electric Larry, the local drug dealer, delivers plenty of speed to keep the staff moving at top velocity.  The lighting tech (Mary Woronov of EATING RAOUL, 1982 and SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT, 1972) is having electrical failures; the local doctor (Paul Bartel, also from EATING RAOUL and HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, 1986) is trying to keep Max alive for the night; and lighting intern Joey (Dan Frischman of TV’s HEAD OF THE CLASS), just wants to lose his virginity.  A bus full of hippies led by Captain Cloud and the Rainbow Telegraph arrive with a pass for New Year’s Eve 1968, take over the green room, and immediately get high while planning the finale for the show.  The fire inspector (“No spark too small.”) is on the warpath and refuses to allow any fireworks or open flames.  Meanwhile, Max puts through a deathbed request to Auden, a Bob Dylan-type of folk singer who hasn’t performed in years and is played by Lou Reed!  Auden gets in a taxi and starts planning what song he’ll play for Max’s last big show.

Electric Larry brings the New Year's speed.

Electric Larry brings the New Year’s speed.

Then, the bands arrive!

First up is a slightly punk all girl group (much like The Go-Gos) called Nada (fans scream Nadanadanadanada!) with special guest, Piggy, a pierced punker locked in their trunk, played by Lee Ving (lead singer of the real band Fear and one of the stars of STREETS OF FIRE, 1984).  Nada is played by the lead singer for King Creole and the Coconuts, Lori Eastside.  After an all-blind, all-blues funeral, King Blues (an awful lot like Muddy Waters) and his new guitarist, Cool, show up, but they are accidentally sent a Jews band instead of a Blues band to back them.  Then, along comes Reggie Wanker, a Mick Jagger type of English strutter played by Malcolm McDowell (of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, 1971 and CAT PEOPLE, 1981).  He has a midlife meltdown onstage and during a truly existential moment (and a truly extended drum solo), he has a long conversation with his penis in which he decides how to live the rest of his life!  It’s a funny moment, but McDowell wrings it of every bit of pathos he can.  Remember when he was a great actor and not just someone who took every part that came his way?  His girlfriend, the Countess Chantamina wants more out of life, and she decides to find a new love.

Malcolm McDowell plays Reggie Wanker.

Malcolm McDowell plays Reggie Wanker.

When the concert starts, all hell breaks loose with multiple story-lines overlapping while awesome music plays constantly in the background.  One great joke involves every single band playing a cover of King Blues’ “Hoochie Coochie Man,” including a fantastic, adrenaline-fuelled punk version by Piggy.   “Who says a white boy can’t sing the blues?” the old bluesman says.  Every band gets to play an original number and a version of the hilariously familiar “Hoochie Coochie Man.”  Oddly enough, the music is all pretty terrific, and it raises the silly comedy to a whole new level of insanity.  I suggest you crank it to eleven and make the walls shake!

Piggy (Lee Ving) and the Nada band perform "Hoochy Coochy Man."

Piggy (Lee Ving) and the Nada band perform “Hoochie Coochie Man.”

The crowd goes insane, LSD ends up in the water supply, romance blossoms, a giant living joint is chased all over the theater, the bathroom is infested with sharks, the fire inspector ends up naked and hallucinating, a bomb is hidden in the theater, and every actor gets a bit where they can do something funny.  Somewhere in that great, gigantic cast you can also find Clint Howard, Robert Picardo, and Linnea Quigley.

With so many plots and musical performances flying around like an air traffic controller’s nightmare, it would have been easy for Arkush to drop the ball, but he maintains the juggling act right through the explosive finale.  Everything works so well, I can’t find anything to criticize.  The comedy bits drop so fast and furiously, if one joke falls flat, the next one works beautifully.  And the editing is special, too, especially when the bomb is being planted while Reggie Wanker sings his heart out onstage.

Plus, “Hoochie Coochie Man” is a really great song!

It’s too bad the movie didn’t do well; GET CRAZY epitomizes a fun time at the theater.  This would be a perfect comedy to watch on New Year’s Eve with your buddies and plenty of cocktails.  You need to see it!

I give GET CRAZY three and a half giant joints out of four!

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl