Monday, January 30, 2012

Deadly Prey (1987)

Oh man, where to begin with this one!  I came across this thanks to the friendly folks at Comeuppance Reviews and the Direct to Video Connoisseur and after reading their takes on it, I knew this was something I had to see.

Imagine if you will, a version of The Most Dangerous Game redone as a late 80's survival action movie on a seriously low budget with a little bit of First Blood thrown in for good measure.  Oh wait, imagining it isn't required here as that is a pretty accurate description of this thing.

Ted Prior plays Mike Danton, an apparently random man who is kidnapped by a bunch of mercenaries, stripped to his shorts and forced to run off into the forest as part of a training exercise for some unspecified mission.  As tends to be the case in movies of this type, Mike is actually a Vietnam vet and as soon as he's out in the woods, he begins racking up a body count that would make Rambo raise an eyebrow.

Actually, he might not be so random a target as the leader of the group, Col. Hogan, is Danton's former teacher which ends up giving the film a bizarre homoerotic undertone.  I generally don't like to get into that sort of subtextual speculation (mainly because it's sort of played out) but this film seriously throws it in your face at full force.  To be fair, the selection of Mike is random but given the amazing coincidence involved here...It's either that or David Prior is a crappy screenwriter.  I'm leaning towards door number two, personally.

Troy Donahue is on hand as Hogan's wealthy benefactor and trying to help Mike are his wife Jaimy and her father, played by low budget mainstay Cameron Mitchell as Jaimy's Father (that's how he's listed in the credits).  Mitchell has been in dozens of movies, all of which have at least one thing in common: They all, to some degree, suck.  Here, he plays a cop with 30 years of experience and it would seem a bit of an issue with narcolepsy as he looks like he's about to fall asleep during his dialogue scene with Donahue.  Still, he is sort of a badass after that scene as he gets to kill a few mercs himself.  Beats the hell out of his turn in Space Mutiny.

This is one of his better appearances as the unintentional humor is simply off the charts.  The dialogue is hilarious, the action is over the top, especially after Mike turns the tables and begins killing the mercs and in general, it's a very fun, over the top action movie.

Highlights include a grenade down the pants, the amusing New York Seltzer product placement, Mike swinging a gigantic log around like it's a small bat, Mike casually breaking a guy's back on a tree, the tendency of the bad guys to use instant death as a punishment for even the slightest bit of failure (somebody watches the James Bond films I see), the villain's second in command Thornton who looks like Rowdy Roddy Piper and kills indiscriminately, Mike ignoring a broken arm and killing a guy with a stick, the nicely overdone finale, really the entire movie is just an over the top gem.

If there's one flaw I can find with it, it would be that the late-in-the-film killing of Mitchell and the rape and murder of Danton's wife comes off as a little more than was really needed but that only docks one point for me.  On the other hand, it does lead to a hilarious delayed reaction after Thornton takes a machete hit that lops off his arm followed by him getting beaten with the severed arm and then scalped.

I also don't generally dig freeze frame endings in lieu of an actual conclusion.

Deadly Prey was directed by the brother of our star Ted Prior, David A. Prior who has made a ton of action movies, many of which star Ted.  Most of their films were released by AIP (Action International Pictures, not the one Sam Arkoff ran), purveyors of low budget action insanity and prime candidates for a VHS Memories post at some point.

This is a movie definitely worth tracking down.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

VHS Memories XVI: Cornucopia Grab Bag Part 3

More randomness on tap.

This is a fairly decent Showtime horror anthology with entries from John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper.  Carpenter also appears in the wrap around segments as a cadaverous mortician (as opposed to his everyday appearance as a cadaverous director-say no to smoking, kids) and overall it's worth watching at least once.

I saw this on Monstervision with Joe Bob Briggs in college and it was a pretty decent low budget flick with Kane Hodder as a robotic werewolf or something like that.  Not nearly as awesome as it sounds but still good.

This is one of Hammer's more middle of the road films as Peter Cushing plays a local doctor who has a terrible secret relating to the mythological creature of the title.  Christopher Lee is also on hand in a rare heroic role and while they are good, the monster effects are embarrassingly lame.

Ah, here's a real gem!  This cheeseball 80's staple is a futuristic pirate movie that has Ron Perlman in a supporting role and a wildly imaginative screenplay.  It's flawed, yes as the screenplay is not quite focused enough to sustain itself but it's certainly worth at least a glance.

A moderately fun British werewolf flick that takes the standard Agatha Christie setup and plants a werewolf into it.  Peter Cushing is fun in a supporting role but, as tends to be the case with pre-80's werewolf movies, the wolf itself is rather underwhelming.  In fact, I think the role was played by a very large dog.

The best of the Leprechaun movies (though that's a little like saying the best case of Montezuma's Revenge), this is a wild riff on Alien with the usual fantastic performance from Warwick Davis as the title fiend and a wildly over the top screenplay that is remarkably stupid and yet at the same time, very entertaining.

This is an adequate heist movie that's an early effort from Golan-Globus.  Yeah, that's pretty much all I have for this one.  I saw it, it wasn't bad, I barely remember anything about it.

This is a flawed yet fairly decent haunted house movie from the 70's with Richard Crenna that I came across on DVD some last year (thank goodness for those Roger Corman's Cult Classics releases) that manages to overcome some hokey elements and a rather lame ending (Victor Buono as the devil side) to provide a reasonably entertaining movie.

We end with this 70's action gem that features Lee Marvin as a collector for the Kansas City mob who takes on Gene Hackman who owes the mob money.  It's a brisk 85 minutes of sleaze that goes by quickly and is surprisingly good.

Friday, January 27, 2012

VHS Memories XV: Godzilla vs. The Shack

I love the first cycle of Godzilla movies (1954-1975), they appeal to the basic joy to be found in seeing guys in rubber suits smashing sets.  I remember watching them on weekend afternoons when I was a kid.  Here's a selection of some of the VHS covers we've seen throughout the years.

Most of the films have been released on budget labels such as Goodtimes...

And Simitar who also put a few out on DVD with really bad prints.  Though this is probably the best film in terms of actual quality, it is not my favorite.  That will come later.

Godzilla's second outing has him facing off against a giant burrowing Ankylosaurus-looking monster that breathes fire.  Sadly, not as cool as it sounds.

This, however, is one of my favorites.  It's maybe the silliest, cheesiest thing in the world with a really bad suit for Kong and one of the best monster fights of all time at the end.  I saw this when I was a kid and it's still a fun ride.

Two of Toho's best collide in this excellent monster mash that is the last time we will see Godzilla as the bad guy for a while.

I dig this one quite a bit as it has the Big G teaming u with Mothra and Rodan to kick a three headed monster controlled by aliens the hell off their planet.  Some good action and a few other nice moments highlight this one.
Ghidrah is back for another butt whooping at the hands of Godzilla as once again, aliens try to invade using a giant monster.

MST3K covered this one, another team-up between Godzilla and Mothra as they take on a gigantic shrimp/crab.  This was initially intended to be another Toho King Kong outing but for some reason, Godzilla was shoehorned into things.  The final fight has maybe the most amusing moment of the series as Godzilla rips one of the monster's arms off and taunts him with it.

Here's where things begin to go a bit haywire as Minilla, Godzilla's son is introduced.  To be fair, I have not seen this one but I've heard it's okay.

Speaking of things I have yet to see, here is the crown jewel of the series, a huge monster mash as Godzilla and a bunch of others take on Ghidrah...Again.  Man, does this guy ever get tired of getting beaten to a pulp?

One of the lesser entries in the series, this is a little too slow-paced for me.
Now this is more like it (wish I could have found a decent VHS cover but the poster is just fine) as Godzilla squares off against an evil muck-monster in this eco-friendly, impressively gruesome, psychedelic smash-em-up.  This has crap in it that no kid's film would ever get away with today.

 More strangeness as another alien invasion yields another giant monster for Godzilla to curb stomp.

Our second film that has been graced with the MST3K treatment, this is a wild combo of spy movie and monster film as Godzilla goes up against a giant beetle monster plus the baddie from the previous film while teaming up with Ultra-Man rip-off Jet Jaguar.  It's silly,. it's stupid and it's also endlessly entertaining.  Bonus points for that frigging box art.

Ah, here's my favorite!  Godzilla staves off yet another alien invasion, this time from alien apes who have a robot version of Godzilla.  And yes, it is as awesome as it sounds.

The first cycle comes to an end with this oddly melancholy entry that still delivers some good monster action.  Mechagodzilla is back, as is a new beast called Titanosaurus and it's a very good sendoff for the series.

I don't want to get too into the more recent movies since I haven't seen too many of them and honestly don't have much to say.  Still, there are two post-70's entries I do feel a pressing need to roast...Uh, I mean discuss.

 I remember being stoked for this when it came out and when I finally saw it...Well, stoked is not the word I would choose.  I think bored would be closer to the mark.  Notable for bringing Raymond Burr back and being a truly obnoxious advertisement for Dr. Pepper.

I prefer to think of this pile of dung as "The Iguana who Ate New York".  It fits a little better.

That's all for now.

VHS Memories XIV: 50 Movie Pack Frenzy Part 2

Time to dive back into the realm of public domain movies and those great/awful 50 movie packs.  As it was with the last one of these I did, here's hoping I make it through with my sanity intact.  To ensure this, we'll have a shorter entry than usual.

We begin with this agreeably cheesy little gem, a George Zucco film from 1943 I mentioned in one of my Fangoria Flashbacks a while ago.  Zucco plays two roles here as twin doctors, one good and the other evil (as tends to be the case).  As usual, Zucco is the best thing about the movie, giving an enthusiastically hammy performance.

This is a 1996 alien invasion movie starring the late Charles Napier about...Well, an alien invasion.  The film has a really low budget, made for television feel to it and it does, at times, feel like a feature length pilot for a new series.  It's pretty much the first thirty minutes or so of Independence Day on a very low budget, stretched out for ninety minutes.  Yeah, it's pretty crappy.

This is a pretty bad British mad scientist movie shot in South Africa about a woman whose fiancee is a deranged but obsessed with the idea of soul transfers who has experimented on his family.  Not nearly as interesting as it sounds.

A bog standard, amazingly dull 70's conspiracy movie about a group of people who volunteer for some sort of mind altering research and end up as most characters in a 70's conspiracy movie end up...dead.  It's nothing you haven't seen before and certainly nothing you haven't seen done better.  Not even good enough for an MST3K episode.

This is a stunningly bad monster movie starring perennial B-movie star John Agar in a story about a small Texas town menaced by a mutated ape that was part of a military experiment.  Bad dubbing, bad acting, blurry cinematography, this is an amazingly bad movie that amazingly enough was not directed by Larry Buchanan...It was directed by a guy who worked with him though.

This movie was re-released to home video in the UK around 1983 and generated some controversy thanks to the advertising that made it seem very similar to a certain popular movie out at the time.

Needless to say, Universal was less than amused.  The ad was changed to this...

Well, they get an "A" for effort at the very least.  I especially love how they gave up trying to tie themselves in with E.T. and instead tried to make people think this was on the notorious "Video Nasties" list.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Special Video Game Review: Abobo's Big Adventure

If you look at the links section on my blog, you will notice a link to the website I-Mockery, a fantastic nostalgia site that is maybe the greatest website of it's type I have ever had the pleasure to visit.  Run by Roger Barr, it is an 80's nostalgia buff's paradise with great articles on old NES games, movies, there's really too much for me to get into lest I go totally off track with the article.

One of the great things Barr and his team do is make Flash games.  His latest is Abobo's Big Adventure, a loving tribute to those old NES games with the title character taking center stage in a hugely destructive, hugely entertaining quest to save his son.  The character, originally a villain in the Double Dragon series, is a huge mountain of a man who I can only describe as The Incredible Hulk if he went to a tanning salon and got hooked on steroids.

It's eight levels of hell as you smash your way through street fights, underwater battles, chases through space while attached to balloons, a Legend of Zelda level that's a blast, a Mega Man level that is practically evil in its difficulty and an ultra-cool Contra level followed by a final showdown based on Super Punch-Out.

This is one of the best games I have ever played in my life.  It's true joy for any fan of the old NES as well as anyone who just wants to play a fun, challenging game.

You can play it right here.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

VHS Memories XIII: Under the sea!

In the wake of Jaws, naturally there were many, many, many cash-ins, rip-offs and of course three actual sequels.  Jaws knock-offs are one of my favorite sub-genres so let's begin with a Jaws sequel that feels like a knock-off.

This is one of the worst sequels of all time, a hilariously awful piece of dung that begs us to believe that a shark would follow someone across an ocean just to eat them.

A pretty terrible 1978 knock-off with an octopus instead of a shark and several name stars who clearly were in dire need of some cash.

This is a Larry Buchanan movie about the Loch Ness Monster.  For those of you who have never heard of the man and never seen his movies, you are lucky as he is maybe the worst director of all time.  This particular outing has a lot of padding, a lot of bad acting and very little monster action.  When we do see the monster, it looks really awful.  That's about it.

I actually sort of like this Cirio Santiago riff on Creature from the Black Lagoon which concerns a fish-man menacing a resort.  The monster effects are decent and the pacing is not too awful.

 An early Bill Rebane film.  Rebane is a Wisconsin filmmaker who made a bunch of low budget horror and sci-fi movies in the seventies and eighties, most notably MST3K fodder Giant Spider Invasion.  This one is actually one of his better flicks though given the rest of his catalog, that isn't saying much.

This piece of crap is from Lamberto Bava, son of the late Mario Bava.  Fans of MST3K will know this one best, a cheese-fest about a bunch of idiots who try to stop a giant shark-octopus hybrid that's eating people off the coast of Florida.  Beer is guzzled, rednecks are chomped and unintentional laughs abound.

This is a weird one, a 1976 flick about a guy who can communicate with sharks and uses them to off people who mistreat other sharks.  I confess to not having seen this one, but there is someone who has.

Ugh, this is one of the dullest excuses for a monster movie I have ever had the misfortune of viewing.  Set at a beach resort, it's mainly a bunch of stupid comedy crap with maybe forty seconds of monster footage for the entire movie.  It's a real must-miss.

We finish with this, a direct rip-off of Jaws (as well as Jaws 2) from Italy that was so blatant that Universal sued the crap out of the filmmakers, prompting the company that distributed it (the legendarily cheesy Film Ventures International) to pull it and the movie has been unavailable legally in the U.S. since. James Franciscus and Vic Morrow star as the Brody and Quint substitutes respectively and to be honest, this film is actually pretty damn good.

Enzo Castellari directs with his usual skill and the shark head prop they use is surprisingly good considering the budget.  The overall film is a little stiff but the shark stuff is fun (especially when you get to play "find the stock footage"), as is Morrow who could generally be counted on for a good over the top performance.  As far as bad shark movies go, this one is definitely one of the better ones.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Wild Beasts (1983)

I first heard about this one on Dread Central's Dinner for Fiends podcast a few years ago and have been salivating for it ever since.  Thanks to the wonder of You Tube, I can now report on it.  The plot is as basic a plot as one could ever hope for.  It's set in Germany where the animals at a local zoo drink water that has been laced with PCP and go on a rampage.

No, this isn't joke, that's really the plot.

It all begins with ominous shots of... well, just a bunch of empty syringes just lying around followed by enough shots of running water to make your bladder scream for mercy.  After a ton of ominous shots of animals drinking water (plus footage of some of the big cats being fed what I can only hope was something killed before filming began, though with Italian exploitation films you never know) we get our first actual attack scene as a couple making out in their car is killed by rats.

Things escalate as the animals in the zoo get loose due to a malfunction in the security system and it's up to two zoo employees to figure out what's going on.  Characterization is minimal here and the dubbing is rather hit or miss but you can't really gripe about the acting when the real reason to watch a movie is the carnage.

We get some pretty good stuff, tiger attacks, elephants crushing people in their cars, a polar bear tears through a ballet class, it's all pretty ridiculous and gory with a rather tasteless final twist as some of the kids in the ballet class...drank some water earlier.  Yep, we're in exploitation land all right.

Sadly, the premise is about the only interesting thing about the movie as the stuff between the attacks is rather dull and perfunctory.  Still, it's worth tracking down just so you can say you saw zoo animals tripping on PCP going insane and a polar bear going on a bloody, if somewhat sleep looking rampage.

Friday, January 20, 2012

1990: Bronx Warriors (1982)

1990: Bronx Warriors is, like After the Fall of New York, an amazingly fun Italian action movie with a plot that mixes Escape From New York with The Warriors.  It's the future and The Bronx has been declared a no-man's-land by the government, leaving it to be ruled by gangs, specifically The Riders, led by Trash (Mark Gregory).  The President's daughter runs away and ends up with them and in response, a gruff man by the name of Hammer (Vic Morrow) is sent in after her.

Come to think of it, this movie is actually an inversion of the later Escape from L.A. only with the Vic Morrow character being replaced by Kurt Russell and being played as the good guy.  It's pretty neat to watch these films back to back, actually.

Back to the movie, it's pretty short on plot but long on wildly inventive and colorful characters such as Fred Williamson as a rival gang leader named Ogre and the great George Eastman as, what else, a giant monster of a man who loves carnage.

Enzo Castellari does a good job of keeping things moving with stacks of action scenes and weird moments and the only reason I don't rate this higher is that  the ending is rather abrupt and Castellari would top himself later on with Warriors of the WastelandBronx Warriors is an entertaining ride and it spawned a sequel, Escape from the Bronx that would later be spoofed by MST3K.

This is a good beer and pizza movie, check it out.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Alone in the Dark (1982)

Nope. this isn't the god-awful Uwe Boll film that came out a few years ago.  Rather, this is an early feature from New Line Cinema that's one of those films I've always wanted to see.  Dwight (The A-Team) Schultz plays a Potter, shrink at a mental hospital who replaces a popular doctor, much to the chagrin of loons Jack Palance, Martin Landau and Erland van Lidth.  Thinking Potter has killed the other doctor, they escape and run amok, targeting him and his family.

The story doesn't get much more complex than that as the rest of the movie is basically Palance and Landau chewing the scenery in some great set pieces.  While the other actors are just fine, the show is stolen by Landau and Palance.  Palance is creepy as hell and Landau is at his over the top best.

Donald Pleasence is also on hand as the head of the hospital, a pot smoking oddball who refers to his patients as "voyagers".  Donald is great as usual, delivering a wonderfully odd deadpan performance that makes you wonder if his characters is nuts as well.  It's a very sly parody of his Halloween character.

Jack Sholder does a good job directing things and his relationship with New Line will continue with The Hidden and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2.  The effects are also good as Tom Savini contributes a bit and if there's anything I can honestly gripe about it would be a little bit of stumbling in the pacing here and there and a rather loose narrative until the last third.  Apart from that, Alone in the Dark is a fun, silly, entertaining little horror film with a great cast.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

VHS Memories XII: 80's Grab Bag

Here are some random 80's flicks. Some good, some bad, some meh.

A rather bland Sho Kosugi action movie that has him as a cop going after the drug dealers who killed his partner.  It doesn't really wake up until the end and even then, it's a slog to get through.

A fun giant monster on the loose film with a clever, funny script by John Sayles and a nice turn from Robert Forster.  One of the better examples of its sub-genre, it has some nice gory moments and a sly sense of humor.  Definite recommendation.

This is an entertaining William Friedkin thriller starring William Petersen as a Secret Service agent going after counterfeiter Willem Dafoe.  The highlight of the movie is a really good car chase on a freeway, the twist in case is that it's a chase against traffic.  Good stuff.

Here's a funky little slasher from 1982 starring the great Michael Ironside as a twisted killer with some real women issues who targets a news reporter.  William Shatner is also on hand as the woman's lover and all in all, it's an agreeably tense motion picture.

I have no excuse for it, but I love this movie almost as much the original.  It's a goofy, really stupid parody that features an early role for George Clooney and a dynamite turn from John Astin as the mad scientist responsible for the killer tomatoes.  It's fun, just make sure you don't think too much during it.

One of the better Roger Corman 80's productions, this takes stock footage from Battle Beyond the Stars, a nice monster and tons of nudity and wraps it all into a gory 77 minute fun house ride.  I think this may have the most gratuitous shower scene in the history of film as the two female characters in the film come up with a plan of their own to defeat the alien...while sharing a steamy shower.  It's so hilariously out of the blue that it makes it impossible to get offended.  Great sleazy flick.

Here's another great bad taste horror flick as old time western star Rory Calhoun plays a motel owner who also has a popular line of food products...I think you can see where this is heading.  It's a wonderfully sick dark comedy with a bravura finale featuring a chainsaw duel between Calhoun wearing a pig head and the local Sheriff.  This is one you need to see.

A fun follow-up of sorts to Strange Behavior, this is an engaging 50's style alien invasion movie about aliens who landed here in the 50's and haven't updated their disguises since then (the film is from 1983).  A fun cast comprised of old vets like Ken Tobey as well as younger stars such as Nancy Allen make for an enjoyable way to kill 90 minutes.  There are some nice, gooey alien effects too.

This is a rather disappointing Alien riff which came out during the glut of underwater movies in 1989.  The other big ones were the similar and since we're being honest, worse Deep Star Six and the quite good James Cameron flick The Abyss.  This one has a great cast including Peter Weller, Richard Crenna and Daniel Stern as an underwater drilling team that comes across a parasite that ends up mutating into a horrible creature designed (and woefully underused) by Stan Winston.  It actually is pretty great until the monster comes into play which is really bad when you;'re making a monster movie.

Better is this neat little 1987 thriller that mixes Lethal Weapon with an alien invasion movie as cop Michael Nouri teams up with FBI agent Kyle MacLachlan to go after an alien who likes to inhabit bodies.  It's a real blast and one of the best blending of genres I have ever seen.

To finish things off, here's a notorious Scott Spiegel slasher set in a grocery store.  Shot in 1989 and cut all to hell by the MPAA, it has finally been given an uncut release by Synapse Films.  The story is pretty pedestrian (outside of an odd twist at the end) but the real showcase here is the incredibly gory set of murders featured.  Both Sam and Ted Raimi meet gruesome ends, a guy has his head crushed in a baler and there's much more in the first big job for KNB.  It's certainly worth a look and as one who works in a grocery store, I can say that they made full use of the location which is exactly what a movie set in a specific location should do.

About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.