Friday, June 18, 2010

20 YEARS OF "THE DAY THE LAUGHTER DIED"

















It's been a rough month here at SEx. For good reasons. Top 10 albums of the 90's resumes this weekend. Until then:

When I was 16, I loved Dice. What 16 year old shit-talking kid wouldn't: talkin' 'bout pussy, dirty nursery rhymes, a general fuck-you attitude, talkin' 'bout pussy. That first album, "Dice", doesn't age well. It's bad dirty mainstream comedy. If you're a 15 or 16 year old kid now, it may still be a hoot. Then again, kids today suck and find really shit things funny.

Anyway, here comes 1990 and I pick up "The Day The Laughter Died" at the Orange Park, FL Coconuts and I'm blown away by it. It becomes very influential to my life with it's vulgarity and absurdity. It's dirty and foul and incredibly politically incorrect but throughout has a stream-of-conciousness that raises it to a level of avant-garde art. And this is at the ascension of his career. When I finally saw Dice in an arena setting, it was fun but incredibly predictable. Over the years, the only thing that has stuck with me about that show at Bob Carr in Orlando was the ride down from Jacksonville with my friends Mike (who worked at the same Coconuts I bought the album from) and Brian in Mike's old-ass Toyota wagon and how far away from the stage we were. That shit was nosebleed.

That said, this album I can put on and listen to it from beginning to end like music. Whatever you think about Dice or even Rick Rubin, who signed Dice to Def American and saw something past the charade he became, you have to admit that if you take the plunge and listen to the whole thing (as well as the incredibly existential 1993 sequel, "The Day The Laughter Died, Part II" which chronicles a wounded Dice on his way down), there's something more going on that wasn't followed through on.



Such is the price of fame.

I still have vivid memories of my parents house circa 1990 laying in front of my stereo with headphones on listening to this album in the middle of night and trying to stifle my laughter. And while the whole album slayed me, it was mostly on this bit. I must have played this a zillion times over and over. And if you meet anyone who used to listen to his albums, they always remember this bit as being the pinnacle of Dice's comedic achievements. It pretty much sums up why Dice should've been more important than he is today (his own fault) and why maybe we saw something in him to begin with.



And since we're on the subject of comics, Doug Stanhope is still the king but charges too much for his shows and David Cross's bits annoy the piss out of me. If he hadn't chose comedy to exorcise his demons, I could easily see him becoming a cop to get even.

And on a completely random note, here's my go to video when I'm loaded. I don't know why but I feel the ned to share it.



DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER is on FXM now. I saw that at the U.A. of Orange Park 20 years ago this summer with my much-missed grandmother. I gots to go.

UPDATE!

The end of "The Day The Laughter Died, Part II". Fucking brutal.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

THIS MAN

Sam Raimi and Ghost House will be doing a film based on the This Man creepiness with STRANGERS director Bryan Bertino.

THIS MAN-NIKKI FINKE


Information about the This Man phenomenon can be found here.

We here at Serious Exploitation have solved the mystery.

This man...


... is Dean Stockwell.



Sunday, April 25, 2010

EATEN ALIVE (1977)


You’d think after hitting the big-time (and not getting paid for it), Tobe Hooper would have had carte blanche to tackle whatever subject he’d like. After all, director William Friedkin (THE EXORCIST) and producer Dino De Laurentiis (DEATH WISH, KING KONG) were photographed walking out of a screening of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) together, which I personally think lends credibility to a film reviled by critics and audiences at the time of its release. But no, Hooper found himself helming another horror picture, and lucky for us, it was EATEN ALIVE.

Decorated WWII vet-turned-actor Neville Brand (STALAG 17) stars as Judd, owner of the Texas-based Starlight Hotel, which has the distinct honor of housing a hungry crocodile in a pond right in front of its porch. It doesn’t take long to see that Judd’s a bit crazy and prefers to kill the folks who show up at his hotel rather than give them a room. On this particular evening, Judd has an assembly line of victims (and croc treats): a failed runaway hooker (Roberta Collins, CAGED HEAT!), her father (Mel Ferrer, HANDS OF ORLAC) and sister (Crystin Sinclaire, HUSTLER SQUAD) who’ve come from Houston to find her, a completely dysfunctional husband and wife (played by TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE’s Marilyn Burns and William Finley of PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE) and their child (Kyle Richards, little Lindsey Wallace from HALLOWEEN), as well as local bad boy Buck (who’s “rarin’ to fuck”), a role perfectly realized by Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund.



That simple storyline is essentially the plot and does it ever show. The script by producer Mardi Rustam (EVILS OF THE NIGHT) and Alvin Fast (writer of many a Greydon Clark film) was obviously poor to begin with, but between a talented cast and the personal nuances given the characters by Kim Henkel (writer of LAST NIGHT AT THE ALAMO and the original CHAINSAW, given an ‘adapted for the screen’ credit here) and the inclusion of Hooper’s lighting schemes and CHAINSAW-esque direction, a terrible night at the drive-in became a strange and interesting failure that keeps you watching. With more thought and time, EATEN ALIVE could’ve been a modern day horror classic.

All in all, Neville Brand is the real winner here (uncannily resembling Grant Hart from the influential post-punk/hardcore band Husker Du). The personally troubled actor gives a tour-de-force performance as the psychopathic Judd; his offbeat, gravel voice sells his character’s insanity, as does the child-like mannerisms he affects during kill scenes.



Unfortunately, one of my main problems with EATEN ALIVE has always been why Judd kills people. I’ve always been left to wonder if he’s been killing guests for years or if this is the first night he’s gone off the deep end and into murder. At first, the script sets up collusion between local madame Miss Hattie (Carolyn Jones) and the Sheriff (Stuart Whitman of GUYANA CULT OF THE DAMNED, and doing a damn fine Christopher George impersonation here, I might add). This development leads the viewer to think maybe the town knows about Judd’s handiwork but chooses not to deal with it, or actually endorses it to deal with nosy interlopers. Without giving away too much, they don’t, and once again this illustrates the failure of the script in regards to Brand’s character’s motivation and back-story, as well as that of the town’s.

EATEN ALIVE has always had a claustrophobic, shot-on-a-studio look that adds a touch of the surreal to the proceedings. As mentioned before, Hooper’s lighting and direction (especially in the adrenaline pumping finale), Henkel’s nuanced characterizations, and the altogether sleazy tone throughout make EATEN ALIVE a must watch 70’s horror film. More important, however, is to witness the undoing of a talented director and cast by a flimsy set-up and rushed production. You can really sense the movie trying to escape its exploitation roots, which makes it succeed despite its overall failure.



Recently re-released in a 2-Disc Special Edition by Dark Sky Films and available in Wal-Marts everywhere, EATEN ALIVE gets a total makeover that’s heads above the previous edition released by Elite Entertainment. Major kudos to Dark Sky for doing a bang-up job with EATEN ALIVE, from feature presentation to extras.

Disc 1 contains a remastered, 1:85 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, with a choice of English, Spanish and French language tracks and an option of English subtitles. The film itself is rather low-lit at times and grainy, but in this instance it adds to the cheapjack, drive-in ambiance that endears it to many and, therefore, the transfer presented here is just fine. Extras on this disc include a feature-length commentary that provides an informative overview of the production with producer Rustam, drive-in queen Collins, Finley, Richards and make-up artist Craig Reardon. The inclusion of a still gallery closes out the first disc.

Disc 2 contains a load of extras, including the Red Shirt Productions featurettes THE GATOR CREATOR and MY NAME IS BUCK. The 20 minute GATOR CREATOR is an informative sit-down about EATEN ALIVE with director Hooper, while MY NAME IS BUCK, clocking in at about 15 minutes, does a great job introducing us to Robert Englund’s acting career and his thoughts on what was his first horror film.



Red Shirt also produced the 5 MINUTES WITH MARILYN interview included on the second disc, and other than getting to see what Marilyn Burns looks like now, I found it pretty much a letdown. Compared to the other two interviews, this one seemed rushed and lacking in information.

The featurettes are rounded out by the MPI produced THE BUTCHER OF ELMENDORF: THE LEGEND OF JOE BALL, an interesting 23 minute look at a vintage Texas true crime case that was an influence on EATEN ALIVE. At the start, I believed the mini-doc was going to be quite boring, but the more interviewee Richard “Bucky” Ball speaks about his titular uncle (the patented Texas ease with which Bucky explains his family history is interesting in itself), the more odd and fascinating this simple portrait of a madman becomes. Joe Ball was a “not quite right” returning WWI soldier/bootlegger who later turned tavern owner with six alligators in a pit behind his bar. Over the course of time (explained in a very succinct manner here), Ball murdered at least two women he had intimate relationships with.

Thanks to true crime magazines, his legend grew over the years, with the legacy embellished to 12 murders and the feeding of human remains to the alligators. Ball’s recollections of Elmendorf, TX and his Uncle Joe (his story of being a child and watching patrons bring stray dogs and cats to throw to the gators for entertainment is quite chilling) make for an intriguing documentary which paints a strange picture of the old rural Southwest.



Given that EATEN ALIVE had a host of theatrical re-releases with different titles, its most appreciated that we are provided with the alternate credits and title sequences for DEATH TRAP and STARLIGHT SLAUGHTER (but where’s LEGEND OF THE BAYOU?). Yet the real find included here are comment cards from original preview screenings of EATEN ALIVE that range from moderately humorous to laugh-out-loud funny. On them, filmgoers lucky (or for some, unlucky) enough to be involved with the process gave their uncensored personal opinions. After scrolling through these multiple times, I’ve come to the conclusion that these hilarious cards of uncensored, audience thought are worth the purchase price alone. TV and radio spots, theatrical trailers and a slideshow also make their way onto a well-researched extras disc.

As a whole, the 2-Disc Special Edition of EATEN ALIVE puts everything in place for its rediscovery. Oddly enough, that rediscovery may lead to the realization of how much a failure the finished film is. Seriously, the movie annoyed me like never before, sort of like a smart kid playing dumb. EATEN ALIVE is just one of those movies that could’ve been something given the proper time and money. If any movie was ready for a remake (which Hooper could direct), it’s the highly watchable, yet ultimately disappointing, EATEN ALIVE.

Neville Brand shot ripped from
SCREENRUSH.CO.UK

Various EATEN ALIVE movie posters completely swiped from

NEFARIOUS FILMS


STRAIGHT TO HELL

WRONG SIDE OF THE ART

STORM WARNING (2007)



For a horror-thriller that breaks no new ground, the Australian STORM WARNING is a passable DELIVERANCE meets TEXAS CHAINSAW hybrid that delivers the gore (briefly) but fails in the brutality department. This damn thing needs to be a lot more brutal than it is. And the brutality that’s there doesn’t have any conviction.

This Australian lawyer and his French artist wife get lost in the mangroves while boating and take refuge in a perfectly art-directed slob palace. You’ve seen them before: houses in a horror movie that are designed to let the audience know that, hey, the family that lives here are psycho rapists.

They also happen to be pot growers. And the lawyer ruins their pot. Which also makes the psycho rapists a little more psycho rapisty in the long run.

So the father and his two sons who psycho rape the place up on a regular basis lock our two protagonists in the barn for most of the movie and terrorize them. They also have to contend with a psycho rapist mutt named Honky. Of course, using their artist and lawyer cunning, they fight back. Actually the French artist fights back because the Australian lawyer is too pussy to fight and gets a broken leg due to his pussiness.



As far as acting goes, the pussy lawyer is pretty much a statue. The French artist is perfectly realized by Nadia Fares (CRIMSON RIVERS). She’s no Ripley, but she lends the character a nice blend of femininity and resilience. The psycho rapists aren’t a bad lot of actors either, providing the off-kilter menace scumbags like these need.



However, the film itself is so pedestrian, it’s hard to recommend it, even as a weekend time-waster. The film looks good overall, but we’ve seen this so many times that this exercise in commendable, competent filmmaking is a crushing bore (Jamie Blanks, director of URBAN LEGEND and VALENTINE helms the pic, which now makes me realize why STORM WARNING is so blah).

STORM WARNING’s biggest mistake is that it pulls back on its brutality on numerous occasions, as if the makers are almost too scared to push anything over the limit. It had such a good shot at being a total bastard of a movie. Released on the Dimension Extreme label but the only thing extreme about it is how extremely yawn-inducing the film as a whole ends up being.




This type of film is better handled by Canadians. Somebody should have slipped the script to Paul Lynch (who was born in the UK, but makes Canada a viable exploitation mecca).

SUPERSTITION aka THE WITCH (1982)





SUPERSTITION was one of the last of the unrated horror releases of the mid-80's and it opened up in Miami in May of 1985. Some of the murders are pretty gruesome but most of them happen off screen. Other than the exploding head, I can't figure out why this movie couldn't secure an R rating.

It seems in 1692, this witch was drowned in a pond behind where this old ass house sits now. The new reverend and his family are moving in, until they find other accommodations. Are they building him a house? Possibly, because if you go by the logic of this movie, the land this house sits on is the town (the police hang out there constantly, as if they have no other place to go).

And you really get to know this house, kind of like EVIL DEAD. You're always in the kitchen or on the stairs. You hang out in the basement a lot or chill by the pond. The only time you're on another set is a trip to a makeshift Catholic Church library or when you're cinematically transported back to around 1692, and you end up in the ruins of a church or a wine cellar on the same property. You still get to chill by the pond though. This is classic low-budget, one-set location shooting.



Anyway, to make a long story short, the house is cursed and everybody except the new reverends (one old and drunk, one young and likable) know about it yet they do nothing except hang around and wait for others to get killed or get killed themselves.

There's a creepy old woman with a mute son subplot that goes nowhere. There's a drunk reverend who's losing his faith subplot that goes nowhere. There's turmoil within the drunk reverend's family that goes nowhere. And you got the young reverend who slowly (and I mean slowly) digs up the past and finally becomes a believer in the curse of the witch.

By all accounts, he should've got the fucking point that this place is bad news when the head inspector (Albert Salmi, by the way) tells him about all the deaths at the place over the years, not to mention the ones that happen right before everybody moves in (the beginning of the movie starts out with a head exploding in the microwave and a window cutting a guy in half).



You'd think when a saw blade magically pops off a saw, spins backward with amazing velocity, imbeds itself into the outgoing reverend's chest (in front of, like, five people) and keeps spinning until it's gone through the reverend and the chair, that somebody would tell the new reverend and his family, "Hey, you might want to stay at a Motel 6 until we get you a proper living arrangement."

If this is not the most blatant "get out" sign ever in a horror film, the second one should've really got them packing. If my daughter were pulled out of a pond with a severed arm clutching to her leg, I'd be out the door.

The witch likes to throw people around a lot. She also likes to slam doors, then break them down obviously for the dramatic effect. She's good for a couple of creepy moments but all in all, is wasted.

And that's a bad thing, because SUPERSTITION had all the elements to go somewhere, but it all got totally fucked up somehow.



How far out of control does your movie get that the characters seem like inexcusably clueless idiots and the proceedings makes no sense? SUPERSTITION begs for answers to these questions many, many times throughout it's 83 minute running time. The filmmaking is surprisingly good, the acting adequate for a horror movie from this time period and the deaths are quite inventive. Unfortunately, SUPERSTITION feels like pages and pages of the script got ripped out as if the production fell behind schedule. There's even a pajama change gaffe on one of the reverend's teen daughters in the thick of the finale (no nudity, though).

The writer, Michael O. Sajbal recently directed the theatrical Christian films, ONE NIGHT WITH THE KING and THE ULTIMATE GIFT. The director, James W. Roberson, was the cinematographer on REDNECK COUNTY and THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN.

Anchor Bay's 2006 DVD release is quite eye-pleasing but low on extras, including only a trailer for it's alternate title, THE WITCH.

SUPERSTITION video box art grabbed from DEATH WISH INDUSTRIES.

Head In A Microwave screencap yanked from DREAD CENTRAL.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

EVIL DEAD coming to Austin and GONE WITH THE POPE news!

I recently found this is the Serious Exploitation email box. I'll be honest. I rarely ever check it being that nobody ever writes me anything. But this was in there and I figured if David Szulkin and company thought enough to send me a press release, then goddamn it, I'm gonna post it. Plus EVIL DEAD is coming to Austin. I've got to support that.


GRINDHOUSE RELEASING Presents Duke Mitchell's GONE WITH THE POPE, Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD

Oscar-Winner Bob Murawski to Introduce Festival Screenings

LOS ANGELES - Grindhouse Releasing is proud to announce that Duke Mitchell's long-lost 1970s crime saga GONE WITH THE POPE will be shown on screens across the country following the film's successful world premiere in Hollywood.

A renowned nightclub entertainer, singer and movie actor known as "Mr. Palm Springs," Mitchell directs and stars in GONE WITH THE POPE as an ex-con who hatches a plan to kidnap the Pope in exchange for the ransom of "a dollar from every Catholic in the world." The movie has been described as "the holy grail for lovers of B-movies" and "a true gem from the American underground."

GONE WITH THE POPE was shot in 1975 but remained unfinished at the time of Duke Mitchell's death in 1981. The film reels sat in his son's garage until Grindhouse Releasing owners Sage Stallone and Bob Murawski offered to take a shot at piecing the movie together. Murawski took charge of the restoration and spent 15 years giving Mitchell's low-budget movie an A-list treatment in between editing Sam Raimi's SPIDER MAN 1, 2 & 3, DRAG ME TO HELL, and THE HURT LOCKER.

Murawski and wife/partner Chris Innis won Best Film Editing Oscars for their work on THE HURT LOCKER the same week that GONE WITH THE POPE premiered at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

"The audience response to the movie at the Hollywood premiere surpassed my wildest expectations," Murawski said. "The turnout was incredible, with the Egyptian Theatre filled to almost capacity. And the crowd was with the movie the entire time - laughing, gasping and cheering at all the appropriate places. The film ended to a thunderous applause that lasted a full minute. It was like a Cannes Film Festival screening. Or a rock concert. After 15 years of hard work finishing this movie, the feeling of accomplishment was tangible and profound. My only regret was that Duke himself was not with us to share it. However, I'm certain he was there in spirit. I feel we have done something truly special in finishing GONE WITH THE POPE, and am excited that audiences across the US and beyond will get a chance to experience the movie on the big screen in its upcoming theatrical tour."

The buzz from the film's debut caught the interest of Landmark Theatres, which has been working with Grindhouse on the revival of Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD. GONE WITH THE POPE is scheduled to open on Landmark screens in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Houston, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.

Murawski will travel to Copenhagen to introduce GONE WITH THE POPE at the CPH PIX Film Festival this month. He will also attend a festival screening at George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in May.

Meanwhile, Grindhouse Releasing reports success with its ongoing North American tour featuring Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD. The horror classic will screen April 3 at the Alamo Drafthouse in WInchester, Va., and April 10 at the Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes in San Antonio, Tx., on a triple bill with EVIL DEAD 2 and ARMY OF DARKNESS.

"EVIL DEAD is a movie that will never die," said David Szulkin, head of theatrical bookings for Grindhouse Releasing. "Thanks to Landmark Theatres, the Alamo Drafthouse, and other exhibitors, we've been able to bring the movie back to the fans who love it. Recent screenings of EVIL DEAD at the Nu Art Theatre in Los Angeles, the Alamo in North Austin, and other venues were sold out completely. The movie will continue to play through the end of 2010."

For more information and updates, visit www.GrindhouseReleasing.com and www.GoneWithThePope.com. For press, stills, and bookings, e-mail David Szulkin at info@grindhousereleasing.com.

GONE WITH THE POPE trailer

L.A. Weekly review of GONE WITH THE POPE by Karina Longworth

VARIETY coverage of GONE WITH THE POPE premiere by Carole Horst

GONE WITH THE POPE

April 3 - Grand Illusion Cinema, Seattle

April 23 & 25 - CPH PIX Festival, Copenhagen

May 6 - George Eastman House, Rochester, NY

May 10 - Doc Films, Chicago

May 21 & 22 - E Street Cinema, Washington, D.C.

June 4 & 5 - Sunshine Cinema, NYC

June 11 & 12 - Uptown Theatre, Minneapolis

June 18 & 19 Main Art Theatre, Detroit

June 25 & 26 River Oaks, Houston

July 2 & 3 Inwood Theatre, Dallas


EVIL DEAD

April 3 – Alamo Winchester, Winchester, VA

April 10 – Alamo Westlakes, San Antonio – with EVIL DEAD 2 and ARMY OF DARKNESS

April 16-17 – Cable Car Cinema, Providence, RI

April 23-24 – Guild Cinema, Albuquerque, NM

April 30 – May 1 – Music Box Theatre, Chicago

May 2 – 5 – Alamo Ritz, Austin, TX

May 14 – 15 – Hi-Pointe Theatre, St. Louis

May 21 – Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids, MI

May 22 - Hudson Horror Show, Poughkeepsie, NY with PIECES and ZOMBIE

May 28-29 – Oaks Theater, Oakmont, PA

June 5 – Cedar Lee Theatre, Cleveland

June 12- 13 – Palace Theatre, Syracuse

June 12 – Ken Cinema, San Diego

June 19 – Ritz East, Philadelphia

June 25 – Art Theatre, Long Beach, CA

July 9-11 – Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA

July 24 – Circle Cinema, Tulsa, OK

July 31 – Cinema Arts Centre, Huntington, NY

August 21 – Oriental Theatre, Milwaukee

September 4 – The Screen, Santa Fe, NM

September 10 – 11 – MIDWAY DRIVE-IN, Dixon, Ill., with S.F. Brownrigg’s SCUM OF THE EARTH and more!

October 15 – Castro Theatre, San Francisco

October 29 – 30 – Main Art Theatre, Detroit

About Grindhouse Releasing:

Owned by actor/director Sage Stallone and Academy Award-winning film editor Bob Murawski, Grindhouse Releasing has restored such notorious exploitation-horror films as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, CANNIBAL FEROX (a.k.a. MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY), Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND and CAT IN THE BRAIN, PIECES, and I DRINK YOUR BLOOD. Renowned for its commitment to excellence, the company has been called the Criterion of cult movies (Film-Talk.com). In addition to its DVD releases, Grindhouse distributes its films in theaters. Grindhouse Releasing partnered with Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder to release THE BEYOND in theaters and in 2010 launched a nationwide re-release of Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

THEY CAME FROM THE SWAMP: THE FILMS OF WILLIAM GREFE by Daniel Griffith



Oh boy, is this gonna be fantastic. THE WONDER WORLD OF K. GORDON MURRAY helmer Daniel Griffith is set to release this fall THEY CAME FROM THE SWAMP: THE FILMS OF WILLIAM GREFE, a documentary on South Florida filmmaking legend William Grefe.

Keep abreast of the goings on of Griffith and his films at:

THEY CAME FROM THE SWAMP website.

Ballyhoo Motion Pictures YouTube site.

THE WONDER WORLD OF K. GORDON MURRAY site.

I don't know Griffith personally but it's obvious the man has a driving obsession for the more obscure and untold aspects of the exploitation world. That needs to be rewarded. Check in at these sites today.

THE CAR (1977)



I first saw THE CAR on television way back in the day, and there is one scene in this film, THE one scene that every one remembers, that scared the ever loving shit out of me. I swore I heard that damn car’s horn outside my bedroom window many a night.

I guess it was about 1999 when ye ol’ Anchor Bay drove out the new model CAR. Never before released on home video, the 2:35 widescreen print of director Elliott Silverstein’s most interesting film was a watershed moment for a lot of genre nuts. If the future of DVD brings us widescreen releases of stuff like THE CAR, then we as movie fans not in love with the new school really do have a reason to live.



Jump ahead about 9 years. It’s May 6, 2008 and Anchor Bay’s version of THE CAR has been out of print on VHS and DVD for sometime, commanding collector’s prices for both on eBay. During a rough patch, I had to liquidate my DVD collection and THE CAR was one of those that had to go. I’ve rued the day since then, but then what do you know about that? A major Hollywood studio went and done me a solid; Universal Pictures re-released THE CAR ON DVD.

On May 13, 1977, twelve days before the unleashing of that garbage ass STAR WARS, America had the theatrical release of THE CAR given to them and the asshole filmgoers of the time ignored it. For shitty ass robots, of all things.

Almost 31 years to the day of it’s original unveiling, America was once again able to rectify it’s error and run out and get themselves a new refurbished CAR, and possibly figure out that this sleeper of a horror flick is ten times better than that fucking wookie movie people can’t seem to let go of.



James Brolin stars as Wade Parent, a sheriff whose small Utah desert community happens to run afoul of the titular car. The car, a 1971 Lincoln Mark III designed by custom king George Barris of Munsters and Batman vehicle fame, just shows up. It starts running people off the road, killing cops and attacking children and horses and private homes. It’s a long, black, creepy monstrosity with a lowered top and tinted amber windows. It has no door handles and it seems to be lacking a driver as well.

As more people are ground into the Utah dirt by the car’s evil wheels, it comes to no surprise that sooner or later, somebody in the cast was going to bring the idea of the supernatural into play. And that person would be the impotent, alcoholic and god-fearing deputy Luke played by master thespian Ronny Cox.

And the thing is, he’s right.

It’s the devil, or a disciple of the devil, or just pure telepathic evil, but whichever one it is, the car itself is real and must be stopped. And what’s left of the police force along with local dynamite salesman/mountain blaster R.G. Armstrong (LONE WOLF MCQUADE) get together for a rip-roarin’ finale that caps what is still today, a fun and unpretentious horror film safe enough to show your kids but not stupid enough to bore you silly. And it is still better than STAR WARS.

THE CAR has quite a pedigree too. Director Silverstein helmed CAT BALLOU (1965) with Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin and the Richard Harris classic, A MAN CALLED HORSE (1970). Writers Michael Butler and Dennis Shyrack co-wrote Clint Eastwood’s best film THE GAUNTLET (1977), as well as Chuck Norris second best film, CODE OF SILENCE (1985) and went back to Eastwood again with PALE RIDER (1985). You’ve also got Ronny Cox (ROBOCOP, DELIVERANCE) and Oscar nominated John Marley (LOVE STORY, FACES) lending needing credibility to the proceedings (it is a possessed car movie) as well as the Sarah Silverman-esque Kathleen Lloyd (IT LIVES AGAIN, “Magnum P.I.”) making every thing easy on the eyes when she pops up.



One of the major things to mention about THE CAR, for me anyway, is the start of what I consider James Brolin’s sweet spot, career wise. You talk about a hot streak: this film in 1977, CAPRICORN ONE in 1978, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR in 1979, the criminally underrated NIGHT OF THE JUGGLER in 1980 and the 1981 buddy-action caper HIGH RISK with Cleavon Little (BLAZING SADDLES) and Anthony Quinn (ACROSS 110th STREET), which while not criminally underrated is underrated none the less. After RISK, we lost a great action star to the unfulfilling world of soap opera network TV.

I’m totally going to hang myself out on a limb here, but this transfer may be better than the Anchor Bay version. Granted I can’t make the comparison because I don’t have that release anymore, but for the life of me, I don’t remember it looking this good, and I know for a fact, that back in ’99, the Anchor Bay version was as sweet as they came.

And technically, this is a good-looking horror movie. Even though it resembles a made for TV pic in some respects (most 70’s Universal theatrical releases did), it’s obvious that Silverstein and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld, knew just what they had in their surroundings and made excellent use of the Utah landscapes, shooting in glorious Panavision. The cinematography makes you want to jump right into the dusty, sun-soaked, mountainous terrain of the film, even if Satan is out there trying to run you down.



The Anchor Bay version had some well-written liner notes that are not included here and I remember them talking about filming people or possibly Ronny Cox in doorways to signify something, somehow getting arty about shooting THE CAR. Who knows? Maybe that’s what makes it so interesting and fun.

The Universal release is also missing the 5.1 surround present on the Anchor Bay version, opting here for a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio presentation. It works just fine for this anamorphic dual-layer disc. No chapter list, which is interesting but it does have the original trailer.



Like any film that helped shaped my odd tastes, it’s always good to see THE CAR again. Hell, there’s even a whole new generation of horror fans who’ve evolved since the original Anchor Bay release and have possibly been deprived due to the wacky price structure of quickly OOP DVD’s.

Jump ahead again to 2010. THE CAR is still readily available for you to test drive.

Brolin and Car pic hotwired from Cinematical.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

THE NUDE BOMB (1980)


I remember catching THE NUDE BOMB years ago on cable. I think it was ON TV actually, an early pay service in Miami that broadcast on a UHF channel and came on about 7pm at night (9am on the weekends). They began their signal and you had this little box you switched from off to on. Hence ON TV.

I remember also watching the horse racing replays before the channel turned into ON TV, which may be why I’m a gambler now.

The point here is that I was a kid, maybe about 7 years old and I found THE NUDE BOMB hilarious then. Just the name alone conjured up some salacious 7-year-old sex thinking. Sadly, all the nudity was brief male ass, no titties. I was heartbroken.

When the GET SMART release was in theaters, Universal felt it was high time to break out the Don Adams big screen Maxwell Smart debut to create some synergy on the home video market. If you include the recently released GET SMART’S BRUCE AND LLOYD OUT OF CONTROL, a cash-in quickie following two of the new film’s peripheral characters, it’s Maxwell Smart summer.

I was excited to check out this childhood favorite again. Widescreen to boot.

Holy Fuck, I wish I’d left well enough alone.



I can’t imagine being the age I am now and watching this thing when it first came out. What a comedic disaster all around.

The plot concerns a bomb that when dropped will turn everybody in the area nude. CHAOS, the group of bad guys that was the bane of Maxwell Smart’s existence, is again responsible for the impending nakedness at hand and wants a princely sum to not drop these things on the general public. So it’s up to Maxwell Smart and his team to find out where CHAOS is hiding and put an end to the nefarious plan.

Only for them to get there, Smart and his team have to unload the worse jokes, innuendos and one-liners that would only make a 7-year-old kid laugh.



These jokes aren’t even groaners. They’re assholers. Assholers are jokes that are so bad, that when strung together feature length, they make you feel like a complete asshole for watching the movie. The jokes are so bad that it’s almost as if everyone involved with the production had a vendetta against the human race.

Some of you might say that I can’t accept the “clean” humor of the film. Nobody is saying fuck or shit constantly, nobody is showing their titties and bush for yuks, and nobody’s sticking their cocks through shower stall holes waiting for fat P.E. teachers to grab a hold while that person’s friends laugh and leave him.You know what? Maybe you’re right.

But those same people doing the finger pointing at me probably think DORF ON GOLF is comedy gold.



As it stands, the comedy here is weak and creaky and the cast seems as if they were in a hurry to get out of working on this film and get in a good movie. Hell, Dana Eclar, MacGyver’s buddy, is most out of his element here. He’s a good fatherly sidekick, but he’s no straight man.

The only thing to recommend is a young Sylvia Kristel (PRIVATE LESSONS) in her prime. I forgot how hot she was. And with a name like THE NUDE BOMB, Kristel should’ve been buck-ass naked from beginning to end.

The DVD looks good enough considering its release is purely cash-in. No trailer and no chapter menu. Shit, I’m surprised they remembered to put the movie on there.

I think what really hurts is the good memories I had as a kid were totally obliterated. And I’m ashamed at what I considered funny, even at 7-years-old. I can say that the desk car part is still cool, but otherwise, stay far, far away from THE NUDE BOMB unless you’re a cinematic masochist because this shit makes NIGHT PATROL look like BLAZING SADDLES. And that's coming from a NIGHT PATROL fan.

NUDE BOMB ephemera nicked from movieposters.com

Sylvia Kristel photo swiped from Jahsonic.

SEARCH AND DESTROY (1979)


I would have never, ever…ever, ever, ever thought a fun drive-in action pic could be set in Niagara Falls.


Well didn’t William Fruet’s 1979 lensed SEARCH AND DESTROY make me its little bitch. I’m just over a barrel for this forgotten slice of Canadian filmmaking.


Perry King (CLASS OF 1984) and Don Stroud (COOGAN’S BLUFF) star as Vietnam vets who’ve pissed of the wrong governmental Vietnamese liaison. Seems back in the shit, they left him to die when he left one of their buddies to die. And he lied about it! Dirty commie bastards.


Cut to 1978 and someone is bumping off the remaining members of King and Stroud’s platoon. There’s no secret here. It’s the Vietnamese liaison dude who’s listed in the credits as “Assassin”. Shit, this movie moves along at such a clip, they don’t have time to give the killer a name.


Since the assassin puts Stroud in the hospital pretty early in the film, this is Perry King’s movie all the way. And he and Victor Charlie shoot up downtown Niagara Falls in fast-paced, well-executed action scenes that make you wonder why Fruet’s FUNERAL HOME (1980) is such a goddamn sleep inducer.



Damn, I haven’t even mentioned George Kennedy’s in it fresh off of MEAN DOG BLUES (1978). I am now and he’s a fucking character actor rock throughout this entertaining nonsense. You know that feeling you had when you were a little kid that wherever you went with your dad, you knew you were safe? George Kennedy gives me that feeling in any movie I see him in. I know I’m going to get good old fashioned meat and potatoes scenery chewing and the movie isn’t going to suck too badly. I know he’s been in some shit but it’s ALL entertaining shit.


When somebody came up with the Ford slogan “Quality is Job #1”, I’d bet dollars to fucking doughnuts they were watching George Kennedy rip up the screen. It may have even been this movie. Ford owes George Kennedy some residuals.


From start to finish, SEARCH AND DESTROY shows excellent tech credits and has turned me onto a new band I knew not existed. Ever hear of FM ? I hadn’t but this progressive rock trio out of Canada has a Goblin-esque sound that right out of the gate makes your ears perk up and adds even more to an obviously skimpy bottom line.


And that’s the great thing about SEARCH AND DESTROY. There’s a level of craftsmanship plus dedication and chutzpah that comes across in every frame. You got Perry King damn near killing himself a couple times falling off of rocks and shit. The extras on the street during the downtown shootouts looked confused as hell as if Fruet and company went guerrilla on Niagara Falls during busy season. The music as noted before is top-notch and the acting all around great (save for Tisa Farrow but I didn’t have to tell you that). This little bastard has so much energy to it, I unplugged my DVD player and SEARCH AND DESTROY kept it powered up.

It also is one of the late great Film Venture International’s releases and that explains a lot too. Ed Montoro knew a pretty decent b-film when he saw it. It’s a no-brainer he’d throw a little loot towards Canada way to pick this fine sleeper for 1981 U.S. release. Why he chose to market it with a one-sheet with a guy who looks maybe Peter Coyote or Sam Waterston with a beard and a guy who kind of looks like Don Stroud, only that man knows. But nothing beats the poster for the retitling called STRIKING BACK that I poached off of the fantastic all things Canadian genre site, CANUXPLOITATION (who don’t share my love for this film).



The way of the winner! Fuck yeah. Sounds like a Wheaties ad. Actually, an all-bran cereal called SEARCH AND DESTROY with the STRIKING BACK artwork on the box taunting me to eat it with the way of the winner tag line? I don’t even need milk.


The Dark Sky double feature with THE GLOVE is gold and the print used here is flawless. Do yourself a favor and check out SEARCH AND DESTROY. You’ll be glad you did.



George Kennedy photo ganked from Cinissimo.

Friday, March 19, 2010

PROPHECY (1979)


One of my lasting memories was as a five year old kid and seeing a billboard for PROPHECY on the way back from visiting my late uncle and aunt in Pembroke Pines. That’s pretty terrifying artwork for that age and I was so freaked out and excited by it that John Frankenheimer’s eco-horror misfire has occupied a space in my brain ever since.

Cut to a few years later and after seeing it on TV, I can’t say I was impressed. And I was probably 7. This means I was pretty impressionable. Whatever, one more horror film down, 109,456 more to go.

Fast forward to 2010. I still have PROPHECY on the brain and decide after 20+ years, its time to revisit the old girl.

I’m still not impressed.

But I looooove this fucked-up movie.

Robert Foxworth and Talia Shire play doctor and musician. Foxworth is a doctor who specializes in social justice while Shire plays the day away with a local orchestra. She’s pregnant and he doesn’t want kids in this crappy world. By sheer movie luck, Foxworth gets a break from a politically connected friend to investigate a logging factory in Maine for the EPA. Why the EPA would trust such a sensitive job to one lone general practioner who specializes in treating ghetto denizens for rat bites on the whim of a federal flunkie is beyond me, but hey, it was 1979.

So up to Maine we go. There FoxShire (for brevity) run into a dispute between the local Native Americans and the corporate logging company. The company is poisoning the land and the Indians, led by everybody’s favorite Irish-Italian Armand Assante are practicing non-violent protest, even while they’re having chainsaws thrust in their faces.

Foxworth teams up with Assante and gets aggressive about what’s being dumped in the waters of the forest and lo and behold, mercury is showing up in the muck of the bank. And that is creating huge monster fish, crazy ass raccoons and mutant bears. Here's the killer raccoons by the way.



And since Shire’s been eating mercury tainted fish, there may be a mutant baby in the future. That's another movie all together.

Until that happy day, we only have the killer mutant momma bear and a couple of mutant baby bears terrorizing the forest and a Talia Shire that cries and stays silent a lot and while the kills are minimal, the movie makes up for it with hammy acting and out-of-the-ordinary shoddy tech work from the man who made THE TRAIN and THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. But it contains one of the best kills ever committed to celluloid. So goddamn goofy, I’m going to include it here. It’s a definite spoiler so if you’d rather watch it within the larger context of the film, don’t watch this.



Did you watch it? Was that fucking fantastic?

The movie itself never lives up to the dizzying awfulness of that clip but there’s something here that compels you to watch. Like maybe somewhere this movie is going to gel into something so bad it’s awful but save for the final 10 minutes or so it’s pretty much a bore fest. Yet I can’t recommend it enough. Maybe you had to be on the couch with me.

Or maybe it’s just good old nostalgia.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Alex Chilton (1950-2010)



Jim Derogatis obit for Alex Chilton.

He was going to be here at SXSW this weekend. This shit is getting too much.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NEVER BACK DOWN (2008)

Some people just don’t get it. Look at those doofs called “critics” at Rotten Tomatoes who are slagging one of the better popcorn pictures of the past few years.

I fortunately do get it. And it’s good for you that I know what I’m talking about. That I know what I know. That I appreciate a good re-hash as long as it ups the ante on the exploitation it’s exploiting. And NEVER BACK DOWN? Well, it does just that.

Without me, you’d probably just dismiss this well-handled B-movie until it showed up on Spike TV at three in the morning.

Now to be quite honest, it’s not even a re-hash of THE KARATE KID (1984). It shares the same lineage, but really it’s a re-hash of the vastly underrated SHOWDOWN (1993), the Billy Blanks vehicle that starred him as a school janitor teaching a nebbish new student martial arts so he can beat up the kid who’s the school’s martial arts master and get his now ex-girlfriend (an early role for Ben Stiller’s wife, Christine Taylor).



Of course, SHOWDOWN was a direct re-hash of KARATE KID, but the camp humor that abounded throughout made it stand out from the KARATE KID re-hash pack and ultimately surpass the vastly overrated KARATE KID itself. It also helps if you have the late Brion James as an irreverent school principal in your cast. If you haven’t seen SHOWDOWN, get thee to Ebay.

In NEVER BACK DOWN, Jake Taylor (Sean Faris, “One Tree Hill”) is a football player from Iowa with natural American Streetfighting ability who moves to Orlando, FL after the drunk driving death of his father and so his tennis-prodigy little brother can attend some tennis academy. Before you think we may get some tennis circuit hi-jinks ala THE BREAK (1995), the Vincent Van Patten cult classic that was THE KARATE KID of tennis, let it be known that the kid thinks his brother’s fighting is way cooler than tennis, which worries Jake’s bitchy mom (Leslie Hope, “RoboCop: Prime Directives”) because she blames Jake for the father’s death and doesn’t really like him or his fighting. Jake was with his dad the night he died and instead of taking the keys from him, he let Pops drive. Of course, if he didn’t let his dad kill himself, then he’d have no fuel to fight and NEVER BACK DOWN would be without its driving catalyst.

Now the second driving catalyst is high school rich boy/master of mixed martial arts is Ryan McCarthy (Cam Gigandet, WHO”S YOUR CADDY?) who beats Jake’s ass in a fight at a party. McCarthy’s girl, Baja (Amber Heard, ALPHA DOG), sets Jake up by inviting him to his own ass-kicking, but really, she just wants to Greco-Roman wrestle with the new guy. Jake’s new buddy, Max (Evan Peters, “Invasion”), convinces Jake that his natural American Streetfighting ability would gel well with mixed martial arts and therefore he takes up the ass-kicking business by training with Senegal-by-way-of-Brazil Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou, DEEP RISING), a mixed martial arts trainer whose got some of his own demons to fight and therefore ended up near Disney World.



At the end of NEVER BACK DOWN, there’s a big tournament and a happy ending. Which I knew was going to happen. You know it’s going to happen. It’s supposed to happen. In this post-post-irony period, if he didn’t win, it would look cliché.

What works best about NEVER BACK DOWN is that it succeeds greatly in giving the intended action audience what it wants. Many films nowadays (let’s say for example, the GONE IN 60 SECONDS remake) promise a decent enough trailer and the end result when all put together is stupendously boring and contemptuous of its demographic. Not the case here.

Every cliché is lovingly rendered for the 21st Century, every punch and crunch professionally sound designed for maximum cringe-inducing effect and every ass-kicking expertly staged by fight choreographers Damon Caro (DAWN OF THE DEAD remake) and Jonathan Eusebio (MAX HAVOC:CURSE OF THE DRAGON). Mucho kudos to director Jeff Wadlow (CRY WOLF) who took this son-of-a-bitch seriously; his attention to detail shows in the final product. Hell, he even rips off the x-ray bit from Chiba’s original STREETFIGHTER (1975) so you know he’s done his genre homework.















Let’s also give it up to writer Chris Hauty, whose only other IMDB credit was writing Disney’s HOMEWARD BOUND II. Was it desperation that led him to pitch KARATE KID meets UFC in Walt’s backyard? Whatever it was, bully for him, putting the pieces together where they need be (although, Chris, you know this shit is SHOWDOWN. You can’t fool me.)

One of the most important technical parts of NEVER BACK DOWN is that logic is never even hinted at. Genre movies lately try to inject logic in what is essentially an illogical universe, i.e. the movies.


At this new school in Orlando, EVERYBODY is all about mixed martial arts, kind of like Vince Lombardi High, where EVERYBODY was all about the Ramones, a world that only exists in the movies, which is what I want when I go to the movies.


There’s no cops, no punishment for those involved in illegal fighting or uploading teen fighting videos on the Internet and no monitoring of any of the kid’s activities in any way shape or form. These people don’t really exist so their world doesn’t exist thus making it an extremely fragile netherworld whose only enemy is any semblance of logic, which at that point would disrupt its universe like bad kryptonite and render NEVER BACK DOWN unforgivably pointless.

Needless to say, a cinematic experience like this is extremely rare and deserves your attention.

But NEVER BACK DOWN really deserves you attention because it’s never boring, consistently brutal and heart-warmingly familiar throughout its whole 110 minute running time. Like RAMBO, it promises what’s in the trailer. Unlike RAMBO, it doesn’t give you more. But for a SHOWDOWN rip-off, you don’t expect it to.

STREETFIGHTER x-ray pic co-opted from MOVIE FEAST.

ROCK 'N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL pic punked from Theme Park Radio Blog.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

DEAD SNOW (2009)

"Have you seen that new Nazi Zombie movie called DEAD SNOW?"



"There’s only one definitive Nazi Zombie film and that’d be SHOCK WAVES(1977)."



That’d also be a big resounding yes in being biased because it was shot in Florida by Ken (KING FRAT) Weiderhorn. That said, I’m all for another entry in the Nazi zombie sweepstakes because other than SHOCK WAVES, there aren’t many and the ones that are out there, like Rollin’s ZOMBIE LAKE aren’t so hot. So when I heard about DEAD SNOW, I was more than willing to give it a try and I did.

And SHOCK WAVES is still the undisputed king of Nazi Zombie movies.



A gaggle of Norwegian med students and their girlfriends take a holiday to a snow covered mountain cabin to unwind. Then the Nazi Zombies show up looking for their treasure. That’s pretty much the jist but it’s told so horribly that by the end I was spouting much cooler sub-plots for DEAD SNOW to my unimpressed girlfriend that somehow escaped writer/director Tommy Wirkola and co-writer/actor Stig Frode Hendrikson.




Was a working script somehow a liability on the set? Nothing makes much sense past the cliché “It’s spring break! Let’s go on a vacation and get killed!” grouping of young people. Why are certain characters even there and what’s their motivation? Why has no one seen this plethora of Nazi zombies in the years they’ve been around? Matter of fact, where’s the fucking town that’s mentioned in the movie?

There’s some good old school FX and way too much CGI blood spurts. It’s in serious need of a Nazi hunter. It’s better than ZOMBIE LAKE. It could use a town full of locals to add a bit of production value to it. It needs to be jacked up and have a whole ‘nother Nazi Zombie movie slid under it.

When it pops up on IFC, who also released it here in America, you might enjoy it better. Paying for it is way too much to ask.

Monday, March 8, 2010

OVER THE TOP (1987)



So Stallone drives up to his estranged son’s military school graduation in a beat-up semi, bearing documents that prove his paternity and a desire to make up for not being around the kid’s whole life. The kid wants none of it. I wouldn’t either, because Stallone is fucking insane. How else would you characterize a guy who’d drive his 18-wheeler through a rich guy’s iron gate, over his beautiful fountain and straight through the front door, all for the love of a kid he met two days ago? If I was the kid, I’d run. But then if my dad was trying to become the world champion of arm wresting, I’d give him another shot.

OVER THE TOP stars Stallone as Lincoln Hawk, ne’er do well trucker and part time arm wrestling hustler, whose ex-wife (Susan Blakely) is dying of cancer. At her behest, he agrees to make peace with their son and drive him to see her in California, over the objections of her rich father (Robert Loggia). Along the way to California, the kid runs into traffic, sleeps in trucks by the side of the road, arm wrestles 12-year-old truck stop trash and generally learns how to be an all around lout like his crazy father.



Stallone’s big dream is to win the arm wrestling championship in Las Vegas, the prize being a shiny new truck, which he’ll use to start a business that lets him and his son ride around America being louts together. The boy’s rich grandfather has other plans, like proper schooling, proper food, college in the near future. Ideas Stallone’s character would arm wrestle to the ground.

So the mom dies, the kid runs back to grandpa, then Stallone drives his truck through the house, gets sent to jail, signs over the kid to grandpa then goes to Vegas. He sells his truck and bets all the money on himself, then has to beat ‘Bull’ Hurley (Rick Zumwalt), arm wrestling champion from Jacksonville, FL who hates Stallone with a passion. The kid changes his mind after finding letters from Stallone his mom hid from him, steals a pick-up, somehow gets on a commercial flight to Vegas with no one asking questions and shows up in enough time to give Stallone roughly the same speech Talia Shire gave him on the beach in ROCKY III.



The best part is the guy in the arm wrestling championship who drinks motor oil to Psyche up. The worst part could be Kenny Loggins warbling “Meet Me Half Way Across The Sky” the whole goddamn movie.



This Cannon Production had a lot of press, a lot of toy marketing and no audience. The script is downright horrible, credited to Stallone and Stirling Silliphant (writer of THE ENFORCER (1976) and SHAFT IN AFRICA (1973)), but to be honest you can’t produce a decent bowel movement without the proper food. How anyone thought this story would make a decent film is beyond me.


Nice to see the late Rick Zumwalt (actual five time arm wrestling champ) here, who was in three films for Cannon in 1987 including this crap, the Fat Boys’ DISORDERLIES and Jamaa “Let’s put a crack-smoking midget wrestler in there” Fanaka’s immortal PENITENTIARY III. If you’ve never seen PENITENTIARY III, kill somebody for the chance.



Rick Zumwalt pic lovingly swiped from armwrestling.com

TUFF TURF (1985)



It’s been a long time since my eyes have graced the 1985 New World Pictures release, TUFF TURF. You know the one. Jimmy Spader as the ultra-cool Connecticut transplant slumming it up in an L.A. high school, running afoul of Nick (Paul Mones, STREETS OF FIRE), trying to get busy with Frankie (Kim Richards, the WITCH MOUNTAIN series) and hanging out with Jimmy (Robert Downey Jr., THE PICK UP ARTIST), who just happens to play drums for Jim Carroll (musician and author of BASKETBALL DIARIES) even though he’s in high school.

Spader’s character, Morgan, has just moved to L.A. with his Mom (Claudette Nevins, 1961’s THE MASK) and Dad (Matt Clark, WHITE LIGHTNING). Dad apparently was a real estate agent who lost his business and Mom doesn’t seem to be adjusting to the move too well, not to mention she doesn’t approve of Morgan’s tendency to cause trouble where ever he goes and the fact he gets kicked out of prep schools a lot.



Why these people had to leave Connecticut for L.A. so Dad can drive a cab in the shitty parts of town while trying to get his California real estate agent’s license is never really explained. But then again, TUFF TURF didn’t win the 1985 Oscar for best original screenplay.

At his new public high school, Morgan gets the hots for Frankie, who happens to be the girlfriend of gang leader Nick, who heads a local group of ruffians called the Tuffs.

Hence, TUFF TURF.

Obviously, this causes a lot of trouble for everybody involved, culminating in a warehouse showdown and a big musical ending. Not to mention a few musical interludes along the way.

Matter of fact, I never remembered TUFF TURF being a fucking musical.

What TUFF TURF really is, is THE POM POM GIRLS meets THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, except nobody’s black and Jennifer Ashley isn’t in it.

TUFF TURF reminds me so much of the Crown International teen flicks of the 70’s, like the aforementioned POM POM GIRLS. In Crown International flicks, teenagers do whatever they want and they were like travelogues of things to do when you’re a teenager. You drive around Beverly Hills and look at houses for a long time. You crash country clubs. You dance badly at concerts in warehouses. You do very visual things only teenagers would do in movies, if only to make it look like there was more money involved in the production and to pad out the running time to feature length.

And every so often, bad, violent things happen. And you throw Kim Richard’s titty in there too (however, it was a body double, but hey, titty’s titty). And you make it all look like an 80’s music video, which in the 80’s, people did.

Suffice to say, I really enjoyed this goofy ass movie.

It’s main fault is that it never knows what the hell it wants to be. A musical? A gang pic? An after school special? Yet 23 years later, that’s what makes it unique. It’s a throw-shit-and-see-if-it-sticks pastiche of teen movie clichés wrapped up in Madonnaville.

The acting is spot-on all the way around and the kinetic energy the film spits out keeps you watching. Director Fritz Kirsch (CHILDREN OF THE CORN) gets the most out of his limited budget and limited script.

Anchor Bay put this out widescreen a few years back but I watched it on a 50 cent video I picked up at the flea market. Shot open matte, everything is framed perfect for a satisfying full screen experience, and you get to see the crew members hand trying to steady a swinging rope after the climatic fight scene. Won’t get to see that in a spiffed up DVD.

Maybe I’m just nostalgic or extremely bored, but I have to recommend TUFF TURF, especially if you haven‘t seen it in a long time.

Friday, March 5, 2010

SQUEEZE PLAY (1979)



















SQUEEZE PLAY may be the best ladies softball film ever made. And it holds the distinct honor of being the only movie where a softball gets batted into a guy's ass.



I think it also has the distinct honor of being the only movie where all the main characters work at a mattress plant.

Samantha seems to hate softball, only if because it keeps her fiancé Wes from spending time with her. After making him promise to give up softball, Wes reneges after a winning season, so Samantha, just to be bitchy, comes up with the idea that he should put a woman on the team. Mary Lou, a Georgia Peach with the worst southern accent ever, is on the run from her father (because he thinks she's a lesbian, I'm not really sure) and just happens to be a world-class pitcher. After Mary Lou's disastrous try-out, the girls at the mattress plant start their own team, challenging the men to a battle of the sexes in the climatic game.

Of course, they all have to enter the wet T-shirt contest beforehand.

The horrible jokes and sight gags come fast and furious and the more they miss, the more fun the movie becomes. You can't help but love a film that ends a scene with someone off screen yelling, "fuck".



I have to use that old cliché: they don't make them like this anymore. There's barely a plot, it's strung together with various low jinks and Lloyd Kaufman never misses an opportunity to ogle some tit.

It also makes me wonder what the hell happened to Troma and Lloyd Kaufman.

My buddy,Murphy, put it best when he said that recent Troma films started sucking because they began pandering to their demographic. I've found recent in-house Troma productions somewhat funny, but when they start veering off into self-referential shtick, I'm reminded why their early films like SQUEEZE PLAY work so well; they're real comedies with likeable characters, not commercials for Toxie and Sgt. Kabukiman with a few forced laughs thrown in.

SQUEEZE PLAY presents good-natured buffoons having good-natured raunchy fun in what feels like a real world situation, albeit skewed with patented wacky Troma humor.

The new stuff is mean-spirited not to mention they come off as parodies of a Troma film. What happened to the Troma where everybody was invited to the party instead of the hardcore fans? I've never been partial to cliques and I think that's the reason why I find the new stuff rather lacking.--5/22/07