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Showing posts from 2017

The Satan Bug (1965)

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With all the recent talk of nuclear destruction, it's easy to forget the many ways we can destroy the human race without the benefit of someone pushing a big red button.  In fact, the fact that it is humans with families manning those buttons that have many times saved us from accidental destruction.

But what if a determined maniac (or group of maniacs) got their hands on something much more subtle than a nuclear weapon?  Truth is, there are a lot of diseases that we pat ourselves on the back for eradicating sitting on ice in various places around the world and it is the height of naivety to believe it hasn't crossed someone's mind on how to turn it into a weapon.

And what if someone with the resources to do so got their hands on that weapon?  That is the scenario we are confronted with in The Satan Bug.

At a remote California research facility called Station Three, Dr. Baxter (Henry Beckman) has created a new weaponized strain they nickname the Satan Bug.  An airborne vi…

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

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"The third one is always the worst."  Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) makes this comment after seeing Return of the Jedi and the conversation turns to which Star Wars movie (as of 1983) was the best.  It's also a not-so-subtle swipe at X-Men: Last Stand, the disappointing third chapter that wrapped up the original set of X-Men movies.  I wonder if Bryan Singer knew what he was doling out with X-Men: Apocalypse, or if that line is just a case of unintentional irony.

Not that this movie is as bad as Last Stand.  On the contrary, it is still entertaining, but it caps off a series of films that redeemed the entire franchise.  The DC comic movies have largely been garbage, the main Marvel Universe is stuck in a rut even if some of the films do have quality elements, but X-Men, until this movie, was able to do much more with its material.

En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) is worshiped as a god in Egypt, along with his four compatriots.  With the aid of a pyramid using some sort of sun po…

Nightcrawler (2014)

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More and more it seems that movies with lower budgets are turning toward horror.  I know there is still a large soft-core porn market as well, but that has existed forever, and probably will as long as Cinemax and direct-to-video (or, in the modern sense, direct-to-streaming) is there to carry it.  Horror is typically where it is at in any medium if you want to do something relatively on the cheap and get some attention.

This is a rather recent phenomena, as exploitation films tended to be largely action-based in the past.  I can understand why they are not these days.  Budgets are typically too high, and many of the typical topics are now multi-season series on FX or Netflix.  No matter how much inspiration you take from The Wild Angels, Hell's Angels or even Born Losers, your biker film is still going to be compared to Sons of Anarchy.

It is with great surprise (and happiness) that there is still room for something like Nightcrawler.  

Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a reclu…

Forbidden World (1982)

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1980 brought us the sequel to the original Star Wars, after three years of everyone trying to ride its back to success.  The Italians pushed out Starcrash, Roger Corman himself followed suit with Battle Beyond the Stars and, for one season before they unwisely decided to ground things on Earth, Battlestar Galactica brought us an entertaining take intertwined with Mormon mythology.

Still, The Empire Strikes Back reminded everyone that there was nothing to beat the original short of expanding on it.  The good thing about both the good and bad ripoffs was that it kept Star Wars alive during a period where cable was in its infancy and VCRs were still a rich man's toy.  So, space cowboys and cute robots for all!

Of course, there was another surprise science fiction hit, also made on a relatively shoestring budget, that featured neither of these.  Instead, it was a haunted house floating in space with a slimy rape metaphor stalking the crew and H.R. Giger inspired sets.  That movie was…

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

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Everyone has to start somewhere.  For Arnold Schwarzenegger... well, it wasn't here.  It was a horrible comedy called Hercules in New York where they dubbed another actor over him to hide his accent and called him Arnold Strong.  That could have been all she wrote for the Austrian bodybuilder's acting career, save for seven years later he became a bit of a star due to the documentary Pumping Iron.

After bit parts and some television appearances, he finally got his break playing the title character of Conan the Barbarian.  The Conan stories, as envisioned by Robert E. Howard, took place in the Antediluvian world of around 10000 B.C., thus making his accent a non-issue.  It also helped that Oliver Stone's script did not contain a huge amount of dialogue for any of the characters.

Young Conan (Jorge Sanz) lives in a northern village, where he learns about swordmaking from his father (William Smith).  One day his village is invaded by warriors led by Thulsa Doom (James Earl …

Battle in Outer Space (1960)

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Toho Studios is largely known for monster movies, specifically Godzilla and all his brethren.  These are the movies that got played constantly when I was a kid on Saturday mornings.  Yes, I watched some cartoons, but the highlight of the day was seeing a giant lizard stomp all over Tokyo.

While the original Gojira and a few of its immediate sequels were serious (as well as some of the other members of the menagerie), they got sillier as the 1960s went on.  Silly even to the point that most of the other output of Toho, including their go-to director, Ishiro Honda, was largely forgotten.

Big monsters may be one thing, but Toho made some good sci-fi films as well and, while I hate to admit it, they were ahead of Hollywood for a period when it came to special effects.  It's no surprise they decided to do an all-out effects movie like Battle in Outer Space.

In the near future an international space station is attacked by alien saucers, who then proceed to cause mayhem on earth by demo…

Circle of Iron (1978)

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In the 1960s Bruce Lee was on the cusp of stardom.  Unfortunately, he had been working in the United States and trying to break into Hollywood which at the time was finally willing to break certain racial barriers.  In typical Hollywood form, that meant one particular race, and Mr. Lee didn't count.  Still, he persevered.

Circle of Iron was conceived as not just a martial arts film, but one that explored the philosophy of martial arts.  It had plenty of action and adventure, but ultimately had a lesson at its heart.  Lee wrote early drafts of the script, hoping to have Steve McQueen star in the lead.  McQueen was not willing to make Lee a star on his coattails, so James Coburn was the next choice.  Typical Hollywood situation arose, the script ended up in development hell, and the movie never surfaced.  By the time Lee had the influence to revive it and make it happen he had passed away.

I didn't know this about the movie when I started watching it, so when I started seeing ac…

Barbarian Queen (1985)

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If there was one thing the success of the first Conan the Barbarian film resulted in (other than making Arnold Schwarzenegger a star) it was creating another genre for the exploitation film industry to rip off.  Sword and sandal stuff wasn't anything new, as the Italian movie industry had pumped out countless movies about Hercules, but here there was suddenly a chance to go full out with the boobs and blood.

And that is, really, all Barbarian Queen is.  It simply looks like someone went down to the local gym, grabbed a bunch of women, made a stop at the hairdresser and filmed the movie over a weekend in their back yard and during the off-season where they hold the local Renaissance fair.

Amethea (Lana Clarkson) and Argan (Frank Zagarino) are preparing for their wedding when their peaceful village is attacked by forces led by the evil Arrakur (Armando Capo).  Most of the survivors are taken into captivity.  Amethea's sister Tiniara (Susana Traverso) is raped and captured by t…

Grindhouse (2007)

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Over the years, due to rising prices, the declining quality of movies and, honestly, lack of time, I have begun to see movies in the theater less and less.  I still enjoy going out for the monthly Cult Classics shows we have in Arizona, as well as seeing the some of the newer movies after being assured that I'm not just flushing my money away.

I think Gindhouse may have been the only movie I saw at a theater in 2007, for a combination of the above reasons and also the fact that I was in extreme pain in my lower right back.  I would love to say seeing this movie was what finally cured me, but it's more truthful to say that I was willing to sit through the whole thing despite of it (it was moving apartments which, somehow, fixed things; I guess whatever got displaced slipped back after hauling my record collection up stairs once again).

I have always liked cult films, so to have Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino (as well as a number of other directors doing the fake trai…

Disco Godfather (1979)

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Coming across a Rudy Ray Moore movie unknowingly is a mixed bag.  At the time of viewing this, the only one I had seen was The Human Tornado, which struck me as somebody's vanity project.  Dolemite will get watched and reviewed here at some point, but, for me, a little of his "acting" goes a long way.

After watching Disco Godfather, though, I realized how important he was, silly movies aside.  His status in the African-American community at the time this movie was made puts it into much more perspective.

Tucker Williams (Moore) is an ex-cop that has opened the Blueberry Hill Disco and become the Disco Godfather.  A local celebrity and DJ, his club is now the most renowned in the city, and it understandably draws both good and bad elements.  The bad elements are pushing PCP to the inner city youth, a fact that Williams becomes aware of when his nephew Buck (Julius Carry), an up-and-coming basketball star, freaks out in his club and has to be hospitalized.

Williams begins…

Not of This Earth (1988)

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In the late 1980s direct Jim Wynorski bet Roger Corman that he could remake the 1957 movie Not of This Earth for the same budget (adjusted for inflation) and on the same time scale.  I have no idea who won the bet, but what resulted was the same movie, except with more modern dialogue and references, as well as a good deal of nudity.

To promote it, Traci Lords, fresh off her scandal of making a series of adult movies while underage, was cast in the lead.

An alien (Arthur Roberts) travels to Earth and hides under the name of Mr. Johnson.  When he seeks help for his blood condition from Dr. Rochelle (Ace Mask), he decides to hire nurse Nadine Story (Lords) to attend him privately for twice-daily blood transfusions.  Through mind control, he sets Dr. Rochelle on the path of trying to find him a cure, while being unable to tell anyone about Mr. Johnson's strange nature.

Transfusions are not enough, and Mr. Johnson finds himself going around town to get the blood of animals and peopl…

Starcrash (1978)

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I remember back when I was a kid and Knight Rider was in its first run that I noticed Starcrash playing on the late show.  Even at that age I recognized it for what it was, and barely got through five minutes before shutting it off.  Needless to say, the reason I was even curious was because of David Hasselhoff, and I never even made it to any of his parts. 

I also never made it to Caroline Munro in a leather bikini, which may have changed my mind at that point if I did. 

Over the years I have seen this come up in many lists of bad movies that just have to be seen.  I finally got around to watching the whole thing and, as my luck would have it, right when it was coming up (unbeknownst to me) as an episode on the new Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Needless to say, they had a great time with it, and it was one of the highlights of the new season.

Stella Starr (Munro) and her navigator Akton (Marjoe Gortner) are fleeing from Imperial police when they come across an Imperial launch that …

The Thing (1982)

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It should come as no surprise that remaking older films is as old as film making itself.  The popular versions of The Wizard of Oz and Ben-Hur are themselves remakes, as are many films that people don't really expect (the Will Smith version of I Am Legend was the third take on the Richard Matheson book, for example).  While many of the remakes are just as good (or even superior) to the originals, cashing in on the original is always the point. 

What many forget is that you can cash in and still make a great movie.  That is exactly what John Carpenter did with 1982's The Thing, a remake of 1951's The Thing from Another World, itself based on the novella Who Goes There? by John Campbell. 

The boredom and peace of an American scientific outpost in Antarctica is shattered when a helicopter from a nearby Norwegian base lands, apparently in pursuit of one of a sled dog.  After one of the research team is shot, Garry (Donald Moffat), the head of the facility, kills the man, whil…

The Black Godfather (1974)

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Blaxploitation may be one of the most misunderstood genres.  While initial movies like Superfly and Shaft received mainstream audience and critical attention, much of the attention seemed to focus on the violent aspects of the films - so much that many devolved into self-parody over the next few years.  However, while they had their initial run, it proved two things: anyone who had some ambition, a few friends and a camera could possibly make a decent profit on an independent film, and American audiences, regardless of race, were becoming open to some of the ideals within these movies.

I understand that many of the messages about racism, second-class treatment of African-American citizens and police brutality got lost among the sex and violence, but they were there.  Many of the movies featured flawed heroes, but heroes none-the-less.  They were all human beings, and that resonated with white audiences - a little too well in the end, since it was ultimately white audiences being a bi…

The Nude Bomb (1980)

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Get Smart! is one of those comedies from the 1960s that one can still appreciate.  It was one of the few that got making fun of James Bond and its imitators correctly, while being surprisingly innovative and exciting at the same time.  The fact that Mel Brooks was involved had more than a little do with it, but all the writers did a good job in keeping the show consistent.  And, of course, there was always Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, adding both sexiness and competence in her pairing with Maxwell Smart (Don Adams). 

The show lasted until 1970.  Brooks had moved on to making hit movies, and American television was moving on as well.  Still, the show remained popular in reruns so, 10 years later, a Get Smart! movie still sounded like a great idea.  The Nude Bomb is a prime example of how Hollywood is often a place where great ideas go, get a job waiting tables, get discovered, get worked over and then crawl away to die in a flophouse. 

Maxwell Smart may no longer be in CONTROL, but he s…