TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN (1982)

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THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN (1982)

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Schlockmeisters Goran and Globus of Cannon Films entered the 80s teen sex comedy craze with this raunchy cult classic. The film has gained notoriety over the years, mostly because of it’s sad, bummer…and let’s face it, more realistic…ending. The film has nerdy virgin Gary (Lawrence Monoson) trying to get laid with pals Rick (Steve Antin) and David (Joe Rubbo). Gary falls head over heels for new girl Karen (Diane Franklin) who has fallen for the slicker and more handsome Rick. Movie then follows Gary as he pathetically and sometimes creepily, bemoans Karen and Rick’s romance until opportunity knocks to try to win Karen over.

Flick is written and directed by Boaz Davidson based closely on his own Israeli film Lemon Popsicle. It follows the usual 80s teen formula of a nerd trying to win a pretty girl, though here the film deviates by not supplying the predictable happy ending. Also, in most of these features the nerdy guy is a likable hero, here Davidson makes Gary a bit pathetic and creepy at times. Was it intentional or not, it’s hard to say, but Gary at times does seem like he’s a little too weird, like potential serial killer weird. It’s a little hard to want to see the sweet Karen with him, even though she is with Rick who turns out to be a real jerk. While not typical of teen comedies, it certainly seems more realistic in terms of how life works out in these situations, especially at that age. There are some fun bits, but there are also some sleazy ones, such as when the boys hire a hooker, who proceeds to humiliate the inexperienced Gary. The cast are all fine for this sort of thing, especially Franklin who makes for an appealing girl-next-door and there is a great soundtrack of 80s classics.

This flick is a cult classic and while it’s routine in some aspects, it breaks the traditional format by having a hero who is a bit of a creep and a bummer of an ending. It touches on some subjects, like abortion, that most films like this avoided yet does have the constant pursuit of sex by a group of horny teens that many of these comedies based their meager plots around. There is a lot of 80s nostalgia attached to it now, especially with a classics filled soundtrack and you could do much worse for an example of this popular 80s film trend.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 condoms.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: RAWHEAD REX (1987)

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RAWHEAD REX (1987)

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Rawhead Rex is a 1987 British horror based on a short story by Clive Barker. It has a pagan demon (Heinrich von Schellendorf) being unleashed from his tomb in Ireland when a farmer removes a protective stone. The creature goes on a killing spree, claiming victim after victim, till he murders the son (Hugh O’Conor) of an American researcher (David Dukes), who vows to find a way to destroy the monster once and for all.

Flick is lamely directed by George Pavlou from a screenplay by Barker himself. The director fails to bring any scares or intensity to the tale, even with Rex reigning bloody terror on Ireland’s trailer parks and tourists. You’d think that with this local legend being so well known in a small town, to the point of being included in a church stained glass window, that a local farmer would known better than to remove the stone that has imprisoned the beast for centuries. The creature himself is extremely rubbery and when it roars, you can see actor Heinrich von Schellendorf’s own mouth inside it’s maw. The monster is dressed like he’s a member of a Danish heavy metal band, complete with mohawk and there seems to be little rhyme or reason for his killing. It’s very random. There is also little explanation as to why or how Rex gains control of a local priest (Ronan Wilmott) by pissing on him. The acting from a cast of basic unknowns is quite underwhelming and despite the amusement of abundant gore, the make-up and visual FX are all quite cheesy. The climactic confrontation with Rubberhead Rex is also silly and we get little explanation as to why things work out the way they do. It seems made up as they go along…like the rest of the movie, to be honest.

I never understood the love for this flick. It has a decent fan-base and is fondly remembered, but I am not a fan. A recent revisit didn’t change my mind, even with laughably cheesy FX and a lot of 80s nostalgia. It’s not scary. It’s not intense. It has a very thin story that really doesn’t go anywhere and it’s creature is too rubbery and silly looking to be the least bit effective. There is a lot of bloodshed and heads ripped off, but otherwise, little to recommend. For it’s fans only.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 rubbery Rexs.

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DRACULA’S DOG (1977)

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DRACULA’S DOG (1977)

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Also known as Zoltan: Hound of Dracula and based on the book Hounds of Dracula by Ken Johnson, this 1977 horror features the legendary vampire’s mutt trying to recreate his master. After being accidentally revived by Romanian soldiers excavating a tomb, Dracula’s manservant Veidt Smit (Reggie Nalder) and his dog Zoltan, set off to America to find Michael Drake (Michael Pataki) who is the last surviving member of Dracula’s bloodline. Once they find him, they plan to turn him into a bloodsucker and their new master. In hot pursuit is Van Helsing-like Inspector Vaclav Branco (José Ferrer) who plans to stop them and their fiendish plot.

Canine-centric vampire flick is written by Frank Ray Perilli, based on Johnson’s book and directed by Albert Band, father of Full Moon Studio’s Charles Band. It’s a silly movie for sure, though played very straight and if there is anything that actually works here it’s that Zoltan and his pack of vampire dogs are kinda fierce and spooky thanks to trainer Karl Miller. There are some fun goof-ups, along the way, like the opening scene that takes place in Romania, with the Romanian army, where a military jeep clearly says “U.S. Navy” on the hood. It’s low budget is no better illustrated than by the fact that it mostly takes place outdoors during a Drake family camping trip, reducing the need for sets. The make-up and gore FX are by Stan Winston, so at least they are done well and director Band does give the silly proceedings a bit of atmosphere. The fact that it’s a film about Dracula’s dog and is taken as seriously as it is, at the very least gives it’s makers some audacity points.

As for the cast, the doberman playing Zoltan is definitely the standout. He is a spooky pooch. Reggie Nalder (Salem’s Lot) is creepy as Smit, but Nalder always did nail creepy in his performances. Pataki plays it straight as the clueless last heir to Dracula’s coffin and José Ferrer takes the material very seriously as the valiant Inspector Branco. The supporting players are a mixed bag and the other dogs in the film prove the most effective actors in their roles.

This is a silly flick, though taken very seriously by the cast and crew. It makes it all the more watchable, but it still is about Dracula’s best friend, after all. There is some decent make-up and gore courtesy of a young Stan Winston and it does have some atmosphere to go along with the unintentional chuckles. Worth a look. Only in the 70s, folks!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 hounds of Dracula.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE THRONE OF FIRE (1983)

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THE THRONE OF FIRE (1983)

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Italian sword and sorcery flick has The Devil’s messenger, Belial (Harrison Muller) demanding witch, Azira (Beni Cardoso) bear him a child. He takes her, and after a thunder and lightening filled birth sequence, she bares him a cheesy rubber creature. The baby grows up into the powerful…and human looking…warlord, Morak (also Muller) whose mission is to kill the king and take his throne. It’s not just any throne, however, it is the Throne of Fire and only a rightful ruler may sit on it. Anyone else will be incinerated. To be worthy, he must marry the king’s daughter, the very reluctant Princess Valkari (Sabrina Siani) during a solar eclipse. Standing in his way is the warrior Siegfried (Pietro Torrisi, billed as Peter McCoy) who vows to free the princess and slay Morak.

In the 80s, the Italian cinema took advantage of any trend and cranked out Escape From N.Y. rip-offs, Road Warrior rip-offs, dozens of zombie films after Dawn of the Dead…and numerous Conan imitations, this being one. Throne…or Il trono di fuoco in it’s original Italianis directed by Franco Prosperi from a script by Nino Marino and is a cheesy, fun movie despite the serious tone. The sets look like they are from an episode of Star Trek, the fight scenes are badly choreographed and the dialogue, terrible and obviously dubbed…just listen to Morak happily reassuring his mom that he will slay women and children to get to the throne. Good times! Hero Siegfried is a muscular, bare-chested champion direct out of the Conan/Hercules clone catalogue and villain Morak’s army of thugs always attack him one at a time. We also get sexy, blonde, scantily-clad warrior princess Valkari, as played by Sabrina Siani, who seemed to be the Italian cinema’s go-to barbarian chick in the 80s. There is sorcery along with all the swordplay, including a spooky visit to the aptly named Well of Madness and various spells, both good and bad. The film is an amusing series of pitiful escapes and recaptures, taking place in and around the same castle, till the final confrontation which begs the question that if Morak could place the defiant Valkari under his spell, why did he wait till the end of the movie to do it? Who cares!…as long as we get to see people on the royal hot seat go up in flames every now and then. Wooden acting and wooden swords, it’s all a lot of cheesy fun with equally cheesy FX to go along with it.

Far from a classic…or even a good movie…Throne of Fire is a lot of “so bad it’s good” fun with swords and sorcery, muscles and maidens, all done with low budget ineptitude, but with plenty of dubbed charm. If nothing else, we have our loincloth wearing hero and animal-skin bikini clad heroine to provide eye candy, depending on your barbarian babe preference.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 warrior princesses before Xena made them cool.

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE UNSEEN (1980)

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THE UNSEEN (1980)

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Exceptionally boring horror finds a newswoman, her sister and a friend (Barbara Bach, Karen Lamm and Lois Young respectively) heading to a small town to cover an event and a mix-up leaving them with no place to stay. They stumble upon an old house, that is now used as a museum and creepy owner Ernest Keller (Sydney Lassick), invites them to use his spare rooms. So, of course, three pretty girls accept an invitation to stay in a spooky old house with a man who is creepy from the get go. No surprise, this old house has a secret and the three young women will soon find out it is a deadly secret.

As directed by Danny Steinmann (Friday the 13 Part V) from a script by Michael L. Grace, this is a dull flick with basically little going on, including a dismally low body count for a slasher and very little blood and gore. It takes almost the whole movie to finally gather a little intensity, when Bach’s reporter Jennifer finds herself in the cellar with the Keller’s hulking secret (Animal House’s Stephen Furst). Unfortunately the hulking secret is more laughable than menacing, so there really isn’t much to make up for the slow pace and lack of suspense we have endured up to this point. Sure, the house is spooky and Lassick’s Keller can be very unsettling, but it’s not enough to make this film scary or even involving and our three lasses aren’t endearing enough to get us emotionally invested. Silent Scream did the whole hidden, crazy relative in the house thing a whole lot better that same year.

Despite what should have been a star making turn in The Spy Who Loved Me, Bach’s career never really went anywhere. She’s a bit wooden here and isn’t really that memorable as a final girl when she finally meets “Junior”. As Junior, it’s almost sad to see Stephen Furst, who gained notoriety as Flounder in Animal House, as, basically, a giant, deranged baby and the effect of his tantrums and efforts to kill Bach are laughable with the way the character is directed. It’s Sydney Lassick who is really creepy and even he goes a bit too over-the-top at times to remain effective. Lamm and Young are fine as Bach’s companions and Lelia Goldoni is sympathetic as Ernest’s abused sister/lover and mother of Junior.

This flick has a reputation, not sure why, but there is something about 80s horrors, even the worst have some sort of following. It was a great decade for horror. This one, however, is dull and even when it picks up, it provides unintentional laughs instead of chills. Barbara Bach shows little of the fire she showed as a Bond girl and the late Stephen Furst’s role is more embarrassing than memorable. I suppose if you’re an 80s completest, you should at least check it out, but don’t expect much.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 very large diapers.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CONQUEST (1983)

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CONQUEST (1983)

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Sword and sorcery flick from Italian horror maestro Lucio Fulci tells the story of Illias (Andrea Occhipinti) who travels to a dangerous land as part of a coming of age ritual. With only a magic bow, he enters a dark land ruled by witch Ocron (Sabrina Siani). Along the way he meets warrior Mace (Jorge Rivero) and the two team up to try to defeat Ocron, who has set her sights on Illias and his bow.

Directed by Fulci from a script and story by four people, no less, there is actually very little plot here considering all that collaborated on it. Like most of Fulci’s flicks it is atmospheric and there is plenty of his trademarked gore, but it’s hard to get involved in something which has so little story to get involved in. Illias, at first, has no real goals entering this dark land and only finds a purpose once he sees the effects of Ocron’s influence and becomes a target of she and her werewolf-like minions. Visually the flick appears to be filmed entirely through smoke and a gauze filter, though Fulci’s visual style still comes through even with minimal sets and costumes. No better example than Ocron herself who is a beautiful nude woman who wears a spooky gold mask and seems to have a snake fetish. Sexy and creepy! The gore FX are solid as in all Fulci films, but the animation effects, and creature costumes are cheap and cheesy. Frequent Dario Argento collaborator and Goblin keyboardist Claudio Simonetti provides the music and Alejandro Ulloa provides the murky cinematography. The cast are all fairly wooden, with only Jorge Rivero adding some life to the roguish Mace and Sabrina Siani’s natural charms making for a visually tantalizing villain.

With a career of mostly horror flicks this was an unusual project choice for Fulci. The film has a lot of his trademarked elements, but suffers from having what barely qualifies as a plot. The costumes and sets are minimal and the non-gore FX are cheesy at best. The acting is also sub-par and the film oddly switches focus from Illias to Mace in the last act, which negates any interest we might have had in the young lad’s quest. The film is still watchable and there are some things to enjoy, but it is another sign of the legendary director running out of gas after delivering so many classics just a few years earlier.

-MonsterZero NJ

Beautiful Italian actress Sabrina Siani, sans creepy mask.

Rated 2 and 1/2 arrows from a bow far more magical than the film it’s in.

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CHOSEN SURVIVORS (1974)

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CHOSEN SURVIVORS (1974)

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70s disaster/sci-fi flick has a select group of people sent into a bomb shelter deep below the earth’s crust as nuclear war breaks out on the surface. This diverse group of people were chosen to ensure the human race’s continued existence in case such a scenario occurred. Mankind’s survival comes into question, however, as the group find that they are not in the shelter alone.

While this flick had the right premise for an entertaining chiller, it is directed with deadpan dullness by Sutton Roley from a script by H.B. Cross. Roley’s body of work is predominately in episodic television and it shows, as the film looks like the episode of a TV show. For the most part the film is extremely talky with characters whining, crying or yelling at each other over their predicament for most of the run time. The idea of vampire bats invading an advanced bomb shelter is amusing, but Roley has no idea what to do with it and what few scenes of bloody bat carnage there are, are by-the-numbers and have very little bite. While we have some veteran actors here, the characters are not very interesting, or all that likable, so we really don’t care if they end up as bat food. The SPFX are pitifully bad with the bat swarms being terrible animated blobs swirling about and the bloodshed is strictly routine. The pace is rather slow and it all adds up to a waste of what could have been a fun idea.

Roley doesn’t get much out of a cast of decent actors, either. Jackie Cooper is the stereotype arrogant and angry businessman. Bradford Dillman is the nerdy scientist with a secret. Richard Jaeckel is the military representative who knows more than he is letting on and Alex Cord is a character simply there for breeding purposes.  The cast also features Diana Muldar and Barbara Babcock as female members of the ‘chosen’ who also seem to be just there for procreation. A cast of veterans completely wasted.

This is a sad misuse of a good exploitation movie premise. It’s extremely talky and is directed very by-the-numbers by Sutton Roley. When the bats do attack, the FX are laughable and even the PG rated bloodshed is too tame to make an impact. If there ever is a flick that could use a remake by a director that gets the material, it’s this one.

-MonsterZero NJ

rated 2 vampire bats.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: YOR, HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE (1983)

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YOR, HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE (1983)

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Goofy 80s flick tells of the adventures of Yor (Reb Brown), a warrior in a prehistoric world who seems different from the other cave-dwellers, with his blonde hair, sharp thinking (sort of) and clean shaven face in a world bereft of Gillette razors. He saves the beautiful Kalaa (Corinne Cléry) and her guardian Pag (Luciano Pigozzi) from a more savage tribe and the three join in a quest to find Yor’s true lineage. They do, and find that Yor is actually Galahad, the son of a exiled rebel from an island that’s all that’s left of a once advanced society, destroyed by nuclear war. An island currently run by the tyrannical “Overlord” (John Steiner). Now Yor must decide which world he wants to live in, the remains of a futuristic civilization, or the primitive world that sprang from it’s ruins.

Multi-national production is directed by Antonio Margheriti…under the pseudonym Anthony M. Dawson for U.S. release…from a script he co-wrote with Robert Bailey, which is based on an Argentinian comic book. As such, Margheriti plays it somewhat straight and lets the fun come from the ludicrous story and proceedings. And there is plenty of entertainment to be had, for all the wrong reasons, as there are dozens of badly staged fights, savage cave men who speak perfect English, some delightfully paper-mache dinosaurs, mixed in with equally cheesy looking robots, laser guns and space ships. It’s ridiculous, but has a sense of charm even if the prehistoric characters use words that shatter any illusion we are watching cave people, long before we find out they are descendants of an advanced society. Yor, despite being our hero, seems to get a lot of people killed and a lot of villages are razed around him, but it’s hard not to like a guy that hang glides into battle using the corpse of a giant bat. The FX and sets are gleefully cheesy, there is some surprising bloodshed for a PG flick and the ridiculous electronic theme song, by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis, might just get stuck in your head (check out the video below)!

Reb Brown is a fine combination of caveman and futuristic warrior in his loin cloth, boots with the fur and Carol Channing blonde wig. I’m sure he’d rather have been doing Shakespeare in the park or something, but plays it seriously and with gusto and makes for a likable hero in a very silly movie. Corinne Cléry is quite beautiful as Yor’s love interest Kalaa. She’s mostly a damsel in distress, but she has enough natural charms to make her scantily clad cave-girl memorable. Look at it this way, how many actresses can say they appeared alongside both James Bond (Moonraker) and Yor, Hunter From The Future? Rounding out, Luciano Pigozzi is charming as crusty, old tag-along Pag and John Steiner is appropriately over the top as cheesy villain from the future, The Overlord.

On one hand this is a cheaply made and silly plotted flick, but on the other it is very entertaining for all the wrong reasons. The director and cast take the goofy material seriously enough so it’s not a joke and let the material provide the fun as we go from our bare-chested hero fighting fake looking dinosaurs to fake looking robots. He finds love, his true past and can wield both a primitive club and a laser gun…and how many cinematic icons can make that boast? Only in the 80s.

-MonsterZero NJ

rated 3 cavemen hurling a robot.

 

 

 

 

Yor hunter from the future trailer…

BONUS: Yor hunter from the future theme song…

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: KILLER PARTY (1986)

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KILLER PARTY (1986)

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1986 horror has a simple plot…a group of sorority sisters host an initiation for three pledges in an abandoned, haunted fraternity house. Once accepted into the sorority, the trio are tasked with setting up an April Fools Day costume party in that very same house…and of course, things turn deadly.

Directed by William Fruet (Blue Monkey) from a script by Barney Cohen, this is a silly, fun 80s slasher, thought it offers nothing new. The flick predates, Night of the Demons, by two years with it’s plot of college kids partying in an abandoned building and catching hell for it, literally. The 80s fashions and music abounds and the cast of mostly unknowns are attractive and adequate for this type of flick. The kills are fairly routine, the make-up FX work well enough and the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, as it is well aware it’s story of a vengeful, dead fraternity member is just plain silly. The characters are fairly likable, especially our three pledges (Joanna Johnson, Elaine Wilkes and Sherry Willis-Burch), though the big “reveal” as to who is possessed, is no surprise. There is little or no scares or suspense, but the film never really tries that hard, opting to have more fun with it’s premise.

Killer Party is a good example of the lighter toned, more colorful slashers of the mid to late 80s (read about the progression HERE). It offers nothing new, but does have fun with it’s silly story of a haunted sorority party. The 80s nostalgia is delightfully thick with all the very 80s fashions and music and there are enough kills to entertain. An amusing slasher from the slasher film’s most prolific era. Also stars cult film icon/director Paul Bartel as a college professor.

-MonsterZero NJ

rated 3 old-fashioned divers helmets, cause that’s what killers wore to costume parties in the 80s.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS (1977)

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SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS (1977)

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Horror comedy has a cheer-leading squad and their coach being kidnapped by a group of Satan worshipers. One of the girls will be chosen as his bride and the rest will be used as sacrificial offerings. That’s it in a nutshell.

Exploitation comedy is directed by Greydon Clark (Without Warning) from a script by he and Alvin L. Fast. It’s a goofy flick filled with bad sex jokes, exposed breasts and Satan worshipers who don’t evoke much fear and don’t seem all that competent at evoking Satan either. A lot of the humor falls flat and the flick seems like it’s made up as it goes along and lacks the charm of Clark’s 1980 extraterrestrial cult classic. One wonders if Clark has treated the material more seriously and let the situation itself provide the humor, it would have been more successful at accomplishing it’s goals. The story is ripe for exploitation fun, but it’s the misfiring dirty jokes and goofball humor that don’t click. There is plenty of skin shown by our pom pom wielding heroines, but the villains just don’t evoke much threat for us to feel like our girls are in any real danger, even for a comedy. The last few moments do click, but it took us 90 minutes to get there and the first act is all lame, naughty high school stuff before our girls even find themselves in peril. It’s one of those flicks where a great title is in need of a far better movie and sadly from a director who can deliver the B-movie fun as Without Warning proves.

Clark has a decent cast here. The veterans like John Ireland, Yvonne DeCarlo, Jack Kruschen and John Carradine all perform well and get the tone of the material, even if their cultists are more comical than creepy. The young cast of unknowns are very uneven, but no one really expects acting from a cast probably hired for their looks, especially our young ladies. Kerry Sherman is the one standout, mostly because she shows the most skin and she seems to be the only one to go on to other roles in film and TV.

As much as I love B-movies and exploitation flicks from this era, this one doesn’t live up to the fun of it’s title. Most of the jokes and goofball comedy falls flat and it’s attempts at horror are equally unsuccessful. There is some fun to be had, the nostalgia is certainly present and at least the ladies look good in and out of their uniforms. It still just seems like a bit of a mess and director Clark was far better combining horror and humor a few years later in the cult classic Without Warning. Worth a look for the 70s nostalgia, but not the midnight movie it could have been with a tighter script and maybe playing it a bit more straight.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 pom poms.

 

 

 

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