TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: FLESH GORDON (1974)

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FLESH GORDON (1974)

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Flesh Gordon is an X-rated, soft-core porn spoof of the classic Flash Gordon movie serial that has gained cult classic status. It follows the sexploits of Flesh Gordon (Jason WIlliams), son of a famous scientist (John Hoyt), as he reluctantly joins Dr. Flexi Jerkoff (Joseph Hudgins) and pretty Dale Ardor (Suzanne Fields) on a desperate mission into space. A sex ray from a mysterious planet has been turning the Earth into one big orgy and the three valiantly board their penis shaped spacecraft to try to find and destroy it’s source. They reach the planet Porno, ruled by the evil and perverted Emperor Wang (William Hunt), who wants to spread his debauchery throughout the galaxy. Flesh and co. meet all sorts of sexually charged characters, creatures and perils as they try to defeat Wang and save the Earth.

Flick is directed by Michael Benveniste and Howard Ziehm from Beneniste’s script. It actually follows the plot of the 1936 Flash Gordon, with Buster Crabbe, very closely, substituting it’s wholesome plot with sexual innuendoes and comic bookish characters with dominatrixes (Candy Samples), gay woodsmen (Mycle Brandy), penisauruses and rapist robots. Story-wise it is an amusing parody, but nothing special and may have been a mostly forgotten oddity, remembered by only the most die hard exploitation movie fan, if not for it’s surprisingly good special FX for such a low budget indie exploitation production. Made for under $500,000, the film has quality matte paintings, detailed models and even some impressive stop-motion animation to accent it’s naughty, homage-filled tale. This was accomplished by some future legends of SPFX, such as seven time Oscar winning make-up artist Rick Baker, David Allen, Jim Danforth, Greg Jein, artist Mike Minor and Academy Award winning movie explosion expert Joe Viskocil. The movie is a virtual who’s who of future SPFX artists, who would all go on to work on top notch productions and win accolades in their fields for their skills. The cast, aside from veteran actor John Hoyt, were unknowns or porn actors and most hired for their looks and not being afraid to shed their clothes. No need to discuss performances in detail, though WIlliams makes a decent hero, porn star Fields, a pretty heroine and Hunt is completely over-the-top as Wang. If you think the voice of the giant, stop-motion Great God Porno sounds familiar, that’s Mr. Incredible himself Craig T. Nelson (Poltergeist, The Incredibles 1 & 2), in an uncredited voice role. Sure, most of the jokes are kinda corny and stale by now, but it is amusing and, in it’s own raunchy way, a love letter to the heroes of yesteryear and old school movie serials. There is a good score by Ralph Ferraro, Howard Ziehm’s cinematography fits the comic book tone and the SPFX artistry amongst all the cheap sex gags are worth watching it for alone. If nothing else, it is a good example of talented people accomplishing a lot with a little.

In conclusion, this film is now a cult classic and one can understand why. On one hand, the film in itself is a forgettable sex spoof and an outdated one. On the other hand, it is a heartfelt tribute to the subject matter it naughtily spoofs and the SPFX were impressive, for it’s time, as is the list of names that created them. Whether you are a fan of independent films, impressive special FX done on a shoestring budget, or curiosities of sci-fi cinema, Flesh Gordon is worth a look and even more fun with the right beverages to accompany it.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) horny, foul mouthed, stop-motion creatures that sound suspiciously familiar.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WITCHBOARD 2: THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY (1993)

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WITCHBOARD 2: THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY (1993)

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Flick is Kevin S. Tenney’s sequel to his own 1986 Witchboard, but aside from a ouija board being key to the plot, it is a sequel in name only. Pretty young Paige (Ami Dolenz) has moved into a new apartment only to find a ouija board left behind by the previous owner. Of course she begins to use it and is contacted by the former tenant, a woman named Susan Sidney (Julie Michaels). At first the spirit seems to want help from Paige in solving her murder, but there may be a deeper and far more sinister reason for the spirit’s presence.

Film is written and directed by Tenney, much like the first movie and like that flick is far more fun than scary. It follows the first film’s formula of a woman being contacted by a spirit via a ouija board and the ghost, at first, appearing benign and in need of help. Like the 1986 movie, Paige also has a jerk of a boyfriend (Timothy Gibbs) who we have a hard time liking and our heroine begins to show signs of progressive entrapment, as the sprit slowly takes control. Aside from the basic story elements, though, there seems to be no connection between Paige and Witchboard‘s Linda, nor any shared characters or referenced events. There is little or no suspense or scares, but it is entertaining and there are a few bloody deaths, though no explicit gore or nudity. Paige is a cute and likable heroine, even if her outfit of daisy dukes and cowboy boots doesn’t quite click as an outfit one would dig up a body in the middle of the night in. It does play much like an 80s horror, despite being made in 1993 and that helps with an amusing nostalgia factor. Tenney’s films aren’t known for mustering much intensity, but this flick has a few moments, though a few border on the silly, too, like a scene with a circular saw blade chasing it’s prey.

The cast is small but solid for this type of movie. Fan favorite Ami Dolenz is a good choice for Paige. She cute, sexy and makes an engaging heroine. She’s very likable and gives off a good Nancy Drew vibe as she investigates Susan’s alleged murder. Timothy Gibbs is fine as Paige’s cop ex-boyfriend Mitch, who remains an unlikable jerk till the last act, which makes it hard to root for him when he starts to behave more like a hero. John Gatins is far more likable as the landlords’ photographer son Russel, who takes an interest in Paige and thus her paranormal investigation. Russel’s parents, hippie landlady Elaine and her handyman husband, Jonas are played by SNL legend Laraine Newman and TV actor Christopher Michael Moore, respectively. Actress and stunt woman Julie Michaels (the hottie from the opening scene of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday) plays the late Susan Sidney in flashback and possession sequences and is effective in the part. Both Dolenz and Newman would work for Tenney again in his Die Hard with college coeds, Demolition University.

This flick doesn’t seem to have garnered the cult classic reputation that the original Witchboard has, though it’s just as amusing and Dolenz makes for a bit more animated a heroine than the slightly wooden Tawny Kitaen. It’s got an 80s vibe, despite it now being 1993, as it would be three more years before Scream would make horror flicks become more self aware and filled with pop culture referencing. It has a few spooky moments, some bloody demises and enough nostalgia to make an entertaining watch.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) planchettes.

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996)

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ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996)

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It took 15 years, but in 1996 John Carpenter finally brought Snake Plissken back for another escape. This flick takes place in 2013 and finds Plissken (Kurt Russell) being caught gunfighting in Thailand and brought to the West Coast to be deposited in the lawless island of L.A. A massive earthquake, predicted by the United States’ right wing religious president (Cliff Robertson), has separated L.A. from the mainland and now any immoral or criminal individuals are deposited in this no man’s land. Meanwhile, the president’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer) has rebelled and fled to L.A. into the arms of Peruvian terrorist Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) with a doomsday weapon. Like in New York, Plissken is offered his freedom and a pardon of all his crimes, if he infiltrates L.A., kills Cuervo and Utopia and returns the weapon to the U.S. president.

Escape from L.A. was a box office and critical disappointment back in 1996, but with a lot of John Carpenter’s lesser films, it grows on one and now, viewed all these years later, is an entertaining watch finally finding it’s fan base. Carpenter directed from a script by he, producer Debra Hill and star Kurt Russell. It’s lighter in tone and more colorful than Plissken’s apocalyptic first adventure and the characters are a bit more cartoonish than those Snake met in NYC. The budget is almost 4x as much, though bargain basement CGI FX make it look a lot cheaper than it’s 1981 predecessor. The story is a thin remake of the first film and is a bit more politically preachy, with it’s religious right president and police state where even smoking and red meat are criminal offenses. Thankfully Snake is still Snake and he’s cool as ice, even when surfing a tsunami alongside Peter Fonda. The action is somewhat bigger than in EFNY, though a weak villain and too many disposable characters lessen the film’s overall impact. The flick follows the 1981 original’s template too closely to really resonate as a new adventure, but there is a lot of entertainment in watching Carpenter poke fun at politics and Hollywood, no more evident than the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills (Bruce Campbell) segment. It is a flawed movie, but with a little added nostalgia, at over two decades old, it can be fun…and at least we get to see Russell back in action as Snake, one more time.

Carpenter always assembles a good cast. Russell steps into Snake Plissken seamlessly and despite the outlaw being 15 years older, it seems like just yesterday, he was escaping New York City. Russell plays him very seriously despite the film’s lighter tone and Snake is ever the badass up until and including the very last shot. A classic character used far too sparsely. The only disappointment in the cast is Corraface as Cuervo Jones. The actor tries hard, but doesn’t have the presence or ferocity to make him a strong villain worthy of taking on Snake. He’s weak. Issac Hayes’ Duke of New York seemed far more deadly and dangerous. Langer is fine as the ditzy Utopia, though the character is too light to fit in a Plissken adventure. Same could be said of Buscemi’s ‘Map To The Stars’ Eddie. He’s a jokey substitute for Borgnine’s Cabbie and another character that feels out of place. Keach is good as Malloy who would be the Bob Hauk character, as is Robertson slimy as the religious zealot president. Michelle Forbes, Valeria Golino, the great Pam Grier and Peter Fonda are all fine in their supporting roles, as is Bruce Campbell a hoot as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills. A good cast for the most part.

Overall, this was a bit disappointing when seen opening day 1996, especially to those of us who had been waiting 15 years for Carpenter to unleash Snake Plissken again. Decades later, now that the disappointment has abated and nostalgia has set in, it’s doesn’t seem so bad. Sure, it’s a bit too much of a remake to feel like a completely new adventure, but Russell is still awesome as Snake and at least we have two adventures to watch instead of just the one. There is a lot of action, aside from some sly political commentary and showbiz satire and some of it is more relevant now than back in the day. Not one of Carpenter’s best, but like many of his lesser titles, one that has actually aged better than expected…except for the awful CGI. Where was James Cameron and the New World Pictures FX crew and their model work when you needed them.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Snake Plisskens.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GHOSTS OF MARS (2001)

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GHOSTS OF MARS (2001)

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Ghosts of Mars was John Carpenter’s last film before he took an almost decade long break from filmmaking. The movie takes place in the future where Earth is terraforming and colonizing Mars. A squad of police officers, including Lt. Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge), Sgt. Jericho Butler (Jason Statham) and Cmd. Helena Braddock (Pam Grier), are sent to a small mining outpost to collect career criminal James “Desolation” Williams (Ice Cube), who is suspected of robbing a payroll delivery and brutally murdering six people. What they find, aside from a jailed Williams, is that an ancient evil has been released by the miners and has taken over the colonists and turned them into savage killers. Now trapped and outnumbered, they have to join forces with Williams, his criminal posse, and the other inmates, to survive.

Film is directed by Carpenter from a script by he and Larry Sulkis. Carpenter’s appreciation for British writer Nigel Kneale is evident here as Ghosts has elements of Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit (also known as Five Million Years to Earth) and Carpenter’s own Assault on Precinct 13. We have the spirit forms of an ancient Martian race of savage warriors released from their tomb and possessing individuals, turning them into savage blood-thirsty killers, who are determined to oust the human invaders. This forces cop and criminal alike to team up to survive, as the Martians lay siege to the outpost prison. The film was not a success back in the day, but looking back it’s not as bad as it’s reputation suggests, though still one of Carpenter’s lesser efforts. There is plenty of action, abundant bloodletting and gore and the SPFX are charmingly old school on GOM’s modest budget. Carpenter had a little fun with telling certain scenes from different POVs and it has some spooky moments when dealing with it’s Martian specters, who can move from one host to another when a previous host is felled. The Martians themselves are creepy with bizarre face paint and gory body piercings. It’s only when their leader (Richard Cetrone) speaks that the scenes loose their potency as he seems to be uttering gibberish and not an actual structured language, like say, Klingon or any of the Star Wars aliens. It’s a bit distracting, but thankfully those scenes are brief and few. Overall, the film is derivative, but Carpenter still crafts a fun, action/horror with a good cast and some entertaining character interaction. One of Carpenter’s strong points has always been memorable characters and it’s no different here.

As for the cast playing those characters, Natasha Henstridge makes a strong lead in what Carpenter’s intro describes as a matriarchal society. Ballard is a fighter with her own issues and she and Ice Cube work well together. As Williams, Ice Cube is solid as the criminal with a bit of a code of honor. Sure, someone with a bit stronger screen presence, like Wesley Snipes, could have taken Williams into Snake Plissken territory, but Cube is more than efficient. Statham is good as the cocky and horny Jericho Butler and it’s interesting seeing him in a supporting role, before he became a top action star. Pam Grier is every bit the legend she is as the tough Cmd. Braddock and Joanna Cassidy is good as a scientist responsible for the Martians’ release. She supplies a lot of the exposition we need, as does a clever sequence of a stoned and possessed Ballard that fills in the backstory. Supporting cast include Clea DuVall (The Faculty), an imposing Richard Cetrone as the Martian war chief and small roles from Carpenter regular Peter Jason and Robert Carradine as train operators.

Maybe it’s the nostalgia, but all these years later this flick doesn’t seem quite as disappointing as it first did on opening day in 2001. GOM is still not Carpenter’s strongest work, or most original flick, but it’s also not his worst flick either. Carpenter crafts an entertaining action flick, with some spooky sci-fi/horror elements and has a good cast. It’s not perfect, but he does add some inventive touches and moments to a derivative story and it moves quickly at just under an hour and 40 minutes. Gary B. Kibbe provides some nice cinematography for Carpenter’s shots and Carpenter himself provides a rock heavy score with some famous names guesting on it, like Steve Vai, Anthrax and Buckethead*. GOM does show signs of a filmmaker getting tired of the whole process, but also one who can still make good use out of a familiar story and on a modest budget.

*Complete track listing with guest artists listed below trailer!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) angry red planets.

 

 

 

 

 

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GHOSTS OF MARS TRACK LISTING w/guest artists (list originally posted on Wikipedia)

  1. “Ghosts of Mars” (3:42) – Steve Vai, Bucket Baker & John Carpenter
  2. “Love Siege” (4:37) – Buckethead, Robin Finck, John Carpenter & Anthrax (Scott Ian, Paul Crook, Frank Bello & Charlie Benante)
  3. “Fighty Train” (3:16) – Robin Finck, John Carpenter & Anthrax
  4. “Visions of Earth” (4:08) – Elliot Easton & John Carpenter
  5. “Slashing Gash” (2:46) – Elliot Easton & John Carpenter
  6. “Kick Ass” (6:06) – Buckethead, John Carpenter & Anthrax
  7. “Power Station” (4:37) – Robin Finck, John Carpenter & Anthrax
  8. “Can’t Let You Go” (2:18) – Stone (J.J. Garcia, Brian James & Brad Wilson), John Carpenter, Bruce Robb & Joe Robb
  9. “Dismemberment Blues” (2:53) – Elliot Easton, John Carpenter & Stone
  10. “Fighting Mad” (2:41) – Buckethead & John Carpenter
  11. “Pam Grier’s Head” (2:35) – Elliot Easton, John Carpenter & Anthrax
  12. “Ghost Popping” (3:20) – Steve Vai, Robin Finck, John Carpenter & Anthrax

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TAMMY AND THE T-REX (1994)

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TAMMY AND THE T-REX (1994): THE UNCUT VERSION

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Tammy and the T-Rex is a ludicrous 1994 comedy that had some very explicit gore cut from it to earn a PG-13 rating for it’s initial release. Now 25 years later, those gore scenes have been restored and it’s up to the viewer as to whether that was a good idea or not.

Ridiculous story finds high school cheerleader Tammy (Denise Richards) falling for a new boyfriend, football player Michael (Paul Walker). Tammy’s delinquent ex, Billy (George Pilgrim) doesn’t take too kindly to her new beau and, in a plot worthy of Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil, kidnaps him and drops him off at a wild animal preserve. Savaged by a lion, Michael finds himself in the hospital and in critical condition. Opportunistic mad scientist Dr. Wachenstein (Terry Kizer) has the youth declared dead and puts Michael’s brian in an animatronic T-Rex as part of his experiments to create the perfect robot. The T-Rex/Michael escapes captivity and takes bloody revenge on Billy and his gang before trying to resume his relationship with Tammy. Obviously, thinking there is a monster on the loose, the inept town law enforcement closes in forcing Tammy and the T-Rex to go on the lam. Yes, this is an actual movie!

This cheesy, goofy and gory flick is directed by Stewart Raffill from a nonsensical script by he and Gary Brockette. The tone of the film, especially with the gore restored, is wildly uneven with slapstick comedy one minute and slasher style violence the next. The love story angle of it is even more absurd, with scenes of Tammy gleefully riding her boyfriend/T-Rex with the cops in hot pursuit. One wonders if the removal of the gore wasn’t actually a good idea, as in this case, at least the film would have been more consistent as a straight-up comedy. The cast are all over-acting and the over-the-top performances fit in with the premise far more than the viscera and limbs. The animatronic T-Rex is impressive, though the FX in some long shots of it walking are pathetically poor. Thankfully those shots are few and far between. Still, there is something very entertaining about it, though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what. Maybe it’s the filmmakers just taking the ball and running with it that makes it appealing, or, perhaps, it’s presenting this tale of love and robot dinosaurs proudly without restraint that makes it amusing. More than likely it’s simply because it hits the right notes at being an enjoyable ‘so bad it’s good’ oddity and that’s what gives us the giggles.

Whatever the reasons one can sit through this with a smile of disbelieve and amusement on their face, this is a ridiculous movie that has the audacity to parade it’s nonsensical story out there proudly. There is goofball comedy one minute and hardcore gore the next, as a mechanical T-rex with a human brian tries to find love and revenge in a small suburban California town. It’s an original premise, you have to give it that! Tammy and the T-Rex is current available uncut on blu-ray from the great folks at Vinegar Syndrome… https://vinegarsyndrome.com/collections/vinegar-syndrome/products/tammy-and-the-t-rex

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) T-Rexs for it’s sheer audacity and unrestrained goofiness.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER (1965)

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FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER (1965)

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There has been an atomic war on Mars and the planet is devastated. To save her race, the only surviving woman, the beautiful but sinister Princess Marcuzan (Marilyn Hanold), has come to Earth with her henchman, Dr. Nadir (Lou Cutell) to kidnap beautiful young women to mate with the remaining Martian men. During their visit, they shoot down an exploratory rocket carrying cyborg astronaut Col. Frank Saunders (Robert Reilly), who is a mix of body parts and computer chips. “Frank” is damaged and begins a killing spree upon crash landing in Puerto Rico….still with me? Obviously these two plots will collide leading to a showdown with Frank and the Martian’s mutant pet monster, Mull (Bruce Glover).

This cheesy 1965 sci-fi/horror definitely gets points for coming up with a hilariously ludicrous plot and taking it with dead seriousness. It took three writers, John Rodenbeck, R. H. W. Dillard and George Garrett, to come up with this nonsense and it’s directed with giggle-inducing deadpan by Robert Gaffney. We have pointy eared Martians with visible bald caps kidnapping bikini clad babes, while Frank murders the locals looking like he fell asleep at a frat party and they glued transistor radio parts to his face with melted wax. As for his opponent, Mull simply looks like a bunch of Halloween costumes torn apart and then re-sewn together without much of a game plan. These two collide when Frank’s creator Dr. Adam Steele (Return of the Living Dead‘s James Karen) finally tracks down his errant creation and gets him somewhat functional again. This sets up the climatic confrontation as pretty heroine Karen Grant (Nancy Marshall) becomes one of the wannabe Martian mail order brides and Doc, Frank and the military go on the offensive. If Mars thinks they can have our bikini babes, they’ve got another thing coming! There is plenty of rock n roll on the soundtrack, along with sets, costumes and ray guns that would make Ed Wood proud. Add in some military and NASA stock footage and you got yourself a movie! This isn’t the only flick during the 50s and 60s to feature aliens wanting to mate with Earth women and one does wonder what was up with that. It might be the only flick to feature a NASA that has gotten into the grave robbing business to build an elite line of cyborg astronauts. It is morbidly economical and practical! Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster is a lot of 60s B-movie fun with most of the entertainment coming unintentionally and hilariously.

With all the goofy dialogue and the simply lunacy of the plot itself, can one really fault the actors for this flick’s high unintentional laugh factor? James Karen is sold as the hero here, despite the fact that he is dabbling in creating astronauts out of spare body and and radio parts. Nancy Marshall is a pretty and perky heroine, but as in most of this era’s flicks, Karen is pretty much just a damsel in distress. Robert Reilly as Frank isn’t asked to do much but wander around looking dazed with what looks like painful make-up on his face. He does that fine. Lou Cutell (most famous for playing Amazing Larry in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) is disturbing, in a creepy uncle kind of way, as Dr. Nadir and pretty Marilyn Hanold just gets to act all bargain basement Maleficent in her silly Martian headdress. Performance of the film goes to the uncredited military guy receiving Dr. Steele’s frantic phone call about an alien invasion. The director’s brother-in-law maybe?

Overall, this is a cheesy fun B-movie that is a good of example of the type of low budget drive-in features that were made back in the 50s and 60s. It’s cheap, silly and fills it’s soundtrack with rock n roll music, as much as, it’s filled with girls in bikinis. Not hard to figure out who their target audience was. They don’t make them like this anymore.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Dr. Nadirs looking quite pleased with himself.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY (1987)

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SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY (1987)

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Full Moon Pictures 1987 release is B-movie exploitation to the core. Despite the possibilities evoked by one of the best exploitation flick titles ever, it’s actually just a science fiction retelling of The Most Dangerous Game. It finds shapely space slave girls Daria (80s B-movie queen Elizabeth Kaitan) and Tisa (Cindy Beal) escaping captivity in their animal skin bikinis and crash landing on a remote planet. This savage planet is home to the mysterious Zed (Don Scribner ) and his androids, who warmly welcome the girls into Zed’s castle. Soon the two find out that Zed’s hospitality is a smoke screen and that he is a big game hunter. Worse still, they, along with stranded siblings Rik (Carl Horner) and Shala (scream queen Brinke Stevens), are his next intended prey. Can these scantily clad space vixens outwit the diabolical hunter and beat him at his own deadly game?

Low budget flick is written and directed by Ken Dixon with a definite Roger Corman-esque flair. It has three beautiful ladies as it’s leads and when they are not bearing their natural charms, they are as scantily clad as possible. The FX are delightfully cheesy, there is some bloodshed and we have our lovely ladies prancing around the alien jungle bearing laser cannons and plenty of skin. It’s all done tongue in cheek and while the actors play the material seriously, we have a pair of bickering androids (Kirk Graves and Randoph Roehbling) to remind us it’s all in fun. There is a rubber monster/cyborg (Fred Tate) lurking in the jungle for added peril and our damsels find themselves in distress as often as in firefights with the villainous Zed. It has all your exploitation movie needs, including sex, nudity, action, violence, perils, escapes and a touch of bondage to add a little kink to the proceedings. It movies quickly at an economical 80 minutes, giving us little time to think about just how silly it all is.

There are a couple of things that hold this flick back from firing it’s B-movie laser blasters on full. The acting is a bit flat, though Kaitan tries hard to give her Daria some fire, and Scriber’s Zed is a dull, pontificating villain. The flick is a lot of B-movie entertainment, but would have been even better with a villain who was stronger, or simply a lot more fun. Comments could be made about the sets, FX and costumes, but the resulting cheese factor adds to the overall B-movie appeal. A happy accident there.

In conclusion, this is an amusing exploitation flick that skates very close to Roger Corman territory. It’s the type of film he would have made and it’s a surprise that he didn’t come up with it first. Writer/director Ken Dixon has fun with his premise and delivers the exploitation goods proudly. Livelier performances, especially from it’s bland villain, would have made this a real blast, but our leading ladies do try hard and appear to be having a good time romping around in little or less. Regarded as a bit of a cult classic all these years later and for fans of this type of stuff, it succeeds more than it fails. The type of flick they don’t make anymore.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DOCTOR MORDRID (1992)

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DOCTOR MORDRID (1992)

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Full Moon flick is a complete rip-off of the Doctor Strange comic book character, though predating the hit MCU film by almost twenty-five years. It tells of modern day sorcerer Anton Mordrid (Jeffrey Combs) who teams up with pretty police occult specialist Samantha Hunt (Yvette Nipar) to battle an evil wizard named Kabal (Brian Thompson). Kabal plans to unleash Hell on Earth and Mordrid plans to stop him.

Rip-off or not, amusing comic book style flick is written by frequent Full Moon scribe C. Courtney Joyner and directed by the father and son team of Albert and Charles Band. It’s a direct to DVD feature and looks more like a TV show than a movie. At only 74 minutes it feels more like a TV show, too, one that never got past the pilot episode. Still, it is fun and tries hard, even if it’s inspiration is far too obvious. The FX are cheesy, though there is some stop motion animation from the late, great David Allen. With such a short running time, the simple story moves along fairly quickly and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. The low budget deprives it of any real action sequences, other than the climactic throw-down, which is a fun scene at a museum complete with battling stop motion animated dinosaur skeletons.

The small cast get the material and take it serious enough. Combs is now a horror movie legend and here he gets to have a bit of fun as superhero type. He’s charming and does exude intelligence and power, which makes his Doctor Strange lite a fun character. Yvette Nipar is the smart and sassy Samantha and she isn’t given much to do, but at least is a strong willed heroine, even if only a second banana to Mordrid. Thompson is a fine enough villain as the evil Kabal. He looks like an 80s hair metal band member and has the appropriate swagger of a powerful being bent on world domination…at least one in a B movie like this. Supporting players are Jay Acovone as a hard nosed police detective, with Keith Coulouris and actress/stuntwoman Julie Michaels as Kabal’s minions.

In conclusion, this may be a way too obvious rip-off of a classic Marvel character, but it’s not all that bad. It is one of the better Full Moon direct to DVD productions and gives Combs a chance to have a little fun playing a hero type. The cast and filmmakers get the tone right for this kind of thing and it’s almost too bad budget restraints keep it from delivering some punchier action and more fitting FX. Some nostalgia also adds some fun, as it is from the early 90s, so, it still has a hint of 80s in it’s tone. Completely derivative, but still a good time. 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) bargain basement sorcerers.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ALIEN CONTAMINATION (1980)

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ALIEN CONTAMINATION aka CONTAMINATION (1980)

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Italian filmmaker Luigi Cozzi is most known for his cheesy but colorful Star Wars rip-off Starcrash, and his Hercules films with Lou Ferrigno, but he also entered Alien territory with this 1980 sci-fi gorefest. Alien Contamination, or simply, Contamination finds an abandoned cargo ship drifting into New York harbor. When the ship is boarded, authorities find a dead crew and coffee cases filled with large avocado looking eggs. Worse still, when the eggs are ruptured, they spew a green fluid which causes the human body to literally explode into bloody pieces. New York Police Lieutenant Tony Aris (Marino Masé) investigates with military scientist Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) and finds a conspiracy to destroy all life on earth involving Martians, allegedly dead astronauts and a Columbian coffee plantation.

Flick is written and directed by Cozzi and can be quite gruesome, but also unintentionally funny at times. It’s a silly flick that takes itself very seriously. The dialog is laughably bad, especially Lt. Aris’s hilarious “New York Cop”  dialog, making him sound like he’s from a grade Z 1940s detective movie. Another rib-tickling example of the Shakespearian prose is Stella and alcoholic ex-astronaut Hubbard’s (Ian McCulloch) exchange about his male proficiency. Let’s stay professional, folks! The pace is quite pedestrian and there are only spurts of bloody action before the climax. Even with the Earth’s entire population at stake, the characters never display any sense of urgency. The gore effects are plentiful and one of the best things about the flick. The eggs are quite rubbery looking, although they do make a creepy moaning sound as they pulsate so, they are effective. When our alien beastie is finally revealed at the climax it is a delightfully 1950s-ish tentacled cyclops that would be at home in any Roger Corman production. At least we have a cool electronic score by Goblin and the flick is mercifully short at only 82 minutes. Despite it’s shortcomings, if watched in the right mindset, it can be fun.

The cast won’t win any awards. Marleau is quite wooden as Stella and despite being a pretty actress, she generates no sex appeal even with a last act romantic interlude with Aris. As Aris, Masé is amusing with his heavy New York accent and ridiculous cop dialog. Zombie and Zombie Holocaust veteran Ian McCulloch plays drunken and disgraced astronaut, Commander Hubbard, who was laughed out of a job for claiming to have seen the eggs on Mars. Ironically, he was right all along. Rounding out the main cast is Siegfried Rauch as the alien-controlled villain, former astronaut Hamilton. He’s a bland bad guy and would be far better at home in a low level James Bond rip-off.

Overall, this a bad flick that can be fun when it’s badness is appreciated in the right way. It’s a shameless rip-off of parts of Alien with a hint of bad James Bond movie mixed in. There is awful dialog, wooden acting, terrible dubbing and lots of rubbery SPFX to keep one amused. It also has a lot of gore and an electronic score by legendary band Goblin (Romero’s Dawn of the Dead). With a few brews and watched in the right way, it can be a fun 80+ minutes of Italian gore nonsense.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) cheesy alien eggs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DARKMAN (1990)

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DARKMAN (1990)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Darkman is Sam Raimi’s first big studio film and is a fun horror movie/superhero flick mash-up. It tells the tale of Dr. Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson), whose life’s work is to create synthetic skin. His lawyer girlfriend Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand), however, has unintentionally crossed paths with ruthless land developer Strack (Colin Friels) and crime boss Robert Durant (Larry Drake) who send thugs to Westlake’s home/lab to collect some incriminating paperwork. This results in Peyton being brutalized and badly burned with his work destroyed. Now horribly disfigured and without the ability to feel pain, Westlake continues his work in hiding and uses his ability to create skin masks to infiltrate the criminal organization…and exact gruesome revenge!

Flick is directed by Sam Raimi from Raimi’s story and a script by he and four other writers. That’s a lot of scribes for what is basically Phantom of the Opera meets Batman, but it’s far from the mess that number implies. Darkman is actually a fun and amusingly gruesome superhero/revenge flick as Neeson’s scientist turned vigilante hunts down Durant’s thugs, while carving out a path towards the gangster and his crooked developer partner. He also tries to restart his romance with Julie with a hilarious and tragic amusement park scene being the result of that epic fail. The film has a strong comic book vibe, with over-the-top characters, such as Evil Dead II’s Dan Hicks playing a one-legged thug with a machine gun in his wooden leg. There is a lot of action, but as this is a horror film, too, some cartoon-ishly gruesome death’s for Durant’s men. Raimi isn’t afraid to get bloody, as this is rated R, yet maintains the feel of a comic book, which probably got him the job directing three Spider-Man flicks. He takes his material seriously, yet has a lot of fun with it.

The cast all get the material. Neeson plays Westlake as a charming but dedicated scientist and then makes for a very Phantom of the Opera-esque vigilante when he transforms into a vengeful anti-hero. Frances McDormand is good as Julie, who is at first fooled by Strack’s charms. As Strack, Friels makes for a charming yet slimy villain. Drake is very good as the brutal crime boss Durant. He can be ruthless and cruel and is a perfect match for the once kind, now vengeful Westlake. The supporting cast including Nicholas Worth, the before mentioned Hicks and a cameoing Bruce Campbell, all get the tone of the material and their characters.

Overall this is a really fun flick that captures the comic book spirit sometimes better than the straight-up superhero flicks of the time. The cast all get the tone of the material and despite the overabundance or writers, it’s a clever script that balances the comic book style with the horror elements perfectly…as does Raimi’s direction. There is action and drama and some gruesome ends to some very deserving creeps. Inspired a pair of direct to video sequels with The Mummy’s Arnold Vosloo taking over as Westlake.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 an 1/2 Darkmen (out of 4).

 

 

 

 

 

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