AVCO EMBASSY PICTURES: UNSUNG HEROES OF THE B-MOVIE!

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AVCO EMBASSY PICTURES: UNSUNG HEROES OF THE B-MOVIE!

(Just click on the movie titles to go to our full length reviews!)

Some film fans may remember Avco Embassy Pictures, though there also may be some of you out there who have never heard of them…but if you love movies, you certainly know some of their titles! When talking about Avco Embassy Pictures, it would also be remiss not to mention the name of Robert Rehme…and as a B-Movie fan, you might want to know who this man is, too…

Originally a distributor of foreign films, such as Godzilla: King Of The Monsters and Fellini’s 8 1/2, Avco Embassy was founded by legendary producer Joseph E. Levine in 1942. It wasn’t until the 60s when the studio began to produce it’s own films, including such classic’s as The Graduate, Mad Monster Party and The Producers, to name just a few.

Some classic genre flicks released/produced by Avco Embassy in their early years!

The era that should resonate most with horror, action and sci-fi fans, are the years between 1978 and 1982. During most of this time, a man named Robert Rehme ran the studio. After having been sold and then experiencing some financial trouble that brought production to a halt, Rehme was hired to get the studio producing and profitable again and that he did! Rehme, who got his start working for Roger Corman at New World Pictures, used some of his former employer’s methods and turned to lower budgeted, yet popular B-movies to get the studio back in the black. Avco Embassy started churning out such flicks prolifically for the next few years, producing many inexpensive but successful films. Under his watch, the studio produced and released such classics and cult classics as Phantasm, The Fog, Scanners, The Howling and Escape From New York among many others! This strategy was a success, as studio earnings quadrupled during Rehme’s time at the helm!

Some of the classics and cult favorites the studio churned out under Rehme between 78 and 82!

All good things do, however, come to an end. Robert Rehme moved on to work for Universal in 1981 and Avco Embassy was subsequently sold in 1982. The name was changed to simply Embassy Pictures and the new owners gradually moved away from such B-Movie fair focusing on turning out more mainstream movies such as Eddie And The Cruisers and the classic comedy This Is Spinal Tap. Their last theatrical feature saw it’s release in 1986 and laid to rest the legacy of a studio whose early 80s flourish produced numerous classics and cult favorites. While Avco is now long gone, and Rehme apparently retired after a lengthy career, the movies they turned out, especially during their golden age between 1978 and 1982, will immortalize Avco Embassy Pictures and Robert Rehme with movie buffs for all time!

-MonsterZero NJ

Unsung hero of many a horror and B-Movie classic and cult classic, Robert Rehme!

sources: Wikipedia/IMDB/internet

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: VICE SQUAD (1982)

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VICE SQUAD (1982)

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Vice Squad is a sleazy exploitation movie that has a bit of a cult following and another grind house flick I got to see at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. during the 80s. The story takes place over the course of one night on the mean streets of Hollywood. It tells the tale of single-mom and prostitute Princess (Season Hubley) who is forced by L.A. vice squad Det. Tom Walsh (Gary Swanson) to help bust a vicious, psychotic pimp named Ramrod (Wings Hauser). Ramrod has just brutally murdered Princess’ friend Ginger (pioneer MTV VJ Nina Blackwood) so, she reluctantly agrees. The sting works but, a daring escape puts the crazed, killer pimp back on the streets with the unaware Princess his prime target. Can Walsh and his squad track down Ramrod and stop him before Princess becomes his next victim?

Directed by Gary Sherman (Dead And Buried, Poltergeist III) and written by no less than four writers, Vice Squad is a flick filled with the sleaze of 80s Hollywood from the first frame to the last. It has some brutal violence and isn’t afraid to “go there” when it comes to the portrayal of the Hollywood nightlife and those who inhabit it. It might have been a real sleaze cult classic if Sherman’s directing of his subject wasn’t so leaden and by-the-numbers. The film can be very brutal at times, so, it’s not like Sherman needed to lighten his touch, but, the film lacks any really energy, urgency or intensity. Despite the sometimes disturbing subject matter, the film is presented very matter-of-factly and most of the performances are quite wooden. You would also think that with four writers, someone would have cleaned up the really bad dialogue and some of the odd randomness that slows things down (such as the scene with a cop berating everyone in earshot over stolen paper clips). The film definitely could have lost a few minutes to make it a bit tighter and would not have lost any important story elements at closer to 90 minutes. Still, it is a nostalgic portrayal of the Hollywood sub-cultures that inhabited its streets in the 80s, echoing New York’s Time Square area around the same time. Glitter and glitz by day, drugs, murder and prostitution by night. If Vice Squad gets something very right it’s the exploitative portrayal of all the filth and crime. Too bad there wasn’t a bit of a better movie around it or one that was more energetic in it’s wallowing in the muck.

Cast-wise, only Hauser and Hubley really stand out. Wings Hauser is completely over-the-top as the sadistic pimp Ramrod. He is vicious and revels in it and the actor successfully creates a villain that is both comic-bookishly exaggerated and yet realistic enough to be frightening. Season Hubley gives some spunk to a part that is basically the cliché hooker with a heart of gold. She also was brave and a good sport with some of the violence and sexuality of some of her scenes. Sadly, Swanson is pretty wooden as Walsh, as is the rest of the supporting cast, and a little charisma or intensity would have made Det. Walsh a far more endearing hero. Even exploitation films need interesting and well portrayed characters to work and here the supporting characters are all very generic and have little personality to set them apart. They all seems to blend together.

To sum it up Vice Squad is a mixed bag. On one hand it’s sluggishly directed, has some truly bad dialogue and most of the characters are bland and uninteresting. The action is very by-the-numbers and there really isn’t all that much of it. The film is also about five to ten minutes too long and would have benefited from tighter editing. On the other hand, there is some very effective and brutal violence, Hauser creates a sick, twisted and memorable villain and the exploitation elements go further than most films would dare, even in the early 80s before the MPAA started getting stricter and more conservative. There is some strong 80s nostalgia, especially in it’s sleazy portrayal of Hollywood nightlife at the time. It’s worth a look if you haven’t seen it and actually works well paired up with the similar but, much more entertaining Angel…or, do an East Coast/West Coast double feature and team it up with the equally sleazy NYC set Shakedown!

MonsterZero NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Star Wings Hauser, who was also a singer with an album, sang the film’s theme song Neon Slime that plays predominately over the opening and closing credits.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 bullets.

last_stand rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DEAD AND BURIED (1981)

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DEAD AND BURIED (1981)

80s horror written by Alien scribes Ron Shusett and Dan O’Bannon seems to have developed a reputation and a cult following since it’s unremarkable release back in 1981…but is that rep and following well deserved? In my opinion…not really.

The story finds a series of murders perpetrated against visitors in the small town of Potter’s Bluff and the efforts of Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) to solve them. The more Gillis investigates, the more bizarre a direction the evidence seems to lead him. Worse still, the more it starts to appear the locals he’s known all his life are not who or what they seem and the town’s kindly mortician (Jack Albertson) might be at the center of it. Will Dan be able to solve the case or will it be the death of him?

Flick has an atmosphere that is a bit unsettling throughout and a nice visual style, but that’s all Director Gary Sherman (Vice Squad, Poltergeist III) accomplishes as the directing is rather flat, creating no suspense for the proceedings and no impact to the gory kill sequences. All the victims are introduced moments before their deaths, so they are just subjects for Stan Winston’s gore effects. Sherman also evokes very little in terms of performance from his cast and while the townspeople’s trance-like demeanor might be on purpose, that doesn’t explain everybody else. The dialog is terrible at times and the basic story of a strange little town where out-of-towners are offed with bloody regularity is nothing new, though, the climactic revelation is a bit spooky and different, I’ll give it that.

There is a good cast here which, aside from Farentino and Albertson, also includes Melody Anderson as Gillis’ wife, and familiar faces Lisa Blount (Prince Of Darkness), Barry Corbin (WarGames) and Robert Englund (Do I need to tell you where you’ve seen him?), but like I said, they aren’t utilized to maximum effect and it’s a shame. With it’s premise and the direction the story leads, there could have been a really good movie here had the film been in hands that had a better idea of what to do with it.

An odd little movie that doesn’t quite accomplish much else than being moody, atmospheric and weird though, Buried is still off the beaten path from the run-of-the-mill slasher flicks that were popular at the time. By today’s standards Dead And Buried is quite dated, being tame and slow moving, but for horror fans it’s definitely worth a curiosity viewing, just don’t expect the hidden classic some make it out to be.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 hypodermic needles.

dead and buried rating

WARNING: Trailer is graphic and contains spoilers if you haven’t seen this flick…

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