TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959)

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BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959)

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Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) is a busboy at The Yellow Door, a coffee shop for beatniks and bohemian artists…what we would call a Starbucks today…and wants to be revered like many of the artistic types that frequent there, especially in the eyes of pretty co-worker Carla (Barboura Morris). In a series of unfortunate events, Walter kills his landlady’s cat Frankie and hides the body in some clay that he intended to use in a sculpture. He brings the cat to the shop and everyone becomes infatuated with it, especially Carla. Now Walter has discovered a way into Carla’s heart and it will only take some clay and a few corpses to do it.

Horror/comedy is directed and produced by Roger Corman from a script by Charles B. Griffith, who also wrote the original Little Shop of Horrors. It’s not the first collaboration between Corman and leading man Miller, but it is one of their most famous and one of Miller’s few leading roles. It also unleashed a slew of cameos by Miller playing characters named Walter Paisley in the films of up and coming Corman alumni years later. The flick is a comedy of errors with Walter making his first kills by accident, but as his “sculptures”, are getting him the attention he wants, he soon starts killing his subjects to be immortalized in clay. Obviously, things will get out of hand for the bumbling Walter.The satire may not click today as it specifically targets the beatnik culture of the 50s, but one may still appreciate the dark humor of Walter’s newfound art and the art crowd’s overwhelming reaction to it. It’s not a long movie at only 66 minutes and the jazz infused score by Fred Katz is quite nostalgic. On a production level, the film was shot in true Corman style for AIP on a budget of only $50,000 and in 5 days on the sets from another movie.

There is a small cast. Miller is likable and sympathetic as Walter. He’s abused by his boss Leonard (Antony Carbone) and ignored by those he wants attention from. Even when he starts to kill for his newfound hobby, he remains more tragic than unlikable, only becoming downright creepy in the last act. Barboura Morris is pretty and charming as Carla. She’s sweet and seems to always like Walter, though he doesn’t see it. Carbone is slimy as Leonard, who is benefiting financially from the art community’s new prodigy. Even when he discovers Walter’s gruesome secret, he chooses to profit until guilt finally overcomes him. The film also has a small role from 70s game show host and TV icon Bert Convy as an ill-fated undercover cop.

This early Corman production may be dated at this point, but it is still fun and it made Dick Miller a movie fan household name. Miller rarely had lead roles and this one would earn him a long career of character parts and cameos that lasted for sixty years. A perfect example of early Corman thriftiness and one of Dick Miller’s most famous roles.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) sculptures surprisingly titled “dead cat”.

 

Farewell and RIP Dick Miller (1928-2019)

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FAREWELL AND R.I.P. TO THE LEGENDARY DICK MILLER!

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Dick Miller 1928-2019

It is with a great sadness that news has broken that legendary character actor and frequent Roger Corman and Joe Dante performer Dick Miller has died. The Bronx born actor starred in many classics and cult classics frequently playing characters named Walter Paisley, whom he first played in Corman’s Bucket of Blood in 1959. A veteran of over 100 films, Miller was 90 years old.

Just some of the classics and cult classics Miller appeared in!

-MonsterZero NJ

Source: Variety

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956)

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IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956)

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I recently began reading Roger Corman’s autobiography How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime and it made me want to revisit some of his earliest films that I first saw on TV’s Chiller Theater and Creature Features as a kid.

One of Corman’s earliest flicks as a producer and director, this thriller tells the story of an alien invader from Venus, who isn’t particularly happy that earth has started sending satellites into space. It comes here to invade using bat-like creatures to take over people’s minds and with the help of bitter earth scientist, Dr. Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef) who believes earth needs ‘saving’ by this higher intelligence. Standing in the way of this nefarious plot is scientist Dr. Paul Nelson (Peter Graves) along with some feisty heroines and the usual soldiers and military types that populated films of this era.

Corman directs with a serious hand, from the script by Lou Rusoff and frequent Corman collaborator Charles B. Griffith, despite that his creature looks like a combination of cucumber and crustacean. He shot it in about two weeks on a budget far lower than the average Hollywood flick of the time and the production looks better than one might expect due to Corman thriftiness. While the creature FX are cheesy and the dialogue equally so, it ads charm to a fun movie, all the more amusing for taking itself so seriously despite it’s outlandish plot and monster. Corman gets good work out of his cast, which also includes frequent Corman actress Beverly Garland (Swamp Woman, Not of This Earth) and Sally Fraser, who was in such cult classics as Earth vs. the Spider and War Of The Colossal Beast. The film, due to it’s small budget, does focus more on character drama than creature hi-jinx, but it’s atmospheric and keeps one interested till the military finally take on the alien dictator in true 50s creature feature fashion. There is also a very effective mood building score by Ronald Stein who composed for many a Corman classic. If you love the sci-fi flicks of this decade, this is one of the classics and an early example of the low budget entertainment that made Roger Corman one of the most successful producers of all time and an underrated director.

I had a fun time watching this again. It’s judged due to it’s cheesy creature, but the monster has become iconic, representing the creature features of the 50s and the film is better than it is given credit for. It obviously influenced future alien invader flicks, just look at Without Warning’s flying creature weapons as a perfect example and as usual with a Corman production, features future stars like Van Cleef and Graves. Corman is now a legend for making these kind of inexpensive but profitable features and who cares if it’s title monster looks like it could hide in a salad bar or seafood buffet. A fun example of what made the 50s era monster flicks so endearing. Also features frequent Corman actor, the legendary, Dick Miller as a soldier.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 alien vegetable/crustacean hybrids with a taste for megalomania.

 

 

 

 

 

it conquered the world

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TRUCK TURNER (1974)

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TRUCK TURNER (1974)

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1974 blaxploitation flick has soul music legend Isaac Hayes playing ex-football player turned bounty hunter, Mack “Truck” Turner. Mack and his partner Jerry (Alan Weeks) are hired to track down a vicious pimp named Gator (Paul Harris) who has skipped bail. Turner is forced to kill Gator in a gunfight and now must face his vengeful girlfriend/madame Dorinda (Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols) and her new associate Blue (Yaphet Kotto). With hired killers on his tail and a target on his back, Truck Turner is taking the fight to them to protect the ones he loves!

Aside from watching the future Duke Of New York in action and getting to see Star Trek’s Uhura as a foul mouthed madame, there isn’t too much to recommend about Truck Turner other than the obvious nostalgia. The film is sloppily directed by Jonathan Kaplan from a script that took three writers to concoct it’s simple story and hilariously vulgar dialog. The action scenes are badly choreographed and shot and the film feels like it was edited with a chainsaw. Not to say there isn’t some fun to be had from it’s epic badness or the brazen machismo in which Hayes seems to be impervious to gunfire, yet hits his target almost every time. The dialog is filled with profanity and racial slurs, which can be amusing…and quite shocking for those not used to an era long before politically correctness set in. It has something to offend everyone in today’s age of oversensitivity and if the racial slurs and portrayal of women as whores doesn’t accomplish it, a certain scene with Truck’s cat will. The thing is, the movie isn’t trying to offend, it was made at a time where exploitation films ‘went there’ and where proud of it. Still, despite it’s bravado, it seems to be just a little too badly made to really be enjoyable as camp. It is a very amateurish flick, but it did make money back in the day and does have a cult classic reputation, so who am I to argue. The legendary Hayes did the soundtrack himself, so at least there is that.

The cast play things surprisingly serious and that helps. Hayes is as cool as they come and gives his bounty hunter a confident swagger and yet there is a heart under all that testosterone. Nichelle Nichols is delightfully over-the-top and vulgar and really cranks out the trashy sex appeal as vicious madame Dorinda. Actually shows she is a versatile actress when allowed to play something other than Lt. Uhura. Yaphet Kotto gives threat and menace to his pimp Blue and Weeks is a solid enough sidekick for the macho Truck. It’s in the supporting cast that we start to run into trouble and performances range from adequate to awful with the various pimps, prostitutes and hit men. Also features small roles with Dick Miller and frequent John Carpenter guy Charles Cyphers.

Not sure why I didn’t enjoy this one. Normally I love this kind of stuff and maybe just went in with the wrong expectations. I was expecting something more on a Shaft level and maybe wasn’t ready for something that was a blatant exploitation flick that took itself far less seriously and was far less well-made. Perhaps then I will revisit Truck Turner once day and be ready this time for it’s badness, crudeness and rudeness. For now, I see it as a bad flick that was a little too bad for it’s own good at times.

-MonsterZero NJ

A generous…it is Isaac Hayes after all…2 and 1/2 bullets.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SPACE RAIDERS (1983)

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SPACE RAIDERS (1983)

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Actually saw this fun little Roger Corman flick in a theater back in 1983. It’s a slight departure for Corman as it was more kid friendly in tone and came with a PG rating. It tells the tale of a young boy named Peter (David Mendenhall), who while playing in the warehouse of his father’s company, gets caught in the middle of a firefight between security and a band of pirates. Peter hides in the very cargo ship the pirates wind up stealing and now is trapped with them as they flee. He slowly endears himself to the band of thieves as he and they are pursued by both bounty hunters and a massive robot warship.

While basically void of the usual blood and boobs that Corman’s flicks were notorious for, this flick does have his thriftiness, as it’s effects are basically recycled from Corman classics like Battle Beyond The Stars, Galaxy Of Terror, Forbidden World and Android. The James Horner score is lifted from Battle Beyond the Stars and Humanoids From The Deep as well. Written and directed by Howard R. Cohen, the film makes the most of it’s minuscule budget and what it can’t accomplish with modest action and recycled battle scenes, it does with heart. Despite not being big on action and having seen a lot of the space battles before in the film’s mentioned, the film is harmless and fun in spite of it’s economical approach in a time where big budget space adventures were becoming common. It’s loaded with charm, as were most of Corman’s flicks, even if it couldn’t possibly compete with the same year’s Return Of The Jedi.

The cast also give this a bit of spunk, too. Mendenhall is cute and likable as the wide-eyed Peter who is having the time of his life with a crew of pirates. While on the subject, the likable band of rogues is captained by Vince Edwards as Hawk. Edwards, who was doctor Ben Casey on TV from 1961 to 1966, plays the ex-soldier with a heart of gold with the appropriate grit and grizzle. He is joined by soap stars Thom Christopher and Patsy Pease as Flightplan and Amanda respectively, with Drew Snyder and future Ghoulies director Luca Bercovici rounding out the crew. B-Movie icon Dick Miller also appears. Everybody takes the material seriously enough to make it work, but appear to be having fun.

This is not a great movie by any lengths, but it has a charm and heart and that makes it fun despite the low budget limitations. You have to give Corman credit for getting another movie out of SPFX, sets and music from past productions and having his filmmakers show some restraint to deliver a more kid friendly flick. One of the last of Corman’s New World Pictures productions before he sold it.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 recycled spaceships from Battle Beyond The Stars.

space raiders rating

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (1990)

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GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (1990)

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Sequel takes place a few years later in NYC where Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and now fiancé, Kate (Pheobe Cates) have gone to work at the high-tech Clamp Tower owned by billionaire entrepreneur Daniel Clamp (John Glover). At the same time, Gizmo’s keeper Wing (Keye Luke) dies and Clamp seizes the Chinatown property for a development project. The Mogwai is brought to Clamp Tower’s genetics lab where they are quite unaware of the rules…which are again broken, unleashing an army of gremlins inside the skyscraper who are awaiting nightfall to spread out into the Big Apple.

Written this time by Charles S. Haas and Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones, Gremlins 2 takes on a lighter and more cartoonish tone with the previous film’s darker and more violent elements all but gone. Director Joe Dante still gives us a good time and the new setting and expanded budget freshen things up a bit and give us creatures with far more individual personality, especially when they hit the Splice Of Life genetics lab and start experimenting on themselves. Flying gremlins, spider-gremlins and even a gremlin with a genius IQ (voiced by NYC acting legend Tony Randall). It may be a lot goofier in tone, but Dante and his writers find new ways for the gremlins to cause havoc and amuse us. There are still a lot of clever bits, even if it has lost a good deal of it’s edge  and while I prefer the darker tone of the first, there is still enough of a devious sense of humor to keep it fun. Obviously, there are a ton of movie references and in-jokes for movie fans to giggle and veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith returns to score, as does frequent Dante cinematographer John Hora return to lens.

Dante again has assembled a good cast. The returning Galligan and Cates reprise their roles complete with plenty of charm. John Glover is very funny as the goofball, eccentric billionaire Clamp. His almost oblivious reaction to everything is constantly amusing. Haviland Morris is fun, sexy and seductive as Billy’s boss who has plans for him that extend beyond the office. There are a lot of fun cameos from some Dante regulars with Dick Miller returning as Mr. Futterman and Dante regular Robert Picardo as a jerk of a security chief. There are also small parts from character actor Robert Prosky as a horror show host, a hilarious Christopher Lee as the head of the genetics lab, Dr. Catheter and wrestler/actor Hulk Hogan cameoing as himself.

Gremlins 2 may not be quite as good or unique as the first flick, but is still a lot of fun and Dante brings the chaos and anarchy with a devious smile…though with far less dark a tone. The cast are all having a blast and the FX people really take advantage of a much larger budget to deliver a horde of various versions of the title creatures. Not quite an equal, but a fun sequel that sadly underperformed at the box office and ended the series till talk of a Gremlins 3 started up again recently.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Gremlins

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GREMLINS (1984)

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GREMLINS (1984)

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Gremlins is a fun Christmas set comedy/horror about a small town that comes under siege by a group of nasty little creatures. The story finds a down on his luck inventor (Hoyt Axton) buying a strange little furry creature called a Mogwai in a back-alley Chinatown shop for his son Billy (Zach Galligan). There are three rules given to insure safe care of the critter named Gizmo…keep him away from bright light, don’t get him wet and don’t feed him after midnight. Of course all the rules are broken along the way and Gizmo reluctantly spawns a group of horrid little creatures with a diabolical…and lethal…sense of humor. Now the sleepy little town of Kingston Falls is under attack and Billy and his sweetheart Kate (Phoebe Cates) must find a way to stop the little devils.

Created by the triple threat of producer Steven Spielberg, writer Chris Columbus and director Joe Dante, this is a really entertaining movie that has become an outright classic. While it appears to be a kid friendly family film on the outside, there is a devious sense of humor bestowed upon the flick, which has always been Dante’s trademark…and it works exceptionally well here. The film has some fun moments and some cartoonish characters, like the Scrooge-like Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday), but it also has a definite mean streak as the title creatures ‘humor’ can be quite painful or deadly against it’s recipient. This keeps Gremlins from sliding into the sappy, sentimental level of Spielberg’s own E.T. and gives it a much needed and appreciated edge…though it grew criticism for some of it’s violence back in the day. The creatures themselves are well rendered with practical FX and one scene of model animation and this makes the story work all the better. Dante adds his usual movie nods…such as a doctor named “Moreau” and there are appearances from his regulars like Dick Miller and Belinda Balaski. There is also a fun score by legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith and some crisp cinematography, highlighting the holiday time of year, by John Hora.

Dante has a good cast here, too. Galligan is solid as the nerdy bank teller turned hero and he has a naive and down-to-earth charm that makes his character very likable. Cates does well playing the girl-next-door with a dark Christmas past. Cates had been know for sexier roles, but pulls off the all American girl very well. Folk singer Axton is surprisingly fun as the Billy’s inventor/dreamer father Randall Peltzer. Dante regular Dick Miller has an amusing part as one of Billy’s neighbors and Polly Holliday is perfectly Cruella Deville-like as Mrs. Deagle. A good cast that get the tone of the material perfectly.

Gremlins is a lot of fun and with the added nostalgic charm is even more endearing. It has a good cast, a director who adds just the right amount of dark humor and some very well rendered special FX to make our creatures believable. A fun movie recognized as a classic. Also stars comedian Howie Mandel as the voice of Gizmo.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Gremlins

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE TERMINATOR and ROBOCOP

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Watching this double feature tonight and thought I would share it with the rest of you!

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THE TERMINATOR (1984)

One of my favorite all time films. A wonderful example of how talent and imagination can accomplish a lot on a small budget. A tenacious little action film with a cool sci-fi premise. Simple and very effective. This is the film that really pushed Arnold into the spotlight and set director James Cameron on his course.

Terminator tells the story of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), a waitress trying to make ends meet, but, unknown to her, she has been targeted for death by a machine sent back from the future to eliminate her. The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has been sent by a computer network in 2029 to kill Sarah as she will be mother to John Connor, the man who will rebel against these self aware computers, who have taken over the world of the future, and end their reign before they eliminate mankind. The rebels send back a soldier, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to protect her and Sarah becomes a fugitive on the run as soldier and cyborg battle for the fate of the future in 1984 Los Angeles.

James Cameron’s lean mean fighting machine of a movie is as relentless as The Terminator itself. He crafts a fast paced action classic that never stops moving yet, still tells a good story and builds the characters so we are emotionally invested in them. He gets great work from his cast and brilliant work from his SPFX people who provide some really effective glimpses of an apocalyptic future and the carnage by our title villain in the present. From models to make-up, the film has top notch work on a low budget. The action is simple yet very intense with numerous chases and shoot-outs as the cybernetic assassin will stop at nothing and go through anyone to eliminate his prey.

A bonafide classic that set many careers in motion and started a film franchise that is still going decades later. If I had to make a top ten list of favorite movies, The Terminator would be on it. Also starring Lance Henriksen and Paul Winfield as two cops caught in the middle of the conflict and the first acting role for a young Bill Paxton as a punk who unfortunately crosses The Terminator’s path.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Amusing to know that Arnold was originally pursued to play the hero, Kyle Reese, but convinced Cameron to let him play the title villain instead. Furthermore, OJ Simpson was being considered for the role of The Terminator, but director Cameron felt, ironically, that no one would believe a nice guy like OJ as a cold blooded killer. Co-star Lance Henriksen was also considered in early stages when Cameron wanted a Terminator who could blend into a crowd, but Arnold took over the role and the rest is cinema history.

 

 -MonsterZero NJ

A classic 4 Terminator’s!

terminator rating

 

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ROBOCOP (1987)

Robocop is a bonifide classic, a movie that took me by surprise when I first saw it in 1987 as I thought it was going to be silly fun at best, but turned out to be a well crafted, satirical and delightfully blood-soaked good time with good performances across the board, especially from leading man Peter Weller. It is now one of my all time favorites. The story opens in a future Detroit where crime is rampant and corporations now run the police force, which is sadly being overwhelmed. Omni Consumer Products plans to build a new city, but needs crime put on a leash to insure new occupants. Devious executive Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) plans to use the walking tank, the ED 209 to bring law and order, but when it gruesomely malfunctions, junior executive Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) jumps in with his Robocop project. This plan focuses on using fatally wounded police officers in a Frankenstein-ish process to turn them into cyborg cops to do the job the ED 209 is failing to. Now they only need to wait till an officer is ‘volunteered’ as a subject… which in crime ridden Detroit, shouldn’t take long. Enter good cop and family man Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) who is transferred to Old Detroit (by Morton who sees him as a high risk in the crime ridden area) and on his first day out with partner Lewis (Nancy Allen), is gunned down by ruthless crime lord Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and his henchmen. The deceased Murphy is taken and transformed into Robocop, a cyborg law enforcement agent who is sent out to clean up the streets of Old Detroit. But despite having his memory supposedly wiped, Robocop starts to have recollections of his previous life, memories of a wife and child and of the vicious criminals who gunned him down. With the help of Lewis, Robocop tries to regain his lost humanity and take down those responsible for his murder. But there is a conspiracy of high level executive and low life criminals that stands in his way and once he turns his attention towards them, they conspire to make sure the cybernetic police officer and the man buried deep inside him are destroyed once and for all.

With the combination of a sharp and satirical script by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner and the over the top, energetic directing style of Paul Vehoeven, Robocop is a deliriously fun Sci-Fi/action flick with a twisted sense of humor and a giddy use of blood and gore. No more evident then in the film’s gleefully gruesome opening moments when a malfunctioning ED 209 uses it’s massive guns to blast a poor junior executive into mulch during an ill-fated demonstration. There is plenty of fast-paced action as Robocop takes to the streets and then pursues bad guys Boddicker and Jones to bring them down and avenge himself. There is also a healthy dose of social satire woven in between as well, especially aimed at the theatricality and superficiality of the media, as we get to see news clips and commercials of the type that are commonplace in this shallow futuristic world. One can say Murphy’s battle to regain his humanity seems to echo a society where we have lost ours. And what makes this movie so much more then just an action flick, is just how well the social commentary blends in with the story and action. It’s never heavy handed or preachy and is often served with a biting sense of humor, so it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the film. The same could be said about the theme of regaining humanity in a superficial society where excess is the order of the day. Murphy is symbolic of humanity being buried under such excess as he is buried under all the microchips and shiny alloy of his robotic armor. Yet, none of this overshadows that this is also a fast-paced and fun movie about a hero up against insurmountable odds, despite his steel skin and firepower and good fighting to triumph over evil. This is what makes Robocop such a great film, it is on the surface a dynamite popcorn movie, but with a very smart and soulful center. Rarely has a movie with a scathing message and a popcorn flick been blended so well as done here.

And Vehoeven gets great work from a good cast. Weller is perfect in his portrayal of a good cop and a good man who they try to turn into a soulless machine, but instead fights to become an extraordinary human being within his cybernetic shell. Allen is both tough and sweet as Lewis. She makes you believe she can kick your butt and is equally believable in her quest to help the man that is Murphy triumph over his computerized programing. Her joining him in a fight with overwhelming odds also gives her a nice nobility to add to an already likable character. Cox and Smith make a great team of scumbag bad guys with Cox making his Dick Jones the perfect corporate suit dirt-bag and Smith’s Boddicker, a twisted and sick criminal whose not without his charm and an equally twisted sense of humor to go with it. Ferrer is also very effective as an overambitious corporate douche who steps on the wrong toes. Strong heroes and equally strong bad guys are essential to a story like this and the film nails it along with everything else.

The FX are a little dated, but still very effective and add to the film’s nostalgia. We get some great make-up FX, as usual, from FX master Rob (The Thing) Bottin who also designed the Robocop suit and make-up for Weller and even some very charming stop motion model animation to bring the ED 209 to life by another FX legend, Phil Tippett. The FX and production design are unique, yet appear realistic as to how a near future city like Detroit might look and there is a fantastic score by the legendary composer Basil Poledouris to accent the film’s moments and add atmosphere. It is one of his best scores.

Overall, I can’t say enough about one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s recognized as a classic and is exactly that in every sense of the world. I am hard pressed to come up with any criticism about a film which is probably my favorite type of movie alongside Horror, one that is fiercely entertaining on the outside, but has something substantial going on underneath much like Cameron’s Terminator, Miller’s Road Warrior and Carpenter’s Escape From New York. All favorites and all Sci-Fi/action flicks with a solid emotional base and/or some scathing social commentary running beneath the explosions and gunfire. And there is nothing like a little butter for the popcorn. A true classic and one of my all time favorite movies. Also stars Dan (The Last StarfighterHalloween III) O’Herlihy as OCP’s CEO who appears to be a good guy here, but became one of the villains in the really disappointing sequel, Robocop 2.

 -MonsterZero NJ

4 classic Robocops.

robocop 1987 rating

 -MonsterZero NJ

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE TERMINATOR and THE HIDDEN!

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THE TERMINATOR (1984)

One of my favorite all time films. A wonderful example of how talent and imagination can accomplish a lot on a small budget. A tenacious little action film with a cool sci-fi premise. Simple and very effective. This is the film that really pushed Arnold into the spotlight and set director James Cameron on his course.

Terminator tells the story of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), a waitress trying to make ends meet, but, unknown to her, she has been targeted for death by a machine sent back from the future to eliminate her. The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has been sent by a computer network in 2029 to kill Sarah as she will be mother to John Connor, the man who will rebel against these self aware computers, who have taken over the world of the future, and end their reign before they eliminate mankind. The rebels send back a soldier, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to protect her and Sarah becomes a fugitive on the run as soldier and cyborg battle for the fate of the future in 1984 Los Angeles.

James Cameron’s lean mean fighting machine of a movie is as relentless as The Terminator itself. He crafts a fast paced action classic that never stops moving yet, still tells a good story and builds the characters so we are emotionally invested in them. He gets great work from his cast and brilliant work from his SPFX people who provide some really effective glimpses of an apocalyptic future and the carnage by our title villain in the present. From models to make-up, the film has top notch work on a low budget. The action is simple yet very intense with numerous chases and shoot-outs as the cybernetic assassin will stop at nothing and go through anyone to eliminate his prey.

A bonafide classic that set many careers in motion and started a film franchise that is still going decades later. If I had to make a top ten list of favorite movies, The Terminator would be on it. Also starring Lance Henriksen and Paul Winfield as two cops caught in the middle of the conflict and the first acting role for a young Bill Paxton as a punk who unfortunately crosses The Terminator’s path.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Amusing to know that Arnold was originally pursued to play the hero, Kyle Reese, but convinced Cameron to let him play the title villain instead. Furthermore, OJ Simpson was being considered for the role of The Terminator, but director Cameron felt, ironically, that no one would believe a nice guy like OJ as a cold blooded killer. Co-star Lance Henriksen was also considered in early stages when Cameron wanted a Terminator who could blend into a crowd, but Arnold took over the role and the rest is cinema history.

A classic 4 Terminator’s!

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THE HIDDEN (1987)

Another of my favorite 80s guilty pleasures, The Hidden is basically The Thing, Lethal Weapon and The Terminator all rolled into one, as a body stealing extraterrestrial criminal is pursued on earth by an alien lawman and an earth cop with most of L.A. caught in the crossfire. Michael Nouri exudes tough guy charm as hard-nose cop Tom Beck who is teamed on a bizarre crime spree case with strange federal agent Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan). Soon Beck finds that there may be something unearthly going on and his “partner” may not be what he seems either.

Hidden is a fun sci-fi action thriller that is well directed and furiously paced by Jack Shoulder. Shoulder keeps Jim Kouf’s clever script moving fast and keeps the audience’s attention with plenty of blood, bullets and chase scenes. But Shoulder doesn’t move things too quickly that we don’t get to know our lead characters and a little about what makes them tick. While we rarely see the alien creature, the FX depicting it are good as is the carnage it leaves behind. The action scenes and stunt work are all top notch as well, for such a modest production and there is plenty of action to be had.

The cast are all good in their roles including supporting players Clu Gulager, Ed O’Ross and Richard Brooks as Beck’s fellow officers. Leads Nouri and MacLachlan make a good team and work well off each other and it’s fun to watch Nouri’s Beck try to figure out his weird Fed partner then start to warm up to him even after finding out he’s not from around here.

The Hidden is a mash-up of genres and movies that would have made Roger Corman proud had it been one of his productions and it does play much like one of Corman’s flicks. The film still holds up today as a fun Terminator style action flick and the added 80s nostalgia doesn’t hurt it either. Definitely a film to be enjoyed with a few beers and a few friends.

3 and 1/2 homicidal hookers

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: PIRANHA AND HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP!

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PIRANHA (1978)

Classic Jaws rip-off from Roger Corman is a lot of fun mostly because it playfully acknowledges it’s inspiration yet, becomes it’s own movie and is all the more entertaining for it. The story revolves around a school of genetically altered piranha in a remote mountain military research station. When they claim the lives of two teens, the investigator searching for them, Maggie (Heather Menzies) and her reluctant, alcoholic mountain guide, Paul (Bradford Dillman) accidentally free the ferocious fish into the local river and are now frantically trying to stop them before they reach a summer camp and a water theme park. Piranha is gory and campy but, not without some tense sequences too as when the carnivorous fish attack the summer camp filled with kids. The cast has fun but, treats their roles just serious enough to make it work and that allows the audience to buy into it just enough to have a good time. Directed with equal parts humor and horror by Joe Dante (who went on to direct The Howling and Gremlins) from a witty script by Howling scribe John Sayles, Piranha transcends it’s rip-off status to become a classic in it’s own right. Also stars Kevin McCarthy as the scientist who created them, Barbara Steele, Keenan Wynn and Corman regulars Paul Bartel, as a grumpy camp counselor and Dick Miller, as a shady theme park owner. Another Corman flick filled with talents who would go on to their own fame and fortune.

If you like this, Alexandre Aja’s 2010 remake is also a real blast too, taking the boobs and blood to new heights!

3 and 1/2 fanged fish!

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HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980)

Yet another camp classic from Roger Corman and his New World Pictures and one I’m proud to say I saw at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. Humanoids has an army of fish creatures, born of genetic experiments on salmon, descending on a quiet coastal fishing village to kill and mate… with human women. As with the best of Corman’s productions, this one is made with just the right mix of seriousness and camp to make the story work. The film is well directed by Barbara Peeters though Corman felt the film lacked the more exploitative elements needed to sell it and brought in James Sbardellati to direct the more graphic scenes of sex, nudity and gore to be added in. Peeters was apparently very unhappy with the changes Corman made, as was star Ann Turkel who plays scientist Dr. Susan Drake, who created the creatures and now seeks to help destroy them. And as for the cast… a cast lead by Doug McClure (as fisherman Jim Hill) and Vic Morrow (as rival fisherman and town douchebag, Hank Slattery)… they treat the material with the respect it deserves and that adds weight despite it’s far fetched story. Despite the artistic differences between Corman and his director, the film is bloody good time and loaded with all the fun characteristics we expect from a Roger Corman movie and that’s what counts. Also characteristic of a Roger Corman film, future talents are present behind the scenes. Here it is makeup FX legend Rob Bottin providing creatures and plentiful gore and, one of today’s top composers, James Horner. A really gory, fun movie of the kind they rarely make anymore.

3 and 1/2 horny hybrid horrors!

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