TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980)

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BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980)

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Never one to pass up an opportunity to make a buck on a trend, Roger Corman put this space opera into production with the hopes of capturing a little of the Star Wars lightening in New World Pictures’ bottle. The story finds the inhabitants of the peaceful planet of Akir, under siege from Sador of the Malmori (John Saxon), a ruthless warlord who conquers worlds and uses spare body parts to keep himself young and tyrannical. Not able to defend themselves, village elder Zed (Jeff Corey) sends the rebellious young Shad (Richard Thomas) out to hire mercenaries to defend their planet against the invading army. Can Shad find warriors bad and brave enough to take on Sador and his planet-destroying Hammerhead starship?

As you can tell by the story description, this is more a take on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai than a retread of George Lucas’ box office titan, though Star Wars rip-off it shamelessly still is. No more obvious than the planet name Akir, which is a tribute to the legendary Japanese director, whose story is being appropriated here. The fun script is by John Sayles (Piranha, The Howling) and it’s directed with a comic book flare by Jimmy T. Murakami, who previously had experience in animation. The film never makes a joke out of the proceedings, but is loaded with humor and plenty of innovative SPFX on a small budget, as designed by James (Terminator, Aliens, Avatar) Cameron. The action is fast and furious, there is a variety of ships to go along with the motley group of mercenaries and it’s all a good time as intended. Sure it’s only got about a fifth of Star Wars’ budget, but the film has loads of heart and the hard work and imagination of everyone that worked on it shows through. The FX can be cheesy and there are a few spots where things slow down a bit, but otherwise it is a cult classic in it’s own right and how can you not like a movie that has a spaceship with a set of boobs…only in a Roger Corman flick, folks!

The cast really make this work especially well. All the actors get the tone and none of them treat the material like a joke, yet still have a good time with their roles. Richard Thomas makes a noble hero as Shad. A young man willing to risk all to save his world and people. Darlanne Fluegel is pretty and resilient as Nanelia, who joins Shad on his quest and becomes his first love interest. John Saxon is simply on target with his portrayal of Sador. He gives him a sense of malice and villainy, yet is careful to never carry him too far into over-the-top territory, so he stays threatening. As our warriors, we have George Peppard as “Space Cowboy” a space trucker caught up in the fight, Robert Vaughn as Gelt, an outlaw on the run, Sybil Danning as the beautiful but arrogant warrior woman Saint-Exmin, Morgan Woodward as the reptilian Cayman, who has a personal grudge against Sador, as well as, a heat communicating duo called The Kelvin and a group of five clones, who act and think as one, called The Nestor. And let’s not forget Sador’s army of patchwork mutants, too. A colorful and diverse group of characters if there ever was.

A cult classic in itself, this is a fun low budget space epic with loads of heart. Sure, the sets are cheesy, as are some of the SPFX, the dialogue corny and the pacing a little erratic, but this movie is a lot of fun. The cast all get the material and give it their all. The imagination of James Cameron and his FX crew is up on screen and it has one of James Horner’s best scores. A Roger Corman cult classic that may have been inspired by George Lucas’ surprise blockbuster, but has earned an identity and place in B-movie history all it’s own.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Sadors.

 

 

 

 

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FAREWELL AND R.I.P. TO THE LEGENDARY JOHN SAXON!

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Photo by New Line – © 1987 New Line Cinema. All rights reserved.

Carmine “John Saxon” Orrico 1936-2020

Heartbreaking news comes to movie fans tonight, a bonafide cinema and TV legend has passed away, the legendary John Saxon. Born in Brooklyn as Carmine Orrico, John Saxon enjoyed a career that spanned six decades and over 200 films with a variety of different roles and in countless classics. A favorite actor, especially to horror film fans, the legendary Saxon lost a battle with pneumonia at the age of 83. He shall be missed greatly and his legacy will live on forever. Farewell and R.I.P. John Saxon.

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-MonsterZero NJ

Source: internet

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3-DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

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Third Elm St. flick is a marked improvement over the misfire that was ANOES2. It also saw the return of Wes Craven to the franchise as a writer and the return of Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon in their original ANOES roles. This installment finds Freddy haunting the dreams of a group of teens all under psychiatric care at an institute. Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) is now an intern there with a vested interest in the nightmares these kids are having. As Freddy starts to claim the young lives, Nancy and Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson), try to figure out how to stop the dream demon once and for all.

Clever second sequel is directed by Chuck Russell (The Blob 1988) from his script co-written with Frank Darabont, Bruce Wagner and Wes Craven. It was a great return to what made the first film work so well and also started the series in the direction it would go till it ended. It felt far more like an Elm St. movie that it’s predecessor, too. ANOES3 made very inventive use of the dream segments and was the film that gave Freddy his twisted sense of humor and proclivity for witty one liners, that would accompany the demise of his intended victims. It was also the film that introduced the character of Freddy’s mother, Amanda Krueger (Nan Martin), a nun accidentally locked inside an insane asylum, who is violated by the inmates and thus gives birth to Freddy, “The Bastard Son of 100 Maniacs.” The film does have a moderate pace, but there are some gory and innovative death sequences, with some great prosthetic make-up effects. ANOES3 is today thought of by many as the best of the sequels in this classic franchise. It was a success and paved the way for five more appearances by Freddy and an eventual remake in 2010.

Film is supported by a good cast that make for memorable and mostly likable characters. Obviously Robert England is at the top of his game here as Freddy. He gets to do a bit more and have more fun with the role, which really helped keep this franchise afloat. He was still scary, but now imbued with a dark and mean-spirited sense of humor. Heather Langenkamp is good as an older and more mature Nancy. She cares for these kids and is one of the only people who believes their claims about a scarred man haunting their dreams…a man Nancy knows all too well. Craig Wasson is solid as Dr. Gordon. He’s desperate to save these kids, even if it means reluctantly believing there is a malevolent supernatural entity after his patients. Saxon is really good as Nancy’s father, who is now a security guard and a drinker. Classic John Saxon. A good cast of young actors play our kids, with Patricia Arquette as Kristen, Bradley Gregg as Phillip, Ken Sagoes as Kincaid, Penelope Sudrow as Jennifer, Ira Heiden as Will, Rodney Eastman as Joey and Jennifer Rubin as Taryn. All the cast members make their characters memorable and helped establish the template of a diverse, colorful group of kids for Freddy to stalk in the future installments.

In conclusion, this flick got the series back on track and headed in a direction that would carry it till it’s end. It’s fun, still has some scares and is very inventive with it’s dream-set deaths. While not as vicious as the first two, it still has the blood and gore, not to mention some outrageous make-up effects. The cast are all good and it also contains the now classic theme song Dream Warriors by the 80s metal band Dokken. Solid entry in this classic horror film franchise.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Freddy Kruegers .

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Bonus: The Dokken classic Dream Warriors!…

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

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BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

While I still believe it was the success and impact of John Carpenter’s Halloween that was responsible for the 80s slasher film era, it may very well be this holiday themed Canadian horror flick that came out 4 years earlier, that is responsible for inspiring Carpenter’s classic… though it has never been acknowledged, there has been talk of it inspiring the Halloween producers to make a horror of their own, and Bob Clark has made comments that Carpenter was a fan of his film. We may never really know. As it is, Black Christmas is perhaps the first horror to use what is recognized as the modern slasher film formula by presenting us with a serial killer stalking and killing the members of a sorority house during the Christmas holiday. With most of the girls away on vacation, those remaining at the Pi Kappa Sig sorority start getting obscene phone calls from some unknown but, obviously deranged individual. Also unknown to them but, made fully aware to the audience, is that this individual is actually in the house and one by one he starts to gruesomely claim his victims. Will any of the young women of Pi Kappa Sig survive?

Directed by A Christmas Story’s Bob Clark, Black Christmas is a stylish and sometimes very creepy little horror that has earned it’s place as an inspirational film and a horror classic. It’s not a personal favorite, as certain aspects of the movie don’t quite click with me but, there is also much that does. Clark makes really good use of some very unsettling POV shots of the killer entering the house and then stalking his victims. He also has the killer using inventive ways to dispatch his victims which would become a trademark element of slashers to follow. The film has a really nice visual style as lensed by Reginald H. Morris… it sometimes evoked the style of Dario Argento’s more classic work, thought it predates his breakout film Suspiria by 3 years… and oddly one can see where the look of Clark’s other Christmas classic evolved from. Clark gives the film a moderate pace and takes his time between the bloody killings, the best of which involving a glass unicorn… one of the Argento-ish scenes I was referring to… but, does maintain the atmosphere of dread throughout. What takes this film down a few notches for me is that the killer’s phone calls with their multiple voices and bizarre rambling, in my opinion, are more silly then scary as are some lighter toned sequences peppered throughout, that seem to shadow the offbeat humor that would make the adventures of Ralphie and family such a delight. There are those who aren’t bothered by some of these borderline silly sequences but, I find them a little jarring in the context of the more serious and unnerving tone of the rest of the film. I also think it’s hard to swallow that with people gone missing and later in the film when the police realize the killer was in the house, that at no point does anyone ever search the attic. Not buying it. But, credit where credit is due, Clark really brings it home in the goose-bump inducing last act and we get an ending that… much like Halloween years later… makes us look over our shoulder after the film is over.

The acting is a mixed bag. Lead Olivia Hussey is a little wooden at times and despite that fact that we should like her, she comes across as very cold in a subplot involving getting pregnant by her musician boyfriend (Keir Dullea). And while on the subject of Dullea, his Peter is a little ‘off’ but, since he becomes a suspect, that was probably intentional. Future ‘Lois Lane’ Margot Kidder plays the feisty bitch Barb with some gusto but, while it appeared she would be the lead, the focus shifts off her to Hussey’s Jess who becomes our main character. We also have SCTV vet Andrea Martin as one of the sorority girls and genre legend John Saxon, who is solid as always, as the cop investigating the case, Lt. Fuller. Rounding out the leads is Art Hindle as the boyfriend of missing girl Clare (Lynne Griffin), whose character Chris fades in and out of the story and wears one of the most obnoxious and out of place fur coats seen in movies.

So, the film is a classic and I certainly agree, especially as it may be the first true modern slasher… Peeping Tom and Psycho are highly recognized as ancestors to what we refer to as the slasher film and certainly were inspirations to some now legendary horror film directors who emerged in the 70s and 80s. It may not be a favorite of mine but, I give it the respect it deserves and am thankful for many of the films it helped inspire. Another must watch for those later generation slasher fans who aren’t yet familiar with it and are interested in how this sub-genre evolved.

3  Christmas trees.

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

Much like a dream…or a nightmare…A Nightmare on Elm St. is many things at once. It’s one of the quintessential 80s horror flicks…defining a decade where horror was quite prolific…it gave birth to the legendary icon that is Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund)…who now sits proudly among Frankenstein’s monster and Count Dracula in the halls of horror… and it certainly is one of Wes Craven’s best films, in a solid career of genre filmmaking. Most of all, it’s a damn good horror flick!

Wes Craven gives us a cast of likable teens haunted by the malevolent specter of a child molester that their parents murdered after he was freed on a technicality. Now vengeance comes when they are at their most vulnerable…while they sleep. And that’s what makes this work so well. We all know how vulnerable we are when we are sleeping and Craven uses that fear to not only draw the audience in, but present us with some unsettling and spooky dream sequences where Freddy torments and then finishes off his victims. Craven also crafts a spooky boogie man who is a very frightening figure in his first outing, before becoming an anti-hero of sorts in the later sequels that got more humorous and outlandish as they went on.

The lead cast is fairly solid including spunky Heather Langenkamp as our heroine Nancy, Amanda Wyss as the ill-fated Tina, Nick Corri as Tina’s delinquent boyfriend Rod, the always good John Saxon (and I am a BIG John Saxon fan!) as Nancy’s sheriff father and a young unknown named Johnny Depp as Nancy’s boyfriend Glen…not to forget Robert Englund chilling our bones as Freddy in a role that would make him a horror film legend.

The film isn’t perfect, there is some very weak dialog peppered throughout and a few weak performances in the supporting cast especially Ronee Blakely who seems to be acting in another movie, or a soap opera, as Nancy’s alcoholic mother. Langenkamp has a few weak moments early on, too, but as Nancy gets stronger so does her performance. Flaws aside, the make-up and gore effects supporting our story are quite good and the dream sequences are visually effective and quite spooky, despite the limitations of a low budget. The film is loaded with chills and suspense and is still effective all these years and sequels later.

Another trend setting horror and a true classic that continues to find fans with each new generation. This series was a favorite of mine as the 80s horror franchises went, as the Halloween and Friday the 13th sequels just became redundant weapon of the month club features while the Elm Street films, even in their weakest installments, were continually inventive with their nightmare sequences. Also stars the Insidious series’ Lin Shaye as one of Nancy’s teachers. A classic!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Freddys!

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