TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE SOLDIER (1982)

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THE SOLDIER (1982)

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James Glickenhaus’s follow-up to The Exterminator finds a special black ops operative code-named “The Soldier” (Ken Wahl) called into duty when rogue KGB plant a nuclear weapon in a Saudi oil field. Their objective is to force Israel off the West Bank, or they will destroy half the world’s oil supply. Aided by an Israeli agent (Alberta Watson), The Soldier’s objective is to stop them at any cost.

James Glickenhaus writes and directs what basically is a grind-house version of a James Bond movie. As such, we just wish it was a bit better, even if it does try hard. There is plenty of action, but Glickenhaus hasn’t completely honed his craft yet and there are some moments of sloppy filmmaking that hold it back. Where Bond has style and class, this film has graphic violence and the subtly of a sledge hammer. That would be fine if it didn’t get more and more ludicrous as it goes along, yet is taken a bit too serious to have a fun time with it. It’s also disappointing that it’s climax is almost action-less and The Soldier himself is barely involved with the proceedings, while his team takes desperate…and ridiculously far-fetched…measures. As for the globe trotting locations, they are used so poorly the whole thing could have been filmed here in the US and no one would have noticed the difference. There is still some amusement, like a ski chase that begs the question, if you all had guns why didn’t you pull them out to begin with and a U.S. President (William Prince) who seems a little too trigger happy to go to war with our Israeli allies. There is also a cool soundtrack by 80s soundtrack specialists Tangerine Dream and a brief appearance by Klaus Kinski as a double crossing agent. As for Wahl, he tries hard but just doesn’t have the charisma for a big screen leading man…not that any of the other cast members should win any awards, for their work, either. A sad disappointment as this could have been a lot of fun had Glickenhaus just went with the absurdity of it all.

Overall, while a grind-house James Bond flick sounds like a blast, Glickenhaus drops the ball with a ludicrous script taken way too seriously. He also has a few sloppy moments, probably by trying to accomplish too much on a small budget and it’s climax is more silly than spectacular. Despite some globe trotting locations, they are used so poorly the whole thing could have been film here in the US and no one would have noticed the difference. Glickenhaus would make up for it with his underrated Shakedown six years later.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 bullets.

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ANDROID (1982)

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ANDROID (1982)

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This 1982 Roger Corman production tells the story of android Max 404 (Don Opper, who co-wrote with James and Will Reigle). Max’s advanced programing causes him to form human emotions, but not the capability to completely control them. His creator, Dr. Daniels (Klaus Kinski) becomes wary of this and plans to destroy Max once his more advanced replacement, Cassandra (Kendra Kirchner) is activated. When three fugitives, including a woman (Norbert Weisser, Crofton Hardester and Brie Howard) come aboard their isolated space station, it gives Dr, Daniels a female test subject to finish Cassandra and Max an infatuation that may send he and his newfound emotions over the edge…dangerously over the edge.

Android is an entertaining diversion from the typical Corman fair, there is violence and nudity, but it is with restraint and serves the story and not for the usual exploitation purposes. Director Aaron Lipstadt directs this sci-fi Frankenstein tale with a far more sensitive hand then most Corman flicks and gives us a character story driven more by emotion than action. We feel for Max as he tries to cope with his emotions and root for him even when they drive him to do morally questionable things. And since Max is surrounded by people of questionable morals, we don’t totally blame him for his responses to the situations that Dr. Daniels and the fugitives provoke. The low budget production is made with the usual Corman thriftiness, but looks good enough to support it’s story and the FX aren’t bad. There is also a cool and very 80s electronic score by Don Preston to support the atmosphere director Lipstatdt gives the film.

Director Lipstadt gets good performances from his cast, especially Opper who portrays Max’s naivety and confusion very well and Kinski who makes a perfectly slimy and obsessed scientist. Also, Norbert Weisser’s Keller is a somewhat sympathetic bad guy while Hardester’s Mendez is a cliché bully/douchebag. And as for the ladies, Brie Howard is tough and yet sweet as Maggie and Kirchner does fine as the Bride Of Frankenstein-ish Cassandra, who turns out to be more then anyone bargined for.

Android is an interesting attempt by Corman and Co. at a sci-fi flick with a bit more substance and succeeds far more than it fails. It may be a bit slow paced and somber, but at a tight 80 minutes it’s never boring and does entertain us just fine, as well as, tell it’s story. The film was released as a midnight show in art houses to emphasize that this was something a bit more unique than New World normally produced and I had the pleasure of seeing it at such a show at NYC’s Waverly theater in Greenwich Village when it opened in 1982.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Max 404s.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CREATURE (1985)

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CREATURE (1985)

Creature is an entertaining enough B-movie inspired by Alien and co-written and directed by William Malone, who helmed the House On Haunted Hill remake and the recent Parasomnia. This was another flick I was fortunate enough to catch in a theater…where movies like this should be seen…when it came out. It was at the long gone Loews Harmon Cove in Seacaucus NJ, if memory serves and I remember my friends and I having a fun time with it. A recent re-visit shows it’s still fun and has some nice added 80s nostalgia now too.

The film takes place in a future where two rival corporations are heading into space to plunder the resources of other planets. As it opens, a ship from the NTI company has found a structure on the Saturn moon of Titan and in it, specimens of alien life…and find out the hard way that freeing one of those specimens, even by accident, is a fatally bad idea. Enter the crew of the NTI corporation ship Shenandoah, who are on their way to investigate the ruins found by the previous ill-fated crew. On Titan, the Shenandoah lands on weak ground and crashes through beneath the surface, stranding the crew on the inhospitable moon. Upon investigating the site, they find an abandoned Richter Dynamics ship, a rival German company, and they find not only a ship filled with corpses, but a very nasty creature with the ability to manipulate it’s victims with small symbiotic creatures. Now the crew must battle not only this vicious and intelligent space monster, but their own dead as well. Worse still, the German ship is their only hope of escape and their fierce and seemingly impervious adversary has made the craft it’s lair.

Malone directs Creature very competently and with a moderate pace. He has a nice visual style and while the film could have used a bit more intensity and suspense, it still entertains. The cast are all fine, no awards, but they try to give their thinly written characters a little life and it helps. Soap actor Stan Ivar plays ship captain and story hero Mike Davidson. Adorable Wendy Schaal makes a feisty heroine as crewman Beth Sladen, who is also Davidson’s girlfriend. Lyman Ward is the mission commander and corporate douche, but contrary to the stereotype, turns out to not be such a bad guy when the chips are down. Diane Salinger plays her security office Bryce as a woman of few words and a big gun, but gives her a bit of charm when the character’s guard is down. Also adequate are supporting players Robert Jaffe, Marie Laurin and Annette McCarthy, who try to give their characters some personality in limited roles. There is also an extended cameo by Klaus Kinski, as an eccentric survivor of the ill-fated German ship. While Malone guides his cast through what is an attempt at a somewhat serious sci-fi/ horror, there is plenty of gore and a splash of nudity, courtesy of Miss Laurin, that keeps this movie well within it’s B-movie status. Speaking of the gore, the make-up FX are quite good and as this is a pre-CGI era film, our slimy villain is delightfully a man in a rubber suit that is equal parts Giger’s Alien and raptor (and almost 10 years before Jurassic Park). The creature is kept in shadow and fog most of the time though, as are most of the sci-fi show level sets, thus hiding their inadequacies and adding atmosphere. For a low budget flick the visual FX are pretty good and the fact that the production’s heart is in the right place helps make this a very likable monster movie, despite it’s derivative story and creature.

Sure, it has it’s shortcomings, could be a bit more energetic and the pace could be a bit quicker, but it’s a charming little movie with some nice gory action and some cute heroines with nostalgic 80s hairdos. I’d rather watch a B-movie with a director who really tries, like this one, than a bloated mega-million CGI epic by a director on autopilot…*cough* Avatar *cough*. A charming and fun little movie for fans of 80s B-movies and horror/sci-fi before CGI.

Rated 3 (out of 4) Giger-esque space creatures!

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