TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2 (1988)

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FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2 (1988)

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Fright Night Part II might be one of the most under-appreciated sequels…at least by it’s distributors, as it does have a cult following…of all-time, as the film got an under-the-radar limited release back in the day, despite the success of the original and even worse treatment with sub-par full-screen VHS and DVD releases. A proper release is still eagerly awaited.

The sequel takes place 3 years after the original Fright Night. Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is now in college and finishing up years of therapy that has him believing Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon) was only a serial killer and the delusion of him being a vampire was all created in Charley’s head to cope with the horrible events. Charley also has a hot new girlfriend, Alex (80s flick cutie Tracy Lind) and hasn’t talked to Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) in years. As for the Great Vampire Killer, all the attention has gotten Vincent his Fright Night TV show hosting job back and all seems well when the two finally get together to bring closure to their horrible experience…until Charley sees large boxes being moved into Vincent’s very apartment building and gets a chilling feeling of familiarity. And his deja-vu is certainly warranted as Jerry Dandrige’s vampire sister Regine (a smoldering Julie Carmen) has come to exact revenge with her ghoulish entourage, the androgynous Belle (Russell Clark, who also choreographed Carmen’s performance art sequences), lupine shapeshifter Louie (Jon Gries, who also played the werewolf with nards in Monster Squad) and hulking, insect eating chauffeur Bozworth (genre favorite Brian Thompson). Regine’s plans are simple…turn Charley into one of the undead, murder those he loves and take over as host of Fright Night for good measure…then torture Charley for all eternity.

I have no idea why this sequel has been treated so badly over the years. It’s not quite as good as the first flick, but is actually a pretty solid follow-up and a good deal of fun. The film is directed by John Carpenter alumni Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III, Stephen King’s It) who co-wrote the script with Tim Metcalfe and Miguel Tejeda-Flores. Wallace delivers a good looking film, having learned a lot about shot framing from Carpenter, and while it’s not quite the fun-house that the original chiller is, it mixes horror with humor well and has a number of fun/spooky scenes with plenty of action. The plot also works in giving us a second installment that isn’t forced and provides us with enough elements from Fright Night to feel like a continuation, but also does it’s own thing. Regine is a known personality, recognized as a performance artist and she moves around out in the open, as when she takes over hosting duties on the Fright Night TV show. If the film falters a bit, it’s that it’s momentum slows down somewhat in the middle act as Regine continues to seduce Charley and Vincent is institutionalized for attacking Regine on the show’s set. The film does pick up for it’s final confrontation, though it is not as bombastic and fun as the first film’s. Overall, the movie seems to have a slightly lower budget and thus the action is a bit scaled down, but I think Wallace makes up for it with some very clever bits and by having some ghoulish fun with his premise and characters such as Regine’s thugs having a gruesome bowling night while she is off premiering on TV. The make-up FX can be a bit rubbery at times, but that adds some charm now and Brad Fiedel returns to score, so it feels like a Fright Night  film. Not sure why all the disrespect from it’s labels.

The cast are having a good time, too. Ragsdale and McDowall pick up right where they left off in the original, but with Charley being a slightly more mature character three years later and Vincent seems to have developed a bit more of a backbone since he last battled bloodsuckers. The two actors seem to really enjoy working together and their on-screen chemistry is infectious. Lind makes a welcome addition to the team as adorable and smart Alex. In a turn of events, it is she who comes to Charley’s rescue and proves herself a resourceful and spunky heroine in true 80s fashion. I liked her better than Amanda Bearse’s whiny Amy. Julie Carmen is smoldering-ly sexy and conveys a definite lethal quality as Regine. It is completely believable she can seduce Charley…and those scenes are hot…despite his dealings with her kind and it is a little disappointing the actress wasn’t given an opportunity to put up a bigger fight in the scaled-down climax. As her eccentric undead thugs, Clarke (whose character is mute), Gries and Thompson all seem to be having a good time, especially the nice touch of Thompson’s Bozworth reciting the Latin genus of his insect meals before consumption. Creepy fun! A good cast who all get the tone of the material and their individual characters.

So, in conclusion, I like this sequel a lot and will never understand the terrible treatment it continues to get. It is not as good as the first film, but is a worthy enough second go around and the cast is charming as always, as is the 80s nostalgia it now carries with it. It succeeds far more than it fails and despite a slow mid-section and a slightly less exciting ending, it is a solid sequel and left me wanting to see a third installment back when I first saw it and McDowall was still with us. This film is crying out for a Scream Factory special edition, but apparently the label who owns it (I believe it’s Lionsgate) won’t budge in allowing it (so I am told), or do anything with it on it’s own. With it’s cult following, I don’t see how a release wouldn’t do well. The film also stars Merritt Butrick (Kirk’s son in Wrath Of Khan and Search For Spock) in one of his last film appearances before his AIDS related death in 1989.

Rated 3 (out of 4) fangs.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (1984)

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STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (1984)

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock had the deck stacked against it from the moment it was green-lit by Paramount Pictures. First, and most obviously, it had a tough act to follow and big shoes to fill after Wrath Of Khan was hailed by many as an instant classic and some of the finest moments of Star Trek yet seen. They also painted themselves into a corner by killing off Spock and now wanting to continue the cinematic series and thus needing to bring him back. Khan was supposed to be the last film but, now Trek was big again and to continue, our favorite Vulcan had to be part of it. And on top of all that, Khan director Nicholas Meyer was unhappy with the added epilogue to ST II that showed Spock’s burial tube on Genesis implying his death may not be final, and chose not to return. So, in essence they needed a sequel to hold it’s own against it’s predecessor, somehow bring back Spock and replace the director that put Star Trek back on the map after the universal disappointment with the stuffy and bloated ST:TMP. Which brings me to the big question… does ST III get a bit of a bum rap with all that was expected from it?

Well, yes and no…

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock picks up with the Enterprise limping home after it’s devastating battle with Khan and The Reliant. Kirk (William Shatner) is equally devastated by the death of his longtime friend, Spock and Dr. McCoy (Deforest Kelley) is also showing signs of odd behavior possibly brought on by grief. Kirk’s son (Merritt Butrick) and Lt. Saavik (now Robin Curtis) are headed to the Genesis planet for study and unknown to any of them, an ambitious Klingon Captain (Christopher Lloyd) has intercepted transmissions concerning Genesis and sees it’s uses as a weapon of power for the Klingon Empire. As the Klingons head for the restricted Genesis planet to steal it’s secrets, Kirk is visited by Spock’s father Sarek (Mark Leonard) and informed that Vulcans can transfer their essence and there is a chance Spock’s “Katra” has been transferred to another before death. It soon becomes apparent that McCoy now hosts Spock’s soul and Kirk must get to Genesis in the hopes his body is still within his burial tube and Spock can be restored. But, Starfleet forbids Kirk’s return there and now he must sacrifice everything he’s accomplished by stealing the Enterprise and going to the restricted planet against orders. And as the outlaw Kirk and his loyal crew race to Genesis, they are headed not only towards a confrontation with the Klingons but, a race against time as the Genesis planet has a dark secret that could spell doom for Kirk’s mission and all their lives. I like Trek III and despite it’s intrusive flaws, it’s a fun flick especially if you are a Trek fan but, it’s certainly far from a Wrath Of Khan. First problem is obvious from the story description, there is an overabundance of plot and it takes a long time before the plot elements and characters come together. The film starts to take off with the theft of The Enterprise but, it’s not till Kirk and company arrive on Genesis, wrecking the Enterprise in the process, that the film really starts to hit it’s stride. The film needed to address the return of Spock, yet also have some kind of conflict for entertainment purposes, and find a way to remove Genesis from the mix if the series was to continue without having to continually deal with it’s effects on the Star Trek world. And the film actually gets all this done but, at the cost of a more streamlined plot and a good degree of fun as the film can get heavy handed when dealing with the life and death issues that surround Spock and the Genesis device and it’s theme of how far will you go to help the ones you love. Taking advantage of Paramount’s desire to have Spock return, Nimoy landed himself the directing gig replacing Meyer. And while I don’t think he did a bad job, his lack of experience does show with the film resembling a TV episode in tone and look, where the story could have used a more epic feel with it’s disintegrating planets and starship confrontations. The pacing and tone are uneven with the first half moving rather slowly and picking up speed once Kirk and company leave Earth and going from dead serious one minute to borderline goofy the next such as some humor involving the Klingons who needed to remain fierce. But, Nimoy also creates some wonderfully Star Trek moments… the theft of The Enterprise being my favorite… and the camaraderie between the characters is as endearing as always. There is some nice action in the  second half and the climactic scenes on Vulcan do carry the emotional weight intended. The SPFX are really good from ILM again and this time no stock footage. The sets once again look cheesy but, being that the whole thing reminds one of a TV episode, it’s not as intrusive as one might expect. And there is some very weak dialog too but, again, Star Trek has always had it’s own way of phrasing things and it’s own jargon so, this isn’t as damaging as it could be. As for the cast, everyone recreates their beloved characters just fine though, Nimoy isn’t as adept at restraining Shatner as Meyer and Shat does fall back into some of the hamminess he’s famous for yet, does have some very strong scenes too. Newcomers range between good to outright bad, such as Phillip R. Allen who is dreadful as Grissom Captain Esteban. Christopher Lloyd is a good villain but, every time he speaks you hear Reverend Jim from Taxi which was fresh in everyone’s mind when this was released. The effect has warn off over time but, was very noticeable back then. Robin Curtis replaces Kirstie Alley as Saavik and is a bit wooden even for a Vulcan, which might explain why the character sadly disappeared after a brief appearance in ST IV. Fans really loved Saavik and it was odd they introduced new characters like her and Kirk’s son and then did away with them. David is especially wasted in this as he doesn’t do much but look wide eyed at the Genesis planet and then pouts when he discovers his device is flawed. Luckily composer James Horner returned and gives another epic score to enhance the flick and the cameo from Mark Leonard is a pleasure as he brings a power and dignity to Ambassador Sarek that the series made good use of with his return in IV and VI. But, flaws aside, ST III is still enjoyable and contains some fun lines and classic Star Trek moments giving each cast member a memorable scene to punctuate their appearances. It is certainly nowhere near the train wreck that Shatner’s ST V is or the mind numbingly dull Insurrection. To a degree Search For Spock had too much to measure up to in the eyes of fans, especially with a first time director, but, the fact that it did have so much to accomplish and actually does get as much done despite it’s flaws, earns the film a bit more credit then it is given. And despite all that was stacked up against it, it still is a fun romp especially once it gets going and it does return some of the TV episode level charm whether that was the intention or not. It’s a flawed but, still entertaining entry in the series and Nimoy would grow as a director with the following and very entertaining Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home that became the series biggest hit till J.J. Abrams took Trek mainstream.

3 stolen starships!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982)

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STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982)

Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan is one of my all time favorites and I have to say I enjoy it just as much now as I did in a theater in 1982… maybe more with the added nostalgia and that it retains it’s status as the best of the Star Trek movies even with the addition of J.J. Abrams’ fun reboot series. The film is a direct sequel to a first season episode entitled Space Seed where Kirk and crew find a 20th century Earth genetic superman in suspended animation with his crew on an unregistered space vessel. He’s thawed out and identified as Khan Noonien Singh a genetically engineered tyrant who, with his followers, nearly conquered Earth in the 1990s. He tried to take command of the Enterprise and kill Kirk but, was thwarted and he and his followers were sent into exile on a deserted planet. The film picks up 15 years later with a ship, The Reliant, accidentally happening upon Khan (Richardo Montalban reprising his classic role), and the remaining members of his crew, while searching for a lifeless planet to test a planetary terraforming device on called Genesis. Khan, who is now mad with vengeance as the explosion of his world’s sister planet has ravaged his home and killed his wife, takes the ship and plans to use Genesis as a weapon of revenge against now ‘Admiral’ James T. Kirk (William Shatner). Lured into a confrontation and badly damaged, The Enterprise and it’s valiant crew must somehow find a way to stop Khan from using the Genesis Device to commit ‘universal armageddon’… and caught in the middle are the creators of the device, a former lover of Kirk’s (Bibi Besch) and a son, David (Merritt Butrick) he’s never met. Khan, as directed and co-written by Nicholas Meyer, corrects basically all of Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s mistakes by returning Star Trek’s sense of adventure and action and making it’s character’s 3 dimensional again. Where ST:TMP ignored the fact that the characters where now over a decade older, STII:TWOK makes their aging part of the story. Kirk is celebrating his 50th birthday and dealing with issues of his new earthbound rank when his heart still belongs in the captain’s chair. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is training a new crew to take over the Enterprise with our beloved crew members assisting in shaping their eventual replacements. Khan himself once a vicious but, noble warrior who graciously accepted Kirk’s decision to let him have his own world to build instead of imprisonment, is now a madman who seeks revenge at any cost. Meyer takes our beloved characters and gives them legendary status working in themes from classic literature like Moby Dick, Horatio Hornblower and Tale Of Two Cities… and gives the Enterprise a charming Naval feel as opposed to the antiseptic and cold feeling the previous film imbued it with. And added to the richness of story and character are some thrilling and suspenseful space battles that evoke some of the classic submarine movies like Run Silent, Run Deep. Assisting Meyer is a cast that brings their famous characters vibrantly to life once more. Shatner may get flak for his over the top performances but, here he is at the top of his game and gives one of his best performances as an aging warrior forced once more to battle against the odds and possibly face mortality for the first time. Nimoy plays an older, wiser Spock who is happy to be molding the next generation and has mellowed a bit allowing him to show a slightly warmer side… or dare I say more human. Deforest Kelley is as cranky as ever as Bones but, this is one character we don’t want to change a bit and he hasn’t. Montalban takes Khan and turns him into a vengeful madman who is still fiercely intelligent and ruthless but, now on the brink of madness with revenge, a foe even more dangerous now that he would destroy James T. Kirk at all costs including that of his own people. A classic character is now made larger then life by a veteran actor knowing when to show the cunning villain and when to unleash the madman. And Meyer gives him some great dialog to chew on. The rest of the classic Trek cast all do well in reviving their beloved characters though I will admit Walter Koenig’s Chekov has a few moments that spill into camp but, the character always was very emotional. Bibi Besch is fine and sexy as Dr. Marcus, Kirk’s old flame. Butrick doesn’t quite cut a figure we’d expect of Kirk’s son but, we can forgive this as it’s part of the story that his mother didn’t want him to grow up like dear old dad. Kirstie Alley made her acting debut as Spock’s protegee’ Lt. Saavik a vulcan officer following in his footsteps and her characterization made her instantly beloved by fans who were equally disappointed when she didn’t return in Star Trek III. Rounding out the main cast is Paul Winfield as The Reliant’s Captain Terrell who makes the best of giving some character to a limited role. I won’t pretend the film doesn’t have faults, it does. There are obvious flaws in it’s science and their are inconstancies, one being that the Chekov character didn’t join the show till season 2 so, Khan should not have known him. The film was made on a low budget so, the sets are cheap looking and a lot are borrowed and redressed from ST:TMP and while the ILM FX are fine, a lot of FX early in the film are also borrowed from ST:TMP and it’s a little obvious. But, the biggest flaw is that Kirk and Khan never meet face to face, all their confrontations are done by radio or on view screen and these two actors at their best, never get to be in the same room together and that’s a shame. But, all it’s flaws can be forgiven as this is just a real fun flick and is classic Star Trek at it’s best… both in spirit and in the portrayal of it’s characters. It’s a film that elevated the characters from heroes to legends and has an old fashioned swashbuckling tone that seems to be gone from films today. It’s a classic flick now made even more fun by the nostalgia it has picked up and is a movie that has charm to spare. An all time favorite and a great movie even with it’s flaws. Also stars regulars James Doohan as Engineer Scott, George Takei as Helmsman Sulu and Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura with Ike Eisenmann playing Scotty’s nephew Ensign Preston, a new character. STII also features a great score by James Horner and is pretty much the movie that put him on the path to becoming one of the best film score composers out there today. A classic!

4 Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnssssssss!

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