TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985)

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NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985)

Actually saw this awful anthology in a theater back in 1985 when it was first released. It finds God (Ferdy Mayne) and The Devil (Tony Giorgio) on a train fated to crash at dawn, competing for the souls of three individuals. This sets up three stories that determines who gets their souls. The first is The Case of Harry Billings which finds Harry (John Phillip Law) taken to a sinister insane asylum where he is made to lure beautiful women there for nefarious purposes. The second is The Case of Greta Connors which tells the tale of a wannabe actress, Greta (Meredith Haze), who is rescued from life as a porn star by a young man (J. Martin Sellers), only to find herself and her lover in a death cult. Final tale is The Case of  Claire Hansen, which finds devout Catholic Claire (Faith Clift) getting mixed up in apocalyptic evil doings along with her atheist, author husband (Richard Moll). Framing segments also feature a band performing the same song over and over on the ill-fated train, for whatever reason.

Flick is culled together from three separate full length movies, and with the framing segments, has five directors credited to it…,Jay Schlossberg-Cohen, John Carr, Phillip Marshak, Tom McGowan and Gregg C. Tallas. Ironically, all three films were written by Philip Yordan and he receives sole writing credit for this one, too. While it might not be fair to speak for the films this is edited down from, unless you’ve seen them, but what we do see of them isn’t good. As for Night Train, it is a terrible movie from the acting to the FX and sometimes hilariously so, though not enough to make it fun. It can also be tedious at only 98 minutes, the stories barely follow a narrative structure and even some veteran actors, like Cameron Mitchell and John Philip Law deliver terrible performances. When surrounded by friends, it was a hoot to watch it in it’s awfulness back in the day, but revisiting it from the couch streaming on Tubi, not so much. It’s simply a bad movie in every way and most likely someone’s attempt to get back money spent on the three turkeys it’s edited down from. It has gained some cult status, over the years, but not sure it deserves it. It’s really just that bad.

In conclusion, Night Train To Terror might have some 80s nostalgia and some personal nostalgia, too, but it is simply an awful anthology cut together from what appears to be three equally terrible movies. The FX, dialogue, sets and acting are almost all bargain basement and only Ferdy Mayne and Tony Giorgio as God and The Devil, respectively, offer anything noteworthy to the audience, as the two actors do play their parts effectively well. At least the dialogue between them was interesting and fairly well written. A simply dreadful anthology and not in a good way.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 1 and 1/2 (out of 4) train signals!

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BARE BONES: CIRCUS KANE (2017)

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CIRCUS KANE (2017)

Balthazar Kane (Tim Abell) is renown for his haunted circus attractions though hasn’t been heard from since a devastating fire ripped through his tent. Now he has come out of hiding and has invited a group of prominent horror bloggers to test out his plans for a new attraction. All they have to do is spend the night and if they make it through, they will receive $250,000. But soon the group find out getting through one of Balthazar Kane’s attractions is a literal fight for survival.

Low budget horror is directed by Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray, who is the son of prolific low budget horror filmmaker Fred Olen Ray, from a story and script by Sean Sellars, James Cullen Bressack and Zack Ward. It’s got it’s bloody heart in the right place and is actually somewhat entertaining, even with the restrictions of a limited budget. Ray, like his cult favorite father, gets a lot out of a little and gives the film a sense of twisted fun even if the minimal budget restricts the action to thriftily decorated sets. There is some spooky make-up on it’s sinister clowns, some decent gore and presents us with a fairly likable group of bloggers to fear for. Sure, we’ve seen plot elements before and sometimes Ray gets a little overindulgent with the digital editing effects, but it does entertain and that’s what counts. Fun little flick also stars Nicole Fox, Ted Monte and Victoria Konefal among the ill-fated bloggers and Night Court’s Richard Moll as “The Pale Man”.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: EVILSPEAK (1981)

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EVILSPEAK (1981)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Evilspeak is an early 80s possession/revenge flick that is a lot of fun…mostly for the wrong reasons, but is still a goofy, gory good time.

The story opens with a sequence from ages past where a Spanish priest, Father Esteban (Richard Moll) is expelled from the church for his apparent turn to Satanism. We then open in modern times (well, 1981) at the West Andover Military Academy, whose chapel was founded by none other than that same Father Esteban. We also meet Private Stanley Coopersmith (Clint Howard), an orphan assigned to the academy and a sad and lonely misfit who is constantly picked-on and abused by both the instructors and the cadets. While on punishment assignment cleaning the church cellar, he finds a hidden room and a sinister looking book. Coopersmith uses his advance computer skills to translate the book and soon unleashes the demonic spirit of Father Esteban through his computer and uses the fallen priest’s powers to exact cruel and bloody revenge on all those who have tormented him.

Directed and co-written (with Joseph Garofalo) by Eric Weston, this movie comes across as Carrie meets The Exorcist and Weston takes his flick very seriously, despite being a very silly movie at heart. Even with a serious approach, the camp factor is prevalent and accentuated by Roger Kellaway’s ridiculously melodramatic score, complete with over-the-top chorus vocals, and it makes the already ludicrous moments all the more fun. The script dumps every indignity possible on poor Stanley and it becomes quite laughable, but not as much fun as when the Esteban possessed Coopersmith takes his bloody revenge out on those who have done him wrong in the overblown finale set inside the chapel. The film is certainly entertaining up to this point, but really takes off in the last act, with a levitating, sword-weilding Coopersmith leading an army of hungry wild boars to decimate his enemies. Yes, you read that right. The gore is quite graphic and Weston saves most of it for the climax, so it has the impact it needs. The cast all appropriately overact though, we do sympathize with the bug-eyed Coopersmith as it seems the deck is always stacked against him…till he starts to mess with Esteban’s Satanic textbook. Add in all the 80s nostalgia and this flick definitely is a lot of fun…especially with some brews to accompany it.

Not a great flick, but a very nostalgic and entertaining one. It combines the loner revenge story with a possession movie and while given a serious tone, has a lot of fun with the elements of both. The cast all ham it up despite Weston’s straightforward direction and the director does know when to cut loose and when to hold back. There is a lot of graphic gore especially in the climactic scene and overall, this is a wacky flick that really entertains in grand 80s style. A lot of bloody fun and the type of flick that seems to be a lost art. Also stars R.G. Armstrong, Hamilton Camp, What’s Happening’s Heywood Nelson and That 70s Show’s Don Stark as chief antagonist Bubba.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 (out of 4) wild boars.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: DEATHSTALKER and THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER

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Having  just seen and been a bit disappointed with the latest installment of The Hobbit trilogy, I thought back to another time when sword and sorcery films were popular, in the early 80s. While not having the 100+ million dollar budgets of the fantasy epics of today or the abundant CGI to make these fantasy realms come to life, these films had to make do with the talent and creativity of their makers. The two biggest and most popular were Conan The Barbarian and Excalibur which I already covered in a previous double feature (here). For this double feature I am going to go with two B-movie fantasy films that didn’t have anywhere near the budget of those two flicks but, they made up for it with boobs, blood and lots of heart… and in some ways were just as entertaining or more so than the films they were trying to compete with…

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DEATHSTALKER (1983)

Deathstalker is another film that has sentimental value to me as friends and I saw it at the now long gone Loews Harmon Cove in Secaucus NJ. I saw a lot of fun B-movies there such as the laughably bad Luigi Cozzi Hercules with Lou Ferrigno and the Chuck Norris ‘classics’ Missing in Action 1 & 2 and Forced Vengeance. Produced by B-movie legend Roger Corman, Deathstalker is a fun little movie that knows it can’t compete with the big budget fantasy flicks and instead gives us a campy and fun tale filled with spurting blood and bared breasts. This B-movie cult classic has cynical warrior Deathstalker (Rick Hill) hunting 3 powerful objects, a sword, a chalice and an amulet that when combined, will give the barer great power. The amulet and chalice are in the clutches of the evil wizard Munkar (Bernard Erhard) while Deathstalker has possession of the sword. Using a tournament of strength and skill open to all the warriors of the land as a cover to enter Munkar’s castle and retrieve the objects, Deathstalker and travel companions Oghris (the late Richard Brooker) and the warrior woman Kaira (Lana Clarkson) enter the lion’s den. Now Deathstalker must not only battle a slew of fierce warriors, he must also rescue the rightful ruler, the beautiful Princess Codille (Playboy Playmate Barbi Benton) and also battle a traitor in his midst. And if he survives that, there is still the powerful magician Munkar to contend with, who has what Deathstalker wants and wants what Deathstalker has.

This is a fun flick as directed by James Sbardellati, under the pseudonym James Watson. Sbardellati knows he doesn’t have anywhere near Conan’s budget, but has a blast with the material making a far cheaper, but also a far less somber and more campy film. There is little provocation for warriors to clash resulting in spurting blood and lost limbs…and one such limb is hilariously used as a weapon by one warrior creature…or a lusty maiden to drop her clothes and reward the heroic victors. None of the cast are strong actors… though Clarkson gives her warrior woman a nice nobility and fiery sexuality… but it is obvious they are having a good time and it helps us forgive badly recited dialog and the sub-standard fight choreography. The FX are cheesy as are the 60s TV show level sets and the film knows it and takes what little it has and runs with it.

There’s no pretension here, it’s a Corman B-movie in every sense of the word and if you can look past the cheesy production value and just have a good time watching all the rolling heads and jiggling boobs, then this is a fun Saturday night flick that will go quite well with a six pack of your favorite poison. A really fun and delightfully campy B-movie the likes of which they don’t make anymore!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 battle axes!

13th warrior rating

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THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER (1982)

This modestly budgeted sword and sorcery flick beat Arnie’s Conan movie to theaters by about 2 months and is regarded by some as a lot more entertaining. While I’m not sure I’d go that far, I do enjoy Sword and will admit this flick is certainly lighter in tone and far less somber then the Schwarzenegger classic.

The tale starts out with evil King Titus Cromwell (B-movie bad guy Richard Lynch) reviving the powerful sorcerer Xusia (Richard Moll) to aid him in conquering Ehdan, the kingdom of the good and wise King Richard (Christopher Cary). Cromwell takes the kingdom, betrays the sorcerer and slaughters most of Richard’s family save for his young daughter, who he takes for himself, and Prince Talon who escapes, but is maimed in battle with Cromwell’s men. The film picks up over a decade later with Talon (Lee Horsley) now a famed pirate and mercenary with a gauntlet on one hand and a three bladed sword at his side, returning to Ehdan. Upon his arrival, Talon is hired by the beautiful rebel Princess Alana (Kathleen Beller), who is unaware of who he really is, to rescue her brother Prince Mikah (Simon MacCorkindale) who is now believed to be the rightful heir to Ehdan’s thrown and is in Cromwell’s dungeon for heading the rebellion. Joining the rebels to rescue the Prince and get revenge on the man who murdered his family proves no easy task as there is betrayal and treachery in Cromwell’s favor and if the vile King isn’t opponent enough, there is a vengeful sorcerer who would bring death to anyone who would stand in the way of his revenge.

Directed by prolific B-movie director Albert Pyun, Sword And The Sorcerer was a hit in it’s own right grossing back nearly 10x it’s original $4 million budget. Pyun injects a lot of fun in his fantasy flick giving it the tone of an Errol Flynn movie with added scantily clad babes and gore. He never takes his tale too seriously, but never makes a joke out of it either. There are some fun and bloody brawls and battles to punctuate the derring do and heroics and the scenes featuring the sorcerer Xusia have an almost horror flick look and feel. The FX are decent for this kind of flick with gore and make-up by Allan A. Apone and FX legend Greg Cannom. The sets and costumes are more on a TV show level, but Pyun makes up for it by giving us a quick pace and a lot of action to take our attention away from the budgetary shortcomings.

The cast are all having a good time with Lynch giving us a strong slimy villain in Cromwell, Lee Horsley giving us a charming rogue in the person of the exiled Talon and Beller making a feisty and beautiful heroine of her rebel princess. As with the tone of the film, the actors, who also include George Maharis, Joe Regalbuto and Robert Tessier, never take themselves too seriously, but never fall into camp either…although wrestler/body builder Earl Maynard’s Rasta pirate Captain Morgan is quite a scene stealer. Pyun brings all his colorful characters together for a climactic battle within Cromwell’s castle where swords and sorcery are brought to bare in an effort to settle scores and exact revenge. And it’s a fun showdown between heros, tyrants and scorned sorcerers.

The modestly budgeted Sword And The Sorcerer may be a B-movie at heart, but heart is something this movie has a lot of and fun is a lot of what you’ll have, as long as you go in understanding that despite it’s exploitation film trappings, there is an old fashioned swashbuckler under all the blood and boobs. Sadly, despite showing potential here and enjoying a long career, Albert Pyun would never find the stride he hit with this movie or the success it enjoyed, again, though his Cyborg with Van Damme and Nemesis were enjoyable enough sci-fi/ action B-movies. A fun flick and a good time.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 battle axes!

13th warrior rating

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