MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE CAR and RACE WITH THE DEVIL

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Been a while since I did one of these and thought it would be fun to pair up these two 70s thrillers featuring cars, crashes and Old Scratch himself…

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THE CAR (1977)

I love this 1977 B-movie action/horror, it is a textbook example of how a good director… Cat Ballou’s Elliot Silverstein… can take even a ridiculous premise and turn it into a solidly entertaining flick. And The Car is exactly that. The plot is simple, a demonic looking black sedan comes thundering out of the desert one morning and heads into the small rural desert town of Santa Ynez and begins to mow down innocents like a hitchhiker and two young bicycle riders. While the Thomas County Sheriff’s office, including Captain…soon to be sheriff thanks to The Car…Wade Parent (James Brolin and an awesome 70s mustache), think there is a psycho on the loose, we already know something supernatural is afoot from the red tinted POV shots from within the vehicle and the mysterious wind that blows through right before it’s thunderous engines and blaring horn can be heard. Despite road blocks, the vehicle appears and disappears at will and Wade and his deputies start to realize something is satanically wrong here when the vehicle tries to run down a group of school children and is stopped when they flee into the hallowed ground of a cemetery and Wade himself confirms eye witness accounts that the vehicle has no driver. But something evil is inside as indicated by the gleeful sounding horn after a kill and the fact that single dad Wade’s pretty school teacher girlfriend (Kathleen Lloyd) finds out the hard way that calling the ‘driver’ a “chicken shit” is a bad idea. Now with the body count mounting and all signs pointing to the fact that Old Scratch himself might be out for a joyride, Wade and his rapidly diminishing police force must find a way to stop Satan’s Sedan before Santa Ynez becomes a ghost town.

As with  The Devil’s Rain… The Car is another film that employed Satanist Anton LaVey as a technical advisor and even opens with a quote from him. Not sure what he advised as there really is very little religious talk in the film and even when they start to believe something evil is going on, a priest is never even mentioned much less consulted. Who cares, as Silverstein takes this laughable idea and makes a really fun and suspenseful action/horror flick that actually has some goose bump inducing moments such as when The Car has the kids trapped in the cemetery and when Wade has an encounter with it in his own garage. Silverstein accomplishes this by taking his subject totally seriously and not only instilling his villain with a good deal of menace, but delivers some really intense chase and action sequences including a very thrilling climax where all Hell literally breaks loose. Obviously the 70s nostalgia adds a lot of fun to it too, but this is actually a well directed film and we enjoy it far more then we expect from a movie about a demon driven car. Another thing that adds to the effectiveness is that The Car appears in sleepy Santa Ynez for no reason, nor do we ever get one. It’s very spooky and random and that works far better than a hokey explanation and it gives The Car added personality to what Silverstein already imbues it with.

The cast, also starring Ronny Cox, R.G. Armstrong and Kyle and Kim Richards as Wade’s precocious daughters, take their roles very seriously with Brolin making a very human and sometimes fallible hero. He and Lloyd really do come across as a cute couple, too. The film was criticized for it’s acting back in the day, but personally, I think they are just fine for being in a flick about a demon possessed car. And speaking of which… the real star is George Barris’ customized 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III and it’s an iconic movie vehicle and is very intimidating and effective. If Beezelbub had a car, I have no problem believing this is what it would look like. Leonard Rosenman’s score is appropriately spooky and incorporates bits of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique…the piece that open’s The Shining and Gerald Hirschfeld’s cinematography makes nice use of the desert locations. Despite being filmed mostly in the day, it has plenty of creepy atmosphere.

All in all, The Car is a really fun B-movie blast with a well deserved cult following and a favorite guilty pleasure of mine that I actually saw at The Park Lane theater in Palisades Park in 1977 when I was a kid…and it delightfully holds up all these years later! A fun action/ horror of the type they don’t make anymore!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 satanic sedans.

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RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975)

One of my favorite 70s B-movies. Race is now loaded with nostalgic charm, as well as, being an entertaining and sometimes spooky movie in it’s own right. Story of two couples on an RV road trip vacation crossing paths with a sinister cult and witnessing a human sacrifice is campy to be sure, but there are some creepy scenes and the are a number of good chase/action scenes as well. As the couple try to get out of town while being pursued by what appears to be everybody, director/actor Jack Starrett does a good job of creating tension as everyone seems suspicious and no one appears trustworthy. True, the cult’s actual subject of worship is unclear as our antagonists’ research drags up everything from witchcraft to Mayan sacrificial ceremonies and the cult creates far more attention and far more evidence of their existence by pursuing the RV cross country, leaving a wake of death and destruction behind. But if they had just cleaned up their tracks and left no evidence to support the couples’ claims, we wouldn’t have anything to entertain us for the next 90 minutes. The acting is surprisingly good and the cast…including Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Lara Parker and Loretta Switt…and crew wisely take the proceedings seriously and let the audience have all the fun with it. A 70s gem that is still fun today.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 fighting Fondas

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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 Henrikson 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 Henrikson 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!

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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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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ROBOCOP (1987)

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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 do. 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 but, a healthy dose of social satire is 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 Starfighter, Halloween 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.

4 classic Robocops.

robocop 1987 rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE CAR (1977)

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THE CAR (1977)

I love this 1977 B-movie action/horror, it is a textbook example of how a good director… Cat Ballou’s Elliot Silverstein… can take even a ridiculous premise and turn it into a solidly entertaining flick. And The Car is exactly that. The plot is simple, a demonic looking black sedan comes thundering out of the desert one morning and heads into the small rural desert town of Santa Ynez and begins to mow down innocents like a hitchhiker and two young bicycle riders. While the Thomas County Sheriff’s office, including Captain…soon to be sheriff thanks to The Car…Wade Parent (James Brolin and an awesome 70s mustache), think there is a psycho on the loose, we already know something supernatural is afoot from the red tinted POV shots from within the vehicle and the mysterious wind that blows through right before it’s thunderous engines and blaring horn can be heard. Despite road blocks, the vehicle appears and disappears at will and Wade and his deputies start to realize something is satanically wrong here when the vehicle tries to run down a group of school children and is stopped when they flee into the hallowed ground of a cemetery and Wade himself confirms eye witness accounts that the vehicle has no driver. But something evil is inside as indicated by the gleeful sounding horn after a kill and the fact that single dad Wade’s pretty school teacher girlfriend (Kathleen Lloyd) finds out the hard way that calling the ‘driver’ a “chicken shit” is a bad idea. Now with the body count mounting and all signs pointing to the fact that Old Scratch himself might be out for a joyride, Wade and his rapidly diminishing police force must find a way to stop Satan’s Sedan before Santa Ynez becomes a ghost town.

As with our previous Tomb Of Nostalgia… The Devil’s RainThe Car is another film that employed Satanist Anton LaVey as a technical advisor and even opens with a quote from him. Not sure what he advised as there really is very little religious talk in the film and even when they start to believe something evil is going on, a priest is never even mentioned much less consulted. Who cares, as Silverstein takes this laughable idea and makes a really fun and suspenseful action/horror flick that actually has some goose bump inducing moments such as when The Car has the kids trapped in the cemetery and when Wade has an encounter with it in his own garage. Silverstein accomplishes this by taking his subject totally seriously and not only instilling his villain with a good deal of menace, but delivers some really intense chase and action sequences including a very thrilling climax where all Hell literally breaks loose. Obviously the 70s nostalgia adds a lot of fun to it too, but this is actually a well directed film and we enjoy it far more then we expect from a movie about a demon driven car. Another thing that adds to the effectiveness is that The Car appears in sleepy Santa Ynez for no reason, nor do we ever get one. It’s very spooky and random and that works far better than a hokey explanation and it gives The Car added personality to what Silverstein already imbues it with.

The cast, also starring Ronny Cox, R.G. Armstrong and Kyle and Kim Richards as Wade’s precocious daughters, take their roles very seriously with Brolin making a very human and sometimes fallible hero. He and Lloyd really do come across as a cute couple, too. The film was criticized for it’s acting back in the day, but personally, I think they are just fine for being in a flick about a demon possessed car. And speaking of which… the real star is George Barris’ customized 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III and it’s an iconic movie vehicle and is very intimidating and effective. If Beezelbub had a car, I have no problem believing this is what it would look like. Leonard Rosenman’s score is appropriately spooky and incorporates bits of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique…the piece that open’s The Shining and Gerald Hirschfeld’s cinematography makes nice use of the desert locations. Despite being filmed mostly in the day, it has plenty of creepy atmosphere.

All in all, The Car is a really fun B-movie blast with a well deserved cult following and a favorite guilty pleasure of mine that I actually saw at The Park Lane theater in Palisades Park in 1977 when I was a kid…and it delightfully holds up all these years later! A fun action/ horror of the type they don’t make anymore!

3 and 1/2 satanic sedans.

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