TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SPACE RAIDERS (1983)

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SPACE RAIDERS (1983)

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

Actually saw this fun little Roger Corman flick in a theater back in 1983. It’s a slight departure for Corman as it was more kid friendly in tone and came with a PG rating. It tells the tale of a young boy named Peter (David Mendenhall), who while playing in the warehouse of his father’s company, gets caught in the middle of a firefight between security and a band of pirates. Peter hides in the very cargo ship the pirates wind up stealing and now is trapped with them as they flee. He slowly endears himself to the band of thieves as he and they are pursued by both bounty hunters and a massive robot warship.

While basically void of the usual blood and boobs that Corman’s flicks were notorious for, this flick does have his thriftiness, as it’s effects are basically recycled from Corman classics like Battle Beyond The Stars, Galaxy Of Terror, Forbidden World and Android. The James Horner score is lifted from Battle Beyond the Stars and Humanoids From The Deep as well. Written and directed by Howard R. Cohen, the film makes the most of it’s minuscule budget and what it can’t accomplish with modest action and recycled battle scenes, it does with heart. Despite not being big on action and having seen a lot of the space battles before in the film’s mentioned, the film is harmless and fun in spite of it’s economical approach in a time where big budget space adventures were becoming common. It’s loaded with charm, as were most of Corman’s flicks, even if it couldn’t possibly compete with the same year’s Return Of The Jedi.

The cast also give this a bit of spunk, too. Mendenhall is cute and likable as the wide-eyed Peter who is having the time of his life with a crew of pirates. While on the subject, the likable band of rogues is captained by Vince Edwards as Hawk. Edwards, who was doctor Ben Casey on TV from 1961 to 1966, plays the ex-soldier with a heart of gold with the appropriate grit and grizzle. He is joined by soap stars Thom Christopher and Patsy Pease as Flightplan and Amanda respectively, with Drew Snyder and future Ghoulies director Luca Bercovici rounding out the crew. B-Movie icon Dick Miller also appears. Everybody takes the material seriously enough to make it work, but appear to be having fun.

This is not a great movie by any lengths, but it has a charm and heart and that makes it fun despite the low budget limitations. You have to give Corman credit for getting another movie out of SPFX, sets and music from past productions and having his filmmakers show some restraint to deliver a more kid friendly flick. One of the last of Corman’s New World Pictures productions before he sold it.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 recycled spaceships from Battle Beyond The Stars.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE GATE (1987)

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THE GATE (1987)

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

The Gate is a fun 1980s horror flick that was geared more towards kids, but still kept enough of an edge within it’s PG-13 rating. It tells the story of nerdy young Glen (Blade’s Stephen Dorff) who discovers that when a storm blows his treehouse over, it’s left a deep pit in his backyard. When his parents go away, big sister Al (Christa Denton) is left to babysit and while she throws a sleepover party for her friends, Glen and pal Terry (Louis Tripp) discover that the hole in the yard is actually a gateway to Hell when they accidentally unleash a demonic presence into the teen filled house.

This is an enjoyable little flick with it’s cheesy 80s effects, including some stop-motion animated demon minions and their massive leader. Under the direction of filmmaker Tibor Takács from a script by Micahel Nankin, it could have been a little more energetic and benefited from a faster pace, but still has heart and a bit of a dark side which saves it from being an outright kid’s movie. Takács directs a bit too by-the-numbers for it to be a real blast, but the second half really ignites as creatures, zombies and whirling vortexes lay siege to Glen’s home as he tires to figure a way to close the portal and send it’s occupants back where they came from. Being kids, they use everything from Heavy Metal music to verses from the Bible to get results until it’s Spielbergian final solution. The SPFX are very dated, thought that does add some charm, and there is a very 80s electronic score by Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson to add to the overall 80s nostalgia the flick now has.  The cast of child actors all do well in their parts and give their characters some life beyond the stereotypical suburban kid peronas that they are written as. Some like Dorff and Kelly Rowan, who plays one of Al’s friends, went on to continue acting as adults, while other’s careers faded out after another role or two.

This flick has a cult following and is considered by some a cult classic, especially memorable for Randall Cook’s (The Thing’s legendary deleted stop motion sequence) little demonic minions that were brought to life by stop-motion animation and rubber suits on large scale sets. It is fun, though director Tibor Takács could have given it a bit more energy and urgency. The pace could have been a bit quicker, too, but it is still entertaining and has a lot of charming, cheesy SPFX effects to put a smile on our face if three suburban kids battling rubbery demons isn’t enough.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 rubbery minions.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) and THE GIANT BEHEMOTH (1959)

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This segment of Tomb Of Nostalgia takes the form of a double feature I watched this weekend…two personal favorite, old-school monster flicks!


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THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953)

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

One of the all time great 1950’s creature features directed by Eugène Lourié with another classic monster from SPFX master Ray Harryhausen. Flick is based on a Ray Bradbury short story titled The Fog Horn and features genre favorite Kenneth Tobey. The story starts with an atomic bomb test in the Arctic which frees a prehistoric dinosaur from it’s icy grave. The creature wreaks havoc all down the coast as it heads toward NYC and a showdown with the military. Adding to the already aggressive nature of the beast is that it carries a bacteria in it’s blood that is unknown to today’s medicine and is quite lethal. Can it be stopped!?

Beast is the first of Lourié’s three classic monster movies (The Giant Behemoth and Gorgo being the others) and is directed in his serious and intense tone. The cast all take their roles seriously, too and it helps make this monster movie the classic it is. Obviously, the FX from Harryhausen are top notch and the Rhedosaurus is one of his most famous creations. Climax in New York is still thrilling even by today’s standards and is far better then the 1998 American Godzilla which was more a remake of this film then it was of the Japanese monster icon.
MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Keep you eyes peeled for the army sharp shooter at the climax played by a then unknown Lee Van Cleef.

-MonsterZero NJ

4 Rhedosaurus.

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THE GIANT BEHEMOTH (1959)

Basically a retread of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms but set in England. Behemoth also has the same director, Eugène Lourié, who brings a serious tone to the proceedings as with his other monster movies. It is his taking the material seriously and having his cast do the same that makes this as effective as it is. The difference between this and Beast is this creature is dying from the radiation poisoning received from atomic tests, making it twice as vicious and it’s ability to emit radioactive waves from it’s body like an electric eel, make it twice as lethal. The effects of it’s radioactive condition on some of the characters is quite disturbing, even for a film of this era. A giant monster movie with a bit of a nasty edge. The FX are delivered, this time, with contributions from the great Willis O’Brian (King Kong) and there is some nice intensity as this creature, driven mad with pain, rampages through the streets of London destroying and killing anything in it’s path. Nostalgic charm is ever present with the combination of stop motion animation and black and white photography. Also amusing to watch London get leveled, giving New York and Tokyo a much needed break, although the ominous ending may suggest that break may not be a long one. Well done and intense monster movie. For my Eugène Lourié’s third giant monster flick, Gorgo click HERE.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 behemoths

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: Q: THE WINGED SERPENT (1982)

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Q: THE WINGED SERPENT (1982)

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

Q: The Winged Serpent is a fun and very self-aware…long before term even existed…movie about a winged Aztec god named Quetzalcoatl who nests in the Chrysler Building and begins to snack on NYC residents. The film follows both a series of ritual killings, where victims are skinned alive and a series of disappearances and murders that are rumored to be caused by some large bird stalking the NYC skyline. Detective Shepard (David Carradine) seems convinced they are related and his investigation proves true as it appears the skinnings where part of an Aztec ritual to summon Quetzalcoatl from it’s centuries long slumber. Enter petty crook and getaway driver Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty) who stumbles upon the creature’s nest when hiding from police after a botched robbery. Jimmy sees not an opportunity to become a hero, but an opportunity to become rich, famous and be pardoned for all his criminal activity. So, the third rate crook holds the city hostage as the winged serpent continues to feed on it’s citizens and Shepard continues to try to convince his superiors that there is a centuries old Aztec god slaughtering the people of New York City.

What makes Q fun is that writer/director Larry (It’s Alive, The Stuff) Cohen knows this is a silly movie with a silly concept, but takes it and runs with it. He has his cast play it straight and yet with a wink and it works far better than it should. The film has a very Roger Corman feel as characters spout some very silly dialog, but with complete earnest and we smile with delight as FX masters Randall Cook and David Allen bring our monster to life with some charming old-fashioned stop motion animation. Cohen fills his movie with some very gory moments, earning it an R-Rating and throws in some breasts to go along with the blood. Cohen got his start working for Corman’s New World Pictures and making blaxploitation flicks for AIP and his exploitation roots are on perfect display here. He knows just how serious to take his monster movie, but also knows enough to let audiences in on the fun. The film isn’t perfect. The pace is a bit slow, but this is the early 80s. There is some very cheesy dialog…though that is probably on purpose if you are familiar with Cohen’s films…and the monster effects look cheesy at this point, but the clay critter adds to the charm in my book. There are a lot of witty touches to look out for as Cohen builds up to his fun King Kong-esque finale with momma Q…where there is a nest, there are eggs…battling it out with a heavily armed squad of NYC cops in and around the spire of one of NYC’s oldest landmarks. Sure the film is very dated, but the 80s nostalgia and wonderful shots of 80s era New York City only add to the enjoyment of this flick and I think I actually did enjoy it far more now than when I first saw it years ago.

The cast are obviously having a good time, especially Moriarty as he chews up the scenery with a furious passion as low level crook Jimmy. He really gives Jimmy that thick New York street punk swagger and accent and it adds a lot of flavor when contrasted with Carradine’s aloof, tough-guy cop. Carradine recites his dialog about Aztec sacrifice and giant monster birds with a seriousness and a smirk as if to let us know that this is ridiculous, but he’s going to go with it. This helps the audience to relax and go with it, too. We also get movie legend Richard (Shaft) Roundtree as another hard-nosed cop on the case and 70s-80s movie regular Candy (American Graffiti) Clark as Jimmy’s fed-up girlfriend. The cast all take things serious enough and never make a joke out of it, but also seem to be having fun chasing a monster around New York City. A good example of a director and cast on the same page as to how to treat the material.

While I will admit, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with this when I first saw it. I think I expected something a bit more serious and was a bit taken back by the more Roger Corman-ish approach, but I have really come to appreciate it over the years especially with all the great nostalgia involved and you know how much I love Roger Corman flicks. It’s a delightfully cheesy and fun monster movie that takes a very ridiculous premise and runs with it. There is some wonderful nostalgia and there is a lot of charming fun watching the old-style animated monster wreak havoc on the the rooftops of New York. A fun monster flick that is both charmingly old-fashioned and delightfully Corman-esque.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 (out of 4) Q’s.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER and LASERBLAST

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I know I have covered these two ‘so bad it’s good’ 70s flicks before but, they do make a great pair with their bad acting, awful dialog and delightfully charming stop motion animation FX work by the late, great David Allen and SPFX make-up and prosthetics from Steve Neill. With a few brews, these two cult classics can be a lot of fun even without being mocked by the MST3K gang!

 

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THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER (1977)

I’ll start out by saying this isn’t a good movie in the conventional sense, but I love monster movies, especially the old fashioned stop motion animation ones and, as you may know by now, I do love a ‘so bad it’s good’ flick. So I cut this movie a lot of slack. Plus, it does have a bit of personal nostalgia for me as I saw it at the Showboat Cinema in Edgewater N.J. when it first came out in 1977.

Low budget sci-fi/horror begins as a meteor crashes into a California mountain lake by a remote rural town. The lake temperature rises and a long dormant plesiosaur egg hatches and 6 months later we have a giant prehistoric monster on the loose feeding on the local livestock and any inhabitants who get near the water. It’s now up to Sheriff Steven Hanson (Richard Cardella who also co-wrote) to try to find a way to stop the rampaging beast who is making a meal out of locals and tourists alike.

The Crater Lake Monster has a good B-movie plot that is wasted by the totally amateurish handling of the production by director and co-writer William R. Stromberg. If the lame attempts at suspense aren’t enough, the weak dialog, awful acting and ridiculous attempts at comic relief by two good ole boys who rent boats (Mark Siegel and Glen Roberts), put the nail in coffin of this flick’s potential as a serious B-movie horror treat and catapults it into ‘so bad it’s good’ territory…though it’s on thin ice there, too. *Cardella claims the withdrawal of funds and hiring of a terrible editor by Crown International Pictures was the cause of the film’s ruin, but neither of these reasons explain how sub-par everything, other than David Allen’s cool stop motion animated dinosaur, is done. The title creature is a fine bit of FX from the under appreciated Allen, but doesn’t have quite enough screen time to make up for the film’s flaws and even it’s climactic battle with a snow plow is far too short to live up to it’s entertainment potential.

But there is definitely some fun to be had at the incompetent film-making here and there is definitely some 70s nostalgia to enjoy, but how much you enjoy it depends on just how tolerant you are of a bad movie like this. I enjoy them for what they are and I like this flick for all it’s badness and there is a cool beastie. With a couple of brews this can be a good time, if that’s your thing. It definitely is mine. In an era of senseless remakes, this is a title screaming to be turned into a better movie by more talented hands, but they sadly don’t make movies like this anymore, at least not with the kind of charm flicks like this had. And despite all Crater Lake‘s flaws, it still has it’s heart in the right place and plenty of charm. And that goes a long way with a movie geek like me. A guilty pleasure for sure but, a fun one.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: The full size creature head was made by Steve Neill, another unsung hero of movie make-up and prosthetic FX.

*as per Wikipedia

-MonsterZero NJ

3 guilty pleasure plesiosaurs!

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Laserblast

LASERBLAST (1978)

Laserblast is a low budget sci-fi thriller from Charles Band that actually could have been a decent B-movie had it been in more competent hands instead of becoming one of MST3K’s funniest episodes. Even still, it is a guilty pleasure of mine and carries the nostalgia of being one of the flicks seen at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, NJ.

Laserblast opens as an alien outlaw is being pursued on Earth across a desert. After a brief firefight, the reptilian space cops (some cool stop motion FX from the late David Allen with the outlaw’s and alien possessed Billy’s make-up FX by Steve Neill) blast the alien bad guy, but in an effort to avoid detection, are forced to flee and the alien’s weapon is left behind. Enter troubled teen Billy (Kim Milford) who, aside from his girlfriend (70s exploitation queen, Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith), is picked on by almost everyone in town including, the pot smoking cops. Obviously fate puts the alien weapon in Billy’s hands and now he has the power to get back at those who abuse him. With the alien weapon transforming him into something unearthly, can Billy be stopped?

Laserblast is sadly directed in a pedestrian manner by Michael Rae…from a script by Frank Ray Perilli and Franne Schacht…and a little energy would have helped a lot as even Billy’s climactic rampage (if blowing up a few cars and a mailbox is a rampage) is very by-the-numbers and lacks any suspense. Rae’s idea of dramatic intensity is to show the same explosion over and over in slow motion from multiple camera angles and have star Milford overact when under alien influence. And speaking of the acting, the performances range from bland to bad with even cameos from vets Keenan Wynn and Roddy McDowell being obvious paycheck grabs.The casting is also odd in the case of Milford who is too good looking and well built to be believable as the ‘picked on kid’ especially, when nerd legend Eddie Deezen (his first flick), is cast as one of the bullies. Love to ask the casting director what the inspiration was for that casting, aside from booze. But the cast isn’t totally to blame as the laughably bad dialog from the weak script isn’t going to help anyone’s performance especially, when the director doesn’t seem to be giving much inspiration. At least David Allen provides some good stop motion effects and FX model making legend Greg Jein gave us a cool alien spacecraft for such a low budget flick, that and things are blown up quite frequently.

Despite all it’s flaws, I still think there is a ‘so bad it’s good’ charm here and a lot of entertainment can be had from the epic fail of it all. And as stated before, the film does have the previously stated nostalgia element for me personally. So I would recommend it to those who love to have a good bad movie along with their six pack or simply enjoy laughing at a cheesy 70s low budget Sci-Fi flick that aims high and fails in entertaining fashion.

-MonsterZero NJ

 A ‘so bad it’s good’ 3 stop motion alien cops.

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