Prime Time: TerrorVision, Vicious Lips & Jack’s Back

terrorvision I’ve been kicking around a recurring blog element here where I pick out a random movie or two on Amazon Prime and give it a review. The name Prime Time popped right into my head and seemed to spot-on to ignore. As it happened, I wrote a Prime Time post a little over a year ago that I never published for some reason. So, here’s the first installment as I wrote it in February of 2016.

My folks recently gifted us with an Amazon Prime membership. In addition to rocking out to a rad All 90s Amazon Music playlist on the regular and trying to figure out which Dash Buttons to buy, I’m also watching some pretty great movies on there. Well, “great” is probably too strong of a word, but I’m having a good time at least.

The first flick I watched is actually one I’ve talked about here on the site before, the 1986 all-over-the-place-in-all-the-best-ways TerrorVision. In that earlier review, I said I couldn’t call the movie good. Forget that. Current TJ thinks this movie is a fantastic piece of insanity. It’s got 80s satire, vicious monster kills, kids trying to train a giant alien, beautifully ridiculous characters and spectacular special effects and costumes.

I actually wish there was a whole secret subgenre of films like this one or possibly a treasure trove of Ted Nicolaou movies with an equally bonkers mix of all these wonderful things. After looking him up on IMDb, I now want to check out Bad Signals and the Subspecies movies. They sound like they’d be right up my alley.

vicious lipsAfter delighting in TerrorVision again, I saw Albert Pyun’s Vicious Lips also available for streaming. What grabbed me? It’s about an all girl band that needs to planet-hop to play the gig of a lifetime. A SPACE ROCK & ROLL movie? Yes, I’m on board for that all day long. I was also curious to see what early Pyun looked like. This is his fourth movie, debuting three years before Cyborg, four before Captain America, five before Dollman and seven before Arcades. (Wow, I’ve officially seen a ton of his movies.)

And you know what? It’s weird and wild, but not quite as weird or wild as I hoped. It kicks right into gear as the lead singer of the band Vicious Lips quits about four seconds before getting hit by a car. The band’s wildly annoying manager needs a replacement, so he finds the most clean-cut girl possible at a talent show and inserts her into the band.

But that’s just the first 15 minutes or so. After that, they hop onto a spaceship that winds up crashing on an alien world. While getting to know one another, the ladies in the band also realize they’re on the run from a killer who was in the hold of the ship. From there, it just kind of keeps going with elements that sounds interesting on paper, but just kind of flop around on the screen.

As I write this, I’m thinking, “Was it really that boring? Maybe I wasn’t paying attention?” Well, I tend to pay attention to things that are entertaining which is why I specifically remember the club owner is quite memorable as is her beastly henchdude. In fact, like I mentioned, the whole first 15 minutes runs by at the kind of clip that impresses, but from there things slow WAY down. Had Pyun and company given the women more obstacles to overcome in a more timely manner, it would have been a different story. Oh, the instruments also look rad. I’d like to play a few of them! But, unfortunately, that might be about it when it comes to positive elements. Honestly, the poster is so cool looking that I’d like to see a comic book adaptation with that artist and a story that actually kicks ass. Now, there’s a damn good idea!

jack's backAnd finally, we have Jack’s Back, the modern day (for 1988) take on Jack the Ripper starring James Spader. That sentence right there is enough to garner interest from me. I don’t think I’ve watched a Ripper movie since Time After Time.

In this film, someone’s just about done faithfully recreating the Ripper’s murders when Spader’s John stumbles upon the person he thinks is responsible for the kills, resulting in his death. Enter: John’s twin brother who finds himself on the run from the cops and other possible killers as he figures out what happened to his bro.

One of the film’s more offbeat aspects is the fact that it keeps having these anti-climactic, “oh, THAT must be the killer moments” that are soon enough followed by another very similar scene as an attempt at keeping the audience off balance. In reality, though, it just made me feel less involved in the story. Looking at the possibilities, there were only three or four characters who could be the killer. We’re pointed at one or two, while others are alluded to, but in the end it’s not an overly surprising reveal. I will say that I did not see it coming until about 10 minutes before the end. Then again, I don’t know how invested I was in figuring out the culprit.

I did enjoy watching young James Spader run around and do his thing. The first twin is incredibly likable as the idealistic doctor (almost ER-era Anthony Edwards-ian, really) and the other makes for a pretty good on-the-run tough guy. Cynthia Gibb also makes for an alluring love interest who helps Spader out but doesn’t do a whole lot else. The rest of the cast is on point, but also looks very much like the third or fourth names on Central Casting’s rosters for the basic 80s thriller roles (hookers, cops, sergeants, slimeballs, etc.). I was surprised by the levels of restraint seen in Rowdy Herrington’s first film. Right after this he did the it’s-so-awesome-I-can-hardly-stand-it Road House and Striking Distance a few years later.

Here’s a fun fact, two of these films are still free to watch for Prime members, but all three have home video releases from Shout Factory. TerrorVision comes as a Scream Factory double Blu-ray with another super weird movie, The Video Dead. One of these days, I’ll add that to my collection.  Vicious Lips is a part of a DVD 4-pack called Cult Movie Marathon Volume 1 that also includes Invasion Of The Bee Girls, Unholy Rollers and The Devil’s 8. Jack’s Back is not currently free on Prime Video, but there is a nice Scream Factory Blu-ray.

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