All in all, I had pretty great luck with newer horror films during 2017, as I wrote about in a post last week. When it comes to older films, especially horror ones, I tend to have lower — or at least different — expectations. If a movie’s off-the-wall bonkers, but made with effort, I’ll probably love it. That accounts for about half of the movies on this list. However, I also discovered a few that I now very much consider new-to-me classics that I hope to watch again and again. To find out which ones, you’ve got to hit that jump!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but M.A.S.K. may have been the perfect 80s toy line. Shrink down G.I. Joes and put them inside Transformers? Yeah, I’m on board that idea all day long. It’s been a while since I shined the spotlight on these rad 80s ads, but I was dazzled by the use of actual race cars in this one to sell toys! Back at my folks’ place, I have two duffle bags filled with these vehicles and after watching this spot, I want to dig them out! This reminds me that I should watch the animated series on DVD and also catch up on the IDW comic. I’m missing out on so much M.A.S.K. goodness!
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. Continue reading Prime Time: TerrorVision, Vicious Lips & Jack’s Back
Usually around the end of a year I take some time to go through my favorite albums of the year and I still might do that, but I also felt like looking back at my favorite horror experiences of 2015. Thanks to Netflix, the library and a gaggle of fun freelance assignments around Halloween I got to see a good mix of old and new films this year that I wanted to look back on one more time before moving on to the new year. Continue reading Halloween Scene: 2015 Horror Recap
Not Of This Earth wasn’t exactly my first choice for horror movies to watch from 1988, but as it turns out, I’ve already reviewed or didn’t have access to some of the bigger ones. So many of the big franchises debuted sequels that year — Halloween 4, Nightmare 4, Friday 8, Poltergeist 3, Phantasm 2, Hellraiser 2, Fright Night 2, Return Of The Living Dead 2 and Sleepaway Camp 2 — but I had reviewed those, couldn’t get to them on short-ish notice or just didn’t feel like it (sorry, Pinhead).
Other notable releases include Scarecrows (so boring), Serpent And The Rainbow,Waxwork, Pumpkinhead, Night of the Demons, Monkeyshines, Maniac Cop, Killer Klowns (which deserves a more in-depth review), Dead Heat, Child’s Play, The Blob remake (which I thought I reviewed) and Black Roses. I couldn’t believe how many of the biggies from that year that I’d seen and reviewed and then I stumbled upon a good one: Jim Wynorski’s remake of Roger Corman’s Not Of This Earth starring Traci Lords and Arthur Roberts. What made it the right movie? Well, I had it on hand thanks to Shout Factory’s Corman Classics line of DVDs from a few years back! I’ve also got the original, but that might have to wait until 1957 week.
Not Of This Earth is about a race of aliens scouting out Earth to see if they can feed off of its blood. They send a representative — Mr. Johnson (Roberts) — who immediately visits a blood bank to make a withdrawal only to find out that’s not really how they work. Using his mind powers, Johnson gets the doc to assign Nurse Nadine Story (Lords) to be his in-house aid along with his valet Jeremy. When the whole blood bank thing doesn’t work out for Johnson, he starts sucking the life out of people who theoretically won’t be missed like hookers and strippers. Another of his race also comes over, goes nuts and becomes a slasher for no apparent reason (other than they already had that footage from Hollywood Boulevard). Speaking of which, this movie has the most bonkers credits scene of all time because it basically consists of insane monster shots from previous Corman movies that have NOTHING to do with this one.
Anyway, since this is a Corman picture, there’s a fun story behind it. Apparently, Wynorksi bet the producer that he could make this movie in 12 days. Part of it was a challenge because Corman directed the original, but Wynorski walked away the winner completing it in 11.5 days! I was actually surprised because I thought this was a pretty well put together movie that didn’t feel rushed. In fact, it’s got a lot going for it. Lords’ casting was obviously a stunt as this was her first non-porn part, but she did a great job as did everyone else. The only times it gets overly campy is when the hookers and strippers are on the scene. Oh, there’s also the crazy lady on the bench and the long-haired, bearded alien who looks like a hung over DJ, but they’re not overly distracting.
Wynorksi, who also made films like Chopping Mall, Return Of Swamp Thing, Munchie and Ghoulies IV, is known for mixing T&A with genre flavors resulting in some pretty fun 80s and 90s films before segueing almost completely into the soft core zone. I love Chopping Mall and owe it a full review, but I think this is the best of his movies that I’ve seen. In a way it feels similar to Phantasm in that the mysterious older man is trying to send humans back to another planet that get all shrunk down, but the horror-humor tone is much different. I also appreciate how Not Of This Earth takes old school sci-fi and horror tropes, views them through a modern lens, mixes in some 80s slasher conventions and comes up with something new and different that’s pretty enjoyable even if it was shot very quickly and reuses footage from other Corman movies.
After the generally dark nature of Green Arrow: Hunters Moon and tomorrow’s Friday Fisticuffs offering it was nice to experience the lighter side of 1988!
Last week the weather turned gray and all I wanted to do was sit down and watch a marathon of Val Lewton, Universal Monster and Vincent Price movies. Of course, I have two small kids, so I only got to watch one of them, but it was still a great experience. A few months ago I got my hands on the excellent Scream Factory Vincent Price Collection II set and have slowly been making my way through it. As it happens, I’ve only seen a few of these movies before — House On Haunted Hill, Dr. Phibes Rides Again and Last Man On Earth — so the others have been a nice surprise, like Tomb Of Ligeia.
I knew nothing about this film going in aside from the main star, but it also happens to be directed by Roger Corman and adapts an Edgar Allen Poe story. This was Corman’s last Poe film and, instead of shooting all of it in the studio, he actually went out and used the gorgeous crumbling British abbey you can see in the film. This not only opens the world up, but also brightens it and adds a sense that everything’s about to crumble around the main characters.
The story follows Price’s Verden Fell, a widower who hangs out in a mansion next to the crumbling abbey. His dead wife Ligeia said that she would never really die, but that doesn’t stop ol’ Verden from flirting with the delightful Rowena (Elizabeth Shepherd). The two have a whirlwind relationship, that ends in marriage and a honeymoon. While away, the super-serious Verden lightens up (and even takes off the strange sunglasses he’s always wearing), but upon returning he goes back to his old, strange ways. The longer they’re in the mansion, the more Rowena realizes that it might be haunted, the pet cat is a jerk and her husband is clearly up to some craziness that most likely involves his seemingly deceased former love. All of this comes to a head at the end of the film in a delightfully crazy manner.
At 82 minutes, Ligeia moves at a quick clip and covers quite a bit of ground in a short time while also taking time to show off some beautiful scenery before returning to the darkness within the castle (and Verden). I highly recommend giving this movie your full attention if you’re going to watch because it’s very easy to miss a few key details here and there. You might think the horse riding scene or long shots of the honeymoon are going to take a while, but as soon as they lull you into wondering what’s happening on Twitter, you’ve already missed a major explanation. I rewound a few times thanks to brief distractions from my phone and am glad I did because otherwise I would have been pretty lost.
As far as the Blu-ray transfer goes, this one looks spectacular, enhanced by the real locations used to shoot about half of the film. You really get to see that abbey in all it’s creepy glory. The pops of red from the flowers and blue and purple from the candles can all be properly seen and wondered about thematically. I haven’t listened to the commentaries (one by Corman, the other by Shepherd) but I do enjoy the intros and outros that Price recorded for this and some of the other films back in the 80s. They were part of a PBS Price marathon series and the kind of awesome find that Shout/Scream Factory has become famous for in the film fan community. Kudos to them for that and for this amazing set. I hope to get my hands on the first one at some point, but am also looking forward to watching The Raven and the rest of these movies in this rad-looking format.
Several years back I was in the enviable position of being on Shout Factory’s PR list thanks to working at ToyFare. Because of that, I got a lot of interesting DVD sets, some of which I haven’t even watched yet. The Giant Robot Action Pack featuring Robot Wars and Crash and Burn is one such selection that I decided to finally watch over the weekend and I was surprised at the results.
I’ve actually tried to watch Robot Wars — directed by Albert Band and released in 1993 — a few times, but never really made it through for various reasons. This time, I was set to watch the film and actually succeeded. A kind of sequel to Stuart Gordon’s Robot Jox — which is also getting the Shout Factory treatment — this movie takes place in a future world where one scorpion-like robot carries people from a protected city to one that was abandoned and preserved in 1993. After terrorists take over the robot, it’s up to our brash hero, his co-pilot, a reporter and an archaeologist to find another robot and save the day.
Though the title is pretty misleading — two robots fighting does not a war make — I had a lot of fun with this film. The stop motion on the robots looks better to my eye than the bad CGI that would be used today and the characters, while broad and oftentimes goofy, are charming and fun to watch (it wasn’t until this latest viewing that I realized the reporter is actually Lisa Rinna in an early role).
While this is far from the best giant robot movie I’ve ever seen, I appreciate that everyone involved seemed to be doing their best and trying to create something fun and interesting. Full Moon would sometimes swipe heavily from other projects, but this felt pretty original to me. That might not sound like the most thrilling endorsement, but it went pretty far for a low budget 90s sci-fi action film. It helps that my experience with huge robots doesn’t extend much past loving Transformers as a kid and loving Pacific Rim.
The other film on the set — Crash And Burn — is another kinda-sorta-not-really sequel to Robot Jox (they were marketed as such overseas, but share nothing in the way of continuity). This one actually really surprised me because it was such a mix of genres and movies that I love.
It starts off with a guy on a futuristic motorcycle traveling through the desert to visit a factory-turned-TV studio run by a rebellious old man who rails against the corporation that runs everything (and also employs the motorcycle driver). Once there, we meet an eclectic cast of characters that includes Bill Moseley, the old man’s granddaughter played by Dark Skies‘ Megan Ward, blowhard talk show host and a pair of women who…are there for some reason. Soon, an important character is murdered and the search is on to find out what happened. It just so happens to involve killer (human sized) robots and a huge robot outside that doesn’t work (BUT IT WILL!).
So, with this one movie you’ve got the seclusion of the desert with the post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland-type set up mixed with the group-of-stranded-strangers motif (because there’s a radiation storm of some kind) plus the whodunnit mystery (though it’s pretty clear who the killer is if you pay attention to footwear), the someone-isn’t-who-they-seem thing AND THE ROBOTS.
Let’s jump into SPOILER TERRITORY for this graph because I don’t want to ruin an old movie I do actually want you to check out. I tried to paint with broad strokes above, but here’s the deal. If you happen to notice the murderer’s ridiculous boots and then wait about five minutes until you see the cast together once again, you’ll know who the murderer is. Of course, it’s not revealed until AFTER they do a take on the test from The Thing that doesn’t quite go as planned. But once the killer is revealed, it’s a damn delight to watch him go absolutely bonkers, knock off a few randos and then have a big fight at the end that eventually involves the big robot.
All in all, it’s a perfectly crazy movie. While I appreciated Robot Wars for being better than I expected, Crash And Burn actually surprised me by being more aware of what it was and playing with the audience before finally giving them what they wanted in ways they might not have known that they wanted it. I can’t think of another movie I’ve watched recently where I had little-to-no expectations and yet was so pleasantly surprised.