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.
I love seeing horror movies that I’ve heard about over the years but never actually seen. I also love the TLC that Shout Factory’s Scream Factory imprint gives to films like that as far as presentation and special features go. So, as you might expect, I loved Scream Factory’s recent Body Bags Blu-ray.
Originally conceived as a Tales From The Crypt-like horror anthology series for Showtime. Body Bags features director John Carpenter as The Coroner, a creepy, pun-loving ghoul who opens various black bags in the morgue and tells the person’s tale. Carpenter directed the first two installments, “The Gas Station” and “Hair” while Texas Chainsaw Massacre mastermind Tobe Hooper came in and did “The Eye.” As with most of the horror anthologies I’ve seen — like Cat’s Eye or Creepshow 2 — this one features two solid stories and one weaker one.
I loved “The Gas Station.” It’s about a young woman named Anne (Alex Datcher) working over night in a gas station in one of those small booths so she can take money and sell cigarettes. While there she encounters a few creepy regulars, a few nice guys and a bum-murdering adversary who wants to add her to his kill list. Carpenter does a killer job of making this whole thing feel tense and dangerous. There’s a scene where Anne locks herself out of the booth and has to go find keys in the main building. I got super nervous during this portion of the short. Then you’ve got the end where she actually faces the killer. It’s great how Carpenter never leaves the gas station and makes it seem both cramped and huge depending on the scene.
There are a lot of fear elements here, many of which are simply related to work. She’s new, wants to prove herself and also make herself seem super capable. This seems like less of a pride thing and more a need for cash to keep putting herself through school, which is super important to her. You’re also dealing with the claustrophobia of the booth which goes from safe zone to cage and the seemingly expansive space between it and the main building.
Sometimes with anthologies or shorter form horror stories, they feel like truncated films, but I thought this story was perfectly suited for this format and used the timing well. Too much longer and it would be filled with too many fakeouts and lose suspense, which it has in spades.
SPOILERS THIS PARAGRAPH I want to talk a bit about the killer reveal in this one. Carpenter set up several possibilities for the killer in the forms of various customers — including a super-creepy Wes Craven — but I’ve got to say, I never once thought it was going to be Anne’s fellow employee played by Revenge Of The Nerds star Robert Carradine. He got me there. Even though I didn’t recognize Carradine right away, I knew he was a nice guy and didn’t even think about him again I also liked how Carpenter included a few nods to his other films like when Carradine’s character does the background sit-up Michael Myers style with Anne in the foreground.
I wasn’t nearly as interested in “Hair” which stars Stacey Keach as an aging rich business guy who becomes obsessed with his thinning hair. I understand that this is something that does get into peoples’ heads, but it’s not really on my radar. Anyway, Keach goes to Doctor Lock whose method for hair growth seems to work really well, so well in fact that hair starts growing everywhere. I won’t get into the end reveal, but I’ll say it didn’t do much for me. I’ve actually gone back and watched this segment with an eye for the satire of it all and enjoyed it a lot more.
Thankfully, I enjoyed the third installment, “Eye” starring Mark Hamill and Twiggy. Hamill plays baseball player Brent Miller who gets into a car accident that leads to the loss of an eye. He gets a transplant, but soon comes to realize that this new organ might be a bit defective as he begins seeing morbid scenes some of which are genuinely spooky. As it turns out the new eye came from a misogynistic killer who starts taking over his body which doesn’t work out so well for his wife. This is definitely the darkest, most intense entry in the series as Hamill struggles for his sanity.
It’s funny, while watching the movie again with audio commentary, “The Gas Station” whizzes by. The first time I watched, I was so absorbed and freaked out that it felt like a feature. Carpenter also points out that he used a station out in the middle of nowhere so it would feel even more remote and lonely. He also pointed out a number of shot set-ups that add to the feel of the picture. Carradine also joined in on the fun. The pair caught up a bit and talked about a few other things, but mainly stuck to the story at hand offering lots of insider details.
Keach comes on and does the same for “Hair” and it’s a ton of fun listening to these two longtime pros talk craft. More than that, Keach says that this story was very personal for him because his parents always told him to wear his hairpiece in part because his dad thought he didn’t make it as an actor for being bald. They even went off on a bit of a tangent about zombie movies after pointing out effects artist Greg Nicotero in a quick shot which was a lot of fun. Listening to this track actually framed the story in a better light for me which will definitely make repeated viewings more fun.
For “Eye” Hooper wasn’t available, so producer (and Carpenter’s wife) Sandy King and Justin Beahm talked about not only his segment, but also some of the goings on behind the scenes that went into filming the various segments and how the movie came to be. This one’s a bit more dry, but still really interesting.
The last major bonus feature on the disc is a doc called Unzipping Body Bags. Carpenter and King get a little more into the background of the show, which started out as an anthology script that they presented to Showtime who bit. So, they decided to do the first one without much thought to anything beyond this first offering. Carradine and Keach also joined in on the doc, which adds a lot of depth to the proceedings.
I’ve been on a John Carpenter kick lately and this movie just continues to build my feelings of affection for this director who has such weird, great sensibilities that have resulted in some of the most fun, creepy and adventurous films around.
Over the past few years, I’ve had a lot of fun diving into the action movies of the 80s and 90s focusing on stars like Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. As it turns out, Lundgren and his films have turned out to be a lot more impressive than I would have imagined. Not only does it turn out that he’s a brilliant man, but what I’ve learned about his life has been pretty fascinating. He also makes really fun movies with lots of kicking and explosions.
One such movie is Dark Angel (a.k.a. I Come In Peace) which I’d never seen and only started hearing about in the last two or three years. Shout Factory recently released the film on Blu-ray and a buddy of mine sent me a copy. I jumped at the chance to start watching the week before last, but fell asleep and then found myself in a place without a Blu-ray player so I had to hold off on finishing until last night. But, I will say the movie about alien drug dealers running afoul of Lundgren’s Detective Jack Caine and his new partner Special Agent Smith (Brian Benben) was worth the wait. While investigating the murder of a police officer, Caine and Smith become more and more aware of the intergallactic threat which they fight in an abandoned warehouse, as you do.
The disc comes with a retrospective that scored Lungren, Benben and director Craig R. Baxley (Action Jackson) to talk about the movie. It was really interesting learning that Baxley was tight with stunt people, so he was able to really beef up the explosions and other action elements, all of which look great in Blu-ray. Lungren also points out an interesting aspect of the story that I didn’t think about, but it’s cool to see a sci-fi movie that’s on a relatively small scale. This isn’t an alien invasion movie with a few people fighting them off, which is what you tend to get. From story and explosions to actors and ideas, I dug Dark Angel and am glad to have it in my collection for repeated viewings.
Moving from Dark Angel to The Punisher seemed like a pretty natural move for me. Not only did they come out a year after each other, but they both feature a bad ass Dolph sporting uncharacteristic dark hair! Plus, it helps that the latter has been in my DVD collection for years.
A lot of people complain about how bad comic book movies were for so long and, compared to the effort put in these days, it’s fairly accurate. But, I think The Punisher — directed by Mark Goldblatt (Dead Heat) — is an overlooked gem. Frank Castle is actually one of the easiest comic book characters to bring to film which makes him a good choice for a lower budget, street level movie concept. His wife and kids were killed so now he’s driven by the desire to kill all criminals. There’s no flying or lasers or superpowers, just lots of shooting, punching and explosions which were right up Lungren and company’s alley in the late 80s.
This movie finds Castle living in the sewers, befriending weird rhyming guys like Shake (Barry Otto) who give him information and avoiding cops on the hunt for him like Jake Berkowitz (Louis Gossett Jr.) and Sam Leary (Nancy Everhard, who was in Trial Of The Incredible Hulk that same year too!). Castle’s after a mobster named Gianni Franco (Jeroen Krabbé) who’s on the ropes after years of the Punisher taking out his men compounded with the recent appearance of Lady Tanaka (Kim Miyori) who’s trying to take over by kidnapping all the mobsters’ kids. To save the kids, Punisher teams up with Franco to get his boy back.
The film features several great fight scenes, but there are two particularly fun ones. Castle heads to Coney Island in an attempt to get the kids back and faces off a ton of gun-toting ninjas in an amusement park ride. How rad is that? The end of the movie also features Castle and Franco storming Lady Tanaka’s skyscraper, taking on all kinds of threats as they climb towards their adversary. For some reason, many of these scenes are tinged red, but I still really enjoy this high body count explosion of violence. This is one of the few comic book movies that also fits right in with that great 80s/90s action aesthetic and I love it.
This week’s biggest release is none other than Iron Man 3 (Two-Disc Blu-ray / DVD + Digital Copy), the latest Marvel Studios film to hit home video complete with all kinds of special features for you to comb through until Thor: The Dark World comes out.
On the other side of the comic book movie side of the fence, Warner Bros. unleashed their The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition [Blu-ray] which includes Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises as well as plenty of previously unseen special features.
What are the odds that two Explosions Are Rad favorites not only have straight to video movies debuting on the same day, but also feature the same word in both titles? Apparently pretty good as Jason Statham’s latest Redemption (also known as Hummingbird in the UK) dropped today…
As did Dolph Lundgren’s clunkily titled Blood of Redemption. This one also stars Billie Zane and sometimes-Statham collaborator Vinnie Jones. So many connections!
Dollman starring Tim Thomerson and directed by Albert Pyun (Cyborg) isn’t exactly a lost classic, but we’d definitely be interested in checking out the recently released Blu-ray from Full Moon.
War movie buffs will jazzed to hear that Shout and Timeless Media have Movies 4 You – Timeless Military Film Collection available now. The set includes Hell Raiders, Lost Battalion, Tank Battalion and Go For Broke.