Monday, February 28, 2011

Maniacal Movie Poster Monday #5!

You know the blog...you know the number...

(okay, it's Let's Get Out of Here!, and 3, in case you didn't know...)

This time it's 70's action all the way, and all with more than one title!

Dynamite Women  (aka The Great Texas Dynamite Chase)  (New World Pictures, 1976)

Stud Brown  (aka Dynamite Brothers)  (Cinemation Industries, 1974)

Fugitive Girls  (aka Five Loose Women)  (SCA Distributors, 1974)

Now that's a lineup - a Roger Corman flick; an Al Adamson movie, and one of the last onscreen appearances for director Ed Wood! I smell a triple feature ready to go!

Til next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday Night at the Movies! 2/26/11

Who cares what picture we see?

Maybe Charles Band would, so we'll pick one of his flicks for tonight...

You got Peter Billingsley - who started out in Hershey's Syrup commercials as "Messy Marvin;" moved on to NBC's Real People as a co-host (at something like 11 or 12 years old) which led to him being cast in a certain movie that puts this kid in all of our TV sets once a year for at least a few minutes - A Christmas Story. He has gone on to become a successful producer (stuff like the IFC channel series Dinner for Five hosted by Vince Vaughn). You got John DeLancie (Q from Star Trek-The Next Generation). You got 90's cutie Megan Ward. And you have Seth Green three years before we met Scott Evil.

This was supposed to be an early release from Full Moon, but the CGI effects on the first pass were apparently not up to snuff, so Charlie sent the movie back in for another run - the sad thing is, back then every pass at the effects took so much time the effects were obsolete before you could get the movie out. I think the original release date was scheduled for 1991. In this case while it was off being shored up T2 came out and took CGI to a whole new level. It wasn't until 1993 that this was finally released.

It's a fun little flick - and it's easily retrieved from the Video Vault for play - like maybe tonight if you want to come by...

Til next post you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Buddha Man Academy 2: Their First Assignment

He's got to review the worst movie collection in the world.

But that's no problem.

He's the worst movie reviewer in the Universe.

Just to explain for those coming in late (and to keep Buddha Man's head from exploding, because, well, there'd be nothing left...)

That opening bit is a play on the tagline from the movie whose title we're borrowing for this post...Buddha Man is a fine reviewer...let's take a look so you can see for yourself...

The Riddler (Frank Gorshin)

Not of this Earth  (New World, 1988)  In 1957 Roger Corman cranked out one of his five day quickies, with Paul Birch (Dead Heat on a Merry-go-Round) as an alien invader up against nurse Beverly Garland (Roller Boogie). A little over thirty years later, Roger decided a remake of this flick would serve as just-retired porn star Traci Lords's entry into "money shotless" moviemaking. Roger turned the directing duties over to Jim Wynorski, and they were off! The story stayed very much the same. Clinic nurse Nadine (Traci) is hired by a patient - Mr. Johnson (Arthur Roberts - Transylvania Twist) to provide home care for his strange blood disease. He's weird and a little creepy, but he's offering a ridiculous salary, so she jumps right in. Out at his place, she finds Johnson has also hired Jeremy (Lenny Juliano - Chopping Mall) a two bit crook, to drive him around and cook at the house. Nadine's not thrilled with Jeremy, but some company in the spooky old house is better than none at all, so they become sorta friends, much to the consternation of Nadine's cop boyfriend (Roger Lodge - later host of TV's Blind Date). Nadine and Jeremy start to snoop around the house, and together, they discover Johnson is an alien invader out to steal the blood of humans to send back to his home planet, at war for centuries with their alien archrivals and near both defeat and destruction. Can a nurse with a talent for phlebotomy (not nearly as dirty as you're thinking it is) and a career criminal save us all?

Stares on the stairs.

This is a fast and funny remake of a pretty good Corman cheapie. It follows the original pretty closely, (right down to several recreated camera shots) except for the expected Wynorski touches, which include topless nudity at regular intervals (though only a brief glimpse of Ms. Lords, and for the last time in front of a camera, I believe) and huge chunks of other Corman movies ripped raw and bloody from their original film cannisters and manhandled into this one to pad the running time. (And if you're going to pad the running time - pulling fairly exciting scenes from other movies is a good way to do it!) Not counting the credit sequence, which features almost subliminally fast cuts from what seems to be a dozen or so New World movies, this flick features whole scenes from Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), Humanoids from the Deep (1980), and Hollywood Boulevard (1976). The latter two feature actresses from those flicks being menaced by beasties from this flick through movie magic - and I always wonder - did they ever sit down to watch this movie and leap up yelling "Hey! That's me!" midway through? In any case, Wynorski works wonders with his low budget, keeping things mostly light and pretty fast paced throughout, with a terrific cast that also includes Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet), Ava Cadell (Hard Hunted), Becky LeBeau (Hollywood Hot Tubs), and an almost unrecognizable Monique Gabrielle (Evil Toons) as Agnes. This is pretty much the blueprint for the kind of movie I really enjoy - tight filmmaking, the three B's (breasts, beasts, and blood), and a sense of fun about the proceedings. Check this one out!

The Penguin (Burgess Meredith)

Catch the Heat  (Trans World Entertainment, 1987)  I held this movie in my hands countless times in countless video stores ranging across at least three states over several years, but I somehow never took the plunge. More than twenty years later the flick shows up on MGM/HD, so I finally sit down with it. Oh what I'd been missing! Tiana Alexander is cast in her fourth acting role, groomed here to be the new action star of the late eighties, and playing a character named Checkers Goldberg. (!) Actually, all of the names in this movie are out there and wonderful, courtesy screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, who also wrote In the Heat of the Night! So how did he get here? From the evidence, too many times saying yes to producer Irwin Allen in the 70's might have been the start. But back at this movie, Checkers is a tough cop working for the equally tough Waldo Tarr (my old buddy - the late great David Dukes - Gods and Monsters) and they're out to stop a drug ring headed by Jason Hannibal (Rod Steiger - In the Heat of the Night) and his pals Professor Toru Tanaka (The Perfect Weapon) and Brian Libby (Silent Rage) that smuggles their cocaine in the breast implants of strippers Steiger has working for him in various clubs around the world. Wow. Now that's a plot.

No, they're not for the gun; she didn't want to hear the ridiculous Chinese accent either.

Director Joel Silberg seems at times to know how silly this all is, and at other times seems to be taking it all very seriously, which just makes those scenes that much funnier. Alexander, who has gone on to a solid career as a documentary filmmaker under her birth name, is not much of an actress, and making the poor thing play half the movie with a ridiculous Chinese accent (when she's undercover in Steiger's operation) was really kind of mean. Dukes is always fun to watch, even if he's not the epitome of an action hero and seems much more comfortable bantering and trading insults in a romantic way with Alexander. The movie has a fair amount of decent action, though the tiny Alexandra's fighting skills are on a par with her performance - that is to say, a little lacking. So that means her big battle with the massive Tanaka is quite the sight to see! And don't let a bad lead performance turn you away - some of the best movies have those! One demerit for a curious lack of lengthy gratuitous nudity in a movie featuring strippers carrying drugs in their boobies. Otherwise I suggest you do like the title says and...

Louie the Lilac (Milton Berle)

Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus (The Asylum, 2009) Well, let's just state now for the record - that's going to be a hard title to live up to. But first, let's go back to the days when I worked in a video store that still had Beta tapes on the shelves, and the rather dim people who would come in to the store and ask if the brand new movie that just opened in theaters was available on video to rent. Those same people have never managed to learn that the order of events is theaters, then video store months later. They are part of the reason movie announcers still say "only in theaters" at the end of TV movie trailers. So there were companies that would put out on video some cheap crappy movie with a title as close as legally possible to some Big Budget Hollywood flick opening in theaters at the same time. This trick has been going on since the heyday of the VHS boom, refined first by York Entertainment, who used to get their tapes onto Wal-Mart shelves the same week as the big movie's opening; and more recently, The Asylum. That company, after making scads of these same kinds of movies - now called "mockbusters" - movies with titles like The Terminators - note the 's' - The Day the Earth Stopped, Paranormal Entity - branched out into their own brand of high concept sci fi nonsense with this flick. The formula was set right from the get-go - a couple of faded "name" stars, a supporting cast of unknowns, competent production for the most part, scripts that are more successful in reaching the necessary page counts than telling an exciting story, and lastly but definitely not leastly - lots of CGI effects.
    Scientific researcher Emma McNeil (Deborah Gibson - 80's pop princess) and her cohort Vince (Jonathan Nation - whose IMDB page consists almost exclusively of The Asylum productions) are out in a borrowed (read: stolen) submarine studying something you have to study underwater. They come upon a massive ice wall with two huge dark forms inside. Nearby, a secret military experiment sets off seismic activity, and the ice wall shatters - freeing whatever was inside. As Emma and Vince try to find out what was set free after millions of years of deep freeze, they are joined by Emma's mentor Lamar Sanders (Sean Lawlor - The Asylum's version of Sean Connery, only with highly variable accent) and shady black ops guy Allan Baxter (not the most intimidating name I've heard...) Baxter is played by Lorenzo Lamas (TV's Renegade) who probably charged extra for his ponytail since it's an antique. They soon find that one of the escapees is a Giant Octopus when it wraps its CGI tentacles around a CGI oil rig, and then find that opening attack trumped by a Mega Shark, who leaps up to bite a jet airliner out of the sky (!). The beasties continue to try to one-up each other with periodic attacks oceans apart, with the Mega Shark the clear winner after he eats the Golden Gate Bridge. (You think I'm kidding. I'm not.) Eventually, after our entire CGI Naval fleet has their clocks cleaned in several encounters with the creatures, Emma figures out the only way to rid the world of these two prehistoric menaces is to draw them together and let them duke it out. Now what could they use as bait...?

The painting crew will finally be able to take a break.

As I said, a movie with a title like this is going to have to work hard to live up to it, and this movie doesn't quite make it. It's weird; it's actually better made than the title or the trailer would suggest on a very low budget, but that only raises it firmly into the territory of "mediocre." Had it been made more poorly there would have been more laughs and therefore more entertainment. Had it been made better there would have been more thrills and therefore more entertainment. As it is, it's just in that limbo in between. I've now seen this movie twice, once by myself shortly after it was released, and then again with a group over Christmas when I gave it out in a Dirty Santa present pack - (I did say it was Dirty Santa). As it turned out, the group viewing was much more palatable - with conversations in the room filling in for the plot lulls, the movie worked better. Don't get me wrong - there are much worse movies out there - it's just this is kind of disappointing when you're expecting wall to wall nonsense and craziness, and all of those moments are in the trailer. Despite the middle of the road quality, the movie did well enough to spawn a whole subgenre from The Asylum, starting first with Mega Piranha starring the other 80's pop princess Tiffany, and culminating in their just released Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus starring both Deborah Gibson and Tiffany. I'll watch those eventually - because sometimes the filmmakers learn from their mistakes on the first movie and the sequels are better. We can always hope anyway. In the meantime, you can make your decision on this one. Good luck.

And that will bring us to the end. And always remember...Bands make it rock...Roadies make it roll.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Video Vault of Mora Tau! 2/22/11

Nicholas Courtney was a wonderful British actor who first guest starred on Doctor Who in the mid-60's with William Hartnell playing a guy named Bret Vyon. He came back a few years later to play a character named Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart with Patrick Troughton now in the role of the Doctor. Lethbridge-Stewart returned a few times, was promoted to Brigadier, and gained a full name: Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. He became a regular with third Doctor Jon Pertwee, and then guested at least once with each of the other Doctors (Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and audio dramas with Paul McGann). He did not manage to appear with any of the three latest Doctors, but he did bring the Brig back one last time in the Doctor Who spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2008. The Brigadier was mentioned a few other times as well on both shows. And now Nicholas Courtney has passed at the age of 81, meaning we have lost a very cool man, and another link to the original Doctor Who. Tonight's clip celebrates the man and is dedicated to his memory...

Nicholas Courtney  (1929-2011)

Til next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Maniacal Movie Poster Monday #4!

The magic number is 3...and there's a theme this week as the ladies take center stage...

The T&A Team  (SRC Films, 1984)

The Invisible Woman  (Universal Studios, 1941)

Savage Sisters  (American International, 1974)

Watch out for the women - they come to chew bubblegum and kick tush...and they're usually all out of bubblegum...

Til next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tenlist Presents: Auto von Bismarck!

10 Great TV Show Cars!

1. The Batmobile  (Batman  1966-1969)

2. Coyote car  (Hardcastle and McCormick  1983-1986)

3. K.I.T.T.  (Knight Rider  1982-1986)

4. The Monkeemobile  (The Monkees  1966-1968)

5. The General Lee (The Dukes of Hazzard   1979-1985)

6. Black Beauty (The Green Hornet  1966-1967)

7. The Munsters' Koach  (The Munsters   1964-1966)

8. Ford Gran Torino  (Starsky and Hutch   1975-1979)

9. Bessie (Doctor Who   1970-1974)

10. The Chariot  (Lost in Space   1965-1968)

Man these jalopies really set my heart to racing! Til next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday Night at the Movies! 2/19/11

Who cares what picture we see?

Maybe Jackie Chan does - so let's go with this one...

By the way - for the record - despite what the narrator says - Roger Moore does not play "himself." He plays Seymour Goldfarb, Jr, the Jewish heir to the Goldfarb Girdles fortune - who merely believes himself to be Roger Moore. Was that too much to explain in the trailer Mr. Narrator Man?

In any case, this gem from the Video Vault could be loaded into the machine in seconds...if you'd care to drop by this evening...

And til next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Friday, February 18, 2011

No, it's not the Mel Gibson bio-pic...

Starcrash  (New World Pictures, 1979)

D'oh! The main spaceship in the center was drawn upside down
 because the promo photo the artist used was printed wrong.

Before the Camera:

Caroline Munro  (The Spy Who Loved Me)
Marjoe Gortner  (Earthquake)
Joe Spinell  (Maniac)
David Hasselhoff  (The Spongebob Squarepants Movie)
Robert Tessier  (The Sword and the Sorceror)
Jud Hamilton  (Munro's then-husband)
the voice of Hamilton Camp (Ralph Furley's brother Bart on TV's Three's Company)
Christopher Plummer  (The Sound of Music)
as the Emporer

Behind the Camera

Directed by "Lewis Coates"  (Luigi Cozzi)

Produced by Nat Wachsberger and Patrick Wachsberger

Written by "Lewis Coates"  (Luigi Cozzi), Nat Wachsberger, and R.A. Dillon (additional dialogue)

Wow! In the aftermath of the amazing Star Wars, in the next couple of years everyone was getting in on the act, from the other major studios (Universal's Battlestar Galactica hitting the big screen) to Roger Corman (Battle Beyond the Stars) to the Japanese (Message from Space) to the Canadians (The Shape of Things to Come) to...of course...the Italians! And here we have one of their efforts, dripping with fresh garlic and basil.
    Stella Star (Munro) and her partner Akton (Gortner) are Space Scoundrels, stealing their way across the galaxy, living a life of adventure and larceny. While escaping the Space Police after their latest caper, they end up rescuing the only survivor of a failed mission to stop the biggest Space Villain of them all, Count Zarth Arn (Spinell), in his bid to take over the universe. Stella and Akton take the rescuee home, but there they find themselves in an audience with the Emporer (Plummer) who enlists them as the B team to go after Arn and to look for his missing son at the same time. They don't particularly want to be heroes, but with Arn threatening everyone everywhere with his giant Space Superweapon, they have little choice.
    Of course, it's not just a matter of flying over there and doing something. No, it's going to take several stops along the way, picking up the necessary personnel and equipment needed (kind of like the levels of a video game). Thankfully Stella and Akton have robot Elle (body of Hamilton, voice of Camp - which is funny, because together that makes Hamilton/Camp, which is Camp's full name!) to help out and provide strange Southern accented comedy relief. And Stella's ready for action in a series of outfits that all together took at least a yard of material to construct; with my favorite being the clear inflatable sumo wrestler suit she wears over a bikini, although she apparently lost the air pump somewhere. Along the way they'll meet Amazons, giant stop motion robots, little dogfighting spaceships, and Zarth Arn's big giant spaceship which looks like a flying hand (how I wish it would have given Our Heroes the finger in there somewhere!) and they'll eventually discover that the emporer's son is played by none other than The Hoff in his second movie role! Will they be able to stop the evil Count and save the universe? Mama mia, what do you think?

You know, they could have used the pump from The Hoff's hair for Caroline
Munro's sumo suit...
One of the goofiest Star Wars ripoffs to come down the pike, this flick is pretty incredible. The production design and special effects obviously were a labor of love for director Cozzi (who had a hand in every aspect of this thing behind the camera). They are very bright, and super colorful, and even charming in their simplicity and old school budget consciousness. The star fields feature stars that are bright red, green, blue, and yellow, and there's lots of stop motion animation, both in the creatures and robots, and even in some of the spaceship effects. So your eyes always have something to take in, making this a visually fun flick. Then we get to the ears, and not so much. The script is even worse than you might imagine, and when you add in the weird mix of matched and mismatched voices (Hassellhoff, Gortner, and Plummer supply their own voices; Munro and Spinell do not) it is a bit of a chore making it through any dialogue scene. A couple of samples:

The Emporer: You know, my son, I wouldn't be Emperor of the Galaxy if I didn't have a few powers at my disposal. Imperial Battleship, halt the flow of time!

or this little exchange that will have you scratching your head in wonder:

Stella Star: So you see into the future. All these years you never told me. Think of all the trouble I might have avoided.
Akton: You would have tried to change the future, which is against the law. So therefore I can tell you nothing.

But then getting back to the weird and wonderful, they somehow managed to get John Barry (composer of twelve James Bond soundtracks!) to do the music, so the score is much more awesome than you'd expect from an Italian Star Wars ripoff. All in all, there aren't many other movies out there like Starcrash (and most of the ones that are were also directed by Luigi Cozzi) so this one is a solid recommendation as a lesson in just what Star Wars did wrought back in the three or four years after its release. Sadly, despite being so far out, and apparently doing pretty well at the box office, the planned and announced sequel Stella Star sequel Star Riders was never made. But there's still one adventure of Stella Star, and I say you should check this one out!

Let's Get Out of Here?

Very roughly around 1:23:00 Hamilton Camp gives voice to the idea the robot is ready to go.

Eye Candy?

Oh my goodness yes.

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says "Starcrash is like Cinema Carbonara - maybe
not so good for you, but irresistible nonethless!"

 And there you have it. Until next we meet, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Video Vault of Mora Tau! 2/17/11

Let's indulge in some video voyeurism, shall we?

I like this compilation because the clips are all in proper widescreen ratio - and I like the comments he throws in. This is a wallow in one of my favorites, to be sure - but it's a good time. Check it out!

And til next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Paperback and Forth!

Bookworm's Book Club Presents...

Don Pendleton's The Executioner #281: Blood Stone by Mike Newton  (Gold Eagle, 2002)  Now here's a success story for you. In the early 70's "Men's Adventure" books became all the rage - building off the success of the 007 books in the 50's and the ripoffs of same in the 60's. Don Pendleton created Mack Bolan - a Vietnam vet with so many confirmed kills he's known as The Executioner. However, as is often pointed out, Bolan showed such compassion for the Vietnamese civilians that they tagged him with the nickname Sergeant Mercy. A complex man, Bolan was the perfect soldier. Then, when the Mafia killed his family back home in the States, Bolan was discharged and sent back to pick up the pieces, and he became the perfect vigilante. Across 38 books, Pendleton (and one other author, who wrote #16 while Pendleton and publisher Pinnacle fought over something or other) chronicled Bolan's war on the mob, a fast paced blitzkrieg that took him across the country and around the world, with an impressive amount of characterization in a genre not particularly known for it. After that run, Pendleton sold the character to a new publisher, Gold Eagle, and they've been publishing his adventures now for thirty years! Counting the spinoff series, the character of Mack Bolan has now appeared in more than 700 (!) books, with the main series appearing monthly (!) Starting with #39, the series has been written by several authors under the title Don Pendleton's The Executioner. On the index page, Gold Eagle helpfully thanks the book's author for their "contributions to the story", so you always know who wrote the paperback you're reading.
    In this outing Bolan is on the trail of a diamond pipeline purchasing arms for an African military dictator. The pipeline ends in America with Bolan's old best enemy, the Mafia, so the Executioner starts out in New Jersey, working his way back up the pipeline. The trail takes him to Europe, and then Africa, and along the way he finds himself saddled with the assistance of a female Interpol agent whose first trip into the field may be her last unless Bolan can keep her bacon out of the fire...
    Mike Newton has been writing these books since right after Pendleton left off (and according to some reports assisted on the last few leading up to #38). He's now surpassed the original author in quantity, and seeing his name on the book has always been an indicator that you're in for a good read. Sadly, for the first time, not so much. The hallmark of this series is action - the formula is usually a prologue setting up the bad guys, then the first chapter is Bolan already on assignment and in action in the first few pages. The succeeding chapter takes us back to see how Bolan got on the case; then it's back to the present and the next action setpiece. Continue for roughly 220 pages. Close book, satisfied.
    Weirdly, there's not all that much action in the first half of this book. A rather brief assault on a mobster's home in New Jersey is followed by a lot of the French Interpol agent and her troubles. The second location is also sparse on the gunplay and derring-do; and even when we get to the African climax, we spend more time with the supporting cast (good and bad) than we do with Mack Bolan stitching a line of 7.65mm tumblers across a bad guy's chest. So, it was still an okay read, but not as action packed and fast paced as I expect from this series. To me, these books are like the average Cannon Film from the 80's starring Michael Dudikoff or Chuck Norris - lightweight escapist action fare, perfect for reading in short snatches on breaks at work. I hope this book was just an off day for Newton as he's still writing them (and I'm still picking them up as I find them used). He's given me a lot of reading entertainment; I'll give him the benefit of the doubt this time.

Level 26: Dark Origins  by Anthony Zuiker with Duane Swierczynski  (Signet, 2010)  Zuiker, creator of the CSI franchise, has become a bit like a 21st century Bruce Geller. Geller wrote the pilot for Mission: Impossible, got the pilot made and got the go for a series; he then settled in as a producer and never wrote another episode of it across seven seasons. Zuiker has created or co-created three TV series, and this year wrote his first episode for any of the series since 2006. (And I'm not throwing brickbats - I think it's cool when someone has the talent to do that - start something, recruit a team to handle it day to day, and drop back to a supervisory position.) Now, Zuiker has teamed with co-author Swierczynski to launch a series of what he calls "digi-novels" which consist of a book, a website, and various other digital gewgaws like smartphone apps and the like. When you read the book, you can sign up at the website. About twenty pages in the books ends a chapter. One of the characters is about to watch an old Super 8 movie. The book directs you to the website with a code word where you can watch the movie yourself. You don't need to see it to enjoy the book, but it adds some spice to the reading experience. Another twenty pages or so into the story, and you're directed back to view another "digital bridge" video. This occurs twenty times across the course of the book.
    The story is not an unfamiliar one for this author to tell. Serial killers are assigned a number by the authorities to categorize their level of evil in committing their crimes, from opportunist "crime of passion" killers at level 1 to the crafty, organized serial torture murders at level 25. This book, as the title suggests, introduces us to the only Level 26 killer in the world: a man the authorities call Sqweegel (for reasons I'll leave for you to discover should you decide to read the book.) So far so good. A superhero of the serial killer set, Sqweegel is an inhumanly patient contortionist who might hide out in a small box in your house for a long time waiting for a good moment to slip out and do terrible things to you. And he wears an all-over latex body condom thing that makes him virtually forensics proof. He has been killing for more than twenty years, and he's left no evidence at any of the scenes of the crimes - the only way he's been connected to any of them is when he contacts the authorities to brag, usually with a souvenir of the kill for proof, so there's no way to calculate how many he has offed in more than two decades.
    Sqweegel is a solid character. He's creepy, and we spend a fair amount of time with him, and his sections of the book are top notch. Up against him, however is a character who's not quite as successfully written, unfortunately. Steve Dark (really? Steve Dark?)  was the only agent to ever get close to Sqweegel, actually laying eyes on him in Rome before the lithely lethal killer skipped away yet again. But having scored a point against him, Dark was soon paid back when Sqweegel wiped out several members of Dark's family, leaving him alive, but broken in a sea of guilt. He's been retired since, but circumstances of a very persuasive sort eventually put him back on the case. I just wish I liked the guy a little more. He's so much this stock haunted cop who can think like the killer that he's almost like a parody, starting with the name. I would have preferred any name, from the blunt and mundane (Sam Taylor) to the macho and silly (Jason Armstrong) but not Dark. Please. That's too much. And he's a pretty morose guy in the early chapters, back in love with a new lady, and worrying about her and the love that brought him back from the brink. *sigh* Later, when he gets back on the case, he becomes much more what I was looking for as the hero of this novel.
    The book itself is well written, not quite as graphic as some would have you believe, but more than you get on CBS three times a week for sure. The nearly 400 pages move right along, and I enjoyed pausing each time a new code word came up and waiting to view the next digital cyber-bridge online when I next got on the computer. Those little mini movies have some solid character actors in them, with Michael Ironside towering over everyone else as Dark's boss Riggins. But you also get a fair amount of Glenn Morshower, a little Bill Duke, and some Kevin Weisman, all of whom you'll recognize from movies and TV. I also really like Ava Gaudet, who plays Riggins assistant. Dark is played by a newcomer, Daniel Buran, and he's not bad, though I could have done without the ponytail. Sqweegel is played by a man billed as The Most Flexible Man Alive, Daniel Browning Smith, and there's no one else who could have played this part. Sqweegel does stuff in the book - like moving so slowly and patiently through a victim's house that he doesn't trigger motion detectors - that we sadly don't get to see in any of the cyber bridges, but the actor does move really weirdly and the suit itself is redline scary, so he comes off well onscreen. (He also featured in an episode of CSI that is tied to this book - but I don't really recommend it because the connection is strange, and the episode kind of waters down the character. Stick to the novel and video clips if you're so inclined)
    Zuiker and Swierczynski have already released the second Level 26 book, Dark Prophecy in hardcover, and a third is promised to end this series. But Zuiker plans on more and different digi-novels, and I'm intrigued enough to come along for the ride.

Book 'em Danno! We're all done here! Til next time, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Maniacal Movie Poster Monday #3!

And once again, a titanic triumvirate of amazing art!

Creature from the Black Lagoon  (Universal Studios. 1954)

One of the all time greats. Wish I could see it in 3-D on the Big Screen one day...

The Exterminator  (Avco Embassy, 1980)

The story of a boy and his flamethrower. Heartwarming.

Critters  (New Line Cinema, 1986)

I enjoyed a fair amount of the Critters movies - and they were one of
the series that established that Part 4s should be "In Space."

Two of these flicks live in the Video Vault; and there's an open spot for the third if I ever find it at a reasonable price.

Til next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Night at the Movies! 2/12/11

Who cares what picture we see?

My daughter-in-law April does, and this is what she dragged kicking and screaming from the Video Vault as tonight's feature...


I saw this flick in Mt. Vernon Illinois soon after it opened - probably on February 28th, 1986, actually - guess I was home from college for the weekend - because I distinctly remember seeing this in Mt. Vernon. I always liked this movie - but I really thought House 2 was fun - and I'm apparently the only human being on the planet who did.

Til next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Buddha Man Academy!

The new movie reviewers. Call them shiny yellow slobs. Call them auric jerks. Call them gold headed and gross. Just don't call them when you're in trouble.

Bo and Luke.

Part of the 2010 Halloween Film Festival

My Bloody Valentine  (Paramount, 1981)  Way back when I was in junior high (or middle school, whichever you prefer) I regularly read Fangoria magazine, and being quite the gorehound at the time I really enjoyed the feature articles that basically showed all the gruesome deaths in each and every horror movie coming down the pike before I could even get to the theater. For the record: I read few magazines anymore, because most of the ones I would read are $9.95 per issue - the same or more than the cost of a paperback book I would spend a lot more time reading; I am no longer as much of a gorehound - I don't avoid it, but I also don't watch a movie because of it either; and wow, do I no longer care for spoilers of any kind - I don't even like it when TV shows give you two minutes of previews of a show you're about to watch - and that goes for old shows like The Dukes of Hazzard ("Tonight, on the Dukes!") or new shows like Hell's Kitchen.
    But I digress.
    Actually, I hadn't even started talking about the movie at all yet, can you digress if the lengthy paragraph preceding the digression is in fact, a digression?
    But I digress.
    One of the articles I was very fond of was the feature preview for My Bloody Valentine, a Canadian addition to the post-Halloween bevy of holiday horror movies, and definitely one that prompted a lot of "what's next? Groundhog Day?" jokes since those two holidays took place in the same month. Well, after perusing the article and reading about all the horrific death scenes and seeing pictures of most of them in blazing color in the magazine, I got driven over to Toler Cinema in Benton Illinois one Sunday afternoon to see this cinematic epic. The story is set in the small Canadian town of Valentine Bluffs, a coal mining burg forever and ever. But 20 years before, two mine supervisors, in a hurry to get out of work and get to the annual Valentine's Day Dance (a big deal in Valentine Bluffs, as you might imagine, eh?) forget to check some piece of equipment, and soon there is an explosion and cave-in, trapping several miners below. Rescuers finally dig down to where the men are, and are shocked to find the only survivor, one Harry Warden, giggling maniacally as he chews on the remains of his fellow workers. Harry busted out of the asylum he was being held in one year later, and gave those two supervisors a very special Valentine: each other's hearts, carved out with a pick axe! As they carted Harry back off to the loony bin, he swore more vengeance on the town if they ever dared hold the Valentine's Day Dance again. Now, it's twenty years later, and the mayor (and mine owner) is ready to try the dance again. Then he gets a box of candy warning him not to let the dance happen - a box with no candy in it...there's a human heart in there! Blech! Then someone pops up in town in miner's gear and offs a couple of the locals. The mayor and police chief keep the deaths under wraps, but cancel the dance. The young miners in town don't take this lying down, however, and plan their own private Valentine's Day party out at the mine instead! And what a wonderfully creepy place for that miner to show up and starting bumping everyone off one by one! Is it Harry, escaped from the asylum and making good on his promise of revenge? Or someone else? Well, in the end it didn't matter much to me, because imagine my utter surprise and disgust when I realized in the middle of the movie that the Motion Picture Association of America was the real slasher here, and they had gotten to the movie before I could - none of the graphic death scenes in the Fangoria article were intact in the movie! All of them had been shaved to a few fleeting seconds, and one was edited so poorly you couldn't even tell what had happened to the victim! Appalled by this, and judging mostly by my adolescent love of the graphic gore effect, I notched MBV onto the "negative" side of my movie scorecard and went on with my life.

Judy hated her dentist.

    Some years later, I'd purchased the DVD release of the movie out of the $5 bin at Wal-Mart, and watched it as part of the 2008 Halloween Film Festival ™ to relive old times. And to my surprise, it turned out the movie was much better than I remembered it, since I could watch it objectively, knowing the gory parts were chopped to bits. The movie moved, had interesting characters, decent acting, a couple of clever plot twists, some jump scares, and my fave, a sense of dread. So I mentally erased the "negative" score and chalked it in as a "positive" instead. If only they could have dug up those censored moments and integrated them back into the movie...
    They dug up those censored moments and integrated them back into the movie!
    Yes, it was a double dip with a second DVD release a couple of years later, but I had to have the movie in its more complete form. And because I'd recently shown the not-bad remake on Blu-Ray to my family movie pals (Hi Sandra, David, and April!) the original got programmed into the 2010 Halloween Film Festival ™ Family Day on October 30th, along with The Tingler, Satan's Little Helper, and a couple of Kolchak episodes. I have to say it was really very cool to see those nasty bits glimpsed in the stills in Fangoria finally back in the movie where they belong - and the movie just came off looking even better, combining all those positives I mentioned before with some truly gruesome and graphic death scenes. At the end of the movie (which has a "sends chills up my spine" moment I won't spoil) everyone watching with me agreed - terrific little flick, and preferred over the admittedly slicker and bigger budgeted remake. I couldn't agree more, so check this one out!

Part of the 2010 Halloween Film Festival

Satan's Little Helper  (Screen Media Films, 2004)  Writer/Director Jeff Lieberman is an interesting guy. He started out in movies co-writing Blade. Not the vampire hunting Wesley Snipes movie, the cool 1973 cop-vs-psycho flick. After that he made scads of industrial films and commercials and also wrote and directed a handful of really neat horror flicks, like Squirm, Blue Sunshine, Just Before Dawn, and Remote Control '88. He always went back to his industrial films and commercials though, because they were so lucrative for him. He stayed there too, until finally returning to the feature world with this cleverly titled horror flick. The cover of the DVD shows a creepy grinning demon face, and I assumed this would be a supernatural flick starring that creature. Not quite. Out in some small island community, little Douglas Whooly walks around playing the videogame Satan's Little Helper on his Gameboy/DS thing all the time, making his little video avatar assist ol' Scratch in killing scads of people for points. His flighty mom (Amanda Plummer - Needful Things) doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong with this. Both are excited to go pick up Douglas's sister Jenna (Katheryn Winnick - Amusement and current Blog Hottie #1!), coming home on the ferry from college for her annual trick or treating with Douglas, who might be a little slow for his age, and who is often heard to say he's going to grow up and marry Jenna. His sister. (Creepy!) Douglas is therefore most unamused when Jenna turns up on the island with Alex, her recently acquired main squeeze. While Douglas then sulks and plays his game more, Mom, Jenna, and Alex get caught up in preparations for the big Halloween party that night at the mansion of the island's resident rich buzzard and don't notice when Douglas wanders off. Somewhere out in the neighborhood, Douglas sees what appears to be a neighbor in costume and mask (the one from the DVD cover) setting up a little Halloween gore tableaux in the yard. Did I mention the kid is a bit slow? Well, he thinks it's a fake Halloween thing, but the viewer figures out pretty quickly the big creepy guy just offed somebody and is playing with the corpse. Douglas gets very excited when he thinks the big creepy guy looks like the Satan from his videogame and asks if that's who he is. The big creepy figure looks at him for a moment, then nods. And at that point this movie took off for me, with several wonderfully chilling moments as Douglas and "Satan" start heading around the island, killing random people which Douglas believes to be faked by his new pal. Then the rotten kid gets it into his head that "Satan" would be the perfect solution for that boyfriend problem he's got back at the house, and shortly after, through some plot complications Alex is nowhere to be seen, and Jenna thinks "Satan" is Alex in his Halloween costume, acting strangely frisky. But, it must be the costume and the holiday affecting him, right? And all through it, the evilly grinning "Satan" never speaks...


I thoroughly enjoyed this scarepic, as I have most all of Lieberman's movies. It is by turns quirky, scary, funny, raw, and chilling, and although it is very low budget and starts to get a bit out there in a few scenes toward the end, it never goes completely off the rails, and comes to a conclusion that may not be the end of the story, but is the end of the movie. The cast is pretty good, with Plummer the most recognizable face, but everyone does a decent job in the performance category. Little Alexander Brickel is more than slightly miscast as Douglas, as Lieberman has indicated in interviews that  Douglas was supposed to be like five or six years old in order for him to be hoodwinked so easily by the silent psycho, but no one would want to see a kid that young in the role considering what goes on in the movie, and Brickel is clearly more like ten years old. But like I said, it just makes him seem fairly slow and doesn't mar the movie. I'm going to let the strange miscasting of the Whooly family paterfamilias slide, since I'm assuming it was for a reason, even if I don't know what that reason was. He's pretty young for the role, though, whoever he is, and a slick of gray in his hair near the temples doesn't age him much. But he's not in the movie much either. Finishing out the cast, special kudos go out to Katheryn Winnick, smokin' hot and just wonderful as Jenna, and especially to Joshua Annex, absolutely perfect in the role of "Satan." He doesn't need dialogue. The guy is scary. Top marks. If you don't mind your horror films on the low budget and irreverent side, you really should check this out. You could pair it up with the not-bad Amusement for a Katheryn Winnick double feature!

Actually, Satan's Little Helper qualifies as a double feature all on its own...

And if that's not enough to entice you to check it out - how about this moment as Jenna mistakes "Satan" for a randy Alex in costume...


Moving on!

Coy and Vance.

Charge of the Model T's  (MGM, 1977)  I have developed a great and nostalgic fondness for the years 1977-1979, and watching movies made in those years is like looking through a great window back in time, even if the movie is a period piece set long before then. Now this particular movie first came onto my radar when it aired on Showtime somewhere around 1979-1980. But when I saw it starred Louis Nye (Sonny Drysdale himself!) and Arte Johnson (TV's Laugh-In), I presumed it to be a knockoff of the Tim Conway/Don Knotts comedies that were popping up around that time like The Prize Fighter and The Private Eyes. And even at that tender age, the idea of dropping a level of comedy quality (as most such knockoffs do) had me picturing the movie as a mugfest full of desperate slapstick and corny one liners and I promptly started a program of not watching it that continued for thirty years.

I couldn't find a good picture, so here's the poster instead.

    Then, we recently added the cable channel MGM/HD to our cable lineup - and those guys show all kinds of crazy movies from the MGM vault in widescreen with 1080 dpi picture and stereo sound. And as I mentioned, I'm now actively watching just about any movie made in those three years, so there I go watching this flick! The movie turned out to be somewhat different than I had it pictured - it's actually a distressingly gentle G rated comedy about young army guy Matt Jones (John David Carson - Empire of the Ants) and his travails serving in 1918 during WWI near the Mexican border. As the movie opens Matt travels to his new posting in his Model T, with a couple of not particularly funny comedy bits along the way. When he finally arrives, he discovers his new home is a lot like camps like this in other such movies: crotchety boss Captain Mundy (John Doucette - the sheriff in the original True Grit); lovely local lady Coral (Carol Bagdasarian - daughter of The Chipmunks' creator Ross); goofy Doc Bailey (Johnson); and Nye as a mysterious neighbor calling himself Fred Smith who has a suspicious accent part of the time. But he does make a new friend in Private Hanson (Jim McCullough, Jr. - son of the director, and writer of the movie) who shares his love of Model T's and actually has a Model T club going with several other enthusiasts in the area. From there, the movie meanders about slowly, with Matt and Coral romancin' a bit and Fred Smith revealing himself as a German spy trying to encourage the local Mexican guerillas to make trouble on the border, thinking that the American war effort in Europe will be thwarted by the need to send more troops to Oklahoma. And if that doesn't work, he has the RS-4; it's kind of a Model T tank with mounted cannon. Eventually it turns into the Model T's against the RS-4 in a sequence forced to serve as the climax simply because it was closest to the end credits, not because of any noticeable action or excitement. Most of the time the movie seems to be forgetting the comedy, then it will remember and throw in something just about as desperate as I surmised it would be three decades back, like the familiar TV face of Herb Edelman (TV's Big John Little John) as the lead Mexican guerilla (?);  Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez (Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood) as his henchman; or Nye in drag. So, it's terminally slow, the comedy is laidback to the point of nonexistence, and the action is sparse to say the least. But it is squeaky clean and safe for family viewing. It's just that you'd have to hate your family to make them watch it, even in 1080 dpi. Skip it mightily!

I think that will complete the first round at the Academy. And always remember - some days you just can't get rid of a bomb!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Video Vault of Mora Tau! 2/9/11

Let's dig in and see what mind bending video clip we can find....

Yep, that oughta do it...

In 1978, at the age of 32, Timothy Dalton romanced 85 year old Mae West in the movie Sextette. And you wonder why I'm obsessed with movies from this time? Where else are you going to get James Bond crooning Captain and Tennille music to an actress who'd been performing professionally for more than 70 years by this time?!?!

As always, thanks to the clip's poster, and til next time, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Maniacal Movie Poster Monday #2!

Before we start - one quick announcement!!!
This is my 100th blog post!

Now back to your regularly scheduled posting...

Here we go again - three pieces of art that worked as hard as they could to get your tush into a theater seat...

The Swinging Cheerleaders  (Centaur, 1974)

If there were no other reasons to watch this - Colleen Camp would be two of them.

The Beast Within  (United Artists, 1982)

I liked this movie - even if it does feature a man turning into a cicada.

Warlords of Atlantis  (Columbia Pictures, 1978)

Man, Doug McClure had a run making flicks like this in the 70's - so cool!

Til next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Deoderant Revenge? Oh, thought you said "Roll-On Vengeance!"

Rolling Vengeance  (Nelson Entertainment, 1988)

Before the Camera:

Don Michael Paul  (Alien from L.A.)
Lawrence Dane  (Scanners)
Lisa Howard (Replikator)
Michael J. Reynolds  (The Descent Part 2)
Michael Kirby  (Meatballs)
Susan Hogan  (Disturbing Behavior)
Barclay Hope  (TV's Eureka)
Ned Beatty  (Superman the Movie)

Behind the Camera

Directed by Steven Hilliard Stern

Produced by Jack E. Freedman, Jeffrey M. Sneller, and Steven Hilliard Stern

Written by Michael Thomas Montgomery

This revenge opus came to the world from the wilds of Canada, bringing us the story of Joey Rosso (Paul) the handsome truck drivin' son of Big Joe Rosso (Dane), the rugged truck drivin' father of...er, well, Joey Rosso. We jump right in on the road as the filmmakers try to pass Canada off as Ohio and Joey manhandles the family big rig down the road with a trailer full of beer and liquor bound for the local watering hole, Doyle's. That establishment is run by Tiny Doyle (Beatty), quite the local businessman, also running a used car lot next door and maintaining a liquor license even though his place is picketed weekly by MADD members, including Joey's girlfriend Misty (Howard). And in addition to a girlfriend with a cause, Joey also has a friendly driving competition going with his pal Steve Tyler (Hope), although I'm not sure how Tyler balanced driving a semi truck through Canada and touring with Aerosmith...then again, maybe that semi was a disguised tour bus...
    But I digress.
    The Rossos are good at what they do, and Big Joe has even scrimped and saved enough for a second semi to double the Rosso Delivery Service, delighting Joey, and Mom Rosso (Hogan) and Joey's little sisters. This means even less time for Joey to hang out with Misty and work on his mysterious secret project in the barn, but it's all good, because family is all they've got. (Well, except for two semi trucks and a big barn). However, it turns out the heat is on for the Rosso family, and it's about to reach the Doyling Point. Tiny has five sons - each from a different marriage, with the oldest named Vic, and the rest sporting wonderful monikers like Moon Man, Hair Lip, Finger, and Four Eyes, (at least in the credits -  as they are never name checked in the flick.) This DIY group of village idiots like to drink, embarrass their daddy, drink, ogle the strippers at Doyles', drink, and cause traffic accidents, like the one that involves them and Steve Tyler and his truck that claims the lives of all three Rosso women. Kind of a case of Doyle M for Murder, but unfortunately, thanks to Tiny's behind-the-scenes wheeling-dealing (I'm thinking the judge's bar tab at Doyle's disappeared and he was the sudden recipient of the "Free Lap Dances for Life" gift card) the sword of justice does not fall on the Doyle boys. They are let off with a $300 fine. Big Joe and Joey are gobsmacked, but try to pick up the pieces of their lives. However, Tiny's youngins aren't done with the Rossos yet and prove to be Doyle Pains a short time later when a shellshocked Big Joe is taken out in an impressively mounted jackknifed truck sequence that earned the stunt team their pay that week.
    Joey is gobsmacked² and starts thinking about some revenge. He heads back out to the barn, and forgoes sleep, food, and drink but not some power chords as a great 80's cheese tune clues us in to The Montage which then shows us Joey either finishing his original project, or changing his project into some kind of Rolling Vengeance. Soon after, in the wee hours of the morning a huge tank of a monster truck shows up at Doyles' used car lot and squishes every junker car...er, I mean, fine automobile Tiny had on the lot. Somehow, despite the fact that this is a noisy proposition, and that the crusher is a flame-spouting skyscraper on wheels the size of merry-go-rounds, nobody sees nothing and that truck disappears back to where it came from.
But even the stupid Doyle boys are not that stupid, and they take their final shot at Joey - they kidnap and assault Misty.
    That sound you just heard was the two pieces of the Final Straw hitting the ground, and moments later that big ol' monster truck is back on the road, and much like Tim Dalton once said: Joey's had a "few optional extras installed;" stuff like a giant four foot long drill bit, and cutters, and just about anything you could want to go running all over hill and Doyle seeking revenge...


This was some fine Canucksploitation, painfully earnest and awesomely silly and coming together into a nice little cinematic package courtesy director Stern. The cast is mostly okay, though some of the lesser lights are a little wobbly, but the top billed duo of Paul and Dane do well as the tough guy truckers. Acting honors, though, go to the one, the only Ned Beatty, who pulls out all the stops as the sleazy Doyle, from the rat tail mullet to the leather pants, from the hilarious snide remarks to his sons to the sheen of sweat coating him through most of the picture. And he does a nice job playing the guy ostensibly nice at the beginning, although we're well aware just who the bad guy is going to be from the moment he steps into view. The stunt work is handled adroitly and the action is parceled out in regular doses, balancing the drama as people named Rosso keep dying off every few minutes. I'm not sure the final attack on Misty was necessary, as losing 80% of your family to drunken shenanigans perpetrated by five ne'er-do-well losers seems reason enough to start running over said losers with a wheeled behemoth without having to resort to a rape scene, but they went there, so the final justice Joey deals out is satisfying to watch. Of course, a movie about a big giant killer truck needs a really good giant killer truck in it. Thankfully, the truck (which should have been called Rolling Vengeance onscreen so I could call it RV now) is a pretty good movie star vehicle. It is so armored it lacks a bit in the "face" department, but the big stacks blowing flames make up for that a lot. And even though it's not likely you'll ever find a Snap Tite ™ Rolling Vengeance truck at your local hobby shop, I did find one fan who went the distance...see below...

Man, there's an opportunity Tonka missed out on.

Now that's a fan right there! So, wrapping up, it's everything you could want in an 80's high concept revenge flick, with action, sleaze, a little nudity, some violence and some solid stunts topped off with some great cheesy pop music and The Montage. What more could anyone ask?

Let's Get Out of Here ?

At around the 57:00 mark, one of the Doyle boys (they're a wee bit interchangeable, so not sure which one) spots the title coming right for him.

Eye Candy ?

Although Tiny Doyle's bar does give us some glimpses of his strippers, they're not around long enough. And Lisa Howard, while quite fetching, does not have the va-va-va-voom necessary to score the prize. Sorry ladies.

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says "Rolling Vengeance trucks in a load of
entertainment for those so inclined."
Thanks as always, BM, and til next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!