Shadows (2022)

Ugh. Argh!

I grow weary of critics who accept screeners from ultra-low-to-low-budget filmmakers, then, when that filmmaker name drops better-known directors and films, the review proceeds to judge that self-produced passion project against those Bayos n’ Bayhem’ed, A-List summer tent pole inspirations: it’s a losing proposition to a negative review.

A critic simply can not measure today’s 2020s’ indie streamers — no more than you could rationalize regional filmmakers of the ’70s, such as Don Dohler or Andy Milligan (Fiend, The Ghastly Ones), or SOV home video purveyors of the ’80s, such as Jon McBride (check out our “Exploring” feature), or Doug Ulrich and Al Darago (Scary Tales) and Donald Farmer (Scream Dream) — to the films that inspired said filmmakers, which would be everything from Hitchcock to Carpenter, between the usual soup-to-nuts sprockets.

Today’s young bucks, such as this film’s writer and director, Michael Matteo Rossi, are analogous to those up-against-the-budget indie filmmakers of ’70s and ’80s yore — as they deliver a fascinating entertainment experience (at least to this snobby, know-it-all critic) in observing how the modern, digitally-based filmmaker tackles the hard-to-tackle-on-nickles-and-dimes action and science fiction genres (Anton Doiron’s Space Trucker Bruce as the best-example).

Courtesy of today’s here-to-stay digital technologies, gone are the days of indie filmmakers heading out to a patch of woods, sans permits, with a camera loaded with short ends and a gaggle of their friends and amateur actors to leave their mark with a horror film (and don’t forget that de rigueur pair of overalls or coveralls). Today’s smart phone’d filmmakers, such as Anthony Z. James (Ghost) and James Cullen Bressack (For Jennifer) and other Canon Reds purveyors, aspire to rise above those regional and home video filmmakers of old to create films in other genres besides the aforementioned horror and the low-budget auteurs’ second favorite genre: the cheap-to-make rom-com, such as Edward Burns and his industry breakthrough with 1995’s The Brothers McMullen, from those Fine Line Features, Fox Searchlight and Miramax glory days (that he shot for $30,000 and cleared $10 million in box office).

So, yes. Michael Matteo Rossi is ambitious. To a fault? Eh, maybe those James Dalton-opinions down at the roadhouse vary in the eyes of the Brad Wesleys of critical divide. Moi? I see no reason to compose discouraging reviews. (Ugh, again with the length complaints: the one hour thirty-six minutes of Shadows is short compared to most indie-streamers where directors are their own worst editors.) So, yes, I cut a wide berth (see Nigel the Psychopath, as an example) — that I would never give to a major studio film: those major leaguers know better than the shaggin’ flies guys down in Triple A (I hated Last Man Standing and John McClane seeks not my pity).

As I spoke with Rossi and actor Chris Levine when their previous film, the John McTiernan-aspiring The Handler, was released, they enthusiastically spoke of their next film, Shadows — and mentioned their joint admiration of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and Michael Mann’s Thief.

Does that mean I should critically compare Rossi’s works to either of the those stellar films? No. Absolutely not. What Rossi’s mention of his cinematic inspirations provides this critic is a critical embellishment to the film’s IMDb-posted logline: I simply now know what to expect as the 1s and 0s formulate images on my lap top. As with Michael Matteo Rossi’s The Handler serving as his homage-throwback to ’80s and ’90s action films, Shadows is his cinematic tip-o’-the-hat to the crazed flux of ’90s gangster films — films rife with the expected Shakespearian-to-Dashiell Hammett noirish twists and betrayals.

So, with that being said: My critical barometer, here, is not Scorsese or Mann, but, when thinking back to Quentin Tarantino serving as a secondary inspiration to those Miramax-gangster ’90s: his film, Reservoir Dogs. Well, more accurately: Rob Weiss’s low-budgeted, Tarantino-cobbled Amongst Friends, Matty Rich’s Straight Out of Brooklyn, and Troy Duffy’s Boondock Saints. But make no mistake about it: Rossi is not a filmmaker who cuts off one’s nose to spite one’s face — as did that “Tarantinoesque” ego-destroying triumvirate. However, unlike those three films, okay, well, maybe not Boondock Saints, Shadows is not your typical indie streamer: it is not only a well-shot film: the sharp cinematography is supported by solid, fluid editing giving it, well, the Scorsese-Mann quality on-a-budget to which it strives.

I immediately — and pleasantly — noticed Rossi smartly brought back the fine Rachel Alig, Tyrone Magnus and Chris Levine (The Ice Cream Stop, No Way Out) from The Handler for his cast. He then ups the game with the casting of long-suffering indie actress Krista Allen, who parlayed her indie film roles (speaking of the shot-on-phone genre: the pretty fine Case 347) and under-five and guest starring television roles (Diagnosis Murder to CSI: Crime Scene Investigations to Hawaii Five-O) to a featured, 77-episode role in CBS-TV’s long-running daytime drama, The Bold and the Beautiful. Another welcomed actor to the cast is Rahart Adams from Nicklelodon’s Every Witch Way, (as well as Pacific Rim: Uprising) in an adult film role, given a chance to shine as our well-meaning but flawed Othello. Fans of FX’s Sons of Anarchy and Mayans M.C. will also notice David Labarva, fine here as the crazed, drug-manufacturing Nicolas. Then there’s Jazsmin Lewis of the Ice Cube-starring Barbershop franchise, in support, as Shonda, who cares for Jewel and a stable of hookers.

The streaming incentive, here, of course, is, well . . . we wish Australian icon Vernon “The Wez” Wells was here in more than just-a-name-on-the-box starring role, à la the aforementioned Bruce Willis, or Eric Roberts and Nic Cage (we are forever his bitch), but we do get a little bit more of Francis Capra — yes little Calogero in the Scorsesesque A Bronx Tale.

As with the aforementioned Amongst Friends, Rahart Adams is Cody: another troubled soul from a broken family hoping to break free of Jewel (Krista Allen), his crack-addicted prostitute mom, by working at the only good-paying job a foster care-dumped kid can get: as a low-level drug dealer. The modernized, Shakespearean proceedings — as they usually do in these films — goes to shite when Cody unknowingly buys a batch of a new designer drug for a quick mark-up resell — only to discover the drugs are part of a cache stolen from our in-residence Iago, Nicolas. And — as things usually do in these films — gets worse when our femme fatale Desdemona, aka Michelle (Rachel Alig), from Cody’s mom’s stable of call girls, unwittingly drags him into a multiple homicide.

Now Cody and Michelle are on the run from Nicolas’s right-hand psycho, Axel (a very adult-fine Francis Capra), who takes a scored earth approach to his profession: no survivors — including Vernon Wells’s prostitute-addicted lowlife, Cliff. Cody and Michelle’s savior comes in the form of Eric Etebari (The Lincoln Lawyer and TV’s NCIS: Los Angeles) packing the Robert Forster-cool as the salvation-seeking cartel hitman, Dean.

In the end, Rossi, as he did with The Handler, handles the drama-to-action ratio with a Scorsese-Mann aplomb. So much so that those pesky digital blood n’ bullets sticklers will overlook those digital effects. We will just have to wait and see if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sticks to his publicity-driven bluster to never use “real guns” on sets, again, and he ups digital gun effects and squibs to the point where we can no longer tell the difference. Hello money: here’s the mouth.

So, until The Rock delivers: Michael Matteo Rossi delivers as he keeps getting better at the craft.

After watching and reviewing The Handler, Rossi provided me with a link-copy of his previous, third film, 2019’s The Chase (his freshman and sophomore features — amid his twelve shorts — are 2013’s Misogynist and 2017’s Sable). While The Chase is a commendable effort, The Handler is certainly the more ambitious, superior effort. And Shadows — thanks to great casting with actors bringing their A-games — trumps both of those films. I believe, once his next film, the also-starring Vernon Wells The Sweepers drops come September 2022, Michael Matteo Rossi will begin to receive mainstream, major studio notice as did his digital cousins Prince Bagdasarian (Abducted) and Steven C. Miller (First Kill). In fact, like Ryan Coogler before him: I see Michael Matteo Rossi creating that film — one that will win “Top Audience” and “Grand Jury” awards at the Sundance Film Festival where he will find himself called out of the dark, indie shadows to the sun-kissed majors.

It’s all about, not naysaying, but seeing the potential in the indie filmmaker. And Michael Matteo Rossi’s day in the sun is on the horizon and ready to break the dawn.

Shadows will be released to VOD and digital streaming on May 6th by Acort International Pictures (the team behind Clinton Road). The studio’s page for the film will lead you the film’s Facebook and Twitter pages to follow, as well as an Action-Flix interview with Michael Matteo Rossi and Deadline interview with actor Rahart Adams.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies (links to a truncated teaser-listing of his reviews).

April Movie Thon Day 29: The King of Friday Night (1985)

April 29: Movies with Friday in the Title — TGIF. So pick a Friday movie and share it with everyone. Click the image for our full list of reviews for the month!

The Monarchs — like Eddie and the Cruisers and the Wonders before them — went from Nova Scotia obscurity to a Canadian chart-topping hit, until, as it usually does, it all fell apart. Unlike the Wonders, who never regrouped, and like Eddie and the Cruisers, who eventually did (sort of via the ‘ol Part Duex), the Monarchs reunite for a performance — as the story flashes back to their bygone days of troubled fame.

Hey, what did I know back then: Cannon has their logo on this video-taped spooler and that studio’s rock anthems for the retarded home video rental population: The Apple and Playing for Keeps (okay, the latter is Miramax, but you get the point) worked out okay. Well, not really. But really: this is worse. Way worse. And yes, Incident at Channel Q — which is padded with rock videos spun by a controversial VJ whose TV stations is under seige by the Christian Right — is better. For what’s it’s worth: let that be your critical barometer.

This Canadian television production made its way to U.S. home video shelves for unsuspecting rockers like this writer to rent. So, yeah. There goes another three bucks, wasted, that would have been better spent on a Ron Marchini flick (if only Arctic Warriors had been released to U.S. shores back then) or any Philippines war romp (Hey, did you enjoy our two-part “Philippine War Week” blow out)?

So, yeah. This won seven international awards — including The Banff TV Festival “Best Picture” award?

So, uh. Okay, then.

Courtesy of meps69/eBay. The Cannon U.S./U.K. version is preserved at videocollectoruk.

Well, maybe The King of Friday Night is better than my opinion dictates. “Critics’ opinions are divorced from those of the public,” so it has been said. Look, back in my youthful days of yore, “rock flicks,” for me, were analog horror slabs like Rocktober Blood and Blood Tracks and other “No False Metal” ditties that assured me that I was one Iron Maiden-spin away from eternal damnation (that any member of the public with a lick of common sense or quality, wouldn’t like).

Anyway, this “award winning” production is based on writer John Gray’s hit, Canuck stage play, Rock ‘n’ Roll, which tells the story of the real life, Truro, Nova Scotia, band, the Lincolns. Yes. They are a real band. Sadly, this filmed-stage play doesn’t do their career justice. Perhaps the stage play did. Maybe that theatre piece was a grand production like Broadway’s Jersey Boys*, you know, the one concerned with the career of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. While the Seasons made their Billboard chart bones with “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” the Lincolns — well, the Monarchs, had theirs: “The King of Friday Night” topped the Canadian charts. (*Remember that Clint Eastwood brought us the artistically successful, but box office bombing, 2014 film adaptation of that 2005 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Maybe if the story of the Lincolns was under the eye of Clint or the group was given the dramatic-treatment of Telstar: The Joe Meek Story, we’d have a more engaging narrative.)

However, like Eddie and the Cruisers, there’s no memorable rockin’ rave-up like “On the Dark Side” (or the Wonders’ “That Thing You Do!”) to hold our interest: just lots of doo-wopin’ and finger snapping and synced dance steps that could be entertaining — but then there’s that pesky, odd special effects-film tinting to the ambitious shot-on-video proceedings that capture cardboard stage-production set dressing back drops. Yes. This wasn’t shot on location, but on television blue-screened sets mixed with theatrical backdrops.

It’s all very odd in a dreamy, French ’60s surrealist kind of way — only not as good as a French ’60s surrealist film, even though Canada’s roots are back in France.

The whole reason for this review — besides it having “Friday” in the title, is to expose you to a well-made, out-the-way You Tube rabbit hole discovery (back in November 2021) of award-winning author A. J. B. Johnston’s micro-documentary companion piece to his book, The Kings of Friday Night: The Lincolns.

You can learn more about the Lincolns with their entry at Nova Scotia Classic Rock. There’s more with these 2018 articles at Saltwire and CVT News. Sadly, according to this CBC News obituary, we lost the Lincolns’ founder, Frank Mackay, in 2019.

Hey, don’t go, yet!

I just remembered another ’80s rockin’ doo-wop’er made by the guy who made our October 2020 “Slasher Month” entry, Don’t Go in the House (1979), itself a “U.K. Section 2 Video Nasty” entry.

No. This is a true story from the days of incessant HBO replay: After riding the ’80s Slasher wave surfed by John Carpenter and Sean S. Cunningham with his own, twisted in version of Hitchcock’s Psycho, Manhattan writer-director Joseph Ellison, for his second — and what would be his final — effort, decided to reminisce his rock ‘n’ roll roots with Joey (1986): a tale about an ’80s rockin’ teen (per the soundtrack, he’s into Scandal, E.L.O, the Polecats, and the Ramones; there’s an Elvis Costello poster on the wall) at odds with his washed-up, ’50s rocker dad (per the soundtrack, “real music” is the Ad Libs, the Cleftones, the Coasters, the Devotions, the Duprees, the Elegants, the Limelights, and the Skyliners). They finally discover common ground when Joey, Jr. helps Joey, Sr. regroup his old band, Yesterday’s Today, for a retread of their big hit, “Moonlight Love,” which isn’t that bad of a faux-hit — but it’s still no “On the Dark Side” or “That Thing You Do” to wow you to doo-wop your sweet bippy into a 23 Skidoo.

So, if you have a doo-wop hankerin’, there’s your double feature: The King of Friday Night and Joey. Yes, Joey is the better movie, courtesy of solid performances by Neill Barry (from the awesome O.C and Stiggs) and James Quinn (who reminds of James Remar — and should have done more films) in the Jr. and Sr. roles. Hey, make it a triple: Martin Davidson, who directed Eddie and the Cruisers, returned the genre with Armand Assante as a washed-up doo-wop’er wallowing in the past in Looking for an Echo (2000).

There’s no rips of The King of Friday Night, but there’s a ten-part rip of Joey on You Tube.

As you can see from the banner, above, there’s more rock flicks to be had with our three-part “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” series. And there’s more shot-on-video films to be discovered under our SOV tag.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies (links to a truncated teaser-listing of his reviews).

April Movie Thon Day 25: Beatlemania: The Movie (1981)

April 25: Fads — Lambada. Disco. Garbage Pail Kids. What’s your favorite fad-related movie? Click the image for our full list of reviews for the month!

So, the day of April 25 on the B&S About Movies’ announcement for the April Movie Thon so proclaimed today as “Fads” day: Lambada. Disco. Garbage Pail Kids. You could toss superhero movies on the VHS stack. Elvis movies*. Buddy Cop flicks. Gangster movies. Movies starring Melissa McCarthy and Tim Allen.

Oh, but how could we forget including “The Fab Four” — who, through no fault of their own — became “The Fad Four” — across 30-plus films since the late ’60s**. Yes, we are name-dropping the “fad films” Breakin’, Can’t Stop the Music, The Garbage Pail Kids, and Roller Boogie in the same breath as one of the most — if not the most — influential bands of all time.

This “film” — a concept that Ringo went on record as saying he “hated” — is one of those fad flicks of our dismay. And deservingly so, since it is the most blatant marketing cash-in of all Beatles flicks.

A smash Broadway musical-rockumentary advertised as “Not the Beatles, but an incredible simulation” that ran for 1,006 performances from May 1977 to October 1979 is a sure bet for a theatrical film adaptation.

No, it’s not.

The show — a multimedia production consisting of backdrops and projected images of art and video footage from the Beatles-era, as well as numerous clips of the Beatles — consisted of 29, chronologically-played songs, complete with costume changes.

So — with a Broadway hit on their hands — the managerial impresarios behind the production, Steve Lever and David Krebs (known for their handling of the Rolling Stones, Joan Jett, to a lesser extent, Canadian metalers Anvil; chornicled in their document, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, and Aerosmith; remember “Boston’s Bad Boys” appeared in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), decided that — Apple Corps. lawsuits, be damned — it was time to take on the album charts and the silver screen.

The original cast of Joe Pecorino (rhythm guitar, John), Mitch Weissman (bass guitar, Paul), Les Fradkin (lead guitar, George), and Justin McNeill (drums, Ringo), and the second cast of Randy Clark as John, Reed Kailing as Paul, P.M. Howard as George, and Bobby Taylor as Ringo, headed into the studio for a 1978 Arista Beatlemania: The Album release — which bombed with record buyers as it scrapped into the lowest regions of the Billboard 200.

Seriously? Who wants to buy a Pickwick (Discogs) budget sound-alike of Beatles tunes?

Okay . . . well, maybe a movie would work, better.

Uh, no it won’t. Remember All This and World War II?

Production began in late 1980 — shortly before John Lennon’s December 8 murder — under the tutelage of TV director Joseph Manduke (Harry O, Hawaii Five-O, Barnaby Jones). The cast featured a mix of musicians from the Broadway production and Arista album, with Mitch Weissman back a third time as Paul, David Leon as John, Tom Teeley as George, and Ralph Castelli as Ringo.

Released in the summer of 1981, Beatlemania: The Movie quickly became a critical and box office bomb. Apple Corps, who launched their first legal volleys regarding publicity rights and trademarks in 1979, finally won in damages in 1986.

You can learn more on the making of Beatlemania (the Broadway show) with this Chicago news station-produced TV documentary on You Tube.

* Been there. Done that. Check out our “Exploring: Elvis Fantasy Flicks” round up.

** Editor’s Note: This review previous appeared in August 2021, as part of a three-part “The Beatles: Influence on Film” series.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies (links to a truncated teaser-listing of his reviews).

April Movie Thon Day 22: When Worlds Collide (1951)

April 22: Earth Day Ends Here — Instead of celebrating a holiday created by a murderer, share an end of the world disaster movie with us. But seriously, treat the planet right! Click the image for our full list of reviews for the month!

Oh, ye producing gods Richard D. Zanuck and Jerry Bruckheimer: for when one studio or producer puts a film into production, another will put their own version-of-a-theme into production. And the Byrdian “turn, turn, turn” of those film sprockets were burnin’ the same ol’ sunny bulb down upon the same ol’ celluloid long before the dual gunfights at the O.K Corral with 1993’s Tombstone and 1994’s Wyatt Earp . . . and when Dreamsworks/Paramount and Touchstone/Buena Vista went to battle with their respective, 1998 God-brings-destruction-on-the-world romps Deep Impact (released in May) and Armageddon (July) — which continues to rain upon the Earth with the recent Greenland and its cheapjack Asylum-clones in Asteroid-a-Geddon, Collision Earth, and Meteor Moon, as well as the far superior, The Wandering Earth out of mainland China (and the earlier, 1980 Japan-produced, Earth-disaster epic, Virus). And when 2013 was the year of our battle with the terrorist-attack-on-the-White House epics Olympus Has Fallen vs. White House Down. And, since we are in a sci-fi mood: the Lucasian vs. Glen Larceny slugfest of 1978, with the Battlestar Galactica set adrift in the Akkadese Maelstrom — that’s what you get for trying to make the Kessel Run, Glen, baby.

For this disaster-in-space, “Earth Day Ends Here” epic on the 22nd day in the year of our April Movie Thon, this tale begins with producer George Pal.

The book . . . the film!

Pal purchased the rights to Robert Heinlein’s 1947 short story Rocket Ship Galileo (remembering Heinlein’s work was also behind 1953’s Bechdel test failure, Project Moonbase). With Heinlein serving as one of the film’s three screenwriters: his book was adapted as Destination Moon (1950).

Well, that worked out alright, so Pal decided to head off into space, again, by using Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie’s 1933 novel, When Worlds Collide, as his source material. For his screenwriter and director, Pal chose a couple of film noir stalwarts: Sydney Boehm, who made his mark in the genre with The Big Heat (1953), and Rudolph Maté, who wowed us with the genre-maker, D.O.A (1950) (beautifully remade — to a degree — as the recent, 2022 Australian sci-fi import, Expired).

So, when George Pal announced his end of the world epic, natch, the obvious knock offs went into production: The War of the Worlds (1953), and the more scientifically accurate, but less remembered, Conquest of Space (1955).

Then, there’s the ’50s Asylum Studios-version done by Robert Lippert, whose Lippert Pictures gave us the previously mentioned, failed, chauvinistic “matriarchy in space” romp that would be Project Moonbase. Hey, no way Lippert was letting Pal one-up him. So Lippert rushed — and beat Pal to the theaters — with Rocketship X-M (1950). While not as dry-to-boring as the previous Destination Moon, Lippert’s copy is still talky, rife with scientific boondoggles in its tale of Lloyd Bridges (Oy! It’s Commander Cain from Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack) in command of Earth’s first mission to the moon — that’s driven off course to Mars by an asteroid storm.

First, they collide. Then, they crack: Paramount’s 1965’s Crack in the World.

Okay, enough with the backstory: let’s unpack this space influencer that its studio, Paramount Pictures, has been trying to remake for years and years, with Tom Cruise and Will Smith, alternately on the marquee.

Needless to say, the ’50s celluloid proceedings — as all films do — detract from its source materials, but still concerns the coming destruction of the Earth by way of a rogue star, Bellus. So — as with Roland Emmerich’s later inversion known as 2012 (2009) — the rush is on to build a space arc, so as to repopulate man on Bellus’ single, Earth-like planet, Zyra.

The clock is ticking: man has only eight months to get their shit together because, as the Bible’s Book of Genesis quoted at the beginning of the film: God is keeping his promise: humanity is toast.

Our heroes, Astronaut David Randall (Richard Deer; Star Trek: TOS, years later: SST: Death Flight) and Dr. Cole Hendon (Larry Keating; of TV’s Mr. Ed!), receive the usual scoffs from the United Nations. Only the vain, fat cat magnate, Sidney Stanton (John Hoyt; Attack of the Puppet People and our April Movie Thon: Day 5 entry: X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes), heeds their warnings.

The usual earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes, along with martial law, illegal weapons stockpiling — romantic interludes, because humans need the nookie, even as the end nears — and fixed lotteries to get on the rocket, ensues. Oh, the infamy of the strained acting frolicking amid those cardboard sets and flat-as-a-pancake matte paintings. No, ye Lucasian lads and lassies who bow to the blue screen: you won’t like this one. Well, maybe you will . . . if it brings on those Chilly Billy Cardille WIIC Channel 11 memories.

Now, imagine this all made, not by George Pal — but by Cecil B. DeMille, who wanted to adapt both When Worlds Collide and its novel-sequel, After Worlds Collide, as a pair of films. The guy who made the bible epic The Ten Commandments going up in space? I can see Charlton Heston in the Richard Deer role. . . . But a swashbuckling Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was first considered by Pal?

Alas, Pal got his hooks into the material, first, and got Paramount on board — which closed the purse, so Pal didn’t make the “epic” he wanted to make. As for that second novel: why didn’t Pal make the sequel that was planned by DeMille? Uh, Pal deemed the brief “science fiction genre” as dead, as his next space epic, Conquest of Space (1955), failed.

Uh, but Stanley Kubrick did alright clipping that film to make something called 2001: A Space Odyssey. And that one worked out okay. Don’t believe us? Check out this You Tube comparison of the films.

You need more space romps? Then check out our “Movies In Outer Space Week” and “Exploring: (Before “Star Wars”): The Russian Antecedents of 2001: A Space Odyssey” features. You need more end of the world mayhem? Then there’s our two-part “Atomic Dust Bin” romps of post-apoc films, as well as our two-week “Fucked Up Futures” reviews.

Even more “Kill the Earth” movies with our “A-List Apocalypse Night” to ponder.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies (links to a truncated teaser-listing of his reviews).

April Movie Thon Day 18: Last Man Standing (1996)

April 18: Drop A Bomb — Please share your favorite critical and financial flop with us! Click the image for our full list of reviews for the month!

Sure, it made great fodder for Kevin Smith’s books and podcasts, but I never cared about Bruce Willis’s “rep” on sets: Willis always delivered the goods — and that’s all that matters to my wallet. Plus, Bruce gave us his version of Pittsburgh with Striking Distance, so bonus points! And I should be writing a shitty review on their shatty joint effort, Cop Out — itself deserving of an “April Movie Thon: Day 18” bomb prefix: a film that’s more Smith’s fault than Bruce’s, no matter how much Smith says to contrary.

As with my beloved Eric Roberts and Nicolas Cage (Did you read our “Nic Cage Bitch” feature, yet?), Bruce hit hard times and his later movies (Precious Cargo) weren’t as good as his Die Hard heydays. Sure, those films really didn’t “star” Bruce, but I made the point to hard-copy rent or stream most of them. Why? Because I like Bruce.

It moved my heart to hear of Bruce’s affliction with aphasia diagnosis: a language disorder caused by damage to the areas of the brain responsible for expression and comprehension. It also hurts to see a man with a passion for a craft not able to share his gift with the world. It has to be soul crushing.

However, Bruce’s current life-patch doesn’t mean I am going critical backpedal my Bruce Willis reviews and wipe away bad reviews. Backpedaling would piss off Bruce more than a bad review for one of his films. John McClane doesn’t want your pity.

So, with that being said: despite the best of intentions, this movie bombed. And it also sucks.

Sure, we have Walter Hill of The Driver, The Warriors, Streets of Fire, and 48 Hours in the writer’s and director’s chairs, but a remake of a remake is still a remake of a remake as the “man with no name” from Akira Kurosawa’s samurai adventure Yojimbo (1961) — remembering it was rebooted by Sergio Leone as A Fistful of Dollars (1964) — returns. Ah, but Leone’s was an unauthorized, European-litigated remake and Kurosawa supported this American remake. Warning: Akira’s backing means nothing.

So, does Hill’s 1940s-styled film noir updating of Kurosawa’s revenge proceedings to a 1930’s gangster flick set in a dusty, western-styled Texas border town with liquor bootleggin’ afoot — with Bruce Willis in the “Robert Mitchum/Humphrey Bogart” anti-hero role — work?


The film’s worldwide gross ($18 million in the U.S.) was less than $50 million against a $40 million budget that ballooned to near $70 million. Sure, the cast is all here, with Bruce Dern as the second lead and (wimpy) town sheriff, along with William Sanderson (Blade Runner, and “April Movie Thon: Day 9” entry), Christopher Walken, R.D. Call (Waterworld), and David Patrick Kelly (Luther in The Warriors, Sully in Stallone’s Commando). So what went wrong?

Eh, it looks good . . . but it’s all boring formula from the Syd Field Aristotle, three-act screenplay book: eight sequences of stock characters doing gangstery-things threaded together by too much sex, splashy violence, and the dreaded sign that nothing is working: droning voice-over narration. Unlike its predecessors: Hill’s version is totally forgettable — and Hill made my beloved The Driver. Go figure.

Oh, ah . . . since this is B&S About Movies: We need to mention our beloved Enzo G. Castellari clipped this all before Hill did, with his post-apoc, Mad Maxian-updating as Warriors of the Wasteland. Are we suggesting an Enzo-epic over a Hill romp? This time, yeah, for Enzo entertains us, makes us yell at the screen, and jump up and down in glee at the absurdity of it all.

Hey, it could be worse: We could be bashing Frank Stallone* in my beloved Mark L. Lester’s Public Enemies, itself released during that mid-90s fascination with all things Goodfellas. Well, wait, er, according to that link, I did bash it. Well, at least Lester’s film didn’t cost as much and it turned a profit via home video.

* Frank’s brother, Sly, gets his props with our “Exploring: Sylvester Stallone 45 Years After Rocky” feature.

Editor’s Note: This review previous appeared on November 20. 2021, as part of our “Exploring: Gangster Films Inspired by Goodfellas” feature.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies (links to a truncated teaser-listing of his reviews).

Sonatine (1993)

This Japanese yakuza gangster-noir written, directed and edited by Takeshi Kitano was his response to Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Courtesy of Quentin Tarantino’s fandom, the film found its way to U.S. theater — art house — screens in 1998 via his Rollling Thunder-imprint, which subsequently released it to home video in 2000.

Of Kitano’s 18-film writing-directing career, it remains his best-known international film, although his action-revenge thrillers Violent Crime (1989), which served as his feature film debut, and the follow up, Boiling Point (1990), were sought out by Tarantino fans and came to find an audience on post-’90s home video imprints.

Kitano got his start as an actor in the late ’60s, making his debut in Go, Go, Second Time Virgin (1969), but he’s best known to U.S. audiences in that discipline, courtesy of Senjō no Merī Kurisumasu, aka Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), co-starring David Bowie — Kitano starred as “Sgt. Gengo Hara.” You may also know Kitano for his work as a ruthless yakuza in William Gibson’s Johnny Mnemonic (1995), as well as the imported Battle Royale (2000) and Battle Royale II: Requiem (2003).

As for Sonatine — a play on the musical term sonatina — was a critically appreciated but a commercial failure in its homeland. Its commercial acceptance in the west was courtesy of Tarantino touting the film; it didn’t hurt that America’s leading critic at the time, Roger Ebert, gave it a “thumbs up” and three and a half out of four stars. The film’s failure in Kitano’s homeland is attributed to the fact he was, at the time, primarily known as a television comedic actor.

Kitano stars as Murakawa, a burnt-out yakuza enforcer who discovers his newfound, lackadaisical attitude towards his profession has led to his bosses wanting to get rid of him. As with Scorsese’s gangster opus, Sonatine is a film of not of dumb-down, trite action-driven dialog of no substance, but an introspective intelligence — that revels in its silent moments — that pulls back the reigns on the ultra-violence to use the violence as — to carry through with the musical imagery of the title — punctuating crescendos across its celluloid measures.

This is a film that is disserviced by the usual rat-a-tat-tat reviews scoring every “beat” of the film for you to decide to watch it. It’s a film where you simply need to stream it, sit back, and enjoy Takeshi Kitano’s sonata.

You can watch the trailer and this seven-minute vignette of Quentin Tarantino speaking of the film and the works of Takeshi Kitano on You Tube.

You can stream Sonatine on Amazon Prime and Vudu.

You can learn more about Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder-imprint with our “The 8 Films of Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures” featurette.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies (links to a truncated teaser-listing of his reviews).

Gozu (2003)

What can I possibly say about this bizarre (which is an understatement if there ever was one) Takashi Miike low-budget direct-to-video horror — with its mix of mobsters and ghosts and breast milk and cow-headed men — that hasn’t already been said. For if you are a Miike fan, you’ve seen it. If you’re a fan of Asian cinema, you know it well. If you’ve seen Miike’s Ichi the Killer (WTF) and Audition (WTF x 10) and you haven’t seen Gozu, then turn in your B&S About Movies’ membership card, for ye were never a member.

You didn’t see his contribution “The Box” in the Japanese portmanteau Three Extremes?

Just stop it. You’re embarrassing yourself. Isn’t there a Jennifer Aniston Oscar-chasing-never winning boondoggle you need to stream?

Sure, everyone drops the justified “David Lynchian” critical modifier to help us dopey Americans get a handle on the twisted insanity. And yeah, I am sure Guillermo Del Toro and Eli Roth — who offer up their own insights with their joint interview with Miike on the DVD — are the go-to guys for Gozu Intel with a whole-lot-of-what-do-we-need-this-digital-critic-from-Pittsburgh-for scoffing.

So, let me give an overview . . . for the ones who haven’t experienced the . . . something else . . . world of Miike. And that the title’s literal translation is: Yakuza Horror Theatre: Cow’s Head. And a caveat: Forget the guy with the cow’s head: if the killing of a chihuahua — an “attack” chihuahua — bothers you: stop watching. No. Watch. Just close your eyes for about twenty-Mississippis, well, in context: twenty-Shinano Rivers, then open. But there’s that gooey . . . and the slimy. . . .

Yes. Gozu is about — partly — a cow’s head. It’s also a gangster film. Then it’s not. Then what is it? A horror film? A comedy? There’s nothing is the works of Lynch, be it from film with Eraserhead to television with Twin Peaks, that can prepare you for this tale of an up-and-coming yakuza who receives orders to assassinate his boss, who happens to be his best friend. And when his boss catches wind, he goes into hiding. And if our young yakuza doesn’t complete the sanction, he dies. So begins our journey into a twisted, mysterious town where nothing is as it seems or nothing is as it should be — with a nightmare that would make Lynch flinch.

Dumplings: More crazy, Asian cinema of the Lynchian variety.

This is a film where you can’t rat-a-tat-tat the plot in a review; for in the tradition of the best Spanish and Italian horrors of ’70s, Gozu — or any Miike Joint — is probably not going to make a hell of a lot of sense (see Dead or Alive and The Happiness of the Katakuris). And the character’s motivations are dumbfounded and sometimes lacking in any development for you to care about them (One Missed Call). But as with those overseas horrors (this is black-comedy-cum-horror, like Sam Raimi’s comedy-gore of The Evil Dead, if that helps) of old, we never came for the plot or the characters in the first place: we came for the atmosphere and what-the-hell-why not Chunk King-toss to the walls. And Miike is brilliant for it.

You can watch the trailer and an extended interview with Takashi Miike on the making of Gozu on You Tube.

You can free-with-ads stream Gozu on Tubi. If fact, Tubi streams several of Miike’s films. They have the sci-fi’er Terra Formars, which I really liked: how can I not, as it’s about cockroach men on Mars, as well as the really fine 13 Assassins. Remember when, in the 2000s, when every single J-horror movie was getting Westernized? Don’t do it: go to the source.

And the “source” is Takashi Miike.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies (links to a truncated teaser-listing of his reviews).

Heaven is Hell (2014)

Ten years ago, we embarked on a journey that would take us places, physically and emotionally, one that would change us as artists and people, forever. Two and a half years. Fifty-two shooting days. Freezing cold. Scorching heat. Metric tons of Little Caesars, potential tetanus, and good, good times.
The filmmakers

Shortly after dying in a car crash, Faith, a devout Christian, arrives in Heaven — only to find it a barren wasteland ravaged by an apocalyptic war, populated by otherworldly, demonic-creatrues, and ruled by Zerach, a treacherous arch angel who has overthrown Heaven and enslaved God.

Her faith in tatters, Faith joins Judas, Thomas, and a team of rogue Apostles. Together, they lock n’ load to find an exiled Jesus Christ and reclaim Heaven’s throne.

Cool poster!

This film — as with my recent, rabbit-hole discoveries of Mayflower II and 2025: The World Enslaved by a Virus — is a pleasant streaming surprise: one made for a mere $40,000. And when you experience the scope of this action-comedy/horror-fantasy hybrid, you’ll come to appreciate the filmmaker’s abilities to squeeze the most of out their slight budget.

Looking over the resumes of Chicago-bred co-writers and directors Mike Meyer and Chris Sato, along with fellow co-writer Jason Kraynek, you’ll realize they’re a trio of experienced filmmakers — ones with a lot of miles between them via various shorts, web-series, and music videos. And it shows in the frames of this Chicago-shot Christploiter that takes those outlandish, Italian and Philippine, post-apocalyptic knockoff flicks of the ’80s to task: only this is so much better than a chintzy Bruno Mattei or Cirio H. Santiago joint*.

Those apoc-sloppers, of course, got their start with John Carpenter’s Escape from New York; it’s important to mention that iconic film, because the spirit of Carpenter’s own action-comedy/horror-fantasy hybrid, the purposefully hammy Big Trouble in Little China, permeates, here. Simply remove the martial arts exploitation and a insert a little exploitation of Christianity. And let’s not forget the writer of that film, D.W Richter, also gave us The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension — which spins in the same wheelhouse as Heaven is Hell.

Raging Angels: Another Christian-based film* with a sci-fi twist.

However, looking over the two, lone IMDb user reviews, Heaven is Hell is a film with no middle ground: Christians are offended, referring to it as being “atheist,” “Satanist,” and flat-out “anti-Christian.” Secularists appreciate and applaud the parody.

The same derision met Luis Buñuel’s (Simon the Desert) surrealistic, but not as parody-driven, The Milky Way (1969). The British-made Monty Python’s Life of Brian, itself offering us the concept of “an alternate-universe Jesus,” suffered the irritations of Christians and Catholics, even though Eric Idle and his cohorts insisted the film was a goof on organized, man-made religions — and not a spoof on Jesus or The Holy Bible, itself.

Such a film is Heaven is Hell, again: a film made for $40,000.

Putting any offensives one may have regarding the threading of Christianity and Catholicism beliefs through the eye of the apocalypse, aside: there is no denying this is a very well-made movie, with all of the respective film disciplines firing on all cylinders. The actors “get” their material (as did the cast of the recent, parody-excellent S**t & Champagne) and the movie is all the better for it. It’s unfortunate the joke that the “sequel” Heaven Was Hell: 2 Holy 4 Eva was coming soon . . . never had a punchline.

You can learn more about Heaven is Hell on their official Facebook page and watch the full movie as a free-stream on You Tube. You can also sample the trailer.

* Hey, we know our ’80s apoc joints. Check out our two-part, “Atomic Dust Bin” round up with links to over 100 films. We also explored “Christian Cinema of the ’70s” with links to over 40 films.

The Judas Project: More sci-fi with a biblical twist.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies (links to a truncated teaser-listing of his reviews).

Space Milkshake (2012)

Quack you!

One look at that theatrical one-sheet combined with that title: you know you’re getting a space comedy that owes its clever cues to John Carpenter’s Dark Star (1974).

Sure, we could mention the quicky-came-and-quickly-forgotten Space Station 76 (2014), itself a retro-parody of ’70s science fiction television series that used Gerry Anderson’s UFO and Space: 1999 for all of its costume, set and model cues. As result of that Liv Tyler-starrer (in spite of her presence) resembling those British-made, Century 21 Television/ITC Entertainment imports-to-U.S. television, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of Space Station 76 . . . and it was a huge disappointment (Liv Tyler f-ups another movie, for me) ejected from my below-the-waistline, rear celluloid airlock. Remember how Spaceballs was hilarious with its on-the-sleeve humor, while the The Ice Pirates certainly looked better but was “meh” in a post-Star Wars world? Remember how Galaxina was nerf herder-scuffy and Spaced Out (aka Outer Touch) sucked dianoga tentacles?

Well, for me: Space Milkshake spins to the Spaceballs side of the vortex.

Yes, Space Milkshake fluxes my capacitors over the puerile, dead-in-space-before-it-even-hit-the-big-screen Leslie Nielsen-starring Alien parody Naked Space (1983), as well as his other space “comedy,” 2001: A Space Travesty (2000). Don’t even get me started on Eddie Murphy’s The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002) — a movie so painful that Sam or myself (or any B&S guest writer) wanted to cover that $120 million dollar turd for our “Box Office Failures” week of films (and it is noted as the #1 biggest of bombs). Amid those flurry of “space comedies,” however, I enjoyed — to the chagrin of many — Mike Hodges’s Morons from Outer Space, so what do I know?

Okay, back to Space Milkshake.

While not as deadpan in its its funny-dry humor as Dark Star and not as slapstick as a Mel Brooks galactic joint, Space Milkshake is more aware of its ancestors and goes for the “fan humor” of the genre. So, think Shaun of the Dead (2004) set on a space station in terms of humor. When it comes to the sets, reflect back to your days of watching Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Red Dwarf on public television (in the States). If you’re a fan of Blake’s 7 or the Tom Baker-era of Dr. Who, you’re in the sector of space you need to be.

Owning up to Dark Star: one of the off-screen characters referenced is named Professor Gary Pinback: after Sergeant Pinback from Dark Star. As with the Carpenter progenitor: the crew deals with the boredom of space and hygiene issues. They play board games. However, unlike Dark Star: there’s two females on board, so there’s a comical, sexual innuendo component. In the second half, as in Dark Star, the tedium breaks when the “monster” appears: Dark Star had a beach ball with claws. Here, we have a mutated-enlarged rubber duck on a rampage. In between, the crew deals with the fact that all life on Earth has ended — and there’s that pesky time flux that zips them between various dimensions and timelines.

QUUUACK! Don’t call me a dianoga, you scruffy nerf herder. Go eat daggit dung!

As with the Nostromo before them (and Buck Henry’s of Get Smart! fame creating the garbage-hauling Quark starring Richard Benjamin in 1977): we have four blue collar astronauts employed on a Sanitation Station responsible for collecting space garbage from Earth orbit.

Jimmy (Robin Dunne) is the station’s newly-arrived, socially awkward computer technician. He’s welcomed by a dickish Captain Anton (Billy Boyd) who’s just broken up with his fellow crew member, the statuesque beauty queen Valentia (Amanda Tapping). The other female of the crew, the Ripleyesque Tilda, quickly becomes Jimmy’s love jones.

The ludicrous plot twists ensue as Anton and Valentia discover a glowing trinket from the salvage of an abandoned space shuttle. The “Time Cube,” accidentally activated, the station loses all contact with Earth as Tilda begins acting oddly — and discovered to be an android. Then a rubber duck — identical to the one given to Valentina by her ex-lover, Professor Gary Pinback — slams into ship. Brought on board by Valentina, it grows (and has George Takei’s voice). It is soon learned that Pinback, via the duck, is possessed by the galactic evil responsible for the “Time Cube” and is bent on universal conquest.

Yes. The above paragraph about mutant tub toys voiced by a Star Trek alumnus, time cubes, and androids is real. I did, in fact, write it.

It is reported this cost $300,000 to make — and this film looks great for a film made for less than a half million dollars; it certainly stands tall against its raison d’etre, Alien (1979), which cost $11 million and came to clear over $100 million during its initial box office. At its reported price, I see no reason why Space Milkshake didn’t — at the very least — break even on its production costs through cable buys and streaming rentals (it never saw a theatrical or hard media release). Again, it’s a fine film that looks great; however, make no mistake that the proceedings in Space Milkshake are still more Full Moon (the monster, seen above, takes me back to the alien mayhem in Bad Channels) than 20th Century Fox: but that’s not a bad thing, for Full Moon (and its previous incarnation as Empire Pictures) had their moments (Robot Jox).

The film had a trouble production that, according to Playback Magazine, began in the winter of 2011. The production was stymied — according to the Hollywood Reporter — by the provincial government of Saskatchewan, where the film was shot, closing out their refundable tax credits program: a tax credit that “funds” productions due to films contributing to the local economy through jobs and crew members frequenting area businesses.

Never intended for a theatrical release in its homeland, Space Milkshake premiered on the Canadian television channels The Movie Network (now known as Crave) in February 2013, then in March on Movie Central (defunct; 2016). Never picked up for U.S. cable distribution (Why, not Syfy? It had Amanda Tapping from Stargate, which you rerun.), Space Milkshake made the U.S. film festival rounds in 2013, in addition to the festival circuits in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. It began appearing on streaming platforms outside of Canada in 2015.

Armen Evrensel effectively wrangles all of the touchstone plot elements of the genre, along with cheap, but well-made sets and costumes (think 1980’s Battle Beyond the Stars) and schlocky, but better than ’70s British sci-fi series special effects. The cast is a shaken to perfect chemistry ensemble fronted by the instantly recognizable and perpetually likeable Robin Dunne (TV-familiar “Will Zimmerman” from Sanctuary and a few Lifetime Christmas flicks), along with Billy Boyd (yes, “Pippin” from Lord of the Rings), Kristen Kreuk (“Lana Lang” from TV’s Superman spinoff, Smallville), and Amanda Tapping (the Stargate TV series-verse). Oh, please tell us you do not need us to tell you who George Takei is.

Writer and director Armen Evrensel made his feature film screenwriting debut with the Canadian-produced romantic-drama The Zero Sum (2009), an inventive, unique tale about a mugger (a great turn by Scottish actor Ewen Bremner; yes “Spud” from Trainspotting) who falls in love with one of his victims. While Space Milkshake served as his second feature screenplay and his directorial debut, Evrensel hasn’t made another film, since, and since moved into television in other disciplines. That’s a shame because his wacky take — across the same comedic stars explored in the earlier frames of Galaxy Quest (1999) — is infectiously nuttier than that Tim Allen annoyance. Space Milkshake should have been a harbinger for more feature projects.

You can enjoy Space Milkshake as a VOD on You Tube Movies or as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi. Amazon no longer offers it as a stream, but if you want to avoid the ads and prefer not to use You Tube, it is still available on Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu. Be wary of those DVD-r, as this has never been official issued to DVD. You can sample the trailer on You Tube.

Films like Space Milkshake and the short-lived U.S. television series Quark joke about “junk in space,” but the reality is that it’s a very real problem. B&S About Movies frequent reader and fellow WordPress’er Peter Adler breaks it down with his “Garbage In Space” post — which turns you on to the 360-degree tracking map, Stuff In Space. See? Fascinating stuff and not just junk films are to be had at B&S.

Be sure to visit these past features
with more sci-fi in space and other obscurities!
Click those pics!

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies (links to a truncated teaser-listing of his reviews).

Superdome (1978)

The kings of the U.S. “Big Three” network TV movies are back: David Janssen (Wolf of the Moon) is in front of the camera, with director Jerry Jameson behind the lens (the Drive-In’er The Bat People, the runaway box-office hit, Airport ’77, and TV’s knockoff of The Towering Inferno, aka Terror on the 40th Floor).

Janssen vs. Heston: Let’s get ready to rumble!

Yeah, Sam reviewed this one for a previous “TV Week” back in August, but after my this week’s watching and reviewing Janssen’s radio station helicopter pilot going “Dirty Harry” on murderous bank robbers in Birds of Prey, well, my UHF-TV pumpin’ heart drifted back to this highly-rated, TV movie knock off of Chartlon Heston’s cop vs. football stadium romp, Two-Minute Warning. (Dig into that 1976-made, Heston movie: There’s two different cuts: the theatrical and the TV movie version: the cuts turned the TV movie version into an art heist movie vs. the theatre’s crazed sniper movie — and Heston transforms from a leading to support character!)

In an unprecedented history! A new, crappier version of a mediocre movie.

Also known in overseas quarters and VHS reissues domains as The Super Bowl Story and Countdown to the Super Bowl, ABC-TV actually used this “Monday Night Movie” entry as a promotional ramp-up for their broadcast of Super Bowl XII. And to make sure we watched: the cast is all here: Ken Howard (then of TV’s hit basketball series, The White Shadow), Michael Pataki (Grave of the Vampire and so many B&S favorites from the ’70s), Donna Mills (hubba-hubba and thumpy-whumpy), and a pre-Magnum Tom Selleck (still career building with things like Daughters of Satan), along with pro-players-turned-actors Dick Butkus and Bubba Smith.

As with Heston’s stadium romp — and later, with Oliver Stone’s dark look at professional football with Any Given Sunday (and toss in the Keanu Reeves-starring The Replacements) — we have another ersatz-professional football league . . . as someone has bone to pick with the hailing world champion, New Orleans Cougars.

Oh, the drama!

Ken Howard’s Dave Wolecki’s has martial issues and a bum knee, Tom Selleck’s Jim McCauley is a star quaterback making bad business choices, and Donna Mills is between it all, as a “who’s who” TV cast of then-hot soap actress Robin Mattson, ’50s and ’60s TV stalwarts Jane Wyatt, Van Johnson, Peter Haskell, and Edie Adams, as well as ’70s everywhere-man Clifton Davis caterwaul about life’s problems as sniper is on the loose. Turns out the Mafia isn’t keen on the odds-favored Cougars for the win, which jeopardizes their $10,000,000 bet on the game for the Rangers to win: when the Cougar’s trainer won’t dope-up the players, he’s murdered. Don’t worry: David Janssen’s team manager will get to the bottom of the mayhem.

Yeah, this is a nostalgia-miles-may-vary flick that’s a disaster-flick-on-the-cheap that plays more as an extended, three-part episode arc of a U.S. soap opera, excuse me, “daytime drama,” with very little football (that’s all stock shots of who knows what semi-pro teams’ game). Is it all Superbad? Superdumb? Superboring? Eh, yeah. Rewatching it all these years later, I see the point. Oh, to be a UHF kid, again, when movies like this were a “wow” experience and movies like this tore it up on the weekly ratings.

You can get your restored DVDs from Kino Lorber. You can watch the three-part highlights from the real Superbowl between the 1978 New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49’ers on You Tube. The Mystery Science Theatre 3000-spoofed version is on You Tube, but we found a very nice, clean rip on the Euro F-Share streaming platform.

Oh, yes. We LOVE our ’70s TV Movies — even ones from the ’80s and the ones from the early-cable ’90s — and our “Lost TV Week” exposes you to many more TV flick delights.

More David Janssen!
That other football thriller, Black Sunday, was reissued on Blu-ray in 2024 on the Arrow imprint.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies (links to a truncated teaser-listing of his reviews).