SAVAGE CINEMA: Burnout (1979)

The Mill Creek Savage Cinema box set has twelve movies, some with great looking pictures, others that have been battered beyond belief. If you’re not a snob, you’ll find something enjoyable on this. I know I did! I started with this film, one of the few drag racing movies that I’ve ever watched.

If you know anything about drag racing — and I sure don’t — this movie is filled with the stars of the 70’s. That’d be Don Garlits, Marvin Graham, Gary Beck, Don Prudhomme, Raymond Beadle, Tony Nancy and Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowny, the only name I know beacuse the movie Heart Like a Wheel is all about her. Shirley is great because she’s super outspoken, claiming that Jamie Lee Curtis should have played her instead of Bonnie Bedelia, who she called a “snot.”

I actually looked up other drag racing films — just to see if there were any other than these two examples. There are! They would be Funny Car SummerSeven-Second Love AffairDrag RacerWheels of FireFast Company (directed by David Cronenberg!), Right On TrackMore American Graffiti and Snake and Mongoose. If you’re now thinking, “I bet B&S About Movies is going to do a theme drag racing week,” you know us oh so well.

Scott (Mark Schneider, Supervan) wants to be a drag racer. His dad doesn’t want him to be one. Soon, they learn that they can bond by being part of the sport. Scott is also incredibly hard to like. And there’s the movie.

Director Graham Meech-Burkestone only made this one movie. But man, he was all over the place in Hollywood, doing Oliver Reed’s hair for Burnt Offerings and makeup for Day of the AnimalsThe Manitou and The Exterminator.

“This picture is dedicated to the men and women in drag racing — they are all winners,” says the credits. Nope. This movie is dedicated to my Letterboxd Crown International list. Someday, somehow, I’m going to get 100% that thing.

The Racing Scene (1969)

James Garner was a huge star in 1969, coming off the TV series Maverick and roles in films like The Great EscapeSupport Your Local Sheriff! and Marlowe, a movie in which he fought Bruce Lee. He also made the movie Grand Prix for John Frankenheimer, which was the sixth movie of his that didn’t do well at the box office. It hurt his career but gave him a passion for racing which he turned into starting his own crew and entering multiple races. This movie documents that time.

I’m so happy to have watched this, because it finally allows me to have seen every single movie that was directed by Andy Sidaris. You can tell Andy directed this because of how much attention is paid to Miss Continental Racing Queen Majken Kruse.

This movie was written by Willam Edgar, who would one day write Stacey, the movie that would begin Sidaris’ world of gorgeous women and men who can’t shoot a gun to save their lives.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

Banzai Runner (1987)

We’ve mentioned this VHS potboiler in passing during our reviews of Rocktober Blood and Larry Buchanan’s Down on Us (you know how it works: we’ll get to that tidbit, later). Thanks to Sam dreaming up a “Fast and Furious” tribute week — and his excavating the Jim Drake 1989 VHS uber-obscurity, Speed Zone — we finally have an excuse to give this grandfather to the The Fast and the Furious franchise a review proper: a fictional film based on the real life problem of “Banzai Runners” speeding along the desert asphalt strip of the I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Courtesy of Retro Daze.org

As you can tell from the box, ubiquitous TV actor Dean Stockwell stars in this direct-to-video romp. But don’t be copywriter-duped. In no way is this comparable to his work in the superior films noted under his name. And while modern audience will recognized Stockwell for his later TV work in the series Quantum Leap, JAG, and SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica reboot, we, the B&S crew, will always remember Stockwell for his work in the Jack Nicholson-starring counterculture flick, Psych-Out (1968), and his starring with Sandra Dee in The Dunwich Horror (1970).

Stockwell’s greatest strength is not only how easily he transitions from TV to film and back again, but how he can take the lead in (and inspire us to rent) a low-budget actioner, then show up in smaller roles in A-List films for Francis Ford Coppola (Gardens of Stone and The Rainmaker), William Freidkin (To Live and Die in L.A.), David Lynch (Dune, Blue Velvet), and Wolfgang Peterson (Air Force One). He is, simply put: Eric Roberts before Eric Roberts. Hell, he’s Bruce Campbell before Bruce Campbell. He’s the good actor you put in a bad movie — and he still gives us his all and “sells the role” to the home video masses.

Banzai Runner, while a commendable attempt to chronicle a factual event wrapped in a fictional tale (as with illegal street racing in The Fast and the Furious), failed in the home video market as result of its ambition-over budget. It became the only feature film writing credit for animation-scripter Phil Harnage, who is a “shooting fish in a barrel” type of writer when it comes to cartoons. You haven’t not seen his work, which dates all the way back to Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert, along with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, The Adventures of Super Mario, G.I Joe, The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, and Double Dragon. In the producer and director’s chair is John G. Thomas, whose slight resume gave us not only Banzai Runner, but Dean Stockwell’s brother-in-arms, Michael Parks (Kill Bill: Vol. 1), in Arizona Heat (1988), starring alongside his cop-buddy Denise “Tasha Yar” Crosby (American Satan).

That’s how it goes in the B&S About Movies universe. Not everyone is destined for a television-to-theatrical career.

So Stockwell is Highway Patrolman Billy Baxter. And he’s worn out dealing with the rebel-rousing drunk gamblers on his Nevada stretch of highway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. But what really pisses him off is that the brass turned down his request to modify his police cruiser so he can keep up with the so called “Banzai Runners”: the unapprehendable, rich elitists who zip by him in their supercharged, high-powered Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Ah, but those speed demons aren’t speeding for kicks: they’re running drugs for Syszek — played by requisite screen villain Billy Drago (Hunter’s Blood, Invasion U.S.A).

Baxter eventually goes “Mad Max” when Syszek kills his brother and orphans his nephew, now in his care. So his mechanic buddy upgrades his cruiser (courtesy of the only other notable actor in the cast, Charles Dierkop, aka Det. Pete Royster from TV’s Police Woman; but remembered best for his work in Angels Hard as They Come, The Hot Box, Messiah of Evil, and Silent Night, Deadly Night). When the brass has enough and strips Baxter of his badge, he’s ripe for DEA recruitment to go undercover in the dark world of the “Banzai Runners” and take his revenge os Syszek. (Have you ever notice villains have cool, Euro-ethnic names with lots of consonants of the w, x, y, z variety? I guess Billy Drago as “Sam Miller” or “Joe Smith” doesn’t “ring true,” does it?)

Oh, by the way: This is the type of film where the cars don’t speed on the roads in real time: they acquire their “speed” in post-production via speeding up the film.

Yes. They’re fast and furious, indeed.

“Hey, wait! What about the trivia about Rocktober Blood and Down on Us?”

Oh, yeah, thanks for reminding me. So, Riba Meryl (passed away in 2007) stars here Donna, one of the film’s minor characters. Part of the Sunset Strip’s ’80s hair-metal scene, she came to co-write the faux-rock epic “Rainbow Eyes” with Sorcery’s Richard Taylor for Rocktober Blood — and was cast aside for fellow Las Vegas transplant Susie Rose Major to vocalize the tune as Lynn Staring. Prior to her second and final acting gig in Bonzai Runner — as result of her session work with Randy Nicklaus and Jerry Riopelle on the film’s never released soundtrack — she portrayed Janis Joplin in the speculative 1984 rock flick, Down on Us.

The soundtrack for Bonzai Runner features songs written and performed by Randy Nicklaus, who’s engineered records for Alias, Blondie, Contraband (aka Michael Schenker), INXS, Motley Crue, Vixen, and Yes; he also placed songs on the soundtracks to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and The Wraith. Detroit-born Jerry Riopelle and his band members, Joel Goldsmith and Kevin Dukes, have placed songs in projects as diverse as Crystal Heart, Hollywood Hot Tubs, and Paramedics. Sadly, we lost Jerry Riopelle in 2018. Goldsmith scores can be heard in Moon 44, Laserblast, and The Rift, and, most recently in the Stargate TV-universe.

You can watch — the one lone copy — of Banzai Runner for free on You Tube . . . and keep your eyes open for those 50 mph cars film-sped to 200 mph in the Arizona heat. And yes . . . you can watch Arizona Heat on You Tube.

There’s only one tune isolated from the film on You Tube: “It’s Everything” by Jerry Riopelle. You can listen to more of his work on his You Tube page. There’s also a wealth of Randy Nicklaus’s work on You Tube.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Speed Zone (1989)

I’m the biggest fan of movies inspired by the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash — Cannonball, Cannonball RunCannonball Run 2 — yet I had never heard of this movie. Can you believe that? While this is known as Speed Zone in the U.S., it was called Cannonball Run III and Cannonball Fever overseas.

I only found out about this because it was directed by Jim Drake, who made Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol. It was written by Martin Short’s brother Michael, who has worked with the SCTV cast on projects from the Ed Grimley cartoon to Schitt’s Creek.

This movie was absolutely despised by Siskel and Ebert. While the former said, “It is an atrocious excuse for entertainment. If I have a pet peeve about movies is that they are so venal that don’t even try to be good,” Ebert went all in on his hatred for this movie, stating “Read my lips. Cars are not funny. Speeding cars are not funny. It is not funny when a car spins around and speeds in the other direction. It is not funny when a car flies through the air. It is not funny when a truck crashes into a car. It is not funny when cops chase speeding cars. It is not funny when cars crash through roadblocks. None of those things are funny. They have never been funny.”

The teams for this race are:

BMW: Parking valet Charlie Cronan (John Candy), racing for his school rival Leo Ross (Eugene Levy), who sends his girlfriend Tiffany (Donna Dixon, the wife of Dan Aykroyd) along for the ride.

Jaguar XJS: Mob hitman Vic DeRubis (Joe Flaherty!) and compulsive gambler Alec Stewart (Matt Frewer, Max Headroom in the flesh), who have turned Viuc’s contract on Alec’s head into a chance to win money.

Ferrari Daytona Spyder: MIT students Lee Roberts and Margaret (Melody Anderson and Shari Belafonte), who see the race as a challenge that their love of technology can solve.

Lamborghini: Italian porter Valentino Rosatti (Brian George, who is really Isreali-English) and former cop Flash (Art Hindle, Black Christmas).

Bentley Corniche: Cheating rich guys Nelson and Randolph Van Sloan (The Smothers Brothers), who decide to fly to the finish line.

The News Van: TV reporters Heather Scott and Jack O’Neill (Mimi Kuzyk and Tim Matheson) who become part of the story they are covering.

They’re all being chased by Police Chief Spiro T. Edsel (Peter Boyle) and Whitman (Don Lake, Police Academy), who has already arrested one entire race worth of contestants.

Man, this movie has some cameos. Brooke Shields (who was hit by the shrapnel of this movie and got a Golden Raspberry Award for her brief moment in the, well, sun), Alyssa Milano, Carl Lewis, Richard Petty, Michael Spinks, John Schneider (who is pretty much playing a Duke boy in the beginning), Lee Van Cleef in one of his last roles and Jamie Farr, who appears as Sheik Abdul ben Falafel, making him the only actor to be in all three Cannonball Run movies.

Seeing as how this has never been releasedon DVD or blu ray, I don’t feel bad sharing the link to watch this on YouTube. Here’s to a Cannonball Run-themed box set!

SAVAGE CINEMA: Wild Riders (1971)

Mill Creek box sets? Yeah, they’re kind of our jam. Just look at the work we’ve put into their Chilling ClassicsPure Terror and Explosive Cinema sets. I grabbed this set used for $2.50, but your mileage may vary. It goes anywhere from $10-150 on Amazon and $10-25 on eBay. It’s worth it — there are plenty of movies that fit the theme quite well.

Up first is Richard Kanter’s (Thar She Blows!Sensual Encounters of Every KindFantasy In Blue) 1971 grimy biker film Wild Riders. It’s all about Pete and Stick (Arell Blanton, whose IMDB list is full of cop roles and, yep, a very young Alex Rocco), two scumbags who get thrown out of their gang. So they do what any of us wouldn’t do — they take over a house and assault the two girls who are there.

One of them, Rona, is played by Elizabeth Knowles, who may be better known as Lisa Grant. That’s the name she used for Executive Wives and Behind the Green Door, one of the movies that introduced porno chic. The other girl, Laure, is played by Sherry Bain, who was in The Hard Ride and Ride the Hot Wind.

It’s another movie to cross off my Letterboxd Crown International list. If you’ve learned anything from this site, it’s that I am nothing if not a completist. If you end up thinking, “Is that Peter Fonda?” Well, no. But Arell Blanton is happy that you noticed him trying.

Explosive Cinema Recap!

Anytime we roll out a review of a Mill Creek box set, we think, “Eh, no one cares.” We couldn’t be more wrong! Our readers love learning about the box sets — and we gain new readers as we see an increase in our site traffic, along with a lot of social media likes and reposts on Twitter and Facebook. So thanks to all of our readers for spreading the word.

Ah, you “heart” B&S About Movies!

Of course, our past March 2020 exploration (Sunday, March 8, to Saturday, March 14) of the Explosive Cinema pack was no exception.

We’ve been clamoring for a copy of 9 Deaths of the Ninja for our personal collection — since forever. And there it was! Once again: Mill Creek with the VHS-to-Digital assist. Sold! And for that, we say: Oh, god bless ye, ye overlords of the public domain netherworlds of analog delights of thee obscure and thee crappy. For we analog peasants lost in the digital barrens need these movies to assure our survival in the never ending quest to relive our Drive-In, UHF-TV, and VHS entertainment youth.

Also be sure to check our past reviews for Mill Creek’s Pure Terror and Chilling Classics sets . . . and, keeping with our yearly, November tradition of blowing out a Mill Creek box set, we’ll be checking out the 50 films included on their Sci-Fi Invasion set. Would you like to write a review (or reviews) for the films on the set? You can get all of the deets, here.

Oy! We almost forgot: As part of our “Fast and Furious” tribute week, we’re reviewing Mill Creek’s rubber-burnin’ and asphalt-tearin’ Savage Cinema set all this week — from Sunday, August 2, to Saturday, August 8.

Happy watching! And be careful . . . it’s explosive! Tony Tulleners will kick your ass into next week.

Thank you, Eide’s Entertainment of Pittsburgh! You blew our mind!

Kill Point
Low Blow
Van Nuys Blvd.
The Patriot
9 Deaths of the Ninja
Top Cop
The Silencer (aka Body Count) (aka, Sam, this has a Seinfeld connection!)
Scorpion
Iron Angel
The Hostage
The Skydivers
Terror in the Jungle

You can learn more about Mill Creek’s box sets and other releases at MillCreekEnt.com.

The Runners (2020)

This movie is the nightmare of every parent. Or older brother, as the case may be. After losing their parents in a car accident, Ryan is raising Zoe, who has suddenly entered that rebellious stage of the teen years. That’s all well and good, but in the kind of twist that would inform a Trump rally horror speech, that cute boy she’s sneaking around with ends up selling her into white slavery. Ed Wood is grinning in his grave at this development.

Ryan has to find her before she’s taken into Mexico and lost. But who will protect him when the gang catches him and begins a night of torture?

I feel like nearly every movie I watch in 2020 will have Tom Sizemore in it as a cop or a preacher. I’m looking forward to the buddy movie with he and Eric Roberts as cop ministers. Man, I should have written that script because now that I’ve said it, I’ve basically brought it into existence.

This was co-directed by Joey Loomis and Micah Lyons, who also wrote and stars in the film. It has one of the most astounding fight scenes I’ve seen all year, one in which a brutal battle takes a quick turn when the bad guy does a kip up in the midst of beating the hero into a pulp. These things never happen in reality.

The Runners is available as of July 14 on demand and on DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment, who were nice enough to send us a review copy.

Escape: Puzzle of Fear (2020)

Matthew Blake (Tommy Nash from Abducted and The Amityville Terror) is one of Hollywood’s top agents . . . carrying some dark baggage with a few rattling bones and he deserves a comeuppance. And his oldest friend and his new, bombshell girlfriend have decided that revenge is a dish best served bloody ‘n’ warm inside Los Angeles’ newest Escape Room.

The marquee name on this one is Nicholas Turturro, who you know from his seven-year run on NYPD Blue and his six-year run on Blue Bloods, as well as his co-starring roles in the cable replay favorites Here Comes the Boom and The Longest Yard (and as the lead in the low-budget The Hillside Strangler from 2004). Another familiar cast face is daytime actor and network TV series stalwart John Colton who is also part of the Jimmy Kimmel Live! cast of stock players.

Writer and director Lizze Gordon is relatively new to the film world, with one feature film under her belt in those roles: the 2017 horror film #Captured. She has two other films in various stages of pre-and-post-production: Kill Cam and The Hard Way. We previously reviewed Lizze Gordon’s Coven, which she wrote and starred (that became available on DVD and VOD on July 14).

There’s no trailer available as of yet, but you’ll be able to watch it in the coming weeks at Uncork’d Entertainment’s website and at their You Tube page. You can also view Lizze Gordon’s previous works on You Tube. You’ll be able to purchase DVDs and VOD streams for Escape: Puzzle of Fear beginning August 18.

You can watch #Captured on You Tube Movies.

Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.

Limbo (2020)

Limbo is a From Dusk Till Dawn-inspired, multi-purpose seedy bar, jailhouse, and court of law that lies somewhere in the ethers between heaven and earth where souls—both good and bad—stand trail to decide their final destination: heaven or hell. Cast into Limbo is Jimmy (Lew Temple), a murderer caught in a cat-and-mouse game between a slick prosecutor (Lucian Charles Collier, aka Stian “Occultus” Johannsen in Lords of Chaos) and an inexperienced defense attorney (ubiquitous TV actress Scottie Thompson). She wants to go for a full pardon . . . but there hasn’t been a “full redemption” in Hell for over 2,000 years . . . and Lucifer doesn’t want this case going to trial and wants it closed.

Casting is everything in an indie film, as familiar names and faces (Veronica Cartwright from Alien, James Purefoy from TV’s The Following, Chad Linberg from CSI: NY and Supernatural) offer encouragement to hit that big red streaming button.

In addition to that supporting cast, we’re treated to a cast headlined by the always reliable Scottie Thompson, who we’ve enjoyed in her guest-starring roles on numerous television series, but most notably for her starring roles in Brotherhood, Trauma, Graceland, The Blacklist, NCIS, 12 Monkeys, and the rebooted MacGyver. You’ll recall Lew Temple from The Walking Dead, and (yes!!) the always awesome Peter Jacobson from his recurring roles in the Law and Order franchises and his starring role in House, but more recently for his starring roles in Ray Donovan, Fear the Walking Dead and NCIS: Los Angeles. Then there’s the elder statesman of thespians, Richard Riehle (!!), who recently lit up our streaming screens in The Invisible Mother.

But even with that cast and their respective resumes, we came for one reason and one reason only: Richard Riehle sports a pair of devil’s horns growing out of his skull. Okay, two reasons: Peter Jacobson has a set growin’ out of his head as well.

Streaming ticket sold.

Director Mark Young has been making films since the late ‘90s—nine in all; Limbo is his 10th film—and while we haven’t reviewed any of his previous films at B&S About Movies, Limbo shows that, if not going back to watch some of his older works, we’re certainly looking forward to his current post-and-pre-production efforts of Rebirth and Lost in Paradise.

You’ll be able to stream or pick up a copy of the DVD of Limbo on August 4. You can keep abreast of developments on the film at the Facebook pages of Alternate Ending Films and Uncork’d Entertainment.

Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.

Monstrous (2020)

Shanghaied by her boyfriend—Blair Witch-style (only with sharp cinematography and no handheld POVs; an intelligently-written script and no actor improv)—Sylvia (screenwriter Anna Shields) leaves Lansing, Michigan, and meets up with Alex (Rachel Finninger), another social media curiosity seeker, to research a series of disappearances—including Sylvia’s friend—in the Adirondacks outside Whitehall, New York. Sylvia soon comes to discover the monster lurking inside Alex is more sinister than any Bigfoot lurking in the woods.

Monstrous is lensed by Bruce Wemple, a New York City-based director, producer, writer, and editor with two indie-features to his credit: After Hours (2016) and Lake Artifact (2019). After Hours was the recipient of Best Picture at 2017 Philip K Dick Film Festival, along with the Audience Choice Award at 2017 Boston SciFi Film Festival, and Best Sci-Fi Picture at the 2017 Buffalo Fantastic Film Festival. Screenwriter and star Anna Shields is a New York-based actor who’s amassed twenty-five screen credits across various indie projects in a short nine years. Rachel Finniger is new to the acting world and most recently appeared on a 2018 episode of Law & Order: SVU.

Each brings a quality to the screen that’s above most of the indie-streaming films available in today’s digital marketplace. It’s appreciated that while the film is spiced with social media plot points in its first act, the proceedings didn’t degrade into just another found footage-POV potboiler about a search for Bigfoot. Since Monstrous is female-driven by two actresses for most of the film, one would think the film to be prefect programming fodder for the female-center Lifetime Network—but this heads above that channel’s usual damsel-in-distress flicks.

You’ll be able to stream or pick up a copy of the DVD of Monstrous on August 11. You can keep abreast of developments on the film at 377 Entertainment’s website and Uncork’d Entertainment’s Facebook page.

Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.