Hercules Unchained (1959)

In Italy, this movie is known as Ercole e la Regina di Lidia (Hercules and the Queen of Lydia) and it’s loosely based upon various Greek myths and the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, as envisioned by co-writers Ennio De Concini and Pietro Francisci, who also directed. It’s also the second — and last — Hercules movie with Steve Reeves in the lead.

Hercules has been brought in to settle the battle over who should rule Thebes between brothers Eteocles and Polynices. However, a magic spring looks so refreshing and Hercules is hypnotized by a harem girl and becomes the kept man of Queen Omphale of Lydia (Sylvia Lopez, who sadly died the same year this movie was made), who plans on sleeping with our hero until she gets bored and turns him into a statue.

Luckily, Ulysses is on hand to help him get his memory back, just in time to decimate three wild tigers in order to rescue his wife beloved Iole (Sylvia Koscina). Then, our hero realizes that he should just let the two brothers kill one another.

Wrestling fans will be happy to see Primo Carnera (he was also a boxer and known as the Ambling Alp) show up as Antaeus.

Mario Bava served as special effects supervisor on this film (he was the cinematographer for Hercules and Hercules Conquers Atlantis; he would then direct the incredible Hercules In the Haunted World), which you can definitely see in the foggy dream sequences.

While Reeves would leave the series to Reg Park, the two Hercules files he was in would be successful all over the world.

You can watch this on Tubi with Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffing or check out the original on YouTube.

Hercules (1958)

Joseph E. Levine was a genius. At the time of his death, he’s produced nearly 500 films. He did some pretty amazing things, like introduce the U.S. to Sophia Loren and Godzilla, while bringing foreign movies like Jack the Ripper and Attila: Scourge of God to America, renaming The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World to Licensed to Kill and producing and executive producing everything from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and The Graduate to Mad Monster PartyThey Call Me TrinityMagicThe Carpetbaggers and The Producers. He started the Embassy in AVCO Embassy.

But for the purposes of this story, he was the man who spent $1 million dollars* to make Steve Reeves a star all over the world with this movie. And by the time he did it, Reeves had already made four more movies ready to follow this one.

Unlike many actors who go to Italy to make a film, the former chiropractor and Mr. America of 1947, Mr. World of 1948 and Mr. Universe of 1950 became a huge deal over in Italy, ending his career on his own terms in 1968 after the western A Long Ride from Hell, which has the incredible alternate title I Live For Your Death!**

Funny enough, this is more the story of Jason and the Argonauts, yet with Hercules taking center stage. And from this movie, an entire industry of peblum movies was born.

Hercules joins the crew of Jason, along with Ulysses and his father Laertes, Argos, the twins Castor and Pollux, Orpheus and Aesculapius when Pelias, the King of Iolcus, sends Jason on a fool’s errand to take the Golden Fleece. That’s because Pelias has been warned that someday, Jason would take his throne. Meanwhile, Hercules is in love with the king’s daughter Princess Iole. Who can blame him? She’s played by Sylvia Koscina, who is also in Deadlier Than the Male and So Sweet, So Dead***.

Hercules battles ape men and Amazons when he isn’t fulfilling his labors, like fighting the Nemean Lion and the Cretan Bull. There’s even a dragon with the voice of Godzilla, which makes sense, as Levine owned the rights to that sound effect.

By the mid-60’s, 10% of all Italian films were sword and sandal movies. That’s how influential this one is. And speaking of importance to Italian film, the cinematographer for this movie suggested that Reeves grow a beard. His name? Mario Bava.

*Levine spent more money promoting this movie than it cost to make. He was ahead of his time, if today’s movies are any indication. He also introduced the concept of saturation booking by using over 600 prints of this film, which at the time was a huge number of prints to be struck, as most theaters only had one screen.

**Reeves had turned down A Fistful of Dollars because he felt that Italians couldn’t make a western out of a Japanese samurai film. He also turned down Dr. No — this could be apocryphal — because they could not afford his salary demands.

***Her maid is played by Luciana Paluzzi, who was Fiona Volpe in Thunderball, as well as appearing in The Green Slime, Jess Franco’s 99 Women and A Black Veil for Lisa.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell (1988)

The third of four Deathstalker movies, following Rick Hill as the hero in Deathstalker* and John Terlesky taking over in Deathstalker II, this installment finds John Allen Nelson (Killer Klowns from Outer Space) taking over as the Deathstalker.

Deathstalker once saved the wizard Nicias (Mexican telenovella actor Aarón Hernán) and as such, they now travel to villages where the old man tells the future. At one such place, a hooded woman reveals herself to be the Princess Carissa (Carla Sands, who was appointed the U.S. Ambrassador to Denmark in 2017), who knows of a magical stone that can combine with the one Nicias alrady has to reveal the secret city of Arandor. All they have to do is battle the evil sorcerer Troxartes (Thom Christopher, Hawk from Buck Rogers) to get it. That shouldn’t be so bad, right?

That’s when Makut and his men attack. Nicias teleports to safety while Deathstalker must battle his way out. Carissa? Yeah, she doesn’t make it. If you haven’t seen the other films, Deathstalker screws up spectacularly quite often, unlike Conan, whose movies he’s cashing in on. He heads off to the home country of Troxartes, meeting with Carissa’s twin Princess Elizena and being chased by Makut, who has brought back all of Deathstalker’s deceased enemies from beyond the grave.

Oh yeah — he also meets a local girl named Marinda who he beds in less time than it will take for you to read this review. There’s also an undead warrior named Gragas who remembers that he died honorably against Deathstalker (they can’t mean Oghris from the first movie, right? Why do I remember Deathstalker cannon better than the people who made these movies?) and reveals that all the dead souls are trapped doing the bidding of their master.

Of course, there are three stones needed, not just one. And yes, there’s no way Marinda or any of the bad guys are going to survive. You know who is? Deathstalker. He just gets on his horse and rides away after decimating the lives of everyone around him, like the Hyborian Jessica Fletcher.

It’s worth mentioning that unlike all of the other films in this series, this does not use stock footage of the other Deathstalker films. It does, however, take liberally from Corman’s The Raven. It also takes the soundtrack** from Battle Beyond the Stars, just like so many Corman productions. There’s even an IMDB list that has taken stock of all the movies Corman made that reuse bits and pieces of that film, so I guess he was a green filmmaker back before that was a thing.

This is the kind of junk food film that goes well on a cold and rainy Saturday. It was written by Howard R. Cohen, who also brought us The Unholy RollersSaturday the 14thSaturday the 14th Strikes BackStrykerBarbarian Queen II and episodes of both Rainbow Brite and The Care Bears.

You can watch the MST3K verson of this on Tubi or the unriffed version on YouTube.

*Hill would come back for the fourth movie, 1991’s Deathstalker IV: Match of Titans. It is my job to know these things.

**It also outright rips off Brian Eno’s prophecy theme from Dune.

Vinyl Generation (2020)

Imagine a world where undercover cops attend record swaps and concerts — and arrest people for crimes against the government.

In Czechoslovakia, it was a reality.

In our recent “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” review of the Sex Pistols The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle and The Filth and the Fury, we discussed punk — the music, the fashion, and attitude — was an artistic expression of the frustrations of the British working class and unemployed against the stodgy and greedy British class system. In America, with the advent of the Ramones in New York and X in Los Angeles — while it was admittedly less street and more Tribeca and Sherman Oaks — an antithesis subculture to mainstream music arose; a coterie network of fanzines, stores, and club venues to promote the music and the (commercialized, new-waved in America) message.

And those same frustrations — with even greater political and cultural consequences — flourished in the Czechoslovakia.

In this 2016 Czech import, Vinyl Generation chronicles the generation that came of age during Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution — a non-violent transition of power that lasted from November 17 to December 29, 1989 — which signaled the end of communist totalitarianism in Eastern Europe.

As with their late ‘70s British brethren, late ’80s Czech teens used the West’s punk and burgeoning alternative-grunge music to initiate a cultural shift — even if it meant breaking federal laws, as it was illegal to buy or sell Western records and magazines (at swaps held in city parks) or attend underground, unauthorized concerts. Some of those illegal concerts featured Lou Reed, Frank Zappa, Mudhoney*, and Lydia Lunch (Cha Cha), whose never-before-seen concert footage is seen here — at least by U.S. audiences — for the first time.

You can learn more about this Dark Star Pictures release at the film’s official website vinylgeneration.net and official Facebook page. You can begin streaming the film on Amazon Prime and Vudu and on Tubi (as a free-with-ads-stream) on November 26, 2020.

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

Disclaimer: This was sent to us by the film’s PR company. That has no bearing on our review.

* We explored a wide array of Grunge-era films with our “Exploring: 50 Gen-X Grunge Films.”

There’s also more music-oriented films to be discovered with our “Exploring: Radio Stations on Film” featurette. Other recent rock-docs we’ve reviewed include Suzi Q, Desolation Center, Lo Sound Desert, and CREEM: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine.

Asteroid-a-Geddon (2020)

“Don’t make the mistake of judging me based on my appearance. Ignorance can be a real bitch.”
— Alexandra Svoboda, the world’s leading punk rock metallurgist and geochemist

This movie has two things going for it: Eric Roberts and no IMDb reviews (at least not at the time of this writing). That means when PPV surfers and VOD streamers discover it on their cable menus (like I did) or on Amazon Prime streams, they’ll hit the IMDb for some plot and production background, and B&S About Movies sees an uptick in traffic. It’s a win-win for everyone. Yes, even for the studio that made it: The Asylum.

Uh, oh.

Is this another Shark Encounters of the Third Kind? And are we finally launching a fleet of mechanized robo-space sharks to save the Earth, you know, like back in good ol’ Godzilla days, when the green guy became a friend of man? Are the space amoebas of Yog (1970) kaiju’in us a space octopus and only marine biologist Eric Roberts can save us?

Nope.

But we do get an asteroid ready to hit the Earth in fifty days. And a bickering multinational summit more interested in their individual country’s ambitions that the world’s safety. And — once again — bad, bad Russians (see Airliner Sky Battle) who don’t listen and launches the nukes everyone told them not to launch — and makes the situation worse, natch. Luckily, we do get Eric Roberts (The Arrangement, Lone Star Deception) with a set of four stars on his shoulders — with his under 10-minutes of screen time spliced throughout the film — to keep us watching. And we get a hot, fuchsia-haired punk rock geochemist (Veronika Issa) to keep us watching . . . and is it just me, or she wearing Ron Keel’s demin vest?

You’ve got the right to rock, and break my heart, Alexandra.

And we get Alex’s cancer-stricken, metallurgist-expert billionaire father who dies before he finds the answer, you know, so we think we’re watching Carl Sagan’s Contact. And we’ve got a Russian shuttle — that look suspiciously like a decommissioned U.S. shuttle — launching rockets, because it makes us think about how the Russians stole our Skylab guidance system in Space Cowboys. And we’ve got a U.S. rocket meant for a Mars mission overhauled to carry a nuclear payload. And we get a CGI space plane, Copernicus, launching a CGI space probe, Aristotle, sporting a nifty rock-splitting laser known as a “Transducer” that punk rock girl built. And we’ve got the Divine Will, lead by one named Malachi (because all religious whack jobs must have a biblical first name), a merry band of mountain-based paramilitary religious nuts who — instead of praising God for giving man the intelligence to build techno-trinkets like a Transducer to stop asteroids — hacks the Tranducer weapons platform to thwart the mission because, well, destroying the asteroid defies “God’s Will.” And we get weapons that don’t work so — instead of being hit by one big ass rock — we’re bombarded by, as the title implies, an CGI asteroid-a-geddon that lays waste to Las Vegas and the Philippines. Oh, and Australia, but that’s okay; the “hits” are mostly in the unpopulated Outback, because, well, what’s a few dead aborigine natives down under when you’re covering up your f-ing up Armageddon.

And what we don’t get and desperately need: more past-their-prime celebrity actors that make these Asylum mockbuster disaster rips so much fun in the first place. Yeah, it’s cool to have Eric Roberts on board — even if he sits in a chair the whole time. But where’s Ian Zierling (as a hero astronaut), Tara Reid (as the Geo-scientist), and John Heard (as the religious nut) when we need them?

To that end: Most of the actors here are new the game, with our leading-lady Veronika Issa making her big screen debut in Fast and Fierce: Death Race, released by The Asylum earlier this year. The real standout of the cast is the most experienced actor of the cast — sans Eric Roberts — Craig Gellis, as Malachi. His 70-plus resume features support roles in TV series across the Big Three networks, including a leading role in the recently reviewed indie-horror Legend of the Muse. He’s really good here, so we’re looking forward to seeing more of him on screen — and in bigger, marquee-quality roles.

In the writing and directing chair we have reformed stunt man Geoff Meed˟*, who racked up 60-plus acting credits in TV series and indie films (and a role in Fast Five) before an on-set injury led him on a journey as a prolific screenwriter — with 14 credits since 2007. We reviewed Meed’s Final Draft and Canon Red debut in our quest to review all things Amityville* with 2011’s The Amityville Haunting. And if you’ve spent any time with the SyFy Channel or got swept up in the streaming-verse, you’ve watch his mockbuster-penned flicks Bermuda Tentacles, Independents’ Day, Operation Dunkirk, Atlantic Rim, San Andreas Mega Quake, and yes, his Eric Roberts-starring aerodynamic ode to all things Tom Cruise, 2020’s Top Gunner.

As you can see from the trailer, while the dueling asteroid odes of 1998 — Armageddon and Deep Impact — are clearly the mock-models here, what we’re actually left with is a mock of the Star Wars-inspired** asteroid ode of 1979, Meteor. In that film we also got a lot of Greek designations like Icarus, Orpheus, and Hercules for the rocks and weapons. But we also got James Bond as the rock-expert dude, the dude from the old American Express Card commercials who did a Dario Argento giallo*˟ (Cat o’ Nine Tails) as a boondoggling politician, and Brian Keith from Hardcastle and McCormick ranting with a bad Russian accent about the L.A Dodgers.

However, to Meed’s credit: he does his research and has a way with the techno-exposition, so everyone sounds like the experts they’re suppose to be. And the “science,” while not exactly grounded in reality, sounds convincing, never the less. But isn’t it all just a wee-bit too talky? Yes. Do we want more CGI-action? Yes. But for his second directing credit, Meed’s delivered us a serviceable retro B-flick — and for significantly less green than the $120 million spent on Warner Bros.’ Gerald Butler-starring boondoggle, Geostorm — which received across-the-board negative reviews criticizing it as a “lackluster” and “uninspired” work. And I still haven’t made it all the way through — in spite of its incessant cable airings — and never will. I have, however, since watched the Chinese-made The Wandering Earth three times.

And so it goes for film 600-or-something for good ‘ol Eric. And because of Mr. Roberts, I made it all the way though. And I had a good time. And the next time I see Meed’s name on a film (as with Eric Roberts) I’ll watch it, for Meed’s got the Brett Piper-cum-Mark Polonia to retro-touch I love (Queen Crab).

Now, let me go a eat fudge banana swirl with Dr. Alexandra Svoboda, for she is my punk rock girl.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes short stories and music reviews on Medium.

* Seriously, we really did watch ALL of the Amityville films, as our “Exploring: Amityville” featurette, proves.

** Our love for all things Amityville is only matched by our love for all things Star Wars, as our “Exploring: After Star Wars” featurette, proves.

*˟ Oh, boy! Do we love our Giallo round ‘ere. Check out our “Exploring: Giallo” featurette on the genre.

˟* Several of Meed’s films are available as free-with-ads streams on Tubi TV, so check ’em out:

Amityville Haunting (2011) — screenwriter and director
Airline Disaster (2010) — actor
Atlantic Rim: Resurrection (2018) — screenwriter
Bermuda Tentacles (2014) — screenwriter
D-Day: The Battle of Omaha Beach (2019) — screenwriter and actor
Hold Your Breath (2013) — screenwriter
I Am Omega (2007) — screenwriter and actor
Independents’ Day (2016) — screenwriter
Kickboxer 5: Redemption (1995) — actor
Operation Dunkirk (2016) — screenwriter
San Andreas Mega Quake (2019) — screenwriter
6 Guns (2010) — screenwriter and actor
Universal Soldiers (2007) — screenwriter

Airliner Sky Battle (2020)

Am I nuts paying a $7.99 PPV rental fee for a direct-to-video potboiler from The Asylum? Should I have waited until it appeared on the Syfy Channel for free or, better yet, as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi TV?

Yep.

Ah, but this non-stop action potboiler stars the never disappointing, Chinese-American actress Bai Ling (Dumplings*) hoping back into the cockpit after the fun ride that was Exorcism at 60,000 Feet. And that was, if you haven’t guessed from the title, basically Evil Dead on an airliner. So, does this mean we’re getting a 747 going head-to-head with sharksodactyl?

Oops. Never assume anything when it comes to The Asylum.

This time out, The Asylum dispenses with their usual genre mash-ups and gets back into the mockbuster disaster movie business — under the skilled eye Asylum workhorse Rob Pallatina. You’ve seen his work as an editor and director for the studio with the likes of 2-Headed, 3-Headed, 5-Headed Shark Attack on the Syfy Channel and . . . if you’re a holiday dork like Samuel and I, you’ve watched Pallatina’s Christmas flick oeuvre of A Christmas Wedding Date, A Very Merry Toy Store, and A Very Nutty Christmas. Will we watch the upcoming Dear Christmas, Feliz NaviDAD, and Once Upon a Mainstreet?

With Pallatina’s name on it? Of course, we will! Remember, the B&S About Movies crew worships at the altar of Brett Piper (Queen Crab) and Mark Polonia (Shark Encounters of the Third Kind). Seriously, how can you not like a guy who does his part to bring us movies like Nazis at the Center of the Earth, and now, battling 747s?

So, yes. B&S About Movies is all in with Mr. Pallatina on this, his eight directing effort that, if you know your Pallatina oeuvres like we do, he’s familiar with the airline disasters milieu, courtesy of his third film, which was the 2018 Satan-on-a-plane romp Flight 666. The script comes courtesy of editor and casting director Alex Heerman (reality TV’s America Ninja Warrior and Masterchef) in his screenwriting debut — which we trust we be his first of many Final Draft ditties for The Asylum.

Yeah, I know. Everyone knocks The Asylum. But you know what? Pallatina and Heerman brewed one hell of an entertaining, non-stop over-the-top actioner . . . that’s lacking in realism, rife with strained acting encased in bad sets accentuated with obvious CGI-shots that fail to cover plot holes large enough to, well, fly a 747 through — with plenty of space to spare. But like a celluloid Energizer bunny, this movie just keeps on giving and giving, just like the low-budget Drive-In romps of yore. Just when you think it can’t get any more absurd . . . it does! And we love it!

So, in today’s in today’s sociopolitical climate, it’s all about bad rappin’ the Russians, as Middle Eastern baddies are now cinema passé. But we’re sure U.S. filmmakers will soon be serving up Chinese baddies to pinch-hit for the Reds. Or give us a Russian-China tag team dropping virus-filled bombs from a Goodyear Blimp on a football game in some Black Sunday-cum-Two-Minute Warning knockoff. Eh, so much for Sting’s commentary-out cry regarding Russia’s Cold War foreign policy and MAD doctrine. Obviously, these Reds of Airliner Sky Battle didn’t attend Sting’s October 2017 Russian concerts. Or appreciate Stallone’s big speech at the end of Rocky IV.

So, our cliched bad-Russian operatives are up to their usual international hijinks as they hijack a commercial American jet, which they’ll kamikaze into a nuclear power plant near Washington, D.C. — all for the love of Mother Russia — resulting in a fallout that will devastate the Eastern seaboard. And while the Russians (posing as airplane cleaners; so much for cogs n’ gears of The Patriot Act) go all kamikaze on our Yank asses, the U.S. Air Force — when we’re at Defcon 1 and need to flush the bombers — goes all Keystone Cops. Where’s General Jack Beringer to piss on a sparkplug when we need ’em? Not here! For this is the Asylum-verse, kiddies.

But how is this possible? We’re the world’s foremost superpower! Well, it seems a computer virus locked down the U.S. military mainframe, disabling our ability to launch a counteroffensive, because well, you know, the voting machines hacking-scam became boring.

And who will save us? Why, the marquee named Bai Ling, as Dr. Meili Liu, of course!

Meanwhile, up the air, the crew and passengers of another flight (the new-to-the-screen DeAngelo Davis, Xavi Isreal, and Alyson Gorske; each holding their own with aplomb in their first starring roles), which took off from the same airport, chase down the Russian terrorists. Of course, those passengers have just enough military and civilian-professional training to make it all work. And beware of the free-falling beverage carts!

Yeah, this is a big, dumb, stupid retro-sky where the rules of aerodynamics and physics do not apply . . . and so were the blinded-by-science ’90s actioners this Pallatina-Heerman brouhaha pinches from, such as Die Hard 2 (1990), Speed (1994), Executive Decision (1996), The Rock (1996), Air Force One (1997), and Con Air (1997), and Fast Five (2011). In fact, if you change out the airliner, here, for a skyscraper, and cast the Dwayne Johnson, and have Universal throw in a $120-plus million, you’d have, well Skyscraper. Okay, actually the cheaper-but-fun knockoff Crystal Inferno, aka Inferno: Skyscraper Escape, but you git what we’re gittin’ at, right, Cletus?

* And speaking of Dumplings: Bai Ling and Fruit Chan are back together — in a familiarly-themed film — in the 2019 Cantonese-Mardarin language drama The Abortionist. Nominated in the “Leading Actress” and “Best Director” categories for this year’s Golden Horse Awards held in Taiwan (in November), Ling stars as a Tai chi teacher with a secret life as a black-market abortionist. You’ll remember Ling won dual “Best Supporting Actress” awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards and Golden Horse Awards for Dumplings, Chan’s segment of the Three Extremes omnibus, in 2004.

Hopefully, Ling and Chan will win in their respective categories, which will encourage an American distributor to release The Abortionist in the Western-domestic marketplace. At the very lest, we’ll hopefully be able to see The Abortionist on the free-with-ads stream Tubi TV platform, which afforded us the opportunity to discover and enjoy the recent Asian-imports Daughter and 0.0 MHz.

Argh! Bai Ling lost her leading actress nod to Chen Shu-fang in Little Big Women, while Fruit Chan lost his director’s nod to Chen Yu-hsun for My Missing Valentine. But we still have our fingers crossed The Abortionist will make it to American streaming shores.

You can watch Airliner Sky Battle as a PPV across various cable systems and stream it as a VOD on Amazon Prime and Microsoft, and as a stream or DVD rental from Red Box.

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

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: The Wasp Woman (1959)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally posted this review on January 11, 2020.

Produced and directed by Roger Corman, this movie was originally a double feature with Beast from Haunted Cave. When it was released to TV two years later, a new prologue was added by director Jack Hill to add to its running time.

The musical score from this film may seem familiar, because it’s the same music from Corman’s A Bucket of Blood. It was written by Fred Katz, who sold Corman the same score was used for a total of seven films, including The Little Shop of Horrors and Creature from the Haunted Sea.

Janice Starlin is the founder and owner of a large cosmetics company,  (Susan Cabot). She starts losing money when the public begins to see that she is aging, so her scientists reverse the aging process by using the royal jelly of the queen wasp. It doesn’t work fast enough, so she breaks into her own company’s lab and injects herself multiple times.

So she gets twenty years younger over the weekend, but occasionally transforms into a wasp woman who kills people. At the end, when acid is thrown in her face, that scene was more real than it should have been. Someone had filled the breakaway bottle with water and it was so heavy that when hit her, she thought that her teeth had been knocked out. To make matters worse, the fake smoke used to simulate the acid also choked her. So after she fell through the window, she found herself unable to breathe. To save herself, she tore off her makeup as well as a good chunk of skin around her neck.

Things didn’t get much better in life for Susan Cabot. This was her last film and at the end of her life, she suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts. The psychologist that she was seeing felt that she was so troubled that he could no longer see her and her home was filled with trash and rotting food.

After her mental health continued to worsen, Cabot’s 25-year-old son, Timothy Scott Roman, beat her to death with a weightlifting bar. While he would initially claim that a man in a ninja mask was the killer — thinking that no one would believe her struggles with mental illness — the truth was that she woke him screaming and attacked him with both a scalpel and the barbell. His defense attorneys claimed his aggressive reaction to his mother’s attack was due to the drugs he took to counteract his dwarfism and pituitary gland problems.

Prosecutors changed the charge to voluntary manslaughter at the end of the trial, as no evidence had been presented to support the premeditation required for a murder conviction. Roman, who had already spent two-and-a-half years in jail, was sentenced to three years’ probation.

Corman remade this with director Jim Wynorski for his Roger Corman Presents series on Showtime.

You can watch this on Tubi and Amazon Prime. You can also watch it with the Cinematic Titanic crew riffing on it on Tubi.

D.C. Cab (1983)

D.C. Cab was one of the first videos I ever rented from Prime Time Video as a kid and it’s got a great cast, which is probably what got me to grab it. Beyond Mr. T., you have Max Gail from Barney Miller as the owner of the cab company, Adam Baldwin as the son of his best friend who comes to help, Charlie Barnett (who actually won the SNL job over Eddie Murphy but was too nervous to come back for a follow-up; he sadly died of AIDS at the age of 41), Marsha Warfield from Night Court, a pre-Politically Incorrect Bill Maher, Gary Busey (speaking of politically incorrect, little to none of his dialogue could be in a movie made today), DeWayne Jessie (who literally became his Otis Day character and toured with that name), Paul Rodriguez, Whitman Mayo (Grady from Sanford and Son), the Barbarian Brothers (making this one of two Barbarian Brothers movies that Kino Lorber releases this month), Bob Zmuda,  Bloodsport director Newt Arnold, Jill Schoelen (the crush of all teen crushes), Timothy Carey as a maniac who calls himself the Angel of Death and Irene Cara as herself.

It’s directed by Joel Schumacher, who either does movies that are remembered for the right reasons like The Lost Boys or movies that are remembered for the wrong reasons like Batman and Robin.

This is the ultimate hijinks ensue movie, as each character gets a moment and a little story of their own. It’s not a great movie, but it’s certainly a fun one, which sometimes is even better. The story is as simple as the boys of D.C. Cab against the city government and the Emerald Cab Company. Seriously, that’s pretty much as deep as it gets, but these are the kind of movies that you find yourself watching every time they come on cable, right? Do they still come on cable?

I’m happy to have this movie in my collection. It’s a great reminder of the time when you could find something like this movie on the rental shelves.

You can get this from Kino Lorber, who has just released it on blu ray.

The Control (2018)

In order to keep space travelers safe and sane on long trips across the stars, a cutting-edge computer-brain interface must be created. Mike, the programmer, and Eric, a neurochemist, begin to work on the most sophisticated virtual reality system ever conceived.

However, they begin to argue about how to create that program and Mike’s muse gets trapped inside the program. Now, he must go through multiple infinite worlds to find her, places where reality does not always work. Can he bring reality back and save his world?

Made in Windsor, Ontario by Michael Stasko and Eric Schiller, who wrote, directed, produced and starred in this film, this is a meditation on the effects of manipulating reality. It’s definitely not a movie you can watch as background noise and must be paid attention to.

The budget is low while the concept is high. While it has a slow start, once those big ideas kick in, you’ll forgive its inexpensive origins and savor the big thinking. Or you’ll think it’s completely ridiculous claptrap. I belong to the former camp, but as I’ve known of films, your mileage may vary.

You can learn more on the official Facebook page and watch this on Amazon Prime.

Banging Lanie (2020)

“Oh, come on, robot girl, embrace the technology.”
— Lanie Burroughs being schooled on the fine art of vibrators

In our review of the radio comedy Loqueesha, we discussed the creative art of filmmaking and, as result of those artistic frustrations, the passion projects, aka vanity projects, developed by unknown, burgeoning actors as their calling card to the industry.

And as with Brit Marling and Another Earth (2011) and Fay Ann Lee with Falling for Grace (2006) — and the recently reviewed The App by Elisa Fuksas, Bethany Brooke Anderson’s Burning Kentucky, The Girls of Summer by Tori Titmas, and Mindy Bledsoe’s The In-Between — before her, North Carolina-to-Los Angeles actress Allison Powell has spent most of her adult life in the world of community theater, following the star-embossed sidewalks of her adopted hometown. As she consistently scored roles in indie shorts and features she, as all working actors do, toiled on the audition circuit and hoped for that “big break” on a major film or TV series. (Been there, done that. And it ain’t an easy life, trust me.)

Making It!

So Allison decided the time had come to “make it happen” and show ol’ Tinseltown she had the chops to make it in la-la land. So, working as her own producer, screenwriter, and director* — and inspired by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg — she decided to make a female-centric version of their 2007 hit, Superbad, only with a twist.

Instead of crossing a “chick flick” with an Apatow-raunch and giving us just another flick with women out prove the “weaker sex” can equal men in the lust and vulgarity, and sexual frankness and insecurity departments (Bridesmaids, Trainwreck, Bachelorette), Allison Powell aspired for something higher. She knew should could do better than just churn out a female-driven version of The Hangover. No, she wasn’t going to Bechdel test audiences into submission to notice her work.

Streamers evoke Booksmart — the directorial debut of The O.C actress Olivia Wilde — in their feedback on Banging Lanie. And the comparison makes sense, as those same streamers liken Wilde’s debut as a female-empowered Superbad (which also makes sense, as Beanie Feldstein, the lead in Booksmart, is the sister of Jonah Hill, who starred in Superbad).

But why must we, when discussing gender portrayals in film, critique a female-made film against another female-created film? Is not that, in fact, going against the grains of the inequality issues raised by the Bechdel test?

Allison Powell has certainly crafted a tarty-written film that is nasty and funny, but with warmth substituted for over the top, bawdy humor. So, as I watched Powell’s overly logical and socially-disconnected Lanie Burroughs take an MIT-Amy Farrah Fowler approach to the “societal tropes” of sex and dating — and unintentionally coming off as abrasive and rude to everyone around her in the process — I’m reminded of the misguided exploits of Enid, the graphic novel creation of Daniel Clowes in the pages of Ghost World, which Terry Zwigoff (Bad Santa) brought to the screen two decades earlier.

Math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries!

“Oh, no, no. Are you taking notes?”
“Mm-mm, I need specific tips, area, pressure, style.”

— Lanie Burroughs, the girl who leaves nothing to chance, not even vibrator usage

As with Feldstein’s Molly (from Booksmart), Amy Farrah Fowler, and Enid, Lanie is a virgin. She’s never been in love. Or had a crush. Or been kissed. Or had an awkward dance with a guy. Then, a guy — an Adonis with a brain — transfers to her sex education class. And, as with Allison Powell’s real life motto of “making it happen,” Lanie decides to get her head out of the books — somewhat — and develops a theory to quickly cram four years of high school romance before she graduates and heads off to college. And in her relentless pursuit to be in control of everything, she catalogs everything in a notebook. And her new boyfriend finds the notebook. And while Lanie may not be ready to write a sequel to David Reuben’s 1969 best-seller Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), she’s finally learned the art of human connections — and that we are not just a bunch of lusting, biomechanical engines.

“When sexuality fails as a means of communication and provides only physical relief, then Eros is sick.”
— Michelangelo Antonioni

You can watch Banging Lanie courtesy of Indie Rights Films as a newly-issued, free-with-ads stream on Tubi TV. You can learn more about the film on its official Facebook page. Other Indie Rights releases we’ve reviewed include Double Riddle, Edge of Extinction, and Making Time.

From the “Film trivia that you won’t find on a Trivial Pursuit card Department“: Lola Noh, Allison Powell’s producer on Banging Lanie, got her start in the business as an actress (as result of her gymnastics skills) portraying the lovable gorilla Amy in Congo. Hey, it’s all about the trivia and hyperlinks here at B&S About Movies.

* For other L.A.-transplanted actors working as their own producers, screenwriters and directors, please visit our recent reviews for the film-festival winners Cold Feet by Allen C. Gardner and Chris Levine’s No Way Out. For a couple of self-financed, indie writer-directors successfully taking on L.A. by way of the festival circuit, check out our reviews of The Invisible Mother and Shedding.


About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publish music reviews and short stories on Medium.

Disclaimer: We did not receive a review request from the film’s director, distributor, or P.R firm. We discovered the film on our own and truly enjoyed the movie.