Alien Beasts (1991)

“My friend Joe put on anti-radiation clothing and tried to stop the female enemy agent! My friend Joe, I repeat, put on anti-radiation clothing and tried to stop the female enemy agent from stealing the weapons from the base.”

If you’re wondering, why is that line repeated, perhaps you should steer as clear as possible from Alien Beasts, a movie that has no story, no meaning and no real reasons to recommend it to you, dear reader. To call this a movie is the most charitable and kind thing I’ve ever written.

This movie is constant repetition broken by moments of absolute weirdness and gore, then replaced once against by computer generated titles that appear to tell us “Security camera inoperable” while that is voiced over and over again.

And then it happens all over again.

Carl J. Sukenick wrote and directed this movie, in which he also plays Carl J. Sukenick, the commander of the CIA, which mainly consists of sending his friends to do backyard chopsockery while his bored father stays behind in the security center, which one can only imagine is the family couch.

The film claims that it gives you the opporunity to “See the ultimate action-packed adventure of a lifetime as Earth is attached by hideous, evil creatures from an extradimensional universe.”

Yeah, sure.

An agent named Neal was sent out to deal with the terrorist threat, but he was a traitor and has been mutated by radiation. So Carl must send Sara Shell, her husband Mark and their daughter Sheila to deal with things, but they’re all killed as well. Hell, they cut off poor Sara’s hand!

By the end of this, well, film, Carl must kill all of his friends before hunting down the hideous extra-dimensional being, which we are to assume comes from a place beyond our understanding, a universe of claymation.

Look, you can talk down on this movie all you want, but somehow Carl was smart enough to somehow get it out into the world and charged people $31.95 to see it. People bought it. Some people may have even rented it. Heck, I just wasted 74 minutes of my life watching it.

You can consider this a successful art project on many levels, the least of which was completing it. The foremost amongst it is that in the scene where the female enemy agent is caught and is forced to strip and have her breasts touched while someone says, “I must punish you,” Carl sent his friend Joe LaPenna home and did the stunt work with a masked and half-nude woman. Carl knew what he wanted and did it. He’s pretty much an auteur. Or aa maniac. Maybe both.

If you’ve ever wanted to hear narration of a film by someone who seems like they’re instead attempting to do their remedial reading homework instead of dialogue we are to assume that they have written, all while numerous people are horribly killed with some of the most homemade effects you’ve ever witnessed, then sit on down for some Alien Beasts. Here’s hoping you survive the experince.

Space Chase (1990)

“To rule the galaxy, an evil dictator kidnaps a scientist and steals his invention, which will provide limitless energy for his robots.”
— Where have we heard this story before, Mr. Copywriter?

Uh, I have, in fact, seen this movie before . . . and George Lucas didn’t make it: Alfonzo Brescia made it back in 1977 and it was called Star Odyssey and the “energy invention” was Iridium/Etherium. The scientist who discovered it was subsequently kidnapped and a space rogue and the scientist’s space beauty of a daughter recruits a not-so-Magnificent Seven to save the universe — which is why this movie (just by the trailer alone) looks way older than its 1990 VHS-release date.

This time around, in the year 2097, the good doctor Ivan Integgin (which sounds like Iridium/Etherium), the head of the powerful Omega Institute, discovers a self-rejuvenating energy source, called Egrin (it sounds like, oh, never mind). It’s the answer the human race has hoped for to save the Earth!

Uh, hold on there, Starbuck . . . not if the evil Doctor Croam has a say about it. He plans, with his black-clad stormtroopers, to enslave the galaxy by stealing the discovery. And not even the Rebel Alliance, the United Galaxy’s Royal Fighters can stop him. But Han Solo Ryan Chase, a galactic bounty hunter and soldier of fortune (with gambling debts and a price on his head, natch), along with his Wookie buddy, Chewbacca, Arto, his blue-skinned Chameloid sidekick, Gloria, his smart-mouthed onboard computer, and the smart-mouthed (she’s not a skank!) Princess Leia galactic princess, Aurora, they’ll rescue Doctor Integgin and save the galaxy!

Yikes. Even the cover reeks of rotted, coagulated milk proteins.

What’s great about revisiting these VHS ditties all these digital years later is our celluloid Schadenfreude in the efforts of the young, burgeoning filmmakers who worked on the films, when they social media resurface to share their frustrations with their film’s troubled production. And in the case of Space Chase, this time it’s not the IMDb or a Facebook thread, but You Tube, as three of the actors — Bill Freed, aka actor Philip Notaro (an agent forced the stage-name change; he stars as Tane), Traci Caitlyn, aka actress Traci Hart (Princess Aurora), and Barry James Hickey (our rogue hero, Ryan Chase) — swap memories via the user thread on the embedded trailer (seen below).

And since we’ve never heard of nor seen this film — only first learning of it by way of our review for Star Crystal (this week), by way of that film’s screenwriter Eric Woster serving as the cinematographer on this film — we’ll have to use their insights to describe the film to you. Is Space Chase intended as a homage to the Italian Star Wars clones* of old?

Your guess is as good as ours.

While it looks like it was shot several years earlier during the Italian “Pasta Wars” craze of the early ’80s** (or, at the very least, languished on the shelf for several years before its release), writer, producer, and director Nick Kimaz’s non-union film was actually shot in 1989 in Palmdale, California. His mom did all of the “too spicy” homemade catering. At least one of the actresses, Julie Nine (starred as Romy), allegedly posed for Playboy — and she threw a fit on-set when her (expensive?) jacket was stolen from the set. Actress Traci Hart ended up dating and having a long-term relationship with Nick’s brother, Tom, who served as the film’s soundman, and she almost had Nick as a brother-in-law. If you’ve actually seen this obscurity, we’ll settle your bets: Nick Kimaz rented the baddie “black stormtroopers” costumes of Skeletor’s forces from Masters of the Universe from Cannon Pictures, as well as the props and sets from Battlestar Galactica from Universal. Yep, the starfighters were kitbashed from SR-71 model kits (actually, the in-camera model effects are the best part of the movie).

What’s really cool is that three of the film’s other actors who got their start in the business on Space Chase are still in the business. Michael Gaglio’s 87th film, Copperhead Creek, is in-production and Art Roberts is on his 193-indie credit with a role in the currently-in-production American Soldier. Then there’s the recognizable Patrick Hume. While he’s on his 67th project with the in-production Cockroaches, he’s guest-starred on the top-rated TV series Criminal Minds, NCIS: Los Angeles, The Rookie, S.W.A.T, and Sons of Anarchy.

When you consider Roland Emmerich’s Moon 44 was released in the same year, and that Space Chase was made thirteen years after the George Lucas inspiration it blatantly rips off, and that it looks like Alfonzo Brescia shot it as a “Pasta Wars” sequel to his Star Odyssey from 1979, these galactic proceedings make the plastic-verse of Glen Larson’s Buck Rogers in the 25th Century look good. And if you know my disdain for that series. . . . Is Space Chase so-bad-it’s-fun as Space Mutiny or Escape from Galaxy 3, which serve as the pinnacles in space opera awfulness?

No, not quite, but Space Chase makes Eric Woster’s other space romp, Star Crystal, look even better. But if there’s ever a movie that needs to be dumped onto a Mill Creek 50-film pack, Space Chase is it. For it is a film that needs to be saved and transformed into a MST3K’d classic. How did this NOT end up on a Commander USA’s Groovie Movies or USA’s Up All Night movie block? How is it, across multiple video store memberships and my celluloid diving the discount bins and close-outs of video stores, never encountered a copy of this movie?! Yet . . . it ends up in dubbed in Turkey and Russia and clipped on You Tube? Ye programming executives of Comet TV: I hereby implore thou to get a copy of this film onto the channel, forthwith. If you can program Convict 762 and Timelock (both reviewed, this week), then you can program this well-intentioned, valiant Wiseauian space effort on your channel.

So, thanks Nick Kimaz. Thanks to you, today was a good today. For I enjoyed myself as I discovered a new, cool obscurity and I have a digital platform to share it with the readers of B&S About Movies. Yeah, a great day, indeed. Now, I need to get a VHS copy for my collection. To eBay . . . and beyond!

Sadly, there’s no free or PPV streaming copies of Space Chase on the web — not even on You Tube or TubiTV, where all lost VHS’ers of the ’80s go to die. Well, not to worry, in addition to the trailer (embedded above), and thanks to this film’s rabid fanbase, we found ten scenes/clips from the film that we’ve compiled into one convenient-to-stream, You Tube playlist. Enjoy!

* We’re reviewed all of those “clones” — well, we thought we did until Space Chase showed up! — with our “Attack of the Clones,” “Ten Star Wars Ripoffs,” and “Exploring: After Star Wars Droppings” featurettes.

** We paid tribute to ‘ol Uncle Al’s five Star Wars ripoffs with our past “Drive-In Friday: Pasta Wars Night with Alfonzo Brescia” featurette.

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

Primal Scream (1988)

If you’ve surfed around our little ol’ slice of the web for a time, you know us QWERTY-bangin’ fools of the B&S About Movies cubicle farm in good ol’ Allegheny County love our regional and SOV filmmakers. Be it Don Dohler (The Alien Factor, Nightbeast) or Brett Piper (Queen Crab) — and regardless what the mainstream audience thinks of those filmmakers — we run the banners on-high for those ambitious, up-against-the-budget self-made auteurs. Our extensive reviews for such shoe-string produced, regional ditties as Richmond, Virginia’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel, Providence, Rhode Island’s It’s a Complex World, Atlanta, Georgia’s Evil in the Woods, and SOV’ers like John Howard’s Spine, Christopher Lewis’s Blood Cult, and Blair Murphy’s Jugular Wine, are evidence of that fact. Now we’re adding — it’s about frackin’ time — William J. Murray’s Primal Scream to the list. However, unlike most regional and SOV films, which take the more cost-effective shot-in-the-woods horror route, Murray, along with his writing partner Dan Smeddy, upped the game by deciding to honor their sci-fi idol, Ridley Scott.

Yes. I said Ridley Scott. On a shoe-string budget.

It took guts, four sets of balls, and helleva lotta misguided hootspa. And we love Murray and his crew of intrepid, novice dreamers for it. Call Primal Scream dime-store. Call it inept. But the in-camera miniatures, space suits and plastic-cum-cardboard set designs work and the just-staring-out, unknown cast sells the Murray-Smeddy sci-noir verse with class. As with Tommy Wiseau’s years later The Room: Primal Scream displays a lot of heart and you can’t help but enjoy the ride.

The Primal Scream VHS released in 1988 by Magnum Entertainment that I remember/images courtesy of cassiescottagets/eBay.

Beginning its production in 1981 and starting its two-year stop-start production process in 1983 under the title Hellfire — and shot, not on 16mm or video, but in 35mm — this Blade Runner-cum-Alien-inspired future world set in a Chinatown-styled 1997 concerns the discovery Hellfire, a new, highly volatile energy source mined on Saturn’s moons (for a pinch of Peter Hyams’s Outland from 1981). The mining operation leads to the usual sociopolitical bickering between a Weyland-inspired multinational corporate and interplanetary ecologists, as well corporations vying for a piece of the “green new deal.” Who cares if Hellfire earned its name by igniting human flesh and boiling internal body parts into goo. Hey, it’s “clean energy,” so says John Kerry, and it’s everywhere in space. So mine it!

When the controversy over Hellfire results in the brutal murder of a high-ranking Thesaurus corporate executive, Caitlin Foster (Julie Miller), his femme fatale sister (uh, oh), hires the Philip-Marlowe-inspired Corby McHale (Ken McGregor; yeah, he was in X-Men and Prom Night IV, but we remember him best for Ed Hunt’s The Brain), a burnt-out private investigator slumming in what’s left of Atlantic City, New Jersey, to sort out who’s behind the sabotage of the Hellfire project (foretelling Moon 44, Roland Emmerich’s own Ridley Scott-inspired film noir). Along the way, McHale picks up a spunky sidekick in the form of Lt. Sam Keller (Sharon Mason). Part of the interstellar corporate intrigue is Charlie Waxman, a seedy local bookie (Mickey Shaughnessy in his final film role; yes, he was in the classics From Here to Eternity and Jailhouse Rock, but this writer remembers ol’ Mickey best for his first sci-fi bow in the Stanley Kubrickian forefather, 1955’s Conquest of Space).

Impressive! I’m convinced.

When it came time to take advantage of the Blu-ray format to give Primal Scream a well-deserved, proper digital reissue in 2018, William J. Murray set forth to create the 45-minute making-of documentary Made a Movie, Lived to Tell, which is included on the Code Red Blu-ray reissue. The Blus are also easily available on Amazon, but analog purists (moi) can still find used VHS copies on eBay. (It took a few years of diving the discount bins of a couple-dozen home video store close outs before I had my own, beat-to-hell copy for my personal collection.) You can learn more about Primal Scream and its accompanying documentary at its official Facebook page and Dark Force Entertainment Facebook. If you’re into caveat emptor’in your Blus before you buy, you can get the technical specs at Blu-Ray.com.

What I love about this Primal Scream reissue is that William J. Murray, unlike Philip Cook’s low-budgeted similar space romp Beyond the Rising Moon (1987; equally-enjoyed and reviewed this week), stuck to his original vision and didn’t add any years-after-the-fact CGI patches. The 2018 Blu is the same movie we enjoyed in 1988 on VHS — only in a crisp and clean restoration.

If you’re into passionate, low-budget sci-fi, be sure to check out our reviews for not only Beyond the Rising Moon, but Ares 11, Space Trucker Bruce, and Monty Light’s recent offering, Space. And Primal Scream is a great addition to your sci-fi digital library.

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

Beyond the Rising Moon (1987)

It all began in the mid-’80s when independent Virginia filmmaker Philip Cook produced his first feature film — for a reported $8,000. Known as Pentan, after the film’s title character, his low-budgeted effort saw a limited, regional theatrical distribution as Beyond the Rising Moon in 1987. By the mid-’90s, before the Sci-Fi Channel added the double-Ys, the film played under the cable title — with a little CGI revamping — as Star Quest: Beyond the Rising Moon in 1995. Then, with the advent of the DVD age and digital streaming, Cook, who was never satisfied with the end product, re-edited the film — with a second batch of then, more-current CGI effects — and reissued the film as Outerworld in 2007 for Amazon Prime and Netflix streaming. The subsequent DVD-release includes the 1995 cut of Star Quest: Beyond the Rising Moon, along with a 15-minute “making of” featurette, a 10-minute deleted scenes reel, and art galleries tracing the film’s production.

If you read our recent reviews for Ares 11, Space Trucker Bruce, and Monty Light’s recent offering, Space, you know we love our inventive, up-against-the-budget “in space” flicks. And, as with those films, considering Cook completed the first version on a limited budget, the models and miniatures he designed, and the costumes and the “worlds” he created are a lot of fun to watch. The acting, while everyone is certainly giving the best to their abilities (they’re “underplaying” too much), is not a lot of fun to watch. It’s not awful, but we’re not exactly getting Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford with our leads.

In a world where Aliens meets Star Wars — with pinches of Blade Runner (and foretells Roland Emmerich’s later Moon 44), we meet Pentan (Tracy Davis, in her acting debut; vanished from the biz shortly after), an Earth-made, genetically-engineered female cyborg used by a Weyland-styled corporation to clean up their galactic messes. Designed without emotions, she finally comes to develop a conscious and wants out. The “out” comes in form of her newest assignment: track down the location of a crashed alien ship. Since the technology is worth millions, Pentan decides to double cross her employer and sell the technology on the open market. So, in order for our faux-Replicant Ripley to pull off this space caper, she needs a “Han Solo” as a partner: he comes in the form of Brickman (Hans Bachmann, in his acting debut, vanished from the biz shortly after), a desperate space rogue with a price on his head and a ship-for-hire.

The mid-’90s VHS. Thanks, Paul!

In the end: The practical effects, matte paintings, blue screens and plate shots (there were no large sets; actors were “processed” into miniatures), and spaceship miniatures produced in 1987 as Beyond the Rising Moon, is the best version of the film. While more money was spent — just over $120,000 — on the subsequent 1995 and 2007 reissues, the CGI didn’t make the galactic proceedings any better. And while the CGI is weak, it doesn’t mesh well with the practical effects and makes those ’80s-era effects look ever more dated than they are. This was the same problem many of us has with George Lucas’s constant re-tweaking of his initial Star Wars trilogy, in his attempt to have his first trilogy meshed with the new trilogy. The once acceptable, late ’80s miniatures from the Gerry Anderson Space: 1999-verse of Cook’s vision simply do not mesh with 21st century CGI. So, in our opinion, it’s ’87 theatrical over the ’95 Sci-Fi Channel version — and both of those version over the 2007 streaming version.

If you’ve exposed yourself to a lot of ’80s VHS-era sci-fi movies (such as moi), the production levels of Beyond the Rising Moon may evoke memories of New World Pictures’ better-known, 1986 direct-to-video feature, Star Crystal*. While that weak Alien-cum-E.T hybrid may have had the touch-of-Corman to its credit (but a still-strained cast of first-time-and-soon-gone actors), it makes Philip Cook’s efforts even more impressive. A little bit more money and more-established actors at his disposal, Cook’s debut could have risen to the level of William Malone’s Creature, which goes down as one of the best Alien-clones.

Yeah, I dig this movie. As an actor myself, I’d would have enjoyed working on this film.

While you can watch the later versions on streaming platforms, stick with this superior 1987 version — and be impressed by its creativity and ingenuity — that we found on You Tube. You can learn more about the film’s production and check out stills on Philip Cook’s official website for Eagle Films. While there, you can learn more about his other sci-fi films, Invader (1992) and Despiser (2003).

* We’ve never gotten around to giving Star Crystal a full review proper, but we do discuss it in passing as part of our “A Whole Bunch of Alien Rip-Offs” and “Ten Movies that Ripped-Off Alien” featurettes.

Update: Never say never . . . when a film gets stuck in your head, argh! We finally gave Star Crystal a review proper, it’s coming up at 6 PM this evening.

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

Hyper Space (1989)

So, yeah. Roger Corman made Battle Beyond the Stars, then recycled the sets, the models, the costumers, and the effects shots into Galaxy of Terror, Forbidden World, and Space Raiders, then lent it all out to Fred Olen Ray to make Star Slammer (1986). Sadly, ol’ Roger didn’t loan it all out to Silver Star Film Company . . . uh, oh . . . not the same Philippine purveyors of all manner of ’80s post-apoc and Rambo ripoffs by the likes of Jun Gallardo and Teddy Chiu? They actually tried to do a Star Wars-cum-Alien knockoff?

Yes. It’s true. Teddy Chiu’s — aka Page, aka Ted Johnson, aka Irvin Johnson (you know the aka-drill with Philippine auteurs) — Silver Star Films made the Kessel Run with director Carribou Seto, aka David Hue, aka David Huey (his credit for Hyper Space).

Oh, man. A Philippine Star Wars? Roll the tape!

Thanks, Paul! We can always count on you for a clean JPEG of an obscure VHS cover.

So . . . as in the Ridley Scott-James Cameron-verse, and as in William Malone’s superior, four years earlier rip, Creature (1985), space is run by a ne’er-do-well corporation in the 21st Century who sends out Dark Star-styled crews in long-range vessels to — instead of blowing unstable planets to harbinger colonization — dispose of Earth’s chemical pollution and nuclear waste into “hyper space,” otherwise known as “The Black Forest.”

Well, wouldn’t you know it, the ship malfunctions and wakes the crew out of their cryo-sleep and they realize they’ve drifted off course . . . and a fuel leak leaves them marooned in deep space . . . and the shuttle craft that can save them can only hold two passengers, aka “the life boat.” So, in between the Alien and Dark Star pinching, we’re also pinching ol’ Uncle Al Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, which, if you’ve been following along with our reviews during our May “Space Week,” got the Alien-remake treatment in 1981 and again in 1993 (yep, reviews are coming this week). And, wait a sec . . . since this is an an outer space “eco-message” film, we better toss Silent Running on the list. Of course, since everyone is turning on each other for those coveted shuttle seats, John Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is tossed into the narrative mix.

Of course, while we love ’em: Lynn Holly Johnson ain’t no Tallulah Bankhead and Don Stroud ain’t no Humphrey Bogart. Oh, man . . . the careers this way-over-their-heads Philippine star mess destroys: Richard Norton (Equalizer 2000), Don Stroud (The Amityville Horror), and no, say it ain’t so Ron O’Neal . . . you were Superfly . . . Superfly! And Lynn? Yeah, you did The Sisterhood for Cirio H. Santiago back in 1988, but . . . oh, never mind. And for the wrestling fans — were talking at you, Paul Andolina of Wrestling With Film — we’ve got Big John Studd and Professor Toru Tanaka. And yes, that is a Van Patten brother, but not the one who portrayed Tom Roberts in Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, that was Vince; we get James, here. Basically, it’s all of the actors that we get jazzed about at B&S About Movies . . . and it just hurts to see them desperate and scrounging for paychecks from Silver Star Film Company tackling, of all things, the Scott-Cameron-Lucas-verse.

Seriously. It breaks your heart. You just want to invite them all over to your house for the Thanksgiving weekend and put one of mom’s home cooked meals in their stomachs and embarrass them with your knowledge — and library — of their film careers.

The marketing and running times on Hyper Space are all over the place, with the initial U.S. VHS-versions running at 90 minutes. Then there’s two more versions: one at 81 minutes (with all of the nudity cut) and 87 minute-versions (that leave the nudity and cut the violence). Originally released in 1989, Hyper Space has been popping up in the foreign marketplace over the years as grey market DVD-Rs with the bogus “copyright” years of 1993, 1998, 1999, 2017, and 2019 under the titles Space Rangers, Space Rangers: Hyperspace, Black Forest: The Rage in Space, Black Forrest, and The Rage in Space. Oh, and don’t mix up the 1989 Philippine one with the somewhat coveted, North Carolina-shot Star Wars spoof Gremloids (1984) — which also goes by the the alternate title of Hyperspace (all one word) — written and directed by Todd Durham, who gave us the hugely successful Hotel Transylvania animated franchise.

Sadly, even with all of the grey market DVD reissues, there are no online streams nor a VHS rip of Hyper Space to share, leaving this bottom-of-the-barrel knockoff of a Corman-light Alien knockoff truly lost to the ages.

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

Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (1984)

Based on the 1976 John Varley short story, this was a co-production between New York PBS station WNET and Toronto’s RSL Productions. The budget was high, so they cut costs by shooting it on video and selling it to smaller American cable companies, as well as CDC and PBS’ American Playhouse.

Aram Fingal (Raul Julia, before I could say things like “Raul Julia deserves better”), a programmer who has been caught watching Casablanca at his work and pays for that crime by having his mind placed into the brain of a baboon before his mind is active and becomes lost in the system.

Somehow, Aram ends up becoming Rick Blaine and getting the person in charge of getting rid of him, Apollonia Jones, to fall in love with him.

PBS also made The Lathe of Heaven around this time, which is wild that they were ahead of the cyberpunk trend. Too bad this movie has the production values it does, because the SOV style does not serve a movie that is trying so hard to be of the future.

You can watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 riff of this on Tubi.

Games of Survival (1989) Badlanders (1992)

Writer and director Armand Gazarian has written two (Double Cross and Badlanders) and directed five (including the IMDb-barren pages for Streets of War and The Searcher) SOV/direct-to-video features. As result of my post-apoc fandom, I’ve seen the two we’re reviewing today. And that’s probably two more than you.

At least until now.

Yep, this all comes courtesy of Sam the Bossman devising another “Apoc Week,” so this is as good a time as any to hip you to the ’80s SOV canons of Armand Gazarian. Hey, anyone who decides to eschew the usual horror route for Road Warrior tomfoolery in the SOV-doms of the VHS wastelands is aces in my book.

So, is this Gazarian SOV-apoc one-two punch better than the adventures of Ace Hunter — in the utterly awful — Megaforce from Hal Needham? Oh, by the Kobol Lords, yes! Uh, yeah, right, Hal. You willfully made a “campy” and “spoofy” movie. Sure, you did. That’s what they all say when their movie bombs and sweeps the Golden Raspberries to pull a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You had $20 million of Albert S. Ruddy and Golden Harvest Studios money to play with and made crap, Hal. Armand Gazarian shot his apoc-romps on couch coins, lunch money, and paper route income. He had chicken shit and made a chicken salad. And you turned your poultry and greens into daggit dung.

So guess who got my .99 cents? That’s right, Uncle Al. I will always err to the side of SOV-made movies. Always. For I bow at the SOV altars of Lord Brett Piper and High Priest Dennis Devine where Armand Gazarian is an obvious disciple.

Not a spoof cover. That is the real VHS cover. More on the “S,” later.

Now, we kid our ol’ Uncle Hal and Al because, as you watch the opening pursuit of our ersatz man with no name — okay, well, his name is Zane — you’ll notice that (impressive) low-budget rat buggy looks a lot like the goofy dune buggies from Megaforce. And the homages don’t stop there, as we’re getting a pinch of Allan Arkush and Nicholas Niciphor’s always cool-in-my-book-even-though-it-ain’t-Rollerball Deathsport. Now, if you’ve never watched that terminally weird Corman apoc (shame on you), that David Carradine and Richard Lynch-starrer concerns a post-apoc dictator forcing prisoners into games of motorcycle-gladiatorial combat.

Hey, wait a sec . . . we’ve been def-conned! We’re not on a post-apoc Earth! We’re on a post-apoc planet in a galaxy far, far away. And our faux Max-cum-Pliskken, Zane (Nicolas Hill), is now a prisoner aboard a space prison. The prison’s cloaked-lizard warden, in a bit of galactic glasnost, decides he’ll offer freedom to seven of his ne’er-do-well charges to “play a game of strength, skill, and survival.” The game field: Los Angeles, Earth. The object of the game: Return our BSG-inspired Imperious Leader’s cherished family heirloom: a spiked ball, hidden on the L.A. game field. The penalty for not playing the game or attempting to escape: your head is Bob Hauk’d off of your body via an embedded micro-sensor.

And, with that, Zane, along with the likes of the Conan the Barbarian-clad Skullblaster, Moozy, Baarg, Zooloj, Gygon, and Minig, are dropped into their present-day Los Angeles battlefield. Of course, the action is inept, as it is shot on the fly, sans permits, which provides us with a well intention — or ill intended — comedic effect. Of course, our alien warriors are sometimes confused or frightened by Earth technology and culture — and get cruised by gay men — but they do love our pizza. Of course, love must ensue, and to that end, as Jack Deth hooked up with Helen Hunt in Trancers, Zane meets Cindy Sexton — who introduces him to the freeze-dried Celestes and helps him win his freedom. Oh, wait . . . this is more Highlander (“There can be only one!”) than Trancers, so it’s be-still-my-beating-heart Roxanne Hart (who is still breaking my heart in a 2019 episode of NBC-TV’s The Blacklist) rollin’ in my VHS-cortexes.

You’ll have a lot of fun watching this SOV take of Richard Connell’s 1932-inspiring short story, The Most Dangerous Game. But, if you’d rather not, give this four minute sampling (embedded below) a spin. My only two complaints with Game(s) of Survival: I wish the VHS rip was of a better quality, as it’s obvious the tape used on the upload we found on You Tube has seen its better days, as it is washed out and darkened. Second, the opening scene with that Philippines-styled armed dune buggy is so good, I wish Armand Gazarian would have held his game on an alien planet and given us an SOV version of Charles Band’s Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn — instead of Fred Olen Ray’s Alienator. But any guy who channels his milk money and his aunt’s and grandma’s birthday money to homage Death Race 2000, Endgame, and Rome 2072, is okay in my book.

Ah, but wait! That Earth-bound snafu is solved — somewhat — with our second film in today’s Armand Gazarian double feature: Badlanders.


Settle down, kids. Badlanders is also known as Prison Planet. At least there’s no errant “S” to deal with, as in Game(s) of Survival.

For his second apoc outing, Armand Gazarian impressively upped his game to improve on the Game(s) of Survival model as he gives our ol’ apoc-good buddy Cirio H. Santiago a run for his Philippine pesos. Sure, you’ll name drop Mad Max in the frames, but the real inspiration here is all of those Philippine and Italian-made knockoffs of The Road Warrior. Nope, while it looks like Bruno Mattei made this — and if you’ve seen his apoc romps Rats: Night of Terror or Shocking Dark, you’ll know what we mean — he didn’t make this. Nope. Claudio Fragasso — and if you’ve seen Interzone, you know what we mean — didn’t make this either.

Anyway, in the distant Earth year of 2200 — in the badlands of Yuma, Arizona (anyone see Parsifal in his battle car on his way to the “Baked Apple”) — we meet our intrepid freedom fighter, Blaine (U.S. born-cum-Thailand acting James Phillips), who boondoggles a Snake Plissken-styled robbery of a government repository.

Instead of being sent to Manhattan Island Prison, Blaine is sent to Prison Planet, aka the planet of Annakin (uh-huh), committed to fight in gladiatorial combat games. Then he kills the brother of Broxton (Micheal M. Foley from Karate Cop), the planet’s blood thirsty warlord.

Ah, but this is a secret mission: Blaine wanted to get caught and shipped off-world to find fellow Prison Planet inmate Himshaw — the good brother of the Earth’s evil dictator — who holds the key to overthrown the Annakin regime and restore freedom on Earth.

Spiritual hokum, shirtless muscle-bound nomads, porn-flick mustaches, oversized penis-envy swords, slave girls, virgin maiden sacrifices, weasel-whimpy convicts, and slave traders — all in glorious overacting — a-go-goes, and then some. And the guns, Oy! The guns always “jam” when you need ’em the most in the apocalypse. Hey, the big-budget movies always roll out the ol’ “dead car battery/faulty starter” (on a brand new car, no less) trope, aka now the “dead cellphone/no signal” trope, so why can’t a low-budget movie have the a “gun jams” trope? And yes . . . even though we are in the throes of the 21st century — and as with all Italian ’80s apoc films — all the cars are from the ’70s.

From his humble SOV beginnings, Nicolas Hill worked his way up to the better-made, ’90s-era martial arts flicks Showdown (with Billy Blanks), Death Match (with Martin Kove), Raw Target (with Dale Apollo), Fists of Iron (with Michael Worth), and Bloodsport 2 (not with Jean-Claude Van Damme, but with Pat Morita).

James Phillips, according to the digital QWERTY warriors of the IMDb, co-starred with Eric Estrada in the 1989 Thailand-shot actioner The Lost Idol (check your golden Ark at the door, Indy). And for that same director, Philip Chalong, aka Chalong Pakdeevijit, Phillips co-starred with Jan-Michael Vincent (see why we dropped Alienator), and Sam J. “Flash Gordon” Jones in 1990’s In Gold We Trust (and Sam did his own apoc-slopper, Driving Force). Our villain, Micheal M. Foley, in addition to Karate Cop, you may have seen his martial arts skills in 1991’s Cybernator (I haven’t*) or 1992’s Desert Kickboxer (again, nope).

Jonnie Saiko — who appears in Game(s) of Survival as Zooloj — also appears in Hell Comes to Frogtown, Roller Blade Warriors: Taken by Force, and The Guyver. He’s since gone on to a successful career as a special effects mold technician to work in the X-Men, Alien, Predator, and Scary Movie franchises.

As for the rest of the Gazarian canons: Streets of War stars Frankie Ray from Badlanders; digital streamers may have seen him in 2018’s Jurassic Galaxy (not moi). The Searcher stars Robert “Maniac Cop” Z’Dar, so there’s that incentive to find it. One of Gazarian’s producer credits is 1998’s Blood Revenge starring martial artist Chris Cuthrell, so there’s that. And Gazarian is still at it, as his latest (in post-production) credit is Awaken, starring Lance Henriksen, Edward Asner, and Tobin “Saw” Bell.

Yep. From an SOV debut to working with Tobin Bell. That’s a pretty cool career, Armand. See, there is a career to be made after ENG cameras and 3/4-inch U-Matic videotape and Hi-8s and NewTek Video Toasters.

You can watch a VHS rips of Game(s) of Survival — recently uploaded in September 2020, so thank you, VoicesInMyHead — on You Tube. Check out that page! It has lots of great uploads, such as the bonkers-trashy Lightblast, Death Nurse, more SOV’in with Bits & Pieces, and Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly. So have fun! Hey, bonus! We found an even cleaner copy on the Internet Archive.

Now, as for Badlanders, aka Prison Planet, there’s no freebie uploads to share. What’s the deal, Tubi? You had it, but now it’s not available? Denied. At one time, Badlanders was part of the VOD programming of the now — sadly — defunct IMPACT cable channel. However, as result of it once being a part of the IMPACT library, you can watch Badlanders as part of the Sling streaming platform, which also makes it available on the upper-tier cable channel EPIX. Perhaps you’re awash in disposable income (frack you, preppy) and you can afford ATT’s DirecTV to watch it there.

I love my SOV ’80s and Gazarian’s two apoc-romps slide nicely onto my “alien shelf” amid the collection. Be sure to click on the SOV ’80s link at the end of this article and you’ll discover all of our reviews of — not only ’80s SOV’ers — but films that are inspired by and pay tribute to the era. And for as many that we have reviewed, there’s as many we have not. So, to remedy that, come September 12 to the 18, we’re blowing out a week-long tribute to another 25-plus more of those SOV ’80s classics, mostly horror, natch. Join us!

* Doh! Now we did! Check out Cybernator . . . which is not to be confused with Cy Warrior!

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

The Carrier (1988)

Holy shit, this fucking movie.

If The Abomination is a Shot On Video (SOV) exploration of disease and religion, madness and murder straight out of Texas, this is its oddball rural Michigan brother that has much higher production values.

This is a movie where if I describe it to you, you’ll say, “There’s no way that that is a movie and no way that that much weird can be sustained across an entire movie.”

But you’d be wrong.

Jake’s parents died in a fire that some in town blame him for. He just wants to come to the bar, get drunk and be left alone, but someone has to call him out as a killer. And maybe someone in the bar actually did the killing and not him. But no matter what, Jake really does encounter some black creature in the woods, the kind that people whisper about in that weird bar that Jake should have avoided. But then, even though Jake survives the attack, he’s left with a scar and a disease that makes him — unknown to all in town — the carrier of a strange plague which spreads to every inanimate object that he touches. When anyone touches what Jake has touched, they are dissolved into that object.

Not long into this movie and everyone in town is covered in garbage bags and post-apocalyptic gear and breaking into religious madness and herding cats to use to test anything that has been claimed by the carrier’s horrible touch.

1950’s Sleepy Rock, Oregon may as well be your town during COVID-19, a disease that no one was sure where it came from and how they could get it and all turning against one another. Of course, this movie was about AIDS way back in 1988, but its theme is even more in your face true today than way back when.

Director and writer Nathan J. White honestly should have made more movies than this one and done effort. He was aided by Peter Deming, who was the director of photography on Evil Dead IILost Highway and the Twin Peaks 2017 series.

Every time I thought, “This is getting way too silly,” the movie would redeem itself or get even weirder and sillier, which I appreciate to no end. This is why regional films are so important: there were no studio notes or people saying, “None of this makes any sense.” Therefore, it all makes perfect sense.

The Soultangler (1987)

Dr. Anton Lupesky has developed a drug named Anphorium, which allows the soul to leave the body and enters any corpse with eyes. Of course, the drawback is that sometimes, the fatal hallucinations that result make the drug’s users into raving lunatics. Shot for $8,000 in seven days in Long Island, starring friends and relatives of director Pat Bishow, this is a regional delight.

The original version of this movie was 62 minutes and that’s really all it needs to be. It does not need any of the filler that was added, because we’re here to see people get killed and have cerebellum destroying drug trips.

There’s going to be a whole Shot on Video (SOV) week coming up on our site and this is a good first course. It’s filled with everything the best films in this genre — media? — have: acting so strange that it feels like aliens are in the cast, synth music that is shockingly awesome, monstrous levels of gore, dream sequences that are actually frightening and the feeling that you just might be watching a cursed videotape.

This is the kind of movie that normal people rented at the video store and talked about for years, saying stuff like, “What was the name of that weird horror movie that we rented back in 1988 that we hated so much?” Screw those people. This movie always finds its audience. It may find you. I hope so.

Tales from the QuadeaD Zone (1987)

Shirley Latanya Jones (Black Devil Doll from Hell) is the star of this Shot On Video (SOV) anthology — can two stories be an anthology? — as she reads to her dead son from a book called Tales from the QuadeaD Zone.

The first one, “Food for ?” is all about a redneck family getting killed because they can’t afford enough food for everyone. Then, “The Brothers” has an evil zombie clown from Hell, so it has that going for it. You know, if you hate a sibling and then they die, maybe don’t paint them up like a clown.

Then, Shirley kills her boyfriend.

Hand drawn titles, barely competent cinematography and tons of gore. What’s not to enjoy?

Director Chester Novell Turner worked in home remodeling and wrote horror stories on the side before making this movie and Black Devil Doll From Hell. He was unhappy with how Hollywood Home Video sold his first movie, so he distributed this one himself. There were about a hundred copies of this movie sold in Chicago and that was it. After all, there was a rumor that Turner had died in a 1996 car accident. Happily, Louis Justin of Massacre Video found him in order to get the rights to release this movie on DVD.

This isn’t a good movie. But you have to give it to Turner. He had a dream and he took his shot.