Cosmic Princess (1982)

British science fiction force Gerry Anderson is probably best known in the U.S. for his series Thunderbirds, which used Supermarionation to tell the stories of the team known as International Rescue. By the 70’s, he and his wife Sylvia were working together on shows like UFO and The Protectors, while being courted by Cubby Broccoli to write a treatment for Moonraker that was never used.

As part of the Andersons long and successful association with media impresario Lew Grade and his company ITC, Space 1999 was, at the time it was made, the most expensive British series ever made. Airing from 1075 to 1977 — man, they just missed the chance to be part of the Star Wars boom — the series is all about Moonbase: Alpha, staffed by 311 humans who are suddenly launched into deep space when nuclear waste stored on the moon explodes and sends them through the galaxy, in effect turning our moon into a spaceship. One imagines that the Earth itself did not survive, so everyone involved in this show really are the last human beings in the galaxy.

This all came about because the show UFO did better ratings when it was set on the moon. Anderson had been working on a show called UFO: 1999, but when the original show was canceled, he couldn’t get Grade interested in a follow-up. When he pitched this show, the producer demanded that there not be any Earth-bound settings. Anderson responded by blowing up the planet real good in the very first episode.

The issues on this show started when Grade demanded American leads and Sylvia, who usually handled the casts, wanted British actors. She would later say that she could have seen Robert Culp and Katharine Ross in the show, but the main characters of John Koenig and Helena Russell went to real-life couple Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, who had appeared on Misson: Impossible together and who were thought to have been a ratings draw for American audiences.

The show seemingly was always a battle, with writers leaving, budgets being overspent and ITC worried that the show would only run on American syndication and not a network, despite being sold to nearly every nation around the world. It also didn’t help that the Andersons split up between the first and second seasons.

All of this brings us to Cosmic Princess, which is basically two episodes from season 2 — “The Metamorph” and “Space Ward” — edited together. These stories introduce Maya (Catherina Von Schell, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), an alien who would take up the “Spock” role that some felt would propel the show into being must see TV.

By the time of this story, Moonbase:Alpha had already made its way through two space warps and entered the orbit of Psychon, which just so happened to have the minerals that the crew needed to survive. There’s a theory throughout the show that the leaps that the planet made were predestined and guided by outside forces — like the writing team, maybe? — but that may also be to covered narrative lapses in logic.

That said, it’s all a trap by the planet’s leader Mentor (Brian Blessed!) who is using a machine to drain their souls and make his planet less like hell and more like heaven. His daughter Maya helps the crew escape and joins them. The second episode in here has an alien ship to be explored as Maya deals with a virus that makes her transform into all sorts of monsters.

Speaking of Star Wars, one of the aliens in the second part is named Vader, which is done in voiceover and certainly seems like a complete cash-in.

This movie aired in syndication and all over the world, including KTLA, where it was one of the original movies that Mystery Science Theater 3000 made fun of.

So yeah. I kind of loved Space: 1999 as a kid. I had the Mattel Eagle 1, the Power Records book and record sets and the Charlton comics. If you watch this today and think, “Man, this is really wooden and slow and somewhat boring,” I’ll just say that pre-Star Wars, science fiction fans did not have many choices other than watching Star Trek again and again.

Time Walker (1982)

Also known as Being from Another Planet, this is a movie I have tried to finish so many times, pushing myself to the kind of hard-to-watch film brink. I’m happy to report that after several years, I have finally completed this movie and can share the results with all of you.

California University of the Sciences professor Douglas McCadden (Ben Murphy, the Gemini Man!) is exploring the tomb of Tutankhamun when an earthquake causes a wall to fall down, revealing a mummy that is really an alien kept alive through suspended animation thanks to being covered with a green fungus.

Dr. Ken Melrose (Austin Stoker!) calls a press conference to reveal the mummy, but at some point student named Peter Sharpe (Kevin Brophy, who was in Lucan, so this is really a collection of people who were in failed science fiction shows of the 70s that really only I care about) steals some gems from the body, which keeps getting bathed in radiation, bringing it back to life.

The mummy — who is way faster than your normal wrapped up Egyptian in rags — ends up killing anyone who has the crystals, putting a cop named Lt. Plummer (Darwin Joston, so this movie is also an Assault on Precinct 13 reunion thanks to him and Stoker appearing) on the case.  He thinks it’s a serial killer, but the truth is that the mummy was worshipped like a god and needs the crystals to go back home.

This movie also has James Karen from Return of the Living Dead and Shari Belafonte, who certainly knew that she deserved much better.

Time Walker was produced by Dimitri Villard and Jason Williams. If you recognize that last name, it’s because Williams plated Flesh Gordon. He co-wrote this movie (he also scripted The Danger ZoneDanger Zone II: Reaper’s RevengeDanger Zone III: Steel Horse War and Nude Bowling Party, which certainly needed some level of wordsmithing) with Tom Friedman and Karen Levitt. It’s director, Tom Kennedy, edited Silent Night, Bloody Night and the American release of Goodbye Uncle Tom. This was the only movie he ever directed.

There’s a “to be continued” at the end of this movie and I have to tell you, I’ve never been so excited that a sequel wasn’t made.

I’ll forgive Film Ventures International nearly anything, though. Even Time Walker.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Curse of Evil (1982)

Oh man, this movie is a weird one. And that’s why we often visit the East, to see movies that we would never dream of.

The Shaw Brothers aren’t just all fighting movies. No, sometimes they produced movies in which blood frogs and all manner of strange demons decimate and assault families.

The House of Shi was once a wealthy family, but after the tragic murder of thirteen of their number — and them being thrown down a well — they’re been cursed. The kind of curse that awakens a demon who kills the survivors one by one in various gory ways when it’s not attacking every woman in the cast.

The craziest thing of all was that this movie was exclusively released to something called the ZiiEagle, which was packed with Shaw Brothers movies.

This was directed by Chih-Hung Kuei, who also made Corpse Mania and The Boxer’s Omen. So if you’ve seen those movies, you should know to not expect anything in the realm of our senses. Where does one find frogs with steel teeth, anyway? Or a gigantic worm that doesn’t just devour people, but leaves behind most of their bodies covered in pink ooze?

Wolf Devil Woman (1982)

Chang Ling/Pearl Cheong wrote, directed and starred in this martial arts opus that tells the story of a young girl who taken from her parents and raised by the legendary White Wolf of a Thousand Years. Growing up in the unforgiving permafrost of Cold Ice Peak, she learns how to use her animal, monster and kung-fu skills to find and destroy the man who killed her parents, who is known as Red Devil.

This takes the same story as The Bride with White Hair and goes absolutely insane with the wire kung fu sequences and gives our heroine a hat that looks like it was made from a stuffed dog toy. You have no idea how happy that fact makes me. She also has nunchukus that look like claws and kills hundreds of enemies in what seems like seconds.

As little sense as much of this action makes, the fact that the dubbing is so bad — it makes Bob from The House by the Cemetery seem restrained by comparison — that it becomes wonderful. Who would think to have a villain that has killed everyone Wolf Devil Woman has ever loved should sound like a Southern gentleman at best and Foghorn Leghorn at worst?

An absolute must-see.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Five Elements Ninjas (1982)

Chang Cheh directed ninety movies from 1965 to 1993*, as well as all of the lyrics to the songs within his films. The majority of his most well-known movies in the west feature the Venom Mob of Kuo Chui, Lu Feng, Chiang Sheng, Sun Chien, Lo Mang (along with Wei Pai), a group of martial arts masters who appeared together and separately across numerous Shaw Brothers films.

Also known as Super Ninjas, Chinese Super Ninjas and Chinese Super Ninja, this movie seems as if the weirdest and most violence obsessed kid in your grade school class was suddenly given enough money to stop scribbling in his notebooks and instead allowed to make a movie that is pretty much non-stop ninjas horribly murdering one another.

This is quite frankly the highest praise that I can give to a movie.

I mean, let me sum up the first five minutes: Chief Hong (Chan Shen) has challenged his rival Yuan Zeng (Kwan Fung) for the title of martial arts master, which mostly entails sending each others’ students after one another in battles to the death. Hong has cheapened these wars of honor by inviting a foreign samurai to the contest. He kills one of Zeng’s students before being stopped by Liang Zhi Sheng (Lo Mang). Before he commits seppuku, he throws a spiked ring to Zeng, which poisons the master and keeps him from doing kung fu until he heals.

There’s no time to heal, as a new challenge arises from the Five-Element Ninjas. Zeng asks Sheng and Tian Hao (Cheng Tien Chi) to fortify the school while ten of his best men answer the challenge. What follows is a series of increasingly brighter colored ninjas basically showing you every Mortal Kombat fatality nearly a decade before the game came out. The ninjas also send Senji (Chen Pei-Hsi) to infiltrate the school. Yes, Hong and Mudou (Michael Chan, who didn’t just play triad gangster roles, but left the police to become one), the leader of the ninjas, are pretty much the winners before the fight even gets started.

Within a few weeks, she has mapped out the entire school and Mudou’s ninjas attack as she offers herself to Sheng. He refuses her, but allows her to play the flute for him. As she entertains him, everyone in the school except for Hao, who escapes and visits his old ninja master. Joined by four other fighters, he challenges the Five-Elements Ninjas and Mudou, who has killed Hong and taken the title of master.

This movie is quite frankly amazing. It blew my mind throughout and never lets up, like a children’s show that has wall-to-wall gore. As the first movie in our week of Hong Kong films, it has set a high bar which other films will really have to battle to scale and exceed.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*The Legend of the 7 Golden VampiresFive Venoms and Crippled Avengers to name a few.

BrainWaves (1982)

Ah, there’s nothing like an “Ancient Future Week” inspiring us to review the future-tech tomfoolery of Brainstorm (1980) and Brainscan (1994) — which also uploads a little bit o’ Ulli Lommel into the frontal lobes.

Yes. Ulli “I’ve Never Seen a Film I Can’t Copy Cheaper” Lommell has hijacked your grey matter and chopped it up into different shapes and sizes at the Ulli Lommel Cookie Factory Company, Ltd., a subsidiary of the Lommel-Love Boilerplate Consortium, Inc.

Yes, Ulli “That’s a Good Idea for a Movie, I’ll Make Another One” Lommell. He of the rock flicks Blank Generation (1978) and Cocaine Cowboys (1979), as well as the opinions-vary Halloween and The Amityville Horror knockoffs The Boogeyman (1980) and The Devonsville Terror (1983), and The Raiders of the Lost Ark hornswoggle that is the Klaus Kinski-starrer Revenge of the Stolen Stars (1985).

Hey, the one-sheet got me into the quad-plex!

After that .. . well, you can pick any hit film, or genre, or serial killer, or newsworthy senseless crime story and, chances are, as with the proverbial fish-in-a-barrel, you will hit a low-budget clone-of-a-clone sloppin’ on Ulli Lommell’s resume.

Oh, the VHS joys of the Ulli-herrings we scooped into our 5-5-5 rental nets: When not clipping John Carpenter during the slasher ’80s or George Lucas during the adventure ’80s, Ulli “borrowed” from John Badham to give us a ne’er-do-well ’80s computer nerd with I.F.O.: Identified Flying Object, aka Defense Play (1987). When the market was crazy for Top Gun, Ulli gave us WarBirds (1989), which he stylizes to evoke a little WarGames in the mix.

Such a film is BrainWaves: a film that blatantly tech-jacks Douglas Trumbull’s journey into the human brain, aka Brainstorm — and Ulli, again, stylized the title to toss a little WarGames tech in the mix. Yeah, Michael Crichton’s Coma (1978), which kicked off the evil medical drama craze of the ’80s, and John Carpenter’s Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), which kicked off the inherited memory-cum-clairvoyance craze of the ’80s, are another pair of celluloid Pisces sloshin’ in the five-gallon paint bucket under the scope upon Ulli’s eye.

That’s the joy of Ulli Lommel: a reviewer can just rattle off a bunch of popular movies . . . and you’ve got the plot of the film in a skullcap. But since we’d be remiss in our journalist duties: After receiving a brain injury in a car accident, Ulli Lommel’s always-starring real-life wife Suzanne Love descends into a deep coma. Learning nothing from his own work in The Manitou (1978) or heeding Rock Hudson’s warnings after Embryo (1976), along comes the good neurosurgeon Tony Curtis tech-bamboozling a lovesick Keir Dullea — who learned nothing from the dead fish in the bottom of his career barrel that is Welcome to Blood City (1977) — with his electro-trinket that can jump start comatose brains via the “neural patterns” from dead brains.

Uh, oh. Futuristic pseudo-science is going to fuck you up, again.

As with all of those hand and eye transplant and inherited clairvoyance movies before it, Ms. Love begins to have the ol’ distributing visions trope haunt her, as her brain-impulse donor was drowned in a bathtub by a guy with a wrist tattoo. And Love and Dullea’s investigation inspires the murderer to silence the love birds . . . or is that LoveBirds, Ulli?

Yep, that’s the VHS box I remember.

While this futuristic medical drama isn’t great, it’s still not that bad and above par for a Ulli Lommel clone-joint; if Ulli upped the Argento-body fluids, we’d have an even better, junk science-driven Giallo. The par comes courtesy of a solid cast headed by Keir Dullea (The Starlost) (he’s a little heavy on the histrionics, but it’s not a total thespin’ tragedy), along with the classy Vera Miles (Hitchcock’s Psycho), distinguished character actor Percy Rodriquez (Planet of the Apes) (Rodriquez, James Earl Jones, and Roscoe Lee Brown, the best voiceover pipes in the business), and everyman character actor Paul Wilson (Office Space, 976-EVIL, the also-reviewed this week Circuity Man, and the one Jennifer Annistion movie I can stomach, courtesy of Mike Judge’s Office Space), and perpetually-beautiful character actress Eve Brent (from TV’s Dragnet in the ’50s to trading chops with Barbara Stanwyck in Forty Guns to Fade to Black to The Green Mile with Tom Hanks). And, why yes, that is the Penthouse “Pet of the Month” Corrine Alphen Wahl as our brainwave doner, she of Sean S. Cunningham’s Spring Break (1983) and the great Cirio Santiago’s Equalizer 2000 (1987).

You can watch BrainWaves on You Tube and various without-ads VOD and PPV platforms, as well as easily purchased DVDs and Blu-rays. You can catch up with Corrine Alphen Wahl on her website where she revisits her career and promotes her professional Tarot Card reading services.

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

Der Fan (1982)

Another movie that I didn’t watch for a long time so that I could be ready for it, Der Fan totally paid off. Man, this is one dark journey into the abyss.

Simone (Désirée Nosbusch, who recorded “Kann es Liebe sein?” with Falco) is in love with a new wave singer named R. Love is such an easy word for how she really feels, as her adoration for him replaces eating and sleeping and school. Now, all she wants to do is wait and wait for a letter for him that never comes. She is nothing without him and becomes nothingness.

When she finally meets him in the flesh, she freezes and he takes advantage of her, making love to her and then coldly rejecting her. In any other film, this would be the life lesson, but instead, Simone kills him with a statue, then consumes his flesh before turning his bones to ash and shaving her head.

The movie ends with one last fan letter, as a pregnant Simone claims that R will always be a part of her. Well, in one way or another, right?

This is yet another film that stands on the side of arthouse versus grindhouse, but that only depends on what theater is showing it. Eckhart Schmidt wrote the book that this was based on and directed this film, as well as Alpha City, which will be on our site in a few weeks.

So often, glam stars seemed to come from another planet. In this one, the fan seems as if she does not exist on the same level of existence as us, a ghost that walks among us, ready at any moment to unleash violence. She is an angel of death walking amongst mortals, which rock stars most assuredly are.

You can get this on blu ray from Mondo Macabro.

KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Attack of the Super Monsters (1982)

Oh man, this movie.

Seriously, this is a film that will challenge your comprehension of time and space, question your ability to exist and then continually challenge you to remain connected to its narrative. A combination of live action rubber suit monsters and vehicle combat with 2D animation taking place for any human interaction, it feels like a forced childhood playdate with that weird kid of your parents’ work friends, a child who has toys of all different sizes and scales and plays with them all at the same time regardless of scale, so that He-Man and Optimus Prime have a picnic with Duke and Matt Trakker, all while numerous Hot Wheels and a Tonka truck race around them. The entire time, you are sure that the child you are playing with is hopelessly deranged and could attack you at any moment.

I never thought I’d know that feeling again.

Attack of the Super Monsters is really four episodes of Ultraman and Mighty Jack creator Tsuburaya Productions’ Dinosaur War Izenborg, which combines the anime and daikaiju tokusatsu styles to delirious effect. It’d be weird enough, but then the American dubbing ads completely bonkers vocal stylings to what is already a psychotronic idea: dinosaurs are back and only twins who can become a hybrid being can stop them.

Emperor Tyrannous* (known as Dinosaur Satan Gottes in Japan) is the leader of the rubber reptilians who have declared war on mankind from their empire beneath the Earth’s surface. The only hope Earth has is the Gemini Command, which has brother and sister team Jem and Jim Starbuck (D-Force, Tachibana Ai and Tachibana Zen in the land of the rising sun) as its front-line defense. At one point in the original cartoon, they were nearly killed and their bodies were replaced with machinery. Later still, they get even more upgrades that let them become a giant robot, as is necessary in shows of this nature.

There’s also a genius scientist Dr. John Carmody (Dr. Torii) and his two absolute morons of assistants, Jerry Fordham and Wally Singer** (Goro Kanbara and Ippei Kurosawa) who have a pet sloth. Small animals are a major part of this story, as the underworld super monsters tend to possess animals like rats and dogs against their will instead of just realizing that they are fire-breathing beasts that by all rights should be eating all humanity or at the very least eviscerating Tokyo.

Just imagine if you crushed four episodes of an American kids show into a sprawling narrative, then translated it into multiple languages and beamed it all over the world. That’s what happened here, with this airing in Italy and Arabic counties, who loved it so much that Tsuburaya Productions and a Mr. Jarrah Alfurih from the Kuwait and Cultures Factory produced a documentary called The Return of Izenborg in 2016.

While the original series was directed by Toru Sotoyama (who was also behind the Ultraman-related Iron King) and written by Masaki Tsuji (who wrote series such as Cyborg 009Urusei YatsuraKImba the White LionTiger Mask) and Ifumi Uchiyama from a story by Hiroyasu Yamaura (who wrote numerous Ultraman series, as well as Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, the Star Wolf series that Fugitive Alien was dubbed from, Galaxy Express 999 and Godzilla 1985, so he graduated from this to, well, the real thing), the American dub is the brainchild of Tom Wyner, who scripted the first English work on Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (which is the first part of Robotech), did the ADR writer and directing of Fist of the North Star and has wild credits like being an uncredited extra in An Affair to Remember, a crew member on The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and doing voiceover work for everything from the Japanese adaption of Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula to numerous voices on Robotech, several Star Trek games and as M. Bison in the Street Fighter cartoon.

In an even more goofball connection to horror movies, the producers of this were Sidney L. Caplan and Mark Cohen, who a decade before made the Orson Welles-starring Necromancy.

You really need to see this, if only to understand that Japanese cartoon sometimes have rats eating clothes and sidekicks who contemplate suicide to bring back their honor, then American kids get cheap VHS tapes of this and their parents use it as a babysitter and no one explains just how strange it all is until nearly forty years in the future.

*Dan Warren, a voice actor who is in a ton of stuff, for some reason does the giant dinosaur’s voice in a style that can best be described as Pacino in Devil’s Advocate but with more cocaine.

**Those who have watched way too many cartoons will recognize Wally’s voice as Cam Clarke, who was Kaneda in Akira as well as Leonardo and Rocksteady from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Arcade Attack (1982)

As a ten-year-old, this was the absolute pinnacle of all things amazing when it aired on HBO at odd intervals. It starts as an exploration of the divide between arcades in 1982, as video games had been pushing pinball out.

Pinball advocate Geoff Harvey and Space Invaders champion Stephen Highfield both explains their theories of why their respective games are the best. It’s an interesting time capsule and if that’s all this was, it would still be a great movie.

Yet at the end, as the arcade closes and characters from pinball machines come to life to battle video aliens, you will be amazed. Even now, probably thirty years since I last saw this, I’m still so excited about this movie. You can’t even know how many hours I sat in class and dreamt of this movie, drawing its characters when I should have been paying attention to my teachers.

Thanks to the internet, you can now watch this and imagine just how happy the kid version of me was every time this aired. You can watch this on YouTube.

Things Are Tough All Over (1982)

The fourth of the Cheech and Chong movies, this opens with our heroes driving in the desert, not using drugs and talking about rock and roll. Turns out that they’re working at a car wash for the rich Mr. Slyman and Prince Habib (also Cheech and Chong), who then send the boys to Chicago on a rock and roll tour, driving the limo that we saw them in at the start of the movie. Unbeknownst to our high heroes is the fact that the car is packed with cash.

Somehow, everyone ends up lost and wandering in the desert and it all ends with Cheech and Chong as porn stars. There’s also a lot of peyote.

This movie came as the mainstream began to accept Cheech and Chong, with the National Association of Theatre Owners naming them the Comedy Team of the Decade. You can see the plan was to make this film have less drug humor, with Chong saying, “Cheech & Chong and dope are redundant. It’s a challenge to see if we can do it. I know we can.”

As always, this movie is packed with people, like Rufus drummer Richard “Moon” Calhoun, Dave Coulier, Evelyn Guerrero (as Donna again), John Paragon, George Wallace, Ruby Wax, Rip Taylor,  Lance Kinsey (Proctor from the Police Academy films) and Dorothy Neumann (Private Parts).

Unlike the past films, this was not directed by Tommy Chong. Instead, Thomas K. Avildsen , who had edited the past three films, would make this the first and only movie that we would helm.