JOE D’AMATO WEEK: Endgame (1983)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Endgame isn’t just my favorite Joe D’Amato movie, it’s also my favorite post-apocalyptic movie ever made. It’s absolutely out of control for the entire movie with blind ninjas being led video game-style by psychics, fishmen all over Laura Gemser and George Eastman not being a bad guy for the whole film. It’s as good as it gets. You can get it from Severin.

I think it’s best that I watch some movies by myself. Like this one. That’s because the minute George Eastman showed up on screen, I let out an audible cheer of pure bliss. No one needs to hear me screaming like that.

2025. A nuclear war has left New York City in ruins, populated by scavengers and telepathic mutants who are hunted and killed by the elite. To keep the people of this world from revolting, the reality game show Endgame has been created, where hunters and gladiators battle to the death in the place of warfare.

Lilith (Black Emanuelle herself, Laura Gemser, credited as Moira Chen!) is a psychic who wants protection for her band of mutants. She hires the best Endgame player ever — Ron Shannon (Al Cliver from Zombi and The Beyond!) — to help. Shannon has his own problems, as he’s in the middle of Endgame and facing off against professional killers like Kurt Karnak (the much loved Eastman, who also co-wrote this film), who was Shannon’s childhood friend and has now become his greatest rival. The last time Shannon and Karnak battled in an Endgame, time ran out before they could determine which man was the best player.

Lilith helps Shannon defeat Karnak, at which point his sponsor and the cameramen show up and ask him to drink Lifeplus on screen. Lilith reaches out to him and he rushes to save her. That’s when he agrees to help her and the mutants she protects.

Karnak has lost his mind due to losing, shooting targets obsessively. Colonel Morgan and his men try to recruit him to their cause while Shannon tries to recruit his own team, including Ninja (Hal Yamanouchi, who in addition to playing Silver Samurai in 2013’s The Wolverine also appears in Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals2020 Texas Gladiators and 2019: After the Fall of New York as the Rat Eater King!) and Bull (Gabriele Tinti, who was married to Gemser and appeared in nearly every Black Emanuelle movie).

“You’re too famous to disappear in a city that grows smaller every day,” says Colonel Morgan when he catches up to Shannon, asking him to give up Lilith. This leads to a firefight where he’s saved by Karnak! George Eastman as a good guy? Holy shit, I’m fucking in!

If you haven’t guessed by all the shouting and exclamation points, this movie is the perfect combination of everything I look for in film — it’s a ripoff, it’s post-apocalyptic, it shares Italian genre favorites and it’s in a ridiculous world where everyone either dresses like a viking or Dump Matsumoto (1980’s Japanese women’s wrestling bad girl supreme).

Meanwhile, in the wasteland, our heroes come upon mutants, which Professor Levin (oh yeah, he takes care of the telepaths) explains have combined man’s primordial caveman past with feral instincts. Which means, in layman’s terms, that they look like human fish or apes.

Think that’s crazy? They then come upon holy monks who have blinded themselves so that they can be guided by psychics and kill anyone who offends their conception of God. What follows is a scene of black-robed maniacs fighting with machine guns and grenades and knives and motorcycles and man…a cast of hundreds gets killed until Shannon finds the captured psychic and instead of saving him, tosses an axe at his head. All the monks have no idea where they are, wandering around yelling that they are blind as our heroes make their escape. If you think they aren’t going to drive over the head of one of the monks, well, you haven’t been watching Italian genre cinema!

Meanwhile, Lilith explains to Shannon that she keeps one of the young psychic kids basically autistic, because if he starts to experience emotions, he’s liable to wipe out everyone around him.

Then, the professor gets killed in a trap, but asks Shannon to save all of them. But that means Bull discovers that she’s psychic, which means that the entire team learns that everyone is a mutant. Everyone starts arguing before Karnak shows up to let them know that more enemies are on the way. Monkey-faced enemies! And a fish-faced leader who has two women with roped up bare breasts on his modified golf cart! What is going on with this movie?

Ninja and Kovack get killed and Lilith is captured. Karnak offers to help Shannon save her. Lilith reaches out to Shannon, telling him that Karnak only wants gold and then to kill him. Then, the fishman leader tears off Lilith’s clothes, yelling “Look at me while I rape you, dammit!” Shannon asks if she’s OK because he’s seeing flashes and she’s all like, “Yeah, I’m fine,” while a fish mutant slobbers all over her. Umm…

When the guys get there, Lilith is fully clothed and the mutant is passed out on the bed. So are we to believe that she enjoyed it? Or that she just went with it? I guess if you’re looking for woke feminism, a Joe D’Amato movie is probably the last place one should root around.

Then they find Kovack, who the mutants have left inside a wall. They can’t help him escape and he wants to die, so Karnak breaks his neck. He faces off against an entire room of mutants while Shannon and Lilith escape. She can tell that Karnak is in trouble, but not dead, to which Shannon replies “Fate decides the winner of Endgame, not me.”

Lilith reunites with the children and everyone celebrates that they are only ten kilometers from the rendezvous. Of course, the government is waiting to take everyone out. SS logo adorned stormtroopers show up and just start shooting, but Shannon talks Tommy, one of the mutant children, into creating wind storms and telekinetically using a machine gun and an avalanche to kill all of the soldiers. He even levitates a car that crushes several of them and sets a fire that wipes out even more. Then, he forces Colonel Morgan to kill himself.

Lilith asks Shannon to come with them, but he says “She is the future and he is the past.” She leaves while he stays behind in the wasteland with the gold. As he goes to pick up his gold, Karnak comes back and tells him they haven’t played the final round yet. He throws away his gun as we get an awesome long shot of both men, like something out of a western. They rush at one another with knives and the credits roll.

The poster for this film promises “For An Endgame Champion In The Year 2025, There’s Only One Way To Live. Dangerously.” And this film more than lives up that. If you only know D’Amato from his adult work or gorefests like Beyond the Darkness and Antropophagus, you should totally check this one out. Movies like this are why I went from worrying about the end of the world to wishing that it would happen!

JOE D’AMATO WEEK: Una vergine per l’Impero Romano (1983) and Diary of a Roman Virgin (1973)

Using the name Jim Black and Robert Hall — as well as Dirk Frey — Joe D’Amato really went all out to get as many names as possible into this movie.

Nadine Roussial plays Livia the Arena Queen, a virgin who must win one more battle inside the arena to get her freedom. It’s an adult movie — hey there’s Mark Shannon in a cameo — and was probably made on sets from another at the same time D’Amato movie like The Emperor Caligula: The Untold Story or Messalina… orgasmo imperiale which saw Joe use the name OJ Clarke.Nadine Roussial is in the latter, so it makes a little too much sense. Look — when you have a set, use it.

Diary of a Roman Virgin used the D’Amato named Michael Wotruba name here. It’s the story of Livia (Lucretia Love, who may have been born in Texas but made her way to Italy to be in everything from  The Killer Reserved Nine Seats to Enter the Devil) who has made her way from a tragedy involving stock footage from The Last Days of Pompeii and who rise in power.

This also has scenes from Triumph of the Ten Gladiators and The Arena in it, because why let stuff go to waste, right?

These films are at the opposite sides of D’Amato making Roman epics. Of course, after the 80s, the sex would go even further in his films, as he’d make Sodoma e Gomorra, Caligola follia del potere and Antonio e Cleopatra as adult movies.

JOE D’AMATO WEEK: Love In Hong Kong (1983)

This movie actually played on Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater on April 16, 1994 and that fact alone makes me beyond happy.

It’s Joe D’Amato — as Alexander Boroscky — working with a lot of people I’ve never seen or heard from before or since other than Mark Shannon and I’ll be frank with you dear reader. I’ve seen way too much of Mark Shannon’s ballbag in the last week.

I take that back. Thanks to Adrian  on Letterboxd, I recognize Marianne Aubert from some Erwin Dietrich movies.

The colorful Tiger Balm Gardens, the world-famous Aberdeen Harbor and the spectacular Ocean Park Fair Ground! These are the places where we will go and see some horizontal hijinks in Hng Kong!

Will Julie keep her newspaper job? Why was this made? How did it get made? Why did Joe only make one movie in Hong Kong? Who dubbed this?

So many questions!

Philippine War Week II: Invasion Cambodia, aka Intrusion: Cambodia (1983)

“There ain’t gonna be no rematch.”
— Apollo Creed, telling you there won’t be a “Philippine War Week III”

Thank god. The last and final, ever, Philippine war flick reviewed on this site (well, sans the idiotic Commando Invasion snafu that led us to review it, twice, this week). We started this nonsense four months back, with our first week of reviews during the first week of August. Our reviews of 40-plus film — with plenty of links and mentions of so many others — will get you were you need to be, that is if you must watch every single Sylvester Stallone-to-Arnold Schwarzenegger-to-Chuck Norris ’80s war rip ever made in the lands northwest of Down Under.

In one of Jun Gallardo earliest rips, he shanghais Richard Harrison (we explore his career by way of his Neapolitan-cum-North African passion project, Three Men on Fire) in a tale about ragtag group of not A-Team lads led by Richard Harrison into the Cambodian jungle.

The roles of the good guys and bad guys are divided up among the familiar names and faces of, well, everyone that’s on that VHS sleeve. Yes! Romano Kristoff (Raiders of the Magic Ivory) is here as well? Hey, Mike Monty, you’re back . . . oh, not for long? What flick did your scene get cut-in from, I wonder? If you’re keeping track: Anthony Alonzo was in W Is War and Mad Warrior. Vic Vargas? IMDb him: he’s got over 300 credits to pick at (Daughters of Satan is one of them). Remember the Robert Clouse (Golden Needles) mess that is Gymkata starring Kurt Thomas? Well, Tetchie Agbayani — who’s done a few of these Asian war romps and is a much more serious, accomplished actress, one with over 100 credits, as well as Asian television series — not only stars in Gymkata: she “invented” the martial art-gymnastics hybrid used in the film; something to that effect.

As you can see, I am going to rant and make this Namsploitation’er sound way better than it is.

Looks like a U.S. ’70s-era war flick. Stinks like a Rambo rip.

Harrison — with a ‘stache that’ll scare the shite out of Tom Selleck (who got his start in Daughters of Satan) — is an ex-Special Forces ops who makes his scratch as a mercenary for hire who leads a ragtag group of U.S and Southeast Asian guerrilla freedom fighters into Cambodia. Harrison’s claim to fame: he’s the only one that comes back alive from his missions. Lovely. In steps Tetchie, our hot guide — the only one who knows the terrain — because you need a sex-love interest between the showers of blank n’ squibs. All the racist cliches are then thou unleashed: the Italians are oversexed nut bags (Romano Kristoff), the Asians are all yellow-troped to the extreme, and the African Americans (actor Jim Gaines, in this case) make Sgt. Lincoln Osiris positively subdued.

This is a movie that, before we get to the no-plot-and-just-explosions part of the picture, our newly formed force of no-Rambos hangs out at a disco-strip joint (lifted from another Harrison war opus, Fireback by fellow Sliver Star alum, Teddy Page; we did that on Friday; we are writing ahead, here) and bowling alleys to pad the running time until they find that “secret” document that started this mess.

Wow. Poor Richard Harrison. He made ONE ninja movie for Godfrey Ho, then, by way of splicing, ended up “starring” in a dozen more films — and had his career ruined because everyone thought he was down-and-out and on the drunken skids to a grave in Manila. He was anything but, as he was putting together his grand opus, Three Men on Fire.

Just damn you to Charlton Heston ape hell, K.Y Kim, you cheap bastard. Curse your Silver Star Studios for torturing me and Sam the Bossman these past five months in dealing with faux-Nam joints. But oh, my crazy celluloid uncles of Cirio Santiago, Teddy Page, and Jun Gallardo: your Z-grade rips of Clint Eastwood’s The Dirty Dozen to Sly Stallone’s Rambo: First Blood II made my VHS home video days of youth all the much sweeter.

And as we add another oxtail to the Kare-Kare: Anthony Alonzo previously appeared in another Pearl of the Orient warsploitationer, Wild Cats Attack. But you’ll notice Tony’s name isn’t on the video sleeve (seen below). So what’s the stewed mechado all about, my kaibigan? Well, in the grand tradition of all things Manila-doubling-as-Vietnam-and-Central America and actors starring-by-proxy: Wild Cats Attack clips all of its war footage from Task Force Alamid (1982), which aka’d as The Red Barrets — which should only have one “r” in the title, but it’s Philippines cinema, don’t cha know? But Wild Cats Attack, to keep that wheel of title confusion, spinning, also aka’d as Special Forces U.S.A. “Ahiiiiyaaaah! Make it stop!”

Now you, our fellow Philiploitation fetishist may disagree on that Wild Cats Attack titling snafu, but let’s not forget that Tony starred in Diegong Bayong (1984), which was recut into a post-Oliver Stone world as Platoon the Warriors (1987). Hey, if starring-by-proxy is okay for an expatriated Richard Harrison and Gordon Mitchell, then it’s good enough for our native son, Anthony Alonzo. Oh, did you know Alonzo won an award for “Best Actor” in the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts & Sciences for Willie Milan’s Bambang (1982)? True story. No, sorry, that’s a Death WishLethal Weapon-styled story about Manila street gang wars and not a ‘Nam flick, so you’re on your own with that one.

Anthony Alonzo? Where for art thou?
Hey, Tony!

Okay, let’s get back to Invasion Cambodia . . . er, uh . . . there’s nothing else to tell . . . except that there’s no trailer to share. But you can pick through the full film on You Tube and see if you want make a 90-minute go of it.

Well, that’s it! Thanks for playing along with our two “Philippine War Week” blow outs. See yahs for the next “theme week” at B&S About Movies. As for our “Philippine War Week” theme weeks: click the hyperlink to populate all 48 reviews in one easy-to-scroll list. You can learn about the genre with an in-depth interview with Godfrey Ho at Nanarland.com.

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

Philippine War Week II: Fireback (1983)

Here I go again, with my Richard Harrison squeezin’ and pleasin’. Deal with it, ye reader. . . .

Silver Star Productions. Teddy Page. Richard Harrison. Sly and Arnie ripping. So, what’s not to like? Well, each and every Southeast Asian Pacific Rim film that starred Richard Harrison also starred Jim Gaines: for by hook or by crook . . . or by stock footage . . . Harrison and Gaines will always co-star in Silver Star productions. They will. And here, Gaines is the bad-guy-who-goes-good Digger. And so . . . that ends the common sense portion of the film.

The Omega: An all-in-one machine gun, missile launcher, bazooka, and grenade launcher.

Well, not really. This one actually has a sensible story, a plot, and (minor) character development, and Harrison isn’t thespin’-expressionless driftwood as the other actors, and the proceedings lack the usual shot-through-cheese-cloth cinematography and stock footage stitching we’ve come to expect with most of the PWFs we’ve reviewed back in August and this week.

But wow. These ’80s Silver Star flicks really screwed up Richard Harrison’s career.

Harrison acted in five flicks for K.Y. Lim’s stock footage-and-everything-else-stocked celluloid factory o’ sausage: Fireback, Hunter’s Crossing, and Blood Debts, which were directed by Teddy Page, and two for Jun Gallardo: Intrusion Cambodia and Rescue Team (both of Jun’s Rambo joints are coming this week; search for ’em, ya lazy surfer). But it gave Harrison a chance to write, which he does here, as Timothy Jorge (Three Men on Fire is another of his films). But I don’t know . . . I can’t see Harrison’s years in film culminating in a screenplay like this. Perhaps he did write it. But, between the dubbing — that he had no control over, as that is not even his voice you’re hearing — and the fact Silver Star Films shot with no locked scripts and were improvising along the way, Harrison’s original intent is, mostly likely, barely on the end product.

Then Godfrey Ho came along and compounded the career problems.

Harrison contracted to make a couple of low-budget ninja films for Ho. Then Ho cut-and-pasted, as is the par for the celluloid in Southeast Asian cinema of the low-budget variety, Harrison “starring” in the films Ninja Terminator, Cobra Vs. Ninja, Golden Ninja Warrior and Diamond Nínja Force. The list goes on and on. Shame on you, Godfrey, more so than Jun and Teddy. Well, not really. We still love you guys.

Okay, so Richard Harrison is U.S. Army weapons expert Jack Kaplan — and he can MacGyver (Oy! That CBS-TV reimage sucks donkey) any liquid into a weapon. He’s captured while field-testing a new “super gun,” the Omega, that turns a man into a one-man-army. Holy Shit! Micheal Sopkiw déjà vu with Blastfighter!

Calm down, my friend. The gun ain’t around for that long.

So, Kaplan’s rescued from a Southeast Asian POW camp. But he returns to the States to find his wife Diane missing. And he comes to discover that Duffy Collins, a local gangster, kidnapped and murdered Diane after she rejected his need to rape her. And Kaplan — with a souped-up junk yard set of wheels, along with his crossbow-shotgun-bazooka armament thingy he patched together — goes after Duffy.

Oh, shit. The music that sounds like it’s clipped from Mad Max!

Jack Kaplan: An all-in-one Rambo-meets-MacGyver.

Calm down, kid. For this is no more Blastfigther than it is Max Max. But we do get a lot of Kaplan daydreamin’ and flashbackin’ to Diane bikini diving into a swimming pool. So there’s that. Yeah, we know: we are also wondering, if we are back in the States: why we are seeing so many citizens of the Philippines in this movie? Well, remember when Tom Selleck made Daughters of Satan (note how much Selleck and Harrison look alike; I think Harrison’s ol’ stache is bigger) in the Philippines — but that was actually set in the Philippines — and there were more white actors than Filipinos in that film? See? It all balances out in the end.

Anyway, Duffy has a hitman man on his payroll known as the “Man with the Golden Hand” gunning for Kaplan. And Digger (Jim Gaines, natch) is the crook who comes to help Kaplan take down Duffy while avoiding the Sheriff (Mike Monty, natch) who’s after Kaplan for murdering one of Duffy’s men. Then things go oh-so-very Tarantino with an assassin squad of ninja killers with the names of Panther, Shadow, and Cat Burglar on Kappy’s trailer — and that’s after Eve (Gwen Hung, who’s all over these movies), our femme fatale, fails at killing Kaplan. So Duffy kills her — just as Kaplan was goin’ in for the hook up.

Now Kaplan is really pissed: So he “Rambos” all of their asses from a makeshift mountain-jungle cave in a climatic battle in the woods of Somewhere, U.S.A. — with a side of Arnie to spare. Oh, and Kaplan goes full-regalia Ninja with a katana. So there’s that. Oh, and we assume they ran out of short ends and couldn’t finish the film . . . so we got this end credits epilogue to wrap up the tale:

There ain’t gonna be no rematch.
Don’t want one.

Fireback is better than I had hoped — and that’s not my blinded-by-Richard Harrison fandom. That’s not saying it’s good, just not as bad as the usual ’80s PWF Sly n’ Arnie homage. If only they kept the gun in the movie and the car was a bit more Road Warrior and we had some highway mayhem on the screen instead of the usual flailing and frolicking about in the woods.

Finally! We progressed from the-schedule-to-review process and the film uploads are still there to enjoy. You can watch Fireback on You Tube HERE and HERE.

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

Philippine War Week II: Tornado: The Last Blood (1983)

When people discuss the greats of Italian genre film, Antonio Margheriti usually doesn’t get mentioned. But man, he made some great movies, like And God Said to Cain, Cannibal Apocalypse, Code Name: Wild Geese and, of course, Yor Hunter from the Future.

Giancarlo Prete (Escape from the Bronx) is your hero, Sgt. Sal Maggio, and he’s been court-martialed for attacking Captain Harlow (Antonio Marsina) after a badly planned mission gets a friend killed. Maggio makes a break for it and runs behind enemy lines into the Cambodian jungle, chased by his own former soldiers and their enemy, too. There’s also a reporter (Luciano Pigozzi, Ark of the Sun GodLibido) trying to help him, but it may be too late for Maggio.

There’s a lot of stock footage from The Last Hunter in this and a lot of plot from Cross of Iron. But we’re not watching movies made in the Philippines or made by Italian genre directors because we want something brand new. Instead, we just want to be entertained.

The end of this movie is incredibly nihilistic and just plain brutal. I kind of love that it has a song playing during it that goes from a ripoff of The Doors “The End” to a fun little party song. It doesn’t match what’s happening on screen at all.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Philippine War Week II: Rescue Team (1983)

Jim Goldman is also Jun Gallardo, the director of fifty plus movies like SFX Retaliator and The Firebird Conspiracy. Are you surprised that he’s recruited Richard Harrison for this film mission? If you’ve watched as many movies where the Philippines become the new Vietnam, you’re not.

Also known as Operation Coleman — Frank Coleman is the man who needs to be rescued — and featuring the same cast as Intrusion: Cambodia (coming later this week) this one finds Harrison as CIA agent Robert F. Burton. He’s offered a hundred thousand dollars to save the POW and uses a government computer to choose the best men for the job.

Between pretending to be archaeologists and spending the night before their mission getting drunk at a strip club may not be the best move for these soldiers. Plus, in any gathering of thirteen — or however many people go to Vietnam to get a treasure or rescue someone in an 80s VHS rental movie — expect a Judas.

Somehow, Tetchie Agbayani — who plays Kara in this movie — would also appear as Princess Rubali in Gymkata, get to be in The Money Pit and Disorderlies (of all movies!) and was the first-ever Filipino woman to appear in Playboy (even if it was the German version).  She’s still acting today.

This has all your favorite soldiers in VHS films like Mike Monty, Romano Kristoff (who was in a few Mark Gregory movies including Just a Damned Soldier and Tan Zan: The Ultimate Mission), Jim Gaines (Strike CommandoCop Game), Korea war orphan and writer of this movie Don Gordon Bell (Enter the NinjaStryker), Mike Cohen (The One Armed Executioner) and more.

It’s not the best one of these movies you’ll find, but it’ll pass the time. And no, we don’t get to win this time.

You can watch this on YouTube or buy it from Revok.

Also…

It’s a Cannon (international) movie!

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: Get Crazy (1983)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally wrote about this movie on September 21, 2020. Back then, it had never even been released on DVD and we assumed that we’d never see a home release. Thanks to Kino Lorber, we were wrong.

This release has a brand new 2K master approved by director Allan Arkush; new audio commentary by Arkush, Eli Roth and Daniel Kremer; The After-Party, a new 76-minute documentary with appearances by Malcolm McDowell, Daniel Stern, Howard Kaylan, Stacy Nelkin, Gail Edwards, Lori Eastside and the Nada Band, Lee Ving, Allan Arkush, screenwriter Danny Opatoshu and crew members who share their excitement and joy in making the movie; three world premiere music videos (“Get Crazy Theme” buy Sparks, “Not Gonna Take It No More” by Lori Eastside & the Nada Band and a 2021 version of the song); the Trailers from Hell with Arkush and punk podcasters No Dogs in Space creating life stories and discographies for Reggie Wanker, Lori Eastside & the Nada Band and Piggy; plus the trailer. 

I don’t think we need to say it any louder: you need this blu ray.

Allan Arkush based most of his early films on his real life. Rock ‘n Roll High School is pretty much about going to New Jersey’s Fort Lee High School. And this film is all about his experiences working at The Fillmore East as an usher, stage crew member and in the psychedelic light show Joe’s Lights, which got him on stage with everyone from The Who, Grateful Dead and Santana to the Allman Brothers and Fleetwood Mac.

I have no idea what experiences helped shape HeartbeepsCaddyshack II and Deathsport, which he helped finish.

That said — Get Crazy lives in the exact heart of everything I love: hijinks movies, huge casts, rock and roll and cult films. It’s pretty much, well, everything.

This movie takes place on one night, December 31, 1982, as the Saturn Theater is getting ready for its annual New Year’s Eve blowout when its owner Max Wolfe (Allen Garfield, who sadly died of COVID-19 this past April) has a heart attack when arguing with concert promoter Colin Beverly (Ed Begley Jr.), leaving his stage manager Neil Allen (Daniel Stern) in charge, along with past stage manager Willy Loman (Gail Edwards). Man’s nephew Sammy (Mile Chapin) is trying to find his uncle so that he can get the rights to the club and sell them while everyone else tries to put on one last show.

This is a movie packed with familiar faces, like Bobby Sherman and Fabian as Beverly’s goons, who continually try to destroy the building and ruin the show. Seriously, there are so many people to get into, like Stacey Nelkin (Ellie Grimbridge!), Anne Bjorn (The Sword and the Sorcerer), Robert Picardo, Franklyn Ajaye, Dan Frischman (Arvid!), Denise Galik (Don’t Answer the Phone), Jackie Joseph (Mrs. Futterman!) and Linnea Quigley.

At this point, you may be saying, “Where are Clint Howard, Dick Miller, Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov?” They’re here. Of course they’re here.

I haven’t even gotten into the bands in this!

Nada (Lori Eastside from Kid Creole and the Coconuts) has a 15-member girl group that plays New Wave, garage rock, bubble gum and when Lee Ving jumps on stage, punk rock. Beyond Ving, Fear members Derf Scratch and Philo Cramer also appear.

King Blues is, well, the King of the Blues. He’s played by Bill Henderson (who was also Blind Lemon Yankovic and the cop in Clue, which also features Ving as Mr. Boddy).

Auden (Lou Reed!) is Bob Dylan, hiding from his fans, driving in a cab all night trying to write a song.

Reggie Wanker (Malcolm McDowell) is Mick Jagger, bedding groupies the whole show before he has a moment of mystic revelation. His drummer, Toad, is John Densmore of The Doors.

Captain Cloud (the Turtles’ Howard Kaylan) and the Rainbow Telegraph have a van just like Merry Pranksters and drugs just as powerful.

I mean, how can I not love a film that has a theme song by Sparks? Come on!

This was directed at the same time that Arkush did Bette Midler’s cover of “Beast of Burden,” complete with an appearance by Stacy Nelkin.

Anyways — forgive the fanboyishness nature of this. Actually. don’t. We should all love movies this much and feel this strongly about them.

Years of the Beast (1981)

“A fast-moving, feature-length, dramatic film that portrays the events in the book of Revelation.”
— The IMDb’s wishful-thinking copy writing department

If you read our reviews on the quartet of Russell Doughten and Donald W. Thompson’s PreMillenialist Dispensationalism flicks (that began with A Thief in the Night), you know how much we enjoy those biblical post-apoc romps. The same can’t be said for this lone directing effort by actor D. Paul Thomas (bit roles in films like The Hanoi Hilton and Inside Edge, TV series such as L.A. Law and Beverly Hills 90210) that’s based on a novel by Leon Chambers, scripted by family film purveyor Daniel L. Quick (Cry from the Mountain, Mountain Lady).

Nothing in the frames of this overly-talky, proselytizing pablum quantifies it as a “fast moving” or “dramatic” film. I’m not sure what movie those ecclesiastical reviewers were watching, as this lesson in snail racing is a butterless slice of burnt white toast washed down with a cold cup of coffee.

That’s not to say the film, despite its budget, is not ambitious in its efforts. But it’s that “effort” over the budget that usually scuttles films of the post-apoc ilk (see your favorite guilty Italian, Spanish, or Philippine ’80s apoc pleasure*). Years of the Beast wants to emulate PBS-TV’s later, secular-insightful nuclear war drama Testament, as well as ABC-TV’s The Day After, NBC-TV’s Special Bulletin (all 1983), and the BBC’s Threads (1984). Hollywood was into the “Life after a Nuclear Attack” craze (see 1977’s Damnation Alley; itself after a post-apoc novel), after all, so why not a Christian-take on the theme? But those films (sans Damnation Alley, which went the goofy kaiju-scorpions route) effectively examined the hopelessness and outright nightmare of life after a nuclear strike. The “dread” of those films is not to be found in these frames, since we are stuck with politics and bible-banging in the frames. (But at least we’re spared the flashback sermon inserts and preaching via “Tribulation Maps” to forward the plot.)

As the film begins — and if this film was as exciting as the above book cover, looks — the Beast, aka the Antichist, has risen and driven his heel into the backs of the world — a world where paper money is now worthless; a world besieged by every manner of natural disaster, government corruption, and oppression. And the Beast has all the answers. And the Rapture: Christian propaganda.

Of course, we experience none of this in-camera: we learn about it from a whiny, dry-as-toast, out-of-work college professor (and way too many, screeching portable radios) and his domineering wife, as they head out to her father’s small-town ranch to avoid receiving the dreaded Mark of the Beast (or was it to escape the quakes in the big city; don’t care). And just in time, as we get (the most, and only, impressive moment of the film) an against-the-budget nuclear destruction of Seattle (not stock news footage, but shot-on-the-extremely-cheap on the streets of Seattle).

While we cut back to the Antichirst enforcing his rule from The Vatican (curse you Catholics, for you are not true “Christians”), our once kindly, small town Sheriff is now drunk with power and in-touch with his true inner fascist to assure the new order is enforced. Oh, and the Antichrist: As foretold in the pages of Revelation, he receives a mortal head wound; his “spiritual advisor,” clad in a crab amulet (representing the cyclical nature of life), goes into full-on, ’70s B-movie Satanic candlemass mode, replete red robes, red mood lighting, and song chants to reanimate the imperious leader (the only other interesting set piece of the film).

So, with the Antichrist’s rise to power complete, now the Sheriff is really off his nut, as he is now bestowed the authority to round up the downtrodden for the “Universal Census” to receive their Marks. And with that, the chase is on, with our dopey professor assisted by a clan of woodsy, Christian freedom fighters; warriors for Christ who enjoy putting rifle barrels to a person’s head to force them denounce Jesus — as a test. Which begs the question: If the gun-threatened person said, “Praise the Prime Minister!” would the Christian soldiers carrying the cross of Jesus break the Fifth Commandment and murder those who chose the mark?

Boy, oh boy. Christians sure to love killing the non-believers under threat of rifle barrels and guillotines. So goes the par for the course in Christploitation apoc romps. And with that opening title card (see below), how can you not be converted to the new, paranoid way of thinking!

As the frames unfurled, I was taken back to my views of the shot-on-video Canadian snooze-fest that is Survival 1990 (1985), with its endless scenes of “walking and talking” and the penniless, post-apoc talking-and-talking ambitions of the secular, Gary Lockwood-starring Survival Zone (1983). In fact, it’s exactly those two films — only with a Biblical lesson tacked on. Another fact: This is the Steve Railsback and Marjoe Gortner starring The Survivalist (1987) — although Years of the Beast was made first.

In The Survivalist (which at least had a (very) small cast of extras rioting in the streets), Marjoe Gortner is a slobbering National Guardsman who, drunk with the freedom of newly-granted post-apocalypse enforcement powers, becomes obsessed with bringing Railsback to justice. In the frames of Years of the Beast, we have the same slobbering idiot — only in the form of a small town sheriff — who takes the universal Telex from the Antichrist a bit too literally, as he starts flashing his badge to loot homes of food and supplies (no hoarding allowed, but since he’s accepted the Mark, he’s allowed to hoard) and running-gunning down people in the street for stealing a can of dog food. (He’d probably rape, too, like Gortner, but this is a Christian flick, after all.) And when our fair college professor refuses to comply with the law, well, our good ol’ boy Sheriff McKifer has a new meaning in life, sans all other responsibilities to the new world order: Get Professor Steven Miles, no matter the cost: he will take the Mark. (The “cost” is that God strikes down McKifer with a powerful, deus ex machina blast of sun that raises boils on his flesh, then God pushes him off a cliff.)

Unlike most of the low-budget, post-apoc Christian films we’ve reviewed, such as the (superior) films of Donald W. Thompson, we at least have a cast of trained, secular thespians. You see the instantly recognizable character actor faces of Macon McCalman (Smokey and the Bandit and Dead & Buried are two of his many), TV stalwart Jerry Houser (who got his start in The Summer of ’42, then became Marsha’s hubby in The Brady Bunch reboots), his wife, played by Sarah Rush (Corporal Rigel from Battlestar Galactica: TOS), and James Blendick (Chris Farley’s Tommy Boy), and Jon Locke (way back to ’50s TV westerns). Heading the cast, in his first leading role, is Gary Bayer (Starflight One: The Plane That Couldn’t Land, Psycho III, and lots of TV series). And that’s the not-bad, Anthony Quinn’s daughter Valentina Quinn (an all too-short film career) as the Sheriff’s 2nd (who he eventually kills, but doesn’t rape, because this isn’t a secular apoc-flick, which always has superfluous rapes). Each of the actors are on-point and serviceable enough in their roles, but what they have to work with isn’t there.

Look, I know this film’s message is well-intentioned, but it’s a tedious lesson in bad everything — and it felt like it took a year to watch. The lesson, by the way, I’ve learned from revisiting and refreshing myself with a week of Christploitation apoc flicks is that the prophetic apocalypse will brought on by:

  1. Russia and/or Cuba
  2. China
  3. Catholics, ruling from the new world capitol of The Vatican
  4. Israel and the Jewish Nation, for not believing in Jesus Christ
  5. The United Nations, from the new, world seat of New York City

And that all peoples in categories 1 – 4 are unequivocally damned to hell. And so it goes. . . .

You can feel the spirit move you — or not — with uploads of the full film on You Tube or Tubi. You can sample the trailer on You Tube.

* We examine many of those post-Mad Max/Escape from New York flicks with our two-part “Atomic Dustbin” round-ups during our all-apocalypse month blowout.

A special thanks to Paul at VHS Collector.com for the clean images.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

MILL CREEK DRIVE-IN MOVIE CLASSICS: Prisoners of the Lost Universe (1983)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally wrote about this movie on August 21, 2018. Now we’re bringing it back with some edits for Mill Creek Month.

Is there an actor that can save any movie for you? There is one for me: John Saxon. I have sat through many a piece of absolute shit only because Saxon shows up to be the hero of the day, even if he’s usually the villain.

TV reporter Carrie Madison (Kay Lenz, The Initiation of Sarah, House) is trying to meet with mad scientist Dr. Hartmann when she literally runs into Dan Roebuck’s (Richard Hatch, TV’s Battlestar Galactica) truck. Once they find the scientist, his machine causes them all to disappear to the parallel world of Vonya, which is populated by cavemen and the warlord Kleel (John Saxon, of course) who has plenty of Earth technology.

Director Terry Marcel also was behind the films Hawk the Slayer and Jane and the Lost City, so obviously sword, sorcery and science fiction was his bread and butter. Too bad that his bread and butter tastes so bad.

If you want to see John Saxon out act everyone around him — sadly I wish this were higher praise — and a ragtag group of aliens fight cavemen, I guess you should watch this. I can recommend several much better movies in this genre, though. That said, it’s free to watch on Tubi.