Mondo Elvis (1984)

Twin sisters who believe Elvis was their father.

A woman whose husband left her because she loved Presley more than him.

An impersonator duly appointed to do his routine because The King came to him in a dream.

Elvis Presley — only five years gone when this was made — inspired a legion of fans that really turned him into a religion.

This film is the perfect way to see thirty minutes of a window into their world.

Elvis is the kind of performer who could release an entire album of stage banter. Having Fun with Elvis on Stage was another con by his boss Colonel Parker, who wanted to put out an album on his Boxcar Records label so that he could make all of the profits. Elvis’ RCA contract never said that they owned the rights to a spoken word album, so this record was created. It’s basically Elvis humming and telling stories that have no context because we have no idea what song he is about to sing. This dialogue is all taken from the middle of shows, so we have no real idea what he is talking about and potentially neither does Presley at this late stage. This was sold at Elvis’ concerts before RCA learned of the duplicity and released it. Surprisingly, this record made it to 130 on the Billboard charts before Elvis asked for it to be deleted.

I bet everyone in this movie owns a copy.

You can watch this on YouTube.

The Excellent Eighties: Tuareg: The Desert Warrior (1984)

Okay, ye purveyor of B-Trash, let’s unpack the caveats:

  1. While that looks like a rendering of Michael Sopkiw on the one-sheet, this isn’t a repack of Blastfighter made to look like a First Blood/Rambo sequel — although that film was inspired by the adventures of Rambo.
  2. While it looks like it’s a Mark Gregory War movie — of which he made four, plus three Thunder movies — themselves each inspired by Rambo — this isn’t a repack of any of those movies. (We break those flicks down as part of our “Mark Gregory Week” tribute.
  3. Do not do what I did and confuse this with Jim Goldman, aka John Gale, aka Filipina Jun Gallardo’s Mad Max apoc-poo Desert Warrior starring Lou Ferrigno.
  4. No, this isn’t a Stallone Rambo foreign repack with bad art work.
  5. Yes, as incredible as it may seem, the Mark Harmon in the credits — in lieu of Michael Sopkiw or Mark Gregory (!) that should be starring — is the same Mark Harmon you’re now watching in reruns from CBS-TV’s NCIS.
  6. This is, in fact, a Enzo G. Castellari’s production, aka The Desert Warrior, aka Tuareg: The Desert Warrior, aka Rambo of the Desert Warrior, which makes no sense. Why not Rambo, the Desert Warrior or Rambo: Desert Blood?

Now, when you see the dependable name of Enzo G. Castellari — the man who gave us Inglorious Bastards, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Escape from the Bronx, and Warriors of the Wasteland, you know you’re getting intriguing action, and a bag o’ chips.

In a desolate section of the Libyan-Algerian Sahara once ruled by the French, Gacel Sayah (Mark Harmon), a Tuareg tribal leader (in tanning make-up and blue contacts), offers refuge to two government fugitives. When soldiers from the newly-installed Arab regime demand the “war criminals” be turned over to them, our desert Rambo refuses, based on the region’s ancient, scared laws. When the soldiers murder one and kidnap the other war criminal, Sayah mounts a bloody campaign to rescue his charge, for so says “the law.”

If you’ve watched any of Enzo’s westerns — A Few Dollars for Django and One Dollar Too Many — then you’ll know that Enzo was into desert-based mayhem long before Stallone came on the scene, so what you get with this much HBO-aired ditty is a war-modernized Spaghetti Western. And be it western, poliziotteschi, or post-apocalypse, Castellari never disappoints, non-A-List Hollywood budgets be damned.

By the time Harmon went all spaghetti-Rambo in the joint, he got his start with guest shots as cops on Adam-12 and its ’70s sister show, Emergency (which I’ve seen these past months as Antenna TV reruns). Harmon also starred in two, failed one-season series with the cop procedural-dramas Sam (1977) and (the one I remember watching first-run) 240-Robert (1979). He was one season deep into his breakthrough role as Dr. Robert Caldwell in the NBC-TV medical drama St. Elsewhere when Tuareg: The Desert Warrior was released. But I have a feeling Harmon probably filmed this Italian romp long before production on the series began — with Enzo holding back the film (due to creative or cash flow issues), then realized he had a “star” in his film. As for Harmon: when it came to crossing over to a theatrical career, he went for comedy instead of action, with the (date night) flops Summer School and Worth Winning (both utter awful) and some military drama with Sean Connery (that I am too lazy to research, but also sucked) and eventually, like David Caruso before him, came back to television.

When you think that Harmon is the guy from TV’s NCIS . . . made-up to look Middle Eastern . . . makes this spaghetti Rambo an even more fascinating watch. And you can watch this Mill Creek box set public domain ditty on You Tube or get your own copy as part of their Excellent Eighties 50-Movie Pack.

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 Excellent Eighties: Hard Knox (1984)

The joy of enjoying Robert Conrad as an actor is a case of you had to be there: if you weren’t, you missed out. Back in the day: we went gold, red and black because Conrad told us so. And we can remember those days thanks to Mill Creek rescuing this lost and forgotten TV Movie adrift in the public domain.

If you’re a younger surfer amid the digital pages of B&S About Movies, Conrad is just that old guy from The Wild Wild West (1965 – 1969) adapted into that utterly awful Will Smith movie Wild Wild West (1999) where Smith portrayed Conrad’s Jim West: no, there was never any giant, Civil War-era mechanical spiders in the series. If you’re a wee-bit older and go back to the pre-cable days of local UHF-TV, you remember coming home from school and watching Conrad as Tom Lopaka on the early ’60s series 77 Sunset Strip, a character which grew into its own four-years series, Hawaiian Eye. And the not-so-old and the not-so-young remember Conrad as Pappy Boyington on Black Sheep Squadron in the ’80s.

Before there was a Tom Selleck, there was Robert Conrad: he was the “he man” of the ’70s, rife with the “sex” for the women and the “brawn” for the men. From Murph the Surf (1975), Sudden Death (1977), and The Lady in Red (1979), he packed the duplexes and the Drive-Ins. From Smash-Up on Interstate 5 (1976), Coach of the Year (1980), and Two Father’s Justice (1994), we turned his TV movies into ratings winners. If Conrad was still active and relevant as an actor in the 21st Century, Sylvester Stallone would have cast him in The Expendables, because, for his fans (moi): Action equals Conrad and vise versa.

However, Conrad, even when playing off his tough guy image, isn’t comedy. And that led to his decision, which he later regretted, in turning down the role of Cmndt. Lassard in the first Police Academy film. Conrad tried to correct that career misstep with a role in Neal Isreal and Pat Profts’s next film, Moving Violations (1985) and this military comedy. With his two comedic bids failing at the box office, he went back to the action genre with the TV movies The Fifth Missile (1986) and Assassin (1986; which we reviewed as part of our last Mill Creek blowout with their Sci-Fi Invasion set).

Image courtesy of terriers4u/eBay.

In a story idea conjured by Conrad, and in an obvious bid to correct the wrong of turning down Police Academy, he’s Joe Knox: a hard-nosed, retired Air Force Colonel who takes over the leadership of a co-ed military academy from his mentor, General Garfield (Bill Erwin; Across 240-plus credits: Plains, Trains & Automobiles, Home Alone . . . and too many TV series to mention, yes, Samuel, even Seinfeld: “My Teeth, My Teeth, you moron!”). Helping Col. Knox whip the Porky’s-cum-Animal House bumbling cadets (including Alan Ruck of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off fame) into shape is Thomas “Top” Tuttle (ex-Elvis body guard Red West of Road House).

Since this is an ’80s TV movie, the shenanigans are innocuous and not as racy as the Police Academy films it apes, and it’s not as funny as No Time for Sergeants (the military comedy gold standard, so what film is), but it doesn’t fail as badly as Mad Magazine‘s (really awful) military school romp Up the Academy (1980). Also keep your eyes open for Reb Brown (TV’s original Captain America, Space Mutiny) and Dennis Farina (in an early role; on his way to TV’s Law & Order as Det. Fontana).

Sam? Notice how I got a plug for both Law & Order and Seinfeld into one review? Sweet!

You can get your own copy of Hard Knox as part of Mill Creek’s Excellent Eighties box set and watch it on You Tube.

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

THE EXCITING EIGHTIES: Dog Day (1984)

You know what this Mill Creek box set needs? A French movie with a sixty-year-old Lee Marvin making all the French farm women all say, “Je suis excitée.” Yes, Lee’s in town, he’s got cash from a bank job gone wrong and Jessica (Miou-Miou) had the hots for him, despite you know, him robbing a bank and shooting everyone indiscriminately on the way to freedom.

If only she could get away from her husband Horace, who makes Lee look like a saint what with all his abuse, assault and hints of incest. He even causes a family member to kill herself because he keeps telling her that she’s going to an old folk’s home.

Somehow, both Juliet Mills — yes, from Beyond the Door — and Tina Louise — yes, from Gilligan’s Island — show up in this, as well as a scene where a naked woman beats Lee about the head with her breasts.

Everyone in this movie is crazy. I mean, what else can you say about a movie that ends with a kid that yells, “I’m a millionaire. We’ll go to America. You’ll wear lipstick and you’ll always be beautiful. I’ll pick out all your boyfriends. We’ll be rich. We’ll be nasty. We’ll fear nobody. We’ll be real shitheads.”

In his biography, director Yves Boisset stayed sober throughout the shooting of this film, despite his reputation of being a drunk. As soon as the movie wrapped, Marvin got wasted and beat the hell out of a cop. He felt bad and sent the guy flowers afterward. Ah, Lee. We still miss you.

You can watch this on Tubi.

The Excellent Eighties: Second Sight: A Love Story (1984)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to Mill Creek Month! As you know, we love our Mill Creek box sets, so we’re doing an entire month of these films. The first set we got into was their B-Movie Blast 50-Film pack, then their Gorehouse Greats 12-Pack. And as with those sets — as is par for the course with these bricks of films, with their mashups of movie mayhem their Excellent Eighties 50-Movie set is no different, with its crazy mix of drive-in ditties and lost network TV movies across all genres. So, to start our unpacking of this set . . . here’s our first review!

Oh, boy, Sam . . . when this was first assigned to me as “Second Sight” — without romantic the suffix — I thought I’d have to fly off the top ropes of the Civic Arena and whoop-ass Shirley Doe (my boss’s wrestling altar ego) for stickin’ it to me with that friggin’ John Larroquette monstrosity from 1989, you know, from back in the day when Bronson Pinchot was a “thing,” poised as the next Robin Williams . . . Bess Armstrong’s heart-weeping cuteness (Jaws 3-D) in the film, be damned. . . .

Sorry, Sam.

As it turns out, this debut entry on this Mill Creek set is an ’80s CBS-TV movie based on the best-selling romance novel Emma and I by Sheila Hocken. The “Emma” in this case, is a dog.

What? Why are you snickering? What gives with the eye rolls?

I’m not a totally heartless B-Movie slob. I can be romantic! Just not Hallmark Channel-romantic . . . only old “Big Three Network” romantic. And I’ll take a romantic dog-chick flick over a psychic-infused Balki Bartokomous flick any day of the week — and twice on Sundays.

How obscure and lost is this film: it’s easier to find a clean image of the book than the TV adverts or DVDs.

TV movie powerhouse Elizabeth Montgomery shines (as always) as Alexandra McKay, a woman who has been blind for nearly 20 years. Fearful that people will take advantage of her condition, she’s staunchly independent, living a sheltered, private life — a world where she only trusts her best friend: her always dependable guide dog, Emma. She allows love to enter her life when she meets Richard Chapman, an art dealer. And it’s great to see Barry Newman — of Vanishing Point fame — as said art dealer, allowed to stretch his thespian wings in a dramatic-cum-romantic role.

Now, we know . . . ugh, romance . . . chick flicks . . . argh! So, we’ll play the John Korty card to get you to watch.

John’s career dates back to directing numerous episodes of PBS-TV’s Sesame Street, while his theatrical and TV movie efforts date to the early ’60s. If you grew up in the ’70s, you know John put his previous skills as a documentarian to good use in the TV rating juggernaut Who Are the DeBolts? and Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids? that was hosted by Henry “The Fonz” Winkler (The Lords of Flatbush). Korty also wrote and directed Oliver’s Story (1978), the not-as-successful-and-critically-lambasted sequel to the early ’70s standard for maudlin-romance flicks: Love Story (1970). Another one of Korty’s biggies was the civil rights-drama The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974).

But wait, hey you! Star Wars fan: John Korty directed the Lucasian knockoff, The Ewok Adventure (1984).

All in all, this is great stuff. This is why we have Mill Creek sets: to preserve well-made, forgotten films . . . and not just Crown International, B-Movie schlock. Bravo, Mill Creek!

You can watch a VHS rip on You Tube and own Second Sight: A Love Story as part of Mill Creek’s Excellent Eighties 50-Movie pack.

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

REPOST: Killpoint (1984) and Low Blow (1986)

Editor’s Note: Mill Creek is back one more time with this Leo Fong and Frank Harris two-fer — and we love it! This review originally posted on March 8, 2020, as part of our Explosive Cinema 12-Pack reviews. And you can also get it on the B-Movie Blast 50-Film Box Set (Amazon) which we’re reviewing all this month.

Frank Harris and Leo Fong! My head is swimming. Where do I begin with this review?

Well, first off, you can get both of these Crown International releases on Mill Creek’s “Explosive Cinema” 12-pack (along with Scorpion, Skydivers, and 9 Deaths of the Ninja). Second: You also get Troy Donahue (Omega Cop), Richard Roundtree (Q: The Winged Serpent), and, say what? Cameron Mitchell (Space Mutiny) appears in both?

Harris. Fong. Mitchell? Sign me up!

What’s that? Harris also did the post-apoc romp Aftershock and the cop actioner Lockdown (1990; trailer) with Richard Lynch from Deathsport and Ground Rules? What? No way! And Fong did Showdown (1993; full movie) with Lynch as well? Rock on! Richard Friggin’ Lynch. Rock on, Ankar Moor, you post-apoc bad ass.

Frank Harris

Writer, director, producer and cinematographer Frank Harris got his start as a reporter for a small California TV station. But his true love was film. He got his start in the movie business courtesy of the fifth film from Asian action star Leo Fong, 1976’s Ninja Assassins (aka Enforcer from Death Row), who hired Harris as a cinematographer. (I have wonderful memories of my older cousin, Bobby, who studied martial arts and was ready to go into the military, taking me to the Drive-In after seeing the film’s commercial on TV. Yes, I rented it when it came out on VHS.)

After putting one more cinematography gig under his belt with the 1984 actioner Goldrunner (trailer: race cars, motorcycles and kidnapping), Fong hired Harris to not only serve as the cinematographer, but as the producer, director and screenwriter for his eighth film as an actor: Killpoint.

Then there was Harris’s directing gig with 1996’s Skyscraper, an awful attempt to turn famous-for-being-famous ex-Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith into—not only into an “actress” and not only into a “leading lady”—an “action star.” Anna Nicole as a hot, corporate helicopter pilot who goes “Die Hard” when terrorists take over her employer’s office tower? Huh and W.T.F. It’s one of those movies where you simply can not turn away. And let me make this point perfectly clear: there’s a lot of people to blame for it, but Harris isn’t one of them; he was just a director-for-hire. (Watch the full movie at your own peril; the trailer might even be too much to bear.)

Killpoint (1984)

Cameron Mitchell returned from Ninja Assassins, this time as Joe Marks, an illegal arms dealer who robs a Californian National Guard Armory with plans to sell the weapons to L.A’s street gangs. Lt. James Long (Fong) a bitter, troubled L.A detective still dealing with the rape and murder of his wife a year earlier, gets his chance to go “Dirty Harry” —well, “Jackie Chan,” actually—when he discovers Mark’s sidekick, known as Nighthawk (professional ex-boxer Stack Pierce; worked on several of Fred Williamson’s Blaxploitation films), was responsible for her death. Teamed with FBI Agent Bill Bryant (Richard Roundtree), they bring them to justice.

Of course, while Fong was already a major star in the Eurasian marketplace, he was an unknown commodity in the States. So while Roundtree’s part in Killpoint is a minor one, as you can see from the below poster images, that didn’t stop the distributors from highlighting Roundtree’s contribution—and giving Leo Fong the short shift on the U.S Drive-In and video campaigns.

Where’s Leo?

Low Blow (1986)

Karen Templeton (Patti Bowling; her only film role) is a young, wayward Patty Hearst-type heiress brainwashed-kidnapped by the Church of Universal Enlightenment, a Jonestown-styled religious cult run by Cameron Mitchell’s Jim Jones-inspired Yarakunda.

After seeing Joe Wong (Leo Fong), a harried ex-San Francisco detective take down a couple of thugs who mugged an old lady, Karen’s tycoon-father (Troy Donahue) decides Wong is the man for the job to rescue his daughter. So Wong recruits a Vietnam vet and ex-pro-boxer (Stack Piece is back!) to get her out. Once inside, Wong fights the cult-camp’s ninjas and world-renowned martial artist and Tae Bo exercise program guru Billy Blanks (Tango & Cash, Lionheart) in his first film role.

Leo Fong

Leo Fong is still going strong at the incredible age of 91. He starred in three films in 2018: Hidden Peaks, Dragon to Dragon, and the most recent film: Challenge of the Five Gauntlets. And he has four more films in various stations of filming and pre/post production: Pact of Vengenance (with Jon-Mikl Thor!), Asian Cowboys, Runaway Killer, Hard Way Heroes, and Junkers. You catch up with Leo and his Sky Dragon Entertainment at LeoFong.com.

Other films in the Harris-Fong oeuvre include 24 Hours to Midnight with Cynthia Rothrock (1985; clip), Hawkeye (1988; full movie) (seen them on VHS), and the direct-to-DVD releases Brazilian Brawl (2003; trailer) and Transformed (2005; full movie) (honestly, never heard of them or seen them; I need to change that).

You can watch the TRAILER and the FULL MOVIE for Killpoint, the TRAILER and FULL MOVIE for Low Blow, and the FULL MOVIE of their first film, Ninja Assassins, on You Tube.

B-Movie Blast: Fleshburn (1984)

This is another one of those public domain ditties that I don’t recall as playing in theaters, but seeing after the fact as an early HBO programmer. And yes, it was on the home video shelves, but I didn’t need to rent it, as result of its incessant cable airings.

You’ll notice the Death Wish* plug that, sadly, didn’t pack ticket buyers into the theaters or drive-ins, thus the film’s quick appearance on pay cable. Death Wish, as you know, was a best-selling 1972 novel by Brian Garfield turned into the 1974 Charles Bronson-starrer. Garfield’s other book-to-screen successes that you may not know about include 1971 western Gun Down, which became 1976’s The Last Hard Men (the book was reissued under that title as a film tie-in) starring Charlton Heston, and the 1975 spy-thriller Hopscotch, which became a 1980 film of the same name starring Walter Matthau and Sam Waterson (one of my favorite actors, with films like Capricorn One and Warning Sign).

Absolutely nothing to do with Rambo.

For the younger, modern audiences: you’ve seen Garfield’s official Death Wish sequel, 1975’s Death Sentence, turned into the 2007 James Wan-directed and Kevin Bacon-starring film of the same name (but the film does not pick up the Death Wish-film timeline, nor follows the book’s plotting). And you know the quintessential, crazy dad flick, The Stepfather (1978) and its sequels in 1989 and 1992: those began with an unpublished story turned into a screenplay by Garfield. And again, I remember the newspaper and TV ads for The Last Hard Men and Hopscotch — and seeing both in theaters — but not Fleshburn, which was based on Garfield’s 1978 novel, Fear in a Handful of Dust.

What we have here is a survival thriller that, based on the theatrical one-sheet, looks like we may be getting a post-Max Max apoc flick or a Wes Craven The Hills Have Eyes imprint — of which Fleshburn is neither. What we do have here another outdoor revenge thriller akin to John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972) and the Peter Fonda-starring Open Season (1974). And the apoc confusion — in spite of the B-Movie-ish theatrical one-sheet — is also the result of Fleshburn somewhat pinching a highly-influential film we name drop often within the context of B&S Movie reviews: Richard Connell’s 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” which became a 1932 film of the same name — a film that inspired several, ’80s Italian-Euro apocalyptic films**.

While Steve Kanaly, then hot-off-CBS-TV’s primetime soap opera Dallas as Ray Krebbs gets top-billing, the star-antagonist of the film is actor-stuntman Sonny Landham; you know him as Billy Bear in 48 Hrs. (1982) and Indian tracker Billy Sole in Predator (1987). Landham stars as Calvin Duggai, an ex-Vietnam vet who escapes his wrongfully-committed mental institution imprisonment to kidnap the four psychiatrists who committed/treated him — and their family members. He dumps the emotionally blind and relationship-troubled city slickers deep in the desert and spies on their struggle for survival.

Sound like a pretty decent tale so far, right? Well. . . .

Considering being ripped as a “soap actor,” Kanaly is really good in his role as the most resourceful of the bunch (he should have transitioned as fellow soap actor Ray Liotta) courtesy of his having giving up psychiatry to become a park ranger. Sadly, this is a Crown International Picture production, a studio where exploitation and sensationalism is marketing de rigueur. So, instead of having the deep, psychological character study of Brian Garfield’s Fear in a Handful of Dust, we have, well, a pseudo-copy of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes after all, with a bunch of bickering, can’t-get-their-shit-together city folks who illicit no sympathy as kidnap victims and deserve a desert “fleshburn” comeuppance. If there is a message-plot twist to extract, it would be that Landham’s Indian — a spiritually free man who lived on and off the open land — was, figuratively, abandoned in the “desert” of the white man’s institution; now Duggai has taken the spiritually blind city folks and dumped them his “desert” to survive.

Sadly, since this is a much-distributed public domain title in the digital age, the DVDs — both grey-market and not-so-grey — are from the edited TV prints that negate the film’s original R-rating that played on HBO and was officially issued on VHS.

Criticisms aside: While Fleshburn could have been so much better, I enjoyed this movie a few times over, courtesy of its HBO replays, and during my revisit this week. Even with the TV cut, this still comes highly recommended. We found a ripped-from-VHS, R-rated copy to enjoy on You Tube. And you can have your own copy as part of Mill Creek’s B-Movie Blast 50-Film Pack.

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

* Be sure to check out our “Death Wish Week” of reviews.
** Be sure to check out our month-long, two-part post-apoc homage with our “Atomic Dustbin” round-ups. The big kahuna of the genre is, of course, Elio Petri’s 1965, sci-fi pop-art “human death sport” romp, The 10th Victim.

B-MOVIE BLAST: Weekend Pass (1984)

Never doubt my commitment to Crown International Pictures or Mill Creek Entertainment. As I prepared to watch this movie, I learned that my B-Movie Blast set actually had the disks for the Dark Crimes set. A quick Amazon order was made, but I wouldn’t be getting a delivery in time to write this for the site. And Weekend Pass, in a world where everything is streaming, was not streaming, even on Mill Creek’s great movieSPREE app.

There’s one place on the internet that movies go and hide. That would be OK.ru, the Russian lawless land of video, where you can often find the movie you want — it was the only place I could find Armed and Dangerous — but you have to hear someone screaming the dialogue in Russian over the real audio track of the movie.

Lawrence Bassoff made two movies: this one and Hunk. Both are on the B-Movie Blast set — as well as Mill Creek’s Too Cool for School collection. Yes, I am that guy buying multiple Mill Creek 12, 20, 50 and even 100 movie sets just because I love them that much.

Basically, four Navy recruits get out and about on shore leave after finishing their initial training. This is what we call a hijinks ensue movie. Just re-read that first sentence and add “hijinks ensure” and you’ve got the entire movie figured out.

Have I seen too many teen sex comedies to instantly recognize Chip McAllister as Magneto Jones from Hamburger: The Motion Picture? That D.W. Brown was in Mischief? That Hilary Shepherd was also in Scanner CopTheodore Rex and, yes, Bassoff’s other film Hunk?

Look, some people use their minds to make the world a better place by inventing great things or leading others in peace and harmony. I just sit here in my pajamas watching teen movies from when I was a teen and write them up for you to read. I’d argue I’m doing the Lord’s work.

PS: Phil Hartman is in this, which makes how boring the rest of the film is a necessary exercise and maddening, because he should have just been the whole movie.

The Lost Empire (1984)

I’m always saying I’m not a fan of Jim Wynorski’s movies and then find myself realizing that yes, I like several of his films.

The director may have flunked out of film school, but he turned an introduction to Roger Corman into a career and a chance to write scripts, starting with one of my favorite Corman science fiction films, Forbidden World, and moving on to SorceressScrewballsBeastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time and so many more.

This is the movie that he started directing with, also making Chopping MallDeathstalker IIBig Bad Mama IISorority House Massacre II and III, Return of the Swamp Thing and 976-EVIL II, which is another film of his that yes, I admit that I enjoy. I even like his Cinemax After Dark movies like the Body Chemistry sequels and stuff like Munchie.

So alright. I like his movies. I’ve learned something. I can even respect that he’s gone the way of most horror directors of my youth, alternating between children’s movies like A Doggone Christmas and A Doggone Hollywood with the softcore stuff he’s known for, SyFy-style creature movies and weird stuff like Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre.

But if every movie Wynorski made was like The Lost Empire? He’d probably be one of my favorite directors.

We start in Chinatown, where three masked intruders try to steal the glowing eye of a statue. Everyone dies in the battle except for one cop who barely makes it. And then, the next day, terrorists take over a school before Inspector Angel Wolfe (Melanie Vincz, Hunk) takes out everyone, which almost includes a fed named Rick Stanton (Paul Coufos, 976-EVIL II). Luckily, she stops in time for him to survive and then, as is customary in police and federal working relationships, they aardvark.

When they wake up the next morning, Angel and Rick learn that her brother Rob (Bill Thornbury, Jody from Phantasm!) was the police officer who survived the jewelry store shootout. In the hospital, he hands her a throwing star and says, “The Devil exists and the Eye knows where.” Instead of being freaked out, Rick launches into exposition mode to tell us all about Lee Chuck (when I realized this was Angus Scrimm, I lost my mind), a man who has become immortal yet must give Satan a new soul every day.

Keep in mind that we are about fifteen minutes into this movie and we’ve already had a job versus ninja battle, terrorists fighting a lone cop, a sex scene and an occult backstory. I already was head over heels for this one.

When Angel examines the crime scene, one of the glowing eyes makes its way into her purse — all on its own — before Inspector Charles Chang (Art Hern, Simon King of the Witches) goes into even more exposition, explaining the Eyes of Avatar, two jewels that the Dragon-God blessed with the power to rule the world. He tells her that Lee Chuck is real, has one of the eyes and has joined up with the cult of Dr. Sin Do (also Angus Scrimm!).

With her brother dying from his wounds, Angel decides that she must destroy Sin Do, who has begun recruiting an army of terrorists, including Anthony Kiedis’ dad Blackie Dammit and Angel Pettijohn as Whiplash. So she does what any of us would. No, she doesn’t file the paperwork to get a task force and multiple police and federal units involved. She instead learns that Dr. Do — no relation to Mr. Do, although both have castles — only accepts groups of female soldiers in threes. And that means that she has to bring in her old friend, the Native American supersoldier Whitestar (Raven De La Croix, perhaps the greatest of all Russ Meyer’s women next to Tura Satana; she was also the associate producer, costume designer and animal handler of this movie while doing all of her own stunts) and Heather (Angela Aames, Fairy TalesH.O.T.S.), a convict who she promises to parole — how does she have that power? — if she helps like some nascent version of the Suicide Squad.

Whatever. Logic be damned, the ladies are off for Golgotha, Dr. Do’s castle fortress, where more ninja battles and a cast that includes Robert Tessier (who was one of the four members of Stunts Unlimited along with Hal Needham, Glenn R. Wilder and Ronnie Rondell Jr.), Linda Shayne (Miss Salmon from Humanoids from the Deep who would go on to direct Purple People Eater), Kenneth Tobey (who was in so many movies, like the original The ThingDirty Mary Crazy LarryThe Howling and more), Anny Gaybis (who was in a movie with one of my favorite titles, Wam Bam Thank You Spaceman!) and Tommy Rettig (Jeff Miller from the Lassie series and the star of one of the strangest movies to ever escape Hollywood, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T) await.

I mean, this movie is so close to being in the same continuity as Big Trouble In Little China that Alan Howarth did the music for it. I’ll go ever further and say that thanks to Blackie Dammit being in it, it might even be in the same universe as 9 Deaths of the Ninja. It’s a total blast, a movie that is somehow the answer to the unasked question, “What if Russ Meyer directed Enter the Dragon?”

This is definitely the movie to put on if you’re down. I mean, how can you be sad after watching a movie where Angus Scrimm’s bad guy character has a giant snake and can survive losing his head, much less one that features a prison shower flashback just to prove that one of the heroines was in jail at one point and hints that Raven De La Croix has supernatural powers? We’re going to have to go through a black hole and out the other side to create new stars to come up with how many I’d give this movie.

Terror, Sexo Y Brujeria (1968 and 1984)

This is a movie that raises so many questions.

Here’s the first: Why did I list it as being made in 1968 and 1984?

That’s because it was originally Cautivo del Mas Allá (Captives of the Beyond) when it came out in the late 60’s.

In that movie, Rafael Portillo (who made the Aztec Mummy films, as well as the mummy parts of Face of the Screaming Werewolf) told the story of Vicki, who wants to be gorgeous, so a witch gets her to strip for Satan, who gives her the power of being a vedette dancer.

For some reason, Portillo decided to grab all the footage from that movie — which is more a romantic story with supernatural elements — to make a gore movie about Satan. You know, movies like this are exactly why we have a web site.

So let me see if I can make sense of this one.

Vicki (Ana Luisa Peluffo, who was one of the first Mexican actresses to appear nude, she’s also in El Violador Infernal, one of the most mental movies I’ve ever seen) is in love with Ricardo (Gonzalo Aiza, who also produced this movie, and strangely it is the only movie or movies that he ever appeared in*), who only has eyes for Barbara (Barbara Wells, who didn’t do much more than appear in John Candy’s Summer Rental and an episode of Lassie).

That’s when Vicki does what any of us would do. She sells her soul to the devil, who makes her man soft with any woman not named Vicki, which seems like a pretty dark bargain. They aardvark, but then a private dick shows up to say that she’s on the left hand path, which ends up with her stabbing poor Ricardo in the throat.

This is when all the new footage shows up, as there’s a funeral and Ricardo’s brother Carlos tells his brother’s ghost that he will avenge his death, so brother and possesses brother and sleeps with his Satanic sister-in-law, which seems like something people search for in late October on Pornhub. Then, Carlos kills her and has to go to court to argue the occult reasons why this all went down.

For some reason, Ricardo also shows up as a zombie that rips out people’s innards after a firing squad shoots his brother dead — after that court case — and has the sound effect of Vincent Price’s laughter.

This came out as Terror, Sexo y Brujería (Terror, Sex and Witchcraft), which is one of the best titles of all time, in theaters and Narco Satanico on VHS, which is also a great name.

Some of this movie will bore you into submission with long courtroom scenes, but stay with it. There will be moments of Satan in a Ben Cooper mask wandering a cemetery with fog all around him, as well as glowing graves, extreme gore and a mariachi band that has been dubbed to play synth.

Adding to the confusion of this film is that there are times — within minutes — where two different actors play the same character and time moves back and forth until you are confused beyond belief. The editing also has ADD, so there are times when you’ll just get flashes of things that have nothing to do with what is happening on screen or eyes getting superimposed over the footage, as if they forgot a layer or to delete something, but Photoshop and non-linear editing didn’t really exist in 1968 or 1984.

You know how some people get their doctorates by writing their thesis about ways that they plan on bettering the world? Mine is going to concern this film, explaining how two movies, made sixteen years apart, can use the same footage and tell two similar yet wildly different stories that bridge the gap between Mexico’s ripoff cinema of the late 60’s, which was still influenced by Universal movies from three decades before, and the VHS films of the 80’s, which saw Mexican filmmakers create Fulci-esque films with no filter whatsoever.

*This is a complete mystery to me, as well as the awesome The Bloody Pit of Horror site, which discusses whether this role is played by Gonzalo Aiza — as listed sometimes in the credits — or Carluis Saval, the name used on the 1984 version for Carlos, who looks exactly the same as Ricardo. Plus, is the producer Dr. Gonzalo Aiza Avalos the same person? What’s the story with Film-Mex Productions, who bought all this footage and hired the original director to make a remix? Was it all a front for Avalos to make himself or his son or whoever a star? And why is David Reynoso, who plays an attorney in this movie, holding a machine gun on the VHS cover art?