Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Brother from Another Planet (1984)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) memoir writer for Story Terrace in London. You can read more of her film, books and music reviews at and on her blog

The best Science Fiction holds a mirror up to the society from which it sprang. Brother From Another Planet (1984) does this in several innovative ways. Written and directed by John Sayles, it tells the story of a three-toed empathic runaway alien slave (T2’s Joe Morton) stranded on earth. Despite the fact he cannot speak and is never named, he is one of the most sympathetic aliens ever committed to film. He hears and feels the past through surfaces. Upon landing on Ellis Island, he becomes overwhelmed by the voices of the past – a full 36 years before Klaus in The Umbrella Academy.

As much as Morton is the star of the film, Harlem – where “the brother” finds sanctuary – is his co-star. All the locations are real and at times it looks as if the people in the background were passers-by rather than paid extras. On life as person of color in the city, one character offers the opinion, “I’d rather be a cockroach on a baseboard up here, than the Emperor of Mississippi.” The brother likely feels the same way, albeit about his home planet.

At times, the narrative feels more like a series of short films, than a feature film, with each scene introducing a new character as the brother navigates his way through new earthly experiences. When he’s not working at fixing old arcade games with his special powers, he hangs out in a local bar.  The regulars speculate as to his predicament, although they never guess he’s not “one of them.” 

The brother’s silence leaves ample room for one-sided conversations. Funniest of all is when a couple of tourists from the mid-west spend hours drinking with him believing themselves to be interacting with a genuine big city “local.” All the people the alien encounters offer him a chance to learn about humanity. Conversely, they all see a bit of themselves in him, completely oblivious to his true identity. It’s a powerful testament to the phenomena of psychological projection while also tackling the nature of xenophobia. Essentially, what the film is saying is that it’s what we believe about others that leads to understanding and fellowship, regardless of whether those beliefs are rooted in truth. 

The residents of Harlem all treat brother kindly, giving him shelter and a job. He even falls in love, although it’s never clear if he’ll see her again. Like many of the vignettes in the plot, this one is left open-ended.

The only unsympathetic characters in the entire film are the two white “men in black” pursuing “brother” from their home planet (played by Sayles himself and a young David Strathairn.) The film concludes with others of the brother’s kind who have also assimilated into earth society coming to his assistance. Seeing they’re outnumbered, the pursuers humorously flee proving there’s power in numbers if only we’d realize it.

Overall, it’s a great movie and very different for 1984. Back then, everyone was in love with cute little aliens with glowing fingers. Brother From Another Planet isn’t sci-fi for kids and thankfully, has none of the ‘80s trappings. There are precious few special effects (although the brother’s removable eyeball that records the past was very realistic), it has only one cute kid who is not the least bit precocious, and the visitor from space never goes home. What does it have that those other films don’t? A great deal more intelligence. It’s filled with enough American history analogies and yes – heart – to keep even the staunchest sci-fi fan happy. Given the current state of racial and immigration affairs in the United States and across the globe, the film’s message of acceptance has definitely withstood the test of time. In short, I liked it. A lot. Fans of great writing, documentary-style filmmaking and terrific acting will, too.

Drive-In Friday: Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz Night!

A toast! Let’s raise those waxed cups n’ strawed A&W Root Beers to Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz and his return to the big screen with Robert De Niro starring in the remake of Harry’s 1982 feature, The Comeback Trail.

Prior to his tenure as a screenwriter, director and producer, the New York born and raised Hurwitz worked as a professor of film and drawing at several New York institutions, including a prestigious tenure at New York University.

That’s what I get for hiring a high school kid to do the sign. Eh, you get what you $5.00-buck-an-hour pay for, right? Know your “rose” suffixes, kid.

He made his debut as a filmmaker with 1970’s critically-acclaimed The Projectionist — a film noted as the acting debut for a then unknown comedian named Rodney Dangerfield — in a tale about a lonely projectionist (Chuck McCann) who imagines himself in the films he shows. Hurwitz also translated his life-long love of Charlie Chaplin in the 1972 sophomore effort, The Eternal Tramp.

While his films would see distribution with major studios, such as MGM/United Artists (Safari 3000), and major-independents, such as Almi Pictures, a division of Carolco (The Rosebud Beach Hotel), and Compass International (Nocturna), Hurwitz produced and directed 12 pictures, 9 of which he wrote, independently.

His resume features two films produced with a pre-Empire Studios Charles Band: the late ’70s sexploitation pieces Fairy Tales and Auditions. Hurwitz also wrote and directed 1972’s Richard, a social parody on President Richard M. Nixon. He re-teamed with his lifelong friend Chuck McCann in 1982’s The Comeback Trail, a somewhat semi-autobiographical tale about two independent film executives against-the-odds in producing a western with a washed-up cowboy star.

“Rose” BLANK
And the $50 response is . . . “Is a Rose”
The $150 response is . . . “Wood”
And the $500 response . . . “Bud”

What the hell? Napoleon Solo? Well, it was either Match Game . . . or do a film with Harry. Oh, shite . . . say it ain’t so, Solo! The “comeback trail” isn’t paved with Harry Hurwitz films, Mr. Vaughn. Just ask Christopher Lee. . . .

Repeating the semi-documentary cinéma vérité style of 1978’s Auditions, Hurwitz also concocted 1989’s That’s Adequate; a Spinal Tapish tale about a troubled film studio that features an eclectic cast of comedians with Sinbad, Richard Lewis, and Rick Overton alongside a starbound Bruce Willis, Maureen “Marsha Brady” McCormick as a Space Princess, Robert Vaughn as Adolf Hitler (which is “funny” to fringe movie fans, when we remember Vaughn starred in 1978’s The Lucifer Complex), Susan “Laurie Partridge” Dey as a Southern Belle, and Robert Downey, Jr. as Albert Einstein. (Seriously: the film is that crazy.)

Harry’s most significant screen credit was working as one of the five screenwriters on a tale about the 1939 production of The Wizard of Oz, the 1981 Chevy Chase-starring Under the Rainbow for Warner Bros.-Orion Pictures. And we can’t forget Harry dipping his toes in the Blaxploitation pool as a producer with 1983’s The Big Score starring Richard Roundtree and the late John Saxon*.

Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz passed away on September 21, 1995, at the young age of 57 from heart failure while awaiting a heart transplant at the U.C.L.A Medical Center. This Drive-In Friday is for you, Harry. May your films live on for a new generation of video fringe enthusiasts. And they do!

In the ultimate show of respect to Harry’s imagination, on November 13, 2020**, the remake of The Comeback Trail, starring the Oscar acting elite of Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Tommy Lee Jones, was realized by writer-director George Gallo of Bad Boys fame.

Way to go, Harry!

Now, Mr. Gallo . . . about that Safari 3000 remake. . . .

Movie 1: Nocturna, Granddaughter of Dracula (1979)

What do you get when you go into business with a noted Las Vegas belly dancer who appeared on TV’s The Beverly Hillbillies . . . then cast Lily Munster, a B-Movie Dracula, and a couple of on-their-way-down ’70s disco stars — and negotiate a deal with MCA Records to release a disco-flavored soundtrack double album to promote the movie?

You get a Harry Tampa box-office boondoggle with John Carradine making back dick jokes. Can Countess Dracula turn her gay singer crush, straight? Do we care?

And to think the Compass International — a studio that had a worldwide hit on their hands with their debut release, John Carpenter’s Halloween — backed this vampire hookers romp. But they also made Roller Boogie, Tourist Trap, Blood Beach, and Hell Night . . . so you know where this disco Dracula romp is heading. Flushing is required.

Movie 2: Safari 3000 (1980)

What do you get when you go into business with United Artists and convince them a Smokey and the Bandit ripoff set on the African tundra will work?

You get a Harry Tampa box-office boondoggle with Christopher Lee frolicking with baboons and the guy who voiced the CP3O knockoff in Luigi Cozzi’s Starcrash. Does the fact that David Carradine is behind the wheel giving us some serious Death Race 2000 and Cannonball vibes save this VHS flotsam? No. And we wished ol’ Dave got off a couple of his dad’s bad dick jokes from Nocturna to compensate for the fact that Stockard Channing’s comedic timing makes the monkeys look good.

Intermission! With the stars of our next feature on tonight’s program!

Back to the Show!

Movie 3: The Rosebud Beach Hotel (1984)

What do you get when you contractually flim-flam cinema’s requisite Count, an ex-Runaway, a B-Movie apoc anti-hero, a washed up Tom Hanks TV sidekick, and wardrobe left overs from Glen Larson’s crap-ass Buck Rogers remake for TV?

You get a Harry Tampa ripoff of Bob Clark’s Porky‘s set in a South Beach Miami hotel. Do the adult film actresses working as topless bell hops for Madam Bobbi Flekman from Spinal Tap’s management team seducing Paco Querak from Hands of Steel save it? Do the cut-rate AOR-synth soundtrack ditties from Cherie Currie save it? No. And we wished Christopher Lee stuck to his original plan of torching the joint for the insurance money.

Movie 4: Fleshtone (1994)

What do you get when Harry Tampa answers paid cable’s call for “after hours” erotic thriller programming fodder for the wee-lads who can’t get dates on Saturday nights?

You get the bassist from the bane of our New Wave existence — Spandau Ballet — as a struggling painter twisting down a soft-core film noir spiral in this final, bitter sweet Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz’s effort completed a year before his death.

Truth be told, Martin Kemp, who been in the acting game in the U.K. since the ’70s before finding fame as a MTV favorite, is pretty decent here (he was in Sugar Town with John Doe and Michael Des Barres) as the noir schlub who can’t stay away from dangerous women who enjoy erotic sex games. And it’s nice to see Tim Thomerson (yep, the one and only Jack Deth from Trancers) on top of the marquee in this who-killed-her potboiler.

Do the adult film actresses that Harry likes to cast for that extra titillation-inspiration and lesbian sex scenes helping? Does the fact that the singularly-named Daniella also starred in Anal Maidens 3 and Assy 2 exciting you? How about those exotic Jo-Berg, South Africa locations?

Eh, a little . . . but in reality, this is probably the best of Harry’s films, courtesy of Kemp and Thomerson giving the material some class, and ’80s U.S. TV actress Lise Cutter isn’t so bad, but she’s not leaving the direct-to-video realms any time soon.

Yes! You Tube comes through in the clutch! You can enjoy Harry’s final film on You Tube. You can watch the other films on tonight’s program via the links in those reviews.

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

* We honored the career of the late John Saxon with our “Exploring: John Saxon” featurette.

** The Comeback Trail premiered at the 43rd Mill Valley Film Festival on October 12, 2020. It was initially scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on November 13, 2020. However, due to the affects of COVID on theaters, Cloudburst Entertainment has pushed the release date to sometime in 2021.

ANOTHER LOOK AT: The Last Starfighter (1984)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally reviewed this movie on October 9, 2019. However, the new release from Arrow Video made us sit back and watch it one more time, especially the great extra features that they always include.

The Last Starfighter is all about Alex Rogan (Lance Guest, Halloween 2), whose life is going nowhere but the trailer park where he takes care of everyone else and dreams of finding a better life with his girlfriend Maggie (Catherine Marie Stewart, The Apple). His only escape is a video game called Starfighter, a video game that takes him to the Frontier, where he battles Xur and the devilish Ko-Dan Armada.

Of course, the game is just there to recruit him for a galactic battle and they send the Music Man — err, Centauri — who tries to talk him into joining up with the war effort. Either way, I’m still so amazed by the fact that Robert Preston is in this movie.

Another great character is reptilian navigator Grig, who is played by one of my favorite character actors, Dan O’Herlihy. Between this movie, Conal Cochran in Halloween 3: Season of the Witch and the Old Man in RoboCop, every time I see O’Herlihy in a film, I can’t help but smile. Here, he does it all while completely covered in reptilian makeup.

It’s a very simple, but effective, space opera that fits well into the science fiction of 1984. Credit the great direction by Nick Castle, who you probably already know played Michael Myers in the original Halloween, before making this his second film after Tag: The Assassination Game.

The beauty of the Arrow re-release — beyond the gorgeous 4K rescan of the 35mm negative — are all the extras. Not just one, but three commentary tracks are on this (star Lance Guest and his son Jackson Guest; Mike White of The Projection Booth podcast; director Nick Castle and production designer Ron Cobb), along with interviews with Catherine Mary Stewart, composer Craig Safan, screenwriter Jonathan Betuel, special effects supervisor Kevin Pike, a breakdown on the landmark effects and even a featurette with game collector Estil Vance, who has actually made the game from the movie.

I have to say, the Castle and Cobb commentary is packed with info, from who is playing the aliens to how the effects came together to even plenty of fun asides about how they tried to tie the video game world and real movie world together. It’s like listening to two friends talk about a really great time in their life. Castle is super honest about the lack of time they had to film and things he feels could be better today. It’s exactly the kind of thing that film lovers get into the most and, as always, Arrow delivers the goods.

You can get this blu ray from Arrow, who were kind enough to send us a copy.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 25: The Rosebud Beach Hotel (1984)

Day 25: Hey, Baby, Can You Dance to It? This one has to have at least one substantial dancing scene in it. (And this one has a LOT!)

“Where Sex and Laughter Run Riot.”
“Make your reservation for an explosive time at . . . The Rosebud Beach Hotel.”
— From the Harry Tampa-employed copywriter’s department

Remember the crack I made about Concentration, the ’70s NBC-TV game show and its subsequent board game, in the context of our 2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 4 review? In that review I remembered little Jennifer Bates from the Georgia-shot Evil in the Woods grew up to work with director Bret Wood of Kino International, who recently returned to the big screen with Those Who Deserve to Die.

Well, this review is another “concentration” moment: for who else would remember the name of actor Daniel Green and go, “Holy Concentration, Batman! That’s Paco Querak!” And seriously: who else do you know that remembers the character names of D-grade Max Rockatansky and Snake Plissken knockoffs?

“I’d like to solve, Bill. ‘Daniel Green as Paco Querak!'”

Answer: me. And I am damn proud of my gifted “superpowers” that can’t save the world for shite . . . but Sam is lucky to have me on the staff at B&S About Movies to remember such things. Even Bill Van Ryn is amazed of the utter celluloid shite I can recall . . . for an VHS-analog-programmed brain is a terrible thing to waste. (Bill? You’re two weeks behind on the Groovy Doom and Drive-In Asylum plug payments. Don’t make me send Mr. Querak to collect and go apoc on your ass.)

So, back to Paco . . . sometime after doing the network TV rounds with episodes of Three’s Company, Matt Houston, and The Scarecrow (!) and Mrs. King, and The A-Team — and before his entry in the annals of Apocdom with Sergio Martino, aka Martin Doleman (2019: After the Fall of New York), in Hands of Steel — Daniel Green made his big screen debut in this Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz production.

“Oh, no, R.D! Not the Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula and Safari 3000 guy?”

Yes, the same guy who thought meshing vampires and disco was box office gold and that the road to the Oscars was paved with Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run good intentions. And ‘ol Harry’s never one to pass on a trend: a “trend’ that Robert Freese of Videoscope Magazine expertly pontificated in his “Exploring: ’80s Comedies” featurette for B&S About Movies. (I accept Paypal, Roger. Again, Paco’s only a phone call away.)

Vampires, African Tundras, and South Beach Hotels, oh, my!

As Robert pointed out, after the Snobs vs. Slobs subgenre (Animal House, Meatballs, Stripes, Caddyshack), the next popular and most common comedy subgenre of the ‘80s was the Sex Comedies/Teen Sex Comedies or — what Robert accurately refers to as — the “Everybody gets laid” movies. And while sex comedies were bountiful in the ’70s and continued in the ’80s, with Tom Cruise’s big screen debut in Goin’ All the Way, Private Lessons, and Waitress!, it was Bob Clark’s Porky‘s, released in 1981 amid those films, that set the stage: for Porky’s was the Star Wars of comedy films.

And Harry Tampa jumped on that porcine ripoff train, baby.

Hey, but wait a minute . . . Harry was already in the sex comedy game! In 1970 he brought us The Projectionist starring Chuck McCann and Rodney Dangerfield (aka the requisite slob vs. snob actor with Caddyshack and Easy Money). And how can we forget that 1978 dirty-ditty Fairy Tales, starring Sy Richardson of Charles Band’s softcore version of Cinderella. And how can we forget Harry’s other Charles Band co-production: Auditions, a documentary on the casting call for the never-made sequel to Fairy Tales. (And while I don’t recall it as “sex comedy”: did you know Harry made Richard, a 1972 satirical biopic on President Richard M. Nixon. True story.)

“R.D. Dude? We get it. You’re a fan of Harry Hurwitz films. So, what’s this all have to do with ‘dancing’ and the Scarecrow Challenge?”

Well, in the universe of Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz, not only do you get lots of beach frolicking and dancing . . . and Paco Querak. You also get Colleen Camp (Valley Girl), Bobbi Flekman from the Polymer A&R Department, Eddie Deezen, Chuck McCann, Hamilton Camp, a has-been Bosom Buddy, and an ex-Runaway. And since Harry had Christopher Lee on the hook from last year’s Safari 3000, he’s shows up, too.

Yes, you heard me right: Sir Christopher Lee in a sexploitation movie.

You heard me right: Runaways, Paco, Draculas, and Buck Rogers. Oh, my!

And “Oh, my!” is right, because this thing — as most ripoffs are — is a mess. Like a Golfballs! ripoff mess. Like a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel mess — only with a few just-for-the-hell-of-it shots of topless bellhop women (by adult film stars Monique Gabrielle, Julia Always, Durga McBroom, Tina Merkle, Julia Parton, and Paula Wood), you know, to sell those tickets . . . but this, like Nocturna, didn’t sell any tickets. . . .

So, the ol’ Count owns a dying hotel on Miami Beach that he’s ready to torch for the insurance money. But his daughter Tracy (Colleen Camp) convinces him that her milquetoast-workaholic fiancé (Peter Scolari) can run the hotel. And Papa Drac hates ol’ Pete, so he’s got a plan in place for the hotel to fail so his daughter dumps him. And to make it all work: Tracy hires hookers (led by Madam Fran Drescher) to work as bellhops to “service” the clientele. And Eddie Deezen . . . is Eddie Deezen . . . the same Eddie Deezen we just reviewed in Beverly Hills Vamp. And if you know your Eddie Deezen you know what we Deez, ah, mean.

“Hey, what about the Runaways?”

Well, Cherie Currie, who long quit the Runaways (of duBeate-o fame) at this point, was attempting to forge a solo career with her sister Marie Currie, which put out their only album, 1980’s Messin’ with the Boys (their cover of Russ Ballard’s — by way of Rainbow and St. Louis’ Head East — “Since You’ve Been Gone” hit #95 on the U.S. Top 100). So why they’re here — as dialogless singing maids — four years after the failure of that album, is anyone’s guess. Well, there’s no guessin’ necessary because, hey, it’s a Harry Tampa production and common sense goes out the 10th floor of the Rosebud (well, actually, the hotel is the “Fiesta,” but that’s plot piffle).

“Hey, wait a sec, R.D? So, is Buster Crabbe in here? You mentioned Buck Rogers.”

Nope, he died in 1983.

“Gil Gerard?”

Nope. The red jump suit.

“The . . . what the frack, R.D?”

The Currie sisters rock out wearing the same jumpsuits Markie Post from NBC-TV’s Night Court wore during her season one guest stint as Joella Cameron on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (the 1979 two-parter “The Plot to Kill a City” if you’re interested). As it turns out, the Universal Studios’ wardrobe department made two suits for the episode — and were shocked to re-discover the matching wares, when fitting the Currie sisters for the film.

Oh, and get this: the sci-fi connection continues . . . as Jay Chattaway, who scored the film, went on to compose the music for the Star Trek TV franchise. Oh, and he scored Maniac, Maniac Cop, and Maniac Cop 2.

Sadly, the Rosebud soundtrack — which the Currie sisters co-wrote with producer Dan Ferguson and their bassist, Stephen Crane — intended to be their follow up to Messin’ with the Boys, was never released. The Currie Sisters’ band also featured ex-Boz Scaggs and soon-to-be Cinderella drummer Jody Cortez (he recorded their hit album Night Songs but left the band before its release). Their guitarist, Duane Sciacqua, was a member of Marie’s husband, Steve Lukather’s, (Toto) solo bands and, with Stephen Crane, Sciacqua recorded an album for MCA Records under the KICKS moniker (“All My Love“). Sciacqua’s since toured and recorded with Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, and Paul McCartney, and scored Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra.

You can enjoy several songs from the soundtrack, via film clips, on You Tube — and yes, each of the clips features LOTS of dancing, as per the Scarecrow requirement!

  1. Romeo
  2. “Where’s the Music”
  3. Here He Comes
  4. “Come Down to Miami”
  5. “Meltdown”
  6. “Don’t Like No Parties”
  7. “Baby Baby”
  8. “Scratch”
  9. Steel

You can watch — and dance to, and drool to Fran Drescher in a bellhop uniform — The Rosebud Beach Hotel on You Tube. And all kidding aside, Harry. We love you. Thanks for VHS and cable memories.

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

SLASHER MONTH: Too Scared to Scream (1984)

If a slasher film can have a pedigree, which in this film’s case comes from its cast, let this be one of them. Seriously, there are some heavy hitters on hand here!

Detective Dinardo (Mike Connors, Mannix) is on the case in New York City, where those who live in a fancy apartment building are those who are dying horribly. All fingers seem to point in the direction of a doorman (an impossibly young Ian McShane), so Dinardo does what any good cop would do. He puts a rookie named Kate (Anne Archer) into harm’s way.

Other than some TV work, this was the first major acting that Maureen O’Sullivan had done in the twelve years since The Phynx. Further boosting this movies megawattage of stardom are Leon Isaac Kennedy (Penitentiary, as well as an early trailblazer of the porn leak thanks to a film he made with his then-wife Jayne Kennedy), Ruth Ford (who would know of high-living NYC apartments as her two spaces inside the Dakota were valued at $8.4 million when she died in 2009), John Heard (everything from Home Alone to C.H.U.D.), Carrie Nye (who in addition to being in The Seduction of Joe Tynan, was married to Dick Cavett), Murray Hamilton (whose resume is vast, but all you need to do is mention his work as the mayor of Amity), character actor Val Avery and Sully Boyer (The Entity, Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws).

This is Tony Lo Bianco’s only directing job, as he is better known in front of the camera, starring in movies like The Honeymoon KillersMean Frank and Crazy Tony and God Told Me To). Also known as The Doorman, it’s part of that subset of late 70’s and early 80’s slashers that depict the juxtaposition between the high rise and the low scum of end of the century — and the world — NYC. You can easily pair this with The FanEyes of Laura Mars or even The New York Ripper.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

SLASHER MONTH: Silent Madness (1984)

Shot with the ArriVision 3-D camera system, Silent Madness wasn’t just late to the 80’s 3D revival, it was late to the slasher madness too. It was directed by Simon Nuchtern, president of August Films. He brought over plenty of foreign films and had them re-edited for American tastes, like the film that the Findlays shot in Argentina called The Slaughter, which was released as Snuff. He also brought Karate Kiba to U.S. theaters with a new open and called it The Bodyguard and that’s why we call marijuana chiba, as well as directing New York Nights and Savage Dawn.

You have to love how Wikipedia has the writer of this movie, Bob Zimmerman, linked to Bob Dylan. Nope. This Bob was part of the camera crew for Don’t Go in the House and Nightmare. His co-writer was Bill Milling, who may be better known as an adult director using the names Philip Drexler Jr. (A Scent of Heather) and G.W. Hunter (Heart Throbs), Craig Ashwood (All American Girls), William J. Haddington Jr. (When A Woman Calls), Chiang (The Vixens of Kung Fu (A Tale of Yin Yang), Jim Hunter (Up Up and Away), Luis F. Antonero (Temptations) and Bill or Dexter Eagle (Virgin Snow). Some of the dialogue was written by Nelson DeMille, who would go on to write the book The General’s Daughter. They were all working from a story by Nuchtern.

The Cresthaven Mental Institute is, charitably, a mess. It’s also packed with patients, so they decide to just declare several of the patients cured, which means that Howard Johns (Solly Marx, Honcho from Savage Dawn, the Samurai from Neon Maniacs and plenty of stunt work too) is let go instead of John Howard. Years ago, after peeping on some sorority sisters, they had decided to strip for him — because that’s how we dealt with Me Too moments back then, kind of like giving someone a whole carton of cigarettes to smoke when all they wanted was one, and that’s a bad euphenism and I don’t condone this kind of behavior — and he lost it and killed them all. So to prove that the nature vs. nurture argument is a joke and the seventeen years of treatment did nothing, the very first thing John does when he gets released is kill an aardvarking couple in their van with a hatchet and a sledgehammer.

Dr. Joan Gilmore (Belinda Montgomery, who has been the love interest for The Man from Atlantis, Crockett’s ex-wife on Miami Vice and Doogie Howser, M.D.‘s mother) realizes that something smells bad in Denmark — or Cresthaven — and starts looking into this, only to learn that Howard Johns was already dead when the computer snafu happened. She teams up with a reporter and goes undercover as a legacy at the sorority where everything when wrong all those years ago, because she obviously realizes that she’s in a slasher movie and the killer always comes back to the scene of the crime.

There are so many plot threads going on here. There’s also the conspiracy at the mental hospital and the cyborg experiments being done on the patients that goes nowhere. Additionally two killers hired by Dr. Kruger* (Roderick Cook, who shows up in two of Becca’s favorite childhood films, 9 1/2 Weeks and Spellbinder, movies no seven-year-old should be watching and that’s why I love her) are on hand to kill off our protagonists. And there’s the killer coming back to the sorority house.

I’ve gotten this far and forgotten to inform you that Sydney Lassick (sure, he was Mr. Fromm in Carrie, but he’s also in Skatetown U.S.A.1941AlligatorThe Unseen and shows up as Mr. Lowry in Lady In White) plays the law in this and the house mother is Viveca Lindfors (The Bell from HellCreepshow). And two of the teens — Janes and Paul — are played by Katherine Kamhi and Paul DeAngelo, who we all know better as Meg and Ronnie from Sleepaway Camp.

Oh! One of the sorority girls — Barbara — is Elizabeth Kaitan from Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2Friday the 13th Part VII: The New BloodRoller Blade Warriors: Taken by Force and, of course, Candy from Vice Academy 3 through 6.

Shot under the title Dark Sunday, with alternate names thrown about like Beautiful Screamers, The Omega Factor” and The Nightkillers, I have really no idea why this is called Silent Madness.

Teens are killed by vice, by steam, by nailgun and by aerobicide, while drills and crowbars and broken mirrors take out some of the antagonists. You’ll wonder, when we knew that toxic masculinity and the health care system were both the biggest issues we’d be facing as a society way back in 1984, why did we just concentrate on making sure the slasher killer was dead instead of working on the root cause? And that’s why we are where we are, except you know, there’s no real Jason Vorhees. Or Howard Johnson. Or John Howard.

Vinegar Syndrome has announced that they are putting out a 3D movie this year. This would seem to be the right one, seeing as how it fits perfectly into the other films they’ve released.

*Seeing as how this was really shot in 1983, it’s prescient that the bad guy has that name and works out of a boiler room.

SLASHER MONTH: Evil Judgment (1984)

“A bloody trail of seemingly senseless murders leads a terrified young girl into a nightmarish web of police corruption and deadly, psychopathic madness!”

We haven’t had a killer judge on our site since we talked about Lindsay Shotneff’s — working as Lewis J. Force — Night After Night After Night.

Made in 1981 but not released until three years later, this is one of those movies where I have to use my scale of “Is it a giallo or a slasher?” It does have some attempts at fashion — which I’ll get to — but it’s grimy and near artless, with no attempt at a great soundtrack or color palette. So let’s say it’s a political conspiracy/woman gone wrong slasher, a hybrid that is pretty much a rarity.

There are also innumerable scenes of people eating in this, including one scene in a diner where a loud old homeless man dislikes his soup so much that he stands up and urinates in it before starting a fistfight.

One of that place’s waitresses — Janet (Pamela Collyer, Meatballs III: Summer Job) — has no money and a controlling low-level mobster boyfriend named Dino (Jack Langedijk, who was in the 2000 version of Left Behind). Her friend April (Nanette Workman, who sang backup for the Stones on “Honky Tonk Woman” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”) suggests that hey, maybe she should try some hooking. After all, April has all of these fabulous outfits — her housecoats look like something Ric Flair would wear to defend the belt against Tommy Rich in Greensboro — and smokes all the time, so why not? Janet shares this idea over pillow talk with Dino and gets thrown out of bed naked, so she decides to stop being controlled and start selling her body.

Is this going to become a slasher soon? Just as I think that, a mental patient (Walter Massey, Happy Birthday to MeZombie Nightmare) kills a doctor and nurse and runs into the night.

Back to Janet being a hooker. Now, her friend April has brought her in to sleep with a rich client who looks like Rip Taylor and acts like Evelyn Quince. They’re attempted — and creepy — menage a trois is interrupted by the lights going out and the maniac killing everyone but our heroine, who the police blame for the killing. So in the question of giallo vs. slasher, Janet must now become the detective and solve this. However, she is not a stranger in a strange land and the fashion sense of this movie remains horrid, so we are still in slasher country, even if the mysterious killer has on black leather gloves.

Oh and hey — the cop who accuses our protagonist of the crimes is slasher vet Roland Nincheri (Visiting HoursTerror Train). Suzanne DeLaurentiis, who produced the film D-Railed that we covered last year, is also in this.

You can watch this on YouTube.

SLASHER WEEK: Terror In the Aisles (1984)

Terror in the Aisles once was only available as a bonus feature on the Shout! Factory Halloween II blu ray, but now that it’s available on its own, I’m excited for other people to see it. It was a multi-watch on HBO for me when I was young. Even better, this played theaters!

Andrew J. Kuehn revolutionized movie trailers — he created the trailers for Jaws,  E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler’s List, Top Gun, the Indiana Jones movies and more — before he started producing and directing movies like Get Bruce and the remake of D.O.A.

There are so many scenes clipped into this film, which is hosted by Donald Pleasence and Nancy Allen who are sitting with a crowd of fake moviegoers who react to the rapid-fire scenes as they come hard and fast. Instead of a laundry list of films — I mean, do you want to read 78 (91 in the network TV version) titles? — let me tell you the more interesting ones, like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?Phantom of the ParadiseSuspiriaThe CarThe LegacyThe Funhouse and, of course, the first two Halloween films.

For some reason, even though nearly every movie here was R-rated (Dawn of the Dead was released unrated), this film had to endure several cuts to avoid an X rating.

You can watch this on YouTube or order the new stand-alone blu ray from Shout! Factory.

The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jim LaMotta is one of Pittsburgh’s premiere wrestling announcers, as well as a great writer. This article originally appeared on Steel City Underground. You can follow Jim on Twitter.

The first article that I penned for this site late last year was about Robert De Niro’s debut as a director, A Bronx Tale, the 1960s street saga based on Chazz Palminteri’s one-man stage show. As mentioned in that original review, I discovered the film when my dad put a copy that he taped from HBO into the VCR. This time, I’d like to discuss another movie that I originally watched from a home recorded copy, The Pope of Greenwich Village. Another street saga, this 1984 release shifts to another famous location in New York, the Greenwich section of Manhattan. With the screen play written by Vincent Patrick, adopted from his novel of the same name, the film blends together tense moments of uncertainty with occasional comic relief, as two wise guys find themselves lost in the shuffle of the hustle of the streets.

Directed by Stu Rosenburg, who has the classic Cool Hand Luke on his resume, the production brought together a tremendously talented cast, including the two main characters, Charlie and Paulie, played by Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts respectively. At the time the film hit theaters, Rourke, a sharp and charismatic actor, was on an upswing with titles like 1982’s Diner and the Coppola-directed Rumble Fish on his resume. Eric Roberts, the brother of famous actress, Julia, played the role of Charlie’s clumsy sidekick perfectly to give the narrative more depth as the film progressed.

The opening scene finds Charlie swaying to the rhythm of Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” as he files through his closet to pick a snazzy suit to wear for his shift as a manager at a high-end restaurant. In a slight example of foreshadowing, his carefree jam session set to Frank’s suave voice is interrupted by his search of several pairs of his Italian-made dress shoes to look for extra cash to make a payment to one of the loan sharks waiting at the restaurant. As he strolls into the eatery, a co-worker gives his supervisor the heads-up that the crusty owner of the establishment plans to check tabs that night to make sure the waiters aren’t excluding items on the bill in exchange for better tips. This is where we’re first introduced to Paulie, Charlie’s third cousin, who naively disregards the same warning from him. Roberts’ character decides to skip the high-priced items on the bill, which the owner obviously notices and fires both cousins since the manager didn’t catch the underhanded tactic first. The confrontation outside of the establishment when Charlie angrily informs Paulie that his mishap resulted in the pair of cousins getting their walking papers sets the tone for their dynamic in the film. Charlie is a hustler trying to stay above water with hopes of owning his own restaurant someday. Paulie immaturely tries to explain his rational for skipping items on the check before the audience sees that he legitimately feels bad that he costs his cousin the job.

The next scene finds a distressed Rourke at his kitchen table shuffling through bills and late notices in the apartment he shares with his girlfriend Diane, played by Daryl Hannah, who went on to work in dozens of roles in TV and film, including the 2003 cult favorite, Kill Bill. Adding to his financial struggles are alimony, child support payments, and credit card debit. Unwavering, Diane assures Charlie everything will work out for the best, prompting Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” to rejoin the film as we find the freshly unemployed cousins playing stick ball in the neighborhood the next day. The good times were short-lived, as his visit to the bank for a loan was denied and when he arrives home, more pressure was heaped upon him with the news that Diane is pregnant. Back to bop around the village, Paulie tells Charlie about his next outlandish venture in an attempt to hit it big. The dim-witted waiter explains that he bought into a race horse that was conceived through “artificial inspiration” without realizing that he misspoke on the terminology while he makes himself a comically large sandwich. Paulie claims the thoroughbred has the “champion gene,” but the out-of-work waiter needs to score some big cash to bet with, revealing his next narrow-minded scheme.

The two meet Barney McMillian, an eccentric and edgy clock dealer, in a bar. The Irishman explains his work repairing clocks gave him the tools to pick locks. Before the trio can discuss details of a heist of the safe of a shipping company, the hard-nosed officer that patrols the streets tows Paulie’s car, despite his pleas to accept a ticket without getting the car impounded. Finally Charlie agrees to the heist, with the mounting financial pressures in his life as the determine factor.

During the next scene the audience is introduced to Jack Kehoe’s Walter “Bunky” Ritter as he shuffles through the crowded sidewalk into the local mafia hang out. Similar to Kehoe’s character in the film, Serpico, “Bunky” Ritter is a crooked cop on the take, paid to drop off mob collections in exchange for a piece of the pie. Detective Ritter meets with “Bed Bug” Eddie Grant, the local kingpin, to discuss details for his next pick up. “Bed Bug” is portrayed by Burt Young, who famously played Paulie as Sylvester Stallone’s pal in Rocky. Despite the boxing corner man as probably his most well-known role, the Eddie Grant character shows that Young has depth to his acting repertoire, replacing the good natured Rocky role with a sense of danger on-screen as a ruthless mob ruler.

The tense introduction of “Bed Bug” Eddie is contrasted in the next scene when the patrolman that had Paulie’s car towed was back on the street writing tickets when he stopped into the bar to use his position of authority to get a free drink after he used the bathroom. While the cop was taking care of business, Paulie slipped in the bar and put a packet of horse laxative in the cop’s whiskey. The gluttonous patrolman emerges from the restroom, downs the free drink, and goes back to the street to gleefully write more citations. Within seconds, the stomach tremors hit him and he attempts to waddle like a penguin back toward the bathroom before his digestive track can’t offer any more resistance. Paulie rushed to a pay phone and called in an officer down, prompting squad cars to swarm the street, only to find the diarrhea-stricken cop holding his stomach. As an Irish folk song crescendos, Paulie proclaims to the public that the cop defecated on himself.

Back to business, Paulie, Charlie, and Barney meet up that night to break into the shipping company’s offices to crack the safe, hoping to score the $150,000 inside. As fate would have it, as those three prepare to begin work on the safe, Bunky Ritter is shown at the apartment he shares with his mom getting ready to go pick up the same money. Geraldine Page, an actress that had a 40-year career through the stage, film, and television, was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Mrs. Ritter. Page does such a stellar job with this character, as she authentically presents a no non-sense character, but still brings a caring side to it. Different from Kehoe’s role in Serpico, Detective Walter agreed to the collections as a way to ensure a retirement fund for himself and his mother, who worked as a housekeeper for several years. Bunky’s actions might not be legal, but his intentions are noble, a recurring theme in the narrative of the film.

It’s revealed that Bunky keeps a wire on him during all meetings about the collections as an insurance policy for his safety, and as he drives to the office for the pick up, he acknowledges the other detectives involved in the bribes. Unaware of Bunky’s impending arrival, Barney is cracking the safe while Paulie sips on a coffee and watches the parking lot. Tense drama builds as the former waiter tells his accomplices that someone is walking up to the building. With the lights out, the trio hide as Detective Ritter enters the office that has equipment strewn around the room since the building was being remodeled. The tools don’t phase him, but the hole drilled into the safe is a red flag. Unsure of how recent hole was made, Bunky uses his detective skills to see how warm Paulie’s coffee was. Immediately, Bunky takes out his gun, knowing the fresh coffee meant someone was still in the room. As he backs up and yells for the person to reveal themselves, he fires a shot before he accidentally falls down an unfinished elevator shaft. The trio attempt to check on him, but realize that Walter is dead, with Charlie retrieving the tape that was used to record the audio from the wire the cop wore to the meetings. Despite Charlie’s objections, Barney finishes the safe job, garnering the $150,000 that Paulie promised would be there.

Charlie found the detective’s arrival too suspicious so he confronts his cousin about what else he knew about the situation. With a little pressure, Paulie admits that the shipping company is run by Eddie Grant, which meant they just stole from the local mafia crew. Charlie is almost hysterical as he questions why his cousin would want to steal from the “Bed Bug.” Again, we see the naive side of Paulie because he thought that including his cousin in the heist would make up for getting him fired, but it actually put his life in danger.

The news of the safe cracking and the aftermath have a ripple effect throughout the film, as word of Detective Ritter’s wire makes his fellow officers concerned about their future if their involvement in bribes is revealed. Two gruff cops visit Mrs. Ritter to attempt to search their apartment for the missing recordings. Again, Geraldine Page does such an incredible job in this scene, mixing her grief by clutching a rosary with a tone of toughness, as she aggressively puffs on an unfiltered cigarette and sips a whiskey. When the cops try to intimidate her with the threat of trying to withhold Walter’s pension, she promptly kicks them out of her house before she tearfully hold the rosary close to her, the wall of grittiness finally tumbles down from the waves of grief at the death of Walter at the office. At the same time, Bed Bug Eddie gets word from the street that Paulie and an unknown partner were the ones that stole the cash. A member of Bed Bug’s crew knows Paulie, but Uncle Pete as the waiter affectionately calls him, insist his nephew isn’t a safe cracker. Eddie Grant wasn’t the only one to take the news hard, as Charlie visits Diane at the studio where she teaches dance classes and tells her that he landed $50,000 from the robbery. Diane is livid that Charlie allowed his cousin to get him in another jam, and an argument ensues before Charlie leaves, the situation with her unsolved.

Eventually, Paulie is at the stables to check on his horse with the “champion gene” that he plans to race soon, wagering the cash he lifted from Bed Bug’s safe. He was faced with a game of chance sooner than expected, as Uncle Pete and a few of Eddie Grant’s goons, including Frank Vincent, who made a career of supporting roles in mafia dramas, including Casino, Raging Bull, The Sopranos, and others, were there to meet him. Uncle Pete takes a walk with his nephew, informing him that someone identified him as one of the thieves. Bed Bug Eddie had a reputation for slicing people up, and Pete tells Paulie that the only way for him to leave the stables alive is to tell him who his partner was in the safe job. Paulie begs for a reprieve, but Pete assures him there are only two options in this scenario. As the tension builds, Paulie leaks the information that Barney cracked the safe, but doesn’t mention Charlie in an attempt to protect his cousin from the wrath of the Bed Bug. As Uncle Pete hugs Paulie, the previously mentioned Frank Vincent approaches and cuts off Paulie’s thumb, the penalty for robbing the head of the mafia crew.

With Barney revealed to be the partner, the crooked cops are sent to retrieve him, but the savvy clock dealer was a step ahead and escaped through a side door. Later, Barney gives Charlie his share of the robbery and asked him to mail it to him after he escaped the city. During this conversation, Barney’s motivation for the heist is explained, as he plans to use the extra cash to provide for his wife and care for his special needs child. Again, not exactly legal, but a noble cause.

Charlie finds himself in a cash flow problem of his own, as he returned home with flowers for Diane to smooth over the earlier argument at the dance studio. A message from her on the answering machine tells Charlie that she took $45,000 of the money for their unborn child and decided to leave him. Enraged being the victim of his own theft case, Charlie begins smashing the furniture, pummeling the refrigerator and breaking chairs. The next morning, with a half empty bottle of wine next to him, Charlie is awoken by a faint knock at the door. When he answers, his cousin is standing there delirious with his hand wrapped up from the Bed Bug form of justice. Only after rambling on about his decision to give up Barney as the partner does the medicated Paulie ask what happened to all the broken appliances. Upon hearing the news that Diane ran off with most of the cash, Paulie rants for a while before the reality of his missing appendage sets in when he looks at his hand. In one of the most memorable lines of the film, Paulie proclaims, “Charlie! They took my thumb!” collapsing to the floor after taking too many pain killers before he arrived.

Despite the lovable dork’s mistakes, Charlie immediately tends to his cousin, as the next scene shows him feeding Paulie soup. To make up for the theft, Paulie will have to serve coffee at the mafia hang out and within days, the Bed Bug interrogates him as to the number of people involved in the robbery. After Barney skipped town, another measure of revenge was being plotted, and after tense questioning, Paulie finally cracks, naming his cousin as the third participant in the robbery. As was usually the case, the new coffee server had a plan to get his cousin out of this predicament. With his race horse, “Starry Hope ” set to run at the track, he bought two tickets for Miami as an escape plan for the cousins after they hit it big on the horse bet. Unaware that the Bed Bug knows about him, Charlie bets Starry Hope across the board with his remaining share of the theft, a safer bet than his cousin makes, who put everything on the horse to win. After an exciting race, Charlie’s place or show bet pays off, as he lands $20,000 from the horse’s second place finish.

To celebrate the victory, the two stop at a bar where Paulie nervously confesses to Charlie that he had to give up his name to the mafia crew. Totally irate,  Charlie screams at Paulie and throws trash cans through the street, storming off as Paulie tearfully tries to explain the tickets to Miami are a way to leave. As Charlie listens to Detective Ritter’s wire tape again, he realizes he has evidence and leverage that proofs of Bed Bug’s involvement in crime. There’s a montage that shows Charlie getting ready for an eventual showdown with the kingpin. His finest suit, a manicure, and a hair cut prepare him as he walked into the mob club for the confrontation. He sits across from Eddie Grant and explains that the Bed Bug will give him a pass on the robbery because he has a tape that can link him to the police corruption in the city. Implying that he plans to severe Charlie’s hand, Grant claims, “Nobody but the Pope could walk out of here with this hand.” Without hesitation, Charlie’s response is a nod to the title of the film, “This might be your church, but right now, I’m the Pope, I’m the Pope of Greenwich Village because I have a tape.”

Just as it looks to be seconds away from a physical confrontation, Paulie shows up to serve coffee. A tense stare down takes place between Grant and Charlie, as the mafia leader looks to signal his henchmen. As Bed Beg confidently finishes the expresso in split second, he suddenly grabs his throat and charges through the door and down the street as most of his crew follow him. Paulie exclaims, “Lye! I packed his expresso with lye!” The abrasive chemical rendered the mob leader useless, allowing Charlie the chance to escape. Paulie stood up for him cousin, despite Charlie’s claims that he had things going his way before the expresso ended the conversation. Once again, “The Summer Wind” can be heard as the two walk down the street, presumably on their way to Miami to relax on the beach and enjoy their winnings from the horse race.

Ölüm Savasçisi (1984)

I don’t care if you’ve made it through the collective worlds of Willie Milan, the Shaw Brothers, Godfrey Ho, Takeshi Miike and any number of film directors and creators and think you’ve seen it all. You’ve seen absolutely nothing because none of these creators would be able to create a movie quite like the absolutely demented world that Cüneyt Arkin has crafted. Trust me, over the next week, we’re going to share so many of his films, but it feels best to start here with 1984’s Death Warrior.

Think Godfrey Ho is transgressive because he mashes together two films at the same time? Cüneyt Arkin laughs as he makes every movie he has ever seen all at once, like those insane kids that didn’t understand that you can’t play with G.I. Joe, He-Man and your wrestling figures all at the same time because they’re all different sizes, but grown up and with a camera and a team of stunt people ready to die just to get all this lunacy committed to film.

This is why I love movies.

Beyond writing and co-directing this movie with Cetin Inanc, Cüneyt plays Murat, who is the Death Warrior. Years ago, he learned the ways of the ninja in Korea, after the war, and saved one of his sword brothers, who holds a grudge that this gaijin saved him so he’s spent the last few decades creating a gang of other ninjas who are destroying Italy. So the Italian cops decide to bring in Murat and unleash him on his one-time friend.

This plot sounds simple, but instead of delivering this Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow story to you straight, Cüneyt has created a film that mixes the neckbreaking zooms of Fulci, the nightmarish landscapes of Argento, the non-stop brawls of the Hong Kong films and the psychobabble of a 1960’s drug film and overfills 65 minutes of time with way too many ideas, like Jack Kirby when he was unleashed upon the Fourth World after a decade of pretty much making everything that made everyone say “Make Mine Marvel.”

Even crazier is that most of the footage in this film was originally used in 1982’s Arkin and Inanc joint Son Savasci (Last Warrior) but in a more linear fashion. Man, I didn’t know that they knew the Dada cut-and-paste technique in Turkey, but at the rate these guys were cranking out movies, I’m not surprised by anything, like how much of this rips off The Enforcer. These guys were making a hundred movies a year. I would have seen every one.

This is a movie that somehow has cars blasting through brick walls, ninjas who can use playing cards as weapons as if they were written by Frank Miller and trained by Ricky Jay, ninjas that are also zombies, evil plants, wizards, women that turn into frog creatures, a melty faced beast that is part vulture and a climax that offers a fight between Death Warrior and ninjas that is literally one third of this movies entire running time.

A normal person would think, “Is this too much?” Arkin and Inanc decided to throw in a bad guy who wipes out his own people just to show how twisted and powerful he is (by the way, in my dreams, he is in a support group with Maizon, the one-eyed cyborg werewolf from Mad Warrior, Velvet Von Ragner from Never Too Young to Die and Alby the Cruel from Nine Deaths of the Ninja and Tarzan from Intrepidos Punks), music stolen from Psycho and that aforementioned last final battle scored with the disco version of the Jaws theme.

The editing in this film is exhausting. You may never be able to watch another movie after this because it’s going to destroy your sense of pacing, your attention span and your understanding of how a speedball works.

Just stop reading all these words and watch this on YouTube and please write back to me and tell me just how much you loved this. My absolute highest recommendation.