DISMEMBERCEMBER: Scrooge’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Christmas (1984)

This really could have been made in 1979 or earlier and I’d say, “Yes, I can see that.”

Lee Benton plays The Girl — oh man, she’s Donna from the absolutely deranged female softball players vs. redneck maniacs movie Blood Games under her other name Shelley Abblett — who is looking for a record store and finds Scrooge, who is played by Jack Elam. She has a crystal ball that allows them to watch music videos from bands like Three Dog Night, Merilee Rush, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Association, Bobby Goldsboro, the much hated Mike Love, Dean from Jan and Dean and a singer named Bridget that everyone talks about like she’s about to be the next big thing.

Who is this Bridget?

Lou Tedesco was an old school TV guy and directed this, while it was written by producer Rex Sparger. I have no idea how this was made, because back to 1984, you had MTV, whose top videos were “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince, “Jump” by Van Halen, “Eyes Without a Face” by Billy Idol and “Round and Round” by Ratt. This seems like something from a completely different era.

Jack Elam is pretty good in it, however.

Someone tell me who Bridget is.

Bridget, are you out there?

You can watch this on Tubi.

DISMEMBERCEMBER: Gremlins (1984)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site many holidays ago on December 23, 2017.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I love Joe Dante’s films. They’re all unique and all somehow straddle the line between being mainstream pieces of cinema and anarchic bites against the very hand that feeds them.

Gremlins is a great example. On the surface, it’s a cute film for the kids, complete with a cute lead character (Gizmo the Mogwai), a Christmas setting and plenty of product placement. Bubbling beneath the artifice is a film brimming with darkness and doom, a world of slime-covered monsters, dead fathers in chimneys and a town packed with money woes and depression, a place where even the lead heroine claims that there are some folks who, when “everybody else opens up presents, they’re opening up their wrists.”

Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is an inventor who has great ideas that work great the first time, then start to fail. “Fantastic ideas for a fantastic world. I make the illogical logical,” he claims, but the majority of his inventions seem like more trouble than they’re worth. Like the Bathroom Buddy, a Swiss Army knife for those that travel often. Or the sound system he’s made from an artichoke. Or the egg smasher, mega juicer and super blender that turn every meal into a mess.

While on one of his many trips to try and sell his products, he goes to Chinatown in the hopes of finding a gift for his son, Billy (Zach Galligan, Waxwork). In a strange store, he discovers a small, furry beast called a mogwai (which is Cantonese for monster, one of the many in-jokes in a film nearly overflowing with them). However, the owner of the store, Mr. Wing (Keye Luke, “Number One Son” in the Charlie Chan films) refuses to sell it to him. However, his grandson has no such qualms, selling it with three rules: no bright lights, never get it wet and never, ever feed it after midnight.

Returning to the idyllic Kingston Falls, the mogwai is given the name Gizmo and becomes best friends with Billy. Billy spends his days working at a bank where his dog Barney (Mushroom the dog, who also was in Pumpkinhead) constantly runs afoul of the evil Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday, Flo from TV’s Alice).

One night, while hanging out with his friend Pete (Corey Feldman, The Lost Boys), a glass of water spills on Gizmo, leading to five more mogwai being born — an incident which causes great pain to the cute little creature. Whereas Gizmo is a cute little beast who loves to sing and make people happy, these mogwai are already evil before they eat before midnight — which they accomplish by chewing the power cord to Billy’d alarm clock fooling him into thinking it’s earlier than it really is.

Once they transform into gremlins, they become even worse. They murder Billy’s high school teacher, Mr. Hanson. Then, they torture Gizmo and come after Billy and his mother.

Pure chaos ensues, with gremlins being blended and destroyed by other methods, as well as gremlins killing townsfolk left and right. Soon, only Stripe is left, but he dives into the pool at the YMCA and creates a whole new army in an awesome sequence filled with smoke, fury and colored light.

Billy and Gizmo rescue his girlfriend, Kate Beringer (1980’s sex symbol Phoebe Cates, she of the rising from the pool in Fast Times at Ridgemont High) from a gremlin attack on a bar, after which she reveals why she hates Christmas: a long speech about her father dying inside the chimney while trying to be Santa Claus. This burst of pure bleakness stands in marked contrast to the comic chaos that populates the film.

Meanwhile, all of the gremlins are in a movie theater. “They’re watching Snow White. And they love it!” Billy exclaims. This is a scene where Dante reveals the true joy of watching a film, as the gremlins begin screaming “Heigh Ho!” the song of the Seven Dwarves. The theater is blown up and only Stripe survives, making his way to a Montgomery Ward where he tries to spawn another army.

However, Gizmo arrives in a toy car and opens the skylights, melting the villain.

Mr. Wing makes his way to Kingston Falls, where he takes Gizmo back, scolding the family that they are too careless and not ready for magic yet. However, he is happy to given the gift of one of Randall’s smokeless ashtrays and hints that Gizmo may return another day.

Gremlins was a spec script by Christopher Columbus, who heard an army of mice every night in his apartment and wondered what they would look like. In its original form, Gremlins was even meaner and darker than it ended up being. Billy’s mother is killed and her head flung down the steps, Barney the dog gets eaten and Gizmo actually becomes the monster, an idea that producer Stephen Spielberg vetoed.

I am always amazed at how many more genre films were released in the 1980’s. Gremlins proves my point — it came out the same weekend as Ghostbusters, but still was able to be the #4 movie of 1984, behind that film, Beverly Hills Cop and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

The dark center of this film, as well as the gore in Temple of Doom, gave birth to the PG-13 rating, which was suggested by Spielberg as a way of dealing with the controversy of these two films. This is referenced in Gremlins 2 when a mother yells at Paul Bartel about the content of the film. During a screening of Gremlins, a mother really did scream at Joe Dante, walking out of the theater during the kitchen gore scene. The daughter ran away from the mother during the argument and hid in the theater for the rest of the film.

This is a film packed with references to other films, a hallmark of Dante:

In one scene where Randall calls home, we can see the Time Machine from the George Pal film disappear in the background while Robby the Robot says, “Sorry miss I was giving myself an oil job. This question is totally without meaning. Pardon me, sir, stuff? Thick and heavy? Would sixty gallons be sufficient? I rarely use it myself, sir. It promotes rust.” This dialogue always makes me laugh my ass off because it makes little to no sense and Robby says it with such gravitas.

The movie theater is showing A Boy’s Life and Watch the Skies, the original titles for E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Eddie Quist’s smiley face from The Howling shows up on the Peltzer’s refrigerator.

There are also cameos from Spielberg, composer Jerry Goldsmith and Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones.

And man, I almost forgot that Dick Miller shows up in here, as he does in every Dante film!

Gremlins is packed with sheer joy, from its art direction to character design and devotion to showing just how messy the gremlins can get. Sure, it references It’s a Wonderful Life, but it also shows Invasion of the Body Snatchers as another film within the film. It’s a film worth watching any time of the year — in fact, it came out in the summertime despite its holiday setting.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This was on the site for the first time on October 10, 2019.

New Zealand was ready to represent when it came to the slasher boom, thanks to this bonkers entry into the canon. It’s so violent that it was banned in Australia, a country that was originally made up of convicts.

Director David Blyth’s film predates Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste, seem as perhaps the first homegrown Kiwi horror film. Blyth has been called “New Zealand’s master of transgression” by Fangoria and “one of the great mavericks of New Zealand film” by NZ Listener. He also created the movies Angel MineWoundTransfigured Nights and Moonrise, which is also known as Grampire and stars “Grandpa” Al Lewis.

Years ago, Dr. Howell — a mad scientist trying to prolong human life past death — dealt with his harshest critic by mind-controlling that man’s son into shotgun blasting his parents.

Now, Michael Tucker (Michael Hurst, Iolaus from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) has emerged from seven years in a mental ward. He somehow has acquired a loving girlfriend named Sandy and has taken her on a holiday along with their friends Jeannie and Lucas. However, that sojourn is really a front to get him to the remote island where Dr. Howell’s clinic is located and gain bloody revenge.

What follows is a descent into the caves of the island, where the doctor’s horrible creations live. That’s when the film turns into a strange mix of The Hills Have Eyes and Mad Max packed with an equal mix of nihilism and gore.

I really have no category that easily fits this film. It’s kind of a slasher. It’s somewhat a punk rock biker post-apocalyptic film. And it’s also science fiction. It’s a glorious mess, all over the place and unafraid to have its hero completely fall apart by the end.

If you want to check this out, Severin has re-released it in the best quality ever available for home video. It’s packed with trailers, commentaries with Blyth and writer Michael Heath, and an interview with David Letch.

MILL CREEK NIGHTMARE WORLDS: Warriors of the Wasteland (1984)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally on the site on March 13, 2018.

After 1990: The Bronx Warriors, director Enzo G. Castellari created this film, originally entitled The New Barbarians. The title change reflects the name New Line Cinema would use when they released the film in the United States. This movie checks off nearly every box when it comes to what it’ll take to get me to love a film: it’s Italian. It’s a ripoff of Mad Max. It has George Eastman in it. It has a big name (well, in Italy) American star, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. It’s packed with enough weird quirks that would put off anyone else, but they made me fall in love with it. And oh yeah — Giovanni Frezza (Bob from House by the Cemetery) makes an appearance.

2019. No relation to 2019: After the Fall of New York. But after a nuclear war, a gang called the Templars take it upon themselves to purge the Earth of anyone left alive. The film starts by showing us just one of their attacks, as they take their modified cars and golf carts out for a spin, murdering a convoy of survivors. Normal humans might look ragtag and dirty, but the Templars wear all white battle armor and have punk rock hairdos. The gang is a real family affair, as Shadow (Ennio Girolami) is Castellari’s brother and Mako (Massimo Vanni) is their cousin. Their leader is George Eastman as One.

After murdering everyone they’ve found, One tears a Bible apart and proclaims, “Books. That’s what started the whole apocalypse!” and “The world is dead. It raped itself. But I’ll purify it with blood. No one is innocent. But only we, the Templars, are the ministers of revenge!” Needless to say, George Eastman is doing what he does best here: not only chewing the scenery but taking big bloody bites out of it.

Later, Scorpion (Giancarlo Prete, Escape from the BronxBlack Belly of the Tarantula) finds the survivors of the attack and fends off some scavengers. He puts one man out of his misery and takes what’s left for himself. We follow him as he meets up with his mechanic — yep, little Bob — who lives in an armored ice cream van, ala the KLF. They have a little gun battle, as you do, just to show that they’re friends. Scorpion needs his gearshift fixed and the problem seems to be that there’s an ear stuck in it. Yep. You read that right.

The Templars are looking for The Signal, the radio station that shows where humanity is still alive. Any car they see, they destroy, including the modified UPS van that Alma is in. They impale the driver and drag him off while she’s saved by Scorpion after being caught and dragged by a net. Scorpion and Shadow have a war of words after our hero spares Mako.

You can’t tell me that Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard didn’t base the look of The Walking Dead character Princess on this film.

Anyways, Scorpion takes Alma to his base where he repairs her shoulder and makes sweet, sweet love to her. Against One’s commands, Mako leads a group of Templars against Scorpion, who is saved by Nadir (Williamson), an arrow wielding, well-dressed badass. No, seriously, let’s all drink in the magic that is Nadir.

While Scorpion uses a car to roll over Mako’s dead body, Nadir shoots one of his arrows directly into a Templar’s neck, blowing his body to bits. Our hero sends Mako’s body back to One as his answer to where he stands. Holy shit, when Nadir talks, saying stuff like, “I enjoyed…your little game…of war!” I lose my mind every single time.

One kills the rest of Mako’s men while studying the fallen man’s dead body. He yells, “We are the Templars. The warriors of vengeance. We are the Templars. The high priests of death. We have been chosen to make others pay for the crime of being alive. We guarantee that all humanity, accomplices and heirs of the nuclear holocaust, will be wiped out once and for all. That the seed of Man will be canceled forever from the face of the earth!” They honor Mako’s dead body, saying that they will take ten thousand lives for his and will now hate and exterminate. But only One will have vengeance on Scorpion.

Our three heroes then meet a caravan of religious people led by Moses who have found The Signal, the aforementioned radio signal which will lead its followers to the last civilization on Earth. Alma and Nadir decide to stay with the caravan. And why would Nadir leave after he finds such perfect companionship with Vinya, a girl with glittery eye makeup, a side ponytail, access to booze and who does the deep concentration service and biorhythmic concentration (but it’s been a while since she’s done it). Let me tell you — the entire scene where she and Nadir talk about the end of the world before he starts making out with her is ridiculous and nonsensical and so perfect.

However, Scorpion claims that “heaven is dead” and that “memories are worth nothing.” Man. He was emo before anyone knew what it meant. He walks in on Nadir, who has obviously just got done making love and says goodbye. The rest of the Templars find him in seconds and take him to One, who reinitiates Scorpion into the Templars by anally raping him. Yes, you read that right. All of the motorcycle helmet wearing dudes watch while hanging around on cars and bikes as One takes it to our hero. Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting that. He gets interrupted by a scout who tells them they’ve found the caravan and that they need to finish off Scorpion while he goes off and murders everyone else.

Luckily, Nadir gets to Scorpion just in time. Not as luckily, doing so means that the caravan gets easily overtaken. He then yells at our hero, “Here lies the great Scorpion, in pain, victim of the big, bad queers, the Templars! All you had to do was ask. Nadir, I need your help. You’re not so great now, Scorpion.” But don’t worry. One training montage later and the mechanic kid — let’s call him little Bob, as that’s what I always call Giovanni Frezza in any movie — and our heroes are back to save everyone.

One smokes some weed while listening to a tape that says, “If you could win the sky, if you could win the sky, I, this evening would have possessed the world. But I don’t want to stain my name with ridicule. Fighting against the world of endless sky. Yet, I feel that soon, I too shall breach the supreme barrier.” What? What the fuck is he listening to! The dude is just totally smoking up while everyone else is out there killing humanity!

This leads to One giving another amazing speech: “Idiots! Dreamers! Don’t you understand? The world is dead! We have all closed our eyes! Even the heavens are silent! You! And you! And you! You are walking dead! Walking corpses! There is nothing left! Nothing. Not even The Signal you think you hear. Nothing. There’s no more soul. There’s no more hope. There’s only one faith. One ecstasy. Death! And death you shall have, you last ugly dregs of humanity! You don’t deserve to live!” A car filled with dead bodies shows up and interrupts, but they realize too late…it’s a trap! Scorpion, Nadir and Bob are here to kill as many Templars as possible and save the day.

One and Scorpion have a stare down. It’s obvious that beyond the rape earlier that these guys were lovers at one point. They have to be for this much pent up hatred. One gets off the first shot, but Scorpion has on clear body armor under his cape. You have to see this shit to believe it!

Meanwhile, Shadow starts taking out people one by one, killing Moses and Wiz. But Scorpion blows him away as Nadir takes out the rest of the Templars. There’s even a scene where Bob saves Nadir, leading to a high five. Then, Scorpion tracks down One before he runs away and impales him in the ass with a drill before blowing his car up.

The survivors gather. Nadir’s woman lived. So did Alma. And one would imagine that they’ll look for The Signal, but that’s it. Scorpion and Bob hold hands as Claudio Simonetti’s synth score blares. All hail Warriors of the Wasteland!Or The New Barbarians!

I wish that Enzo G. Castellari had made ten of these movies. This is exactly why I watch movies — to be entertained, to yell at the screen, to jump up and down in glee. Exploding arrows, heads flying off, cars with domes and saw blades that hack off human heads — this one has it all! Throw in “The Hammer” as a bad ass who could pretty much carry his own movie — he’s honestly way more entertaining than the lead — and you have a winner.

Seriously — with the idea of a religious group versus an evil gay biker army, this movie seems like a Jack Chick tract come to life. Yes, after the fall of man and the rapture, only a radio signal will lead us all to heaven, that is, if you can avoid all the rapes and murder. It goes without saying that this movie has no interest in being politically correct. The fact that it has no real animals were murdered makes it as woke as Italian cinema gets.

2022 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 15: Body Double (1984)

15. VIDEO STORE DAY: This is the big one. Watch something physically rented or bought from an actual video store. If you don’t have access to one of these sacred archival treasures then watch a movie with a video store scene in it at least. #vivaphysicalmedia

“I do not do animal acts. I do not do S&M or any variations of that particular bent, no water sports either. I will not shave my pussy, no fistfucking and absolutely no coming in my face. I get $2000 a day and I do not work without a contract.”

I’ve said it before. Everything I find attractive in the opposite sex is Melanie Griffith: the toughness of Edith Johnson in Cherry 2000, the smarts of Tess McGill in Working Girl, the dangerous edge of Audrey Hankel in Something Wild and, well, Holly Body in this movie wearing a fringed jacket, smoking with short blonde hair? Have you seen my wife?

Wikipedia states that this is a “homage to the 1950s films of Alfred Hitchcock, specifically Rear Window, Vertigo and Dial M for Murder,” but this is a giallo thanks to the main character being implicated in the murder, misdirection as to what the real crime is and who the killer may be, and the fact that murder and sex have come together most horrifyingly as a drill penetrates a woman and the floor beneath her, dripping hot blood all over the protagonist.

Jake Scully (Craig Wasson) has lost his home, his lover and his last role, all because of the childhood phobias that have made him claustrophobia — hey another giallo moment — yet after taking a method acting class, he’s found a place in the astounding home of actor Sam Bouchard (Gregg Henry), who before he leaves for Europe takes time to show him a woman — Gloria Revelle (Deborah Shelton, Miss USA 1970, who was also in Bloodtide) — who strips down every night for whoever watches her.

That home is the Chemosphere house which is also in Charlie’s Angels.

Obsessed by this woman, Jake starts following her and even watches her be attacked by a mystery man. That same “Indian” steals her purse as Jake follows her to a rendezvous at a hotel where she’s about to meet another man who stands her up. He gets her purse back before his phobia traps him in a tunnel. She helps him escape his fear. They embrace. They kiss. That night, the “Indian” returns and kills her with a gigantic drill as Jake fails to save her; a huge white dog has stopped him. When he calls the police, Detective Jim McLean (Guy Boyd) tells him that his need to watch and not involve the police earlier led to Gloria’s death.

Later that evening, unable to sleep, Jake notices a woman dancing on a cable channel whose movements are the same as his mystery woman. Those movies and those curves belong to Holly Body (Griffith), an adult star who he works his way into meeting and then frightens away, just in time for the “Indian,” who ends up being Alex Revelle, the husband of Gloria, but also Sam Bouchard, to knock out Holly, who he paid to dance for Jake so that he’d keep watching and see his wife get killed, giving him the alibi that he was in Europe and the “Indian” was the real killer.

That reveal is so giallo it should make the screen turn yellow.

Director Brian DePalma was recovering from dealing with the censors over Scarface and women’s groups after Dressed to Kill. Much like Argento, who made Tenebre his most violent film yet after similar criticism — they both also tend to answer yes to the question “Do you like Hitchcock?” — DePalma decided to go hard instead of giving up.

He told the Philadelphia Inquirer “If this one doesn’t get an X, nothing I ever do is going to. This is going to be the most erotic and surprising and thrilling movie I know how to make… I’m going to give them everything they hate and more of it than they’ve ever seen. They think Scarface was violent? They think my other movies were erotic? Wait until they see Body Double.”

Originally, DePalma was going to have Annette Haven play Holly, but the studio bristled at an actual hardcore actress being in their movie. She stayed on to consult and explain what the world of adult was like. DePalma also wanted Sylvia Kristel for the role of Gloria and man, if that happened, this movie would have been too much for 12 year old me.

DePalma ended up ending his three picture deal with Columbia after this movie, which nearly got an X rating, saying “The only people crazier than the people who criticize me for violence are the people at the studios. I can’t stand that sort of cowardice.” As for critics, Ebert loved it, Siskel hated it and said it was splatter and everyone kept saying he hated women. Years later, the director would explain to The Guardian, “Body Double was reviled when it came out. Reviled. It really hurt. I got slaughtered by the press right at the height of the women’s liberation movement… I thought it was completely unjustified. It was a suspense thriller, and I was always interested in finding new ways to kill people.”

So yeah. It bombed at the box office. But it has a great rental store scene, the twist from the coffin scene to the real fate that Jake finds himself in is astounding and even the way the credits come in is absolutely genius. Throw in the wild notion that this movie briefly becomes a Frankie Goes to Hollywood video — man, DePalma loves that spinning dance camera and that scene is such a wow, look, there’s Brink Stevens, Annette Haven, Cara Lott and Lindsay Freeman moment — and you have a movie that I’ve thought about since I first saw it as a teen. Watching it again as an old man, I see the sadness creep through the sin, the voyeur being when he starts watching and gets to actually making it.

Also: that same dance set was reused for Fright Night.

It’s funny because Argento and DePalma always get compared to one another. DePalma said in an interview “Actually the only film I’ve seen of Argento’s is The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. That is the only film of his I remember ever seeing. I know I get compared to him a lot, and people think I took this or that from there or here. But, I actually only remember ever seeing that one film of his. I’m not a student of giallo films at all. I know Martin Scorsese showed me some Mario Bava films back in like the 70s or something.”

Sure, alright. Maybe we should compare the shot for shot moments in Tenebre and Raising Cain

I digress.

Both are extremely talented and have dealt with the same criticism. Both made poorly advised movies late in their career. Both even married actresses from their films. Both used Pino Donaggio to compose their movies, Argento with Trauma and DePalma more than once.

They should just get together and have some wine and be friends.

Looking back at Body Double, I am astounded by how much DePalma got away with and how much art he still worked into this. It’s sleazy and hard to defend, but that just makes me enjoy it beyond what I should.


“Moonchild, hear the mandrake screamMoonchild, open the seventh sealMoonchild, you’ll be mine soon childMoonchild, take my hand tonight!”

Yeah, any movie inspired by Iron Maiden — it says so right in the credits — deserves all of your money.

Directed and written by Todd Sheets, Moonchild is a movie that realizes that the best post-apoclyptic movies didn’t need huge budgets, just sets that looked like the end of the world, some wildness to set them apart and all the heart you can muster. More 2019: After the Fall of New York, less Children of Men.

Also, you can sum up this movie in three more words: Werewolves are awesome.

Jacob Stryker (Auggi Alvarez) is a man who has had his genes spliced with those of a wolf and is therefore one of those awesome werewolves. He’s lost his son Caleb after he escaped the government ghouls who operated on him. And oh yeah, he has a bomb ready to blow his guts up in 72 hours, which is taking Snake Plissken cosplay taken as far as you can take it.

He’s being tracked by cannibals, bounty hunters, a ninja, a cyborg grandmother and an entire army with only a small group of rebels like Talon and Athena helping him. But you know, Stryker doesn’t need anybody. He’s a werewolf in the time after the fall of man.

This movie doesn’t have any budget, but there are still car chases and people throwing themselves out of moving vehicles which is at once awesome and wreckless and you know, I’ll go with awesome. More people should be willing to face death for the joy of post-apocalyptic cinema.

Moonchild has never been released on blu ray before. You can get it from MVD. It also includes the following extras:

  • New director supervised SD master from original tapes
  • Bonus audio CD of the movie soundtrack
  • Two new director commentary tracks
  • Original alternate VHS cut of Moonchild
  • Wolf Moon Rising: The Making of Moonchild documentary
  • Archival behind the scenes cast interviews
  • Original VHS trailer
  • Original deleted ending
  • Decension “Burn the Church” music video
  • Trailers for upcoming Visual Vengeance releases
  • Four-page liner notes by Matt Desiderio
  • Limited edition slipcase by The Dude Designs
  • Collectible mini-poster
  • “Stick your own” VHS sticker set

For more details on the label and updates on new releases – as well as news on upcoming releases – follow Visual Vengeance on social media – IG, Facebook or Twitter:

TWITTER @VisualVenVideo

INSTAGRAM visualvenvideo

FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/visualvenvideo

CANNON MONTH 2: The Philadelphia Experiment (1984)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally on the site on June 1, 2022. It was not produced by Cannon, but was released on video in Germany by Cannon Screen Entertainment, who called it John Carpenter’s Das Philadelphia Experiment

One of the greatest memories of my life is a vacation to Washington D.C. when I was 12. I can’t remember it as being perfect. We didn’t have much money, we had to sleep in our van at least one night, we almost got caught in a flood and it was blistering hot. But that stuff never mattered. And sure, I’d come home to my first days of awkward middle school and wondering if I’d ever fit in. But for one blissful night, I sat under the stars somewhere in Virginia and saw a drive-in double feature while eating snuck in sandwiches we made from ham salad and bread we bought cheap at a local grocery store.

PSA: Don’t sneak food into drive-ins. There are so few in the U.S. and many of them survive based on their food sales. Spend a lot on food. Get a Chilly Dilly, the personality pickle.

The first movie we saw was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a mind-blasting onslaught of adventure, non-stop shreiking, monkey brains being eaten right out of their skulls and chest tearing gore. Years later, that film’s writers, Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, would do the same thing to me all over again with their classic Messiah of Evil, a movie I was in no way prepared for at a pre-pubescent age.

The second film — which we knew nothing about — was The Philadelphia Experiment.

Based on the book The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility by Charles Berlitz (yes, the very same Berlitz that was part of the family that is The Berlitz School of Languages, as well as a military intelligence officer accused of inventing mysteries and fabricating evidence, which we now call disinformation) and William L. Moore (who circulated the Majestic-12 document that later in my teenage years would overload my Commodre 64 and convince a seventeen-year-old  possibly on drugs me that government troops were coming out of the woods to silence me and kill my family; I woke everyone up and ran into the yard screaming, I was a handful; Moore is also a disinfo agent), the original script for this movie was written by John Carpenter, who couldn’t figure out how it should end, never mind that it was based on a true story.

On that real story: An ex-merchant marine named Carl M. Allen sent an anonymous package marked “Happy Easter” that was Morris K. Jessup’s book The Case for the UFO: Unidentified Flying Objects filled with notes in three blue inks to the U.S. Office of Naval Research. These notes discuss how UFOs fly, discuss alien races and show that aliens are worried that the book knows too much and refer to the Philedelphia Experiment.

Allen then started writing to Jessup as himself and Carlos Miguel Allende warning him to stop studying flying saucers. He claimed that  he was serving aboard the SS Andrew Furuseth and saw the actual event as the ship teleported from Philedelphia to Norfolk, Virginia and then back, during which he saw crewmembers go insane, become intangible and frozen within time. Jessup asked for info which Allen never really proved.

So this is where it gets weird. Well, weirder. Jessup was invited to the Office of Naval Research where he was shown that annotated book and realized that it had the same handwriting as Allen. Why?

Can it get weirder? Sure.

Commander George W. Hoover, one of the members of the Office of Naval Research, showed the annotations to a contractor named Austin N. Stanton, who was the president of Varo Manufacturing Corporation. Stanton got so obsessed that he used his office’s mimeography machine to print multiple copies of the letters and the annotated book. Keep in mind that this was super expensive in the late 50s and also went against so many laws and levels of security clearance.

So what happened to Jessup? No one wanted to read his books, he lost his agent and he eventually committed suicide. As others tried to find Allen, his family would only say that he was a master leg puller. He was also from New Kensington, Pennsylvania — so close to Pittsburgh. They gave researchers tons more of his handwritten notes on the subject.

Whew — yes I will get to the movie — the Varo annotations were used in several conspiracy and UFO books, finally gaining some interest thanks to Berlitz and Moore. Then the movie got made. And then, another sailor named Alfred Bielek claimed he was also on the ship and that the movie was totally accurate. That’s funny because the book ripped off another book, George E. Simpson and Neal R. Burger’s Thin Air.

Let me stop for a second and tell you that this movie has even crazier DNA.

That’s because it was directed by Stewart Raffill.

Sure, he made The Ice Pirates the same year. But afterward, his career is filled with the kind of movies that crush minds. Movies like Mac and MeMannequin 2: Mannequin on the MoveTammy and the T-Rex.

Yes, all the same director.

By the time he got to this movie, the script had been written nine times. Despite Michael Janover (who wrote the horrifying Hardly Working), William Gray (HumongousProm Night) and Wallace C. Bennett (Silent ScreamWelcome to Arrow Beach) being in the credits for the script, Raffill says that he dictated the script and had someone type it.

As for the story, United States Navy sailors David Herdeg (Michael Pare) and Jim Parker (Bobby Di Cicco in 1943 and Ralph Manza in 1984) are on the USS Eldridge in 1943 as Doctor James Longstreet (Miles McNamara in the past, Eric Christmas — who was Mr. Carter in Porky’s — in 1984) makes the ship invisible to radar, but as things go wrong, David and Jim jump overboard and end up in the future — or our past are you confused? — and kidnap Allison Hayes (Nancy Allen) and get into military related hijinks before Jim gets zapped back in time.

There’s some wild science in here as David eventually has to go into a vortex and smash stuff with a fire axe to free the ship, which ends up with burned sailors and men being fused into the ship.

A sequel came out in 1993 with Brad Johnson from Nam Angels as David going up against Gerrit Graham as well as 2012 SyFy reimagining that Pare shows up for. Man, Michael Pare also made Streets of Fire the very same year and really should have been better considered.

This movie went from theaters to video stores faster than any movie had before. Maybe people thought that they had already seen it as The Final Countdown.

None of that is important to me. I have a wonderful memory of sitting in movie theater seats — outside no less — and getting to see two wild movies that I’ve thought of so many times since. We should all have a vacation so wonderful.

You can watch this on Tubi.

CANNON MONTH 2: What Waits Below (1984)

EDITOR’S NOTE: What Waits Below was obviously not produced by Cannon, but they did release it in Germany as Cannon Screen Entertainment.

Also known as Secrets of the Phantom Caverns, this Sandy Howard-produced movie was made in a former limestone quarry and in natural caves, including Cathedral Caverns in Alabama and Cumberland Caverns and Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee.

According to the August 23, 1983 edition of the Miami Herald, carbon monoxide produced by the generators used to power the lights and filmmaking equipment built up in the Cathedral Caverns location and sent at least 17 people, including director Don Sharp (Psychomania) to the hospital.

Or maybe it was more, as star Lisa Blount (Prince of Darkness) remembered in an interview with Imagi Movies, “All the extras, as the Lemurians, were out in front of me, and I watched all these people just start silently falling over, fainting, as this wave of carbon monoxide came at them. All hell broke loose. We had little golf carts for transportation, and it was an immediate emergency situation of getting out, but these carts didn’t go that fast. We had very sick people, and it was a matter of determining who got in the first car out — youngest ones first. It was just total chaos. There were sixty people who went to the hospital.”

That may have been more exciting than this movie, in which a military communication device used to alert submarines ends up losing its signal in a cave in Central America. The military sends Major Elbert Stevens (Timothy Bottoms) and scientist Leslie Peterson (Blount) to learn what happened. That’s when things go all Shaver mystery and Lemurians — albino cave people show up. But are they heroes or villains? Are we the heroes or villains? And hey — Richard Johnson (Zombi 2) shows up!

Based on a story by Freddie Francis, the script was written by Robert Vincent O’Neil (the same guy who made the Angel movies!) and Christy Marx (the same woman who created JEM and the Holograms!). The tagline for this movie was “Underground, no one can hear you die.” Alien this is not.

This looks like a TV movie in the best of ways and I kind of love it for how completely stupid it is. I mean, the military supercomputer is a Commodore 64 with the logo taped over. If that makes you want to watch this, you are my kind of person.

CANNON MONTH 2: Dreamscape (1984)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was first on the site on April 10, 2022. Dreamscape was obviously not produced by Cannon, but they did release it in Germany on the Cannon Screen Entertainment label.

Based on an outline that Roger Zelazny wrote, his novella “He Who Shapes” and the novel The Dream Master, this wasn’t made with any other input from the author. At least he got paid!

The story is credited to David Loughery, who wrote the fifth Star Trek and I still wonder why God needs a starship. The script is from Chuck Russell, who would go on to make A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and The Blob. Director Joseph Ruben made The Pom Pom GirlsThe StepfatherThe Good Son and Sleeping With the Enemy. He knows how to make entertaining trash and I say that in the kindest of ways.

Alex Gardner (Dennis Quaid) might be a psychic, but he doesn’t want tested any more. Not after all the poking and prodding in his youth by Dr. Paul Novotny (Max von Sydow). But when Novotny saves him from some low level goons who want to use Gardner’s psychic powers, he starts listening to how he’s now involved in government-funded psychic research. What really gets Alex on board is one look at Dr. Jane DeVries (Kate Capshaw).

The goal is to send people into the dreamscape. There’s some exposition about the Senoi natives of Malaysia thinking that the dream world is as real as our own and you know me, I’m always here for movie BS.

Tommy Ray Glatman (David Patrick Kelly) is the only person who has entered the dreamscape, but he’s a daddy and old lady murdering maniac, so luckily Alex can get in and help little kids get over their bad dreams. Horror novelist Charlie Prince (George Wendt) — who wrote a book called Stab, so is this Scream universe canon? — tells Alex that he’s just a weapon to be used by Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer) to kill the President (Eddie Albert) and preserve the military industrial complex.

Yeah, a lot happens.

The end of this movie is wild. Alex is inside the President’s post-nuclear terror dream, as mutants hunt the President and Tommy Ray has nunchucks and can also be a snake man before Alex takes the form of Tommy’s dad, tells the final boss that he loves him and then the leader of the free world stabs the bad guy from behind, killing him, because even the most hopeful of Presidents still ordered drone strikes. Then our hero goes into Blair’s dream and straight up kills him so he can be with Kate Capshaw.

The second PG-13 movie ever released — after Red Dawn — this is also the second movie that Kate Capshaw would be in in 1984 where a man’s heart is ripped out of his chest.

You know, I love this goofy movie. The effects are dated, there’s fog everywhere and the poster is totally trying to make you think Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s one of the first movies I ever rented and watching it again, it made me so happy knowing that I can just put it on at any time.

CANNON MONTH 2: Electric Dreams (1984)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was first on the site on September 15, 2019. Electric Dreams was obviously not produced by Cannon, but they did release it in Germany on the Cannon Screen Entertainment label.

Steve Barron directed some of the most famous videos like “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits, “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant, “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League, “Africa” by Toto and “Take On Me” by A-ha. This was his first film, which was written by Rusty Lemorande, who also was behind Captain EO, Cannon’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and the Patsy Kensit and and Julian Sands-starring The Turn of the Screw.

Barron often shared his music videos with his mother Zelda. Now, that isn’t him being a mama’s boy. She was at the time doing continuity on Yentl with Lemorande — she also directed the movie Shag and Culture Club’s* videos for “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” “Miss Me Blind,” “The Medal Song” and “It’s a Miracle” — and showed him a video that Barron made for Haysi Fantayzee, which led to this movie.

The film is very much an extended music video and has lots of artists of the era, such as YB40, Jeff Lynne, Phil Collins, Heaven 17 and, most importantly, Giorgio Moroder, who was hired as the composer.

Barron would later say, “(Moroder) played me a demo track he thought would be good for the movie. It was the tune of “Together in Electric Dreams” but with some temporary lyrics sung by someone who sounded like a cheesy version of Neil Diamond. Giorgio was insisting the song could be a hit so I thought I’d suggest someone to sing who would be as far from a cheesy Neil Diamond as one could possibly go. Phil Oakey**. We then got Phil in who wrote some new lyrics on the back of a (cigarette) packet on the way to the recording studio and did two takes which Giorgio was well pleased with and everybody went home happy.”

Miles Harding (Lenny Von Dohlen, Harold Smith on Twin Peaks) is an architect who wants to build earthquake-proof building, which is why he buys a computer to help him and goes overboard, buying everything he can to allow it to run his house. However, he screws up his own name and it calls him Moles. As the computer downloads more information and it starts to overheat. Miles pours champagne on it, which is not how to fix a computer and it becomes self-aware, gains the voice of Bud Cort (Barron didn’t want Cort to be seen by the other actors so he did his lines in a padded box on a sound stage) and the name Edgar.

Miles and Edgar are both in love with neighbor Madeline Robistat (Virginia Madsen), with Edgar even playing cello along with her in a duet, a performance that Miles takes credit for. He even asks the computer to write a song for Madeline, but that takes things too far and soon man fights machine.

Yet don’t take this to be a horror movie. It ends up being quite sweet at the end and is a cute romance. You can even see Moroder show up as a record producer. This movie has one of my favorite movie things in it: computers that at once look dated and yet do more than they can today.

*Harold and Maude fan Boy George visited the set of this movie just to meet Bud Cort. George also helped compose the song “Electric Dreams” and contributed his band’s songs “Karma Chameleon,” “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” “Love Is Love” and “The Dream” to the soundtrack.

**The Human League’s singer.