Legend of the Stardust Brothers (1985)

1985. Japan. Macoto Tezka (son of “The God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka) meets musician Haruo Chicada, who has already made a soundtrack to a movie that does not exist. Inspired by The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Phantom of the Paradise, along with the chance to work with some of Japan’s hottest bands, Tezka and Chicada would join up with a creative team that also included Lupin the 3rd creator Monkey Punch and directors Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Daihachi Yoshida.

They harnessed lighting and put it in a bottle that was lost at sea, as nobody really spoke of this movie for around thirty years, both in Japan and here in America.

We were missing out.

Punk rock rebel Kan and new-wave crooner Shingo are already broken up when we met them, former members of The Stardust Brothers, the greatest band of all time. What came between them? A girl? Their manager? Or are they making their lyrics the sad truth to their real lives? “Once you reach No. 1, you just go down.”

Look, any movie that has a cameo by UWF founder Akira Maeda and is dedicated to the memory of Winslow Leach is going to be a film that I’m going to proclaim to the heavens.

As is often the case with the movies that I love, the press savaged this movie. Tezka told Japan Times, “People are watching it with fresh eyes now, and I’ve had lots of positive comments. But I wonder about how I could have taken those ideas further, and all the films I might have made, if people had responded like that at the time.”

This is a movie in love with film, with music, with being young and being incredibly strange. Idol culture is fascinating and never more so when it is shown in this movie, which I urge you — yes, you reading this! — to watch right now. After all, this is “a movie that has traveled light years to find you.”

There was a 2016 sequel to this — Hoshikuzu Kyôdai no Aratana Densetsu — that I have to now track down. As for this film, it’s available to buy on Vimeo.

Commando (1985)

Do you remember that feeling where you wanted to be a character in a movie? As we grow up, that feeling goes away. Well let me tell you, I can still feel the yearning to be John Matrix that I felt as a 13-year-old. Sure, Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator made many take notice of Arnold. This is the movie that — to me — put him over the top.

Director Mark Lester told Empire, “It’s the granddaddy of action films as we know them today. And Arnold was the reason it got made.”

Who knew that it was originally a movie all about a soldier turning his back on violence? Well, that wasn’t what ended up on the screen. Instead, we have Arnold gleefully getting revenge on all manner of soldiers, thugs, mercs and habitual linesteppers for around 90 minutes of rip-roaring fun.

Yet when the movie starts, John Matrix is happy. He’s in the woods, feeding deer by hand, hanging out with his daughter Alyssa Milano and carrying trees around by himself. Then, after turning down an offer to come back in, a bunch of no-goodniks come on in and take his daughter. Even worse, his old best friend Bennett (Vernon Wells!) is their leader.

Also: Bennett dresses like, well, no one who has ever lived on this earth before. A chain mail sleeveless shirt would be enough, but then he has leather pants and fingerless gloves. It’s as if the entire design staff of Capcom, Data East, Konami and SNK all looked at the screen and said, “This is the blueprint for every fighting game we will ever make.”

Wells is legitimately unhinged in this movie. In that same Empire article, he said “.. I was so hyped to be in the movie, they could have asked me to jump off the Empire State Building and I probably would have. Making Commando was better than anything you could have smoked.”

Wings Hauser was going to play Bennett, which probably would have been awesome too.

This is a movie where Arnold murders between 81-102 people in twenty minutes. There’s a rocket launcher scene that sends me into a fit of hysteria. The hanging dudes off cliffs by their feet. All the wonderous one-liners. And oh yeah, “Let off some steam, Bennett!” You have no clue how many times that scene was rewound while we all screamed the line to one another.

Arnold made two films at Sherman Oaks and that place should have a gold statue of him that we can all genuflect in front of. This movie is a piece of cinema that no one would have the audacity to make today.

Look, when Dan Heyada is the big bad of your film, you’re doing it right.

Terror y Encajes Negros (1985)

Why did I watch this? Is it my OCD-fuelled need to get overwhelmed by any film genre the more I study it? Or is it because its title — translated in English as Terror and Black Lace — references one of my favorite films of all time, Mario Bava’s seminal Blood and Black Lace?

The answer is ambas, mi amigos.

Isabel is a good wife, one who stays at home and patiently waits for her abusive husband to come home and knock her around. She thinks that the next door neighbor is the polite and kind man of her dreams, but this being a Mexican exploitation movie from 1985, we all know that he’s going to be a maniac as well.

As she sits and waits for hubby — clad in black lingerie, so there’s the reason for the title — she watches said neighbor dispose of a body in a kind of La Ventana Trasera situation. The neighbor is played by Claudio Obregon, who is no relation to noted Andy Sidaris villain Rodrigo Obregon.

Actually, I was too rough by lumping this film into the exploitation world. It’s lead actress Maribel Guardia was nominated for an Ariel Award for this movie. So maybe if you come in expecting a giallo, instead you’re getting drama. Which probably isn’t what you want with a title like this, hmm?

You can watch this on YouTube.

 

Cementerio del Terror (1985)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article originally ran in Drive-In Asylum #19, which you can buy on this etsy store. I’m so excited to share this movie with you.

I was hunting for the perfect movie for this issue of Drive-In Asylum. My goal with each thing I write for this twisted tome is to discover something new. A film that perhaps people have missed. And certainly one that no one is talking about. 

Cementerio del Terror is the perfect movie to answer all of those needs and more.

Directed by Rubén Galindo Jr., who also helmed the utterly baffling Don’t Panic! and Grave Robbers, this película de terror combines so many influences and films that it feels like the best DJ mix you’ve never heard of Evil Dead, Halloween and a children’s film while still boasting all of the grisly rojo gore that you crave.

Set in Texas, filmed in Spanish and utterly unconcerned with things like good taste or common sense, this movie appeals to every level of what I demand in cinema. Let me set it all up for you, muchacho: Dr. Cardan (Hugo Stiglitz, whose half-century movie career has led to roles in beloved junk like Tintorera…Killer SharkGuyana: Cult of the Damned and Nightmare City) has left behind the scientific method to become a religious maniac determined to stop Satan himself from resurrecting the dead. 

Then there’s Devlon, who has just killed seventeen people and his parents before being stopped by the police. Dr. Cardan knows that this is the exact body that El Diablo needs to begin his nefarious scheme, screaming “He’s not a man like you and me – he’s a demon!” as if he’s the Loomis to Devlon’s Miguel Myers. 

If only six hard-partying teenagers armed with a book of spells didn’t steal the body of said serial killer. If only they hadn’t taken it to la casa junto al cementerio. If only they hadn’t accidentally raised the living dead.

This is the leap in logic this movie demands that you make: These sexy ladies were promised a rock ‘n roll concert by these moronic men and they make due with the body of a dead convict and rituals in a graveyard. These women were promised a rock concert and a jet set party and are instead rewarded with a bearded zombie who uses his fingernails to massacre every single one of them.

Everyone dies in the most bloody fashion possible, but only after they drink and dance to some of the worst disco you’ve ever heard, which makes this movie even better. 

Just when you say to yourself, “The entire cast of this movie is dead!” a bunch of kids, led by one in a Michael Jackson tour jacket, enter the house and comically discover the disemboweled bodies of every one of the Satanic teens before they face off mano y mano with Devlon himself.

Throats are slashed. Blood is sprayed. Axes find their way into faces. Entire rooms get possessed. Kids goof around and hide behind tombstones as the film wildly shifts tone and becomes the goriest episode of Scooby-Doo ever. 

Cementerio del Terror is unbridled joy, made by someone who it feels like got to play with all the toys that he always dreamed of owning. It shamelessly steals from so many films that it makes you throw up your hands and enjoy the ride. I mean, how many movies start off with buckets of crimson viscera and end with little kids saving the day before tossing in a shock ending? 

There is no cynicism here, no winks to the camera that horror needs to be elevated and escaped from. That’s why I seek out stuff like this. These kind of flicks are a drug that I try and mainline into my veins at any opportunity. I suggest you do the same.

You can watch this movie on Daily Motion:

 

Nothing Underneath (1985)

I really like 1988’s Too Beautiful to Die, a movie that was sold as a sequel to this movie. Perhaps it’s better that I watched that first, because while I like the premise of this movie, the execution leaves something to be desired. That’s a shame, because it really sets up something great.

A serial killer roams the city of Milan, dispatching gorgeous models with the flash of his scissors. Meanwhile, Yellowstone Park ranger Bob Crane senses that his sister needs him, so he flies across the world to interact with the rich and famous. Can he save her? Will he be targeted by the killer? Will Donald Pleasence ever say no to a movie?

As I set up before, this didn’t live up to my hopes. The mid-80’s are a wasteland for giallo, with so many movies being set in the fashion industry yet having no real feel for the fashion or any pretension to art.

Acts of Violence (1985)

Oh Lightning Video, you bringers of filth and ruin. In addition to giving us VHS versions of The Wild BeastsThe House of the Yellow Carpet, the Michael Pataki-directed CinderellaThe Killer Is on the PhoneYellow Hair and the Fortress of GoldNecropolisDark AugustFootprints on the MoonSuperstition and more also have us this mondo of sorts.

Billed as “a riveting expose about the personalities of murderers and their motives,” this movie covers three topics: the McDonalds’ restaurant massacre, President Reagan’s assassination attempt and serial murderer Henry Lee Lucas.

Murder porn, as they call it, is passe these days, on 24/7 in so many homes. But in 1985? Movies like this and The Killing of America blew minds.

You can watch this on YouTube:

Hard Rock Zombies (1985)

Evil LaughAmerican Drive-In. Hard Rock Zombies. These are the legacy of producer/director Krishna Shah. This movie is…well, there’s never been a movie exactly like this. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not that’s a good or bad thing.

Jessie, Tommy, Chuck and Bobby are Holy Moses and in order to impress a music business bigwig, they decide to go to a town that has outlawed rock and roll. Of course, these towns were everywhere in the wake of Footloose because they saw how well that went.

The town they pick — Grand Guignol is the name, which is only slightly more subtle than Nilbog — has not only outlawed music, but it’s also full of evil dwarves, sex perverts and not just Nazis, but Hitler and Eva Braun who has become a knife-carrying werewolf who lets other men have sex with her while she cucks Der Fuhrer.

The band gets killed, but thanks to the fact that their new song was based on an occult prayer, they come back to life and bring the town’s dead back from the choir invisible to kill everyone else.

Jessie is also in love with a young fan named Cassie, who is all of 12. So there’s that. And he’s the good guy.

This movie was supposed to be only twenty minutes long and appear as the movie within a movie for American Drive-In. Someone decided to spend a little more cash and finish the film.

How much do we love this movie? We also reviewed it as part of our weekly Drive-In Friday feature for a “Heavy Metal Horror Night” alongside the likes of Monster Dog, Blood Tracks, Terror on Tour, and Rocktober Blood.

You can watch Hard Rock Zombies on YouTube:

Deceptions (1985)

Twin sisters (both roles played by Stefanie Powers, which was 100% my reason for watching this movie) — one a European jet-setter, the other a housewife in need of adventure — decide to swap lives and identities for a week. What could go wrong? Oh, you know. Everything.

Made while Powers was on Hart to Hart — and also starring in three miniseries all at the same time — this movie was based on the best-selling novel by Judith Michael.

Originally airing on the NBC network, this movie has a blockbuster cast, with Barry Bostwick as the U.S. based husband. And look out! That’s Fabio Testi, who you may remember from What Have You Done to Solange?Contraband and The Four of the Apocalypse, as the European beau to Powers.

While the American hausfrau is shaking her tailfeather to the smitten Testi on a yacht — to the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited,” years before that ditty reduced Jessie Spano to tears — the boat blows up real good, making this movie less about allowing your twin sister to have Biblical knowledge of your hubs and more about murder, baby. And if anyone knows murder in 1985 prime time, Stephanie Powers is the lady for the job.

So yeah. Barry Bostwick reacts to this news by realizing that he’s really in love with the rich girl sister because sex is dirty when it’s a secret and this never really gets explored and man, who doesn’t love run-on sentences?

Toss in Gina Lollobrigida, Brenda Vaccaro, a young Fairuza Balk and a pre-Ben Seaver Jeremy Miller and you have a cast ready for a paperback that ladies bring to the beach back when people still read trashy novels.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

The Zoo Gang (1985)

Pen Dasham wrote and produced Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and the 1980’s revivals of The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone. He often worked with John Watson, making this film and Backdraft. They wrote, directed and produced this late 80’s teen film.

Kate (Tiffany Helm, O.C. and Stiggs, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, Reform School Girls), her brother Ricky (Robert Jayne, half-brother of Scott Jacoby who also is in Tremors and Dr. Alien) and their pals Danny, Val (Marc Price, Ragman!) and Bobbi buy an old nightclub from a bum named Leatherface (Ben Vereen).

Before you know it — and after getting past the adults in town — The Zoo becomes an overnight success.

That’s when the Donnelly Clan decides they want to take it over. They’re led by Little Joe, who is played by a demented looking Jackie Earl Haley nine years after The Bad News Bears and 25 years before he’d play Freddy Krueger.

His twin brothers are played by Glen and Gary Mauro, who were the twin vampires in Once Bitten.

How did this end up in wrestling week? Well, it turns out that Leatherface used to be a wrestler named The Winch and he teaches the kids how to defend themselves.

Some claim that this was the first movie to actually be awarded a PG-13 rating, despite Red Dawn being released first.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Grunt! The Wrestling Movie (1985)

Once, years ago, “Skull Crusher” Johnson took on Mad Dog Joe De Curso for the title. Johnson got caught in the ropes, Mad Dog hit a dropkick and “Skull Crusher’s” head went flying into the crowd. After being acquitted of manslaughter, Mad Dog attached the judge and bailiff, went to jail and then jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.

But what about the world title? Well, seeing as how he didn’t have a head, Johnson hasn’t defended it in six years, which is the first of many cues that this movie doesn’t understand wrestling all that well. But now, wrestlers from all over will appear in a battle royal to pick the next champ. And one of those wrestlers, The Mask, just might be Mad Dog.

We get to watch The Mask battle in a two on one match — again, this movie has no real idea how wrestling works and it’s about wrestling — against Dick Murdoch and Richard Beyer, who are billed here as the Grunt Brothers. I’m assuming that Beyer is Dick Beyer, otherwise known as Mr. X and most famously, the Sensational Intelligent Destroyer. The Mask wins this match when his valet shows her breasts to the twosome, which seems to be a way beyond early 80’s finish.

The movie episodically presents a mockumentary where we see The Mask battle against other wrestlers like El Toro (Mondo Guerrero, doing dives way before anyone else), American Starship Eagle (Dan Spivey, whose other partner in American Starship was Coyote, or Scott Hall; he went on to be Waylon Mercy and helped develop the Bray Wyatt character), Commie Warhead, Captain Carnage, “The Golden Greek” John Tolos and “Exotic” Adrian Street.

Old school — really old school — fans will recognize Victor River as Skull Crusher, Matilda the Hun from the original GLOW as Queen Kong, Steve Pardee, Count Billy Varga, El Goliath, “Irish” Pat Barrett, Bill Anderson and Pistol Pete Marquez in the movie.

Mad Dog is played by Magic Schwarz, who was Smasher in Over the Top and Poker in Stone Cold. The Mask is Steve Strong, who in addition to wrestling, was also in the Bo Derek movie Tarzan the Ape Man and Looker. Captain Carnage is played by “Man of Steel” Bill Grant, a weightlifter who is in Puming Iron.

Most interestingly, Wally George shows up. Yes, in today’s conservative Fox News-style television world, Wally is forgotten. But at one point, “Mr. Conservative” was the innovator of combat TV, which was just as fake as pro wrestling, but made for some entertaining trash. He’d go on to appear in Repossessed and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, as well as commentary on RollerGames, the sadly abortive 1990’s attempt to bring back roller derby before it went from worked sport to real one, which is exactly the opposite trajectory of pro wrestling. George was married six times and before you say he contributed nothing of value to this world, know that he’s the father of Rebecca De Mornay.

This all came from the mind of Allan Holzman, who made the absolutely deranged Forbidden World for Roger Corman. After knowing that, this all makes so much more sense.

You can watch this on Tubi. If you need to own this for yourself — and you probably will — Scorpion Releasing is putting this out on blu ray in July.