THE EXCELLENT EIGHTIES: Mesmerized (1986)

Somehow, this Mill Creek set has a Jodie Foster movie on it. Not a TV movie or something from her past, but a 1986 Jodie Foster movie where she plays Victoria, an orphaned girl who is married to the much older Oliver Thompson (John Lithgow!) and sent away to school. When she comes back, years later, she realizes that her husband and most of his family are all deranged.

A co-production between Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States with RKO Pictures, this was released in the U.S. as My Letter to George and Shocked in other areas, which is a great title but if I saw it with that name, I would have been furious that such a great name was used to describe a period film.

Perhaps most astoundingly, this was written and directed by Michael Laughlin, who wrote and directed two of my favorite movies, Strange Behavior and Strange Invaders.

Loosely based on that of Adelaide Bartlett, who was put to trial in 1886 for the chloroform poisoning of her husband, this feels like the kind of film where the story of how Foster got on board, much less decided to be a producer, feels like it would be more interesting than the movie that I just watched.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Repost: My Chauffeur (1986)

Editor’s Note: We reviewed this back on April 19. 2019, and included it as part of our “Drive-In Friday: Slobs vs. Snobs Comedy Night” because we love Deborah Foreman as much as we love innocuous ’80s comedies. So, for its inclusion on its first Mill Creek set, in this case, their Excellent Eighties set, we’ve brought back Sam’s review.

Deborah Foreman is my favorite 1980’s comedy girl. From Real Genius to Valley GirlApril Fool’s Day and Waxwork, she’s always dependable, always cute and always real. She’s the kind of girl that 80’s dorks like me wish we’d get as girlfriends. And people noticed, with one critic comparing her to a “New Wave Carole Lombard crossed with early Shirley MacLaine.” Sadly, she never really broke through to the mainstream. She has said that My Chauffeur is her favorite of the films in which she’s appeared and the most fun she ever had making a movie.

In My Chaffeur, she plays Casey Meadows, a free spirit who somehow ends up working for the Brentwood Limousine Service, which brings her into conflict with the company’s manager, McBride (Howard Hesseman!). At first, the older drivers all treat her like dirt, but her plucky spirit and hard work soon win them over. Even when they set her up with nightmare client Cat Fight, a goofball drugged out rock star, she succeeds.

Casey soon starts driving around Battle Witherspoon (Sam J. Jones, Flash Gordon, Driving Force, Night Rhythms) the son of limo company owner Mr. Witherspoon (E.G. Marshall, Creepshow). She helps him through a breakup, but he’s a heel, a rich boy unable to be kind to anyone — until Casey breaks through.

However, she soon runs afoul of an oil sheik and a con artist who take her for a ride even more ridiculous than the band at the start of the movie. It turns out they’re wanted men, which gets Casey fired. Penn and Teller play them and this was at the very start of their career.

Battle becomes a better person and he and Casey fall in love. He takes her home to meet her father and when in her house, she was deja vu. That’s because her mother was a former employee and she played in the house. And Battle’s dad is actually her real father. But whew — luckily for those who don’t want a Flowers in the Attic situation — Casey’s real dad was Giles, one of the other limo drivers. That means our young couple can get married and all ends happily.

You can watch this on Tubi and Vudu for free.

THE EXCITING EIGHTIES: Toby McTeague (1986)

Yes, when people were asked, “Who wants to write for our Mill Creek month?” the battle to see who would get to write about this 1986 Canadian Yannick Bisson vehicle was so brutal that I had to put my foot down and say, “For the good of the site and humanity, let me write about this dog sled movie.”

This review on IMDB proves to me. This movie is so Canadian that you have to don a toque and drink maple syrup while blasting a Helen Reddy/Rush mashup as you pour Molson all over your poutine as you apologize to everyone in earshot to get the full majesty of what this movie is about. To wit: “If you love the Forest Rangers or Rainbow Country, you’ll love this wonderful movie from 1986…Splendid, exciting story, fantastic, Canadian actors, including the young teen-age boy, who went to become Detective Murdoch in Murdoch Mysteries.”

So yeah. Toby hates school and his dad has a dog sled business that’s doing so poorly that he has to keep going outside and shooting the dogs. Somehow, this is a tender family tale, but I’m American and so I only understand when we use guns to shoot human beings.

This movie was nominated for a Genie Award for best cinematography and best song, which would be “Cold As Ice” by Peter Pringle and Kevin Hunter. Pringle would follow this honor by hosting Miss Teen Canada, performing a one-man theatrical tribute to  Noël Coward and becoming a theremin player. You know how Don King used to say, “Only In America?” Well, I don’t know who the Canadian Don King is and Don Cherry seems like too easy of a pick, but I would imagine that if there were a Canadian Don King, he’d say, “Who the fuck is Peter Pringle?”

People often say, “I bet you like watching movies all day.” Yes, I do, especially when they are the inverse side to Canuxploitation, that is movies that have no commercial viability whatsoever and have people battling to become provincial dog sled champions. This may be the only movie in that particular genre, which makes me an expert and someday, I’ll do the DVD commentary track for this movie.

Speaking of Canuxploitation, this was directed by Jean-Claude Lord, who also was behind Visiting HoursThe Vindicator and Covergirl. I bet the people around him were like, “You’re finally making a legitimate movie, Jean-Claude, eh?”

You can watch this on YouTube.

THE EXCELLENT EIGHTIES: When the Bough Breaks (1986)

If you ever associated Ted Danson and Richard Masur with child abuse, thanks to Danson being in Something About Amelia and Masur in Fallen Angel, this film will redeem both of them, as they are chasing an entire cabal of abusers.

Based on the Jonathan Kellerman novel of the same name, this tells the story of Alex Delaware (Danson, who also executive produced). A Los Angeles-based psychiatrist, Delaware is testifying against an accused child murder who soon dies in a suspicious manner. However, when detective Milo Sturgis (Masur) takes the case, he soon learns that things are much deeper than that.

Rachel Ticotin (Arnold’s love interest in Total Recall), James Noble (the governor on Benson), David Huddleston (Santa from Santa Claus: The Movie and The Big Lewbowski himself), Merritt Butrick (Death Spa), Charles Lane (Arsenic and Old Lace), Scott Paulin (Cat People) and Deborah Harmon (Used Cars) all show up in this.

For a mid-80’s show, it’s pretty great that Masur’s character is gay and not mincing or a stereotype. The ending is pretty intense as well and probably one of the few times you’ll see Ted Danson in an MMA-style situation.

Thanks Mill Creek The Excellent Eighties set for having so many made for TV movies! You can also watch this on YouTube.

REPOST: The Patriot (1986)

Editor’s Note: This review ran on March 9, 2020, as part of our Mill Creek Explosive Cinema 12-Pack of reviews. We’re bringing it back as we unpacked Mill Creek’s B-Movie Blast 50-Film Pack (Amazon). And guess what? Mill Creek includes The Patriot on their Excellent Eighties 50-Film Pack (Amazon) — and Sam, the Movie Themed Drink Mix Master, will be back with another take on the film for our unloading of that box set. Unlike most of the films (well, some of them) on Mill Creek sets (Cavegirl and Brain Twisters, we’re lookin’ at ya), this is actually an entertaining movie — like all Frank Harris flicks — that deserves your time. Enjoy!

Yesterday (again, back to our Explosive Cinema March 9 review) we took a look at two of writer-director Frank Harris’s Leo Fong-starring films: Killpoint and Low Blow (also both on the Explosive and B-Movie Blast packs). The Patriot—which reminds of the later Steven Siegal war-actioner, 1992’s Under Siege—is the third and final Crown International release from writer-director Frank Harris’s resume included on Mill Creek’s “Explosive Cinema” 12-pack.

I remember going to my local, small town duplex to see what was Harris’s best-distributed film—with its splashy newspaper print and TV ads. The film was an early attempt to transition prolific television actor and Brian De Palma troupe-actor mainstay Gregg Henry (1984’s Body Double) into a leading man. You more likely know Henry from his later work on 1998’s Star Trek: Insurrection, The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise (as Grandpa Quill), ABC-TV’s Scandal, and the CW’s Black Lightning. The Patriot also stars Leslie Nielson (Airplane and the Naked Gun franchise), the always-happy-to-see-him Michael J. Pollard (where do I even begin with his incredible resume), and Jeff Conway (ABC-TV’s Taxi; 1978’s Grease).

The plot concerns ex-pro-boxer Stack Pierce—from Killpoint and Low Blow—as an ex-military wacko who steals a nuclear weapon and Henry’s dishonorably discharged ex-Navy Seal gets a chance to redeem himself.

The Patriot is a low-budget ‘80s action movie from Crown International. Now for the younger readers new to B-cinema: that may not mean anything. So just go into this not expecting “explosive,” but mediocre action and you’ll have a fun time with this dependable Frank Harris work. You’ve seen worse from the rip-off reels of ’80s Italian and Philippines cinema.

The film’s soundtrack is composed by . . . well, is there any chance you’d be familiar with . . . well, with today’s state of narrow-playlist repeating American FM classic hits and classic rock radio stations, you may not be familiar with the hits “Thunder Island” and “Skakedown Cruise” by Jay Ferguson. Further back, he was a member of Spirit, which has the ‘60s progressive FM radio hit “I Got a Line on You.” The Patriot is one of Ferguson’s many soundtrack works, which includes The Terminator and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. He currently composes the music for CBS-TV’s CSI: Los Angeles.

Screenwriter Katt Shea’s writing-directing resume includes the direct-to-video potboilers 1987’s Stripped to Kill, 1992’s Poison Ivy starring Drew Barrymore, and 1999’s The Rage: Carrie 2. She most recently directed 2019’s Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase. (As an actress, Katt starred in 1985’s Barbarian Queen.)

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

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

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

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

Harris. Fong. Mitchell? Sign me up!

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

Frank Harris

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

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

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

Killpoint (1984)

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

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

Where’s Leo?

Low Blow (1986)

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

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

Leo Fong

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

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

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

Scream Greats, Vol. 2: Satanism and Witchcraft (1986)

The first Scream Greats may have been about Tom Savini, but the second Fangoria VHS documentary release suddenly remembered that it was being released in the dead heart of the Satanic Panic.

Of course, Ed and Lorraine Warren show up to warn everyone watching this that the world was in a constant battle with demons. Of course, according to the Hollywood Reporter, “in the early 1960s, Ed Warren initiated a relationship with an underage girl with Lorraine’s knowledge. Now in her 70s, Judith Penney has said in a sworn declaration that she lived in the Warrens’ house as Ed’s lover for four decades.” But yeah, please tell us about Amityville.

Director Damon Santostefano also made Fright Show for Starlog magazine and the first volume of this series and trust me, I’ve heard for years how angry readers were that the second installment wasn’t about horror movies.

This was made during the period where Anton LaVey was strangely enough not doing publicity, so his only appearance here is via clips from Satanis. Otherwise, the rest of the blurred out devil worshippers come off as ridiculous, except for Paul Douglas Valentine, who led the Church of Satanic Liberation.

This was $39.95 when it came out, which really seems like a small price to pay to upset anyone that saw it on top of your VCR. Take it from someone who was obsessed with offending people in high school. I would have totally bootlegged this.

Also, this came out on laserdisc, which we all know is the most Satanic of all media formats.

You can watch this on YouTube.

B-MOVIE BLAST: Jocks (1986)

Yes, there are two movies named Jocks. There’s this one — a ripoff of Revenge of the Nerds down to even having Donald Gibb in the cast — and the Italian disco movie. Guess which one I would have rather watched?

Well anyways, Richard Roundtree is the coach of the wackiest tennis team you’ve ever seen, led by The Kid (Scott Strader, in his last movie), who is the kind of person who would be the villain in any other teen movie. The real star of the team is Jeff (Perry Lang, who became a director).

The team is made up of all manner of madcap characters — can you guess how many Porky’s and Police Academy films and their ripoffs I’ve watched — like Chito (Trinidad Silva), whose entire character is that he’s Mexican and the aforementioned Gibb, who plays Ripper, who is really just Ogre. That said, I don’t think anyone expects Gibb to do anything other than to show up in a sleeveless shirt with iron-on letters and scream unintelligible nonsense at the screen before burping and farting.

Somehow, this maelstrom of a movie catches so many talented people in its wake, like Mariska Hargitay in her third role (she was in Ghoulies and Welcome to 18 before this, but who’s counting?), character actor R.G. Armstrong, Stoney Jackson (that’s right, Phones from Roller Boogie), Tom Shadyac (the director of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), Katherine Kelly Lang (Evilspeak) and perhaps most improbably, Christopher Lee. Yes, Sir Christopher Lee as a college dean.

Director Steve Carver also made the American parts of The Arena, as well as Big Bad MamaAn Eye for an Eye and Lone Wolf McQuaid. Roundtree, Armstrong and Lee all did this movie as a favor for him, which is nice, but man, that’s asking so much.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Amazons (1986)

Sword and sorcery was a big part of the films that Roger Corman released in the 1980’s. To be fair, different sword and sorcery cycles — peblum to Conan ripoff — have always been part of Corman’s films.

Amazons is from Argentina and is based on the Charles R. Saunders story Agbewe’s Sword. Saunders was born in Elizabeth, PA, about fifteen minutes from where we live. He settled in Nova Scotia where he worked for a local newspaper and wrote several well-received short stories about the African-American community there. He also, in his spare time, created the world of Imaro and became one of the first writers to create African-American centric sword and sorcery stories*.

Based on the real-life female warriors of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey, Amazons tells the story of several female warriors, like Dyala (Mindi Miller, Caged Fury), Tashi (Penelope Reed), Tashinge (Danitza Kingsley, Blackout) and Vishiti (Maria Fournery, Deathstalker).

What is not based on reality is that there’s a woman in this movie who can transform into a lion. So know that going in. Neither is the Sword of Azundati, which the trailer seems to think is Excalibur. But hey, who cares about reality? There are Amazon fights galore, including one battle between one of the women and a giant snake. That’s really why I watch movies.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*He also wrote Stormquest, another movie that was made with Sessa directing. It’s all about a female-dominated society coming to realize that they may be wrong by excluding men. It’s one of the last of ten Argentinan barbarian movies that Corman would produce.

Les Amazones du Temple d’or (1986)

Alain Payet — working under the name James Gartner* — mostly worked in adult films and supposedly directed this, but a few minutes in and you realize that no, you’re watching another Jess Franco movie, which is even more apparent when you realize that even though he didn’t put his name on as a director, he used two aliases for writing (story by Jeff Manner, screenplay by A.L. Mariaux) and Lina Romay shows up as one of the Amazon guards.

Man, this movie is — as is obvious — a mess, but it’s also about Liana Simpson (Analía Ivars, Panther Squad, Franco’s Lust for Frankenstein), whose parents were killed by the Golden Temple Amazons — we get to watch it more than once — and she was raised by the creatures of the jungle before getting her chimp Rocky and a witch doctor named Koukou (Stanley Kapoul, who is also in The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak, which is a much better movie of the same genre).

There’s also Antonio Mayans (who was in Revenge of the Alligator Girls and directed its sequel), William Berger in a loincloth, Emilio Linder from Christina and Monster Dog, Alicia Príncipe (The Erotic Story of O) and Eva León (Blue Eyes of the Broken DollBahía Blanca) as Rena, the leader of the Amazons, who has an all gold everything matchy matchy fashion ensemble.

There’s also the same deathtrap from Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, so this has that going for it.

Look — you’re gonna like Jess Franco or you’re going to be bored into insanity or if you’re me, you’re going to zone out and use his movies to improve your positive mental attitude and use his tics — long pauses, plenty of scenery, a near-total disregard for how to tell a story — to get closer to Nirvana. Join me, I guess.

*On Letterboxd, Kyle Faulkner drops some science on me by stating how Payet came on board when Eurocine bought this movie, took a bunch of Franco footage to reedit and added shots of women on horseback. This actually played theaters, which is destroying my brain.

You can watch this on Tubi.