Junesploitation 2022: Rawhead Rex (1986)

June 28: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is 80s horror! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Clive Barker writes some of the smartest horror there is, so when his first two movies — this and Transmutations — ended up being rubber monster suit movies, there’s some humor in there. That said, he wasn’t completely upset with this and also understood its limitations: “I think, generally speaking, the movie followed the beats of the screenplay. It’s just that monster movies, by and large, are made by directorial oomph rather than what’s in the screenplay. I’d like to think the screenplay for Rawhead Rex had the possibility of having major thrills in it. I don’t think it was quite pulled off.”

Rawhead Rex was a pagan deity that existed before Christianity, making this folk horror, as well as the kind of movie where a priest gets baptized by a giant monster pisses all over him and don’t we need more of these kinds of movies?

I mean, can you imagine if Barker got his way and Rawhead Rex looked like a giant penis and a face made from raw meat?

You can watch this on Tubi.

JUNESPOLITATION 2022: Lung Hing Foo Dai (1986)

June 21: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is Jackie Chan! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Jackie Chan nearly died to make this movie for you. It wasn’t even something wild. He jumped from a tree to a ledge, the branch snapped and he cracked his skull. Most people would hide that this happened. Jackie put it in the bloopers at the end, a trick her learned from Burt Reynolds, except that instead of Burt laughing it up with his co-stars, we see people freaking out that the star of the movie just smacked his head off a rock and part of his skull went into his brain, leaving a permanent hole in his head that he now fills with a plastic plug.

Jackie plays Jackie, known as the Asian Hawk, but really just Jackie playing Indiana Jones if Indiana Jones did some of the most ill-advised stunts you’ve ever seen. He was once a singer in a band called The Losers with Alan (Alan Tam) and Lorelei (Rosamund Kwan). The band was also a love triangle and like a three-member Fleetwood Mac in Hong Kong without lyrics like “I’ll follow you down till the sound of my voice will haunt you.”

Jackie has reinvented himself as a treasure hunter, Alan is a rock star and Lorelei is a fashion designer. He’s forgotten them both — as much as he can — as he steals the sword of the Armor of God from an African tribe and sells it to May Bannon (Lola Forner, Miss Spain 1979 who is also in Project A and Meals on Wheels as well as White Apache and Scalps, two Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso movies that were made back to back), the daughter of the super-rich collector Count Bannon, a man who has most of the Armor.

Alan comes into the picture again as a cult of devil worshippers wants the Armor so that they can take over the world. He knows that Jackie is the one person who can help him and together, they visit the Count and try to steal the pieces that he has. The story of losing his girlfriend gets to the Count, who allows him to take his pieces to the cult, as long as his daughter is in charge of the mission.

The cult knows they are coming, so they brainwash Lorelei, who does the same to Alan, assembling the full Armor of God. Jackie saves them by batting four Amazons in high heels — Cynthia Rothrock was going to play one of them but the schedule changed due to Jackie’s injury —  and the entire cult — who have already machine gunned an entire room of people in the movie just to show how serious they are — while wearing a vest covered with dynamite, then base jumping — Jackie actually dove from an airplane for this which is even crazier — onto a hot air balloon as the Armor is forever trapped in a cave-in.

This is actually the first Armour of God movie but was released as the second in the U.S. because, well, Miramax just did whatever they wanted. The Golden Harvest Hong Kong release is nine minutes longer than the version they released.

To explain it, I’ll just share this comment from Terry Thorne: “This is the first Armour Of God, which was released straight to video as Operation Condor 2: The Armour Of God in the US. The second one was Operation Condor: Armour of God 2, but had a theatrical release in the US as Operation Condor, so the sequel became the first one and the original became the prequel and the titles were flipped.”

Jackie Chan. Treasure. Amazon devil worshippers. Crazy flashbacks to the darkest of ages. A car that turns into a mini car designed just for Jackie. Yeah, this really has so much to love and was followed by 1991’s Operation Condor which has Jackie looking for Nazi gold and 2012’s Chinese Zodiac which sends him on the hunt for twelve treasures.

Siete En La Mira 2 : La Furia De La Venganza (1986)

In the years since Siete En La Mira, both of the lawmen who stopped the Zulu gang haved died and the only surviving member of that gang — Judas (Jorge Reynoso, who was Vikingo in the first movie) — wants his brother Vikingo’s ashes. And oh yeah — revenge.

This sequel takes a step — a wonderful step — away from reality to give us a world where long white haired witches rule city dumps, where chainsaws and hot lead decimate innocent human bodies and where two men must live up to the legacies of their brothers — Humberto (Alvaro Zermeño) is the only surviving cop brother of the first movie’s heroes while Judas must live up to the wild crimes of his outlaw brother.

There’s also a moment where a hostage pushes a gang member too far and gets her nose sliced off with garden scissors and sprays blood all over the screen in a moment that shocked even me. That’s later topped by a gang member hiding in a water tank, which gets shot with a Bo and Luke Duke style explosive arrow and blood rains from a lacerated sky.

Movie punks, exploitation violence, mean mountain men who just want to be left alone and violence, fucking violence. What’s not to like? They made at least four of these and as far as I’m concerned, they could make a new one every single day.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Kamikaze Hearts (1986)

Kamikaze Hearts is a film that has fascinated me since I first read about it in the venerable Cinema Sewer. Now that Kino Lorber has released a new 2K restoration of the film, this is the perfect time to dig in, watch it and learn as much as I can about it.

I’ve been just as intrigued by Ms. Sharon Mitchell and perhaps for a much longer time. During the late 90s and early 00s– yes, when you still had VHS tapes and not streaming — when bleach blondes and pneumatic implants were all the shelves had to offer, Mitchell would occasionally show up in films for brief moments and I’d want to know more about her. With short cropped hair and a non-silicone implanted body, she looked closer to normalcy while also having the kind of real punk look and attitude that doesn’t buy its shirts years later online.

There was no internet — only Adam Film World and Hustler rated movies on an erection scale — so i didn’t learn her full life until later, such as how she began her career as an off-Broadway actress and dancer before starring in some of the 70s roughest films, like Waterpower and The Violation of Claudia.

In 1996, a male stalker assaulted and nearly killed her, which led to her finally kicking heroin, becoming a certified addiction counselor and getting both an MA and a Ph.D. from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality all while working a series of odd jobs like catering, dogwalking, being a florist and as a maid.

Mitchell founded the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation (AIM), an organization which provided information and innovated STD testing for all workers in adult entertainment. While a data breach ended that company, Mitchell did so much to make it a safer space.

A decade before that, she was one of the stars of this film. For years, I saw it regarded as a documentary on the relationship that Mitchell had with her co-star Tigr Mennett. The truth is a lot more complicated.

In the incredible oral history of this film conducted by the always astounding The Rialto Report — that will be referred to and used as reference throughout this article — George Csicsery (a documentarian and actor in the film) says, “Some people don’t believe it’s a fictional film and have categorized it as a documentary, while other people see it for what it is; a pure narrative film. But that begs a deeper question: Is anything a documentary? In many ways, I think that is either the genius or the downfall of Kamikaze Hearts.”

Director Juliet Bashore had come from Orange County to San Francisco with no small degree of culture shock. Here was art, punk rock and even adult film — which she was paid well for to work as production assistant. She said, “I’ve got to find a way to make art out of this.  I worked a few more of those gigs, telling myself I was “doing research” but frankly equally thrilled to be paid (and very well) in hard, cold (probably Mafia) cash.”

After meeting Tigr on a set, the two began to talk about the strangeness of the world of adult and decided to make a movie about it. And Tigr was in love — or had been in love or never fell out of love — with the woman she saw as its star: Mitchell.

Bashore was influenced by Spalding Grey — ironically, the Swimming to Cambodia author and raconteur performed in adult himself in the Zebedy Colt movie Farmer’s Daughters — and decided to make real life into art with some guardrails, saying “The whole film was completely storyboarded, leaving space within those boarded shots for improvisation. The final edit matches the original storyboard pretty much shot by shot — with the exception of a few additional scenes that were added later. But even these pick-ups were planned for.”

Keep in mind, this was years before movies were completely ad-libbed or even partially made with improvised moments. This Is Spinal Tap was made around the same time as this movie but that’s nearly all trained comedians. This was…more real.

The film starts with Tigr breathlessly telling us about Mitchell: “When I first met her I thought she was sleazy. She needed to make a living, she was fucking on camera – I thought she was just another dumb porno slut. But I was wrong.” And then we see Mitchell, movie star glamorous even on a porn budget — in the back of a cab on the way to the set, discussing Old Hollywood actors and how she feels like she could go mainstream (she was in Tootsie and The Deer Hunter).

Tigr goes on to explain how being in the orbit of a being like Mitchell led her down a path she didn’t expect. And this is why this movie feels so real — and not a quasi-documentary — because it obviously has real significance: I became different. I changed. I wanted to be like her. I wanted to be streetwise. I wanted to know how to use a needle… Goddamn irresponsible, gorgeous, sleazy porno slut. And she has it. And I mean, she’s this woman from New York City, who’s Italian, and she’s hot, and she speaks street language, no one can fuck with her, right? And there was some sort of power that she had that a porno person doesn’t have.”

Much like how in pro wresting life imitates art imitates life, we soon see Mitchell on stage dancing, then kneeling nude and answering audience questions. When asked what her next film will be, she says, “Truth or Fiction. It is a surrealistic look at myself and my girlfriend and the way we look at the X-rated film business and our relationship with each other, and it’s very nice…I don’t know whether I’m more truth or more fiction.”

Again, like wrestling, porn is about using your body for money, but also engaging in whole cloth character reinvention. Don’t like that you’re a geek who got bullied all through school and have a fascination with the dark side of humanity? Wrestling can give you a corpse paint covered alter ego and make you way tougher as you fake it — literally — until you make it. In the same way, being nude on screen can create a psychic armor of transgressiveness that allows a star to become more than they are — at least for a time — and become an object of desire. And just like the sychronized violence that happens in the squared circle, fake emotions can become real anger, relationships behind the scenes can become storylines an people can become lost and forget who they ever really were.

Bashore claims that the entire movie was a gift from Tigr to Mitchell, an opportunity to allow her muse to show the world just how talented she could be. That said, it’s hard to say that it’s truly mainstream. In the final moments, in the midst of a breakup, Tigr and Mitchell shoot up coke — real coke in a fake scene — and the camera never breaks for a single moment as Mitchell holds up a needle and says, “This was my dick and I fucked her with my dick. And I waited for this relationship to mature. This is a movie within a movie within a movie. This is timeless.”

In the same way no documentary or narrative movie can show you everything behind the scenes, this feels at once totally false and unabashedly sincere. It exists on a dichotomy that runs through the entire movie like a fault line. And there are real adult figures here — director Charles Webb (Charles De Santos), photographer Vincent Fronczek and actor Jon Martin show up — and musicans like Jennifer Blowdryer and Fast Floyd and the Famous Firebirds appear.

After disappearing for two decades, Kamikaze Hearts was released again. But now, thanks to the world of streaming — and Kino Lorber — we can all decipher for ourselves what is true, what is made up and what is probably both. And none of our answers really need to be right.

Kamikaze Hearts is now available to rent on the Kino Now platform. It will be on all major VOD platforms including Apple TV, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play and Kino Now on June 28.

Murphy’s Law (1986)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Cannon Canon has been celebrating Bronson Don’t Like May(onnaise) all this month, which is the perfect time to watch lots of Bronson movies. This originally ran on the site on March 18, 2022 as part of Cannon Month. In August we’ll have our second Cannon Month so get ready.

You can listen to The Cannon Canon Murphy’s Law episode here.

J. Lee Thompson and Charles Bronson wore together several times. Six, to be exact, with this movie, St. Ives, The White Buffalo, Caboblanco, 10 to Midnight and The Evil That Men Do making up the full list of their collaborations.

Writer Gail Morgan Hickman’s (The Enforcer, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown) script was one that Cannon liked, but at this point, they’d started to overspend, so they weren’t forthcoming with the money the film would need, as producer Pancho Kohner, Thompson and Bronson. The team took the movie to took Hemdale and were immediately given the green light with a much better deal.

Cannon sued for breach of contract and claimed that they had already pre-sold most of the worldwide rights and stated that it would damage their company if someone else made it. After all, Cannon often pre-sold movies based on loglines and pasted together ads well before the movies were made.

A lawsuit was avoided, allowing Cannon to finance and release the movie, with Hemdale getting foreign video rights. As for Bronson, Kohner and Thompson, they got a three-movie deal with Cannon, which ended up being the aforementioned Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, Messenger of Death and Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects.

Bronson plays Jack Murphy and at 65 years old, you really get the sense that just like his character, he’s exhausted. Indeed, he was often frustrated at the delays between takes and would shout, “Let’s shoot! Let’s shoot!” as he wanted to get back to his family. As for Murphy, he has no family, as his ex-wife (Angel Tompkins, who was the titular The Teacher and also was in The Farmer) has started dancing at a men’s club frequented by other cops, making him the target of their jokes. So he drinks away his days and wastes his nights watching the woman he chased away attract other men.

Meanwhile, a woman he put away named Joan Freeman (Carrie Snodgress, who Stallone wanted to be Adrian in Rocky, with Harvey Keitel as Paulie, but money was a major issue; she’s best known for her role in Diary of a Mad Housewife; Neil Young wrote the songs “A Man Needs a Maid,” “Harvest,” “Out on the Weekend” and “Heart of Gold” about her) is out of jail and conspiring to ruin his life, as if it can be further ruined. She begins killing those close to him — mostly cops, as she blames them just as much as him — ending with his ex. Soon Murphy’s headed for jail with many of the criminals he put there.

Somehow, as Murphy is first arrested, he’s handcuffed to Arabella McGee (Kathleen Wilhoite, Road HouseFire In the Sky), a potty-mouthed homeless girl that he’d recently arrested. As she repeatedly verbally abuses Murphy with phrases like butt crust, monkey vomit, jizm breath, sperm bank, dildo nose and snot-licking donkey fart, Arabella doesn’t speak like anyone in any movie ever, which is why I find her so endearing and this movie just so delightfully odd. Wilhoite was a method actress and felt that probably her character should have looked more homeless, but she got to keep all of the designer clothes that her character wore so that probably made wearing it in the film much easier.

Before filming started, Thompson and Kohner coached Wilhoite all about how to best get along with the temperamental Bronson, which worked, because they got along well according to reports.

She also sang the movie’s theme song!

That said, she wasn’t the first choice for the role. Supposedly, Madonna was up for the role but wanted a million bucks. So was Joan Jett, who had just been in Light of Day. While she didn’t get the part, she ended up growing close to Bronson’s wife Jill Ireland. In a Q&A on her official fan site, Jett answered the question “How did the song, “Don’t Surrender” come about? And who is Jill Ireland?” with the following:

“Jill was Charles Bronson’s wife, also a wonderful actress. We met over the possibility of me co-starring with Charles B. in a movie. We became great friends, she turned me on to crystals, etc. and taught me a lot during our friendship. When she died, I was very upset, but channeled that (what I saw in Jill: strength, honor, dignity) and wrote “Don’t Surrender” with Desmond, inspired by Jill.”

Handcuffed together, the two go on the run, stealing a helicopter and landing on — and crashing through, Demons style — the growhouse of some well-armed marijuana farmers, which gives Murphy the chance to save Arabella from a group assault, making me wonder if Michael Winner directed this movie. You can tell he didn’t because it’s quick, they don’t succeed and the camera doesn’t linger like a lunatic.

Then again, Thompson also made Kinjite

Anyways, the duo ends up getting along better and better, with even the hint of romance by the end. They take up in the home of one of his old partners, but the killings move there too.

Of interest to fans of Jason Vorhees, the growhouse is a location from Friday the 13th Part III and his partner’s house is from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

Murphy thinks that the killings are the result of a vendetta between him and mobster Frank Vincenzo (Richard Romanus) before making his way back to the Bradbury Building in Los Angeles, the same place where Freeman was arrested for shooting her boyfriend, a security guard at the building.

The Bradbury is a historic LA building and you may recognize it from noir movies like the original I, the Jury and D.O.A. as well as a more futuristic take on the genre, Blade Runner. The building demanded that no food or drink was permitted on set during filming, but not having craft services was worth it, because the close is tense, with the cops working for Vincenzo gunning for Murphy and Freeman stalking him with a crossbow and then attacking him with an axe.

Murphy’s Law is also filled with roles for plenty of great tough guy actors, like Lawrence Tierney, Robert F. Lyons and Bill Henderson. It’s a movie that both embraces and escapes many of the things you expect from a Bronson movie It’s violent, profane and removed from reality, but I love how it has both a female protagonist and antagonist, lightening the normal testosterone-filled world of Bronson just enough to make things a little different. The dialogue is beyond ridiculous, which made me love this movie even more. It’s beyond quotable, including the line, “Don’t fuck with Jack Murphy!”

You can get the new blu ray release of this film from Kino Lorber. It has some great extras, like commentary by Wilhoite and film historian Nick Redman, an interview with Robert F. Lyons, two radio commercials and a trailer.

Star Slammer (1986)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

Fred Olen Ray’s women’s prison in space movie. Sandy Brooke plays Taura, a miner who gets sent to the big house…or rather big ship…after crossing paths with Bantor (Ross Hagen in his first appearance in Ray joint), on the planet Arous. Once onboard the “Vehemence”, it’s pretty standard stuff in terms of the women’s prison genre minus the obligatory shower scene. We have a sadistic warden, and her flunky lesbian head guard, played by Marya Gant and an eye-patched Dawn Wildsmith, respectively. We also have a group of tough female convicts with names like Mike and Squeaker who are, at first, wary of Taura but ultimately learn to trust her so they can band together to escape when the opportunity presents itself. 

Produced for $200,000 at Roger Corman’s New World studios in Venice Beach, California, Star Slammer gives you a lot of bang for the buck. The prison sets were built using abandoned egg flats and carpet remnants, but they’re lit so well that you can’t tell. Eagle-eyed viewers will also notice that the villains’ costumes came from Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983) and the prison guard uniforms are from Galaxy of Terror (1981.) There’s also the land rover from the TV reboot of Logan’s Run, the monster from Ted Bohus’s The Deadly Spawn, footage from John Carpenter’s Dark Star (1974), and spaceship effects from Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). Waste not, want not! 

I assumed the most impressive effect of all was Sandy Brooke’s boob job, but an expert has since counseled me that they are more than likely natural. A rare thing indeed in the 1980s. Star Slammer is not a film that takes itself seriously and it looks like it was a helluva lotta fun to make. The scene with the prisoner grooving out playing the harmonica in her cell is hilarious. It’s so funny, it even made the trailer. Throw in cameos from John Carradine and Aldo Ray as “The Judge” and the “Inquisitor” and a cute little robot voiced by the director and you’ve got a lot of laughs. 

Armed Response (1986)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

Inspired by Michael Cimino’s Year of the Dragon (1985), Armed Response features Vietnam vet Jim Roth (David Carradine) and his ex-cop dad (Burt) Lee Van Cleef going up against boss Tanaka and his Yakuza gang in L.A.’s Chinatown following the murder of Jim’s brothers in a plot to retrieve a valuable statue that Tanaka needs to appease the local Chinese Tong gang. 

Out of over a dozen films made in the 1980s, this is overall the best that Fred Olen Ray made during those “up-and-coming” years. Not only is the cast good (with Carradine and Van Cleef, you can’t go wrong), but the story is more gripping than many of his other efforts. When another Roth brother (Brent Huff) is kidnapped and killed, you just know there’s gonna be an ass-whoopin’ on the way. Box ticked. 

The lighting and compositions achieved by DP Paul Elliott (who later worked with the Coen brothers) with Ray are far and away superior to many of the films that came after. Not to take anything away from cinematographer Gary Graver, who later served as Ray’s main guy, producing faster, more cost-effective results. But on this film, they took the time to wet the streets down to get the neon reflections. It adds to the mood of the film (along with a good musical score), and achieves the nearly impossible feat of portraying L.A.’s Chinatown as far bigger than it is in real life. These are the things that can elevate any film in the low and mid-range budget to a higher plane. 

Of course, this IS a Fred Olen Ray film, so we do get Michelle Bauer as a stripper wiggling around in the background of an entire dramatic scene, Michael Berryman as a fortune-cookie crushing thug, Ross Hagen as a double-crossing scumbag and a cameo from Roger Corman regular Dick Miller. 

The stunts are pretty good, too. So good, one poor stuntman had to be airlifted from the location at Vasquez Rocks to a hospital. Ray has stated, “In the finished film, you can clearly see a cloud swirling around behind Ross as he hurries to get his dialogue out. It’s the cloud of dust being kicked up by the emergency helicopter blades as it idled just out of frame.”  

Ray has asserted this was the film that ended his “era of want.” The one that pushed his standing as a filmmaker and his paychecks to the next level. Of all his ‘80s films, audiences will likely remember him for Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, but Armed Response is the one Ray should be proudest of. 

MILL CREEK DVD RELEASE: Through the Decades: 1980s Collection: Band of the Hand (1986)

For years, Band of the Hand had me fooled with its “From the maker of Miami Vice” poster line. I always thought this was a Michael Mann directed movie and not one by one of the directors of several episodes of that show, Paul Michael Glaser, who also played Starsky. That said, Mann is one of th executive producers.

Even knowing that, I kinda love this movie. It’s all rather dumb — five teenage criminals get rehabilitated by Vietnam vet and Native American Joe Tegra (Stephen Lang, who is also in Mann’s Manhunter, so maybe that’s another reason I was confused): rival gang leaders Ruben Pacheco (Michael Carmine, who sadly died of AIDS when he was thirty) and Moss Roosevelt (Leon, Derice in Cool Runnings), as well as drug dealer Carlos Aragon (Danny Quinn, who was married at one time to co-star Lauren Holly, who plays Nikki), James Lee “J.L.” MacEwen (John Cameron Mitchell — yes, the writer, director and star of Hedwig and the Angry Inch is in this movie and fights evil drug lords) who killed his father and car thief Dorcey Bridger (Al Shannon).

After surviving training in the swamps and cleaning up their neighborhood, Joe is killed by gangsters who include Laurence Fishburne and James Remar as the big bad Nestor. Of course the Band of the Hand comes together and makes a plan that I am in amazed by as someone who loves wacky revenge plots.

Wrter Leo Garren also directed and wrote the early 70s occult weirdness Hex, while co-writer Jack Baran wrote Great Balls of Fire!

The craziest thing about this movie is that it has a Bob Dylan song written for it and he’s backed by Tom Petty (who produced) and the Heartbreakers with backing vocals by Stevie Nicks.

“We’re gonna blow up your home of Voodoo
And watch it burn without any regret
We got the power, we’re the new government
You just don’t know it yet”

Let me say that again: Bob Dylan wrote a song for Band of the Hand.

The Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1980s Collection has a ton of great movies at an affordable price. It also has Punchline, Who’s Harry Crumb?Vice VersaThe New KidsRoxanneBlue ThunderSuspectLittle Nikita and Like Father, Like Son. You can get this set from Deep Discount.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: Magnum PI (1980-1988)

Magnum P.I. was a constant in my life through a tumultuous time, starting when I was just 8 and ending when I was 16, seeing me through the most chaotic years of young life. Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV’s (Tom Selleck) adventures in Hawaii were a center, a Thursday night oasis — Wednesday from series 7 onward — that always knew would be there.

Magnum lives in the guest house of an opulent 200-acre beachfront estate known as Robin’s Nest. At some point, he provided services for its owner, world-famous novelist Robin Masters (voiced by Orson Welles for all but the final time when Red Crandell spoke for the character) and he’s been allowed full run of the estate and use of the author’s Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS in exchange for some nebulous security detail. In between, he takes on cases that rarely pay and often put his life in danger.

His archnemisis is Jonathan Quayle Higgins III (John Hillerman). Like Magnum, he’s also ex-army, but he’s by the book while our hero is laid back. He’s in charge of Robin’s estate, patrolling it with his twin Doberman, Zeus and Apollo. The relationship grows and changes as the series progresses, going from antagonistic to near friendship by the close, as well as the suspicion that Higgins is Robin Masters.

Magnum has a near-perfect storytelling engine as it has the perfect setting (all manner of people come to Hawaii for vacation or to escape), the perfect characters (Magnum can be just as much a film noir hero as he can be a military man or a romantic leading man; he’s a comedic figure without losing his coolness) and the perfect job (being a detective is a reliable TV profession for this reason). Add in his friends Theodore “T.C.” Calvin (Roger E. Mosley) — whose Island Hoppers helicopter can take Magnum anywhere — and Orville Wilbur Richard “Rick” Wright (Larry Manetti), whose King Kamehameha Club can be the origin for all manner of intrigue — and you can see why this series ran for so many years.

While T.C. and Rick are former Marines and Magnum is a former Navy SEAL — all served in Vietnam — none of them are shell-shocked zombies. They’re normal human beings who deal with their war experiences in their own way, which was a refreshing change for audiences — especially veterans — when the show started.

Magnum was such a big show that even other big shows crossed over with it, establishing a CBS detective show universe. In the episode “Ki’is Don’t Lie,” Magnum works with Simon & Simon to recover a cursed artifact, a mystery which had its conclusion in their show with the episode “Emeralds Are Not a Girl’s Best Friend.” Yet most famously, in “Novel Connection,” novelist Jessica Fletcher came to Hawaii — along with Jessica Walter and Dorothy Loudon — and then solved the case on her show, Murder, She Wrote, in the episode “Magnum on Ice.”

Speaking of guest stars, all manner of genre favorites appeared on this show, including Jenny Agutter, Talia Balsam, Ernest Borgnine, Candy Clark, Samantha Eggar, Robert Forster, Pat Hingle, Mako, Patrick Macness, Cameron Mitchell, Vic Morrow, John Saxon and many more.

Another reason why this show is so beloved is due to Selleck. He told producers, “I’m tired of playing what I look like.” His suggestion? He remembered having fun with James Garner on The Rockford Files and suggested making Magnum more of blue collar guy. This made him more identifiable with men, not just women.

One of the things that struck me as I caught up on the series was that the theme is different at the start! The original theme was written by Ian Freebairn-Smith and only lasted eleven episodes before being replaced with the iconic Mike Post and Pete Carpenter song that I hum all of the time.

At the end of the seventh season, Magnum died in a shoot out. I can’t even explain how upset everyone was. The letters page in TV Guide was aghast. Imagine if Twitter existed in the late 80s! Luckily, he came back for one shorter season.

Series creator Donald P. Bellisario — who created this show with Glen A. Larson — was born in North Charleroi, PA. I can probably see his house from mine. After fifteen years in advertising, he went to Hollywood, where he worked on the series Black Sheep Squadron and Battlestar Galactica before creating series like Tales of the Golden MonkeyAirwolfQuantum LeapJAG and NCIS. He was joined by writers like Richard Yalem (who made Delirium), Reuben A. Leder (A*P*E*Badlands 2005), Jay Huguely (Jason Goes to Hell), Andrew Schneider (the “Stop Susan Williams” and “Ther Secret Empire” chapters of Cliffhangers!), Stephen A. Miller (My Bloody Valentine), J. Miyoko Hensley (who wrote the Remo Williams: The Prophecy pilot) and even notorious celebrity fixer and detective Anthony Pellicano, as well as directors like David Hemmings (yes, from Deep Red), John Llewellyn Moxey, Jackie Cooper and Robert Loggia, amongst so many others.

The Mill Creek blu ray box set of Magnum P.I. has all 158 episodes of the show, as well as new interviews with composer Mike Post, writer/producer Chris Abbott, author C. Courtney Joyner on the sixty year career of director Virgil Vogel and actress/writer Deborah Pratt (who was the voice of the narrator and Ziggy on Quantum Leap). Plus, you also get two Tom Selleck guest star roles on The Rockford Files, featurettes on The Great 80’s TV Flashback and Inside the Ultimate Crime Crossover (Magnum P.I. and Murder, She Wrote) and audio commentary on three season 8 episodes.

Much like how Magnum was a calming part of my young life, having this set on my shelf during these turbulent times is just as warm of a feeling. Get this set and let the 80s wash over you like the beaches of Waikiki.

You can get this set from Deep Discount.

CANNON MONTH: The Frog Prince (1986)

Cannon Movie Tales was a huge project for the studio, a series of 16 live action children’s movies from Cannon Group producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, associate producer Patricia Ruben and executive producer Itzik Kol. Filmed in Israel, these movies feature major stars as the leads supported by an Israeli cast and they had a $50 million dollar budget.

While sixteen films were announced, only nine were made: The Frog PrinceSleeping Beauty, The Emperor’s New ClothesRumpelstiltskinSnow WhiteBeauty and the Beast, Hansel and GretelPuss In Boots and Red Riding Hood.

Aileen Quinn from Annie plays Princess Zora, Helen Hunt plays her sister Henrietta and Clive Revill plays his second king in one of these Cannon kids movies (he’s also the villainous ruler in Rumpelstiltskin*), but the real reason I was excited about this movie was to see John Paragon play Ribbit, the frog prince. Whether it’s his collaborations with Pee-Wee Herman (he’s Jambi and Pterri) or Elvira, I’m always overjoyed to see Paragon’s name in the credits.

This was directed and written by Jackson Hunsicker, who also made Oddball Hall and wrote the 1989 version of Ten Little Indians.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*Cannon recycled a lot in these films, as this is the Rumpelstiltskin set reused for another fairy tale.