DEAF CROCODILE BLU RAY RELEASE: The Son of the Stars (1987)

Directed by Călin Cazan and Mircea Toia (who also made Delta Space Mission) this Romanian science fiction animated movie is at once several films you’ve seen before and then like nothing you’ve seen before.

In the year 6470, two married explorers receive a distress signal from a female astronaut who went missing years before. Leaving their son Dan safely on their ship — or so they think — they go missing as well as the ship crashes into an alien planet that their son must soon learn to survive, then find his parents and battle the evil Von Kleefe.

The art style of this film brings to mind Heavy Metal and other 80s fantasy like Rock and Rule and Fire and Ice, particularly as the animation uses rotoscoping. Obviously, it has a debt to Star Wars, but then it has telekinetic blob aliens, a synth soundtrack and so many moments that become purely psychedelic.

This also has the most calming feel of any animated space opera I’ve ever seen. It’s literally a chill out movie and I mean that in the most glowing of ways. It’s the perfect comfort cartoon.

The Deaf Crocodile blu ray of The Son of the Stars has a new restoration by Deaf Crocodile from the original 35mm negative, a commentary track by film journalist Samm Deighan, an interview with co-director Călin Caza and an essay by Stephen R. Bissette. You can get it from Vinegar Syndrome.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Phalo Crest (1987)

Not every Jess Franco movie was directed by Jess. I mean, not every Stephen King book is, supposedly. I’ve heard Tabitha King may have written a few of his books or at the very least the central ideas. That’s how strong reltionships work. Well, Lina Romay, Jess’s muse, directed this while he wrote it, composed the music and probably just about anything else that had to get done.

In case you didn’t get it from the title, this is Jess and Lina making Falcon Crest but with porn, just like how Phollastía is Dynasty. Angela Channing (definitely not Jane Wyman) has brought the entire family to the wine fields to share the secret of their success: the wine is mixed with, well, look it’s a Jess Franco movie. It’s mixed with baby batter, so to speak. When mixed with wine, that guy gravy has the tendency to drug people and that’s how Angela takes over her entire family’s will.

In case that wasn’t enough, a small dog licks a man’s ass. I have no idea why this is in the movie, as I don’t remember that ever happening to Lance Cumson, despite his name. Also: incest, in case you were wondering if Franco wouldn’t go down that route.

I have no idea why there’s no Dallas by Jess and Lina. I can only imagine what’s in the oil.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Phollastía (1987)

The American adult film industry isn’t the only one that made parodies of popular pop culture. Even Jess Franco was on hand to do this, making Phalo Crest and this film which places Lina Romay as Jean Collins — get it, this is Dynasty — and yes, this was shot at the same time and on the same sets but this at least has the look of the TV show and, most importantly, the shoulder pads-heavy fashion.

Franco used the name Betty Carter for this, taken from a jazz vocalist with a scat singing style. You can understand why Jess took this name as Carter was known for doing everything in her “…bold, inimitable way — regardless of the commercial consequences — to the passionate delight of her fans and the occasional exasperation of record-company executives and club owners,” according to her San Francisco Chronicle obituary. Franco would use the name Lennie Hayden for Phalo Crest, in case you wondered.*

He also used the name Chuck Evans for his screenwriter credit.

Franco actor Antonio Mayans turned down this film but acted as its agent as he sold it. In an interview, he mentioned that he had no issue when Jess would use the same set for mainstream and an adult film, as it saved money and could even make a profit, but to make movies specifically to be adult and no other art coming out of it wasn’t something he thought Jess should do.

*For a breakdown of all of Franco’s jazz-related alternate names, this Tom Clark article is incredible.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: Peter Falk 4-Film Comedy Collection: Happy New Year (1987)

John G. Avildsen is probably best known for movies with fighting in their center, like the two Rocky and three Karate Kid movies he made. Here, he’s working from a script by Warren Lane, which was based on La bonne année by Claude Lelouch.

Nick (Peter Falk) and Charlie (Charles Durning) are two old timer thieves looking for one last big score. That score is a Harry Winston jewelry store in Palm Beach, but for all their planning Nick’s potential love interest Carolyn (Wendy Hughes) might throw these cons off their game. Their mark is her boss Edward Saunders (Tom Courtenay) and his security team, which they throw off through a series of disguises.

Hollywood once seemed addicted to remaking French films — 12 MonkeysAnd God Created WomanThe JackalJungle 2 JungleThe BirdcageBlame It On RioDiaboliqueOscarThe ToyTrue LiesThree Man and a Baby, so many more — and this is another example. It’s a cute movie that didn’t get seen much when it first came out, which gave it a bit of appeal.

Luv is part of the Peter Falk 4-Film Comedy Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment, along with The Cheap DetectiveLuv and Big Trouble. You can get it from Deep Discount.

88 FILMS BLU RAY RELEASE: Magnificent Warriors (1987)

Fok Ming-ming (Michelle Yeoh, as ever amazing) and Secret Agent 001 (Derek Yee) are Chinese secret agents who learn that the city of Kaa Yi is being turned into a weapons manufacturing site by Japanese occupation forces. Along with a drifter (Richard Woo) and Princess Chin-chin (Cindy Lau Chin-Dai), they must rally the people to defeat the Imperial Japanese Army.

Directed by David Chung and written by Kan-Cheung Tsang, this is part World War II movie and part Indiana Jones. How amazing that Yeoh and Yee share the duties of being adventurers and if anything, Yee feels like he has to keep up with her?

It’s also astounding that Yeoh keeps smiling through all this action, including an ending battle that has a cast of hundreds as modern technology meets sharp swords. Between firing a gigantic gun, flying a biplane and numerous hand to hand battles, this is all her film. If you want a movie you can just sit back and enjoy, well, Magnificent Warriors is more than up to the challenge. It feels like a huge video game that you just want more of.

The 88 Films blu ray release of Magnificent Warriors has a new 2K restoration from the original camera negatives, commentary with Asian cinema expert Frank Djeng, interviews with Yeoh and Tung Wei, a poster and a book on the movie. You can get it from MVD.

KINO LORDER BLU RAY RELEASE: Programmed to Kill (1987)

International terrorist leader Fatima (Sandahl Bergman, SheHell Comes to Frogtown) tries to hijack a plane and runs right into a secret task force called the Retaliators and their leader Eric Matthews (Robert Ginty, Exterminator 2) and finds herself critically wounded. For some reason, the U.S. government takes her and turns her into a cyborg killing machine — I mean, she already was a killing machine — and sends her after her former friends. Sounds like a great plan said no one ever, as the moment she’s hit in the head, she remembers that she’s a bad girl and now has the robot powers to dispense even more death and destruction than ever before.

Director Allan Holzman also made Forbidden WorldGrunt! The Wrestling Movie and Out of Control, so he knows how to make a good rental movie. Writer Robert Short also wrote Scared to Death and Rage of Honor, so yeah, he also knows how to make an entertaining film.

Keep in mind this is a Trans World Entertainment movie and not Cannon, because if Cannon made it, it would somehow even be even crazier and yes, this is also a movie that has Sandahl Bergman machine gun a school bus full of children. Things would be better if this movie inverted the screen time that Ginty and Bergman have, as she’s the best thing in this.

Bonus: Paul Walker’s third acting job after appearing on Highway to Heaven and in Monster In the Closet.

The Kino Lorber blu ray release of Programmed to Kill has a 2K Scan of the 35mm Interpositive, new commentary by director Allan Holzman (moderated by filmmaker Douglas Hosdale), a new interview with writer Robert Short, an alternate opening and a theatrical trailer. You can get it from MVD.

Splatter Farm (1987)

Man, those Polonia boys are always getting in trouble. This time, John, Mark and their friend Todd Michael Smith start with the strangeness of Hallucinations and then decide there’s no way to go but all the way as they direct, write, star and survive this assault.

So yeah, the simple breakdown would be something like Alan and Joseph (Mark and John Polonia) plan on spending the summer with their Aunt Lacey, but soon run into Jeremy (Smith), one of the workers on her farm who just might be killing people.

Except that, well, Aunt Lacey is ready to take the virginity of either of her nephews, Jeremy isn’t just killing but keeping body parts and oh yeah, that scene where John craps out a full knife and screams in bloody underwear from Hallucinations comes back to destroy minds.

What can you say about a movie that begins with a man axe hacking a body to pieces, except for a hand that he uses it, well, give himself the ultimate stranger? Or when it comes out that the body of their uncle is in the house and their aunt still has sex with him? Or a fisting scene that ends with a killer forcing his victim to eat feces, all while Casio synth plaintively blasts?

This is amongst the most offensive and in your face SOV films I’ve ever seen — I haven’t even mentioned the golden shower or oral sex with a severed head scene, but you know, not everyone is ready nor should they need to be — and it’s amazing that the Polonias were teens making this and that Mark is still making movies today. This feels like the kind of movie that you need to watch with a room of people and see how many make it to the end.

Killing Spree (1987)

Tim Ritter might not be the best person for your female friends to date but we’re not trying to fix him up with someone. We’re watching SOV. For that, he’s the right person, as Killing Spree builds on the same plot I’ve seen in several of his movies — man is either getting cucked or has fears that his wife is sleeping around — and he loses it and kills everyone he knows.

Tom Russo is that man, an airplane mechanic working non-stop to keep a nice house for his wife Leeza. He’s sure that she’s cheating on him — he’s read her diary — so he starts killing anyone who she has written about, starrting with his friend Ben and a punk girl whose head he cuts off and uses as a weapon to murder his former buddy.

Anyone in Leeza’s notebook dies, like the electrican who gets chopped off by a machete ceiling fan and the lawn guy who gets buried up to his neck and mowed.

The truth? Leeza has been writing for a romance magazine to earn money so Tom doesn’t have to work so hard. But now, Maniac-like, all the victims are coming back from the dead and begin to shout at Tom to kill his wife so they can rest.

Shot on 16mm instead of camcorder — yes, I know, it’s another SOV that doesn’t live up to the format — this movie has an old ladyt’s face get hammer-based surgery and the line “You screw my wife, I screwdrive your head!”

Also: The lead actor’s name is Asbestos Felt.

Screen Kill (1987)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s another take on this movie

Doug (Mark Williams) is a wedding videographer — did he teach the Bergeron Brothers: Wedding Videographers? — who keeps dreaming of making a horror movie. When he meets Rails (Al Darago, who co-directed and co-wrote this with Doug Ulrich, who one assumes is the inspiration for the character in this movie), the lead singer of a shock rock metal band, he finds a kindred spirit who can help him make the movie he’s been fantasizing about. Unfortunately, Rails is also a killer and using the movie to create grisly murder scenes that begin to fascinate Doug and make him complicit in the crimes.

People get dynamite in their mouths, bodies are hung up and chainsawed in half and heads roll. If you like erotic knife torture, I think this was made for you. Once you watch a few of these scenes, you’ll figure out why this movie was also named Snuff Kill. There are plenty of stabbings in this with a variety of implements and despite its low budget SOV origins, it all looks pretty good. In fact, the grainy and grimy nature of this format adds to the overall feel.

Ulrich and Durango also made Scary TalesDarkest Soul and 7 Sins of the Vampire together and all of those are pretty fun, too. I kind of love that Rails’ band looks all grim and kvlt, then sounds like more of a 60s psychedelic band than the SUNN O))) you expect them to be playing what with all those robes. There’s also a band on the soundtrack called Thee Enigma Jar. The other band is called Surefire and yes, that’s Doug and Al’s band.

SRS put this out on DVD a few years ago and I just love that this has been upgraded for today.

Night of the Living Babes (1987)

Chuck (Andy Nichols, one of the doctors in Nightdreams and Max Melodramatic from Cafe Flesh) and Buck (Louie Bonanno, who was in Chuck Vincent’s Slammer Girls and also appeared along with Nichols in Dark’s In Search of… the Perfect 10) leave their women behind and go to a new wave whorehouse — in case you’re wondering about that term, stick around — called Madame Mondo’s Zombie Palace, where they try and find the perfect zombie women and just end up tied to the wall in tutus.

Before they get turned into women, their better halves — Sue (Michelle Bauer, who has been in everything from uncredited roles in Get Crazy and Tomboy to Roller BladeNightmare SistersSorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-RamaEvil Toons and so many more great films; as Pia Snow she was also an adult actress and is also in Cafe Flesh) and Lulu (Connie Woods, The Forbidden Dance) — have to come and save them from Madame Mondo and her assistant Igor (Cynthia Clegg).

The zombie women include adult star Blondi (who also worked as Blondi Bee; she shows up in the KISS eXposed video as their personal envelope licker), Teri Lynn Peake (Penthouse Pet of the Month for October 1987), Ashley Elstad, Violet Lickness and Lisa Devine.

If this feels like a late 80s adult feature, well, that’s no accident. Director and producer Jon Valentine is actually Gregory Dark! Writer Veronica Cinq-Mars was really Anthony R. Lovett, who was also Antonio Passolini, the director of some late 80s sequels to classic adult films like — you guessed it — Cafe FleshThe Devil In Miss Jones and even Dark’s New Wave Hookers. He also used the name Johnny Jump-Up to write Dark’s White BunbustersLet Me Tell Ya ‘Bout Black ChicksDeep Inside Vanesse del RioThe Devil in Miss Jones 3: A New Beginning and The Devil in Miss Jones 4: The Final Outrage. He was also the head of production for VCA Pictures, which pretty much ruled adult in the 80s. He’s also the Anthony “Tex” Lovett that wrote Faces of Death rip-off Inhumanities II: Modern Atrocities and Gesichter des Todes V, which was sold in Germany as the fifth Faces of Death and has scenes taken directly from the former film as well as Death Faces IV. There was a Gorgon Video-released Faces of Death 5 in the U.S., but it’s just clips from the other four movies. The German one, though, lists Countess Victoria Bloodhart as a director (who is also credited with a fourth installment of Mondo Cane which is just more recycled clips and stolen footage from Nick Bougas’ Death Scenes and, yes, Inhumanities II: Modern Atrocities which was directed by Wesley P. Emerson, the director of nearly every Deep Inside 80s adult compilation). Ah,man — Lovett also wrote most of Michael Ninn’s stuff too.

Most amazingly, Gesichter des Todes V also has footage taken from Stelvio Masi, who as Max Steel was the director of Hell’s HeroesTaxi KillerArabella: Black Angel and probably the movie those Germans ripped off to make their fake sequel, Savage World Today. Of course, he also made tons of awesome Italian crime movies like Convoy BustersMagnum Cop and Highway Racer.

That was a tangent, huh?

Anyways! Gregory Dark! The man who reinvented porn in the 80s and brought a sense of punk energy to what had become a very staid video formula made this and it’s a lot like all of his movies of the era minus the sexual gymnastics. He’d go on to pretty much also own the adult thriller section of your video store, as well as Showtime and Cinemax after midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. And oh yeah, directed a few hundred music videos before reinventing himself again and making mainstream movies.

There you go. Greg Dark stealing a Romero title and trying to make a mainstream softcore movie with the same sensibilities as his porn work. Thanks for listening.