June 24: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is free space!
Sergio Martino made some truly baffling and wonderful movies in the late 80s. Perhaps even stranger, two of them — this film and American Rickshaw — were made in Miami, a place that Italian directors loved in the wake of Miami Vice (see also: Cy Warrior, Cop Target, The Last Match, Mean Tricks, First Action Hero, Plankton, Karate Warrior 2, Primal Rage, Moving Target, Nightmare Beach, the Bud Spencer version of Aladdin, Brothers In Blood, Striker, The Wild Team, Cut and Run, Miami Golem, Super Fuzz*, Go for It* andAtlantis Interceptors*).
Also known as Qualcuno Pagherà (Someone Will Pay), Punhos de Exterminador (Terminator Fists, which is a great title), Vaincre ou Mourir 2 (Win or Die 2), Bloodfight and The Opponent, this movie is seriously everything I love about late 80s Italian bootleg cinema.
Daniel Greene was once Paco Queruak in Hands of Steel, which is why that Terminator Fists title makes sense, and now he is Bobby Mulligan, a boxer who works for Martin Duranti (Giuliano Gemma, Silver Saddle). His wife, Gilda (Mary Stavin from Strike Commando 2 and Born to Fight) ends up working our hero’s speedbag — if you know what I’m saying and I think you do — and Martin declares a vendetta against our hero.
Bobby was already in love with Anne (Keely Shaye Smith, who was in the “Stuck with You” video with Huey Lewis before marrying Pierce Brosnan), whose father Victor (Ernest Borgnine!) was once a boxer, which will come in handy later. He doesn’t trust anyone who is a fighter with his little girl, especially after he gets in a slaphappy battle with our hero in his grocery store.
Duranti, learning that he’s been cucked, wants Bobby to do the job in a fight against Eddy (James Warring, who was the World Kickboxing Association World Cruiserweight Champion), but Bobby has no idea what that means and wins the fight. So the mobbed out Duanti sends his men to break our hero’s right hand, pretty much ending his boxing career. However, Victor comes around and starts respecting our hero because he also refused to throw a fight. Guess what? His daughter comes around too.
Remember that opportunity for Victor I mentioned? That comes when the mob takes our hero’s ex-drunk coach Larry (Bill Wohrman, Porky’s), forces him to drink chemicals and drowns him in a scene that is a narrative and tonal shift, but so is the end of this movie, when our hero goes from the championship match to rescuing his woman in a junkyard and getting horrible and bloody revenge, but not before the bad girl turns good and pays for it with her life.
I really wish Martino had made more of these cover movies, because I love every single one of them. It starts with the conventions of the accepted boxing movie and just gets wild, as you hope that it will.
The montage where Borgnine teaches Daniel Greene to box with only his left hand is beyond joyous, as is the scene where our hero tries to do some road work and a car runs him down. Man, I got so excited writing about this that now I want to watch it again.
*Yes, I know, these were made years before Crockett and Tubbs got to town.
The title of this movie may translate as The Spider’s Nest, but it was released here as The Spider Labyrinth, which is a really awesome name for a movie. Good thing that this blast of late 80s Italian horror lives up to it.
Professor Alan Whitmore (Roland Wybenga, Sinbad of the Seven Seas) is a professor of languages whose life’s goal is to translate the sacred texts of a pre-Christian religion. This brings him to Budapest, where Professor Roth gives him a black book and plenty of paranoid ramblings, telling him about a cult called The Weavers that worship living beings from before humanity was even an idea.
This film has its roots in not just giallo — Whitmore is the stranger in a strange land who is confronted by a dead body and plenty of mystery about exactly why — but also the works of Lovecraft, informing us that there are religions that exist before the ones that we know and accept. Also, a shade of yellow forms over this story as our hero has a phobia about spiders, as he was locked in the closet with one as a small child and has carried that fear with him into his adult life.
Oh yeah — there’s also a fanged woman who can climb the walls like a spider out there killing anyone who helps our hero, even transforming the murder of one of the maids into an Argento-style art murder. It helps that Sergio Stivaletti, who did the effects for so many of the giallo maestro’s films, is on hand here. And this movie works admirably without CGI, as the ending gets absolutely into the stratosphere of wildness with an infant that becomes a spider.
This isn’t just a giallo cover movie. It has a genuine story to tell and some beautiful scenes along the way, as a real air of death just under the surface of reality. Sadly, its director Gianfranco Giagni has mostly worked in television, such as the show Valentina (a remake of Baba Yaga), or made documentaries such as Rosabella: la storia italiana di Orson Welles and La scandalose.
I really wish an American label would release this, because I was quite frankly so overjoyed to discover that someone was making the kind of Italian horror that I love so much as late as 1988.
Phew. We did it! Twelve Ron Marchini films in two days. You know the drill! Yee-haw, let’s round ’em up!
Born in California and rising through the U.S. Army’s ranks to become a drill sergeant, in his civilian life, Ron Marchini earned the distinction as the best defensive fighter in the U.S.; by 1972, he was ranked the third best fighter in the country. Upon winning several worldwide tournaments, and with Robert Clouse’s directing success igniting a worldwide martial arts film craze with Enter the Dragon (1973), the South Asian film industry beckoned.
After making his debut in 1974’s Murder in the Orient, Marchini began a long friendship with filmmaker Paul Kyriazi, who directed Ron in his next film, the epic Death Machines, then later, in the first of Ron’s two appearances as post-apoc law officer John Travis, in Omega Cop.
Ron also began a long friendship with Leo Fong (Kill Point) after their co-staring in Murder in the Orient; after his retirement from the film industry — after making eleven dramatic-action films and one documentary — Ron concentrated on training and writing martial arts books with Leo, as well as becoming a go-to arts teacher. Today, he’s a successful California almond farmer.
In the annals of martial arts tournaments, Marchini is remembered as Chuck Norris’s first tournament win (The May 1964 Takayuki Kubota’s All-Stars Tournament in Los Angeles, California) by defeating Marchini by a half a point. Another of Chuck’s old opponents, Tony Tullener, who beat Norris in the ring three times, pursued his own acting career with the William Riead-directed Scorpion.
You can learn more about Ron Marchini with his biography at USAdojo.com. An interview at The Action Elite, with Ron’s friend and Death Machines director Paul Kyriazi, also offers deeper insights.
Welcome back to our two-day tribute to the martial arts films of Ron Marchini. Wow! Is his flick ever ripe for a Mill Creek movie pack bow. But we’re not here for a Mill Creek review, not this time.
We’re here for two reasons: First, to cross another Ron Marchini film off our to-do list of his eleven, all-too-short film career — a career that began in 1974 with the Leo Fong-starring (Kill Point and Low Blow) Murder in the Orient; we’ve done Death Machines and the one-two punch adventures of post-apoc law officer John Travis in Omega Cop and Karate Cop. The second: Adam West (Warp Speed), who worked with Ron again in Omega Cop.
Hell, yeah! This five-video-for-five-days rental just picked itself off the VHS shelf all by itself. Let’s unpack this old school actioner! And if you’re all set to pounce on the film, then you simply do not have the palate for all ’80s things Cannon and Empire, are not wise to the wonders of Michael Dudikoff, or working class, meat n’ potatoes action films title-prefixed by the word “American” and suffixed with words “Ninja,” “Fire,” or “Wolf.”
So, based on DVD cover and the year of release, you’ve guessed we’re bowing at the altar of the Church of Schwarzenegger with an inversion of 1985’s Commando (not to be confused with 1988’s Saigon Commandos) — right down to Marchini’s returning to-the-civilized-world government operative forced to rescue his kidnapped son. And the reason Steve Parrish’s son was kidnapped? Well, you need to watch Steve’s two previous adventures with the 1986-released two-fer Forgotten Warrior and Jungle Wolf: he pissed off all the wrong people, natch. Oh, and let’s not forget that Steve’s searchin’ and destroyin’ those jungles since 1985 in Ninja Warriors.
So, the Marchini Score Card: Two missions for John Travis. Four missions Steve Parrish. Two films with Adam West. And, in a twist: one film with West’s old TV sidekick, Burt Ward, in 1995’s Karate Raider.
Anyway, if you missed those not to worry: Return Fire, aka Jungle Wolf II, brings us to speed with “flashbacks” from those missions undertaken in ’86s Forgotten Warrior and Jungle Wolf — at least this film, unlike most of the low-budget Philippines’-produced potboilers, admits to their stock footage raiding of both films in the end credits (and don’t forget: the Philippines double as Central America in these films). And speaking of credits: In the opening titles, we learn Return Fire was made by AIP Studios . . . what the . . . the same AIP, aka Action International Pictures, run by David Winters and David A. Prior of Space Mutiny, Future Force, and Future Zone fame? Your guess is as good as ours . . . we dare to dream.
So, Stevo no sooner gets off the boat in San Francisco when a couple of pistol-packing, leather clad ruffians (Is that Ron Royce from Coroner?) pursue him through an abandoned (or after hours?) shopping mall. And the baddies kill a cop. And Stevo steals the cruiser to pursue the baddies. And Stevo’s on the hook for the murder. But the bad guys planned ahead: if they can’t get Stevo, they’ll get his ATV-loving son, Zac. Who’s behind the mayhem? His old enemy from Central America: drug boss Petroli (D.W. Landingham, also of Omega and Karate Cop).
Now, when I see D.W. I think of an older Nick Cage — and I mean that as a complement. Did you ever see the Cage in his recent, B-Movie action bad ass-ness in Arsenal? Cage — trashing desks and screaming, “They got the van! Get me back my van!” — would own the Petroli role. Petroli, thanks to D.W.’s take, is a baddy we love around the B&S cubicles, when he tells faux-Ron Royce (?), before putting a bullet in him, “I have to make an example of you. Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of your wife and kids.” Total Cageness.
Hey, but wait . . . where’s Adam West? Finally, 20 minutes in, West arrives . . . oh, no, not again: this is another West behind-the-desk gig, like he did in Zombie Nightmare. Yep, his Carruthers is behind it all as another bad-guy-masquerading-as-a-good-guy, again, this time: he’s a CIA honcho that wants Parrish and Petroli, dead.
Anyway, after the shopping mall . . . it’s time for another rock ‘n’ roll-backed montage at a construction pipeline storage facility, then the country-remote Parrish homestead (coming off like the siege at Brad Wesley’s joint in Road House — only that film wasn’t released yet!), complete with Snake Plissken-esque revolvers topped with gun sights. Then, a dirt bike vs. Camero montage. And those ’80s hair-metal synth-rockers backing the firefights, “Return Fire” and “Fight to the Finish,” are by Gunslinger (never released an album), the band of actor Michael E. Bristow, here as one of West’s agent cronies (he was also in Omega Cop and Karate Cop). The Gunslinger tunes are cool and fitting, but why, no Coroner?
You gotta love how Ron’s films are a family affair; for faux-Ron Royce, ain’t heavy . . . he’s my brother.
So . . . 35 minutes in and, yes, and more West . . . in a dark fedora and trench coat, giving us the backstory that, if Stevo didn’t screw up his last mission, we wouldn’t be here (see, those flashbacks weren’t superfluous stock paddding, after all). Yep, this is a Commando redux: the baddies even tote the subdued kid in a wheelchair. And . . . more factories and warehouses in montage. And more flashback from Stevo’s last two films, West’s secretary (Lynn O’Brien, in her only film role) becomes an ally, we learn Petroli and Carruthers are in the coke business together, and Stevo makes it worse by stealing their coke-converted-to-cash-packed van. And check out that rockin’ van vs. sedan montage — with Stevo’s ten-year-old kid tossin’ explosives! YES! Children and C4! And Stevo making that big weapons cache buy from an old war buddy to end this B.S. once and for all — with West begging for his life on a military airfield, clutching his coke satchel.
Phew. What a crazed paragraph. See how excited I am over this movie?
All that’s left is to season Neil Callaghan’s only directing effort (why, this is B-movie action-awesomeness that bests most AIP efforts) with lots of “rail kills” of the hold-your-chest-and-“Aiyeee”-plunge-to-your-death moments, high-speed dub to VHS tapes, and released into the marketplace at the local mom n’ pops Tapes n’ More and Village Video.
Now, in my never ending quest to defy our trope-laden (uh-oh) company edicts of “No Seinfeld references in film reviews”: In AIP’s other analogous (well, is it the same studio?) actioner known as The Silencer (1995), they went “Seinfeld” by casting Cindy Ambehul as the female-lead love interest. So . . . any luck with Lynn O’Brien and D.W. Landingham . . . Magic 8-Ball says . . . “No Soup For You.” Denied! Neither appeared on Seinfeld. Lynn would have made a great out-of-Costanza’s-league girlfriend, while D.W. would have made for a great Constanza boss at Kruger Industrial Smoothing . . . or at the “real” Vandelay Industries, for D.W. as a crazed latex magnate was a missed casting coup.
And so goes another “Warning Slip” in my mail-slot . . . and the adventures of Steve Parrish . . . which leaves Dragon’s Quest (1983), Ninja Warrior (1985), Forgotten Warrior and Jungle Wolf (1986), the ever-elusive Arctic Warriors (1989), and Ron’s swan song with Burt Ward, Karate Raider (1995), on the B&S About Movies to-do list. And it is an awesome to-do list — sink repairs, gutter painting, and leaky wall patches, be damned. For Ron Marchini* comes first. For he’s “Gold, Sam.” Gold!”
You can watch Return Fire on You Tube. It has the B&S About Movies seal of approval.
* In the annals of martial arts tournaments, Marchini is remembered as Chuck Norris’s first tournament win (The May 1964 Takayuki Kubota’s All-Stars Tournament in Los Angeles, California) by defeating Marchini by a half a point. Another of Chuck’s old opponents, Tony Tullener, who beat Norris in the ring three times, pursued his own acting career with the William Riead-directed Scorpion. But what’s this: others say Norris never faced Marchini in the ring? The plot thickens.
Somehow, watching teen movies means watching so much of the Coreys. This time, Haim is Les Anderson and Feldman is Dean, with Haim’s character trying to get his driver’s license to that he can impress Mercedes Lane (Heather Graham).
He fails the test multiple times, but still takes his grandfather’s 1972 Cadillac Sedan de Ville out for a spin and dings it up, trying to get Feldman’s character to fix it. Ah, the days when you were counting the days to get your license and then getting in trouble as soon as you got it.
On the day of Corey Haim’s death (March 10, 2010), Feldman revealed that he and Haim had been developing a sequel that was to be called License to Fly that would be followed by another movie called License to Dive. Yes, these guys were planning a License to universe.
Greg Beeman, this movie’s director, also made Mom and Dad Save the World, which is a pretty decent effort.
Neither Corey Feldman nor Corey Haim had a driver’s license when they started making this movie. So there you go.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally shared this Paul Naschy movie on August 24, 2020. Now that Mondo Macabro has released it on blu ray for the first time in the entire world, we felt that we should cover it and get more people watching it.
Despite being 54 years old and already surviving one heart attack, Paul Naschy took on the heavy burden of playing multiple monsters in this film, as he appears as Frankenstein’s Monster, Mr. Hyde, Phantom of the Opera, Quasimodo, The Devil and the human Hector and Alex Doriani. Oh yes — and Waldemar Daninsky, El Hombre Lobo!
For a long time, this movie was never officially released. Before the death of one of its producers, it was to have a lavish budget. It’s better than Naschy usually got, which gives him ample time to get into makeup and play multiple roles. It also got better talent, including Howard Vernon (Dr. Orloff!) and Caroline Munro (Starcrash).
Mostly, Naschy plays Hector, a horror actor devoted to living a carnal life that he compares to de Sade, Gilles de Rais, Vlad Tepes and Jack the Ripper. Each night, Vernon brings him a new prostitute and he dresses up in complicated horror makeup. As you do.
Meanwhile, he’s raising his brother’s son Alex (or Adrian, depending on the translation, played by Naschy’s son Sergio Molina) ever since his sibling killed himself. He may have been helped by the fact that his wife was cheating on him with his own brother. And since he overdosed on heroin, Alex is with Hector, yet lost in his own world of monsters, which is where we get to see Daninsky.
Oh and meanwhile again, there’s a priest in love with a servant girl (Munro) who left him in the past. He pays a homeless man to spy on her and bring him back under penalty of her death. And while all that’s going on, a giallo-style killer is offing people on the grounds of Hector’s estate. And beyond all that — so much is happening! — Alex is trying to bring his father back from the dead.
Imagine Godzilla’s Revenge about Universal Monsters but with the budget and insanity of a Naschy movie and you’ll see why I loved this so much.
The end of this movie — I don’t want to give anything away — somehow has an actor known for Jess Franco movies getting treated like a Lucio Fulci character in a conclusion that somehow makes this an Omen ripoff by way of The Beyond‘s running to nowhere conclusion. It is truly the Dagwood sandwich of sleazy horror scum and I — pun intended — wolfed down every bite.
You can now get this Mondo Macabro release from Diabolik DVD. It comes complete with a new 4K restoration, commentary by Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn of the Naschycast, a previously unreleased making of documentary and a new interview with Naschy’s son Sergio.
Dimitri Logothetis is still out there making movies. Just last year, he made the Nicholas Cage film Jui-Jitsu and before that he rebooted the Kickboxer movies. But way back when, he made this metal-themed film that finds a college kid named Alex Gardner (Nicholas Celozzi) reliving the murders of a vicious killer who died on Alcatraz.
You know, it’s your typical human drama where your friends find you floating above a bed and when a college professor finds out, instead of recommending therapy, they tell you to go to Alcatraz and face down the ghost of the killer.
Of course, Alex’s brother gets possessed by the killer, so our hero has to find a ghost for help. That ghost would be Sammy Mitchell (Toni Basil), who was once the singer for the band Bodybag. Seeing as how she’s played by the woman who was one of the original seven Lockers, a dancer in films likeHeadand the choreographer of the Talking Heads’ “Once In a Lifetime” — among so many other creative things — Sammy teaches our hero how to dance.
Dance your heart out Alex, so that your friends can blow your demon-addled brother up real good on Alcatraz! Now there’s a metal lyric that I just wrote, free of charge, that your band may use for inspiration.
June 2: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is slasher!
Isn’t it strange that the only force that could unite every heterosexual teenage boy’s dream of seeing Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer together in the same movie would be David DeCoteau and that he would do it more than once?
Quigley is Melody, a girl with bad teeth. Come on, who is going to love her? And Brinke as Marci? She has glasses! Surely a fate worse than death. Or what Bauer’s Mickey must endure, as she’s overweight. Luckily — or not — for our girls, they’re possessed and suddenly make the minor cosmetic changes needed to become popular.
Of course, before they get revenge, they must take a bath together.
I guess never let it be said that DeCoteau didn’t know what his audience wanted.
Made for $40,000 using left-over film, cast, and crew from Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, this is the kind of film where the actresses do their own makeup and posters from past films are considered set decoration.
Except something weird happened. The company distributing the film went out of business and less than 2,000 copies of the tape were ever distributed. The film became an instant collector’s item as tales of the bath scene grew legendary. When it eventually aired on USA Up All Night, that scene was no longer in the movie, replaced with the girls jumping on a bed.
Luckily, today we have companies like Vinegar Syndrome willing to put stuff out like this for the masses. And by masses, I mean maniacs like me that laid awake at night wondering if they’d ever see this movie.
Sure, They Live is a science fiction movie based on the 1963 short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” by Ray Nelson, but isn’t it really just another western by way of John Carpenter? Nada (Roddy Piper) is a man who Carpenter can work his hatred of the end of the Reagan era out with. So how did he decide to make that into a movie from a major studio? Television.
“I began watching TV again,” Carpenter told Hero Complex. “I quickly realized that everything we see is designed to sell us something. It’s all about wanting us to buy something. The only thing they want to do is take our money.”
Carpenter also saw the story in Alien Encounters, a comic book that Nelson appeared in, rewriting his tale and working with artist Bill Wray. He acquired the film rights to both the comic book and short story and wrote the screenplay himself.
Carpenter made the movie for $3 million and selected Piper because he looked like he had lived a life. Keith David’s part was written just for him, as Carpenter had enjoyed working with him on The Thing.
Nada’s name means, of course, nothing. He has nothing, he has no one and yet, he is the man that humanity must rely upon when facing an enemy that is already us. When he views the world through special glasses, he can see the messages that the unseen they have kept hidden from us for so long.
How long? Why? And to what end? Well, look. This is an exploitation picture through and through. You can see it from the left — that’s where Carpenter seems to be coming from — as the aliens are terraforming our world through pollution and global warming. Or maybe you can see this as the original fake news if you’ve on the other side.
This is a film with both a sad and happy ending. I guess you can just call it a John Carpenter ending, a place where tough men see a middle finger until the closing curtain as the only way to end up on the winner’s side of the balance sheet.
Despite being critically savaged — you can xerox that line for nearly every post-Halloween Carpenter movie — time has been beyond kind to this movie, which seems more and more based on real life and less a work of fiction.
This Alan Hynes poster is amazing.
There’s been a lot made of the fact that Roddy Piper claimed that this movie was based on fact. He’d bring up — it’s on the commentary track he did — that in the 1950s, a company manufactured a TV that planted subliminal messages in women’s brains and he’d seen a doc about it. Well, he may have seen that movie, but he didn’t realize that L’affaire Bronswik was a parody.
Speaking of different groups seeing this movie in their own light, several white supremacist groups have taken to this film as an allegory for how Jewish people run the world. Carpenter even responded to this on Twitter by saying, “They Live is about yuppies and unrestrained capitalism. It has nothing to do with Jewish control of the world, which is slander and a lie.”
I think that I was completely unfair to Robowar the first time I reviewed it. Or maybe the fact that I’m doing an entire week of Bruno Mattei movies has caused me to reevaluate things. On second viewing, I loved every single moment of this film.
Vincent Dawn — my favorite Mattei alter ego — worked with Claudio Fragasso and Rosella Drudi to not only rip off Predator, but also The Terminator and Rambo while they were at it. Major Murphy Black (Reb Brown!) leads a squad of commandoes who have given themselves the name The B.A.M. (Big Ass Motherfuckers).
The team includes Pvt. Larry Guarino (Massimo Vanni, Rats: The Night of Terror), Cpl. Neil Corey (Romano Puppo, who was Trash’s father in Escape from the Bronx), Quang (Max Laurel, Zuma himself!), Soony “Blood” Peel (Jim Gaines, who was in nearly every movie Mattei made in the Phillipines) and Arthur “Papa Doc” Bray (John P. Dulaney, Just a Damn Soldier).
They’ve been sent to the jungle to rescue civilians like Virgin (Catherine Hickland, Witchery) from a guerrilla force, but after wiping out the bad guys, a robot named Omega-1 begins picking them off one after the other. Soon, one of their men named Mascher (Mel Davidson, Strike Commando 2) tells Black that he’s only there to view the battle between Murphy and the killer bot, it’s final field test before it becomes government issue.
And yes, that’s Claudio Fragasso as the killer robot.
Just when you think you’ve kept track of all the ripoffs, Mattei and Fragasso confront you with one more: Omega-1 the Hunter is a human/machine hybrid with organic parts that include the brain of Black’s old friend, Lt. Martin Woodrie. Yes, they went even further and used RoboCop!
I was wrong and apologize for the prior review. After further study, this just may be the third best Predator movie ever made. It’s certainly better than the AVP films. I mean, it starts with a helicopter blowing up real good and that’s where most movies end. All it wants to do is entertain you.