Mill Creek Drive-In Classics: The Firing Line (1988)

It’s a Reb Brown joint. He gets kicked to second-lead and replaced by a helicopter. Gene obviously had something to do with it.

Look. It’s a foregone conclusion we’re watching a Jun Gallardo — whose doing his thing as Jim Goldman this time around — Philippines pastiche of a Stallone and Arnie joint. The fact that it stars an ex-TV Captain America and Gene Simmons’s ex-Playmate mate is icing on the Siopao.

As usual, well, not always: sometimes we are in Vietnam in these movies. This time, we are in the Philippine-doubling jungles of Central America where a U.S. military advisor becomes disillusioned by the brutality and corruption of the Central American government which hired him to straighten out the usual sociopolitical gambit. So Reb Brown, aka Mark Hardin, switches sides. When the government learns he sympathizes with the rebels: he’s jailed and tortured. With the help of an imprisoned hot blonde (cue Ms. Tweed), they break out and kick ass . . . and in Shannon’s case: bitch, screech and whine in a torture worse than any corrupt central American government can diabolically deploy.

The “more” meaning Reb Brown. At least Rutger Hauer wasn’t in a movie with Shannon — or Gene would have him box-bumped, too.

On the plus side: we are in a real and not plastic jungle. And there’s real military equipment. And real helicopters. But knowing our Philippine war flicks like we do: we know it’s all cut in from another film and probably one of Godfrey Ho’s, Teddy Page’s, or Cirio H. Santiago’s, let alone one of Mr. Goldman’s own films.

The DVDs of this are easily found in the bins at your local “everything is a dollar” emporium. The reality is that much was spent on the film: one dollar . . . with bad everything across all of the film disciplines. But Reb Brown (Yor Hunter from the Future) was washed up and the Italians weren’t calling . . . and thank god Shannon had Gene’s KISS spoils to live a decent life. Yeah, Shannon, “We’ve had enough of this sh*t,” too. But there’s always Reb tearin’ it up in Robowar.

It’s all part of Mill Creek’s “Drive-In Classic” that’s also available on You Tube.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

VINEGAR SYNDROME BLU RAY: Nothing Underneath/Too Beautiful to Die (1985/1988)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally featured Nothing Underneath and Too Beautiful to Die on June 17, 2020 and December 28, 2017. We’re beyond thrilled that Vinegar Syndrome is releasing these on an amazing double blu ray set, as we need more 80s giallo to come out in the U.S.! Here’s to someday getting Obsession: A Taste for Fear in the same format soon!

Vinegar Syndrome has amazingly released both of these films on a double disk set, making them look way more gorgeous than the battered bootlegs I’ve relied on for years. There are two commentary tracks for Nothing Underneath (The Hysteria Continues! and Rachael Nesbit) along with interviews with screenwriters Enrico Vanzina and Franco Ferrini, composer Pino Donaggio and actor Tom Schanley. Too Beautiful to Die has a commentary by Nesbit and an interview with writer/director Dario Piana, as well as storyboards for an alternate ending and deleted scenes.

Nothing Underneath (1985): I really like 1988’s Too Beautiful to Die, a movie that was sold as a sequel to this movie. They don’t have much to do with one another, but when has that ever stopped the Italian exploitation industry?

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

The first time I saw this, I didn’t like it all that much as the sequel is just so strong. But after some rewatches, I’ve come to appreciate it, as this is a movie that features the man who was Loomis eating a meal at the Wendy’s salad bar.

Too Beautiful to Die (1988): I came across this film on YouTube and had no idea what I’d be watching. I’d give it five minutes and then be done with it, I said. And then I realized that the film was nearly over and I’d been quite interested in the proceedings. Life’s funny like that.

Written and directed by Dario Piana, this sequel to Nothing Underneath is the only giallo I’ve seen that has both Huey Lewis and the News and Frankie Goes to Hollywood (you got close, Body Double) on the soundtrack. A major point of the film is that the models are trying to put together a video for Frankie’s “Warriors of the Wasteland!”

Let me see if I can summarize this one quickly for you. A fashion agency is shooting videos that feel very BDSM and feature really long, intricate daggers. Those models are all prostitutes, except for one, who won’t give in and have sex with an old man in a whirlpool, so everyone rapes and kills her. Her car goes off a cliff, but an autopsy proves that she was shot in the head first. That said — everyone who was there starts getting killed, one by one.

Some of the death scenes are really well shot and the murder weapon is quite insane looking. One of the murders, with a model falling off a large building into water, looks particularly good.

BONUS!

Sotto il vestito niente – L’ultima sfilata (2011): There’s a goofy part of me that loves Nothing Underneath and Too Beautiful to Die because they’re trying to keep the giallo alive in the sad dry years of the mid 80s before everyone realized that they could make money making Basic Instinct and Cinemax After Dark clones because hey, those movies are just giallo with less style and verve.

I have no idea want this other than me, much less greenlit it and gave them the kind of budget that let them shoot all over Europe, have a great look and even get Lady Gaga on the soundtrack. Then again, Too Beautiful had Huey Lewis and the News, Toto and Frankie Goes to Hollywood while Nothing Underneath had Murray Head and Gloria Gaynor, so there you go.

Rest in peace, Carlo Vanzina. You made two fashion gialli and they’re both ridiculous and I love them. Shout out to Dario Piana, who went from making Too Beautiful to directing The Death of Ian Stone and a Lost Boys direct to video sequel. Please come back to giallo and making another movie with a ridiculous sword weapon.

Even better, this was written by Franco Ferrini, whose Eyes of Crystal is a great latter day giallo, as well as The Stendhal SyndromeDial: HelpOperaPhenomena and Red Rings of Fear, speaking of a third film in a giallo trilogy that no one realizes is a trilogy. He was joined by Enrico Vanzina, who worked with him back on Nothing Underneath.

Anyways, let’s get to this one. The first big surprise is that Richard E. Grant is in this. He plays stylist Federico Marinoni, who is enjoying big success at the Milan Fashion Festival along with his partner Max Liverani and their top model Alexandra Larsson. But there ends up being a murder, the wrong people see the bodies and the intrigue begins.

This isn’t part of the Vinegar Syndrome release of the first two films, so I had to get a non-subbed version off a Russian site that had a Soviet translator screaming the dialogue over the Italian soundtrack, which is a very disorienting way to enjoy cinema.

Mill Creek Drive-In Classics: Day of the Panther (1988)

Oh, Brian Trenchard-Smith, how do we at B&S About Movies love thee? Let us count the reviews. . . .

The rocking, magical majesty of Stunt Rock (your amazing, feature film debut as both writer and director that leaves us jumpin’ off the walls in glee), your apoc-game show shenanigans of Turkey Shoot, your giving the future Ms. Tom Cruise her big break in the U.S. cable favorite BMX Bandits, the apoc-fuckery of Dead End Drive-In, and not one, but two Leprechaun flicks: both 3 and 4! Then you went Trinity Broadcasting-biblical on our asses with Megiddo: The Omega Code 2. Even when you team up to produce with Nico Mastorakis for Bloodline, our VHS-pumpin’ heart belongs to you. Night of the Demons 2? Others scoffed, but we were there, for you, oh, Brian.

So, when Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger issued the disgruntled war veteran challenge, you answered the call. And we answered your call, in kind. Sigh . . . for we only wish the programmers at Mill Creek planned ahead and also included your second “Rambo”: The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1988). Look at that cast, headed by the B-Movie, direct-to-video delights of Wings Hauser and R. Lee Ermey! So what if you shot it near the same locations where Return from the River Kwai (1989) was being shot, so you could pinch stock battle scenes from that production. You make the Philippines work-like-Vietnam like no one can, Brian.

“Happy, Happy Halloween! Silver Shamrock!” Yes. The villains run around in Halloween masks/image courtesy of VHS Collector.com.

Trenchard-Smith’s road to Ramboness begins with prolific Australian stunt man Peter West. West cooked up a Down Under version of the better-known American counterparts as Jason Blade (fellow stunt man Edward John Stazak*): a martial-arts expert who launches an all-out war against a drug-running enterprise responsible for the death of his partner. Okay, well, this isn’t exactly a war-oriented movie, but closer to the vengeful, rogue cops of Sly’s Cobra (1986) and Arnie’s Red Heat (1988), but you get the idea.

So Jason Blade, and his love interest, Linda (Linda Megier; herself a stunt woman, also in her acting debut), have risen to the martial arts-levels to be inducted into the ancient “Order of the Panthers,” a secret crime fighting organization. During their first mission: Linda dies. The authorities — on the take and powerless — won’t take down the bad guys, so Blade has to go, well, Stallone, well, Chan, well, Van Damme on their asses.

For the most-discriminating Brian Trenchard-Smith fan.**

Sadly, well . . . okay, look: we’re partial to Trenchard-Smith’s works, but we’re not ranting to our levels of boyish glee for his previous work, here. The proceeding are all very direct-to-video, B-Movie weak (in the U.S.; this was a theatrical in Australia), rife with all of the hand-to-hand combat you can handle — Stazak even breaks out the Jackie Chan broom handle whoop ass. So, while it’s all B-Movie pedestrian and Stazak’s script is a cut-n-paste job of many, better-known Jean-Claude Van Damme flicks, Trenchard-Smith does keep it moving, so the chop-socky tomfoolery is certainly not boring to the point of you wanting to fast-forwarding through it or skipping-without-finishing-it to the next film on the Mill Creek box set. Hey, its a hell of a lot better than a Hulk Hogan or any WWF-backed action flick from the ’80s. . . .

“How could you leave out Frog Dreaming?!?” fellow WordPresser, Antonio from cultcutz.com, shouts with glee.

“The same way I forgot Paris Jefferson’s (three) aerobic dance numbers in the gym while Jason Blade works out. And the total clip job of John Saxon’s big, ending fight scene in Enter the Dragon.” For ours is not to plot spoil why, ours is but to review and let the viewer cry . . . in laughter at discovering the absurdities abound in a Trenchard-Smith flick: such as Frog Dreaming (1986, aka The Quest) with Henry “Elliot” Thomas. Pencil that in our “reviews to-do list,” Sam.

See? All movies and off-the-beaten path directors have fans. Some more than others. Others less than the rest. And BTS is the best.

You can free-stream Day of the Panther on Daily Motion and sample the trailer on You Tube. There’s no free-streams of Strike of the Panther, but we found the trailer on You Tube.

Get your copy as part of Mill Creek’s Drive-In Classics set.

* Since Day of the Panther was a big hit Down Under, Stazark also starred in the Trenchard-Smith helmed sequel, Strike of the Panther (1988). Well, it’s said both were filmed back-to-back, not that that fact matters much. Anyway, Stazark also penned his starring role in Black Neon, a tale of a club bouncer out for bloody revenge (see G.B.H), before fading away into the analog snows.

Co-star Linda Megier did one more: she starred alongside Nicole Kidman in the Australian TV movie, Nightmaster (1988).

Our chief villain is played by prolific Australian TV actor John Stanton, who U.S. audiences my recall starring in the James Clavell-adaptation of his best-selling novel, Tai-Pai (1986).

** Do you need more? Do yah? Well, Tubi hooks you up with thirteen Brian Trenchard-Smith films — including Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 and Dead End Drive-In. There’s a few I haven’t seen or was aware of . . . so guess what I’ll be doing this weekend? Brian Trenchard-Smith MOVIE SIGN!!!!

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

MILL CREEK DRIVE-IN MOVIE CLASSICS: Twister’s Revenge! (1988)

What’s more amazing?

  • This monster truck move was made by Monster a Go-GoThe Alpha IncidentBlood HarvestThe Game and The Giant Spider Invasion director Bill Rebane.
  • It’s about a talking monster truck named Mr. Twister who is very much KITT from Knight Rider two years after that show was canceled.
  • It’s a vigilante revenge film — like Death Wish — and also a comedy.
  • It was made in 1988, three years after Bigfoot had his cartoon.
  • This was released by Arrow as part of their Weird Wisconsin The Bill Rebane Collection

The answer? All of these things blew my mind.

Also known as Ein Supertruck auf Gangsterjagd! (A Supertruck on a Gangster-Hunt!) in Germany, this movie is about three criminals trying to steal Mr. Twister – after all, his computer is worth $200,000 — before they just decide to kidnap his designer who just so happens to be married to his driver.

The driver wants to grab a shotgun and kill everyone in his path, which I generally endorse, except that Mr. Twister talks — he never has before — and gives him a better plan. Or maybe the driver has a mental disorder brought on by the stress of his wife’s kidnapping and we’re inside his mind. Who can say?

Man, Bill Rebane, you get me every time. There’s no reason why I should like this movie and every reason why I should love it.

You can watch this on Tubi.

The Red Monks (1988)

You know, it’s strange that the name Lucio Fulci had such power and in 1988 he couldn’t get the funding or attention to make a movie.That’s why it’s so weird that this film’s producer, Pino Buricchi, made a big deal out of the fact that Fulci did the special effects for this movie and may have even co-directed the movie.

Imagine how director Gianni Martucci (Trhauma) felt getting Spielberged by The Godfather of Gore, even saying that Fulci was too sick to work on the movie.

When Fulci saw the poster — which says Lucio Fulci presents — he replied, “Presents what?” The first time that he claims that he heard about this movie was when it was released on video.

Ramona Curtis (Lara Wendel, Ghosthouse) has married Robert Garlini and moved into his ancestral home, which seems nice, but he’s always down in the basement instead of down on her, so that leads her to follow him and she soon learns of his family curse. I mean, she has some secrets as well, but these red-robed monks in the basement demand her virgin blood every four days. And that’s, well, it’s a little invasive, right?

Fulci sued this movie and got a sticker put on every box to say that he wasn’t the director. Good for him.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 31: Tougher than Leather (1988)

31. THAT’S A RAP: Watch one with a rapper-turned-actor in it, even if Samuel L. Jackson does not approve.

The Washington Post said that this movie was vile, vicious, despicable, stupid, sexist, racist and horrendously made.”

Maybe they hadn’t watched the blaxploitation movies of a decade and a half before, because instead of the guys from Hollis, Queens making a Beatles style fun film, they decided to remake something like Slaughter crossed with an Italian Western and yet filled it with everyone on Def Jam and had the amazing weird brains to make Rick Rubin the racist super villain.

I’m here for all of this.

The film starts with Jam Master Jay and Run picking up D.M.C. from prison. He’s done a nine-month bid and it feels like we spent at least a few of those days with the camera as it searches the prison halls for him. Then, Jam Master Jay relates a sexual dream that ends with him getting his penis eaten.

Like I said, this isn’t the fun rap movie people probably wanted.

They go to visit their manager Russell Simmons, played by their manager Russell Simmons, who gets them and the Beastie Boys signed to a record label run by Vic Ferrante (Rubin, who directed and co-wrote this with Ric Menello, who directs Doro’s “Bad Blood” video, as well as Danzig’s “Mother,” LL Cool J’s “Goin’ Back to Cali” and the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!” and “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn.” He was going to make the Beastie Boys into movie stars with the film Scared Stupid, which New Line was going to pay for, but the Beasties left Def Jam and went off to build a house and make Paul’s Boutique so things worked out as they should have).

Yet before the guys can celebrate being big stars, one of their friends Runny Ray gets killed and this sends them off on a mission of vengeance. And have sex with gangster molls. And break fingers. And go see Slick Rick. And shoot people. Lots of people.

The album of the same title — Run DMC’s fourth — contains some of their best known songs like “Run’s House,” “Mary, Mary” and “I’m Not Going Out Like That,” which had the bravery to sample bands that were currently taking hip hop past what the group had started like Public Enemy and even themselves. The sessions also led to seasonal favorite “Christmas In Hollis,” which samples Clarence Carter’s “Back Door Santa” and used to infuriate me every time people tried to perform it at karaoke. So yeah, while the album is remembered today as a classic, it had a mixed reception back in 1988. As for the movie, well, no one talks about it today.

I am. And despite some people — Nathan Rabin, for one — claiming it ruins Run DMC for them, I kind of love it. Because these guys got to make the movie they wanted to make, even if it may not have been the right movie for their fans or their fame.

You know what? I live for Run DMC tearing apart some racist dudes at a bar. And by that, I mean that Jam Master Jay and Rev. Run are beating everyone up while Darryl McDaniels just drinks beer, eats peanuts and breaks the bartender’s wrist. They then leave the bar with Jam Master Jay launching a full bottle of booze at a gigantic mirror.

“I always wanted to do this,” he says.

I get it.

You can watch this on YouTube, because it isn’t available on DVD.

SLASHER MONTH: Trapped Alive (1988)

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: Three prison escapees, two women on the way to a party and a deputy sheriff all get trapped in a mine with a cannibal.

Yes, but Cameron Mitchell is in it.

Director and writer Leszek Burzynski gets my watch only because he wrote the absolutely berserk Tiny Tim vehicle Blood Harvest. Man, Wisconsin is a weird place, huh?

The bad guys — Louis “Face” Napoleon, Mongo and Randolph “Hot Rod” Carter — kidnap Monica and Robin early — she’s Mitchell’s daughter — and proceed to drive their car right into a mineshaft. Deputy Billy Williams is on the case, right after he makes some sweet love for the foreign buyers, and then drives off to Forever Mine, which was the name of this movie while it sat on the shelf gathering dust.

But what if that woman he’s arrdvarking had a connection to whatever is in that mine? What then, huh?

Also: a Christmas movie.

SLASHER MONTH: Blood Delirium (1988)

Man, has John Phillip Law been around the world or what? Here he plays a painter — who thinks he’s the reincarnation of Van Gogh — whose wife’s death sends him even deeper down the path of no return who decides to dig up her bones for inspiration. Then he finds another woman who looks just like his wife — alert Joe D’Amato, someone is ripping you off for once — and she discovers that his necrophiliac butler (Gordon Mitchell!) is killing women and bottling their blood for the artist’s paint.

Director Sergio Bergonzelli was an early Italian Western director, making The Last Gun and Colt in the Hand of the Devil before making just one very odd giallo — In the Folds of the Flesh — before a career in sex movies. He came back to make the more mainstream erotic thriller Tentazione, then this movie and finally one more sexy film with Malizia oggi.

Why Severin hasn’t released this — and Spider Labyrinth — is beyond me.

SLASHER MONTH: Death Nurse 2 (1988)

Will Death Nurse reuse most of the first film and push me into a Shot on Video K hole in which I shake and shiver and scream for release? Yes, of course. It has to be this way.

You know when they used to set up movies serials and then bait and switch the ending so that all the ways you spent the last week debating how the hero would survive — yes, I know none of you were around in the 30s and 40s for this — and then they’d just screw around and do whatever?

This movie does that because all the tension of the detective at the door is defused when Nurse Edith Mortley just stabs him, feeds him to the rats and feeds the rats — endless repetition — to the patients.

“In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding”

At least in this film we learn that Gordon is only a veterinarian — which explains the dog heart to human transplant in the original movie — and Edith never finished nursing school.

Edith kills everyone in this, getting away with everything, until the bodies start to stink, so she covers them with lime and the rats run into the streets and the movie ends the same way the last one did, with her slumped on the couch, waiting for the cops.

This movie takes footage from the last film, Criminally Insane and Satan’s Black Wedding to extend its nearly sixty minutes of screen time and still feels too long by five hours.

SLASHER MONTH: The Chair (1988)

What was the fetish in the late 80s for prison and electric chair-theme films? Was everyone just excited that Ted Bundy was finally getting his capital punishment? Just from my count, I can call on PrisonShockerThe Horror Show, Death HouseTerror at AlcatrazSlaughterhouse Rock and Destroyer

The Chair is James Coco’s last movie and it was directed by Waldemar Korzeniowsky, whose wife Carolyn Swartz wrote this. If you haven’t heard of either of them, well, this is about the only movie they’ve done.

Coco is the psychologist at a jail with the goal of actually getting its hardener criminals released into the world as productive citizens and not making money for the government like happens now. That said, the ghost of the last warden, who was electrocuted by his prisoners in a riot, is all over the place, sending zaps of energy and projecting his eyeball into a lightbulb, which is a very upsetting visual.

For horror fans, Stephen Geoffreys from Fright Night would be the big draw. Paul Benedict, who was Harry on The Jeffersons and often plays a judge or a priest or some other authority figure, is also here, as is Trini Alvarado from The Frighteners.

Coco died during the making of this movie and its dedicated to him. I figure he haunted Korzeniowsky and Swartz for making this stinker.

You can watch this on YouTube.