Vampire Raiders Ninja Queen (1988)

This is the actual sales pitch for this movie: “The fate of the entire hotel industry is at stake. A group of evil black ninjas has threatened to insinuate themselves into the industry, take over, and transform the operation into something unspeakable.”

One part of this movie is 1984’s Mixed Up, which was directed by Chow Chun-Gaai, and is about three hotel switchboard operators saving the life of their rich boss. The rest is purple ninjas, hopping vampires and whatever other footage Godfrey had lying around that day.

I would say that watching this movie is like someone switching channels during a commercial and you end up missing a bunch of the movie you really wanted to watch, but that would make you think that this movie has some semblance of coherent storytelling.

This is the kind of movie where a giant pig is launched off the roof of a hotel and lands on an old man and his wife, killing them both. Then a vampire emerges from the dead hog. If you can get with that, you can get with this movie that never even tries to make sense.

Can virgin piss kill a vampire? Why do the zombies have rubbery arms? Are you ready for music cues from Mad MaxThe Road WarriorThe Addams Family and Phantasm? Do you want to watch a vampire get way too fresh with a lady ninja in a bikini?

The answers are maybe, I don’t know, totally and yes.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Severin releases the Mattei Mayhem Bundle

In case you never read the site, you may not know how much I love Bruno Mattei. Well, Severin seemingly feels the same as they’re releasing a bundle of three of the Italian maniac’s movies!

These blu rays will have the best-looking versions of these movies yet along with bonus features from Claudio Fragauso and Rossella Drudi. You can get each movie by itself or in a big fancy bundle.

Born to Fight (1989): The third time Brent Huff would work with Bruno Mattei — there’s also Strike Commando 2 and Cop Game — this time finds the actor playing Sam Wood, a survivor of a vicious Vietnamese prison camp who is talked into going back into hell with reporter Maryline Kane (Mary Stavin, the 1977 Miss World who is also in Mattei’s Born to Fight, as well as Open HouseHouseOctopussyA View to a KillCaddyshack IITop Line and Howling V: The Rebirth, proving that I have seen many of her movies), who really just wants our hero to help her free her father from the prison camp.

Things get more complicated when Wood learns that Duan Loc (Werner Pochath, Colonel Magnum from Thunder 3) is still in charge. Yet instead of being a film that explores the root causes and treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, Mattei and writer Claudio Fragasso give everyone watching what they really want: violence, glorious violence.

The beauty of this film is that Mattei references Casablanca while featuring a hero who is so bored with life that he mixes snake venom into the beer he drinks all day long to escape the pain of his past.

Made pretty much hours after pretty much the same crew finished Strike Commando 2Born to FIght has everything I look for in a Mattei Philippines war movie, which is totally a genre, thank you for asking. There’s nothing quite like a slow-motion Brent Huff unloading millions of rounds of ammunition into bamboo huts while screaming and repeatedly saying his catchphrase, “It can be done.” Maybe he was a Bud Spencer fan?

As for Ms. Stavin, she also dated Manchester United football hero George Best, who was voted the sixth for the FIFA Player of the Century and one of GQ’s fifty most stylish men of the last fifty years in 2007. One of the first celebrity football players, he was nicknamed El Beatle and owned restaurants, fashion boutiques and a nightclub called Slack Alice. Of his life, he said, “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars – the rest I just squandered.”

Between 1982 and 1984, the fitness craze swept the UK. Lifestyle Records released a series of celebrity albums in which different somewhat famous folks sang cover songs and discussed what working out meant to them. The first two albums, which featured Felicity Kendal and Angela Rippon, sold well. Later releases, well…not so much. Beyond Isla St. Clair, Suzanne Danielle, Christina Brookes, Jay Aston, Suzanna Dando and Patti Boulaye, Stavin and Best released their album, which even had their cover of “It Takes Two” cut as a single. They also covered The Eurythmics’ “Love Is a Stranger!”

Cop Game (1988): An elite group of commando assassins — Cobra Squad! — are murdering high-ranking U.S. soldiers in the closing days of Vietnam. To stop them, Morgan (Brent Huff, GwendolineNine Deaths of the Ninja) and Hawk (Max Laurel, who played Zuma in two films and Quang in Robowar) must have one another’s back against a massive conspiracy.

Yes, Bruno Mattei — Bob Hunter! — has united with Rossella Drudi and Claudio Fragrasso, headed to the Philippines and made a movie that makes little to no sense whatsoever. I don’t say this as an insult. Few of the man’s movies have anything approaching a coherent plot. Yet every single one of them wants to entertain you to the point that you are rolling on the floor in incredulity and laughter. They are everything you want them to be.

This is the kind of movie with dialogue like “When you go home, you will forget about me. But I will still be here, drowning in a sea of shit.” and “Ah, Jesus Christ, cocksucker motherfucking sonofabitch.”  Nearly every line is screamed as loudly as possible, as if a twelve-year-old boy has just been allowed to stay home by himself while his parents go out and he takes advantage of the freedom by repeatedly saying combinations of swear words and never getting tired of using them until he’s hoarse by the time mom and dad come back.

It’s also the kind of film that says that it takes place in 1975 Vietnam but also has plenty of Miami Vice and 80’s buddy cop vibes, along with stolen footage from The Ark of the Sun God, both Strike Commando movies and Double Target. I guess since Mattei made most of those, he’s really just cutting and pasting. You can’t steal from yourself, right? This isn’t a John Fogerty getting sued because his song “The Old Man Down the Road” sounds exactly like a Creedence Clearwater Revival situation!

Cop Game also has an all-star cast and by that, I mean actors that ony I care about like Romano Puppo (Trash’s dad in Escape from the Bronx), Candice Daly (After Death), Werner Pochath (Colonel Magnum in Thunder III), Robert Marius (Mad Warrior), Massimo Vanni (Robowar), Ottaviano Dell’Acqua (who is the “We are going to eat you” undead face on the poster for Zombie), Roberto Dell’Acqua (Nightmare City), Jim Gaines (Zombies: The Beginning) and a Brett Halsey cameo.

Mattei made movies in nearly every junk film genre. I can honestly say that I have loved every single one of them and if you want to hear me ramble on about something, ask me about them.

Double Target (1987): You know, if John Rambo hadn’t gone back to Vietnam and gotten the chance to win that time, we wouldn’t be blessed with an entire video store section of films from around the world. Rambosploitation?

My mother told me that after he came home from working late in the mill, my grandfather would watch war movies at ear-shattering volumes, loudly laughing and enjoying himself while the entire family would be awakened by the cinematic combat echoing through the paper-thin walls.

Forty or so years later, I realize that I have inherited his vice.

After several American and British military personnel are killed in suicide attacks throughout southeast Asia, the U.S. government starts thinking that perhaps — just perhaps — the Vietnamese government isn’t the ally they thought they were.

There’s only one man to call when you need the truth.

Bob Ross.

No, not that Bob Ross. I’m talking Miles O’Keefe, the very same man who was Ator, now transplanted to the ninth circle of Southeast Asia, seeking the son he has never known, going up against the most sinister of all Russians and backed up by exactly no one.

Seeing as how this is a Bruno Mattei film, you just know that all manner of absolute celluloid cutting and pasting is going to happen. Well, it goes both ways, because Mr. Mattei was an early adopter of recycling, doing his part to keep his scummy cinema carbon footprint small. That shark that shows up? Yep, it’s taken directly from The Last Shark. And since he went to the trouble to lens all this jungle footage, it also shows up in Cop GameRobowar and Shocking Dark, while the musical score ends up coming back in Interzone.

This movie unites so many of my film favorites, like Donald Pleasence as the incredibly named Senator Blaster, a man who is either coughing or screaming at everyone around him. And look! There’s Bo Svenson as the nasty Russian Colonel Galckin, a man so evil that he puts a gun into Ross’ son’s hands and explains to him exactly how to blow his dad’s brains out.

Kristine Erlandson kind of made a name for herself — well, with video store weirdos — by being in movies like this, Trident ForceSaigon CommandosVengeance SquadWarriors of the Apocalypse and American Commando. She’s joined by Ottaviano Dell’Acqua*, the rotting zombie from the infamous “We are going to eat you!” Zombi poster, Massimo Vanni** from Zombi 3 and Luciano Pigozzi*** (Pag from Yor Hunter from the Future).

Man, this movie tugs at the heartstrings. Ross had a kid over in ‘Nam and never knew his wife, who was taken into a re-education camp, where she died and his kid ended up hating him. Or course, this was filmed in the Philippines, but let’s not argue.

Mattei used his Vincent Dawn name on this one and co-conspirator and potential co-director Claudio Fragasso went as Clyde Anderson in the credits. Speaking of American names for Italians, let’s answer those little footnotes:

*Richard Raymond

** Alex McBride

***Alan Collins

You know, this movie entertained me beyond belief, but I’m beyond a Mattei apologist. If he was still alive and needed a place to live, I would move him into my basement and cook every meal for him.

CANNON MONTH 2: License to Drive (1988)

EDITOR’S NOTE: License to Drive was not produced by Cannon and was theatrically distributed by 20th Century Fox in the U.S., but in the Netherland, it was distributed Cannon Releasing Corporation. I must like this movie, because I wrote an entirely new article about it despite writing about it back on June 12, 2021.

Check out the amazing trading cards created at http://www.phantomcardboard.com/2020/10/license-to-drive.html

Greg Beeman was a major creative force on the TV shows Smallville and Dark Skies. But before that, he directed License to Drive, which was written by Neil Tolkin.

It’s the most simple of teenage stories: Les Anderson (Corey Haim) wants a driver’s license to impress his dream girl Mercedes Lane (Heather Graham). She gets drunk, his grandfather’s Cadillac gets totaled, Les’ friends Dean (Corey Feldman) and Charles (Michael Manasseri) do even more damage to it. But hey if you were a teenager in 1988 — I was 16, so I was definitely the target audience — this probably spoke to you.

Big points to the filmmakers for casting Carol Kane and Richard Masur as Les’ parents. Also, between “Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car” by Billy Ocean, a cover of “Drive My Car” by Breakfast Club and “Mercedes Boy” by Pebbles, this has some of the most expected needle drops ever. Sammy Hagar must have been waiting for the call, because he had the perfect song.

CANNON MONTH 2: Red Scorpion (1988)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Red Scorpion was not produced by Cannon but was theatrically distributed by Scotia/Cannon in Germany. In the U.S., it was Shapiro-Glickenhaus Ent. who released it (after Warner backed out of their initial distribution negative pick-up deal with the Abramoff brothers). Thanks to The Punisher Book ’89 — check them out on Twitter — for the revision!

This movie really needs a movie to be made about it.

It was produced by Republican Party lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who had championed sending U.S. aid to anti-communist guerrilla movements such as the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola. He established the International Freedom Foundation, which was financed by the South African apartheid regime. That makes sense, if only because Abramoff hired Arne Olsen to write a screenplay about the Angolan Civil War. with the money he allegedly received from South Africa. Why? Well, propaganda. They wanted to destroy international sympathy for the African National Congress.

Production began in Swaziland but was delayed after South African agents assassinated eleven ANC members. Moving the shooting of the film to Namibia, which was under South African occupation as South West Africa, Red Scorpion ended up being boycotted by Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid for being made in the country during apartheid. That caused Warner Brothers to pull out, as their deal with Abramoff stipulated that the movie not be made in South Africa. And, well, people were protesting the actual studio.

Meanwhile, soldiers and actual military equipment — like captured Soviet T-54 tanks — were provided by the South African Defence Force. The movie was even shot at one of their studios. But thanks to all the stop and starts, the movie was about ten million over. And Abramoff expected a more family friendly war movie, but he hired Joe Zito, who made The Prowler, and he got a film where Zito hired Tom Savini to go nuts all over again with the special effects.

Based on Jonas Savimbi, an Angolan South African ally and anti-Communist, Red Scorpion places Dolph Lundgren as Lieutenant Nikolai Petrovitch Rachenko, a Soviet Spetsnaz operative from the Ukraine — is this movie not relevant today?– sent to join Soviet, Czechoslovakian and Cuban forces as they battle anti-communists. Sent to kill the leader of the rebels, the mission is scrubbed when they anticipate him and escape, which ends up with Rachenko’s superiors torturing him. He escapes from the gulag and is rescued by natives who brand him with a red scorpion, making him one of them. As you can imagine, Lundgren goes wild killing everyone in his path.

That tribe that saves him is totally real. Their leader, Regopstaan, was 95 years old and agreed to be in the movie if his people could also appear.

Not to be a gun geek, but man — that FN FAL that Dolph uses at the end of the movie is mixed with a twin barrel AO-63 assault rifle and if real could fire six thousand rounds per minute.

By the 2000s, according to an article on Tedium, Abramoff was at the “center of a wide array of lobbying scandals, sometimes involving obscure parts of the United States like the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam” and getting set for “a prison stay, having just been sentenced in a fraud case involving a casino cruise line.”

The fact that this movie was made in the way that it was is astounding. Of course Cannon would release the video.

CANNON MONTH 2: Patty Hearst (1988)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Patty Hearst was not produced by Cannon but was theatrically distributed by Cannon France.

Directed by Paul Schrader and written by Nicholas Kazan based on the book Every Secret Thing by Hearst with Alvin Moscow, this film tells how rich college student Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, how she became an active SLA member and her arrest after a series of armed robberies.

The performance of Natasha Richardson and the way that Schrader frames Patty being locked in a closet for weeks with her emergence into being part of her SLA cells’ lives makes this movie more than a cash-in “torn from the headlines” exploitation movie. Plus, there’s Ving Rhames as SLA leader Cinque Mtume, William Forsythe as Teko, Francis Fisher as his wife Yolanda and Dana Delaney as Gelinda.

I’ve always wondered whether Hearst’s Stockholm Syndrome defense was true or if she wanted to escape the shadow of her rich family and live the life she’d only read about in college. Even with this movie and years of books and interviews, I don’t think we’ll ever know.

The film closes with this: “Patricia Hearst was granted a Presidential commutation of her sentence on February 1st, 1979 and now lives on the East Coast. She is married to Bernard Shaw, her former bodyguard. Efforts to overturn her conviction have been futile. Bill Harris (Teko) and Emily Harris (Yolanda) were found guilty of kidnapping, robbery and auto theft and served 8 years in prison. They are now separated. Bill works for a legal firm in Northern California. Emily lives in Los Angeles County. Wendy Yoshimura was convicted on unrelated weapons charges and served a short term in prison. She works at a restaurant in Northern California. None of the later SLA members were convicted of any crimes. Randolph and Katherine Hearst are divorced. He is now remarried. She lives in Southern California. Stephen Weed published a book, My Search for Patty Hearst. To this date, she is not spoken to him. F. Lee Bailey also wrote a book about the case, but to date it has not been published. District attorney Jim Browning is now a judge. The proprietor of Mel’s Sporting Goods sued Patricia Hearst and the Harrises claiming the shooting at his store rendered him incapable of performing his duties as a spouse.”

You can watch this on Tubi.

CANNON MONTH 2: Brain Damage (1988)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was on the site for the first time on May 27, 2020. Brain Damage was not produced by Cannon but was released to theaters by Scotia/Cannon.

Beyond being a historian of exploitation films, Frank Henenlotter has made some outright insane movies like Frankenhooker and Basket Case. What other kind of mad genius would hire horror host Zacherle to be a worm named Aylmer, who creates drug-like relationships with his hosts while demanding to eat the brains of everyone they love?

That blue phallic worm secretes a highly addictive hallucinogen directly into the brain, forcing Brian to leave behind his life, his girlfriend and any hope of normalcy, all while being pursued by the old couple that had imprisoned the parasite and who know way too much of his history, leading to some of the longest and most hilarious expository dialogue I’ve seen in a film.

During the fellatio scene — yes, a woman puts Aylmer inside her mouth — the crew walked out, refusing to work on the scene.

There’s a great moment where Duane and Belail from Basket Case meet Brian on a train before he ends up killing his girlfriend. I realize that’s a spoiler, but nothing can prepare you for this movie. It’s truly one of a kind.

You can watch this on Tubi or on Shudder with and without commentary by Joe Bob Briggs.

CANNON MONTH 2: Amsterdamned (1988)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally was posted on October 10, 2020Amsterdamned was not produced by Cannon but was theatrically distributed by Scotia-Cannon.

Dutch director Dick Maas started his career directing the videos for Golden Earring, including “Twilight Zone” and “When the Lady Smiles,” which was controversial as it showed a man about to assault a nun. He moved into feature films, including the comedic Flodder and The Lift. He’s also known for the American version of The Lift, which was called Down, and the absolutely deranged holiday movie Sint.

This film is at the crossroads of giallo and slasher, using the canals of Amsterdam instead of Venice to create a place where the killer can appear at seemingly any time and place to murder at will.

The film starts with a bravura scene of violence, as a prostitute is murdered and then her body, hung above a bridge, literally rains blood on to a boat full of tourists.

What keeps it from being giallo and pushes it toward slasher is the fact that its protagonist is not a stranger in a strange land, but instead Eric Visser, a detective struggling to be a single father while solving cases around Holland’s capital.

And what pushes it even further into slasher territory is the film’s propensity to deliver on the gore, from decapitated heads to bloody kills. The antagonist is so brutal that one of the witnesses refers to him as a monster that came out of the water.

That said, where it does flirt with the giallo are the sheer number of red herrings that this movie throws at you, which makes sense, as Holland’s fishing industry continually lands plenty of them from the nutrient-rich coastal waters of the North Sea.

You can watch this on Shudder and Tubi.

CANNON MONTH 2: Manifesto (1988)

Filmed in Yogoslavia as For a Night of Love and is based on the novella Pour une nuit d’amour by Émile Zola, this was directed and written by Dušan Makavejev, who was infamous for making Sweet Movie.

The King’s security chief Avanti (Alfred Molina, quite early in his career) is in charge of what is, for the most part, an ineffectual police force. He has come to the village of Waldheim to protect the monarch while Svetlana (Camilla Søeberg) comes with murder and perhaps love in mind.

It’s also the second movie that Molina and Ronald Lacey would be in after Raiders of the Lost Ark, as both have memorably small roles in that blockbuster. The cast also includes Eric Stoltz, Simon Callow, Lindsay Duncan, Chris Haywood, Gabrielle Anwar  and more.

If you haven’t seen Makavejev’s other work, it’s just as horny and sex-obsessed (and frequently funny). This is just another example of Golan and Globus offering a filmmaker with a strong independent streak and a history of controversy and enabling them to make a film.

CANNON MONTH 2: Haunted Summer (1988)

Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley get together and things go quickly from philosophical discussions to a wild getaway filled with drugs, sex and mental gamesmanship. Are we talking about Ken Russell’s Gothic? No, this is Haunted Summer.

Directed by Ivan Passer, written by Lewis John Carlino (who wrote The MechanicA Reflection of Fear and Where Have All the People Gone? and directed The Sailor Who Fell from Grace With the SeaThe Great Santini and Class) and based on Haunted Summer by Anne Edwards, this stars Philip Anglim as Lord Byron, Eric Stoltz as Percy Shelley, Alice Krige as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin — soon to be Shelley, Alex Winter (!) as their drug supplier Dr. John William Polidori and Laura Dern as Claire Clairmont, Mary’s stepsister. By the end of the Villa Diodati Writer’s Workshop, Mary will write Frankenstein. By the end of this movie, you’ll want to punch Lord Byron in the balls after watching him insult nearly everyone and fire a peashooter into a crowd of commoner diners.

This was originally going to be directed by John Huston, which had to have thrilled Cannon at the chance to work with Hollywood royalty.

If you want to see another take on this movie, Frankenstein UnboundMary Shelley and Remando al Viento also use the real life story to tell their own yarns.

CANNON MONTH 2: Cannon Movie Tales: Hansel and Gretel (1988)

Hansel (Hugh Pollard) and Gretel (Nicola Stapelton) — Pollard and Stapelton were both on the British show Simon and the Witch — have discovered the gingerbread house of Griselda (Cloris Leachman) and if you know the original Brothers Grimm story, you know that things won’t be easy for them.

With David Warner and Emily Richard as the parents of our child hero duo, this at least has some talented British actors in the cast. It was directed by Len Talan, who had written Cannon’s The Emperor’s New Clothes and had a script by Nancy Weems, who never wrote a thing before or sense at least as far as IMDB is willing to tell me.

Hansel and Gretel also uses songs from the Engelbert Humperdinck opera Hänsel und Gretel. Yes, at one point, the world had an Engelbert Humperdinck version of this fairy tale.

I love that Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus created these Cannon Movie Tales so that their Cannon Theater chain wouldn’t have to show Disney movies as matinees, but after Cannon went out of business, they all aired on the Disney Channel as part of the Storybook Cinema series of films. Cannon had at one point planned sixteen of these and stopped at nine. Much like my insane — and self-abusive — need to watch every Lemon Popsicle movie, I will someday have watched every single one of these films.

You can watch this on Tubi.