Junesploitation 2021: The Curse II: The Bite (1989)

June 15: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is sequels!

The only thing better than a sequel is one that’s in name only. That’s exactly what The Curse II: The Bite is all about. It’s really a movie called The Bite, which was directed by Fred Goodwin, who is really Frederico Prosperi, whose only other credit is producing the nature on the loose movie The Wild Beasts.

The film came to be after the success of The Curse. Producer Ovidio G. Assonitis and his company TriHoof Investments started making this film and another called The Train, which also became an in-name-only sequel as well called Beyond the Door III (AKA Amok Train).

Our heroes are young lovers Clark (J. Eddie Peck, the star of Lambada) and Lisa (Jill Schoelen, who is one of my favorite unheralded scream queens with roles in The StepfatherCutting ClassThe Phantom of the Opera, PopcornWhen a Stranger Calls Back and Chiller) whose cross-country trip has taken them right past an abandoned nuclear test site crawling with mutant snakes. Clark gets bit and starts to slowly mutate into a snake himself.

Luckily, Lisa has some help from a sheriff (Bo Svenson) and Harry Morton (Jamie Farr) a traveling salesman who is also a doctor of sorts. He tries to treat the snakebite and uses the wrong medication, which pushes the mutation further as he furtively seeks the couple out to save them as much as he’s trying to save himself from a malpractice lawsuit. Why is a travelling salesman also a doctor? That’s just how the world of this movie works.

Also, if you ever wanted to see a movie where Jamie Farr has conjugal relations with trucker women, come on down to Curse II: The Bite!

There are some great Screaming Mad George effects in this, as well as an astounding scene where Clark tries to use his hand in a Biblical manner on Lisa. His mutated snake hand. Man, I was screaming at the television! Stick with this movie because while it starts off slow, but it gets ooey, gooey and great by the end. And by great, the kind of great when Italian filmmakers are let loose in America. You know what I’m talking about.

This worked out so well that a movie called Panga became Curse III: Blood Sacrifice and Catacombs was retitled Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice.

Shocker (1989)

Before the internet, movies used to get sold at conventions and they’d give away pins and t-shirts after showing trailers. I had a Shocker shirt that I wore before the movie even came out and man, did I learn my lesson.

Here’s where I upset a good chunk of people by saying that outside of his TV movies, the first Freddy and The People Under the Stairs, I dislike just about everything that Wes Craven ever did.  His films feel pretty lazy to me and like the work of someone who had no interest in doing horror. Shocker is another cash-in on his part, an attempt to make a new slasher villain who, well, acts pretty much exactly like Freddy Krueger.

Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) is that killer and he starts the movie by killing off Heather Langenkamp, pretty much using that whole old wrestling logic of jobbing out someone else’s archrival just to get over a new heel who will never really draw like the original. He also kills the entire family of Lt. Don Parker (Michael Murphy), except for his foster son Jonathan (Peter Berg, yes, the man who would go on to direct Friday Night Lights).

For some reason, Jonathan and Horace have a mental connection, which doesn’t help when the murderer kills the football star’s girl Alison. However, the dream world — umm, yes, this is not an Elm Street movie — leads Jonathan to Pinker who is executed in the chair but ends up escaping, just like House 3 (AKA The Horror Show). Or Prison. Or Destroyer. They all came out before Shocker.

In another example of “because horror movies,” Jonathan is Pinker’s son and the villain has sold his soul to Satan to keep killing via electricity, which is not as cool as getting to sniff Satanic cocaine like the similarly themed El Violador Infernal.

This is the kind of movie where you get bored and instead play spot the cameo of people like former Alice Cooper guitarist Kane Roberts or Ted Raimi or Dr. Timothy Leary.

Of course, no Wes Craven non-blockbuster — well, it did make triple its budget — would be complete without an excuse. This time, it’s the MPAA’s fault for cutting out all the gore.

Shocker was probably best known in my teenage years as providing the soundtrack in which Megadeth covered Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” as well as a title song from The Dudes of Wrath, a metal supergroup made up of The Dudes of Wrath, a supergroup composed of Paul Stanley and Desmond Child on vocals, Vivian Campbell and Guy Mann-Dude on guitars, Rudy Sarzo on bass, Tommy Lee on drums and Michael Anthony and Kane Roberts singing back up. Dangerous Toys also submitted a song about the movie, so there’s that.

Michael Fischa Day: Crack House (1989)

Micheal Fischa made his feature film debut with the oft-Mill Creek box set-programmed horror comedy My Mom’s a Werewolf. For this next film he went ’70s retro-blaxploitation with this oft-run HBO’er that stars that genre’s Richard Roundtree (Killpoint) and ex-NFL’er Jim Brown (Take a Hard Ride). And for you fans of the ABC-TV daytime soap General Hospital, there’s Anthony “Luke and the Ice Princess” Geary (who got his first B&S review with the TV Movie Intimate Agony) as their co-star.

Rick and Melissa are a pair of high school (bi-racial) lovers who strive to get out of their inner-city hell rife with drugs, crime, and poverty. Then Rick — upon the gang-related death of his brother — he rejoins his old gang to avenge his brother’s death by a rival gang. He’s arrested, natch, and now Melissa falls under the spell of Anthony Geary — the school’s clandestine, heroine-pushing guidance counselor. His supplier: Jim Brown. And when Melissa can’t pay her drug debts, she’s becomes Brown’s crack hoe-cum-sex slave. And that leaves Roundtree, who, if you haven’t figured out by the theatrical one-sheet, is the cop out to take down Geary and Brown.

Is it any good? Well, it’s Cannon Films good . . . whatever that means. It’s sleazy, then campy in places, then brutal, and pretty trope-ridden when it comes to the portrayal of Hispanics and blacks and their territorial gang wars. But the direction from Michael Fischa is alright and the acting from all quarters is serviceable. But this ain’t no Chuck Norris Cannon flick . . . and it certainly ain’t up the to quality of the requite gang flick, The Warriors. But for being a retro-blaxploitation flick, Crack House hits all of that genre’s tent poles. Oh, and yes . . . that is Angel Tompkins from the soft-sexploitationer The Teacher (which we reviewed as part of our Howard Avedis tribute this week, so look for it).

Next up for Fischa: Death Spa. Oh, do we love Death Spa around here; the asparagus! What a way to go for a third film — from a horror comedy, to a blaxploit’er, and then to a late-to-the-game ’80s slasher with a freaky scene that deals in stinky sparrow grasses.

The VoicesInMyHead You Tube page comes though again with a copy of this Micheal Fischa obscurity, which, it turns out, is easy to find on DVD as of late, thanks to MGM issuing it in a digital format.

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

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Another take on Shocking Dark (1989)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Herbert P. Caine is the pseudonym of a frustrated academic and genre movie fan in Pennsylvania. You can read his blog at https://imaginaryuniverseshpc.blogspot.com.

Shocking Dark, also known as Terminator 2, is a mockbuster that can’t even decide what it is ripping off. The film was advertised in many countries as a Terminator sequel, yet it’s basically a remake of another James Cameron film, Aliens, with identical plot points and even characters. The whole thing is so derivative that the film was not even allowed a release in the United States until nearly thirty years after it was made. Although Bruno Mattei manages to eke out a few good scenes, the film as a whole is a waste of his talents.

Shocking Dark follows a rescue mission into the heart of near future Venice, which has been abandoned in the wake of an environmental disaster. A scientific expedition by the totally Tubular Corporation has gone missing, and the “Megaforce” is sent in to retrieve them, unfortunately without the help of Barry Bostwick on a flying motorcycle. The soldiers, accompanied by a female scientist and a corporate apparatchik, soon find that the scientists were wiped out by Venice’s new inhabitants, a race of mutants.

Pretty much every character in this film is a carbon copy of a character from Aliens, only far less likable. For example, Geretta Geretta of Demons and Rats: Night of Terror plays a blatant knock-off of Vasquez, right down to similar-looking clothes and a headband. Even worse is the dime store version of Ripley who serves as our heroine. While actress Haven Tyler is dressed up to look like Ripley, the film removes everything that made Sigourney Weaver’s character entertaining – her compelling back story, her courage, and even her competence. At one point, the Ripley analogue gets several people killed because she keeps pushing the wrong button to open a door while the monsters are attacking. This lack of charm extends to the other characters, to the point that even the Burke analogue manages to be less likable than Paul Reiser’s sleazy executive (something of an accomplishment when you consider that Reiser’s own parents nodded with approval when first seeing their son’s character die in Aliens.)

The film also suffers from some major plot issues, starting with the fact that the origin of the mutants is not adequately explained. It’s stated that the corporation was behind the disaster that ruined Venice, but their role in creating the monsters is only implied. Furthermore, the writers paint themselves into such a corner at the end that they have to insert a deus ex machina to avoid a downer ending. It’s bad when your ending is the equivalent of Adam West Batman pulling some miracle gizmo out of his utility belt.

However, Mattei’s skills as a genre director allow him to pull a few good scenes out of this garbage. For instance, the opening credits give a convincing portrayal of an abandoned, decaying Venice, a rather impressive feat given that Mattei was obviously just shooting parts of Venice from a boat in these scenes. Furthermore, some scenes set in tunnels underneath the city have a genuine aura of dread and suspense, a product of Mattei’s skill at using lighting to create a somber mood previously displayed in Women’s Prison Massacre.

The film also boasts a one-scene wonder in Clive Riche, who plays the deranged scientist Drake, the lone survivor of the first expedition who is under the control of the mutants. Riche appears to recognize that he’s in a piece of crap and compensates for it by chewing every piece of scenery he can lay hands on. Unfortunately, he only appears in two scenes early in the film.

Shocking Dark is available for free on Tubi.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Zombi 4: After Death (1989)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Man, Bruno sure liked making zombie movies. Who can blame him? They sell ad we’re still talking about them! This review originally ran on June 12, 2018.

Director Claudio Fragasso refers to this film as the “last gasp” of Italian zombie movies. If you’re expecting Zombi, well, let’s not forget the movies that Claudio has blessed us with, both by himself and with Bruno Mattei: Beyond Darkness/La Casa 5Troll 2RoboWarRats: Night of TerrorThe Other Hell and Shocking Dark.

The movie starts as researchers discover that the natives are practicing voodoo, so they kill the priest, who places a curse that brings the dead back to life before he dies. Only a young girl named Jenny (soon to be played by Candice Daly, Liquid Dreams) survives thanks to an enchanted necklace her parents gave her.

Years later, she returns to the island to find out exactly what happened. And she isn’t alone — she’s brought a gang of mercs with her. There’s Tommy (Don “The Dragon” Wilson!), Dan (Jim Gaines, American Ninja), Rod and Louise, Rod’s girlfriend. And then there are also some hikers — Chuck (played by 80’s gay porn star Jeff Stryker), David (Massimo Vanni/Alex McBride, who is in a ton of Italian exploitation as an actor and stuntman) and Mad — who have found the underground temple where the curse was originally created.

Of course, they bring the curse back and David is eaten and Mad killed. Rod soon gets bitten and ends up killing his girlfriend. David comes back and kills Dan. Seriously, our cast is pretty much cannon fodder. Tommy volunteers to stay behind and blow the base up to take out the zombies as Jenny and Chuck run back to the cave.

There, Chuck is attacked and killed by zombies while Jenny removes her protective necklace and becomes a super zombie that can rip out its own eyeball and survive. And then, Fulci style, the movie just ends.

The cave set looks a ton like the sets of City of the Living Dead. And the movie really jumps all over the place. But does any other zombie movie have as catchy a theme song as this? Alright, does any zombie movie not called Return of the Living Dead have a song this good?

Severin has the definitive release of this, complete with interviews with Daly (recorded before she died in 2004), Stryker, Fragasso and Drudi. You even get a CD of the soundtrack. What are you waiting for?

You can watch this on Tubi.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Shocking Dark (1989)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally ran on our site on June 7, 2018. I absolutely love this ridiculous movie to the surprise of no one.

“Venice before the year 2000. Squares, museums and churches. Tourists crowd the streets. Venice is threatened by the high tide. The seaweed is killing the oxygen in the waters and the putrid waters are corroding the foundations of the city. This is Venice today. What will happen tomorrow?”

Say what you will about Bruno Mattei, but the dude knows how to grab you from the first frame of travelogue footage!

The film starts in a control room, where a bunch of dudes in grey and yellow futuristic jumpsuits watch a research base and most of Venice fall into chaos, as one guy keeps screaming that there are mutants everywhere. There are no survivors, just chunks of videotape that they watch.

Basically, if this feels more like Aliens than the Terminator rip-off you were expecting, buckle the fuck up. While this movie was released as Terminator 2, Mattei and his cohorts Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi, who activated their Wonder Twin powers of insanity to create Troll 2, refuse to stop at covering one film. Oh no — this movie is too strange for that.

They decide to assemble a team — the Mega Force! — to investigate and they bring Sara, a scientist, along to find the diary that has the answers to this breakout. Samuel Fuller from the Tubular Corporation asks to come along, just like Bishop. The fact that two of the members of the team are Geretta Geretta and Tony Lombardo from Rats: The Night of Terror are all the reason I needed to purchase this. The even more amazing fact that Geretta is playing a tribute version of Vasquez from Aliens is the icing on this slice of exploitation tiramisu.

Geretta’s first line is “Alright you bunch of pussies, I’m back and I’m kicking ass!” Then, we watch one of the kinda sorta Space Marines on Operation: Delta Venice practice his nunchakus with his back to the camera. Come on dude — work the hard cam. Also: the Mega Force’s base looks like a high school locker room. Also also: they are not Megaforce.

There’s a member of the Mega Force that has long blonde hair and wears Oakley glasses and a red bandana. I love him already. Geretta’s character, Koster, then starts to yell about Italians being allowed on the mission and gets into a racially motivated fight with another crew member. Mega Force! Get it together!

If you haven’t picked it up yet, I love this fucking movie. This is why I watch Italian low budget genre films all wrapped up in one messy package. The acting is either way too intense or has stilted line readings, sometimes within the same sentence. The costumes are laughable. And the action is everything you wish there was more of in other films without pesky things like character development and a plot to get in the way.

Every time I worry that I’ll never find a film like 2019: After the Fall of New Yoror 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Italian filmmakers surprise me with something wonderful. All you need are some vests, bike helmets and soccer pads and a fancy synth score and you have a futuristic army ready to do battle with whatever the hell the bad guys in this movie are.

The Mega Force finds a bunch of people inside the alien eggs, but those people beg to be killed before grabbing and choking Koster. Soon, the aliens or mutants or whatever they are decide to throw people around and kill everything in their path. If you love movies where people fall to their deaths, this should be in your collection.

If you thought there wouldn’t be a Newt character, you aren’t watching much Italian cinema. Yep — in the midst of all this craziness, a small child has survived.

The best scene in the film has the soldiers all trapped in a room and the scientist vainly trying to open the door by pushing the left button. Clearly, there is a button on the right, too. She ignores this and keeps jamming the left button like someone trying to make the elevator get there faster. Finally, after screaming, monsters blowing up and much death, someone finally tells this brilliant scientist to just push the button on the right. Holy shit — this movie is awesome.

I have learned many things from this movie. No matter what language you speak, your scream sounds pretty much universal. You can fire a Franchi SPAS-12 one-handed and accurately hit a target. And while I previously was taught that seaweed is really algae and algae helps provide much of the Earth’s oxygen, in the world of this film this is not true. Basically — fuck science!

I wonder — was Samuel Fuller named for the director? Why is Venice the center of the world? And why, when I knew this was also called Terminator 2, was I so surprised and elated that the Bishop character was also a Terminator?

Finally, the ending — if you think that they’re not gonna get time travel somewhere in this wedding soup…just wow.

If you come to a party at my house in the next few months, chances are that you will be forced to watch this movie while I scream like a maniac and laugh my ass off. You have no choice but to comply.

Of course, Severin put this out. Grab one now — don’t delay! You can also watch this on Tubi.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: 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 gives 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!”

Hyper Space (1989)

So, yeah. Roger Corman made Battle Beyond the Stars, then recycled the sets, the models, the costumers, and the effects shots into Galaxy of Terror, Forbidden World, and Space Raiders, then lent it all out to Fred Olen Ray to make Star Slammer (1986). Sadly, ol’ Roger didn’t loan it all out to Silver Star Film Company . . . uh, oh . . . not the same Philippine purveyors of all manner of ’80s post-apoc and Rambo ripoffs by the likes of Jun Gallardo and Teddy Chiu? They actually tried to do a Star Wars-cum-Alien knockoff?

Yes. It’s true. Teddy Chiu’s — aka Page, aka Ted Johnson, aka Irvin Johnson (you know the aka-drill with Philippine auteurs) — Silver Star Films made the Kessel Run with director Carribou Seto, aka David Hue, aka David Huey (his credit for Hyper Space).

Oh, man. A Philippine Star Wars? Roll the tape!

Thanks, Paul! We can always count on you for a clean JPEG of an obscure VHS cover.

So . . . as in the Ridley Scott-James Cameron-verse, and as in William Malone’s superior, four years earlier rip, Creature (1985), space is run by a ne’er-do-well corporation in the 21st Century who sends out Dark Star-styled crews in long-range vessels to — instead of blowing unstable planets to harbinger colonization — dispose of Earth’s chemical pollution and nuclear waste into “hyper space,” otherwise known as “The Black Forest.”

Well, wouldn’t you know it, the ship malfunctions and wakes the crew out of their cryo-sleep and they realize they’ve drifted off course . . . and a fuel leak leaves them marooned in deep space . . . and the shuttle craft that can save them can only hold two passengers, aka “the life boat.” So, in between the Alien and Dark Star pinching, we’re also pinching ol’ Uncle Al Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, which, if you’ve been following along with our reviews during our May “Space Week,” got the Alien-remake treatment in 1981 and again in 1993 (yep, reviews are coming this week). And, wait a sec . . . since this is an an outer space “eco-message” film, we better toss Silent Running on the list. Of course, since everyone is turning on each other for those coveted shuttle seats, John Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is tossed into the narrative mix.

Of course, while we love ’em: Lynn Holly Johnson ain’t no Tallulah Bankhead and Don Stroud ain’t no Humphrey Bogart. Oh, man . . . the careers this way-over-their-heads Philippine star mess destroys: Richard Norton (Equalizer 2000), Don Stroud (The Amityville Horror), and no, say it ain’t so Ron O’Neal . . . you were Superfly . . . Superfly! And Lynn? Yeah, you did The Sisterhood for Cirio H. Santiago back in 1988, but . . . oh, never mind. And for the wrestling fans — were talking at you, Paul Andolina of Wrestling With Film — we’ve got Big John Studd and Professor Toru Tanaka. And yes, that is a Van Patten brother, but not the one who portrayed Tom Roberts in Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, that was Vince; we get James, here. Basically, it’s all of the actors that we get jazzed about at B&S About Movies . . . and it just hurts to see them desperate and scrounging for paychecks from Silver Star Film Company tackling, of all things, the Scott-Cameron-Lucas-verse.

Seriously. It breaks your heart. You just want to invite them all over to your house for the Thanksgiving weekend and put one of mom’s home cooked meals in their stomachs and embarrass them with your knowledge — and library — of their film careers.

The marketing and running times on Hyper Space are all over the place, with the initial U.S. VHS-versions running at 90 minutes. Then there’s two more versions: one at 81 minutes (with all of the nudity cut) and 87 minute-versions (that leave the nudity and cut the violence). Originally released in 1989, Hyper Space has been popping up in the foreign marketplace over the years as grey market DVD-Rs with the bogus “copyright” years of 1993, 1998, 1999, 2017, and 2019 under the titles Space Rangers, Space Rangers: Hyperspace, Black Forest: The Rage in Space, Black Forrest, and The Rage in Space. Oh, and don’t mix up the 1989 Philippine one with the somewhat coveted, North Carolina-shot Star Wars spoof Gremloids (1984) — which also goes by the the alternate title of Hyperspace (all one word) — written and directed by Todd Durham, who gave us the hugely successful Hotel Transylvania animated franchise.

Sadly, even with all of the grey market DVD reissues, there are no online streams nor a VHS rip of Hyper Space to share, leaving this bottom-of-the-barrel knockoff of a Corman-light Alien knockoff truly lost to the ages.

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

Robot Jox (1989)

Editor’s Note: We’re going tech crazy these two weeks, with another “Post-Apoc Week” blowout this week, along with an “Ancient Future Week” to follow, next week.

Robot Jox — and its two pseudo-“sequels,” Crash and Burn and Robot Wars — has that “. . . years after the war . . . the catastrophe” expostional preamble trope we know and love, but unlike the ’70 post-apoc classics Ravagers and No Blade of Grass (from our last apoc blowout), Charles Band’s VHS-loved trio are front-loaded with tech. So consider Band’s robotic-computer baloney as a silicone slice of metal-tasting appetizers for the more present day, “Ancient Future Week” of films running from April 11 to the 17.

Let’s robo-tech this mother!

Before Michael Bay turned Hasbro’s Transformers into a film franchise, there was Stuart Gordon’s Robot Jox, itself inspired by that toyline-cum-cartoon series and the mid-’80s imported Japanese amine series Robotech. Yeah, in the ’80s it was all about combat mech, with giant robots kicking their mech-on-mech carbon-alloy carcasses across the terra firma. All of us ex-Dungeon & Dragons geeks enamored with all thing Lucasian wanted a live-action version of our tabletop BattleTech game brought to life. Gordon inspired us to head into our cobwebby attics and dank basements to pull out our old Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots game.

Like this . . . only bigger. Make it happen, Mr. Allen.

The man that Charles Band hired to flesh out Stuart Gordon’s live-action mech concept for Empire International Pictures was Nebula and Hugo Award-winning science fiction writer Joe Haldeman. If you grew up loving sci-fi in the pre-Lucasian epoch, you read Haldeman’s best-seller The Forever War (1974). If you were a Trekkie, you read his novel-continuations of the Starship Enterprise’s missions with Planet of Judgement (1977) and World Without End (1979). (Gordon previously worked with Haldeman in producing a failed, four-part TV miniseries based on The Forever War.) To say we were stoked when the news hit the pages of Starlog that Joe Haldeman was bringing, somewhat, our beloved Battletech and Robotech to the big screen, is an understatement. After what George Lucas and his main effects man, John Dykstra, accomplished with Star Wars — and the AT-ATs in Empire — we knew this would be epic.

Oh, how naive we wee lads were: welcome to the not-so-epic, Buck Rogers-inspired plastic-verse fail of . . .

Let’s face it: Empire Pictures’ “low budget” of $7 million was no match for Lucas’s self-bankrolled $20 million for the adventures of Luke Skywalker. And the man creatively hamstrung to bring our dreams of Japanese-styled anime mecha to the big screen was the offspring of model animator gods Ray Harryhausen and Jim Danforth: David Allen.

Allen was a name QWERTY’d often in our pages of Famous Monsters and Starlog, courtesy of his stop-motion work in Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead inspiration, Equinox (1970), and the Galaxina-precursor-porn-comedy Flesh Gordon (1974). (Of course, we wee lads watched Equinox on UHF-TV; Flesh Gordon had to wait until the midnight movie and home video ’80s arrived.) Together, Allen and Jim Danforth also provided the models for The Crater Lake Monster (1977), while Allen worked on the animated aliens (the best part of the movie) for Laserblast (1978). Also working on the film was Ron Cobb, whose work we knew from Dark Star (1974), Star Wars (1977), and Alien (1979).

So, out on a dry lake bed in the Mojave Desert, Allen and Cobb set off to create an “ancient future” world set fifty years after a nuclear war devastated the Earth. Out of the ashes, a new world emerged with two, new world superpowers: the Common Market, composed of the old U.S.A. and Japan, and the Confederation, composed of Russia and Europe. (Hey, I thought the EURACS fused Asia, Europe, and Africa into a “super continent” in 2019? Parsifal, save us!)

To save what’s left of the Earth, the two nations forged a treaty banning warfare. But, as in the now ancient future of the year 2018 in Rollerball, the peaceful-want not citizens and government officials are restless: they need action and entertainment. And since the same old territorial pissings between the governments still rages and, since no lessons were learned from our past, nuclear faux pas and man still fails at diplomatic unity over land and resources, they do what the Romans do: toss two men into the Colosseum for gladiatorial combat. May the best country win. (Somewhere, in the frames, is a reported adaptation of Homer’s The Iliad. Okay.) Only the men (and women) representing their countries in the ring are “RoboJox,” mech-pilots encased in 120-foot weaponized robots. And just like in Rollerball: these jocks are futuristic football stars. Sadly, while man has grown to the point of the ability to construct eleven-story robots, society is still as sexist and racist as it ever was. Yeah, women are harassed for being mech-pilots . . . how dare females invade our he-man world.

Unlike its two sequels-but-they’re-not-sequels, Crash and Burn, aka Robot Jox 2: Crash and Burn (1990), and Robot Wars, aka Robot Jox 2: Robot Wars (1993) (don’t worry: we’re going to sort that all out in those coming reviews), we laid down our $3.25 to see Robot Jox in our town’s empty duplex cinema. The film barely made over a million dollars against its seven million budget. Curiosity got the best of us, however, and we rented the two direct-to-video-not-sequels, full well knowing we were getting a Corman stock footage rehash of the Battle Beyond the Stars-into-Forbidden World-into-Space Raiders variety: for when you spent seven million bucks on effects, it pays to recycle.

Now, you know that musicians who were kids-teens like us that grew up to form successful bands and came to sample dialog from our mutually-favorite films, is kind of our jam at B&S About Movies. So, as with Rob Zombie utilizing dialog from The Undertaker and his Pals (1966) and My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult creating a new audience for The Brotherhood of Satan (1971), Trent Reznor sampled bits from Robot Jox in “The Becoming” on the Nine Inch Nail’s The Downward Spiral (1994).

You know how it is down at the ol’ road house, Dalton: opinions vary. You can still give me Robot Jox over the mechanized Godzilla-hornswoggle that is Pacific Rim (and Transformers) any day of the week, and twice on Sundays, because, well, a bigger studio and bigger budget doesn’t always mean better. There’s a reason why cult film retrospectives honor and distributors like Shout! Factory digitally preserve Robot Jox: its “ancient future” is by far, the more enjoyable film.

You can get in on the fun with a free-with-ads stream of Robot Jox on Tubi.

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

Empire of Ash III (1989)

You’ve seen Empire of Ash. And hey, doesn’t Empire of Ash II seems like exactly the same movie? That’s because it is. So Empire of Ash III is really the second movie just to confuse you. I can make things even more puzzling for you. This movie is also known as Maniac Warriors, just like the first Empire of Ash, so you may have no idea what movie you’re in store for.

Lucas (William Smith) and Danielle are back in this movie, which is all about an attempt to stop the blood harvesting of the ruling elite, who have all become monsters thanks to a nuclear war and have sent the Warriors, led by Baalca, to steal blood from women by using needles. Sure, alright, sounds like a plan, I guess.

This is a movie so brazen that it thanks Conan in its credits and has this tagline: “Mad Max Paved the Last Road…The Last Of The Warriors Destroyed It.”

This was directed by Michael Mazo and Lloyd A. Simandl, who also made the first film together. They decided to throw more nudity in this one and William Smith to test the theory that if breasts and William Smith make any movie better, sweater meat and Mr. Smith teaming up may win this movie an Oscar. It didn’t, but you have to admire that kind of Canuck-spa.