SLASHER MONTH: Puppet Master 2 (1990)

Puppet Master 2 begins in 1990 as André Toulon’s grave is being excavated by Pinhead, who opens up the coffin and pours a vial onto his creator’s skeleton while Blade, Jester, Tunneler and Leach Woman watch. Soon, the skeleton raises his arms and Toulon is back from the dead.

Then, we return back to the hotel where Megan from the last movie has been killed and as a result, Alex is suspected of her death and is in an insane asylum. Nothing about the reanimated dog is mentioned.

Soon, the puppets are trying to steal away parapsychologists Carolyn Bramwell, who Toulon believes is the reincarnation of his dead wife Elsa. There’s also a new puppet named Torch along for the ride. This one also explains why the puppets kill — they need brain tissue to stay alive. 

This one ends with Toulon double crossing the puppets in the hope of bringing his wife back from the dead. Like I said before, no one should screw with the puppets, not even the Puppet Master.

Strangely enough, the only reason why Leech Woman was destroyed in this movie was that studio executives at Paramount hated her. Another bit of trivia — look for Mr. Punch from Dolls on Toulon’s shelf.

Puppet Master II is the only movie that David Allen, who created the puppet special effects for the first film, directed. Check out our review of The Dungeonmaster to learn way more than you may want to know about this talented artist with a dark secret.

Slasher Month: Dead Girls (1989)

Back in the early ’90s, when it came to SOV productions released direct-to-VHS, writer-director Dennis Devine (2020’s Camp Blood 8 and 2019’s The Haunting of La Llorona) was a name you could trust to give you the goods. Problem was, his stuff was impossible to find on video store shelves—surely not at a Blockbuster, but shockingly, not at many, if any, mom ‘n pops. As was the case with most of the ‘80s-’90s SOV cannons—even after Christopher Lewis, with Blood Cult, proved you could successfully distribute movies shot direct on 3/4” tape direct to retail-rental outlets—you had to buy Devine’s works via mail order via ads in the back of Famous Monsters. (Well, not Famous Monsters; that was a bit too slick, as I recall. But it was one of those pulpy, black & white horror mags from back in the day.)

Ah . . . the dot-matrix cover tucked behind the plastic-sleeved clamshell I remember/courtesy of critcononline.com

So, being a sucker for and a collector of rock ‘n’ roll-oriented films of any genre—including horror—and the fact that all of the pulpy, underground critics raved about Dead Girls—I sent in my little grocery store money order to Something Weird Video (I think it was them; it was one of the those mail-order film studios-distributors). And as is the case with most, if not all, Dennis Devine productions (several of which I picked up over time; to date, he’s directed 31 and wrote 23 films), Dead Girls was a pretty decent flick that lent to replays over succeeding Halloweens. That is, until—as is the case with all mail-order film studios procuring low-grade VHS tapes in multi-packed, shrink-wrapped bricks and churning out copies via high-speed dubbing machines—my copy of Dead Girls caught a bad case of the molds. (And the mold grew . . . and spread to and took out Alice Cooper’s Monster Dog cataloged next to it; why that cataloging? I don’t recall the reasoning that paired the two. I think I was just messy-lazy in my alphabettin’.)

If only Dow came up with a video tape cleaner!

So, why am I waxing nostalgically sad over an admittedly obscure ‘80s (well, ’90s) SOV? Well, we have to blame Sammy P, B&S About Movies Chief Cook and Bottle Washer (again, I am just the fry cook, grease bit scrubber, and dumpster pad cleaner around ‘ere) for reviewing ALL of the Scream movies (in one week; the last week of August/first week of September) and yeath proclaiming all review slots for the month of October be forth dedicated to Slasher Movies—so say we all (moan) from under our cloak and cowls (and fedoras, hee hee). And since fans of the horror blockbuster Scream, which itself is a mock-slasher parody-homage, will recognize the plotline similarity to Dead Girls, which was completed several years prior to the later, 1996 Wes Craven hit, we’re reviewing it. So thanks, Mr. P! (For the uninitiated: Scream had deaths according to horror movies; Dead Girls had kills by songs.)

Yeah, I love it when the analog stars align at B&S About Movies and inspire a review. I wonder if Dennis Devine will drop us a pissy note in our “Feedback” section, decrying us for “how dare” we review their masterpieceshite without “permission” forthwith. . . . Nah, Double D’s not a maniacal, “Oscar bound” auteur. And his stuff isn’t shite. Oops, I’m getting pissy and off point, again. DOWN BOY! Good boy. . . .

Who da frack are these girls? That’s not Diana, Angela Eads, Kay, and Angela Scaglione . . . wait, is it? Curse you, art department!

The retail-rental slipcase reissue that I don’t remember/courtesy of 112 Video via Paul Zamerelli of VHS Collector.com.

So, anyway . . . the Dead Girls are a female death metal band . . . but their low-grade rock is neither “death” nor “metal” and reminds of the Cycle Sluts from Hell . . . remember CSFH’s freak, ‘90s metal-parody hit “I Wish You Were a Beer” . . . and its members Queen Vixen, She-Fire of Ice, Honey 1%’er, and Venus Penis Crusher . . . only the Dead Girls aren’t that good . . . where’s Gord Kirchin’s gag-studio project Piledriver (music newly featured in Girls Just Want to Have Blood) when you need ‘em?

Anyway, I digress . . . the Dead Girls come complete with the “evil aliases” of—an idea that, I bet Brian Warner, aka Marilyn Manson, swiped (just kiddin’ Manson, had to work your aliases-band into the review)—Lucy Lethal, Randy Rot (the male “pussy” of the group on drums; brother of lead singer Ms. Lethal), Bertha Beirut, Nancy Napalm and Cindi Slain. Their collective shticks, which we learn through journalistic expositional babble (ugh): Cindi Slain (aka ex-magician-illusionist Susie Striker) is into self-eviseration, Bertha Beirut likes to strangle herself on stage with the American flag, and Nancy Nepalm is the para-military “Lemmy” of the group; a “weapons expert” who adorns herself in camo and “live” ammo-bullet belts and jaggling explosives as she slings a custom “machine gun guitar” (on loan from mid-’80s Alice Cooper guitarist Kane Roberts).

Of course, “death rock” is “on the way out” (don’t tell that to King Diamond and Cronos of Venom), with their manager urging them into a more “commercial” Into the Pandemonium-to-Cold Lake Celtic Frost fuckover as he sends the girls into the “Cherry Orchards” (no pun intended, I swear!) and be the friggin’ the Go-Go’s with friggin’ Wall of Voodoo covers. Do you remember when the record executives eviscerated Motley Crue’s collective gunny sacks and went from Shout at the Devil bondage leathers to day-glow the Bangles biker pastels, stopped singing about Satan and gave us songs about girls and friggin’ motorcycles and doctors and “going home” ad nauseam, ala Poison? Yeah, like that . . . all the world needs another “Clowns,” by golly! Or maybe we’ll get lucky and Artie the manager (Brian Chin, who became a voice actor then became an animation storyboard artist) will turn them into Vixen and rock us with “Edge of a Broken Heart” or Lita Ford with “Kiss Me Deadly,” perhaps? Nah, Artie’s a dipshite who thinks touring the warzones of Russian-occupied Yugoslavia is a smart career move.

Kane Roberts; courtesy of Floyd Rose.com/Celtic Frost; Metal Addicts.com.

As was the case with the dippy-dopey Champaign, Illinois, new-wave poppers the Names not finding any success until they transformed themselves into a low-rent Kiss-cum-Phantom of the friggin’ Opera (not) “metal” band the Clowns slicing up mannequins in Terror on Tour (Am I the only one who remembers “Lonely” and the Queensryche-ish album Transcendence from the phantom half-masked Crimson Glory hailing from the metal wilds of Tampa, Florida?), the gals of the Dead Girls weren’t finding much success with their dippy-dopey, new-wave synth-droning, so they went (not) death “metal,” complete with images of death that were devised as a marketing gimmick to sell records—no one was supposed to take them seriously, so says lead lyricist, sweet Gina Verilli, aka Bertha Beirut. (Now, I know this is sexist, but I got those boilin’ hormones—actress Diana Karanikas (as Gina) is the most heart weeping, prefect mix of “hot” and “cute” to ever bless the screen. And she friggin’ quit the biz after this film. Heartbreaking. Also quitting, after doing Things II for Devine: Angela Eads as Dana/Lucy Lethal; is it just me, or does she look like the perpetual Lifetime damsel-in-distress Alexandra Paul of Christine fame? Just sayin’.)

Anyway, the (coke) mirror, that is, “image” cracks when a group of teenagers, led by Gina’s sister Brooke (sexy/creepy Ilene B. Singer in her only film role; why did everyone quit the biz after this movie) commit a mass suicide to the soundtrack of the Dead Girls. Uh, oh. Career over? Nay, it’s time to hop into the Mystery Machine, Shaggy! We need recuperate Sam Raimi-style in the not-so Norwegian Wood. (Speaking of the Beatles . . . and death rock, did you ever hear Coroner’s cover of the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” well, you just did.)

Hmmmm . . . seems someone in the Dead Girls band camp paid attention to the James Vance and Ray Belknap Judas Priest “subliminal suicides” of 1986 (which became an hour-long PBS segment, Dream Deceivers in 1992) and the three Ozzy Osbourne heavy metal suicide trials of 1985 to 1990. (Dream Deceivers is on You Tube; you can find Ozzy trial clips HERE and HERE.)

Anyway . . . yeppers, it’s more dopey rockers of the Blood Tracks and Monster Dog variety driving right into the mayhem as they head off to a secluded country retreat for rest and relaxation—and for Gina to take care of her sole-surviving sister, much to the chagrin of her bible thumpin’ aunt who cared for them after their parents died in a car crash. (That’s gratitude; Auntie takes you in, gives you room and board; you form a death metal band in spite; while little sis has metal posters on the walls.) Oh, and get this: Gina has E.S.P abilities, so she foresees all this coming . . . but still goes to the wooden retreat (fuck, not Spine, again?) . . . where, in a Friday the 13th twist, a psychotic fan—cloaked in a black cape, fedora, and skull mask (the “Scream” part) goes “Billy Eye Harper” and unfurls the Rocktober Blood, murdering managers, boyfriends, fans, and musicians in short order, using the lyrics as a “how to” guide.

Although the script indicates lyrics to songs such as “Drown Your Sorrows,” “Nail Gun Murders,” “Hangman,” “Angel of Death” and “You’ve Got to Kill Yourself,” none of the songs appear in the film, nor does the band perform on screen. So, while we’re denied the “death metal,” what sets this Devine production heads and shoulders heads above most (well, all other) SOVs is that make-up wizard Gabe Bartolos, who also worked on the Basket Case and Leprechaun film series, handles the special effects and gives us a film that is as fun as—and significantly better than, but not as revered as, the rock ‘n’ horror, “No False Metal” classics that are Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare and Shock ‘Em Dead. All in all, Devine’s go-to scribe, Steve Jarvis (Things II and a dozen other Devine productions), gives us decent film noirish twists, double crosses, dream-within-dream fuck yous, floppin’ red herrings (bitchy aunts, pussy-whipped uncles, creepy preachers in need of an eyebrow trim, Christian ex-boyfriends, mentally-challenged caretakers, Yugoslavian reporters, graduates from the Josef Mengele School of Nursing, pseudo-lesbian uber fans, beefcake bodyguards, Ms. Lethal and Mr. Rot are into incest and bondage), and you-didn’t-see-that-coming moments to keep you entertained.

Now, remember in our review of Spine, when I mentioned a fellow con-freak discussion where I “learned” that star Janus Blythe was “in the running” for the Janet-role on ABC-TV’s Three’s Company and “lost out” on the part of Lynn Starling in Rocktober Blood? Well, in a con-conversation about Dead Girls: I also “learned” that the reason you never heard from any of these actresses ever again—sans one, maybe two, Dennis Devine flicks—is that all of these actresses were actually incognito adult film stars, you know, like Michelle Bauer (Beverly Hills Vamp! Witch Academy! Evil Toons! Sorority Babes in the Slime Bowl-o-Rama!), who aka’d as adult star Pia Snow, and Linnea Quigley, who aka’d as adult star Jessie Dalton (Linnea’s out with two new ones: The Good Things Devils Do and Clownado). As with the Janus Blythe rumor: I can’t confirm these assumed adult identities, if any, of the cast of Dead Girls.

And since we’re dredging up all of these old movies, let’s talk The Redeemer (aka The Redeemer: Son of Satan, aka VHS Class Reunion Massacre; You Tube/trailer)*. You’ll recall that masked killer dispatched victims wearing . . . a skull mask under a cape and cowl (sans fedora). So, while horror connoisseurs call out Wes Craven for “pinching” Dead Girls, can we call out the Dennis Devine-Steve Jarvis-Gabe Bartolos collective borrowing the skull mask idea from Constantine S. Gochis (Cochis shot it in ’75 and released it in ’78, so it predates Carpenter’s Halloween)? Just sayin’.

And major kudos to the gang at The VHS Apocalypse over on You Tube for taking the time to rip those faux hard-rock ditties of the SOV-era and uploading them. Here’s the Dead Girls end-credits tune “You’re Gonna Kill Yourself” to enjoy.

And alright! You Tube comes through in the clutch! I haven’t watched Dead Girls in years (f-you, mold.) But I am now with a very nice, clean VHS-rip courtesy of The Burial Ground 5. (BG5’s got 1974’s Corpse Eaters? 1988’s Brainsucker? Yes! Now, that’s a motherf-in’ Halloween double-feature right there!)

And now . . . while we are on the subject of obscure tunes from obscure films—in this case, 1989’s Twister—that no one has heard or seen sidebar: Bless you, William Gibson You Tube, for VHS-ripping Crispin Glover’s “band” the Uncalled Four and their downer-rocker “Dance Etiquette (Daddy’s So Mean)” off the film’s end credits. But here’s the scene where it was featured. (Crispin, what in the hell did your daddy, Bruce, do to you? Just kiddin’. Let’s get a beer!)

The schlub writer sucking up for acting work sidebar: Mr. Devine, I act. And I have a reel. Could I be in one of your movies? (Did you think I wrote this review out of the goodness of my heart? Nope. Pure sucking up for acting work!)

* Be sure to join B&S About Movies, in conjunction with Drive-In Asylum, every Saturday Night at 8 PM U.S. EST with your hosts Bill Van Rynof Groovy Doom and Sam Panico for the Groovy Doom Saturday Night Double-Feature Watch Party as they roll two “theme” movies every week and discuss them in a live stream/chat. They recently screened The Redeemer with Beyond the Door.

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

Cry-Baby (1990)

Somehow, John Waters made the career switch of being infamous to being famous without losing any of his devoted cult audience. And while this movie wasn’t the hit that Hairspray was, to me, it’s closer to the spirit of what I love from his films.

Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker (Johnny Depp) leads a gang that includes his sister Pepper (Ricki Lake), Mona “Hatchet Face” Malnororwski (Kim McGuire), her man Milton (Darren E. Burrows) and Wanda Woodward (Traci Lords, a vision as always). Cry-Baby is able to cry one single tear while he sings, which drives the girls insane. He’s fallen for one of the squares, Allison (Amy Locane) and he’s ready to take on the world to prove his love.

Cry-Baby and Allison are both orphans. Her parents took seperate flights all the time just in case something happened. Well, it did. Both their plans crashed. Cry-Baby’s dad was the Alphabet Bomber and even thought our hero’s mother tried to stop him, they both went to the chair.

Polly Bergin (who my mother-in-law sold turtle oil for, a story which I really need to hear more about) plays Allison’s grandmother, while Cry-Baby’s guardians are played by Susan Tyrrell and Iggy Pop, which sounds like the perfect parental units.

This rockabilly Romeo and Juliet romance is enlivened by the casting that only Waters can get away with, finding roles for Troy Donahue, Mink Stole, Joe Dallesandro, Joey Heatherton, David Nelson and Patty Hearst.

While this was being filmed, Traci Lords was being investigated by the FBI. The cast and crew hid her and when she’d get upset, tell them all about the times they’d be in trouble with the law. That warms my heart.

Pale Blood (1990)

A direct-to-video film shot in Hong Kong, Pale Blood tells the story of Michael Fury (George Chakiris, West Side Story), who is a vampire out to preserve the honor of being a bloodsucker by stopping whoever is killing people and draining them of their blood. He’s helped by occult-obsessed investigator Lori (Pamela Ludwig, City Limits).

This has a cast of people who will delight those of us who rented way too many videos in 1990, including Wings Hauser and Darcy DeMoss (Vice Academy 3Hardbodies).

It was written and directed by female director V.V. Dachin Hsu, who was also the second unit director of a movie that was often discussed in my home, Phat Beach. Her co-director was Michael W. Leighton, who also made 1989’s Rush Week and wrote the Hauser and Sybil Danning-starring L.A. Bounty. He also acted in Carter Stevens’ 1979 adult film Punk Rock (which also has Robert Kerman from Cannibal Holocaust).

Speaking of punk rock, Agent Orange appears in this movie. It has plenty of on-location  images of the Sunset Strip to make you think that more of this movie was made in the U.S.

You can get this from Vinegar Syndrome.

The Dracula Dynasty (1990)

Alfredo B. Crevenna was born in Germany, but would find his way to Mexico, where he directed tons of movies between 1945 and 1995. Seriously, the guy has a catalog that rivals people like Jess Franco. Of date, I’ve seen his film The Fury of the Karate Experts, which pits Santo against, well, karate experts, as well as his movies The Whip Against SatanSanto vs. the Martian InvasionPlanet of the Female Invaders and Adventure at the Center of the Earth.

Here, he tells the story of Duke Antonio de Orloff, who starts the film as a dog before Holy Water is thrown on him. He’s led through the streets by a priest, who then stakes him and buries him. Luckily for our vampire — and this movie — he’s rescued 300 years later by Madame Kostoff (Erika Carlsson, The Devil’s Rain!DemonoidMuerte Infernal), who attempts to take the land that he is buried on.

If you can imagine a Hammer film made in 1980 in Mexico, then you understand the movie that is The Dracula Dynasty. Also, these vampires have a healthy command of the occult arts, having given their souls over to Satan. Oh yeah — in addition to wanting to bring back Orloff, Kostoff has brought Dracula himself — using the name Baron Von Helsing! — to town to drink all the victims that he’d like.

The main reason why I sought this out was that some sources list the male lead as Fabian. However, it’s not Fabian Forte, but Mexican actor Fabian Aranza. The idea that crooner Fabian was battling South of the Border blooddrinkers is way too much for my mind to bear.

As Dracula and Kostoff attempt to bring Orloff back to the land of the living on Walpurgis Night — paging Paul Naschy! — Mexican Fabian and a priest suddenly decide to turn the last part of this movie into The Exorcist.

God bless Eagle Video, whose pendant logo fills the screen. It appears that you only released the best in junk.

Rockula (1990)

Luca Bercovici was behind The Ghoulies and The Granny as well as this movie, where a 400-year-old vampire named Ralph Lavie (Dean Cameron). He lives alone with his mother Phoebe (Toni Basil!) and is suffering from a curse. It turns out that every time he falls for Mona, she’s killed on Halloween by a pirate with a giant hambone. Now, he plans to stay locked up in his room so that his heart doesn’t get broken again.

Our hero is somehow friends with Bo Diddley and survives getting hit by a car driven by Mona (Tawny Fere), who in this lifetime is a singer managed by her ex-boyfriend Stanley (Thomas Dolby!). Ralph starts a band, called Rockula, falls in love again and has to save his love.

Susan Tyrell shows up as a bartender, which should really be all the reason you need to see this movie. Well, that and the end, where an Elvis-dressed Ralph busts out of a mirror and performs. The song are pretty silly, the story is kind of dumb, but I still found myself enjoying this.

You can get this from Shout! Factory.

Days of Thunder (1990)

“I’m gonna give you an engine low to the ground . . . an extra thick oil pan to cut the wind from underneath you. It’ll give you thirty or forty more horsepower. I’m gonna give you a fuel line that’ll hold an extra gallon of gas. I’m gonna shave half an inch off you and shape you like a bullet. I’ll get you primed, painted and weighed, and you’ll be ready to go out on that racetrack. Hear me? You’re gonna be perfect.”
— Harry Hogge, crew chief and car builder

If only Harry had said, instead of, “You’re gonna be perfect,” said, “You’ll be fast and furious.”

What might have been . . .

Mock poster by R.D Francis/F&F logo property of Universal/typeface overlay via Pic Font

Tom Cruise gets respect in this neck of the Allegheny woods. He wanted to be the next Paul Newman. He wanted to become Steve McQueen. And unlike Quentin Tarantino’s Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, by golly, Tom Cruise became our generation’s Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. And, as with his idols—car racing enthusiasts who wanted to make their own race car movies—that kid adorned in a pair of Wayfarers that slid across the floor in his socks and into our hearts, wanted to run with the fast and the furious: he wanted to make his own version of Winning and Le Mans. And, and by golly, he did it.

Luckily, for the ticketing-going masses, Tom Cruise reined his “need for speed” (of the four-wheeled variety, anyway) until he broke through and became an official, A-List movie star. For if Cruise would have followed up Risky Business or (to keep it in a “sports” context) All the Right Moves—during the period when he was developing his career and not choosing roles but being cast in roles, like the burgeoning careers of James Caan and James Garner—with a race car flick, he would have been cast in the likes of the lower-budgeted road rallies that were Red Line 7000 and Grand Prix.

And Cruise’s racing endeavors could have been worse.

What if Cruise made a racing flick directly after his first leading man role in Losin’ It (remember in 1983: he made a movie with Shelley Long and Jackie Earle Haley)? We would have gotten the process-shot, rubber burning fiestas that were Fabian and Frankie Avalon’s Fireball 500, The Wild Racers, and Thunder Alley. And thank the celluloid gods of the analog ethers that Cruise didn’t aspire to be a “double threat” and a be singer—and only lip-synched to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll”—or we would have ended up with Elvis Presley’s process-shot racing n’ singing extravaganzas Viva Las Vegas, Spinout, and Speedway. (Oh, man. What if Eddie Murphy—considering his skills as a singer and Elvis mimic—did a remake of Richard Pryor’s 1977 NASCAR race car flick, Greased Lightning?)

“We gotta win this race.”

What might have been . . .

When reflecting on how Cruise turned Mission: Impossible into a franchise: If The Fast and the Furious—the franchise we’re paying tribute to this week—had been developed at Paramount Pictures instead of Universal Studios, would we have laid down our coin for Tom Cruise as an illegal road racer?

And if not that ticket, would we have bought a ticket to see him as Frankenstein?

No, not the Universal monster one. The New World Studios one: Tom Cruise optioned Roger Corman to set up a big-budgeted remake of 1975’s Death Race 2000 at Paramount. Sadly, amid scripting problems and the usual executorial testosterone splashing, the deal fell apart and ended up on the Universal lot. Then end result: Instead of (finally!) a dark, brooding tale about a futuristic transcontinental road race—one that jettisoned Paul Bartel’s hokey-satire of the original—that adhered to the serious, sociopolitical insights of Ib Melchoir’s short story . . . we ended up with a bunch of check-the-screenwriting-boxes trope-prisoners racing around in a circle on an island. And who in the hell let Joan Allen on Terminal Island?

. . . And now the Death Race franchise is four films deep—with a different “Frank” (and actors as Frank) for each subsequent (direct-to-video) film that carries an addendum that the film is a prequel, sidequal, etc. to the first film (and that the first film was actually “prequel,” ugh, to the ’75 original, argh!), as it races further and further and further away from Melchoir’s initial vision. The end result—at least for those of us weaned on the video fringes off the teats of Norman Jewison and Roger Corman: Death Race ‘08 was Rollerball ’02 all over again. Neither were Lays emulsified-potato chips like their superior forefathers: once was enough. And thank the analog lords that the Rollerball reboot wasn’t turned into a direct-to-video franchise. (Can you believe that director John McTiernan went to federal prison for making a false statement to an FBI investigator over illegally wiretapping Rollerball’s producers? He went to prison for Rollerball?)

And that brings us back to the film we’re supposed to be reviewing: Days of Thunder. (I know, Sam. I know. At least there won’t be a Seinfeld reference.)

Come, on now. You’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it. (Yes, even you: the underground, VHS-loving indie purveyor who Facebook-hangs with the B&S About Movies crew on Saturday Nights (at 8 P.M on Groovy Doom: shameless plug) to watch double features about worms and Linda Blair being abused.) And even if you didn’t hit the multiplex, you caught Cruise’s race epic via one of Ted Turner’s endless TNT replays as you couch-surfed and channel-grazed on a lazy, Cheetos-dusted Sunday afternoon. And, if you’re financially well-to-do, you watched Days of Thunder on yer fancy, upper-tiered Showtime or HBO subscriptions—as you couch-surfed and channel-grazed on a lazy, Doritos-crumbed Sunday afternoon. So don’t deny it: you embraced the Cruise like the mainstream-everybody else.

While this Tony Scott-directed and Tom Cruise-produced racing epic is vastly superior to the Caan and Garner romps and the bigger-budgeted Newman and McQueen films in all of its related film disciplines, we basically have the same film: a spunky racer with talent, but too much attitude, aspires for NASCAR fame—and finds romance and competition on the asphalted, gladiatorial oval. (For isn’t this all just Charlton Heston in Ben Hur with cars instead of horse-drawn chariots?)

So, speaking of testosterone splashing: Producers Don Simpson (wrote Aloha, Bobby and Rose, Cannonball) and Jerry Bruckheimer (The Rock, Bad Boys) along with director Tony Scott (Tarantino’s True Romance), and sometimes screenwriter Robert Towne, all went Alpha-male over how to set up shots. Fully-built and ready-to-roll sets were torn down and rebuilt because they “weren’t right.” The hormone and anabolic steroid-stew flowed so deep that the long-idling (sorry) crew members accumulated enough overtime pay to go on vacation for a full four months after filming was completed.

What was the end result?

Crtics pounced on the film for its stock plot, two-dimensional characters, and poorly written dialogue and called it out for being a Top Gun clone, sans planes and sky and lots of cars and asphalt. Roger Ebert, while giving the film three out of four stars, still took the film to task, calling it the Tom Cruise Picture, since it resembled the “10 Point Formula” employed in his previous films The Color of Money and Cocktail (it’s actually “9 Points,” but he came to revise it to include the “Dying Friend” trope). Mind you now, we are talking about Robert Towne here: the guy who wrote The Last Detail, Marathon Man, and friggin’ Chinatown. There’s whole chapters in screenwriting books dedicated to Towne’s brilliance. That’s Ebert for you: he takes no prisoners. (Sigh, I miss you Gene and Roger: you and Dr. Who and The Star Hustler made PBS worthwhile.)

And what did “The Q” think: “Days of Thunder is the movie Grand Prix and Le Mans should have been . . . it has the fun of those early AIP movies.”

And will we ever get a Quentin Tarantino racing epic starring a back-on-top Rick Dalton? We wait with Cheetos-stench bated breath.

Uh, oh.

Sorry, Sam. Actress Kathleen McClellan, aka “Good Naked, Bad Naked” girl from Seinfeld (“The Apology”) kissed Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder. (In the “winner’s circle,” I think; she was once the Skyy Vodka Girl <ahem>, Sam.)

It always comes back to Seinfeld. And Vodka-spiked movie-theme drinks. One Thunder Cruise Lemon Squeeze, comin’ up!

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

Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean (1990)

When I think of Leona Helmsley, who I remember from WOR commercials, I think of Suzanne Pleshette as her. This film is from that near-exploration sub-genre of made-for-TV films: the ripped from the headlines takedown of the fallen.

Somehow, they talked Lloyd Bridges into being in this movie. Don’t ask me how, but man, when he’s all out of it and can barely shave? Magic.

Director Richard Michaels did 55 episodes of Bewitched, which seems to me like the perfect start for a career of making TV movies just like this. It’s filled with so much sleaze

Somehow, no one on Letterboxd has reviewed this except me. This either makes me happy or makes me realize that I will watch anything and everything, then try and tell an uncaring world how the movies make me feel.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Terminal City Ricochet (1990)

Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedy’s goes Repo Man in this post-apoc sci-fi romp that reminds of Death Race 2000‘s political-parody intrigue — and it’s backed by the music of DOA, Keith LeBlanc, and Nomeansno, along with Biafra himself fronting DOA and Nomeansno for a pair of tunes.

Oi! I’m sold! Hey, ho! Let’s go!

Canadian acting mainstay Peter Breck (appeared in a wide array of U.S cop and western dramas in the ’60s and ’70, as well as starring as Nick Barclay in ABC-TV’s The Big Valley; you’ve also seen Breck in 1958’s Thunder Road, 1960’s The Beatniks, and 1963’s Shock Corridor by Samuel Fuller) stars as Ross Glimore, a media entrepreneur who serves as the corrupt, evil mayor of Terminal City, a decaying dystopia that manipulates the masses through television — and bans things such as rock & roll and meat — that renders the citizens addicted to consumerism that financially benefits the government.

When Alex Stevens, a punk-youth newspaper delivery boy, witnesses Glimore commit a hit-and-run accident, Glimore dispatches Bruce Coddle (Biafra, in a pisser of a role), a maniacal agent of Terminal City’s Social Peace Enforcement Unit, and his lackeys (DOA’s Joe Keithley and pro-wrestling legend Gene Kiniski) to silence Stevens until after Glimore steals yet another election.

Terminal City Ricochet was never officially available on VHS and rarely shown outside of its native Canadian TV broadcasts, along with an occasional U.S film festival or art house showing hosted by Biafra himself. Alas, there’s no freebie uploads or PPV streams online — you can, however, listen to the soundtrack on You Tube. (I rented a bootleg rip in the early ’90s from a local comic book store that carried VHS obscurities, such as the previously reviewed Hangin’ Out starring Nena; I also picked up the 1993 documentary Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies and Toshiharu Ikeda’s Evil Dead Trap around the same time.)

Alternative Tentacles first issued the film to DVD in 2010, but as of April 2020, they now offer the film and soundtrack as a DVD/CD combo at the reasonable price of $12.00 via their website. If you loved Allan Arkush’s Get Crazy, Alex Cox’s Repo Man, Penelope Spheeris’s Suburbia, Michael Nesmith’s Tapeheads, and Allan Moyle’s Times Square, then you’ll dig the low-budget indie shenanigans of Terminal City Ricochet.

Get this . . . the scribe behind this, Phil Savath, also wrote the David Cronenberg drag-racing epic Fast Company and . . . the sci-fi horror musical Big Meat Eater. Yeah, really. All this, and the Dead Kennedys, too.

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

Class of 1999 (1990)

The beginning of this movie takes on an Escape from New York feel, informing the audience that violence in American high schools is out of control. With most major cities being controlled by gangs, schools have shut down or become basically military camps.

Yes, Class of 1999 does something few movies have ever done. It takes a mostly realistic first movie and then goes completely off the rails, placing the sequel in a near-post apocalyptic future.

Seattle’s Kennedy High School is in the middle of a free fire zone, a place that the police don’t dare to intervene. So the Department of Education Defense (D.E.D.) and MegaTech head Dr. Bob Forrest (Stacy Keach, magnificent) have decided to use the school to test their new breed of teachers: Coach Bryles, Mr. Hardin and Ms. Connors (Pam Grier!). With delinquents being allowed back into the school, these android teachers are fully prepared and willing to use deadly force to keep horseplay to a minimum.

This is the story that hero Cody Culp (Bradley Gregg, Fire In the Sky) must conquer. Or at least survive. His love interest is played by Traci Lind, who was also in Fright Night Part 2. She retired from acting at a young age and made claims that was abused by her ex-boyfriend Dodi Fayed. Yes, the same man who died with Princess Di.

Between the Razorheads and Blackhearts gang war, robotic teachers unleashing flamethrowers and trying to protect his old friends, Cody has a lot of work on his hands. I mean, his kid brother Angel (Joshua John Miller, Homer from Near Dark) gets killed and there’s a letter in blood written on his trademark basketball.

Every single person in this movie is ridiculous and I say that in absolutely the kindest way. This movie is entertaining from the moment it starts. Punk rock future gang wars? A Terminator version of Pam Grier? Malcolm McDowell as a school principal? An albino mad scientist Stacy Keach? Yes. This movie has that and so much more.

You can watch this on Tubi.