American giallo? Why, it seems like a few years ago, we did an entire week of those movies. Well, we missed this one, directed by Ken Stein (who only directed one other movie, Mad Dog Coll) and written by Ray Cunneff (who wrote a movie called A State of Emergency about nuclear testing and visions of the Blessed Mother, so looks like I’ll be tracking that one down).
Welcome to a Los Angeles where it’s always raining, neon is everywhere, all you can hear and sax solos and Michael Chiklis wears a different baseball hat in every scene. Ray Sharkey (Du-beat-e-o in Du-beat-e-o and, of course, Wiseguy) is the burned out cop, David Beecroft (Creepshow 2) is the FBI agent and a scene where Sharkey and his police chief share a bottle of Wild Turkey in a bathroom stall.
In the midst of all this darkness and swearing and rampant sex — my favorite IMDB review of this basically takes a puritanical take on all this filth, which made me want to watch it over again — is a great looking film thanks to cinematographer Janusz Kamiński. What did the man who shot Schindler’s List have to do with this grubby movie? Well, he got his start shooting stuff like The Terror Within II, Grim Prarie Tales and even Cool As Ice — let that set in, two years before he won an Oscar, Kamiński was filming Vanilla Ice — before Steven Spielberg started using him.
Maria Ford plays an exotic dancer who gets killed. You’ll recognize her as she’s been in a ton of things — everything from Slumber Party Massacre III and Deathstalker IV: Match of Titans to the remake of The Wasp Woman, Night Calls: The Movie, Part 2 and kid movies like Beethoven’s Big Break and Casper Meets Wendy.
This really starts like a giallo, as The Rain Killer — named for his m.o. of killing women in the pouring rain — knifes three women in under five minutes while wearing a black overcoat, leather gloves and a hat. Sadly, this is an American film, so there are times where it decides to tell a story that somewhat makes sense. It turns out that all of the victims are members of a support group called The Sewing Circle and the FBI agent just so happens to be divorcing one of its members, his wife Adele (Tania Coleridge, who was in George Michael’s “Father Figure” video and played the drill model in Van Halen’s video for “Poundcake”). So you know — Sharkey hooks up with her because, well, that’s how movies work.
For a movie that is so influenced by giallo, isn’t it odd that Argento’s Trauma uses the same m.o.* — killer who murders in the rain — three years later?
Monster Heaven: Ghost Hero has a lot going on. First off, it’s about a virtual reality company that has learned how to make software that can be physically handled, which means that of course, they’ve already made a sexual application because all technology is sexuality-based (which is why VHS beat beta and streaming video exists). Then it’s about the building that the tech company is in, which sits above an ancient and sacred land, with spirits and monsters that have existed in harmony with the company for decades (what are they, Nintendo and did they once make playing cards?). And then there’s the new owner that could care less when someone tells him that that stone gargoyle up front should never get virgin blood on it.
Oh yeah and there’s also a punk band called Monster Heaven who claim that they are all monsters from Japan’s past, including a human raccoon, a cat girl and a dude with four arms and six eyes.
The company’s fired Operations Manager also comes back, kills a virgin with a sword, gets that blood everywhere and, you knew it, because a gigantic monstrous samurai that can only be defeated by a VR sexy girl.
If you’re wondering, “How can all this insanity be in one movie?” The answer is that it was co-written (along with Masato Harada) and directed by Macoto Tezuka, who made Legend of the Stardust Brothers, one of the oddest and most wonderful movies I’ve ever watched.
This has way too many ideas, which is how I like my movies. Tezuka also made Monster Heaven, an anthology film about yokai, a few years before this. I’ll be hunting that one down now! You can watch it on YouTube.
Do you have a hankering for a flick starring an ex-Angel helmed by a director who gave us a 1977 Dracula adaptation starring Louis Jordan (Swamp Thing (1982) as the Count? Oh, and you may remember him for Shadey (1985), an ’80s rental favorite about a clairvoyant wanted by the Feds as result of his ability to impress his premonitions on photographic film.
Acclaimed British and BBC-TV director Philip Saville was hired by NBC-TV and given a cast headed by Jeffrey DeMunn (yes, who you currently know for his work on Billions and The Walking Dead) and Cheryl Ladd — and a plane load of you-don’t-know-their-name familiar TV series guest stars.
The hijack twist: Our disgruntled hijacker isn’t out for money. He wants to stop abortions and, to that end, he’ll save the children if he kills a U.S. Senator — with outspoken opinions on abortion — on the flight. The plan’s glitch: the Senator missed the flight. And when the bomb is discovered by Cheryl’s pilot husband, he decides to make an emergency landing — in a severe thunderstorm. As you can see from the TV ad below, the flight crashes and kills almost everyone on board. And Cheryl — who, despite ill feelings towards her husband for leaving her as result of her two miscarriages — fights to clear her husband’s name.
As with most airliner disasters of the TV Movie variety, the critics gave this telefilm a shrug as result of its overuse of mismatched, stock aerial footage. And don’t be duped by the DVD represses that proclaim the film is “based on true events.” It’s a complete work of fiction that later “became true” in 1996 when a Miami-based ValuJet DC-9 — like the one in the film — crashed in the Florida Everglades as result of an in-flight fire ignited by illegal, flammable cargo — similar to the plotting of the film.
Editor’s Desk: This review originally ran on October 18, 2019, as part of our 2019 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge. We’ve brought it back for John Doe Week.
By 1988, underground “college rock” bands began to bubble under the mainstream and crossed over onto mainstream AOR stations still waste deep in the likes of the hair metal bands Winger, Slaughter, and Poison. And while the audio nimrods didn’t play the newly “major label signed” Husker Du (to Warner Bros.) and The Replacements (Sire), and gave record-industry guru David Geffen of Asylum Records (home of classic rock mainstays, the Eagles) the snub when his new label, DGC, signed New York noise-merchants, Sonic Youth, those spandex bastions did begin to “experiment” with the “more commercial” likes of the Cure, Jane’s Addiction, and Love and Rockets. Yeah, they spun Alice in Chains, but were still not quite ready to pluck Soundgarden from Seattledom.
Then, slowly, while those stations still bowed to the dynasties built by Led Zeppelin and Hendrix, you began to hear less Winger and more of the “false grunge” of Candlebox, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, and (B&S Movies’ proprietor Sam’s favorite bands) Creed and Bush. Then, instead of Slaughter ad nauseam, you heard a little trio out of Seattle ad nauseam—and overnight America became a nation of coffee houses with hep-baristas adorned in $50 JC Penny designer flannel shirts and $150 Macy’s faux Doc Martins.
1991: The Year Punk Broke (full movie/Daily Motion), indeed. Flux Capacitor me to 1985, Doc Brown. I need to be sedated, Joey.
I started my radio career in the early breakers of the Seattle new-wave, working at a small, technically inept, stodgy and dying non-commercial FM that somehow, we, the staffers, convinced our clueless “L7” bosses to give an all-“alternative” format a try and dare rock ‘n’ roll lovers—not interested in blues babbling, folk hootenannies, jazz noodling, plunked banjos, and book reviews—to tune into our audio graveyard left of the dial. And it worked.
And thanks to an indifferent “voice of a generation” who blew his brains out a few years later, the two battling classic (ass-ic) rock stations in town became “rock alternative” outlets overnight and decided the alt-nation wanted to hear the (bane of my existence) Crash Test Dummies and Spin Doctors, and some chick named Torn Anus, I mean, Tori Amos, caterwauling like humping cats on a hot summer night about girls and corkflakes.
So, the tales of WXOX 90.6 Providence, Rhode Island, in the frames of A Matter of Degrees are near and dear to this DJ’s heart. The new film through 20th Century Fox’s specialty arm, Fox Lorber (Independent Magazinearticle), along with its accompanying soundtrack on Atlantic (the track-listing read like the playlist of one of my airshifts), was heavily promoted in all of the alt-rock mags of the day: Alternative Press, B-Side, CMJ, and Option (good reads!). It was probably even in the alt-section of the mainstream radio trades The Hard Report, FMQB, and Rockpool; it’s been so long, I can’t recall.
The staff of my radio station was stoked. The film was directed by W.T Morgan, who directed the alt-essential concert doc, X—The Unheard Music, and X’s John Doe was starring. Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson from the B-52s had roles as DJs alongside Doe, and North Carolina’s hottest college-rock band, Fetchin’ Bones, who just got bumped up to Capitol Records, had a role.
And we were eventually crushed. What we thought was going to be a 1990 college rock radio version of the 1978 progressive rock radio chronicle FM—ended up being Friends: The College Campus Years. Then, we got alt-fucked again, by Cameron Crowe, with Friends: The First Year out of College, aka Singles (1993). Yeah, we got more “radio” with Airheads (1994)—but got more caterwauling cats in the “false grunge” screeches of 4 Non Blondes instead of Throwing Muses and the Breeders. At least Christian Slater’s alt-rock pirate in Pump Up the Volume (1990) cleaned out our Eustachian tubes. And I don’t need any Reality Bites (1994) from Lisa Loeb, either.
Well, at the time, courtesy of our Husker Du and Sonic Youth snobbishness, A Matter of Degrees seemed like a mainstream boondoggle produced by the same “suits” who decided to program songs about frolicking princes, chicks into cornflakes, and creepy, long-haired baritone Dean Martins humming stupid Canadian shite that was giving us A Flock of Seagulls when we wanted the Ramones. But as the VHS box patinas and the tape forecasts snow, I have come to love A Matter of Degrees—and its VHS and CD are a prized part of my collection because: it’s a time capsule that I wished never dissolved into the past.
A Matter of Degrees, written by Brown University alumni Jack Mason and Randall Poster, we come to find out, wasn’t about a radio station: the radio station served as a backdrop-linking device to a clever, ‘90s version The Graduate (1967), only with The Lemonheads (who ironically cut a cover of “Mrs. Robinson” for an early ‘90’s DVD reissue of the Dustin Hoffman hit) instead of Simon and Garfunkel backing the life-undecided, college campus hippiedom tales of Maxwell Glass (Ayre Gross; House II, Minority Report).
For Max, Providence, Rhode Island, isn’t a place: it’s a state of mind and that “mind” has been rattled by his being accepted into law school (he applied only to the hardest schools so he’d be rejected; he gets accepted to Columbia, the hardest of them all). Then he discovers his cherished campus radio station, which employs his friends Welles Dennard (the incredible Wendell Pierce; USA Network’s Suits, HBO’s The Wire, NBC’s Chicago P.D, Nicolas Cage’s It Could Happen to You) and Scuzz (the amazing-in-his-small-role Tom Gilroy; went onto work with R.E.M’s Michael Stipe and taught at Columbia University) is going to be torn down to make way for a research laboratory backed by a corporation that services the military. And when the station is rebuilt: the free-form format is out.
So, with an Abbie Hoffman-tenacity augmented with coursework titled “Interdisciplinary Approaches to Ethnicity,” Max is going to save the radio station—with arguments invoking the name of infamous ‘80s insider trader Ivan Boesky as a verb: Max speaks ill of the boyfriend of his feisty, Jerry and Elaine-styled best friend, Kate Blum (Judith Hoag; April O’Neill in Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles, pick a U.S TV series), who runs the radio station: “[Roger] Ivan Boeskied it for them.” Not even their college-dropout/car mechanic roommate, Zeno Stefanos (Tom Sizemore; True Romance, Natural Born Killers, Zyzzyx Road), who has a propensity to lug car bumpers through the house and make sandwiches by slapping undiluted Campbell’s pea soup between two piece of white bread, can’t get Max off his disillusioned, high sparklehorse: “Remember, women and animals hold up two-thirds of the sky,” Zeno zens. (Now I had my share of Ramdan noodles and peanut butter sandwiches for dinner back in the day, but raw soup sandwiches? I’m glad I didn’t get accepted into Brown.)
“Hey, whatever happened to John Doe? I thought he was in the movie?”
Doe is Peter Downs, the founder of the station who “blew five years in San Francisco recycling the hits like a goddamned monkey” (been there, done that) and returned to his job as the program director of WXOX because, “this is paradise.” Oh, and Peter has a bitch-be-crazy girlfriend, Isabella Allen (Christina Haag), who has Max’s nose wide open. (See what I mean about the Friends-relationship dithering and not enough radio station? Get the Aniston out of here!) In the end, the station and sounds of “Peter Downs and WXOX 90.6 Providence” that Max man-love croons from a shark-toyed bubble bath to a toilet-perched Kate, serves as a plot-character linking device (just like Taj Mahal’s Dix Mayal on WKOK in Outside Ozona).
A Matter of Degrees is a case of “you had to be there.” If you never experienced college campus life and being enamored by the left-of-the-dial “hits” crackling over the airwaves of its tin-can station or a local non-com, you’ll have a lukewarm response to the film. The fun Mason and Poster-penned script reminds me of The Graduate; however, it won’t be in the same classic league as The Graduate when it bounces off your retinas. Your gray matter will populate it as a Singles rip-off—only this film came first. It is, in fact, the first Gen-X, well “grunge,” film in our $5.00 cup-of-coffee flannelled landscape (and you can visit with those films in our “Exploring: 50 Gen-X Grunge Films of the Alt-Rock ’90s” overview.).
Chalk it up to nostalgia fogging my sight; with eyes that see all of my friends from the grunge epoch as I flashback to my views from the glass booth (as I cracked open a new album called Bleach by some band called Nirvana) in the spot-on-miscreant Scuzz, the cucumber-cool Welles, and the rest of the WXOX satellites.
“Rock and roll can save you!” urges Peter Downs.
It did, Peter. More than you will ever know.
Where to get and how to hear the CD soundtrack and see the VHS movie:
While A Matter of Degrees tanked as a theatrical feature (the Sundance crowd shrugged), it blossomed on the international home video marketplace, carrying the titles of Louco Por Rock (Crazy for Rock, Brazil), A tutto rock (Too All, Rock Italy), and in Poland, Radio Maxa (Maximum Radio), or, more accurately, “Radio to the Max.”
As with most of the failed films in the pre-DVD era unceremoniously dumped to VHS, A Matter of Degrees has never been released on DVD—not officially nor as a grey market DVD-R—and there are no online VHS rips. There are no CD rips (of the non-vinyl) soundtrack, but you can listen to this re-creation of the soundtrack I patched together on You Tube. You can also see the soundtrack’s liner notes at Discogs. Multiple copies of the CD soundtrack, the even rarer cassette version, and the VHS can be found on numerous seller sites, eBay in particular. Not finding it won’t be a problem.
Caveat Emptor: John Doe’s incredible theme song for the film, “A Matter of Degrees,” which appears on his debut solo album, Meet Joe Doe (1990; DGC) and the promotional EP single, A Matter of Degrees, does not appear on the soundtrack, which is baffling, considering he’s one of the leads of the film. You can watch John Doe perform the single on the study-helper-for-the-late-night college crowd (good times): The Late Show with David Letterman (there is just something “off” seeing John Doe as a “traditional” lead singer clutching a mic-stand and not wearing a bass). Let the video play through to watch David Letterman’s 1983 clueless-awkward interview with X (really, Dave: alphabet jokes?) as they promote “Breathless,” the soundtrack single to the Richard Geer remake of Francois Truffaut’s film (1960) of the same name. X also covered the ‘60s hit “Wild Thing” for Major League (1989).
As with John Doe: Fetchin’ Bones are in the film—performing their MTV 120 Minutes hit, “Love Crushing,” for a “Save WXOX Benefit” (where John F. Kennedy, Jr. shows up and serenades a girl with an acoustic guitar)—but their song doesn’t appear on the soundtrack. Go figure. And the film is dedicated to D.Boon (backed by Doe’s title-cut song in the film only), the late guitarist-singer of the Minutemen. Why does the post-D.Boon outgrowth of the Minutemen, Firehose, appear on the CD soundtrack, and the Minutemen do not? Double go figure. And don’t bother (poi-dog) pondering how the B-52s got soundtrack skunked. Seriously, this film needed to pull a Dazed and Confused (1993) and release an “Even more . . .” Volume 2 to contain all the great “college rock” in the film. (Oh, hey Kris Erikson, Uncle Tupelo made it onto the soundtrack!)
You can also learn more about Randall Poster’s success as a music supervisor, the art behind movie soundtracks, and his longtime collaborations with director Wes Anderson (2014’s Grand Budapest Hotel) courtesy of these print interviews conducted by WIPO Radio, The AVClub and New Music Express. As it seems there will never be a DVD restoration replete with a commentary track, these interviews are the only way to gain insights on how A Matter of Degrees was and came to be made. (Jim Dunbar, who portrayed DJ Frank Dell, also amassed over 60 credits as a music supervisor, some in the company of Poster.)
In Poster’s post-1990 interview with the alternative music trade NME—New Music Express, he had this say on why he gave up on screenwriting and producing to work exclusively as a music supervisor on films (2012’s Skyfall, 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street; he won a 2011 Grammy for “Best Compilation Soundtrack” for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire):
“I was always a big music lover, a record collector and an avid movie fan. I got through university studying English Literature, and I found myself without any professional direction. I wrote a screenplay with a friend of mine [Jack Mason] about a college radio station. We did a lot of new songs for it, and we did a record and I just felt that that was really what I wanted to focus on. I wanted to work with great directors, so I figured if I made music my focus, and that would enable me to do [work with great directors; like Wes Anderson].”
Poster also tells us that his college radio love letter was not only filmed in Providence: much of it was shot at Brown University. Poster and Mason were inspired by the college’s campus radio station, WBRU, changeover from a free-form to commercial format in 1985. They wrote the screenplay after graduation. It took them five years, but they got it made. And that’s awesome.
How beloved is A Matter of Degrees? This post at the Radio Survivor blog, written by fellow AMOD fan, Jennifer Waits, proves this cherished time capsule of ‘80s college radio has fans that want, and need, a DVD release of the movie (hint to Kino Lorber!).
Then there’s new fans—of this almost 30 year old movie—like General Manager Sharon Scott of the streaming-community station Art x FM. When she put the new, low-powered community FM (LPFM) outlet in Louisville on the air, she was granted the WXOX-LP call letters. According to Sharon, she didn’t know about A Matter of Degrees or its fictional radio station until well after the station received the call letters. Then, she spotted the movie’s promotional sticker on the door at WRFL and was taken aback that it was the same call letters she had chosen.
It looks like Louisville has found its audio salvation! “WXOX Louisville can save you!”
You can learn more about the new WXOX and Sharon Scott’s fight to save WRVU-FM, Vanderbilt College’s radio station, after students lost access to its terrestrial signal. The Radio Survivor article also provides links to learn more about the history of Brown University’s WBRU.
Peter Downs was right: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Can Save You!”
(And don’t believe the Hype! (1996; full movie/TubiTV) they’re selling!)
About the Author:You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.
A peaceful California town goes bonkers when a punk gang kills the owner of a diner who was just defending his daughter. Now, she and the entire town want revenge, but they’ve taken her hostage, leading to a battle of redneck vs. punks.
If you’re like me and you love movie punks who are the furthest thing from actual punk rockers, then good news. Punk Vacation is ready to give you the goods.
Director Stanley Lewis — not his real name — was a graduate from the American Film Institute who didn’t want his career tainted by this film. Come on, man. There are plenty of art films that have disappeared since 1990 and I’m not writing about any of those movies.
Like I said, the main issue is that the punks are anything but. They’re in their thirties and more of a biker gang from a 1960’s message movie than a bunch of guys who hang out at crust bars. Are they the heroes? Or are the horrible people in the town who we should cheer for? Or should we be all for the cop who is pretty bad at his job? I can’t tell.
None of the punks on this art are in the movie, in case you’re wondering. That doesn’t mean this is a bad movie. It just feels like the kind of movie that’s better for having John Rambo or Thunder or Indio or Billy Jack come to town than an all over place gang who sit on rocks and discuss the merits of stewardess school versus computer repair.
Writer and director Damian Lee also did Ski School, which I assume preps you for making science fiction action movies starring two of Arnold’s pals, Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Sven-Ole Thorsen. Plus, best of all — no, actually best doesn’t apply here — Jim Belushi shows up.
Abraxas (Ventura) and Secundus (Thorsen) are Space Cops called Finders who live for thousands of years and use an Answer Box to scan and communicate in the field. It’s also a weapon, as if a subject doesn’t contain the Anti-Life Equation, they are disintegrated.
If you just read that and got angry that Jack Kirby’s concepts were ripped off for this movie, good news. For me, at least. Because I thought I was going crazy.
Secundus goes bad, because he wants to live forever and needs to figure out that Anti-Life Equation to do so. His plan? Knock up the first woman he finds by rubbing his hand over her belly. That woman is Sonia Murray (Marjorie Bransfield, who was married to Belushi at the time, so that explains that) and she has a baby named Tommy in seconds. But Tommy is going to grow up to be the Culminator and solve that equation. Abraxas is supposed to kill the child and the mother, but he’s too nice and let’s her live. Her parents get mad that she had a baby and toss her out into the streets, except that you know, she somehow got pregnant and had the child in the very same day.
Five years later, Tommy is a mute child with superpowers. Well, his one power is the ability to make bullies piss their pants. So I guess that’s a power. And his principal at school is Jim Belushi, who brings back his role of Rick Latimer because we all demanded that. You know, I give Jim a lot of guff and the dude voted for Obama and has a pop-up cannabis shop, so maybe he’s not as bad as I’ve been led to believe.
What is bad is Abraxas, a movie that is kinda sorta The Terminator with no time travel. You can watch it for free on Amazon Prime and Tubi. Or, if you need some help, the Rifftrax version is also on Amazon Prime and Tubi, too.
From Terminal City Ricochet with Jello Biafra to Beverly Hills, 90210 with Luke Perry? From the science fiction/horror musical Big Meat Eater featuring the soft-shoe of “Baghdad Boogie” to the historical drama Samuel Lount? Drag racing through the eyes of David Cronenberg? Children’s programming?
Welcome to the eclectic career of Phil Savath.
Phil Savath, born December 28, 1946, was an American-born Canadian film and television writer and producer. He was most noted as a two-time Genie Award nominee for Best Screenplay, with nominations for Original Screenplay at the 4th Genie Awards in 1983 for Big Meat Eater and Adapted Screenplay at the 10th Genie Awards in 1989 for The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick. (The Genies are the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television’s equivalent of the Oscars.)
Savath started his career in television in the late ‘70s as the co-creator and star of the CBC Television children’s comedy series Homemade TV and Range Ryder and the Calgary Kid, and then made his theatrical debut with David Cronenberg’s Fast Company.
Fans of FOX-TV’s Beverly Hills, 90210 know him for the dozen episodes he wrote for that post-Brat Back series, as well as the oft-aired HBO favorite, The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick, which was turned into a short-lived TV series, Max Glick. He also wrote the Canadian hockey drama Net Worth (1995) and developed the Canadian TV series African Skies (1992) about a bi-racial teen friendship in post-Apartheid South Africa. As a producer, before his death in 2004, he produced the late ‘90s series These Arms of Mine, along with the TV Movies White Lies, Little Criminals, and Liar, Liar: Between Father and Daughter.
The influence of this Phil Savath-penned script on the career of David Cronenberg can’t be denied.
The first of Cronenberg’s feature films for which Cronenberg did not originate the screenplay, he was hired by the producers to direct. It was on Fast Company that Cronenberg developed long-time working relationships with cinematographer Mark Irwin, art director Carol Spier, sound editor Bryan Day, and film editor Ronald Sanders — each worked on Cronenberg’s later films. Actor Nicholas Campbell, who plays William Smith’s young protégé, also went on to appear in Cronenberg’s The Brood, The Dead Zone, and Naked Lunch. Sadly, Fast Company also serves as final release for Claudia Jennings (‘Gator Bait), who died in a car wreck several months after this drag racing drama’s release.
Take one part Ed Wood’s Plan Nine from Outer Space, one part Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul, and one part Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show and vigorously shake in your “intentionally bad cult films” tumbler, and serve: We’ve got a mad butcher, a murdered mayor, and aliens who reanimate the mayor to assist in the harvesting of a rare, radioactive fuel deposit beneath the butcher shop. Oh, and there’s song and dance numbers (which you can enjoy during our intermission).
And those Great White Northeners “got it,” since Phil Savath and his co-writers Laurence Keane and Chris Windsor received Canada’s Oscar equivalent — a Genie Awards’ nod — for Best Original Screenplay in 1983. While Windsor never made another film, Keane and Savath continued onward and upward . . . and what could Phil possibly write as a follow-up feature? It’s not what you’d think.
Intermission! Courtesy of the Phil Savath-penned “Baghdad Boogie.”
Back to the show!
Movie 3: Samuel Lount (1985)
The man who gave us Big Meat Eater . . . wrote this? He did.
A historical drama set during the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, the film stars very familiar Canadian TV and film character actor R. H. Thomson (I remember him from the cable-played Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper and The Terry Fox Story, as well as lots of American TV series) as Samuel Lount, an organizer of the rebellion who was ultimately convicted of treason and executed in 1838.
Receiving a limited theatrical run before debuting on Canadian television, it made its U.S debut on HBO and Showtime. While not winning any awards, it received five 7th Genie Awards’ nods for Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Costuming, Best Editing, and Best Sound Editing.
Yes, this powerful, fact-based drama is — in fact — from the pen of the man who gave us a film backed by a soundtrack performed by Alternative Tentancles bands. Yes, that’s right. Phil Savath worked with Jello Biafra. But Phil wrote “Baghdad Boogie” and incorporated “Heat Seeking Missile,” a song that would give Spinal Tap pause, into a movie — so what’s really shocking you at this point?
So, Phil did a pretty good job with the sci-fi horror parody Big Meat Eater, so he took a crack at parodying the post-apoc sci-fi craze of the ’80s with this dystopian-political intrique romp. It’s the story of a media entrepreneur who weasels his way into the mayorship of Terminal City and manipulates the populace through television, with their ensuing addictions to consumerism lining his pockets.
Oh, and the good mayor’s Chief Social Peace Enforcement Officer? Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys.
DAY 30. BRING IT ON HOME: Something filmed in Seattle.
As we near the close of the Scarecrow Video Psychotronic Challenge, finding a movie shot in Seattle was a real, well, challenge. I didn’t want to do something easy, like Practical Magic, which isn’t really a psychotronic film either. And I’d already posted about Fear, The Changeling, Class of 1999, Ghost DadandThe Night Strangler, so I really wanted to find something left of center.
Enter Shredder Orpheus.
Made more than thirty years ago about a future that has never happened, this is a group of skaters and musicians that created something that has never been created before or since, a skate-rock opera.
Skateboarder/guitarist/revolutionary Orpheus and his gang of skaters must go from the Gray Zone into, well, Hell itself to save the world and his girl from the threat of television. Beyond showing a snapshot of Seattle’s counterculture — which would be its culture, right? — of the past, this movie also features a soundtrack created by Roland Barker (Ministry, Revolting Cocks), Bill Rieflin (Ministry, King Crimson), poet/performance artist Steven Jesse Bernstein, guitarist Dennis Rea and multi-instrumentalist Amy Denio. Robert McGinley was the auteur behind this movie, writing, producing, directing and starring in it. He’s still making cyberpunk films, as he put out Danger Diva in 2017.
How many post-apocalyptic skater industrial takes on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice are you going to find? Probably, well, exactly one. I’m sure that if you live in Seattle and don’t have a copy that Scarecrow probably has more than one available for rent.
To learn more and see it for yourself, check out the official site.
This is a movie that somehow combines rambling dialogues, Xeroxed zines, the kind of music that you’d hear on a pay to play night at Gazzarri’s in 1990, BDSM pornography, slasher movies and the scuzzy black and white detective magazines that would get ink all over your hands, shoots it all on video and lets it get moldy inside the plastic VHS so that it barely plays on your TV, a warped, distorted and fuzzy time capsule of the past that somehow has survived into our digital time.
It pits a man named Chase (Rik Billock, who is from Vandergrift, PA, the same place we regularly attend the Drive-In Monster-Rama; he was also in Knightriders, The Dark Half and is even a zombie in Dawn of the Dead) against a call girl named Tara (adult film actress Gabriela) who promises “the ultimate climax” to the men and women that pay her all of their money to, well, kill them with knives and weedwhips.
Director Hugh Gallagher also made two more movies related to this called Gorotica and Gore Whore. He also shows up in Mail Order Murder: The Story Of W.A.V.E. Productions, a movie that tells the story of the pre-internet company that created damsel in distress and exploitation movies on demand for those that wanted to see attractive women get tied up, menaced and murdered on videotape. Gallagher also published Draculina Magazine and has written Playgore, a book all about the making of this movie.
If you didn’t grow up in the shot on video era, you may be put off by the dingy feelings of this movie, which mostly takes place in the backrooms of video stores. It feels like the days of self-stapling zines, trading cassettes and the ads in the back of Hustler. It’s completely socially and artistically irredeemable, but even in the lowest levels of culture, sometimes there are moments that can become enjoyable. Or maybe this movie would have run on Videodrome and caused your brain to swell up. Either way, you’ll be somewhat entertained, if you can make it through the cue card reading, bad acting and oh yeah, pretty much a lack of gore in a movie called Gorgasm. Obviously, the title Lots of Breasts and a Bit of Blood and a Weedwhip didn’t fit on the clamshell case.
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.