Junesploitation 2021: Keaton’s Cop (1990)

June 16: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is a film from Cannon Studios.

The ’80s were the comeback decade, for both William Shatner and Lee Majors returned to our small screens with T.J Hooker (1982 – 1986) and The Fall Guy (1981 – 1986)*, respectively. And both were shows good ol’ dad and I could enjoy together. And we were both equally perturbed when they were simultaneously cancelled.

Now you would think, with a second hit TV series, that Lee would have been back in mainstream Hollywood’s good graces and return to his stalled theatrical career from the early ’80s. But it seemed the contractual dust-up during the last year of The Six Million Dollar Man back in 1977 wasn’t forgotten. There’s two sides to the story: Majors either caught a case of the Tinseltown Flu to force Universal into accepting his Fawcett-Majors Productions as a series co-producer or he held out for a pay raise. Either way, the executive suites in la-la land don’t take kindly to their actors pulling a creative coup.

So after saddling up in the late ’80s as Mountain Dan alongside Dolly Parton (with Henry “The Fonz” Winkler directing!) in A Smoky Mountain Christmas and two Six Million Dollar Man-Bionic Woman telefilms, Majors made it back to the big screen . . . well, it was only a matter of time until Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus wrangled Lee Majors into one of their deadbeat, direct-to-video productions.

Granted, we love Cannon Films around the B&S About Movies offices, for their imprint was ’80s VHS-rental de rigueur, with all of the Death Wish sequels and Chuck Norris flicks, such as Invasion U.S.A. and The Delta Force series. And all of the Ninja-suffixed films. And all of our beloved Micheal Dudikoff flicks. In fact, by 1986, Cannon reached a production milestone of distributing 43 films in one year, as the studio broke away from their usual direct-to-videoesque potboilers to big-budgeted theatrical features such as (the less than stellar) Lifeforce and Masters of the Universe, (and the cheesily awesome) Cobra and Over the Top.

Sadly, by the time the Israeli cousins of the celluloid frontiers roped the services of Lee Majors, Cannon was in financial and creative ruins . . . and four years away from its inevitable demise. So, instead of putting Majors in a halfway decent flick sidekickin’ with Chuck Norris in something like Firewalker or slipping him into Roy Scheider’s role in (a pretty decent Elmore Leonard film adaptation) 52 Pick Up, our ex-Bionic stunt man ended up in Keaton’s Cop.

Huh?

You know, the 48 Hours Lethal Weapon buddy-cop rip-off film that paired Lee Majors with Don Rickles. Yes. You heard me right. Mr. Warmth from all of those The Johnny Carson Show reruns on Antenna TV. The guy who did all of those goofy “beach party” movies with Frankie and Annette back in the ’60s. The guy who you’ve seen many a-cable-replay times as casino manager Billy Sherbet in Martin Scorsese’s Casino. But the younger kiddies ’round these wilds of Allegheny country probably remember Don Rickles best as the acidic Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story. Oh, and if you’re a horror hound like most of B&S’s readers: Don was Manny Bergman in the (pretty cool) mobster-vamp hybrid Innocent Blood by John Landis.

But here’s ol’ Don . . . twenty-years later, following up his last big screen role in 1970’s Kelly Heroes with Clint Eastwood, in the Danny Glover role as Jake Barber: the aged detective sidekick paired with Mike Gable, a burnt-out, on-the-edge veteran cop with a penchant for throwing suspects out windows — and losing partners, via death. Oh, and speaking of Cobra . . . guess who their boss is . . . hey, it’s Art LaFleur rippin’ through a Xerox redux of his role from that Stallone flick. (Plot spoiler: we lose Don early in the movie, natch, and he’s not funny here; he plays it straight, as he did in Innocent Blood and Casino.) Oh, and speaking of Cobra, again: Remember the big “character development” scene when Marion Cobretti cut off a slice of three-day-old pizza with a pair of scissors? Well, Keaton’s Cop has one: Mike Gable brushes his teeth with beer. (Remember when Brian “Boz” Bosworth mixed that “health drink” in a blender during the “establishing scene” in Stone Cold (1991) and we wondered, “how can he drink that” . . . and it ended up being gruel for his bet iguana? Hey, all of these action flicks needed one of those “character development” moments, natch.)

So, I see you noticed the name of Abe Vigoda on the box. Yes, he from those endless AMC and TNT reruns of The Godfather and those old Barney Miller episodes you’ve Antenna TV-channel grazed as you surfed the couch after a long Saturday night of partying. Eh, maybe you remember Abe in The Cannonball Run II, The Stuff, or the oddest Christmas flick of them all, Prancer.

Anyway, Ol’ Abe is Louis Keaton, an aged-out mobster living his days incognito in a Galveston, Texas, nursing home. When Gable is dispatched to the nursing home to investigate a shooting, he comes to discover the intended target was Keaton and the shooter was a mob hitman. And since Barber and Vigoda go “way back,” Barber convinces the guff n’ grizzled Gable to take part of the action-comedy-romance (with a home nurse that is way too young for him) that ensues.

Truth be told: Even though this a pinch-o-rama rip off, Majors is solid here, the comedy is funny (both of the sometimes-intentional and non-intentional variety), and it’s nice to see a then 69-year-old Abe Vigoda digging in his heels and getting banged around with film’s promoted “hard-edged action.” But still. Lee Majors deserved better. Way better. Like the very similar Martin Brest-directed and Robert DeNiro-starring Midnight Run from 1988-better (which Majors’s old bosses, Universal, backed). But that’s how the dice in Hollywood roll across the green felts of fate.

No freebie streams? What the hell, You Tube uploaders? What gives, ye executives at Tubi TV? Ah, but we found a rental-stream on Amazon Prime. Keaton’s Cop has never been officially reissued on DVD, so watch out for those bogus-cum-defective grey market rips out there, kiddies.

* Stock footage alert: Action scenes from our “Fast and Furious Week II” review of Flash and the Firecat ended up in The Fall Guy (the clip is included in the review).

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

We previously reviewed Keaton’s Cop as part of our “Lee Majors Week” blow out featuring reviews for 30 of Lee’s flicks.

Junesploitation 2021: Legion of Iron (1990)

June 12: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is sci fi!

I have no idea why people aren’t losing their minds and talking about this movie all the time.

High school football star Billy Hamilton and his cheerleader girlfriend Allison are kidnapped in the middle of a date and taken to an underground base that houses a fight club somewhere beneath Las Vegas because that’s the world of this movie and I love it.

They’re now part of the Legion of Iron, a place where men become gladiators and women become playthings and man, 1990 wasn’t that long ago for a movie like this to be made. It’s like someone read all the Gor books and said, “The movies weren’t disquieting enough and I’m going to be the maniac that changes that,” and made this.

As our heroes watch the first gladiator fight, things get unsetting in a hurry, as the leader of all this, Diana (Erika Nann, who was in Animal Instincts and Night Rhythms before appearing in the video game Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots proving that Hideo Kojima loves direct to video 80s and 90s movies as much as all of us) forces them to watch a battle to the death between Mad Dog and Rex (Stefanos Miltsakakis, Frankenstein’s Monster in Waxwork II, in addition to being a frequent JCVD fight partner). As Rex is the winner, he’s allowed to forcibly take Allison while Diana makes her man watch.

In the first fifteen minutes of the film, we’ve already had a kidnapping, the revelation of a secret shadow world of white slavery and gladiatorial combat under the Western United States, said gladiatorial combat and an assault. This movie isn’t worried about offending anyone and everyone.

Billy is in similar danger, because the guards think this is the Roman empire and keep trying to take him themselves when Diana isn’t tying him up and forcibly engaging him in martial congress. So our hero now has a reason to kill Rex and needs a mentor, who he finds in ex-pro football player Lyle Wagner. Enter a series of montages, in which our boy learns how to become a man or least fight in American Gladiator-like challenges to the death. Lyle is also pretty much Yoda, as he utters things like, “Haven’t you heard? Superman’s black, freakface!” and “The worst thing that can happen is death.”

At some point, Billy and Allison try to escape, which ends with everyone in the cast beating Billy down with sticks and when that isn’t good enough, Diana repeatedly makes Allison brutalize her boyfriend before allowing all of the gladiators to have their way with her. This makes Billy even more determined to kill Rex, which he does, showing up in a silver sparkly glitter costume that has amazing shoulder pads. His contest with the big bad is pretty much our hero repeatedly striking the much larger man in the testicle again and again. I mean, when you’re working a body part, work the body part, even if it is the ball bag.

The entire time this battle was happening, Lyle was making machine guns in the orgy bed chamber. This allows our heroes to have a massive uprising while battling the Chinese version of the Legion of Iron, which posits that there are small gladiator sex cults all over the world. After an insane battle that involves people getting machine-gunned in the nuts, throwing stars and nearly everyone dying, Billy and Allison get away, but not before being attacked by Diana flying the kind of plane John Denver died in.

Seriously, Diana is the heroine of this movie for me. She escaped a life as a showgirl and dancing in Vegas to lead an army of maniacs under the earth and continues said empire by kidnapping high school football stars. In the scene where she ties up Billy and tries to explain the fact that people are all commodities, he spits in her face and instead of being a shrinking violet, she says, “Go ahead and spit on me, if it turns you on.” Then she explains the difference between love and hate when giving him an old fashioned. She should have been the main character of like ten more movies.

This was the first movie that Yakov Bentsvi ever directed and he waited fourteen years to make another. Writer Steven Schoenberg was the editor of Can I Do It ‘Till I Need Glasses? and Hamburger: The Motion Picture, so who knew he had such pent-up insanity?

If you ever watched the aforementioned American Gladiators and said, “Is there any BDSM-obsessed fan fiction of this show?,” Legion of Iron is the film for you.

You can watch this on Tubi.

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Tre pesci, una gatta nel letto che scotta (1990)

With a title that translates as Three FishA Cat in the Hot Bed, perhaps it’s best that this Bruno Mattei — using his David Graham name — movie was retitled Three for One when it came out in the U.S. And by came out, I assume it played late night cable* and was on the “mature, but not adult” shelves in mom and pop video stores.

As written by Clyde Anderson — come on, we know it’s you, Claudio Fragasso — this movie makes the astounding move of copying The Girl Most Likely To… and replacing all the casual murder with casual sex.

Three childhood friends all grown up — Lou Sambello (Robert La Brosse, who went from being in Deep Blood and 11 Days 11 Nights Part 3 to the Coen’s Miller’s Crossing, which is pretty astounding when you think about it), Miles Gribbin (Jason Saucier, Hitcher in the Dark) and Ben Liknen (Richard Sume, who was also in two Joe D’Amato movies, High Finance Woman and Blue Angel Cafe) — all fall for the same woman, who just so happens to be the geeky girl that they all hated back in high school.

Using the names Bunny, Katy and Lauren, she appears as each of their dream girl, whether that’s an exhibitionistic stripper, a raven-hued femme fatale or a bookish nerd hiding a gorgeous face behind those glasses. All of these roles — and the ridiculously made-up geek persona — are all played by Martina Castel, who actually really excels at the multitude of roles she plays and is decent at the comedy, too. Sadly, this would be the only movie she’d make.

She reveals to them that she’s really the girl they all laughed at, Kerry Grant, before deciding that she’ll take all of them. A woman in charge of her sexuality in an Italian softcore movie? Who knew 1990 could be so open-minded?

Of Mattei’s late-period softcore films, this is the most polished and the one that feels the most joyous. The comedy helps and the fact that it’s basically a movie made up of montages helps the language and culture barriers that usually hinder his work. Let’s hope this gets a blu ray release some day.

*According to one IMDB reviewer, it played Joe Bob Briggs’ Joe Bob’s Drive-in Theater!

BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Night Killer (1990)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of my favorite movies and we originally covered it on October 29, 2018. Bruno Mattei may have only done a few pick up shots in this, but what he did do made it even stranger, if that were possible.

Say what you will about Claudio Fragasso. From the films he co-wrote with his Rossella Drudi for Bruno Mattei, like RobowarZombi 3Rats: Night of TerrorThe Other Hell and Shocking Dark to the films he’s either co-directed or directed, such as ScalpsTroll 2 and Beyond Darkness, he’s created movies that you can see as inept and strange that were made by someone who has no understanding of how human beings think, act or speak. Or you can see it my way — they are works of pure genius, the fruits of a demented mind that doesn’t need to be grounded by such concerns as budget, traditional storytelling or common sense.

Fragasso saw this as a tense psychological thriller with little to no gore and the original cut of the film resembled his vision. However, the producers wanted more violence, so they brought in Bruno Mattei to add the gore. Those very same producers also retitled the film Non Aprite Quella Porta 3 (Don’t Open the Door 3) so that it would appear to be another film in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series (yep, this is getting into La Casa/Demons territory).

Within the first eight minutes of this movie, we’ve seen nudity, aerobics dancing on stage while a director has a near meltdown of amateur acting proportions, the killer disemboweling two women and the director falling off a balcony to her death, all set to some of the most chipper synth turns you’ve ever heard. Buckle up — this movie gets even weirder from here.

The film picks back up after the quick credits to introduce us to Melanie (Tara Buckman from Silent Night, Deadly NightCannonball Run; Joe D’Amato’s Blue Angel Cafe and Never Too Young to Die, the kind of credits that make you royalty around these parts), who is tooling around in a flimsy negligee while some dude picks up her daughter Clarissa and delivers her to another woman. Soon, she’s furiously typing and smoking in a sweater that reveals one shoulder, all while she’s wearing a blue scarf. She also has a teddy bear on her desk that the camera focuses on, which is yet another Fragasso directorial tic.

It seems like our heroine has two phone lines to handle all the calls she gets, which are mostly harassment from her ex-husband. One dude that calls her is so upset that he smashes a glass in his hand while bellowing, “Melanie? Melanie! MELANIE!”

What soon follows is one of the most batshit moments I’ve seen in film (imagine how much that statement covers), as Melanie gives herself a breast exam in front of a mirror while saying, “Well here you are, Melanie Beck. This is you. You have a daughter, you’ve got a marriage on the rocks and nothing but gray skies ahead.” Soon, another phone line rings and another voice says, “You’re a fine looking woman, Beck. Just begging to be fucked senseless.”

Imagine if Cobra Commander called you and wanted you to talk him off. That’s the Night Killer. Let’s talk about the villain of this film. He has a face kind of sort of like Freddy, but instead of attacking you in your dreams, he relies on the aforementioned obscene phone calls. He also has a clawed hand, but instead of sharp razor-like knives, he has bendy rubber fingers. They’re either really sharp or he’s really strong because he keeps punching women through the stomach in an insert shot that looks like the same effect every single time.

Melanie calls the police for advice and trust me, these cops are second to the dumb fuzz in Stagefright. Officer Gabrielle asks for her phone number, to which Melanie tearfully replies, “I have two lines.” The cop is unfazed. “Give me both numbers.” Dialogue like this is why you have not only Fragasso but his wife Rossella writing your script.

The cops tell her to lock herself in the house and not let anyone in, but this being an Italian horror movie, they’re going to rip off that “the calls are coming from inside the house” moment from Black Christmas at the very beginning of the film, instead of waiting for the end. The Night Killer is in the house and horny!

The Night Killer may not be able to haunt your dreams, but he can certainly imitate voices, as he calls the cops back as Melanie’s husband and then survives getting shot at by her. He then whispers more sweet nothings before kidnapping her for eight hours. Why doesn’t he kill her? Who knows!

We cut to a hospital where a cop and a fake Dr. Loomis named Dr. Willow are discussing the case. She’s seen the killer’s face, but now she can’t remember who he is and even the fact that she has a daughter. And now we have a reporter wearing an outfit that can best be described as Italian cowboy ala 1990, as she interviews the next-door neighbor who had the gift for Melanie’s daughter, who shows off the scar the Night Killer gave him and discusses how he and his wife have temporary custody of Clarissa. His wife then tops every bad performance you’ve ever seen in a Fragasso film with a line reading that can charitably be described as vapidly morose. This is also when we learn that Clarissa’s dad was a cop kicked off the force for excessive violence.

I remember in seventh grade English that our teacher told us that in a mystery story, there’s no extraneous information. Everything could be a clue and that we had to learn to listen for them and discover how each small piece of the puzzle adds up to the solution to the crime. Obviously, she had never seen a Claudio Fragaasso film, where red herrings are thrown with the force of Major League Baseball fastballs right at your brainstem.

Note: Nearly every woman in this movie wears a fur coat.

With that in mind, we catch up to Melanie who is driving around in her convertible when Axel (Peter Hooten, who we all remember was the 1970’s Dr. Strange, as well as appearing in the truly ridiculous Slashed Dreams/SunburstOrca2020 Texas Gladiators and Just a Damned Soldier with B&S About Movies all-star Mark Gregory) drives up to her and starts sexually harassing her. He follows her into a women’s bathroom where she pulls out a gun and forces him to disrobe, then flushes all of his clothes down the toilet. If you learn anything from Night Killer, this is where you will learn that Peter Hooten has massive balls. I’m not talking nerves of steel. I’m worried that his massive testicles are about to burst that purple thong he’s wearing.

There are times in my life where I laugh so hard that I lose consciousness, where it feels like I can see through the very fabric of reality and I need to hold onto this plane of existence so that I don’t push my soul into another plane. One of these moments happened during this scene, as Axel chases after Melanie in his boxers. A guy at the front desk looks up and says, “Hey bud, what happened to your clothes?” Axel replies, “I got molested…in the little boy’s room!”

Melanie follows this moment of insanity by going to the beach, setting up a blanket, laying out all of her booze and the biggest prescription pill bottles you’ve ever seen in your life and proceeding to overdose. Axel arrives just in time and fully dressed, taking her into the seawater, which he claims is the only cure.

Axel: What the hell do you think you’re doing?

Melanie: Committing…suicide…

Axel: Well you gotta drink seawater so you can throw up all of that shit you’ve been taking!

Melanie: Are you…crazy?

Has Claudio Fragasso discovered the hidden secret to the opioid epidemic? Is it having Peter Hooten get you in a doggy style Heimlich maneuver while making you ingest H2O and NaCl as stirring synth music plays?

Keep in mind that we are literally one-third through this movie and it’s already blown my mind numerous times. Folks, this is why you watch Italian ripoff cinema.

We cut to a dinner party where a drunk blonde girl is talking to a mysterious stranger. “You want me to go with you? Where? I wasn’t born yesterday. If a stranger asks for something, there’s a rat in somewhere. What my mama used to always say. But seeing as how I could never stand the sight of the old lady, I’ll come out with you and risk the unknown. To hell with the old bitch, here’s to the unknown!”

Melanie wakes up in a strange hotel room as more synths play.

We then cut right back to another room that’s filled with paintings of the Night Killer that look like the work of a small child. Our villain then takes that blonde from the bar into his apartment, puts on his mask and glove, and she says, “What are you doing?” Again, indulge me as I transcribe this dialogue.

Night Killer: Do you know the story of Little Red Riding Hood?

Girl: Sure. Ah. I get it. I’m Little Red Riding Hood and you’re the big bad wolf. You know, I think I’m just a little tipsy.

Night Killer: Go on with the story.

Girl: Oh grandmother, what big claws you have.

Night Killer: All the better to hold you with.

Girl: What a nutcase!

Night Killer: Don’t stop.

Girl: OK. Granny, what a big, ugly mug you have. Well? Now you’re the one who’s stopped. Oh, why grandmother. What big schlong you have. I don’t like this game anymore. Please take me home.

That’s when the Night Killer murders her by repeatedly shoving her face into liquid latex before he, of course, punches her through the stomach. It’s his signature move, after all! He then fondles her and tells her dead body that now, they’ll make love and he kisses her.

We cut back to Melanie locked in the hotel room with Axel, who comes in with a fresh box of KFC and her clothes dry cleaned. How long was she out? He goes through her pills (“Valium. Syringe. A gun! Barbituates!” which is dialogue that sounds like a Queens of the Stone Age song.) Melanie then puts a gun to her own head, to which Axel replies by eating fried chicken right in her face. “Takes balls to kill yourself. And the only person with those around here in the right place? Yours truly.” Yes, Peter Hooten. We’ve seen your giant massive beanbag, so we’ll agree.

Axel somehow gets her gun and puts it in her mouth, telling her he’s going to kill her when he says so, when she least expects it. He tells her that he’s her master and she lays down on the bed. They make a pact as he puts a switchblade up against her face. He then decides to go out and let off a little steam, leaving her locked up with all his fried chicken.

We then cut to an aquarium, where a doctor checks an overflow valve. The Night Killer shows up, slowly chasing her before feeling her up and ripping open her blouse. She screams and runs as he gives ever so slowly chase. I’ve seen plenty of girls run in slasher movies, but never one as lazy as this. She soon pays by taking the Night Killer’s big move backward.

Melanie isn’t doing well. She’s written “I kill you kill me” on the mirror in lipstick. Axel comes back to tie her to the bed as we get long shots of Hooten slicing up fabric against his manly chest.

More news footage follows as we see a press conference interrupted by the victim from the aquarium being loaded into an ambulance. “The maniac tore her into pieces and fed her to the fish. It’s enough to hurt my stomach thinking about it!” yells a cop. Hey look! It’s Claudio Fragasso as a reporter hitting the cop car window, trying to get more of the story!

We’re back to Melanie and Axel in bed, as he kisses her and she asks to be untied. Somehow, this movie went from A Nightmare on Elm Street to Fifty Shades of Spaghetti. Or, more likely, The Devil’s Honey. Of course, they make love.

Another press conference follows as the media wants to know where Melanie is. Dr. Willow fills them in, as he explains how the Night Killer has impacted Melaine’s life.

Dr. Willow: Melanie Beck is living in a state of dissociative schizophrenia, triggered by the trauma of the experience she was forced to undergo. The poor woman went through the most traumatic ordeal that a human being can experience. A clinical examination of the patient revealed an inordinate amount of seminal fluid. The pure evil of the violence that was put upon her has unhinged her mind. The patient now has a very fragile grip on reality.

There’s also an insane theory by the doctor here where he believes that she gave in during her eight-hour ordeal so that she could survive and now, she’s punishing herself and wants to kill herself as the result. It kind of reminds me of that scene where all the old men discuss how a woman should behave in The Entity. The doctor claims if she goes through the same ordeal again, she’d be back to normal. But then, the psycho would recognize her and kill her.

One of the few movies that Lee Lively, who plays Dr. Willow, was in other than Night Killer was the Barbara Streisand vehicle The Prince of Tides, a fact that pleases me inordinately.

Peter Hooten is all sweaty and drinking outside the hotel room when Melanie decides to put a bullet into her mirror, leading him to do a spit take. No normal human being would ever make a movie that combines all of the words I’ve just said above this other than Fragasso.

The cops find Melanie’s car, but now they’re arguing with Dr. Willow, who had a plan to catch the Night Killer that has gone to hell.

Another press conference. Another fur coat. Now, the police reveal that they think the Night Killer has abducted Melanie. We cut to a Christmas tree as the next-door neighbor watches the press conference. And the manager of the hotel calls the police to tell them he’s found Melanie.

The black cop gets to the hotel just in time to get jumped. And the next-door neighbor grabs a gun and decides to go out after the Night Killer. Dude, seriously, I’m in the dark. Is he her ex-husband? Is the kidnapper her ex-husband? And now the neighbor’s wife is going crazy! How many red herrings can one movie have? When Fragasso at the helm, the number is beyond comprehension.

Melanie has on yet another fur — and the largest hat ever — as her kidnapper makes a taunting call to the cops, leading to her escaping. The tension is, well, not palpable, but there sure are a lot of f-bombs.

Now we have a multiple person chase with Melanie running, the kidnapper chasing her and the neighbor saying that he’s trying to help her as a sad saxophone plays and the kidnapper screams, “NO!”

The neighbor tells Melanie to lock herself in the house — that worked so well last time — while he gets help and her daughter. She watches as a man calls her from a payphone outside her window. It’s the Night Killer! He’s back! She’s shocked and screams, but come on. Who else would it be? The phone rings again and there he is — back in the house. The Night Killer reveals himself to be the next-door neighbor, who we finally learn is named Sherman. He claims that his wife is right, that she’s a bitch in heat and Mrs. Beck is the reason why he’s scarred for life.

We flash back to how he tortured her, which is the same way that Axel treated her. So wait — was Axel a cop and maybe even her ex-husband doing the same torture so that Melanie would remember who the killer was? What kind of cops and psychologists are these people? Also: all of these memories appear in a weird haze with liquid effects over everything.

Melanie comes on to the Night Killer, telling him how much she missed how he touched her, kissing him and cooing in his ear. She finds his knife and stabs him right in the cockmeat. Axel arrives just in time, jumping through a glass window and firing multiple bullets into Sherman. Melanie and Axel embrace, so I guess he is her ex-husband?

If you think this movie is going to end without more press conferences, you haven’t been paying attention. Dr. Willow says that Mr. and Mrs. Beck were guinea pigs and they had to make her relive this all to find the killer. Seriously, these are the worst cops and people ever. Axel Beck isn’t just getting his job back, he’s getting a promotion. And now, he’s back in bed with his wife and daughter. Seems like a happy ending, right?

Nope. Clarissa interacts with a gift box in the slowest of motion, carrying it lovingly up the steps as we catch up with the Becks in bed. Now, Clarissa is jumping up and down on the bed, ever so languidly unwrapping the gift. You just know what was inside the box — the Night Killer’s mask.

Clarissa is wearing it, as she ends the movie by saying, “Do you recognize me Miss Beck? I’m back. Just for you. Just for you!” and laughing.

Not since the end of Rats: Night of Terror has Fragasso pulled off an ending this audacious. Some would say moronic. Not me. After all, the Night Killer had to give Clarissa that gift before Axel kidnapped his own wife, knowing that they would kill him and Sherman/Night Killer would have to somehow teach her — or maybe his wife did it — how to talk like the Night Killer. Or maybe the mask is possessed? And why did he switch from claws to a switchblade and gun?

This movie is utterly confounding. This is why traditional movies end up boring me, because they make too much sense. If you’re looking for narrative jumps that leap into orbit, if you’re seeking out the unhinged, if you have ever wanted to watch a movie that goes from Elm Street to giallo to pre-Seven box related ending five years before that film was released and if you watched Troll 2 and said, “But what if the same people made a movie that makes even less sense?”, please consider this a strong recommendation.

Of course, Severin put this out. I feel like I have to make some kind of blood sacrifice to pay them back at this rate. You can also watch this on Tubi.

Space Chase (1990)

“To rule the galaxy, an evil dictator kidnaps a scientist and steals his invention, which will provide limitless energy for his robots.”
— Where have we heard this story before, Mr. Copywriter?

Uh, I have, in fact, seen this movie before . . . and George Lucas didn’t make it: Alfonzo Brescia made it back in 1977 and it was called Star Odyssey and the “energy invention” was Iridium/Etherium. The scientist who discovered it was subsequently kidnapped and a space rogue and the scientist’s space beauty of a daughter recruits a not-so-Magnificent Seven to save the universe — which is why this movie (just by the trailer alone) looks way older than its 1990 VHS-release date.

This time around, in the year 2097, the good doctor Ivan Integgin (which sounds like Iridium/Etherium), the head of the powerful Omega Institute, discovers a self-rejuvenating energy source, called Egrin (it sounds like, oh, never mind). It’s the answer the human race has hoped for to save the Earth!

Uh, hold on there, Starbuck . . . not if the evil Doctor Croam has a say about it. He plans, with his black-clad stormtroopers, to enslave the galaxy by stealing the discovery. And not even the Rebel Alliance, the United Galaxy’s Royal Fighters can stop him. But Han Solo Ryan Chase, a galactic bounty hunter and soldier of fortune (with gambling debts and a price on his head, natch), along with his Wookie buddy, Chewbacca, Arto, his blue-skinned Chameloid sidekick, Gloria, his smart-mouthed onboard computer, and the smart-mouthed (she’s not a skank!) Princess Leia galactic princess, Aurora, they’ll rescue Doctor Integgin and save the galaxy!

Yikes. Even the cover reeks of rotted, coagulated milk proteins.

What’s great about revisiting these VHS ditties all these digital years later is our celluloid Schadenfreude in the efforts of the young, burgeoning filmmakers who worked on the films, when they social media resurface to share their frustrations with their film’s troubled production. And in the case of Space Chase, this time it’s not the IMDb or a Facebook thread, but You Tube, as three of the actors — Bill Freed, aka actor Philip Notaro (an agent forced the stage-name change; he stars as Tane), Traci Caitlyn, aka actress Traci Hart (Princess Aurora), and Barry James Hickey (our rogue hero, Ryan Chase) — swap memories via the user thread on the embedded trailer (seen below).

And since we’ve never heard of nor seen this film — only first learning of it by way of our review for Star Crystal (this week), by way of that film’s screenwriter Eric Woster serving as the cinematographer on this film — we’ll have to use their insights to describe the film to you. Is Space Chase intended as a homage to the Italian Star Wars clones* of old?

Your guess is as good as ours.

While it looks like it was shot several years earlier during the Italian “Pasta Wars” craze of the early ’80s** (or, at the very least, languished on the shelf for several years before its release), writer, producer, and director Nick Kimaz’s non-union film was actually shot in 1989 in Palmdale, California. His mom did all of the “too spicy” homemade catering. At least one of the actresses, Julie Nine (starred as Romy), allegedly posed for Playboy — and she threw a fit on-set when her (expensive?) jacket was stolen from the set. Actress Traci Hart ended up dating and having a long-term relationship with Nick’s brother, Tom, who served as the film’s soundman, and she almost had Nick as a brother-in-law. If you’ve actually seen this obscurity, we’ll settle your bets: Nick Kimaz rented the baddie “black stormtroopers” costumes of Skeletor’s forces from Masters of the Universe from Cannon Pictures, as well as the props and sets from Battlestar Galactica from Universal. Yep, the starfighters were kitbashed from SR-71 model kits (actually, the in-camera model effects are the best part of the movie).

What’s really cool is that three of the film’s other actors who got their start in the business on Space Chase are still in the business. Michael Gaglio’s 87th film, Copperhead Creek, is in-production and Art Roberts is on his 193-indie credit with a role in the currently-in-production American Soldier. Then there’s the recognizable Patrick Hume. While he’s on his 67th project with the in-production Cockroaches, he’s guest-starred on the top-rated TV series Criminal Minds, NCIS: Los Angeles, The Rookie, S.W.A.T, and Sons of Anarchy.

When you consider Roland Emmerich’s Moon 44 was released in the same year, and that Space Chase was made thirteen years after the George Lucas inspiration it blatantly rips off, and that it looks like Alfonzo Brescia shot it as a “Pasta Wars” sequel to his Star Odyssey from 1979, these galactic proceedings make the plastic-verse of Glen Larson’s Buck Rogers in the 25th Century look good. And if you know my disdain for that series. . . . Is Space Chase so-bad-it’s-fun as Space Mutiny or Escape from Galaxy 3, which serve as the pinnacles in space opera awfulness?

No, not quite, but Space Chase makes Eric Woster’s other space romp, Star Crystal, look even better. But if there’s ever a movie that needs to be dumped onto a Mill Creek 50-film pack, Space Chase is it. For it is a film that needs to be saved and transformed into a MST3K’d classic. How did this NOT end up on a Commander USA’s Groovie Movies or USA’s Up All Night movie block? How is it, across multiple video store memberships and my celluloid diving the discount bins and close-outs of video stores, never encountered a copy of this movie?! Yet . . . it ends up in dubbed in Turkey and Russia and clipped on You Tube? Ye programming executives of Comet TV: I hereby implore thou to get a copy of this film onto the channel, forthwith. If you can program Convict 762 and Timelock (both reviewed, this week), then you can program this well-intentioned, valiant Wiseauian space effort on your channel.

So, thanks Nick Kimaz. Thanks to you, today was a good today. For I enjoyed myself as I discovered a new, cool obscurity and I have a digital platform to share it with the readers of B&S About Movies. Yeah, a great day, indeed. Now, I need to get a VHS copy for my collection. To eBay . . . and beyond!

Sadly, there’s no free or PPV streaming copies of Space Chase on the web — not even on You Tube or TubiTV, where all lost VHS’ers of the ’80s go to die. Well, not to worry, in addition to the trailer (embedded above), and thanks to this film’s rabid fanbase, we found ten scenes/clips from the film that we’ve compiled into one convenient-to-stream, You Tube playlist. Enjoy!

* We’re reviewed all of those “clones” — well, we thought we did until Space Chase showed up! — with our “Attack of the Clones,” “Ten Star Wars Ripoffs,” and “Exploring: After Star Wars Droppings” featurettes.

** We paid tribute to ‘ol Uncle Al’s five Star Wars ripoffs with our past “Drive-In Friday: Pasta Wars Night with Alfonzo Brescia” featurette.

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

Syngenor (1990)

Remember Scared to Death? That monster suit movie may not have moved many folks, but producer Jack F. Murphy loved the creature in it so much he wanted to make another movie about it. Original director William Malone had moved on — some sources say he was making Creature, but that was in 1985 — so George Elanjian Jr. (who had had a career in reality TV before there was reality TV, directing That’s Incredible!Candid Camera and Real Stories of the Highway Patrol) came on board.

Charitably, this movie is a mess, but it’s anchored by Re-Animator bad guy David Gale who absolutely takes huge bites out of the scenery every single time he shows up.

Norton Cyberdyne builds high-tech military technology and their latest superweapon is Syngenor (SYNthesized GENetic ORganism), a Giger-ish creature made for deployment in the Middle East. These scientists are so smart that they made an unkillable creature that can continually lay eggs and reproduce, making more invincible slimy monsters.

Their headquarters is really Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel and the lab is just a kitchen with sheets all over everything. And one of the two writers of this movie, Brent V. Friedman, would go on to also create the scripts for Hollywood Hot Tubs 2: Educating Crystal and Mortal Kombat Annihilation. If you think the latter is bad, you should see where he got started.

I have no idea why Vinegar Syndrome hasn’t released this yet. You haven’t lived until you see Gale get on his knees to suck off a female employee’s finger or kill all of his employees while wearing a bunny mask. This is his movie, so don’t you ever forget it.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Solar Crisis (1990)

How did Solar Crisis — which cost $50 million dollars — disappear from the cultural zeitgeist?

This was not a small movie. While credited to Alan Smithee, the director is truly Richard C. Sarafian, who made Vanishing Point and Lolly-Madonna XXX. The cast includes Tim Matheson, Peter Boyle, Jack Palance, Michael Berryman, Paul Williams — as a talking bomb! — and Charleton Heston. It had a crew that included Russell Carpenter, the cinematographer of Titanic, and Syd Mead (Blade Runner) as production designer.

Hell, one of the investors was Nippon Steel, announced that they would be opening a theme park of the movie.

Thirty years later, no one remembers this movie.

The story could be some of the reason. Steve Kelso (Matheson) — the son of Admiral “Skeet” Kelso (Heston) and father of Mike (Corin Nemec) — plans on dropping a sentient bomb  named Freddy — yes, just like Dark Star — with the voice of Paul Williams onto the sun to stop a solar flare and inspire Danny Boyle.

At the same time, Arnold Teague (Boyle) believes that there’s money to be made and tries to stop the mission. There’s also Mike trying to get to his dad, helped byJack Palance, who as always makes the absolute most out of a role.

The filmmakers went so far as to hire scientist Richard J. Terrile — a Voyager scientist who discovered several moons of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — served as a technical advisor for the film. When he tried to tell them that sending a spaceship into the sun just wasn’t scientific, he was told to try to figure ot how to make it plausible.

I have no idea how anyone thought that an American film version of Takeshi Kawata’s novel Crisis: Year 2050 was going to make money off a budget that big, but blockbusters are a weird business. When the film didn’t do well in Japan, the producers reshot scenes for America and Sarafian took his name off the movie. Additional scenes were directed by Arthur Marks, who also was behind Bonnie’s KidsDetroit 9000Linda Lovelace for President and J.D.’s Revenge.

There’s also a scene where Charlton Heston shouts at Tim Matheson, “Hold it, dammit! You tell me you love me before you leave this room!” That makes up for this multi-million dollar bomb looking no better than a direct-to-video release and lodges this magnificent failure directly into my head and heart.

Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders (1990)

I really kind of love the original Flesh Gordon, but the 1990 sequel — with only William Dennis Hunt returning from the original cast — is scatological and insipid, which are usually two things I like. Yet by the end of the movie, I felt like I was constantly looking to see how much time was left.

Flesh (Canadian kickboxer Vince Murdocco) is kidnapped by a group of cheerleaders — hey, the title tells the truth! — from the Strange Planet. During a basketball game, their men were made impotent by the Evil Presence, who is coming to Earth to take Flesh’s penis for his own.

Director Howard Ziehm came back to make this one, but the second time is not charming.

Former Miss World Canada and Playboy Playmate of the Month for December 1990 Morgan Fox plays Robunda Hooters, which should explain the level of humor in this movie. I’ve said that Flesh Gordon felt like Mad Magazine. Well, this one is barely Crazy or National Lampoon in its last sad years.

It does have Melissa Mounds as Bazonga Bomber, which is really the only time this movie has ever made me giggle.

WATCH THE SERIES: A Chinese Ghost Story

Based on a short story about Nie Xiaoqian from Qing dynasty writer Pu Songling’s Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio and inspired by the 1960 Shaw Brothers movie The Enchanting ShadowA Chinee Ghost Story inspired more than just two sequels, an animated film, a television series and a 2011 remake. It also created an entire genre of folklore ghost stories.

Its director, Ching Siu-tung, studied in the Eastern Drama Academy and trained in Northern Style Kung Fu for seven years. His father, Ching Gong, was a Shaw Brothers director. While producer Tsui Hark got most of the credit for these films, Siu-tung has done well for himself, also directing The Swordsman series of movies and choreographing House of Flying Daggers and Shaolin Soccer.

In the first film, tax collector Ning Choi-san (Leslie Cheung) fails at his job and must sleep in a deserted temple. There, he falls in love with Nip Siu-sin (Joey Wong), yet discovers in the morning that she is a ghost forever enslaved to a tree demoness. When Ning tries to save her and fails, her soul goes to the underworld.

This film is a gorgeous meditation on unrequited love. Even with the help of Taoist priest Yin Chik-ha (Wu Ma), the best our hero can do is secure a better afterlife for his one true love.

1990’s A Chinese Ghost Story II starts with Ning and Yin parting ways, with Ning heading back to his hometown that has been overrun with cannibals. After being jailed and condemned to die, an ancient scholar reveals that he has dug an escape tunnel. He gives Ning a book and a pendant, then shows him the way to freedom.

In this film, Ning joins with Autumn (Jacky Cheung) and the rebel sisters Windy (Joy Wong) and Moon (Michelle Reis) to battle a demon that has taken over a mansion. And by demon, a mean a gigantic centipede that requires fighters to separate the souls from their bodies to defeat it.

Recently, Apple pulled the theme song of this movie from the Apple Music Store, as it features a reference to the masscre at Tiananmen Square Massacre:

“The youth are angry, and heaven and earth are shedding tears,

How did the rivers and mountains become a sea of blood?

How did the road to home become the road to ruin?”

Why would Apple pull a song that rightfully condemns China for their role in killing protesters? Well, you know how money works.

1991’s A Chinese Ghost Story III brings back the tree demon from the first film, a creature that is destined to return in a hundred years. This film is also about Monk Shi Fang (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) and Swordsman Yin (Jacky Cheung), named after the original Taoist. The tree demon also has a ghost in its thrall, Lotus (Joey Wong).

This is the kind of movie where towers rise to block out all the sun on Earth and Shi Fang’s body is coated in his own golden blood, which allows him to channel the power of the Buddha to bring the sun back. Basically, things get nuts.

If you fall in love with these movies, remember that there was a cartoon and a 2011 remake to keep you watching.

The Great Los Angeles Earthquake (1990)

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.

The Great Los Angeles Earthquake is essentially a TV miniseries version of the 1974 disaster movie Earthquake. It makes no attempt to hide this fact, as within the first ten minutes of the movie, we see a clip of the Universal Studios Theme Park ride based off the original movie. Both films use the same sets, according to Wikipedia. The film also starts the same way, with ominous music playing over a helicopter shot of the Los Angeles skyline. The theme music is a weak imitation of John Williams’s original disaster movie score, much as the movie is a weak imitation of the original theatrical release.

The Great Los Angeles Earthquake has the default plot for this genre: an intrepid seismologist, played by Joanna Kerns, has discovered a foolproof method of predicting earthquakes, and all the indications are that Los Angeles is about to be hit with a massive earthquake. However, her attempts to warn the populace are hindered by the machinations of a sleazy real estate developer, played by Robert Ginty from The Exterminator and The Paper Chase, who fears her predictions will cause housing prices to crash. Will she be able to warn the population in time?

One of the main problems facing this disaster film is that it is overloaded with too many supporting characters and subplots and not enough disaster. The earthquake only happens nearly two-thirds of the way through the film. In the meantime, we are treated to a variety of unnecessary and not particularly interesting sub-plots, ranging from the tense relationship between our hero’s sister and her mother to a plot to assassinate a South African trade minister who might become the country’s first black prime minister. The filmmakers would have been better off cutting one or two sub-plots to focus more on the destruction of the city.

However, this issue is mitigated by the quality of the supporting cast. Although Kerns and the other leads are not especially impressive, the supporting players include a number of talented character actors. Robert Ginty is suitably unctuous as the film’s antagonist, playing a more subtle version of Donald Trump. (The film even lampshades this, referring to the character as a wannabe “Donald Trump of the West Coast.”) Richard Herd is also good in a small role as Kerns’s superior at the U.S. Geological Survey, conveying authority and trustworthiness despite having little character development. Ed Begley Jr. does well as Kerns’s subordinate who leaks the story to the press. (Be warned, though: although Begley is prominently featured on the film’s cover, he is only in the film for 10-15 minutes.) Ultimately, the cast stand out is Richard Masur (Clark from The Thing), who plays a sleazy, hard-driving reporter whose efforts to exploit Kern’s warnings for ratings only succeed in making things worse. The reporter goes through a decent character arc as he confronts the destruction wrecked by the earthquake, with Masur conveying his emotional breakdown. Although none of these performers manage to surpass the awesomeness of Marjoe Gortner in Earthquake, they make the film worth watching.

The Great Los Angeles Earthquake also boasts impressive special effects for a TV movie. The film’s practical effects are far more convincing than the cheap CGI that too many televised disaster movies now resort to, with sets that actually shake and collapse and the actors interacting with actual flames. The way the disaster is shot is also effective, conveying the disorientation and chaos such a massive earthquake would actually cause. After the quake, the city looks dark and foreboding as it is engulfed with fire and smoke darkens the sky. Moreover, the last hour of the film is suitably downbeat as people struggle to find their friends and relatives amid the carnage.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the film is how it illustrates the incapacitation of emergency and rescue services in the face of an 8.1 earthquake. Police, fire fighters, and EMS are hindered by the scale of the destruction and the blocking of roads and highways. This unsettles on a far deeper level than any special effect. In a better film, this could be used to show the total breakdown of society in the face of catastrophe, as in the beginning of the original Dawn of the Dead where we see the uselessness of the Emergency Broadcast System in the face of the zombie outbreak. Scenes like this hold real-world resonance, especially in the wake of the pandemic. When I first saw a late-night broadcast of this movie as a kid on the Million Dollar Movie, these elements disturbed me, but now they are arguably the most effective aspects of the film.

The Great Los Angeles Earthquake can be found on YouTube here.