June 25: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is a car movie.
A ten-year-old runaway boy named Gus has left behind an abusive home to go out on the road in a stolen ‘66 Ford Mustang that he drives with stilts attached to the gas pedals. His goal is to collect game cards from the Chimera Gas Company and if he spells M-O-T-O-R-A-M-A, he wins $500 million dollars.
The first person Gus meets on his journey — and the last — is Phil (John Diehl), a gas station attendant who flies a yellow kit with a photo of a cop (Robert Picardo) shaking hands with him, all to show whatever is in heaven that he’s a worthwhile person.
The real thrill of watching this movie is in seeing who shows up next. From Martha Quinn as a bank teller and Jack Nance as a hotel clerk to Meat Loaf as an arm-wrestling biker, Mary Woronov as a kidnapper, Flea as a busboy, Robin Duke as a corporate drone, Allyce Beasley as a receptionist, Susan Tyrrell, Michael J. Pollards, Garett Morris, Drew Barrymore as the girl of our hero’s dreams and, of course, Dick Miller — man, this movie has something for everyone. And by everyone, I mean me.
Director Barry Shils produced Vampire’s Kiss and also made Wigstock: The Movie. Writer Joseph Minion wrote the aforementioned Vampire’s Kiss and After Hours, as well as directing Daddy’s Boys for Roger Corman, using the same sets as Big Bad Mama II.
This movie is great because it’s a hijinks ensue film, but within the context of a child becoming an adult by undergoing a quest to determine what really means the most in life. It’s not weird for weird’s sake. It just feels like it was filmed in a place not quite our own and sent to the wrong reality, where we must study it and determine what we can learn from Gus’s quest.
Phew. We did it! Twelve Ron Marchini films in two days. You know the drill! Yee-haw, let’s round ’em up!
Born in California and rising through the U.S. Army’s ranks to become a drill sergeant, in his civilian life, Ron Marchini earned the distinction as the best defensive fighter in the U.S.; by 1972, he was ranked the third best fighter in the country. Upon winning several worldwide tournaments, and with Robert Clouse’s directing success igniting a worldwide martial arts film craze with Enter the Dragon (1973), the South Asian film industry beckoned.
After making his debut in 1974’s Murder in the Orient, Marchini began a long friendship with filmmaker Paul Kyriazi, who directed Ron in his next film, the epic Death Machines, then later, in the first of Ron’s two appearances as post-apoc law officer John Travis, in Omega Cop.
Ron also began a long friendship with Leo Fong (Kill Point) after their co-staring in Murder in the Orient; after his retirement from the film industry — after making eleven dramatic-action films and one documentary — Ron concentrated on training and writing martial arts books with Leo, as well as becoming a go-to arts teacher. Today, he’s a successful California almond farmer.
In the annals of martial arts tournaments, Marchini is remembered as Chuck Norris’s first tournament win (The May 1964 Takayuki Kubota’s All-Stars Tournament in Los Angeles, California) by defeating Marchini by a half a point. Another of Chuck’s old opponents, Tony Tullener, who beat Norris in the ring three times, pursued his own acting career with the William Riead-directed Scorpion.
You can learn more about Ron Marchini with his biography at USAdojo.com. An interview at The Action Elite, with Ron’s friend and Death Machines director Paul Kyriazi, also offers deeper insights.
About the Review Authors: Sam Panico is the founder, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, and editor-in-chief of B&S About Movies. You can visit him on Lettebox’d and Twitter. R.D Francis is the grease bit scrubber, dumpster pad technician, and staff writer at B&S About Movies. You canvisit him on Facebook.
As we roll out our two-day tribute to the martial arts films of Ron Marchini . . . and my being a post-apoc road warrior . . . I had to watch the double-packed adventures of future cop John Travis, again. And when I first reviewed both films on September 18, 2020, for our “Apoc Month” blow out, well, that wasn’t the first time I watched them both, then. Hey, like Andy Warhol said: Another man’s trash is another man’s art. But truth be told: These are the BEST of Ron’s films. And he’s got some good ones. But I hold these two dear.
So, lets roll ’em and take a fresh look at the adventures of John Travis.
Now, Mr.Warhol isn’t the only one with the intellectual quips. We have a saying around the B&S About Movies’ cubicle farm: What David A. Prior movie doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And, because of my Marchini love, I get ribbed around here with: What Ron Marchini movie doesn’t put you into a coma, should.
Ha, ha. Very funny. I am filling out the harassment forms right now, work place bully.
Yes, dear reader. I am very much toasted, with an ingested pharmaceutical side dish chaser, as I write this. So strap in, ye reader, we are going off the rails in Marchini fandom.
So, anyway, as I reflect on this duo of films in 2021, I believe it’s time Ron called up his ol’ directing sidekick (no pun intended, well, yeah) and longtime friend Paul Kyriazi — who directed Ron in Omega Cop, but not in the sequel, Karate Cop — and they devise a continuing-adventures-of John Travis-sequel based on . . . Death Machines, their mutual debut film from 1976. Only — this time — that remake really will have the “death machine” ancient pyramid in the deep Philippine jungles (okay, the woods outside of Stockton, California) teased in the poster of Death Machines.
I can hear that Zardos-cum-Rollerball death monolith bellow:
“The Penis is evil. The Penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was. But the Gun shoots death and purifies the Earth of the filth of Brutals. Go forth, and kill, my death machine warriors. Your toothy pyramid god has spoken!“
Too bad Adam West — who stars in Omega Cop, but not Karate Cop — and David Carradine — who stars in Karate Cop, but not Omega Cop — left the terra firma for the celluloid blue above, for they could both be in a film I thee christen: Death Machine Cop. And that sequel would be awesome, because, David Carradine, if you recall, portrayed future post-apoc cop John Tucker in (sadly, the now late) David A. Prior’s two-fer: Future Force and Future Zone.
Think of it: John Travis and John Tucker — with robotic forearm gloves slipped on — inside a forgotten, sentient Mayan-cum-Aztec pyramid, kicking ass. Oh, I don’t know . . . saving some damsel-in-distress (like a Fred Olen Ray warrior queen) and Indiana Jonesin’ some sparkly trinket that can stop the apocalypse. Thus, the “teeth” inside the glistening jungle obelisk chewing and spitting everyone out two and three at a clip.
Yes, Mr. Kyriazi. It is time to film the follow up to your most recent, seventh film from 2018, Forbidden Power. For it is to be called . . . Death Machine Cop. And, if we may suggest a casting choice: Put the call out to our favorite post-apoc warriors of Italian cinema: Michael Sopkiw and Mark Gregory. And any ’70s blaxploitation actor that ended up in Italian and/or Philippines apoc or Rambo-namsploitation movies.
So, what we really need to know: which is the chicken and which is the egg, here?
I swear, I think David A. Prior’s and Ron Machini’s “future cop” romps — which clipped Mad Max, natch — are the same picture. So, who ripped whom? Or is it all just a low-budget cowinkadink? Future Force, 1989. Future Zone, 1990. Then Omega Cop and Karate Cop in 1990 and 1991. If you read our previous reviews to all four of those movies, you know each have souped-up Jeep Cherokees. However, they both do not have robotic forearm gloves. (And Ron is more adept at the kicking than David, but that’s why David got the mech-glove.) But that’s okay: Ron’s getting a robo-glove in Death Machine Cop, right Paul? And lose the jeeps, okay Paul? Give Roger Corman a call and rent out the Calamity Jane from Death Race 2000 that ended up in Interzone. Call Universal and rent out the DeLorean. Call Ridley Scott and rent out the Blade Runner Spinner.
But, please, Paul, no bolo ties. In fact: no neck wares. But yes to the robo-gloves, for everyone.
In Omega Cop, Adam West’s Commander Prescott runs his “Special Police” — 22 years in our “past” of 1999 — from a one-room set that he never leaves (Adam did that often in his late career; see Zombie Nightmare, for one), as he sports a bolo and QWERTYs a couple of Commodore 64s amid some leftover Batcave props from the 60s. Yes, Commodore 64s will protect the Southern California wastelands. So, as you can see, Death Machine Cop will look awesome because of all of the green screen and touch screen and VR-imaging tomfoolery we get in today’s films. For the Tucker and Travis apoc war wagons will kick ass.
Film reviews like this make me sad, as we lost Troy Donahue (the metal epic Shock ‘em Dead) and Stewart Whitman (the alien epic Bermuda Triangle) — both who appear in Omega Cop — so they can’t cameo in Death Machine Cop. But we can call in Sean P. Donahue, he of the awesome “future sport” apoc’er, Ground Rules, as he did the stunts in Omega Cop — and he acts — so there’s that possibility with Sean in front or behind the lens.
Which reminds me: Please, Paul: no post-apoc hockey gear. And no hats with “COPS” or “SPECIAL POLICE” patches on them. And everyone gets a robo-battle glove. Even 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 for his direct-to-video space opera, Space Chase (1990). And Roger Corman made Battle Beyond the Stars, then recycled the sets, the models, the costumers, and the effects shots into Galaxy of Terror, Forbidden World, and Space Raiders — then lent it all out to Fred Olen Ray to make his women-in-space prison flick Star Slammer (1986). So, let’s rent out what we can to save money and up the production values, right, Paul?
Anyway, for Death Machine Cop, the storyline from Omega Cop that’s set up by Adam West’s voiceover narration, will continue, you know, about us screwin’ up the the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect babble, and the rain forests, and the solar flares that plagued the world, and that “half the world didn’t give a shit.” We’ll also continue the illegal slave action angle, which, whomever replaces West, will run. Well, it’s a bad ass named Wraith — decked out in a Nazi SS uniform. But we’ll retrofit that character into bringing back Madame Lee from Death Machines . . . but she will deck out in full Ilsa She Wolf regalia to evoke (again, sad, as we lost her just last year) Dyanne Thorne. Now, Mari Honjo, who played Madame Lee, is still with us. She hasn’t done a film since Death Machines, so that’s an epic returning role, right there. Oh, man. Mari Honjo . . . Ron Marchini . . . Micheal Sopkiw and Mark Gregory?
Give me some Coco Butter and a roll of Charmin.
And we will keep the John Travis quest with two freed slave women trekking to the utopia of clean air and water in Montana. But we lose the women . . . and put in Sopkiw and Gregory . . . as Madame Lee’s freed slave warriors. And nix Montana: this needs to go full Philippines. Or at least drive from Stockton, California, and get into a Mexican/Central American jungle, you know, like our Marchini war flicks of old.
Okay, so, how are we working the sequel of Karate Cop into Death Machine Cop?
Well, we have Paul “John Travis” Marchini, and whomever we get to doppelganger David Caradine’s John Tucker, with freed slave warriors Sopkiw and Gregory, on their quest to . . . well, Madam Lee — in a fit of anger over Travis and Tucker scuttling her master plan and freeing her two top warriors, Sopkiw and Gregory — has unleashed a MacGufffin that will destroy the world . . . thus our quest to get a trinket from the death machine pyramid that Ron, faux-Carradine, Michael, and Mark will battle. (Subplot: Spokiw and Gregory, under Madame Lee’s thumb, were mortal enemies in combat, but joined forces with the double-Johns’ encouragement and are now warriors-in-arms.) And . . . so, there’s a slave civilization inside the jungle obelisk . . . and the slaves: all they do is fight in games of gladiatorial combat — but the pyramid keeps chewin’ them up and the civilization needs “new meat.”
Now, in case you’re wondering: That was — sort of — the plot of Karate Cop: instead of the female slave ring of Omega Cop, Karate Cop had males enslaved by street gangs, forced into gladiatorial street combat. You know, like Max in the Thunderdome and Snake in the Manhattan square circle. Only this time, unlike Karate Cop, the Death Machine Cop playing field will have THUNDER and will be uber cool and not “square.” And no dopey ’80s theme songs by Tina Turner. Nope, sorry Lady Gaga. We do not need another one of your oddball songs about a pyramid. Go make another movie with Bradley Cooper. Wait, hey? Brad, you lookin’ for a new project? We’re casting, you know. I’ll have Paul give you a ring.
Now, I was going to suggest that Paul also put a call into sexploitation purveyor Alan Roberts of Young Lady Chatterley (1977) and The Happy Hooker Goes to Hollywood (1980) fame (the later starred Adam West, by the way) but, celluloid melancholy, again: we lost Roberts in 2016. Why, because Alan — and not Paul — directed Karate Cop.
So, anyway . . . that’s my outline for Death Machine Cop. Will it be as much fun — at least they are for moi — as Omega Cop and Karate Cop and Future Zone and Future Force? If it doesn’t put you into a coma or kill you, Death Machine Cop will make you stronger.
As we mentioned: Director Paul Kyriazi, who made his debut with the aforementioned Death Machines, then vanished from the film world after Omega Cop, which served as his fifth and final film, recently returned to the writing and director’s chair with the 2018 sci-fi movie, Forbidden Power. You can learn more about Kyriazi’s return and his new film courtesy of a favorable review at HorrorGeekLife and his personal website, paulkyriazi.com.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook.He also writes for B&S About Moviesand publishes short stories and music reviews on Medium.
* “Death Machine Cop” faux-theatrical one-sheet based on alternate Stargate artwork. Image material use falls under the U.S. Copyright rules of Fair Use in non-profit educational, transformative purposes such as exhibition, criticism, comment, parody, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. All rights and trademarks are the property of their respective owners MGM/UA. Flame overlay and typefaces courtesy of Lunapic and PicFont, respectively.
Written and co-produced by John Hughes and directed by Bryan Gordon (a writer for Fridays that has gone on to direct Curb Your Enthusiasm, Freaks and Geeks and the Arnold Palmer 30 for 30 documentary), Career Opportunities was a rare misfire for Hughes.
It does have one thing going for it and that’s Jennifer Connelly after she made Etoille and Phenomena but before The Rocketeer. And I guess Target, which is pretty much a character in this movie in the same way that people say that New York City is a character.
That’s where Jim Dodge (Frank Whaley) and Josie McClellan (Connolley) are spending the night; him because he’s an overnight janitor and her because she’s been sleeping in one of the stockrooms after debating shoplifting to make her rich father angry.
There’s literally no conflict in this movie, as it’s a series of montages until the crooks Nestor Pyle and Gil Kinney (Dermot and Kieran Mulroney) break in and threaten their lives, leading to Josie seducing them both by riding a child’s quarter horse in the front of the store (this scene was pretty much the entire advertising campaign of this movie).
Hughes would refer to this film as cheap, vulgar and a disappointment. Seeing as how he was behind it, this film was released in Germany as Kevins Cousin allein im Supermarkt (Kevin’s Cousin Alone in the Supermarket). It does have some similarities — being left behind in a place the adults have left, two inept bandits and a winter in Chicago setting — but that’s because this film and the somewhat similar elements in the Hughes scripted Dutch were both written before Kevin Arnold became a big deal.
The John Candy cameo makes this movie.
You can get this from Kino Lorber, who has just released it on blu ray.
Also, for some reason, lots of footage from the original film gets re-used.
Maria Ford (Burial of the Rats) is a major plus in this, but you know, after four Deathstalker movies, I kind of feel like just looking at the poster art and imagining a much better film. Brett Baxter Clark — Nick the dick from Bachelor Party, Bruiser from Teen Witch and Shane from Malibu Express — plays Vaniat, one of the fighters, so there’s that.
I was hoping that the last Deathstalker was going to blow my mind, like how the Ator series suddenly becomes an insane MTV musical with Iron Warrior. That said, even the worst sword and sorcery movie fills me with happiness, so I didn’t hate the time I spent watching this.
“My friend Joe put on anti-radiation clothing and tried to stop the female enemy agent! My friend Joe, I repeat, put on anti-radiation clothing and tried to stop the female enemy agent from stealing the weapons from the base.”
If you’re wondering, why is that line repeated, perhaps you should steer as clear as possible from Alien Beasts, a movie that has no story, no meaning and no real reasons to recommend it to you, dear reader. To call this a movie is the most charitable and kind thing I’ve ever written.
This movie is constant repetition broken by moments of absolute weirdness and gore, then replaced once against by computer generated titles that appear to tell us “Security camera inoperable” while that is voiced over and over again.
And then it happens all over again.
Carl J. Sukenick wrote and directed this movie, in which he also plays Carl J. Sukenick, the commander of the CIA, which mainly consists of sending his friends to do backyard chopsockery while his bored father stays behind in the security center, which one can only imagine is the family couch.
The film claims that it gives you the opporunity to “See the ultimate action-packed adventure of a lifetime as Earth is attached by hideous, evil creatures from an extradimensional universe.”
An agent named Neal was sent out to deal with the terrorist threat, but he was a traitor and has been mutated by radiation. So Carl must send Sara Shell, her husband Mark and their daughter Sheila to deal with things, but they’re all killed as well. Hell, they cut off poor Sara’s hand!
By the end of this, well, film, Carl must kill all of his friends before hunting down the hideous extra-dimensional being, which we are to assume comes from a place beyond our understanding, a universe of claymation.
Look, you can talk down on this movie all you want, but somehow Carl was smart enough to somehow get it out into the world and charged people $31.95 to see it. People bought it. Some people may have even rented it. Heck, I just wasted 74 minutes of my life watching it.
You can consider this a successful art project on many levels, the least of which was completing it. The foremost amongst it is that in the scene where the female enemy agent is caught and is forced to strip and have her breasts touched while someone says, “I must punish you,” Carl sent his friend Joe LaPenna home and did the stunt work with a masked and half-nude woman. Carl knew what he wanted and did it. He’s pretty much an auteur. Or aa maniac. Maybe both.
If you’ve ever wanted to hear narration of a film by someone who seems like they’re instead attempting to do their remedial reading homework instead of dialogue we are to assume that they have written, all while numerous people are horribly killed with some of the most homemade effects you’ve ever witnessed, then sit on down for some Alien Beasts. Here’s hoping you survive the experince.
Have you ever wished that a bunch of Category 3 Hong Kong maniacs would make their own Terminator mixed with RoboCopmovie and fill it with gore, sleaze and utter craziness? Good news! That movie is Robotrix!
Under the name Chien-Ming Lu, this film’s director Jamie Luk appeared in Lady Exterminator, Crippled Avengers and many more films. This is the first movie of his I’ve seen but definitely not the last as it’s packed with sheer maniacal ridiculousness.
Cast member Vincent Lyn told Richard Myers — in the book Great Martial Arts Movies: From Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan — and More — “Now that was one wild shoot. The cast and crew were all over the place and you were lucky to find out what you were doing before the cameras rolled. I spent more time laughing on the set than anything else.”
This is the kind of movie that features full-frontal male and female nudity, as well as numerous murder scenes with beheadings and a wire work martial arts battle between cyborgs.
Oh man, so what is it about anyways?
A mad scientist named Ryuichi Sakamoto (Chung Lin transfers his mind into a robot (former WKA champion Billy Chow, who did not show his dong in Fist of Legend), which frees him to do pretty much everything he’s always wanted to, like kidnapping an Arabic businessman and killing his bodyguard, Selena Lin (Chikako Aoyama).
A non-mad scientist named Dr. Sara (Hui Hsiao-dan) transfers Selena’s mind from her dead body into a cyborg named Eve-27. She rejoins the police force, bringing along the doctor’s robotic assistant Ann (Amy Yip). They’re soon on the trail of Sakamoto, who is leaving behind dead prostitutes pretty much everywhere he goes.
Sadly, I was hoping that Amy Yip and Chikako Aoyama would end up punishing the villain for the way he has treated women the entire movie, but nope. The Shiek ends up taking care of him. Other than that, this movie is filled with a disregard for human life — a scene where the evil cyborg repeatedly runs over the chubby comedic relief and then the cops shoot him hundreds of times before he laughs and runs over their friend’s dead body is my favorite part — and the cinematic equivalent of eating ten bags of Takis. Or Fritos. Or Doritos. You know what I’m saying!
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 Shadow, A 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.
Jack Bauer (Robert Urich) is a workaholic who gets involved in a case of child kidnapping when he returns a doll found in the subway. This ends up finding him get repeatedly abused, verbally and physically, and making you wonder why he even tried.
Director David Greene also was behind Madame Sin; the movie adaption of Godspell; Rich Man, Poor Man; Hard Country and the TV movie remakes of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Night of the Hunter.
Bauer soon joins with the girl’s mother, played by Megan Gallagher, and they do what they can to find her daughter. This, again, involves Urich charging in like an alpha male and continually getting beaten unmercifully.
This looks way better than a TV movie and could have played theaters.
Ripped from the headlines TV movies are my jam. In the world before the internet and the 24/7 news cycle, we had to wait for these movies to get the real story.
This is the tale of Marla Hanson (Cheryl Pollak), a model who moves to the big evil town of New York City but finds who she thinks is a nice guy to help her out. He even puts her up in an apartment and gives her tips to get ahead in modeling. But by the end, he’s hiring thugs to slice her face apart. It gets worse, because she has to defend herself in court despite not being the one on trial.
This was written and directed by John Grey, who created Ghost Whisperer. It’s not the best TV movie you’ve ever seen, but it does get pretty brutal in parts.
The real story of Hanson is shown here though. After resisting the attentions of her landlord Steve Roth, he hired two friends named Steven Bowman and Darren Norman to attack her. They left her with cuts that required a hundred stitches in her face, ruining her modeling career.
Hanson was subjected to brutal cross-examination by Bowman’s defense attorney Alton H. Maddox who was part of several high-profile civil rights cases in the 1980s. He claimed that Hanson had identified Bowman and Norman because she was racist. They got the maximum sentence and the judge told Hanson that he was incensed at the way the criminal justice system treated her.
Hanson would later write two Abel Ferrara films, the short Love on the Train and The Blackout.