PITTSBURGH MADE: Iron Maze (1991)

Directed by Hiroaki Yoshida, whose Twilight of the Cockroaches had an English translation by Robotech remixer Carl Macek and inspired Joe’s ApartmentIron Maze was co-written by Yoshida and Tim Metcalfe, who wrote Kalifornia, Revenge of the Nerds and Fright Night 2. What a resume! It was produced by Oliver Stone, whose name is high above everyone else on the VHS box art.

It’s all based In a Grove by Ryûnosuke Akutagawa, the writer of Rashomon.

It’s set in Corinth, Pennsylvania, a town that does not exist but was the setting for the soap opera Loving. Junichi Sugita (Hiroaki Murakami) has bought a local steel mill and plans on tearing it down to make a theme park — hey, Kennywood is ten minutes away if this is set in Pittsburgh — but he’s found near brain-dead inside his factory. Is it the steelworkers, led by former boss Jack Ruhle (J.T, Walsh) and Mayor Peluso (John Randolph), angry that they’re about to have to work minimum wage jobs? Or is it hotel worker Barry Mikowski (Jeff Fahey) who was insulted by Sugita and has been taking it out by sticking it to the man’s American wife Chris (Bridget Fonda)?

It’s Gung Ho with steel instead of cars and sex instead of hilarity.

This was shot in Braddock, the home of Martin and John Fetterman’s adopted hometown. This really gets across just how bad the dead mills made Pittsburgh amongst its surreal scenes. Fonda’s character is from Harmony, but I bet it’s really Zelienople and she doesn’t want to teach Japanese people how to pronounce that. Also: 1991 Bridget Fonda is a good argument for intelligent design.

SLASHER MONTH: Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991)

Directed by Dvid DeCoteau and written by Charles Band, C. Courtney Joyner and David Schmoeller, Puppet Master III is not a sequel but instead a prequel, starring Guy Rolfe as the creator of the many puppets that we’ve come to know, love and maybe be afraid of, the legendary Andre Toulon.

When the story begins, Toulon and his wife Elsa (Sarah Douglas) are doing puppet shows for kids but also working in some anti-Third Reich messaging, like how Six-Shooter attacks a Fuhrer puppet. A German scientist named Dr. Hess (David Abercrombie) wants his formula for creating living puppets while Major Kraus (Richard Lynch) wants to arrest him for treason, so he takes him and his puppets Tunneler and Pinhead. He also kills Elsa right after Toulon gives her a puppet with her likeness. That puppet becomes Leech Woman and we also get to see another creation named Jester.

Hess isn’t horrible. He bonds with Toulon, who explains that each puppet was someone he knew  and loved. Their strong will to live after death kept them living within each of his creations. This is also the origin of Blade, who may be the most popular of the puppets.

I hate that the new movies make the puppets become Nazis instead of killing them. Let’s get back to the idea of this movie because it works so much better.

RONIN FLIX BLU RAY RELEASE: Curse III: Blood Sacrifice (1991)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was on the site on December 23, 2021. It’s back because Ronin Flix has released it on blu ray. You can get it now from MVD

Shot as Panga by director Sean Barton (who only directed this one movie, but has edited many more) on location in South Africa in 1989, this film was added to the Curse series of films. None of these movies are connected and you know, that’s kind of how we like it. You can call it Witchcraft, Blood Sacrifice or Curse III: Panga, if you’d like.

Geoff Armstrong (Andre Jacobs) and his wife Elizabeth (Jenilee Harrison, Cindy Snow from Three’s Company and Jamie Ewing Barnes on Dallas) are running a large sugar plantation in East Africa. Things go wrong when the sacrifice of a goat by the locals get interrupted and a witch doctor calls a demon from the sea that kills everyone in the Armstrong family except Elizabeth.

Elizabeth gets help from Dr. Pearson (Christopher Lee) and to break the curse she must lure the witch doctor into the sugar cane fields and set him on fire. Seems like a good plan, I guess.

The fish man is designed by The Fly special FX artist Chris Walas, so this has that going for it. It’s not really all that exciting, nor is at as devoted to being entertaining weirdness like the first two films in the Curse non-series.

SLASHER MONTH: Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Written by the returning Don Mancini and directed by Jack Bender, whose career may have been mostly in TV, but he also directed The Midnight Hour so he gets horror, Child’s Play 3 would be the last Chucky movie Mancini would be involved in until Bride of Chucky.

Eight years after the events of the last movie, the Good Guys factory is reopened and near-immediately — why do they keep opening this place? — the blood of Chucky gets on a new doll, the CEO gets killed and Andy (now played by Justin Whalen) is tracked down at Kent Military School, as he has had so many foster families ruined by his PTSD from Chucky that he has to be drafted into this place. By the end, Chucky turns the place into a real warzone, trying to possess a young kid named Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers), slicing throats and throwing grenades.

This movie was made under pressure, as it was greenlit before Child’s Play 2 was even released and was in theaters nine months after that film. It also only made $20.5 million on a $13 million budget, ending the franchise for seven years.

In a replay of the video nasties era, Child’s Play 3 was part of a tabloid panic in Great Britain, where journalists claimed the film had influenced two 10-year-old boys in their murder of two-year-old James Bulger. It was later determined that neither had actually seen this movie. Additionally, sixteen-year-old Suzanne Capper of Manchester was kidnapped and tortured by former friends for several day, then set on fire and left to die. She was forced to listen to the song “Hi, I’m Chucky (Wanna Play?)” by 150 Volts while being abused and one of her abusers, Bernadette McNeilly, started each torture session with the phrase “Chucky’s coming to play.” As you can imagine, tabloids also had a field day with this story, blaming it on the movies when that song was in heavy rotation at the time. Child’s Play 3 was the movie they claimed caused all of this.

THE IMPORTANT CINEMA CLUB’S SUPER SCARY MOVIE CHALLENGE DAY 1: Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)

Day 1. A Horror Film Seemingly For Kids. That’s Way Too Scary For Kids.

Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) started in a series of television commercials shot at the Nashville-area home of producer John Cherry III and Jerry Carden. Starting in 1980, they eventually did 25 different versions of each commercial and Varney would just insert the name of the company paying for the ad, then yelling for his friend Vern and saying “KnoWhutimean?”

Carden and Cherry gort  requests from major national companies to use Ernest, but they already had non-compete deals with their existing clients such as Cerritos Auto Square, Audubon Chrysler Center, John L. Sullivan auto dealerships, ABC Warehouse, Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Store, Purity Milk, Blake’s Lotaburger, Tyson’s Toyota and Lewis Drug. That’s why Ernest started making movies with the first being Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam.

The fifth movie in six years — plus the TV series Hey Vern, It’s Ernest! — but man, I have no idea what everyone was smoking. Starting with a montage of clips from Nosferatu, White Zombie, Phantom from Space, The Brain from Planet Arous, The Screaming Skull, Missile to the Moon, The Hideous Sun Demon, The Giant Gila Monster, The Killer Shrews), The Little Shop of Horrors and Battle Beyond the Sun, the movie soon moves to the secret history of Briarville, Missouri. The troll Trantor  was turning children into wooden dolls before Ernest’s ancestors sealed him under an oak tree. Before he is trapped, he curses the entire Worrell family, making each new generation dumber until one day, the dumbest of them all will unleash him.

Ernest has already built a treehouse for his friends — he has no adult friends and is a grown manchild — yet learns from Old Lady Hackmore (Earth Kitt) that the tree contains Trantor. Soon, the dreaded beast — looking like something out of a direct to video horror movie and not a film released by Disney — is loose and turning all the kids into wooden figures. Only Ernest and his dog Rimshot can save them.

The reason why this looks so frightening is because the Chiodo Brothers worked on the trolls and they basically built them to move and be destroyed like the Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

So why did this movie underperform when all the other Ernest movies before do so well? Could it be the fact that a troll stealing the souls of children was too much? Director, co-writer and producer John Cherry III said that Trontor “hurt the box office by $10,000,000.”

If you’re looking to get your kids into horror or you know an annoying child who is easily frightened and needs taken down, let me recommend this film. I missed out on Ernerst as I was too old for him, but my wife was the right age and watched this even when it wasn’t Halloween. She still watches it now.

Erotic Ghost Story 2 (1991)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

1990 saw the release of the Category III hit Erotic Ghost Story. Directed by Lam Ngai Kai, the softcore art film boasted an engaging story, beautiful sets, costumes, and cinematography. Not to mention good acting by attractive people. Inspired by The Witches of Eastwick and Pu Songling’s Strange Tales, a scholar seduces three fox spirits who, having attained human form, learn later, that he is a demon. The supernatural conclusion where the three band together to fight said demon before they lose their human privileges was well-executed and scary. It’s one of the rare films of its type to be considered a classic to this day.  

Erotic Ghost Story 2 not only dishonors its memory, but actually serves as a perfect example of the stereotype that all Category III films are, in fact, throwaway sex films. This movie was absolutely pointless and horrible. The story was non-existent; the acting was atrocious and the sex scenes had the air of late night made for cable movie with the entire production looking as if it had a fraction of the budget of the original. Even the accomplished Anthony Wong taking over in the role of the demon Chiu-Sheng a.k.a Wutung couldn’t save this mess as he does little more than parade around with a white lion’s mane on his head in kabuki make-up making scary faces. Overall, the film was just boring save for the threesome scene with having sex on a swing. Even then, it’s only interesting because of the sexual positions on display. 

There’s also an underwater scene that woke me from my stupor because it made me wonder how long the actors had to hold their breath. My best guess is that they finished that day’s shoot with a sigh of relief much the same as I felt when the credits finally rolled on this piece of crap.

You can watch the trailer on YouTube.

L’Ultima Meta (1991)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally appeared in Drive-In Asylum #22 which you can buy here.

Often, I refer to movies as having an all-star cast, which is really a misnomer. After all, what I consider A-list talent certainly does not fit the rest of the world. The Last Match, however, has the very definition of what I consider an all-star cast. Let’s take a look at the lineup:

Ernest Borgnine: Amongst the 211 credits Mr. Borgnine amassed on his IMDB list, none other have him leading a football team against an unnamed Caribbean island to save his assistant coach’s little girl. He was, however, in four Dirty Dozen movies and The Wild Bunch, not to mention playing Coach Vince Lombardi in a TV movie. One assumes that he took this role to get away from his wife Tova and her incessant cosmetics shilling. 

Charles Napier: As the American consul in this movie, Napier cuts a familiar path, which he set after appearing in the monster hit Rambo: First Blood Part II. For him, it was either playing bureaucrats or cops, thankless roles that he always brought a little something extra to. The exception is Baxter Wolfe, the man who rocks Susan Lakes’ loins in the beyond essential Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Henry Silva: If you need a dependable jerk and you have the budget of, well, an Italian movie about a football team that also does military operations, call Mr. Silva. He admirably performed the role of the heel — or antihero at other times in movies like Megaforce, Battle of the Godfathers, Cry of a Prostitute (in which he plays the Yojimbo role but in a mafia film; he also pushes Barbara Bouchet’s face inside a dead pig’s carcass while making love to her and he’s the good guy), Escape from the Bronx and so many more movies.

Martin Balsam: Perhaps best known for Psycho, Balsam shows up in all manner of movies that keep me up at 4 AM on nights when I know work will come sooner than I fear. He’s so interested in acting up a storm in this movie that he is visibly reading off cue cards.

They’ve all joined up for a movie that finds the coach’s daughter get Midnight Express-ed as drugs are thrown in her bag at the airport on the way home from a vacation with her hapless jerk of a boyfriend. At least he’s smart enough to call assistant coach Cliff Gaylor (Oliver Tobias), the father of the daughter whose life he has just ruined. And luckily for this film, Tobias was in a movie called Operation Nam nearly a decade before, which meant that they could recycle footage of him in combat. He also was The Stud and serviced Joan Collins, so he has my eternal jealousy going for him, too.

Who could dream up a movie like this? Oh, only Larry Ludman, but we see through that fake name and know that it’s Fabrizio De Angelis steering this ship, the maker of beloved trash such as Killer Crocodile, five Karate Warrior movies and three Thunder movies that star the beloved Mark Gregory as a stiff legged Native American warrior who pretty much cosplays as Rambo. And don’t forget — this is the man who produced Zombi, The House by the Cemetery, The Beyond and New York Ripper!

In this outing, he’s relying on Cannibal Holocaust scribe Gianfranco Clerici and House on the Edge of the Park writer Vincenzo Mannino to get the job done. For some reason, despite this being an Italian exploitation movie, we never see the coach’s daughter in jail. Instead, we’re treated to what seems like Borgnine in a totally different movie than everyone else, barking orders into his headphones as if he was commanding the team in a playoff game. 

To make matters even more psychotic, the football players show up in full uniform instead of, you know, commando gear. One wonders, by showing up in such conspicuous costumes, how could they avoid an international incident? This is my lesson to you, if you’re a nascent Italian scumtastic cinema viewer: shut off your brain, because these movies don’t have plot holes. They’d have to have actual plots for that to be possible. 

I say this with the fondest of feelings, because you haven’t lived until you witness a football player dropkick a grenade into a helicopter. Supposedly this was written by Gary Kent for Bo Svenson, who sold the script to De Angelis unbeknownst to the stuntman until years later. It was originally about a soccer team!

Former Buffalo Bills QB Jim Kelly* is in this, which amuses me to no end, as does the ending, where — spoiler warning — Borgnine coaches the team from beyond the grave!

You know how conservative folks have quit watching the NFL as of late? This is the movie to bring ‘em back, a film where the offensive line has fully automatic machine guns and refuses to kneel for anything. No matter what your politics, I think we can all agree on one thing: no matter how dumb an idea seems, Italian cinema always tries to pull it off. 

*Other pros include Florida State and arena football player Bart Schuchts and USFL player Mark Rush, as well as Dolphins Jim Jensen, Mike Kozlowsky, Elmer Bailey and Jim Kiick. It’s kind of astounding that at one point, these players could just end up in a movie without the NFL knowing. This would never happen today.

VISUAL VENGEANCE BLU RAY RELEASE: Slaughter Day (1991)

Brent and Blake Cousins started by making lo-fi shot on video wildness and have made movies like Rising Dead and documentaries like Who Saw the Men In BlackUFO ReportUFO Events – The Best of Third Phase and Countdown to Disclosure: The Secret Technology Behind the Space Force.

But when I say lo-fi, don’t forget I am also saying high concept. For 58 minutes the brothers put not only their lives on the line, but what looks like the lives of every single one of their friends, all to entertain you like you’ve never been entertained before.

Sure, people have been making movies inspired by The Evil Dead since that movie got made. But have you seen one where the evil book is really H.R. Giger’s Necronomicon?

Blake and Jonah (Blake and Brent) are twin brothers who are supposed to be fixing up a cabin, but when they arrive, they find their co-worker — and nemesis — John (or Johns, the Hawaiian stoner accents are amazing and infectious) hacking a man to death. Oh yeah — the guy has always been a jerk, but once he started reading that Giger art book, he got to be a real jerk. And then he found that possessed air filtration mask and started everyone on the crew huffing on it and now, well, now it’s a problem that our twin heroes have to stop.

You know how I always say zombie movies are boring? This movie punched, kicked, then spin kicked me in the face and then threw a guy off a building to convince me I was wrong, so wrong. The camera never stops moving and even finds some artistic framing for so many shots and that makes me forgive that I can keep hearing one of the Cousins brothers — man, that’s nearly a pro wrestling tag team appellation if I ever heard one — yell “Go!” throughout the movie. Or that this was shot on S-VHS and edited VCR to VCR. But you know what? There are people with credits that take four hours filled with multiple CGI studios and none of them have the non-stop action and balls of this movie.

Axe mutilations! Men folded in half by demonic portals! Fisticuffs! Slugfests! Geysers of gore! A shotgun that obviously has lit fireworks emerging from it! Car chases with no permits! Hawaii! Sometimes people say “This movie has it all,” but this was the movie they were talking about.

This is the best movie I’ve seen all summer. If you’re a square who needs things like credits that make sense, continuity, a lack of tracking static, a clear picture and an actual story, well, you can go get fucked.

The blu ray — available from MVD — is the first time this movie has ever been released on any disc format! Made from an archival 1991 SD master from original tapes, it also has:

  • New audio commentary with Brent and Blake Cousins
  • Interview: The Cousins Brothers Today
  • Alternate takes
  • Limited Edition Slipcase by The Dude Designs — FIRST PRESSING ONLY
  • Early short film: Full Metal Platoon
  • Slaughter Day theme song
  • Slaughter Day 2: Original short film (1989)
  • Slaughter Day 3: Original short film (1989)
  • Slaughter Day 4: original shirt films (1989)
  • Original trailer
  • Trailers for other Cousins films
  • Folded mini-poster
  • Four Page Liner notes by Tony Strauss of Weng’s Chop magazine
  • Stick your own’video store sticker sheet
  • Visual Vengeance trailers
  • Reversible Sleeve featuring original VHS art

For more details on the label and updates on new releases – as well as news on upcoming releases – follow Visual Vengeance on social media:

TWITTER @VisualVenVideo

INSTAGRAM visualvenvideo

FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/visualvenvideo

Killer Instinct (1991)

Tim Casey (Scott Valentine) is an up and coming lawyer who can’t get a break from district attorney John Doogan (Charles Napier) until the D.A.’s niece Deborah Walker (Vanessa Angel, Kingpin) helps him by blackmailing and killing Doogan and then seducing Tim. Meanwhile, like a giallo heroine, Tim thinks that he’s the one who did the murdering.

Directed and written by David Tausik, this was also known as Homicidal Impulse. The reason it looks so good is because the cinematographer was Jennifer Stoltz, who is really Janusz Kaminski. Within two years, he’d win an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for the movie Schindler’s List. He’s worked with Steven Spielberg ever since. He also directed 2000’s Lost Souls.

Scott Valentine is pretty wooden in this, except for the lovemaking scenes, which is probably what most people wanted to watch anyhow. Talia Balsam, Martin’s daughter, who was also in The Supernaturals, also shows up.

CANNON MONTH 2: Invader (1991)

Most of Invader was produced independently by director Philip Cook and producer John Ellis, since Cook’s previous film Beyond the Rising Moon wasn’t a big success. Cook shot all the inexpensive dialogue sequences and after showing them to Menahem Golan, he agreed to finance the rest of the movie.

It starts with four men running from military police. Three are shot and killed before the fourth sees a UFO and is destroyed by an energy weapon. This ends up being discovered by Frank McCall (Hans Bachmann), a reporter for the National Scandal. After sneaking into the base and watching a secret plane equipped with A.S.M.O.D.S, software, McCall is arrested by Captain Anders (A. Thomas Smith). Before he can take him in, men in black — six years before the movie, but they had been part of UFO culture for several years by then — take McCall and try to brainwash him. He’s saved at the last minute by Anders and Colonel Faraday (Rick Foucheux). In response, the men in black kill themselves.

A.S.M.O.D.S. was taken from an alien ship that crashed in New Mexico and it’s taking over the base. McCall and Anders escape in a jet. It has also built a giant robot named HARV that has absorbed America’s nationalist and wants to rain nuclear hell on China and Russia. Can they stop the robot and save the world?

When this was released on DVD in 2006, Cook went back in and fixed up some of the effects with CGI.

This was made two years before The X-Files aired on Fox. That’s pretty wild.

You can watch this on Tubi.