Firehead (1991)

Action International Pictures, also known as West Side Studios, was founded by David Winters, David A. Prior and Peter Yuval in 1986. After Winters was overruled on a casting decision for Thrashin’ — he wanted Johnny Depp and they wanted Josh Brolin — Winters made the professional decision to control all aspects of future projects.

All of this would lead to them producing seventeen movies and distributing forty one more between 1988 and 1994. They often used the same cast and crew in many of the films, such as David Prior and his brother Red, as well as William Zipp as actor, writer, director, producer, and stunt man. They weren’t above getting big stars, either. That is, if you consider Cameron Mitchell a big star, which I completely do.

Some of their films include Island of BloodMiami GolemDeadly PreyZombie Death HousePhoenix the WarriorElvesFuture ForceFuture ZoneNight Trap, and, of course, Space Mutiny. Truly, their work is the bottom of a very tasty barrel.

Today, however, we’re here to discuss Firehead.

At some point in 1988, a telekinetic Soviet agent known only as Firehead (Brett Porter, Arena) defects to the United States after he refuses to use his abilities against a crowd of protesters. Yet just two years later, he’s blowing up American factories, which brings a chemist (Chris Lemmon, who was on Thunder In Paradise) and an assassin (Gretchen Becker, Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence) together to track him down. In the midst of all this, Christopher Plummer shows up as a military man out to use Firehead to take over the world. And Martin Landau? Oh, he should know better. He really should.

If you think you have the gumption to deal with this, well…it’s on Amazon Prime. You’d be better off watching it in RiffTrax form, though.

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)

Writer and director Lam Ngai Kai’s films combine comedy, action, adventure and horror, often less concerned with narrative. Despite a long career, starting with films for the Shaw Brothers all the way to several standouts in the 80’s and 90’s such as The Ghost Snatchers and The Cat, he’s best known in the west for this film.

Riki-Oh started as a manga, or Japanese comic book, and ran for three years in the magazine Business Jump. Created by Masahiko Takajo and Tetsuya Saruwatari, it tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world where prisons have become privatized and their populations used for slave labor. One of the prisoners is Riki-Oh, who is there for killing the Yakuza boss who was responsible for the death of his girlfriend. He’s the one man that can’t be broken, as he’s learned Qigong from one of Chiang Kai-shek’s bodyguards. Now, he’s so strong that he can punch holes through literally anything and everyone.

Qigong is “a holistic system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing and meditation” that is all about cultivating life energy, known as chi. I don’t know if it can be used to punch a man’s head clean off, but who am I to go against Hong Kong cinema by the way of Japan?

Ricky starts the film by earning the ire of the gangs within the jail by stopping Wildcat, the captain of the cells, from abusing an older inmate named Omar. This all leads to Omar killing himself, realizing he’ll never leave the prison, and the gang sending the obese Zorro after our hero, only to be absolutely obliterated. That’s when we learn through flashbacks why Ricky is in jail and how he learned exactly how to become pretty much invincible. Seriously — he still has five bullets inside his heart and he can even restitch the veins in his arm in the midst of combat.

This brings Ricky into conflict with the Gang of Four, the leaders of each of the cells, and Warden Dan, who has one eye. The other has all of his drugs inside it. The first battle between Ricky and Oscar ends up Oscar trying to commit seppuku and slicing into his own stomach before choking Ricky with his intestines. Oh yeah — this is when I should warn you that this movie has absolutely no restrictions. If something can explode in a shower of blood and gore, it will, over and over and over again.

Ricky spends the rest of the film battling the other leaders — Rogan, Brandon and Tarzan — as well as the brutal warden. Everyone that tries to help our hero is killed and he must survive being buried alive and covered in concrete to rise up and finally kill the warden and punch his way through the wall of the prison to discover freedom.

There are so many strange moments and characters in this film that it’s almost impossible to list them all. This is simply a movie that must be experienced, as it’s literally a comic book come to life. It also has a dub so poor that most giallo is a step up in quality.

My favorite character — other than Ricky — is the warden’s spoiled son. He eats candy constantly and his clumsy nature leads to numerous deaths. This is a film in love with slapstick as much as violent death.

Star Fan Siu-Wong would return for Dint King, Inside King, a spiritual sequel of sorts that is set in the distant future. He wears the same camouflage poncho in this film, but has a different name and the film isn’t an official Riki-Oh movie.

There’s also an anime of this story, but what’s amazing is just how much this movie is a real-life cartoon. It’s like Cool Hand Luke mixed with Dead Alive, a film that shows you how Luke could have really done better if he just knocked people’s jaws off instead of eating all of those hard-boiled eggs.

You can watch it for free on Tubi.

Sins of the Mother (1991)

The bizarre relationship between an overbearing mother and her son, a convicted rapist? Sounds like a giallo, but it’s a 1990’s made for TV movie. That said, it’s based on a novel by Jack Olsen and also based on a true story.

Yes, Kevin Coe (Dale Midkiff, Pet Sematary) may be a horrible real estate agent, but he’s good at one thing: assaulting and murdering women. Maybe that’s two things. Regardless, he has to put up with the taunts of his socialite mother (Elizabeth Montgomery, BewitchedThe Legend of Lizzie Borden).

Now, his new girlfriend Ginny Perham is getting too close and she just might unravel all his secrets. Hey — Talia Balsam is in this, which makes me happy, as I always celebrate when her dad shows up in horror films. And Caroline Williams — Stretch from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 — shows up.

Not much else happens, sad to say. Maybe I was hoping for more of a trip into the psychosexual mind — I blame the trailer for Torso for that line — but got nothing.

Hudson Hawk (1991)

Whatever Hudson Hawk is, it’s not what it started out to be. It’s totally different than the movie Joel Silver wanted to produce and it’s completely different than the script Steven E. de Souza wrote. As Bruce Willis became a bigger and bigger star, he just took over, bringing on screenwriter Daniel Waters to add plenty of strangeness to De Souza’s straightforward adventure tale.

It didn’t even have the same bad guys. Originally, Joss Ackland was going to be the Bond-style bad guy. Then, director Michael Lehmann actually had conversations with Audrey Hepburn before Willis said, “Let’s take the guy from the first draft and the girl from the second and make them a couple.”

Hudson Hawk is really the story of how a small and fun film turned into a $50 million dollar loss for TriStar Pictures. In fact, this was the last movie produced by the company before they merged with the struggling Columbia Pictures. The film lost so much money, Sony had to salvage the companies by purchasing the remaining stock, then reorganizing the company as part of the recently-formed Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Eddie “Hudson Hawk” Hawkins (Willis) just wants to celebrate his first day of parole with a cappuccino, but to get there, he has to deal with his parole officer, the Mario Brothers mafia family and the CIA, all of whom want him to do one more heist.

Finally, he and his partner Tommy “Five-Tone” Messina (Danny Aiello) are forced to comply with Mayflower Industries, which is run by husband and wife Darwin (Richard E. Grant) and Minerva Mayflower (Sandra Bernhard), along with their blade-slinging butler, Alfred (Donald Burton). Their goal is to rebuild da Vincy’s La Macchina dell’Oro, the alchemical machine that converts lead into gold.

There are crystals in da Vinci’s art that will power this machine, as well as a nun named Sister Anna Baragli (Andie MacDowell) who is an operative for the Vatican’s secret intelligence. Also — our heroes use different songs to time out their robberies. Still with us?

That said, It’s hard for me to hate a movie that features James Coburn as George Kaplan, the name of the fake agent from North by Northwest, complete with handcuffs and a phone that emit the same tones as his famous Flint series of films. Or one that has David Caruso as an agent named Kit-Kat (all the CIA guys are named for candy bars).

However, this is a film that proves that there really can be too much of a good thing. The end takes a long time to get there and when it does, you’ll wonder why so much effort went into it.

Hey man — it was the 1990’s and these were the movies people wanted to see. This is the story of ego out of control. Yet the film that gave Willis so much power — he had tested really high with audiences in test screenings of Bonfire of the Vanities — crashed too.

Between the throes of trying to release Meet the Applegates and the way he was treated by Willis on this film, it’s a wonder Michael Lehmann ever directed again. But he stayed with it — he’s been behind several American Horror Story episodes.

BONUS: You can hear Becca tell me how much she hates this movie on our podcast.

Double Impact (1991)

Instead of one Jean-Claude Van Damme, why not have two? It ended up being a trope so popular that the actor would return to it several times — ReplicantMaximum Risk, even Timecop to some degree all involve multiple versions of the action star.

Here, he plays Chad & Alex Wagner. Chad has grown up in Los Angeles as the son of privilege while Alex was raised on Hong Kong, giving him a much rougher edge. Van Damme wanted to play twins to help change his image. “One of them is violent and the other is not, so the audience can see the contrast in my work,” he said. “This picture has comedy, romance, a love story. So it is not all action and fighting. When I fight on screen, I blend dancing and fighting. Grace plus power is very nice.” Of the two, the actor said that he was closer to Chad than Alex, saying, “In real life I am not this cold, quiet guy who goes around kicking butt.”

Years ago, Paul Wagner and Nigel Griffith opened the Hong Kong Victoria Harbour tunnel. On the way home, Paul tells his bodyguard, Frank Avery (Geoffrey Lewis) to go home, but as soon as that happens, the Triads attack. Paul is killed and his wife begs for the lives of her children. “What are you going to do to my babies?” she asked of the evil Moon, played by Bolo Yeung. “You’ll never know,” he responds, blowing her away with a shotgun. You have to love just how evil the bad guys are in a Van Damme movie.

The maid is able to escape with Alex, leaving him in a Hong Kong orphanage whole Frank is able to rescue Chad, bringing him to the United States, where they run a martial arts studio. This leads to a magical scene where Van Damme wows an entire room of women by doing one of his amazing splits in front of them.

Frank takes Chad to Hong Kong to meet his brother so that they can get revenge on Griffith and get their part of the royalties from the tunnel. However, Chad’s girlfriend Danielle Wilde ends up coming between the two, who are as opposite as can be.

Will the brothers get along at the end? Of course, they will. But along the way, they’re going to battle one another as well as an array of bad guys. Beyond Yeung, there’s also Corinna Everson, who was Ms. Olympia for six years in a row. She’s also the sister of Cameo Kneuer, who hosted WBF Body Stars, the TV show that sold Vince McMahon’s ill-fated World Bodybuilding Foundation. She plays the evil Kara, who can’t stop harassing Danielle throughout the film.

Double Impact was made at a time before CGI. That means that a lot of the film was completed with doubles and camera trickery, which is pretty awesome. The making of the film videos on the new MVD collector’s edition blu ray goes into detail on how this was accomplished thanks to Jeff and Jerry Rector, identical twins who doubled for Van Damme.

Like all of MVD’s releases, this blu ray is great. It’s packed with extras, like the two making of docs, never before seen behind the scenes features, trailers and even an enclosed movie poster. They’ve also released Black Eagle and Lionheart in this format. It’s awesome that they were able to get Van Damme to sit down and share his feelings on what it was like to make this movie.

Plus, you get most of the actors and stuntmen to speak about the making of the film, including director Sheldon Lettich, who worked with Van Damme on BloodsportLionheartThe Hard CorpsThe Order and Legionnaire. He and JCVD have discussed a sequel to this film, where Chad has become a film producer and Alex is still in trouble with the Triads.

Here’s hoping that MVD releases more Van Damme movies with this level of detail and care. I learned a lot from the documentary, like how Michael Douglas was producing both this film and the Brian Bosworth vehicle Stone Cold, believing that the latter was the movie that had the best chance of success.

Fatal Bond (1991)

We’ve already covered one Australian Linda Blair movie, 1990’s Deep Sleep. Obviously, the next stage in our quest to covered every single movie she’s ever been in would eventually bring us to another Down Under Blair effort. Being a completist is kind of like that.

Joe Martinez is a violent drifter who only really loves his car and getting into fisticuffs. He’s saved from being arrested one night by an American girl named Leonie (Blair) and they’re soon making the kind of love reserved for Cinemax at 2:17 AM. Complicating matters is that Joe might be a serial killer. You know how that happens.

For those interested in the siblings of more famous actors, Mel Gibson’s brother Donal shows up.

Look — if the dude you hooked up with in a bar is being followed by the police for unpaid parking tickets and you find the bodies of any woman that he flirted or cheated on you with, chances are you’re actually Linda Blair and are trapped in a bad Australian movie. I have no idea how to help you. It will get worse when the father of the dead girl starts hunting you and your potential murderer beau. Truly, no actress has played more beaten down, treated like garbage characters than Linda, yet here I am, wishing the best for her as I watch her roles at 5:38 AM.

The Haunted (1991)

Jack and Janet Smurl of West Pittston, PA say that a demon was in their house for nearly 15 years between 1974 and 1989, despite the denials of the Catholic Church, psychologists and scientific skeptics. Luckily, they had Ed and Lorraine Warren on their side, who encouraged their beliefs and even helped them write the book that this movie was based on.

Sally Kirkland was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her work in this movie as Janet Smurl. Jack is played by Jeffrey DeMunn, who you may know as Dale from TV’s The Walking Dead. Or if you’re like Becca and never watched that show, you’ll know him as the sheriff from the remake of The Blob.

Louise Latham from Marnie plays the grandmother and George D. Wallace — Commander Cody himself! — is the grandfather, who doesn’t believe any of this is happening but has a great part where he fends off the media on the porch with a rifle.

Joyce Van Patten — the domineering mom from Monkey Shines — shows up as a neighbor, with Stephen Markle and Diane Baker playing the Warrens, way before The Conjuring series of films (I kind of Lorraine also appeared on Road Rules: All-Stars before Hollywood truly came calling). Keep an eye out for the reporter who collapses on the Smurl’s front lawn — that’s Lorraine.

The best part of this movie? The crazy way it visualizes the demonic presence as a black formless bit of nothing that has multiple voices. The funniest? There are numerous moments, but I kind of love that copyright issues meant that when the kids watch Lost In Space, they dubbed over the actor’s voices.

You can watch this on Shudder.

Nothing but Trouble (1991)

You know how people always complain that Hollywood isn’t doing anything new, constantly churning out CGI-filled remakes and comic book movies? They should really check out this bit of absolute insanity, one of the last all practical effects films, which is literally an auteur moment from the pure id of Dan Aykroyd.

Nothing but Trouble started after producer Robert K. Weiss went to a movie with Dan and Peter Aykroyd. That movie was Hellraiser, as Weiss had a fractured rib and it hurt to laugh. Once the movie started, the three were shocked to see people laughing, which gave them the idea to create a horror comedy.

Peter remembered an event where Dan was pulled over in a small upstate New York town, had to pay $50 and then endure a four-hour cup of tea with the town’s justice of the peace. That started the process, with Dan using dreams — like the giant mutant babies — and the study of the ever-burning town of Centralia, PA.

After John Hughes and John Landis turned it down, Aykroyd decided to direct and play two heavy makeup roles, which only added to his stress once filming began. Most of its $40 million budget secured Chevy Chase — who repeatedly screamed at cast members and would yell that he was more important than Aykroyd — and the movie’s elaborate sets and effects.

That said, it’s been said that Chevy would call up various co-stars at night, after filming, to apologize for what he perceived to be stressed out behavior. If you ask me, that’s the traditional behavior of an abuser. Billy Murray said it best. Medium talent.

Luckily, Aykroyd had a great crew who rallied around him (one crew member even threatened to drop a brick on Chase’s head) to make something really special. Or weird. It depends on your point of view. I actually love this movie, which is completely disgusting and disquieting, two things which I know made audiences hate it. Yet I must remain the champion of the films that are lost and forgotten.

When financial publisher Chris Thorne (Chase) meets lawyer Diane Lightson (Demi Moore), he decides to invite her along on a trip to meet clients in Atlantic City. Joining them are the wealthy and oh so abrasive siblings Fausto and Renalda Squiriniszu (Taylor Negron, who is missed greatly in these parts, and Bertila Damas).

After running a stop sign in the small village of Valkenvania and attempting to leave the scene of the crime, they’re all arrested by officer Dennis Valkenheiser (John Candy, whose star power got this made) and taken before the town’s judge, 106-year-old Alvin Valkenheiser (Aykroyd). After Chris offends the judge — I feel that this role may be the closest Chase came to playing himself outside of Community — he sends them all to jail.

Meanwhile, a bunch of drunk drivers are sent to a murderous rollercoaster called Mr. Bonestripper while everyone else is invited to a horrifying dinner of sausages driven around on a model train. Soon, everyone is on the run, trying to escape the denizens of the town, like Alvin’s mute granddaughter Eldona (Candy again) and the deformed Bobo (played by Aykroyd) and Lil’ Debbull. Also: Digital Underground shows up.

Again, for better or worse, this movie is all Aykroyd. The police badges, seen in the revolving frames on the judge’s bench, are actual badges from his personal collection. He’s been a lifelong police supporter, which is interesting given this film’s conspiratorial tone that all of the cops are in on it.

I’m of the belief that this film is a success. It’s not afraid to be completely unhinged and blow through a budget — but it’s all on the screen — using the set of High Noon to create the most lunatic setting for a film I’ve ever seen.

The YouTube series Good Bad Flicks is a big inspiration for a lot of what I write. Check out their amazing breakdown of this film and how it was made for even more.

You can watch this for free on VUDU.

Do or Die (1991)

Just like every Andy Sidaris movie, this one has a new bad guy, but we certainly know the actor playing him. It’s Pat Morita, Mr. Miyagi himself, playing Masakana “Kane” Kaneshiro. He starts the movie by capturing our heroines, Donna Hamilton (the ever dependable and buoyant Dona Spears) and Nicole Justin (Roberta Vasquez). Instead of just killing them off, he announces that he is sending the world’s greatest killers after them. While that’s all happening and they’re good and distracted, he’ll get busy on messing with the stock market.

Six different teams of assassins come after our girls, none with much success. Maybe if evil Miyagi had a computer from the 1990’s instead of the mid 1980’s he could find a better team of killers. That said, if you ever were seeking out a Pat Morita sex scene, I have good news for you. This is where to get all of that sweet, sweet wax on, wax off loving.

Remember the last movie where Erik Estrada was a bad guy? Well, he’s back on the side of the girls here as Richard “Rico” Estevez. This is perhaps the only film I can think of where Ponch kills a hitman with an explosive baseball. And yes, of course he and Donna do the frickle frackle. Get up in them guts. Do a bit of the rip ‘n dip. You know what I’m saying: they take grandma to Applebee’s.

This movie also marks Ava Cadell’s first appearance — as a hit woman — in the Sidaris universe. She’ll keep showing up as a combination DJ/sexologist/communications operative for KSXY Radio in the other films. But here, she’s an evil assassin who threatens to blow off the breasts of our heroines.

I love that in his autobiography, Bullets Bombs and Babes, he referred to “cleaning up their dossiers” for his characters. By that, he meant that if people loved them as bad guys, they’d eventually love them as members of the team. Or maybe they were too busy masturbating to care.

Pandora Peaks, billed as Stephanie Schick, shows up. She starred in Russ Meyers’ last movie, Pandora Peaks, a film with no dialogue, just the actress dressing, undressing and walking for 72 minutes. There’s also a heroic cat named, well, Cat. His real name was Trigger.

By this film, I’ve come to realize that Andy Sidaris may be trying to titillate us, but the truth is that the only lovemaking in his films are initiated by the strong powerful women within. The good men can’t shoot straight and the evil ones can never outdo them. Sure, they have breasts the size of your head, but that doesn’t make them ineffectual or idiots. It’s pretty insane when you consider how subversive these notions are. Who knew the most powerful women in films came from movies made for HBO at 2 AM?

Then again, maybe after watching eight Andy Sidaris movies in a row, I’ve gone completely insane.

You can watch this for free on Tubi or buy the blu ray from Mill Creek Entertainment.

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991)

Before directing movies like Mr. Holland’s OpusThe Mighty Ducks, the live action 101 DalmatiansRock Star and Life or Something Like It, Stephen Herek was behind movies like CrittersBill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and this film.

Sue Ellen Crandell (Christina Applegate) is 17 and stuck at home while her mother goes to Australia and her friends go to Europe. Now, she’s in charge of her 16-year-old stoner metalhead brother Kenny, 14-year-old Zach, 13-year-old Melissa (Halloween franchise star Danielle Harris) and 11-year-old Walter (Robert Hy Gorman, Sometimes They Come Back and Leprechan).

Her mom hires a babysitter for the summer named Mrs. Sturak, who ends up being mean to everyone until she dies from a heart attack. So they do what anyone else would: they put her in a trunk and send her to a funeral home.

They screwed up in one major way: the old lady’s body had all the money. Sue Ellen tries to work at Clown Dog and falls for Bryan, but quits because of the manager. She then makes a fake resume for a job at General Apparel West, where she works as an executive assistant, for Rose Lindsey (Joanna Cassidy, The GloveWho Framed Roger Rabbit?).

This pisses off Carolyn and Bruce (David Duchovny), two young workers who hate that she’s jumped ahead of them. Of course, this being a teen movie, Carolyn and Bryan end up being brother and sister.

There’s so much going on in this movie: drugs, kids falling off the roof, car stealing drag queens and a fashion show. Of course, everything works out fine. It’s a teen comedy. That’s how it works.

Production was nearly shut down to the actor who played Zach — Christopher Pettiet — having issues with drugs. They cut his scenes down so that they could finish the film. Sadly, he died nine years later of an accidental drug overdose.

Keith Coogan, who played Kenny, ended up being in two movies where parents were nowhere to be found. That’s because he’s also in Adventures in Babysitting.

My wife loves this movie. Seeing as how she’s probably one of its biggest fans, I felt that I should interview her.

Sam: Why do you like this movie so much?

Becca: Mostly because of her clothes. That’s why I watched it so many times when I was little. I looked up to her. And she smoked.

Sam: How many times have you seen it?

Becca: Thousands. At least.

Sam: Did you rent it every time?

Becca: In the beginning, but then I recorded it off HBO.

Sam: What’s your favorite part of this movie?

Becca: The fashion show at the end. And I thought that boy was cute.

Sam: The boy who worked at Clown Dog?

Becca: His name is Bryan. Yes.

Sam: Is it strange that Danielle Harris is in so many movies that you love?

Becca: Yeah but that’s what you get for being a kid actor. She was in a bunch of things. She was a mean kid here, but she played nice kids too.

Sam: Was this movie true to your 1980’s childhood?

Becca: Not really. My parents would have had ten kids, if they would have done that, maybe. Our house was always clean and my mom wouldn’t let anyone babysit us. So no.

Sam: Does your brother remind of Kenny?

Becca: Back then, no. But now more than ever. He’s more like Hell Hound, the slower one of Kenny’s friends.

Sam: Did you like a young David Duchovny?

Becca: Not with that hair. He had like a bob pulled into a ponytail. His name is Bruce. He’s head inventory clerk.

Sam: What else would you like to add?

Becca: I think Sue Ellen should have stayed working for GAW and not gone to college. General Apparel West if you must know. Because Rose loved her and I would have loved to have had a boss like that.