June 14: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is kung fu.
Shot on Super 8 in Chicago and never released on any format, Ninja Zombie made its way to our world via Bleeding Skull! and AGFA.
Karate expert Jack has been stabbed through the heart by a martial arts master with a spider on his face named Spithrachne. He becomes a ninja zombie with the help of Brother Banjo, a voodoo master and tennis lover who wants to help our hero get his revenge.
Writer/director Mark Bessenger is making a movie right now called Satan’s Not Dead which is all about a kid who escapes a church’s mass suicide ritual in order to kill the Devil. I mean, the guy knows how to put together something I want to see.
Ninja Zombie is a great example of that. A spider cult of martial artists versus an undead ninja with a mullet but shot on Super 8? That’s exactly the kind of movie that I demand goes directly into my eyes.
Sure, it’s not the kind of movie that would play in theaters, but when has that ever stopped you from liking something? If it has, wow, you’re on the wrong site.
Bob Logan made a movie called Up Your Alley that dared to pair Murray Langsdon, the Unknown Comic, with Linda Blair. That is reason enough to allow him to direct the fourth Meatballs movie and in true form, this has nothing to do with any of the other films in the series. It was originally going to be called Happy Campers.
Ricky Wade (Corey Feldman) is the best waterskiing teacher around, but he’d rather chase girls. There’s a waterskiing competition coming up to determine which of the two summer camps in this movie will survive and just when I was thinking how trope-heavy this movie is, Jack Nance, the star of Eraserhead, shows up.
This is the movie Nance was making when his wife Kelly Jean Van Dyke committed suicide. She called him to tell him she was going to do it and he was attempting to talk her down over the phone when lightning took out the phone lines. By the time the LAPD got to their apartment, she had hung herself.
Christy Thom (Playboy Playmate of the Year 1992), Monique Noel (Playboy Playmate of the Month May 1989) and Neriah Davis, who was in both The Bikini Carwash Company movies before being selected as the March 1994 Playboy Playmate of the Month appear in this. These things are, of course, important to these types of films. Perhaps more interesting is that Sarah Douglas, the villainous Ursa from the 70s Superman movies, is in this too.
It’s hard to say that this dosn’t really live up to the Meatballs legacy, when said legacy includes a great first movie, a film about an alien and a street boxer trying to aardvark the girl from the Witch Mountain movies and another installment where God demands that a porn star help Patrick Dempsey lose his virginity.
When you think of mismatched cops, you do not think of Anthony Edwards and Lance Henriksen. That could be because you’ve never seen Delta Heat, a film that was intended to be a TV show and ended up becoming a theatrical film. Or at least a direct to video feature.
Edwards plays Mike Bishop, a cop who has lost his partner to the swamps of Louisiana. Now, he’s teaming up with Henriksen, here playing Jackson Rivers, who has also lost something to those very same swamps: his hand. Yeah, an alligator ate it.
The real reason I watched this — and let’s be perfectly honest — was because Betsy Russell was in it. Between the Saw films, Tomboy, Private School, Out of Control and Avenging Angel, I must confess that I’ve watched so many movies just because she’s in the credits. Around the time of this movie, she and her husband Vincent Van Patten — who she met at The Playboy Mansion, where she visited frequently as her grandfather was a close friend of Hugh Hefner — decided to have a family, which led to Russell pausing her career to raise kids.
As for director Michael Fischa, we’ve devoted an entire day or two to him on our site. So enjoy this tale of a mullet-wearing Edwards hooking up with a hook handed Lance, I guess.
Also known as Gli occhi dentro (The Eyes Inside) and Occhi senza volto (Eyes Without a Face), this Bruno Mattei* giallo — made a few decades late, but hey, give the man a break — tells the story of Giovanna Dei (Monica Carpanese, who is also in Mattei’s Dangerous Attraction and Legittima Vendetta). She’s the creator of a comic book called Doctor Dark, the tale of an anti-hero who is a Pagan professor by day and a babysitter killer by night, cutting out his victim’s eyes and replacing them with shards of broken glass. Now, someone is acting out the murders in real life and leaving the ocular evidence in her apartment.
Written by Lorenzo De Luca — who is writing the upcoming Anthropophagus 2 and The Fourth Horsemen which will have Franco Nero as Keoma and Fred Williamson as Cobra, as well as appearances by Mick Garris Alex Cox, Ruggero Deodato, Fabio Testi, Enzo G. Castellari, Gianni Garko, Ottaviano Dell’Acqua, R.A. Mihailoff, Massimo Vanni and more — and shot by much of the same crew that worked on the aforementioned Dangerous Attraction.
There’s a fair amount of story taken from Tenebre — like the line “If they kill someone with a power drill, do they take it out on Black and Decker?” which comes directly from Peter Neal’s question “Let me ask you something? If someone is killed with a Smith and Wesson revolver…do you go and interview the president of Smith and Wesson?” in Argento’s movie, as well as the idea of art becoming real-life murder. Doctor Dark’s trick of putting glass into the eye sockets of his victims feels a lot like Manhunter. And, of course, there’s Eyeball to be taken from as well. And while we’re on the subject, the entire plot of Sexy Cat. But the most grievous theft is in the Italian VHS release of this film, which completely takes two murder scenes from Lamberto Bava’s A Blade in the Dark. Did Mattei think no one would notice**?
That said, it may just be the fact that I love giallo and am a Bruno Mattei apologist, but I found myself liking this movie. You’d have to be a superfan of both for me to recommend it to you, but if you are, come on over and watch it with me.
Any time anyone told me how good an action movie was, I always thought, “Yeah, but Hard Boiled…”
This is the big action movie that all big action movies want to be.
John Woo had been criticized for glamorizing gangsters in his films, so for this film, he created a supercop named Inspector Tequila, who was expertly played by perhaps the coolest actor who has ever lived, Chow Yun-Fat. Do you think Clint Eastwood could make having a baby pee all over you and extinguish the fire on his leg somehow still look awesome?
Also, for all the complaints about the amount of death and destruction in American films, this one wipes out 307 people in 92 minutes (well, if you’re watching the cut version; there’s also a 149-minute cut). There are also around 2,000 different guns firing off 100,000 rounds.
It would also be the last film Woo would make before going to Hollywood to make Hard Target. Don’t worry — he made better stuff after that.
I’ve always felt that Woo is absolutely in love with everything that is film. This movie is a violent ballet with guns and leaps and fire and explosions instead of body movements. While not as dramatic as The Killer, this still has more of a story — and again, way more action — than anything that the U.S. was doing in 1992 or any other year.
I mean, what else other than a love of film explains that the lead character’s name comes from the fact that William Holde drinks an entire bottle of tequila in The Wild Bunch?
I saw Freejack in the theater nearly thirty years ago and have to tell you, the future that it promised has not arrived.
Does it have the title of a Philip K. Dick book but not really have much to do with it?
No, it’s based on his contemporary Robert Sheckley’s* book Immortality, Inc.
Is there a lot of rain?
Oh man, blame it on the rain.
Does the male hero wear dress clothes and/or a trenchcoat?
Do Keanu Reeves, Ben Affleck, Dolph Lundgren or Udo Keir appear in it?
Does the internet do something it can’t do yet, yet look dated AF?
This movie looked dated the moment it came out. The video game that Jagger plays in the bar would have been dated during the Atari 2600 era.
Are Stabbing Westward, KMFDM, Ministry or God Lives Underwater on the soundtrack?
This movie has a bonkers soundtrack with Little Feat, Scorpions, Jesus Jones, Jane Child, The Jesus and Mary Chain and — you knew it — Ministry performing “Thieves.”
Is it a crappy version of Blade Runner?
Are there numerous Asian-influenced scenes?
Do people use future terms that make no sense?
Even the name of the movie is a future term that makes no sense.
Are there a lot of whirring sound effects?
It’s as if the Transformers are constantly transforming.
Do people stare at the camera as it moves through a neon-lit strip club?
Are there rock stars in it?
Not just the biggest rock star of all time — arguably — in Mick Jagger, but also New York Doll David Johansen AKA Buster Poindexter, who if I think about long enough, I begin speaking like him. “Zat you, Zantee Claus?”
Is there a feral child?
Nope. That means that this movie is officially a cyberpunk ancient future movie!
Get ready for the crazy future words!
In 2009 — which is now 12 years ago and the irony is not lost on me — the super-wealthy use bonejackers that snatch people from the past and pull them to the future to use their brain dead bodies to become immortal. Those that escape from this process are no longer considered human and are instead called freejacks. And everyone else is so hooked on drugs and beaten by pollution that they’re all unattractive and basically dying.
Alex Furlong (Emilio Estevez) was a Formula 1 racer who died in an explosive crash back in 1991 but has been bonejacked by Victor Vacendak (Jagger), a killing machine for the McCandless Corporation. Oh yeah — his girlfriend Julie Redlund (Rene Russo) works there too because movie logic.
It turns out that her boss (Anthony Hopkins) is really dead and wanted to use Furlong’s body because, well, again let’s blame movie logic.
Of course, Jagger is the main reason to watch this. He got his girl at the time Jerry Hall — who is amazingly married to Rupert Murdoch today — a role, has a code of honor in spite of being the bad guy and wears a ridiculous helmet. Every time I see him, I think of how he responded to John Mulaney writing lines for him on SNL: “Good! Bad!”
I kind of wish that Jagger’s Vacendak was the hero of this movie, because everyone else in this is boring by comparison.
This movie was a mess and at one point it may have been an even bigger one. Producer Ronald Shusett (the writer of Alien, Dead and Buried, The Final Terror, King Kong Lives, Total Recall) was brought in to re-shoot around 40% of original director Geoff Murphy’s (Young Guns II, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, Fortress 2) film.
You know, when Stephen King takes his name off your movie, you probably should think of what that means. Adapted from an original screenplay called CyberGod and King’s 1975 short story, The Lawnmower Man presents a virtual reality world that you could animate on your smartphone today.
Virtual Space Industries Doctor Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan) is using psychoactive drugs and virtual reality to enhance cognitive performance. He hopes that his research will help his mentally disabled groundskeeper Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey), but the drugs get swapped and Jobe gets all sexual with Marnie (Jenny Wright, Near Dark) within virtual reality and wipes her mind out.
By the end of the movie, the power has gone to Jobe’s virtual brain and he’s crucifying people and taking off the grid, if I may use the language of Tron. None of this happens in King’s story, which is about a lawnmower guy sacrificing people to the satyr Pan. If anything, Daniel Keyes should have gotten a credit, because this is totally Flowers for Algernon.
Despite King defeating New Line in court and his name not being allowed to be used to advertise the film, they still released this movie on video as Stephen King’s Lawnmower Man, ending with them getting held in contempt of court.
Writer/director Brett Leonard also directed The Dead Pit, Virtuosity, Hideaway, Man-Thing and the music video for “Shock to the System” for Billy Idol, as well as his clip for “Heroin,” which were both on his hilariously titled Cyberpunk album. How did Billy never act in an ancient future movie?
Phil Alden Robinson is the very definition of having one or two blemishes on an otherwise spotless record as a writer/director. Just look at that resume — Field of Dreams, The Sum of All Fears, Bill Lustig’s Relentless — and realize that he also wrote Rhinestone and Ghost Dad.
Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes were the co-screenwriters, coming up with the idea of this movie while they worked on WarGames. Once Robert Redford got attached, this went from just a movie to an event-packed picture with a dream cast.
Redford plays the fugitive Martin Brice/Martin Bishop who has been on the run since 1969, when he and Cosmo (Ben Kingsley) were busted for distributing conservative funds to various liberal causes. Now, he leads a team of security specialists that includes former CIA man Donald Crease (Sidney Poitier), teen hacking savant Carl Arbogast (River Phoenix), phone phreak Irwin Emery (David Strathairn) and conspiracy theorist Darren “Mother” Roskow, played by the perfectly cast Dan Aykroyd.
After two government agents reveal that they know who he is, Bishop and team must steal a black box that can get through the encryption of any computer system. And oh yeah — Cosmo is still out there and wants revenge.
One of the first movies to send PR contacts an electronic media kit — on a floppy, it was 1992 — the computer parts of Sneakers aren’t as essential as the camaraderie of the cast. Becca refers to this most as a quintessential 90’s movie with a wonderful selection of actors and I totally agree.
Writer and director Armand Gazarian has written two (Double Cross and Badlanders) and directed five (including the IMDb-barren pages for Streets of War and The Searcher) SOV/direct-to-video features. As result of my post-apoc fandom, I’ve seen the two we’re reviewing today. And that’s probably two more than you.
At least until now.
Yep, this all comes courtesy of Sam the Bossman devising another “Apoc Week,” so this is as good a time as any to hip you to the ’80s SOV canons of Armand Gazarian. Hey, anyone who decides to eschew the usual horror route for Road Warrior tomfoolery in the SOV-doms of the VHS wastelands is aces in my book.
So, is this Gazarian SOV-apoc one-two punch better than the adventures of Ace Hunter — in the utterly awful — Megaforce from Hal Needham? Oh, by the Kobol Lords, yes! Uh, yeah, right, Hal. You willfully made a “campy” and “spoofy” movie. Sure, you did. That’s what they all say when their movie bombs and sweeps the Golden Raspberries to pull a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You had $20 million of Albert S. Ruddy and Golden Harvest Studios money to play with and made crap, Hal. Armand Gazarian shot his apoc-romps on couch coins, lunch money, and paper route income. He had chicken shit and made a chicken salad. And you turned your poultry and greens into daggit dung.
So guess who got my .99 cents? That’s right, Uncle Al. I will always err to the side of SOV-made movies. Always. For I bow at the SOV altars of Lord Brett Piper and High Priest Dennis Devine where Armand Gazarian is an obvious disciple.
Now, we kid our ol’ Uncle Hal and Al because, as you watch the opening pursuit of our ersatz man with no name — okay, well, his name is Zane — you’ll notice that (impressive) low-budget rat buggy looks a lot like the goofy dune buggies from Megaforce. And the homages don’t stop there, as we’re getting a pinch of Allan Arkush and Nicholas Niciphor’s always cool-in-my-book-even-though-it-ain’t-Rollerball Deathsport. Now, if you’ve never watched that terminally weird Corman apoc (shame on you), that David Carradine and Richard Lynch-starrer concerns a post-apoc dictator forcing prisoners into games of motorcycle-gladiatorial combat.
Hey, wait a sec . . . we’ve been def-conned! We’re not on a post-apoc Earth! We’re on a post-apoc planet in a galaxy far, far away. And our faux Max-cum-Pliskken, Zane (Nicolas Hill), is now a prisoner aboard a space prison. The prison’s cloaked-lizard warden, in a bit of galactic glasnost, decides he’ll offer freedom to seven of his ne’er-do-well charges to “play a game of strength, skill, and survival.” The game field: Los Angeles, Earth. The object of the game: Return our BSG-inspired Imperious Leader’s cherished family heirloom: a spiked ball, hidden on the L.A. game field. The penalty for not playing the game or attempting to escape: your head is Bob Hauk’d off of your body via an embedded micro-sensor.
And, with that, Zane, along with the likes of the Conan the Barbarian-clad Skullblaster, Moozy, Baarg, Zooloj, Gygon, and Minig, are dropped into their present-day Los Angeles battlefield. Of course, the action is inept, as it is shot on the fly, sans permits, which provides us with a well intention — or ill intended — comedic effect. Of course, our alien warriors are sometimes confused or frightened by Earth technology and culture — and get cruised by gay men — but they do love our pizza. Of course, love must ensue, and to that end, as Jack Deth hooked up with Helen Hunt in Trancers, Zane meets Cindy Sexton — who introduces him to the freeze-dried Celestes and helps him win his freedom. Oh, wait . . . this is more Highlander (“There can be only one!”) than Trancers, so it’s be-still-my-beating-heart Roxanne Hart (who is still breaking my heart in a 2019 episode of NBC-TV’s The Blacklist) rollin’ in my VHS-cortexes.
You’ll have a lot of fun watching this SOV take of Richard Connell’s 1932-inspiring short story, The Most Dangerous Game. But, if you’d rather not, give this four minute sampling (embedded below) a spin. My only two complaints with Game(s) of Survival: I wish the VHS rip was of a better quality, as it’s obvious the tape used on the upload we found on You Tube has seen its better days, as it is washed out and darkened. Second, the opening scene with that Philippines-styled armed dune buggy is so good, I wish Armand Gazarian would have held his game on an alien planet and given us an SOV version of Charles Band’s Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn — instead of Fred Olen Ray’s Alienator. But any guy who channels his milk money and his aunt’s and grandma’s birthday money to homage Death Race 2000, Endgame, and Rome 2072, is okay in my book.
Ah, but wait! That Earth-bound snafu is solved — somewhat — with our second film in today’s Armand Gazarian double feature: Badlanders.
For his second apoc outing, Armand Gazarian impressively upped his game to improve on the Game(s) of Survival model as he gives our ol’ apoc-good buddy Cirio H. Santiago a run for his Philippine pesos. Sure, you’ll name drop Mad Max in the frames, but the real inspiration here is all of those Philippine and Italian-made knockoffs of The Road Warrior. Nope, while it looks like Bruno Mattei made this — and if you’ve seen his apoc romps Rats: Night of Terror or Shocking Dark, you’ll know what we mean — he didn’t make this. Nope. Claudio Fragasso — and if you’ve seen Interzone, you know what we mean — didn’t make this either.
Anyway, in the distant Earth year of 2200 — in the badlands of Yuma, Arizona (anyone see Parsifal in his battle car on his way to the “Baked Apple”) — we meet our intrepid freedom fighter, Blaine (U.S. born-cum-Thailand acting James Phillips), who boondoggles a Snake Plissken-styled robbery of a government repository.
Instead of being sent to Manhattan Island Prison, Blaine is sent to Prison Planet, aka the planet of Annakin (uh-huh), committed to fight in gladiatorial combat games. Then he kills the brother of Broxton (Micheal M. Foley from Karate Cop), the planet’s blood thirsty warlord.
Ah, but this is a secret mission: Blaine wanted to get caught and shipped off-world to find fellow Prison Planet inmate Himshaw — the good brother of the Earth’s evil dictator — who holds the key to overthrown the Annakin regime and restore freedom on Earth.
Spiritual hokum, shirtless muscle-bound nomads, porn-flick mustaches, oversized penis-envy swords, slave girls, virgin maiden sacrifices, weasel-whimpy convicts, and slave traders — all in glorious overacting — a-go-goes, and then some. And the guns, Oy! The guns always “jam” when you need ’em the most in the apocalypse. Hey, the big-budget movies always roll out the ol’ “dead car battery/faulty starter” (on a brand new car, no less) trope, aka now the “dead cellphone/no signal” trope, so why can’t a low-budget movie have the a “gun jams” trope? And yes . . . even though we are in the throes of the 21st century — and as with all Italian ’80s apoc films — all the cars are from the ’70s.
From his humble SOV beginnings, Nicolas Hill worked his way up to the better-made, ’90s-era martial arts flicks Showdown (with Billy Blanks), Death Match (with Martin Kove), Raw Target (with Dale Apollo), Fists of Iron (with Michael Worth), and Bloodsport 2 (not with Jean-Claude Van Damme, but with Pat Morita).
James Phillips, according to the digital QWERTY warriors of the IMDb, co-starred with Eric Estrada in the 1989 Thailand-shot actioner The Lost Idol (check your golden Ark at the door, Indy). And for that same director, Philip Chalong, aka Chalong Pakdeevijit, Phillips co-starred with Jan-Michael Vincent (see why we dropped Alienator), and Sam J. “Flash Gordon” Jones in 1990’s In Gold We Trust (and Sam did his own apoc-slopper, Driving Force). Our villain, Micheal M. Foley, in addition to Karate Cop, you may have seen his martial arts skills in 1991’s Cybernator (I haven’t*) or 1992’s DesertKickboxer (again, nope).
As for the rest of the Gazarian canons: Streets of War stars Frankie Ray from Badlanders; digital streamers may have seen him in 2018’s Jurassic Galaxy (not moi). The Searcher stars Robert “Maniac Cop” Z’Dar, so there’s that incentive to find it. One of Gazarian’s producer credits is 1998’s Blood Revenge starring martial artist Chris Cuthrell, so there’s that. And Gazarian is still at it, as his latest (in post-production) credit is Awaken, starring Lance Henriksen, Edward Asner, and Tobin “Saw” Bell.
Yep. From an SOV debut to working with Tobin Bell. That’s a pretty cool career, Armand. See, there is a career to be made after ENG cameras and 3/4-inch U-Matic videotape and Hi-8s and NewTek Video Toasters.
You can watch a VHS rips of Game(s) of Survival — recently uploaded in September 2020, so thank you, VoicesInMyHead — on You Tube. Check out that page! It has lots of great uploads, such as the bonkers-trashy Lightblast, Death Nurse, more SOV’in with Bits & Pieces, and Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly. So have fun! Hey, bonus! We found an even cleaner copy on the Internet Archive.
Now, as for Badlanders, aka Prison Planet, there’s no freebie uploads to share. What’s the deal, Tubi? You had it, but now it’s not available? Denied. At one time, Badlanders was part of the VOD programming of the now — sadly — defunct IMPACT cable channel. However, as result of it once being a part of the IMPACT library, you can watch Badlanders as part of the Sling streaming platform, which also makes it available on the upper-tier cable channel EPIX. Perhaps you’re awash in disposable income (frack you, preppy) and you can afford ATT’s DirecTV to watch it there.
I love my SOV ’80s and Gazarian’s two apoc-romps slide nicely onto my “alien shelf” amid the collection. Be sure to click on the SOV ’80s link at the end of this article and you’ll discover all of our reviews of — not only ’80s SOV’ers — but films that are inspired by and pay tribute to the era. And for as many that we have reviewed, there’s as many we have not. So, to remedy that, come September 12 to the 18, we’re blowing out a week-long tribute to another 25-plus more of those SOV ’80s classics, mostly horror, natch. Join us!
Aldo Lado made some pretty dark-themed giallo, like Short Night of Glass Dollsand Who Saw Her Die?, as well as a slicker version of Last House on the Left with Last Stop on the Night Train and one of the stranger Stars Wars cover movies, The Humanoid. This may not be a full-on giallo — it’s closer to a poliziotteschi — but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good watch.
Tony Giordani (Michael Woods, brother of James) is a narcotics agent whose ex-wife is killed while he’s in the hospital. Is it a mafia hit? Or does an empty house that his wife had been shooting photos of hold the answers? Once Tony checks it out, he discovers a burned body and some clues that lead to the Full Moon Killer, a man who has been beheading prostitutes. And even crazier, the owner of the home is a countess who has been locked in a mental ward, but has now escaped. Also — Tony quickly gets over his ex-wife getting killed and starts aardvarking with his partner Lisa, but you know, when you’re targeted by a serial killer, stuff happens.
The supporting cast for this movie is pretty darn great, with Burt Young as a drug smuggler, Philippe Leroy as the police chief and Bobby Rhodes as a pathologist.
To be honest, this whole movie feels like a 1990’s cop movie that could have been made by anyone and is surprisingly from the maker of two of my favorite giallos and written by Dardano Sacchetti. I expected more, you know?
You can watch this on YouTube and see what you think. Let me know.