Circle of Fear (1992)

Aldo Lado made some pretty dark-themed giallo, like Short Night of Glass Dolls and 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.

Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232 (1992)

Well, the VCR and the accompanying VHS tape was still hanging on and not all movies were yet released to DVD. There was no Amazon Prime or Netflix. No streaming and the onslaught of 80-minute direct-to-DVD movies were not yet the norm. Cable Superstations like USA and TNT were not yet in the TV Movie business, but the TV movie death knell was ringing in the “Big Three” networks’ village square: “Reality TV” was on the horizon.

Courtesy of VPRO Cinema Netherlands

It’s hard to believe a U.S TV movie — known it in initial broadcast as A Thousand Heroes — would star Charlton Heston (who’s been in the cockpit before with Airport 1975 and Skyjacked; review this week) and James Coburn. However, while this aired as a TV movie in the states — and as most, if not all U.S. TV Movies did — it was broadcast overseas with the Crash Landing alternate title, which also carried over into its home video store shelf life (it also ran on HBO throughout the ’90s).

Instead of a big studio, like Paramount or Universal (see The Crash of Flight 401 and The Ghost of Flight 401; reviews this week), Bob Banner Associates — known for CBS-TV’s long-running The Carol Burnett Show and the daytime Dinah Shore talk show, along with the talent show precursor Star Search (1983 to 2004) and the premiere disco show Solid Gold (1980 to 1988) — bankrolled this Harve Bennett production for broadcast on ABC-TV. Now, if that pairing of Harve Bennett and ABC seems familiar, that’s because the network broadcast Bennett’s TV Movie-to-series adventures of a junkman’s moon rocket, Salvage I. Bennett also provided the network with the sci-fi TV movie classic (before there was a Capricorn One), The Astronaut (1972). But his greatest success with ABC-TV was The Six Million Dollar Man, which aired as a 1973 TV movie, then as a 1973 to 1978 series on ABC.

As with Crash of Flight 401, broadcast on ABC-TV in 1978, this Lamont Johnson-directed (1970’s The McKenzie Break, 1972’s The Groundstar Conspiracy, 1983’s Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone) is a fact-based drama regarding the crash of United Airlines Flight 232 from Denver to Chicago that crashed in Sioux City, Iowa, in July 1989. The fifth deadliest crash involving a DC-10, of the 296 passengers and crew, 112 died and 184 survived. Despite the mass causalities, the accident and rescue continues to serve as a text book example in crew resource management and emergency response.

The support cast on this — as with all TV movies up until the mid-90s — is expertly cast with Carmen Argenziano (Jacob Carter on Stargate SG-1, but since this is B&S About Movies: we’ll mention Sharks’ Treasure, Graduation Day, and Clint Eastwood’s Sudden Impact), Bruce McGill (yep, D-Day from Animal House and Timecop), character actor Tom Everett (Air Force One and too many TV series to mention, and Richard Thomas (The Waltons and Battle Beyond the Stars). Needless to say, with Herve Bennett in the producer’s chair and this cast, this film is a well-done, gripping action flick about the human fight-or-flight response.

The events from the Sioux City crash also served in the plotting of the fictitious, Jeff Bridges-starring Fearless. You can steam the film on You Tube.

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

Roadside Prophets (1992)

Filmmaker Abbe Wool made her feature film debut as a screenwriter with her 1986 chronicle on the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious with Sid and Nancy. And she made her directing debut on this troubled production — her only directing effort (which she also wrote) — a reimaging of Easy Rider starring John Doe of X — in one of his few leading man roles (see A Matter of Degrees) — and Adam “King Ad Rock” Horovitz of the Beastie Boys.

According to an October 1991 Los Angeles Times report on the troubled production, it’s learned the film did not start with Abbe Wool, but with aspiring, first-time filmmakers Bill Henderson and James Whitney. The duo planned to co-direct their ’80s updating (as with the later Me and Will and Easy Rider: The Ride Back) of the ’60s counterculture classic — a film that transitioned Jack Nicholson from television (he did an Andy Griffith episode!) into a film career.

Then the writing-directing duo had a fallout with their longtime friend David Swinson, an ex-concert promoter who served as the project’s producer. To hear Henderson tell it, Swinson sold out him and Whitney by making a deal with New Line Cinema. And, with that, the intimate, low-budget indie the first time writer-directors wanted to make as an industry calling card became a bloated $3 million dollar project. Wool was given the green light as result of her track record in bringing Sid and Nancy to the screen — a film that brought British actor Gary Oldman his first widespread acclaim.

While the critical reviews were mixed and the film flopped in both theaters and on home video — and was, in fact, hard to find on home video — Roadside Prophets earned cult status as result of its incessant cable airings in the grungy ’90s (yeah, this is Over the Edge all over again).

Yeah, I love this movie. How can you not love a flick with John Cusack going el loco with an eye patch? Then again, I enjoyed — and everyone else hated — what Melissa Behr and Phil Pitzer did with their respective counterculture updates, so what do I know?

Joe Mosley (John Doe) is a Harley-riding factory worker whose slightly-tweaked friend Dave (David Anthony Marshall; Willie Hickok in Another 48 Hours) tells him about a can’t-loose casino in the town of El Dorado — just before Dave is electrocuted in a video arcade. After honoring Dave’s wishes to be cremated and have his ashes spread in the desert (as in another of my road-flick favorites, 2003’s Grand Theft Parsons), Joe decides to stay on the road and find Dave’s mystical, Nevada casino. Along the way, Joe meets Sam (Horovitz), an eclectic free-spirit traveling America’s back roads to find the Motel 9 where his parents committed suicide (plot spoiler: Sam may be Dave’s ghost).

Along the way, the ’60s retro-counterculture duo meet a diverse cast of characters — the “roadside prophets” — comprised of the diverse cast of Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Suburbia), ’60s icons Arlo Guthrie and Timothy Leary, David Carradine (Night Rhythms), an eye-patched John Cusack, Sam Raimi cohort Aaron Lustig (Bad Channels), Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day!), and a very early-in-their careers Done Cheadle (War Machine in the Iron Man franchise!) and Lin Shayne (the Insidious and Ouija franchises!).

In addition to his work as a leading man, John Doe also scored the film, while the soundtrack features solo tunes from his ex-wife Exene Cervenka (we’re reviewing her work in Salvation! this week, look for it), the Beastie Boys, the Pogues, Pray for Rain, Gary U.S. Bonds, and tunes collectively written and performed by members of X and the Blasters. And yes . . . that’s David Carradine performing the song “Divining Rod” that he also wrote. And that’s Harry Dean Stanton crooning “Make Yourself at Home.”

Wool eventually left the director’s chair and word processors for a successful behind-the-camera career as a camera electrician on films such as The Big Lebowski, Space Cowboys, Charlie’s Angels, and Planet of the Apes ’01. (Be sure to check out out Planet of the Apes tribute week of sequels, remakes, and ripoffs.)

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Pure Country (1992)

This attempt to transform country superstar George Strait into a chiseled-chin leading man is the feature film debut — and lone feature film — written by Rex McGee, through he returned with Where There’s a Will (2006), a cable movie directed by John Putch (who made his acting debut in the 1981 NBC-TV movie Angel Dusted and appeared as a grown-up Sean Brody in Jaws 3-D).

The film’s director, Christopher Cain, previous helmed 1987’s The Principal starring Jim Belushi (who, in a meta-WTF of of all time, had his character, Rick Latimer from that film, re-appear in the 1991 sci-fi flick Abraxas). Cain also gave us the Brat Pack western — and that overplayed and annoying Bon Jovi song — Young Guns (1988). He followed up Pure County with The Next Karate Kid (1994) starring Hilary Swank from the recent, controversial box office bomb The Hunt. Of course, we are all about the Big Three and cable network TV movies of the ’70s through the ’90s, so we remember Cain at B&S About Movies for Wheels of Terror, which aired on the USA Network (you know, back in the days before USA ditched original content to become an aftermarket shill for NBC-TV series).

While Pure Country barely made back its $10 million budget, the accompanying soundtrack became George Strait’s biggest, best-selling album. And on a sadder note: the film marked Rory Calhoun’s (Motel Hell) last film appearance; he died in April 1999. Calhoun is the wise father of Strait’s love interest played by Isabel Glasser. Retreating into TV work and indie films soon after, she co-starred with Robert Patrick and Rutger Hauer in the 1998 Top Gun ripoff Tactical Assault.

Strait is a character not far removed from his real self: he’s world-renowned country star Wyatt “Dusty” Chandler. However, unlike Strait, Dusty’s a trouble soul: he’s tired of the lights and smoke and the sets. And he’s none to fond of a new song called “Overnight Male” written by Buddy Jackson (Kyle Chandler), his manager Lulu’s (Lesley Ann Warren) boyfriend, being forced on him.

So, in a plot twist analogous to Neil Diamond’s 1980 remake-bomb of The Jazz Singer — Dusty cuts off his trademark beard and ponytail and splits for the open road. And does this sound a lot like when Rick Springfield made his play for the silver screen — and bombed, just like Neil Diamond before him — in 1984’s Hard to Hold?

Yep. It’s the same old he-has-everything-but-really-has-nothing story. And love is always the answer to get back on top.

Just how many of these musician-vanity projects — where the soundtrack always performs better on the Billboard charts than the film on the Variety charts — will Hollywood make before they realize their attempts to transform “then hot” musicians into A-List leading-actors (well, outside of David Bowie, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson) doesn’t work?

Billie Eilish? Hollywood is calling. And for your own sake, don’t pick up the iPhone.

While the story is a simple, hokey story, truth be told: Strait is a pretty decent actor and he would have been better served by breaking into the business with a non-musical role, you know, as with Trace Atkins, Dwight Yoakham, Tim McGraw, Randy Travis, and Tobey Keith.

Oops! I stand corrected. There are musicians that can act. Open mouth. Insert crow.

Hey, wait! Where’s John Doe?

While Johnny D. didn’t make the marquee as a co-star, he — as he always does, and as he did in Great Balls of Fire (also reviewed this week) alongside Dennis Quaid — is excellent in his support role as Dusty’s longtime friend and drummer, Earl Blackstock.

And did you know that director Christopher Cain’s adopted son is Dean “Superman” Cain? And did you know Dean co-wrote — with the Roger Corman-bred George Armitage (Private Duty Nurses, Night Call Nurses, Darktown Strutters, Gas-s-s-s, and the 1979 TV movie Hot Rod) — a female-driven sequel directed by his dad in 2010, Pure Country: The Gift, that starred country star Katrina Elam?

It’s okay. No one did.

And that there was a third sequel: 2017’s Pure Country: Pure Heart?

But we did see the original, thanks to John Doe.

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

SLASHER MONTH: Shiryô no wana 2: Hideki (1992)

Evil Dead Trap 2 has moments of absolute beauty and scenes of frightening horror, often within the very same frame. It’s about three people who are brought together by a serial killer who isn’t just murdering people throughout Tokyo, but tearing their organs out and leaving them in the open for all to see.

They are a projectionist named Aki Ôtani (Shoko Nakajima), who is forever behind the scenes of the movies she shows from the projection booth of her work, hiding from the world that she wants to love her but feels that they never will because she doesn’t have the body or looks that see as ideal. And oh yeah, she’s haunted by a small boy’s ghost who pushes her into scenarios of abject horror.

Then there’s Emi Kageyama, her best friend, who is more traditionally beautiful yet also someone who is sexually excited when she gets near the murder scenes that she crosses her legs, so overcome with passion that her hardened crew is disquieted.

And finally there’s Kurahashi, the man that Emi tries to set up with Aki, who ends up being married and that’s the very least of his secrets.

Then everything stops making sense and gets really interesting.

This is the kind of movie that you can watch and try to figure out the story and never really get there. That’s because at its heart it is just as much a giallo as it is a slasher. It wears its devotion to Argento not only on its sleeve, but in every frame, with a battle between Aki and another killer that emulates the white sheets sprayed with gore from Tenebre. There’s also a moment where the very theater itself comes to life as if it wants to destroy Aki, sending echoes of Demons through my mind (and yes, I realize that Argento didn’t direct that film, but let’s be honest, his vision is all of that one).

Director and co-writer Izô Hashimoto also wrote the script for the anime version of Akira, as well as the movie version of the manga Shamo.

This really has nothing at all to do with the original, but why should that both you? It also makes zero to no sense by the end of the movie, which made me love it even more.

There’s a moment in this movie where the neon of Tokyo is captured in one wide shot, but as you take in that colorful incandescent beauty, you notice in the corner of the screen that the killer is stabbing someone in the water over and over and over. It’s a near-perfect shot and close to something that even Argento would be proud of. If all this movie had was that one shot — and it certainly has so much more — I would still recommend it to you.

R. D Francis informed me that you can watch this on FShare.

SLASHER MONTH: Zipperface (1992)

Zipperface is one of the scummiest movies I’ve ever watched that wasn’t made in Italy, so imagine what that entails. Written, produced and directed by Mansour Pourmand, whose IMDB reveals is a person that emerges every 18 years to make a movie, like some crazed maniac that would be battled by Carl Kolchak, this is all about new cop Lisa Ryder (Dona Adams, whose mother Marilyn is also in this, which had to be uncomfortable) tracking down a serial killer on her very first case.

Zipperface is killing actresses who are also BDSM prostitutes at night, which for some reason has upset Mayor Angela Harris. The investigation by Ryder and her partner Harry goes through more red herrings than a 1974 giallo, as they look into a misogynist cop, a crossdressing aide to the mayor, a priest and a photographer.

Making things harder — I should have said difficult but this movie is obsessed with sex and it…rubbed off on me — is the fact that our heroine is dating Michael the photographer, the exact same man who everyone thinks could be the Zipperface. Zipperface! I love yelling that name out for no reason at all.

Much like any number of my favorite giallo, this ends with the killer being someone you would never think was the killer. If only this was made with less Cinemax After Dark feel and more giallo zeal. That said, I foresee this coming out via Vinegar Syndrome any day now.

You can watch this on YouTube.

SLASHER MONTH: Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992)

We start right where the last film ended, with Mark and Sarah escaping the burning wax museum. However, while writer/director Anthony Hickox and Zach Galligan returned for this movie, Deborah Foreman and Hickox had had a bad breakup, so she was replaced* by 6’1″ supermodel Monika Schnarre, who was also in Hickox’s Warlock: The Armageddon.

Much like House II, this movie takes the ideas of the first movie and spins them deliriously out of control into another film that feels barely connected to the original while still being totally great. I also realize that this isn’t a slasher as much as the first film, but I still wanted to cover this sequel during our month of the genre.

The zombie hand that survived the last film has killed Sarah’s abusive stepfather (George “Buck” Flower!) with a sledgehammer and she’s charged with the crime. Going back to Sir Wilfred’s home — he’s been reborn as a raven — they learn that they must join the army of light angels and use the various nic nacs that have been assembled throughout time to get the evidence needed to clear her name.

They enter God’s video game, which makes me hope that there is a Divine Creator, becuase that means that our heroes get to play in the worlds of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Alien, Godzilla, Frankenstein, The Haunting, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Jack the Ripper, Nosferatu and a film the original Waxwork already teased, Dawn of the Dead.

This film also has a great cast, with everyone from Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp as Baron Von Frankenstein to Bruce Campbell, Michael Des Barres (the singer of the bands Detective and the Power Station, as well as MacGyver nemesis Nicholas Helman), Sophie Ward (Young Sherlock Holmes), a pre-Deanna Troi Marina Sirtis, John Ireland, Die Hard bad guy Alexander Godunov, Maxwell Caulfield, David Carradine, Juliet Mills (!) and even Drew Barrymore in an uncredited role as the victim of a vampire.

They could have made fifty of these movies and I would have watched every single one. This one is even more out there than the original and expands on the concepts to be more adventure, which I was totally on board for.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*We’re not supposed to remember that Sarah was rich in the first movie and poor in this one.

SLASHER MONTH: 976-EVIL II (1992)

By writing Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time and House IV and directing Sorority House Massacre IIDeathstalker II (which he also wrote), Big Bad Mama IIGhoulies IVThe Skateboard Kid 2Body Chemistry IV: Full ExposureFriend of the Family IISorceress II: The TemptressThe Escort IIIThe Bare Wench Project 2: Scared ToplessThe Bare Wench Project 3: Nymphs of Mystery MountainThe Witches of Breastwick 2, Bare Wench Project Uncensored and Bare Wench: The Final Chapter, Jim Wynorski may be the king of the sequels. Let’s add 976-EVIL II, a movie that somewhat continues the story begun in the Robert Englund 976-EVIL.

Also known as 976-EVIL II: The Astral Factor, this movie is all about Spike, a leather jacket wearing loner from the first film, again played by Patrick O’Bryan, and final girl Robin battling Professor Grubeck, who is in full command of astral powers and a Satanic horoscope phone line.

“Out of the darkness and into the light comes your horrorscope on this dark and stormy night.”

There are two great reasons to watch this. The first is Brigitte Nielsen, who did this movie for scale after losing a pool game bet to Wynorski. And the other is a bravura sequence that combines the two best known public domain movies of all time, Night of the Living Dead and It’s A Wonderful Life, as one of the girls becomes stuck between the two films and ends with Zuzu Bailey transforming into Kyra Schon and stabbing the girl with a trowel. It’s an astounding piece of filmmaking, one that comes out of nowhere (the script had the girl absorbed by a video game and the budget couldn’t handle it) and delivers.

You also get appearances by Philip McKeon (TV’s Alice) and George “Buck” Flower, as well as some great lighting and usage of budget.

This movie is way better than it has any right to be. Seriously, you should check it out right now, because I can’t believe this hasn’t received a high end re-release yet.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

SLASHER MONTH: Hellmaster (1992)

Sometime in the late 1960’s, Professor Jones (John Saxon) was involved in an MK Ultra-style eugenics experiment. Wondering what eugenics is? Our own President refers to it as the “racehorse theory,” which should scare the unholy shit out of you when you realize that eugenics was a major driving force in creating the Master Race of the Third Reich. But hey — isn’t it so funny when hes cutting up and making fun of people?

Sorry for the politics. Let’s just talk about Hellmaster. We’ll all feel better that way.

Jones created The Nietzsche Experiment, which gave its subjects telepathic abilities while also making them violent mental cases. Twenty years later — and armed with an entire gang of deformed mutants (is there any other kind) — he is killing everyone who ever did him wrong and transforming his old college into a slaughterhouse.

Originally called Them and Soulstealer, this made in Detroit regional small wonder — shot in the Clinton Valley Center Hospital, an active-at-the-time mental institution — was re-released at the end of the video rental era. Beyond Saxon, David Emge (Stephen from Dawn of the Dead) makes an appearance as a reporter, who joins with one of the survivors and a psychic who takes the drug in order to destroy its creator once and for all.

This is a movie that looks way better than you’d expect and plays out much more fun than you’d hoped. In a world of direct-to-streaming, the video store classics will forever remain above them, looking down and dripping goopy syrup-smelling blood all over the place.

You can watch this on Tubi or order it from Vinegar Syndrome. Their new release even has the Them cut and commentary for both versions. I love everything they release, as they put the care into these forgotten movies that studios neglect to bestow on their most artistic releases.

Rock and Roll Fantasy (1992)

Before he helped start The Asylum, David Michael Latt made this sex comedy which way more comedy than sex. Attila plays Jamie Z., a rock star who is too much of a headache for his manager, so he’s marked for death. He lives in a girl’s sorority and you’d think that’d be the recipe for way more hijinks than it is, but nope. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the excessives of 1980’s post-Porky’s madness, but this was too tame, too simple and, well, too filled with actors literally screwing up their lines and it not being edited.

There are many early 90’s direct to video and cable ladies on hand, such as Avalon Anders, as well as April Lerman, who was on Charles In Charge before ending up here in her last acting role.

I want to find something to like here, something to make it all worthwhile. But sometimes, there is nothing but entropy and the void. The more you stare at it, the more it screams back in your face.

You can watch this on Tubi.