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.
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.
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 showprecursor 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.
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 1991Los 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 Insidiousand 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.”
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?
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.