In Advance of the Landing (1993)

Based on the book by Doug Curran, this movie is all about people who have seen UFOs or been abducted, like Betty Hill. It also shows off the Unarius Church, which we’ve happily featured on this site thanks to Children of the Stars

This is a really even-handed discussion of people that believe that they have a connection with aliens and other planets. None of it is played up as a joke or as too silly or even deadly serious for that matter. It’s just right and a great example of Curtis working as a documentary filmmaker. I would have liked to have seen him do more stuff like this.

Sadly, this is a really hard to find movie. I’ve done the research and found it on YouTube for you.

Night Owl (1993)

Don’t be logline or synopsis duped and don’t be conned by the film’s jazz score and soft-focus photography: Jennifer Beals (Flashdance, The Bride, and Vampire’s Kiss, Doctor M) isn’t a “pretty female radio DJ” or a “sultry nighttime disc jockey” and this isn’t a Lifetime-styled, soft-core sex thriller set inside a radio station. This is a ghost story. And it’s a fantasy-horror ghost story and not a romantic-fantasy like its inspirational antecedent: 1990’s Ghost, starring Demi Moore.

Julia (Beals) is a successful New York doctor specializing in audiology and speech pathology. She’s ready to walk away from five years of marriage to Harry, her ne’er-do-well jazz saxophone player husband (familiar TV actor James Wilder), who’s prone to cheating on her—and lying about the affairs.

She begins investigating the sudden rash of men self-mutilating (one gouges his ear drums) and committing suicides (Harry’s bandmate freaks out on stage, runs off, and jumps off a building). The one trait they have in common: they scream “She’s in my head!” over and over.

That “voice” is The Night Owl, a sultry overnight jazz disc jockey newly syndicated on the New York airwaves of WPKZ. “Her” voice captivates men—promiscuous men in particular—and feeds on their carnal desires during the full moon of the autumn equinox. And the station’s manager claims there is no “Night Owl.” And the FCC believers her to be a pirate radio operator broadcasting off the coast of New York. And Julia scoffs at the warnings of Dr. Matthews (Jackie Burroughs; The Dead Zone, Willard 2003), a professor of ancient folklore convinced the men are the victims of an ancient Siren.

And The Night Owl’s newest victim is Harry, who’s to be her Halloween sacrifice. And The Night Owl is prone to attacking the lovers of her victims in bed, raking them with her ghostly hand and wrapping a bed sheet around their necks.

Night Owl is a smartly written mystery by the female-writing TV team of Ann Powell and Rose Schacht; they draw their tale from the Greek folklore of Homer’s The Odyssey in which Ulysses and his ship’s crew comes under the bewitching spell of the Sirens. Using the airwaves to attract male listeners—in lieu of ocean waves and sailors—is a nice twist to an old legend. The script’s only weakness is its constricting 88-minute TV movie running time (this ran as a USA Network original before the channel became a rerun shill for NBC-TV; enough with the Law & Order!) that doesn’t allow for a deeper exploration of its themes.

You’ve seen director Matthew Patrick’s work before with his 1989 debut film, the highly-rated USA Network cable movie Hider in the House; Patrick doesn’t host that Gary Busey-starring movie on his personal You Tube page, since that film is owned by Lionsgate.

Beware of those Night Owl grey market DVD-rs in the marketplace, as this one has never been officially released on DVD. Luckily, Patrick shares a VHS rip of the film on his You Tube page to enjoy. He’s also uploaded his follow up to Hider in the House, the 1993 USA Network horror-thriller Tainted Blood starring Raquel Welch.

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.

* VHS image courtesy of himalaya_hardware/eBay.

Box Office Failures Week: Toys (1993)

Well, this is going to get me some fans.

I despised Robin Williams.

Every time he did stand-up, every time he was on a talk show and in nearly every movie he was in, it was a constant case of “Look at me! I’m the center of attention! No one else is as important as me!”

I feel bad that the man took his own life after dealing with depression and by and large, I’ve heard wonderful stories of how he truly was as a human being.

But his movies make me physically sick.

The worst of them is 1993’s Toys, a movie so bad that I worry that the last 27 years of my life have been a Jacob’s Ladder situation that I will soon wake up in the Boardman, Ohio Movies 8 and be forced to take my college girlfriend to Pizza Hut before I am chastised for how sloppy I am for several hours by her mother.

Who can we blame for this flop? Surely not designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti, who labored for more than one year designing the film’s sets, taking over every sound stage at Fox Studios in Los Angeles. He based so much of it on the art of Magritte and Italian Futurism, Modernist art and Dada. It looks gorgeous.

I still hate this movie with the combined inverse energy that I use to love giallo, Joe D’Amoto, George Eastman and Lon Chaney Jr.

Kenneth Zevo, the owner of the Zevo Toys, is dying. He’s played by Donald O’Connor, who deserved way better for his last film role. Instead of giving the reigns of power to his son Leslie (Williams), he will give them to his son Leland (Michael Gambon, who also deserves…you get the idea). Leslie’s childlike ways won’t serve him well in the ways of business and even a romance with Gwen (Robin Wright) can’t mature him.

Where can I start with this movie? Like how Alsatia (Joan Cusack) is really a robot all along? That LL Cool J has a long diatribe about being a military man and eating his peas in a certain way (I have been known to quote this scene often as I describe my pure bile for this entire filmmaking enterprise)? That there’s a monster called the Sea Swine? That Tori Amos music gets wasted in this? That talent like Jamie Foxx, Debie Mazar, Yeardley Smith and Wendy Melvoin (yes, Wendy who was once with Lisa in Prince’s band The Revolution) are all forced to somehow be in this movie that meanders on and on and on?

Happy toys versus military weapons? If you want to see that, be my guest. Robin Williams mugging like a cocaine-addled lunatic while robotic sisters battle aquatic drones? Turn it on, if you feel like it.

Don’t include me.

It took writer, producer, and Director Barry Levinson a decade to get this — his dream project — to the screen. Looking back on his IMDB list — Home FriesGood Morning, VietnamRain Man and more — and I see so many movies that have bullied me. This entire article triggered me worse than if I ran into the previously mentioned ex-girlfriend and she’s been deceased for several years, so imagine how traumatic this all is.

EDIT NOTE: Thanks to midnightmoviemonster for pointing out I said Robert, not Robin Williams. I was thinking about the artist probably, who I love. Thanks!

Box Office Failures Week: Last Action Hero (1993)

After Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the monolith known as Arnold Schwarzenegger could do no wrong. But where do you go after you move from Austria to here with no money, take over the world of bodybuilder and then become the biggest movie star in the world?

You make fun of yourself.

That’s where the original script for Last Action Hero — written by Zak Penn and Adam Leff — came in. Penn has since gone on to write PCUX2X-Men: Last StandThe AvengersReady: Player One and Elektra while directing his own movie, Atari: Game Over. Leff hasn’t been as lucky, as his only other writing credits are PCU and Bio-Dome. That said, their screenplay was set in the movie world and concerned a hero named Arno Slater who tries to deal with the never-ending world of violence that takes the lives of everyone around him. Pretty much, it’s a meta-aware Shane Black parody.

How weird is it that Black was brought it to do the rewrite, leading to Penn and Leff only getting a story — and not a screenplay — credit?

In Nancy Griffith’s How They Built the Bomb, the reasons for this film’s failure go beyond it’s biggest issue: was it a comedy or an action movie? Sure, it could be both, but the film seems wildly schizophrenic in what it wants to achieve. What are the rules in Jack Slater’s world? What are the rules in the real — real as in the movie — world? Why can some people keep their powers and Jack can’t? What the hell is going on here?

The issues that Griffith pointed out include Universal moving Jurassic Park to a week before this film would open, negative publicity caused by initial screenings going so poorly, an out-of-control ad campaign that included a NASA rocket that never launched with the movie’s logo and being the first film released in Sony Dynamic Digital Sound, which didn’t even work in the tiny subset of theaters that even had this set up.

A $26 million loss and the first real bomb on Arnold’s record. It stung.

Let me set that up even better: it made $137 million at the box office (over $220 million in today’s money) and still was a loser, thanks to the budget, the overruns and the advertising.

Arnold even placed the blame on a shifting geopolitical theme in the United States, telling Business Insider, “It was one of those things where President Clinton was elected and the press somehow made the whole thing kind of political where they thought, “Okay, the ‘80s action guys are gone here’s a perfect example,” and they wrote this narrative before anyone saw the movie […] The action hero era is over, Bill Clinton is in, the highbrow movies are the “in” thing now, I couldn’t recuperate.”

Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien, Prehysteria!) is a kid living with his widowed mom (Mercedes Ruehl)  in the dingiest, most crime-challenged part of New York City. He escapes by watching Jack Slater movies and gets to see the new one when Nick the projectionist (Robery Proskey, Gremlins 2) gives him a ticket that once belonged to Harry Houdini.

This ticket allows Danny to enter the world of Slater, where he meets his talking cat Whiskers (Danny Devito!) and wonders about his friend John Practice (F. Murray Abraham), who Danny instantly doesn’t trust because he was also Salieri, the man who killed Mozart in Amadeus.

Of course, because this is a movie, Slater’s supervisor Dekker (Frank McRae, playing a role named for Fred Dekker and basically playing the exact same part that he did in 48 Hrs.) assigns Danny as the supercop’s new partner and sends them after mobster Tony Vivaldi (Anthony Quinn!?!). 

After plenty of 80’s cop hijinks, Charles Dance — as henchman Benedict — gets the golden ticket and leaves for our world, stranding Danny, Slater and his daughter Whitney (Bridgette Wilson). And Benedict hatches a plan — kill Arnold so that no more Slater movies can be made. And that means that Tom Noonan can show up as Slater’s big bad, the Ripper. Man, Tom Noonan can be in every movie ever as far as I’m concerned.

The moviemakers wanted Alan Rickman, who was too expensive, so they got Dance instead, who showed up with a shirt proclaiming “I’m cheaper than Alan Rickman!’

Also: Death from The Seventh Seal shows up and instead of Bengt Ekerot, it’s Ian McKellen. This movie plays fast and loose with cameos, with everyone from Tina Turner (the mayor of Los Angeles), Sharon Stone (playing Catherine Tramell from Basic Instinct), Robert Patrick (as the T-1000), Sylvester Stallone as a Terminator, Maria Shriver, Little Richard, MC Hammer, Leeza Gibbons, James Belushi, Damon Wayans, Chevy Chase, Timothy Dalton, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Wilson Phillips showing up.

What can you say about a movie that was still filming a week before it was due in theaters? This was a film against incredible odds, odds that got even worse when negative press got in the way. Director John McTiernan would tell Movieline, “Initially, it was a wonderful Cinderella story with a nine-year-old boy. We had a pretty good script by Bill Goldman, charming. And this ludicrous hype machine got hold of it, and it got buried under bs. It was so overwhelmed with baggage. And then it was whipped out unedited, practically assembled right out of the camera. It was in the theater five or six weeks after I finished shooting. It was kamikaze, stupid, no good reason for it. And then to open the week after Jurassic Park — God! To get to the depth of bad judgment involved in that you’d need a snorkel.”

McTiernan would follow this up with Die Hard with a Vengeance, so that worked out a bit better for him. Then again, he’d also film the bombs Rollerball and The 13th Warrior.

Sadly, Arnold would later say that this was the beginning of the end of his movie career. But you can’t make a movie this big in nine months. Seriously — it just doesn’t happen.

But hey — you can see both Art Carney and Professor Toru Tanaka in their last roles. And it’s not a completely horrible movie. It just doesn’t know what movie it wants to be. And when that much money is on the line, this is what happens.

The art for this article comes from Matt Ryan Tobin and you can purchase it on this site.

Amityville: A New Generation (1993)

Inspired by the book Amityville: The Evil Escapes by John G. Jones, this non-cannon sequel is packed with so many genre favorites and has a pretty astounding premise, combining early 90’s performance art and the Amityville mythos.

It’s directed by John Murlowski, who also brought us…Santa With Muscles.

Keyes Terry (Ross Partridge, absentee father Lonnie Byers from Stranger Things) is an art photographer who is given a new objet d’art by a homeless man in the form of a mirror that ends up being possessed by the spirit of his father Franklin Bronner. Oh yeah — and it turns out that his dad killed his whole family on Thanksgiving night back in the original Amityville house. Obviously, this has nothing to do with the Defeo family from reality or the Montellis from Amityville II: The Possession.

This was made under the title Amityville 1993: The Image of Evil, which makes sense, as it’s all about that evil mirror, which is now killing anyone it comes near and threatens to turn Keyes into the same kind of murderer that his father was.

There are some pretty nice practical effects in this, as the filmmakers were going for an old school tone in the midst of all the neon-hued 90’s. That means that none of the visions in the cursed mirror were created with composites or other visual effects, but all created in-camera with the use of half-silvered mirrors placed at an angle in front of the lens. This process is known as Pepper’s Ghost and has been a part of magic stage acts since the mid 1800’s.

One of Keyes’ artist friends Suki is played by Julia Nickson, who was Co in Rambo: First Blood Part II and also in Double Dragon, as well as once being married to David Soul and currently being a member of the Church of Scientology. Plus, you get Terry O’Quinn (Stepfather), Lala (sometimes billed as Lala Zappa, as she’s Frank’s niece) who was in Dream A Little Dream, David Naughton from An American Werewolf In London, Barbara Howard (Sara from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter), Richard Roundtree (Shaft!), Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s RevengeWeird Science) and Lin Shaye as a nurse.

Writers Christopher DeFaria and Antonio Toro also wrote Amityville: It’s About Time. Toro has no other credits, but DeFaria has gone on to produce films like Mad Max: Fury Road and Ready Player One.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime or Tubi. Or, if you want the ultimate non-cannon Amityville experience, you can grab this movie as part of Vinegar Syndrome’s astounding Amityville: The Cursed Collection set, along with Amityville: The Evil EscapesAmityville: It’s About Time and Amityville: Dollhouse.

The Good Son (1993)

Ever see Atonement? The same screenwriter, Ian McEwan, also wrote this movie, which is all about exactly how we always figured Kevin McCallister was going to turn out. It’s directed by Joseph Ruben, who also was the director of Breaking AwayDreamscapeThe Stepfather and Sleeping with the Enemy.

It probably wouldn’t have happened without Kit Culkin, the father of Macaulay, who was a big man in Hollywood thanks to the popularity of his son. He wanted to prove that his boy could be more than a comedy star, so in order to greenlight Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Macaulay had to star in this movie first.

Mark Evans (Elijah Wood) may not have even hit puberty yet, but he’s already had to deal with the death of his mother and the fact that he has to stay with his uncle Wallace and aunt Susan, as well as their children Connie (Quinn Culkin, whose role in this movie was contractually obligated) and Henry (yep, Macaulay). The latter child is, of course, nuts and obsessed with the death of Mark’s mom and his own little brother Richard (Rory Culkin and you have to say it for those Culkin’s, they know how to get work for the whole family tree).

Of course, Henry’s little bits of crazy soon manifest themselves in killing small animals, causing huge pile-ups on the highway and shoving his little sister under the ice. The movie asks all manner of psychological questions about the love of a mother versus doing the right thing and whether or not any of us are prepared to kill a child.

The tone of this movie is all over the place. You’re used to Macaulay being funny and dangerous to the right people, so when he does the same thing to the wrong people, you kind of want to keep on his side. Perhaps if the film’s original director, Michael Lehmann of Heathers and Meet the Applegates, had stayed on and hadn’t battled with Macaulay’s dad, things would have been different.

This is the only film in which Culkin plays a villain, but not the only one where he dies. The first would be My Girl, which ruined many a pre-teen video rental. And while this movie is a 1990’s spin on The Bad Seed, it is nowhere as good. Did you expect any different?

A Bronx Tale (1993)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jim LaMotta is one of Pittsburgh’s premiere wrestling announcers, as well as a great writer. I’m really happy that he chose to write this and share it with the site. This article originally appeared on Steel City Underground. You can follow Jim on Twitter.

When I saw the chance to write about a film here, I was thrilled because much like the drama that unfolds in other forms of entertainment, movies can have such a deep layer of meaning beyond just the run time on-screen. I was introduced to A Bronx Tale in my middle school years when my dad put a copy that he taped from HBO into the VCR, one of my home recorded movies we watched together at the time.

Formulated from Chazz Palminteri’s one-man stage show show that began its run off-broadway in 1989, the film is a semi-autobiographical account of Palminteri’s childhood in the Bronx in the 1960s. My dad, who grew up in Braddock, Pennsylvania, a steel town just outside of Pittsburgh, around the same era often drew comparisons to the environment that beamed through the television. The late Grandma LaMotta was full-blooded Italian and her recipes are still made today through my dad’s cooking skills, as he slices bread and reminds me to stir the sauce, something fans of another De Niro film, Goodfellas, can appreciate.

Speaking of the legendary De Niro, he not only played a powerful role opposite of Palminteri’s gangster character, Sonny, but was also critical to getting the film made. After Chazz garnered rave reviews for his ability to play several different parts during the course of the stage show, he received offers from studios for the rights to the story. He insisted on writing the screenplay and to play the previously mentioned Sonny, the neighborhood mob leader that served as an intriguing and complex fixture of the narrative. When studios still persisted for only the rights and the ability to cast their own star, Chazz walked, leaving considerable money on the table to stay true to his vision of what he thought the New York saga should be. Shortly afterwards, De Niro attended the stage show and was impressed with Palminteri’s performance, offering him the chance to write the screen play for the production that De Niro himself would direct.

The 1993 release chronicles the youth of Calogero, a young boy that innocently pals around his Bronx neighborhood and idolizes the Yankee’s Mickey Mantle. As Calogero sits on the front steps of his apartment building, an argument breaks out over what appears to be a parking spot. After someone gets cracked with a baseball bat, Sonny halts the incident with the shot to the aggressor’s head. The Mickey Mantle fan always admired Sonny’s magnetic presence from afar, but it wasn’t until those gun shots rang out in the streets that he locked eyes with the Mafia boss. The cold, calculating stare only relinquishes Calogero from its grasp when Lorenzo, the boy’s father played by De Niro, scoops him from the cement steps to hustle him up to their apartment to avoid any connection to the murder.

Moments later, the police arrive and claim that those on the street saw the boy witness the crime and ask him to identify the shooter. As Calogero looks into the eyes of the line-up of wise guys, even he knows that the code of those Bronx streets is never to rat. After the offices begrudgingly dismiss him, The young boy asks his father if he did a good thing, and Lorenzo replies, “yeah, you did a good thing for a bad man,” a subtle nod to a theme that plays out during the narrative between the balance of morality and legality. Following the save, Sonny’s crew offers Lorenzo, the name and occupation based on Palminteri’s real-life father, a job dropping off numbers on his bus route. The $250 a week was an hefty sum in that era, but the upstanding Lorenzo politely declines because he doesn’t want to put his legitimate job as a city bus driver in jeopardy. Calogero often rode on that same bus route with his father, who delivered one of the iconic lines of the film in the form of advice to his son, “the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”

Still, Calogero’s silence gained him favor with the charismatic boss, and Sonny sends one of his crew to fetch him as he worked on his bicycle from the safety of his stoop. Just down the street, he finds himself inside the neighborhood bar where the mafia crew hangs out. After Sonny formally introduces himself, the young boy asked him if he really shot the man in the street over a parking space. The powerful figure replied in an almost caring tone, “when you get older, you’ll understand,” another central theme in the film. This is also the scene where Calogero gets his first street lesson, as Sonny asked if he was a Yankee fan and the young boy explains his admiration for the previously mentioned Mickey Mantle. Sonny’s harsh, but realistic response was, “Is Mickey Mantle going to pay your rent? Mickey Mantle don’t care about you, why should you care about him? Nobody cares, nobody cares”

As time goes on, Sonny takes the boy under his wing, allowing him to serve coffee at their club and earn generous tips for it. In one of the scenes that shows the complex side of Sonny, after Calogero goes on a roll when invited to throw dice, the mafia leader tells him to get home because it was getting late and gives him a portion of the winnings. He also gave him the nickname Cee, another subtle element of foreshadowing of an eventual conflict. When the blue collar Lorenzo, who works long hours on his bus route to provide for his family, discovers Cee’s cash and finds out where it was from, he attempted to return the money before an argument ensued with Sonny at the mafia club. The two men wouldn’t speak again for eight years.

The next scene finds Lillo Brancato Jr. as Cee eight years older, now in high school, emulating the style of the mafia boss that schooled him on the ways of the streets during the time that passed. Cee’s childhood friends became a few of the neighborhood hoodlums that Sonny eventually warned him about. Lorenzo still dutifully keeps his bus route and invited his son along when he spotted him sitting on the sidewalk with his crew of friends. Cee, not wanted to be embarrassed by his dad, begrudgingly accepts the invitation to join him for a few stops. As Lorenzo’s jazz blared from his radio on the bus, Cee was memorized by Jane, a beautiful African American girl played by Taral Hicks. Her bright smile, beaming eyes, and glowing complexion are contrasted with the racial tension of the era as Cee’s inner thoughts can be heard, “she was tall, she was beautiful, and she was classy, but she was black, and that was a no-no in my neighborhood”

As Cee exits the bus and his father continues the route, the mafia crew are waiting for him on the corner. Lorenzo and Sonny exchange tense nods of acknowledgment as the hard-working bus driver disapproves of his son’s association with the mob leader. Eventually, Cee runs into Jane outside their school and offers to walk her home. On the few blocks they travel from the school, they make plans to see a movie the next day. As the approach Webster avenue, the black section of the Bronx, there’s another reminder of the racial divide of the time. Jane finishes the final block herself, but agrees to their plans for the movies. When Cee catches up to his hoodlum neighborhood friends later that day, they jump a few black kids riding their bikes through the white section. Cee tries to disguise one of the victims and doesn’t actually throw any punches. Following the brawl in the streets, Cee seeks advice from Sonny, who inexplicably drives backwards for blocks while delivering this life lesson. As he peers over his shoulder to continue his reverse travel, Sonny has a rather causal response to the revelation that Jane is black. When Cee expresses discontent with what his childhood friends might say, Sonny explains that half of them will end up dead or in jail anyway. The mafia kingpin goes on to explain that how the two care about each other is all that matters, and passes on the knowledge of “the door test.” He tells Cee he can borrow his car to pick up Jane.

With Sonny’s assurance, Cee plans to meet up with Jane as scheduled, but not before Sonny catches those same neighborhood friends attempting to buy guns from a neighborhood lowlife. Sonny smacks a few of them around and gives Cee a verbal warning about guns not making a tough guy. The next day as Cee carefully shaves his chin, he asked Lorenzo what he thought about going out with black girls and claims he was asking for a friend. Lorenzo replies with precautionary advice before telling his son to be careful, a small gesture that lets the audience know that the father knew the son meant this advice for himself. The movie night never got started as the planned meeting spot became a place of confrontation as one of the kids jumped in the white neighborhood was Jane’s brother, Willie. Cee attempted to explain that he tried to help, but Jane storms off, and Cee delivers Sonny’s car back before he disappointingly shuffles back to his apartment.

Lorenzo saw his son behind the wheel of the mob leader’s car and confronts him about it before an argument ensues. Lorenzo reiterates that Sonny can’t trust anyone, something that the naive teenage vehemently disagrees with. As Cee goes to seek refuge in the bar, Sonny snatches him outside the club and slams him against a wall, demanding to know where he took the car. It was revealed that a bomb was planted on the engine, but didn’t detonate as designed. Cee tearfully proclaims his innocence and says that Sonny was like a father to him. The kingpin relinquishes his leather jacket and the distraught youngster shuffles down the street where his friends are now in a car and invite him for the ride. Lorenzo witnessed the confrontation and demands to know what happened to his son. Sonny’s goons hold Lorenzo back and the mob leader delivers one punch to the stomach, sending the blue collar bus driver to the pavement.

Inside the car, Cee’s friends plan further retaliation on the black section of the Bronx with a dozen molotov cocktails ready. As Jimi Hendrix’s “Along the Watchtower” accompanies the ride, again the viewing audience can hear Cee’s inner thoughts as he reflects upon the advice that Sonny and his father gave him, advice from two different men with a common theme of his best interest in mind. As Cee is conflicted about how to get out of the situation, another car cuts off the youngsters and Sonny appears, demanding that Cee get out of the car. Sonny issues a final warning to the hoodlums to stay away from his protege. On the ride back to the club, Cee asked Sonny if he even thought that he and Jane could’ve inadvertently been killed by the car bomb. Sonny acknowledges that he knows Cee didn’t set it up, but the teenager is betrayed by his mentor’s lack of trust and refuses to follow him into the club. Instead, he catches up with Jane, who went to his house to reveal that her brother admitted that he did actually try to shield him from the previous attack. As they walk down the street, Cee and Jane share a kiss, a sign of the beginning of their relationship.

Suddenly, Cee realizes that her brother might be in danger from the planned molotov attack and hurried to the record store of the black section. When they arrived, they discover that the hoodlums’ plan backfired and the car exploded, killing everyone inside. Sonny’s earlier interception had saved Cee’s life. He makes peace with Willie and tells Jane he has to go find Sonny. Cee runs all the way to the club, where a massive party is going on. As Cee makes his way through the crowded bar, Sonny is smiling and waved him through. Cee notices someone isn’t smiling and it was that man that shoots Sonny in the back of the head, as the club erupts in chaos. It’s revealed that the man that shot Sonny was the son of the man he killed eight years earlier in front of Cee’s house during the apparent parking space dispute.

Sonny’s funeral scene is what can be expected of most mob funerals, lavish floral arrangements and his contemporaries causally talking as if the departed wasn’t even in the room. An ironic “nobody cares” aspect to the scene. Eventually, Cee finds himself alone in the funeral home after the others have left. He tells Sonny how his life was saved and his plans to start a relationship with Jane. A cameo from the legendary Joe Pesci takes place as he enters the viewing room in a suit. During their brief exchange, he tells Cee that he will look over the neighborhood for a while and points to a scar on his head, a reminder that he was the other man involved in the baseball bat incident that began Cee’s entire association with Sonny. After Pesci’s character exits, Lorenzo emerges in the funeral parlor to pay respects to the man that saved Cee. The teenager apologizes to his father if he ever made him feel overlooked and the two resolve the earlier apartment dispute. Lorenzo speaks to Sonny in the casket and said that he never hated him, but rather mad that he made his son grow up so fast. After Lorenzo thanks Sonny for saving his kid’s life, Cee tells Sonny, “nobody cares? you were wrong about that one. See you around” before he uses Sonny’s famous three-finger hand gesture. As Lorenzo and his son leave the funeral home, the father says, “Come on, Cee let’s go home,” an acknowledgment of acceptance for his son as more than just the young kid on the front steps. The film encompasses many different contrasts as it traces the path of the Bronx youth. Lorenzo and Sonny, the racial divides and then eventually the common aspects seen within each of them.

Palminteri’s stage show continues today in the form of a full-cast musical and is currently touring various cities. De Niro paired up with director Martin Scorsese and fellow screen legend Al Pacino again to get the previously mentioned Pesci to emerge from retirement for this year’s “The Irishman,” an epic saga produced by Netflix with a limited run in theaters before wide distribution on the streaming service. In an ironic incident of life intimating art, Lillo Brancato Jr., who appeared in half a dozen episodes of the second season of The Sopranos, saw his seemingly promising career derailed following a series of unwise decisions. The allure of show business led him into drug problems and that eventually saw him arrested for drug possession in 2005. Later that year, during an attempted burglary, Brancato Jr. and an accomplice tried to break into a house when an off-duty police officer tried to stop them. The criminal with Brancato Jr. shot the officer, who later died. The accomplice was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole. Brancato Jr. was convicted of first-degree attempted burglary and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but received parole in 2013. Lorenzo was right, the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.

2019 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge: Day 20: Option 2: Ed and his Dead Mother (1993)

Day 20 Sunday Dinner: From eating scenes to full on foodie fodder

Author’s Note: You’ll be able to watch the full films of Ed and his Death Mother’s cool ‘n quirky cousins: Bartleby, Ed and Rubin, Trees Lounge, and Twister for free, and Ghost World for a fee. (Links to follow in the article.) And there is eating in all of them—especially Steve Buscemi driving an ice cream truck in Trees Lounge and Edna and Rebecca in Ghost World slinging popcorn and coffee, respectively. So there you go! And now, on with the eats, I mean, show!

The only thing missing from Ed and His Dead Mother is Crispin Glover.

When I look at this film’s cover, I can’t help but think of Twister (1989; full film/You Tube), featuring Crispin’s flaky, new wave rocker, Howdy, crooning in an echo chamber with a phase-connected guitar about how pretty his baby is and how mean his daddy is.

When I watch Ed and his Dead Mother, I can’t help but think of my equally quirky favorite, Ed and Rubin (1991; You Tube/full movie), with Crispin’s Rubin Farr and Howard Hessman’s Ed Tuttle frolicking about like Howdy’s distant cousins, wallowing in a henpecked loneliness, just down the street from Steve Buscemi’s Ed Chilton. And Mr. Chilton, probably, at one time, lived in the same neighborhood of another one of my favorite, quirky loves: the Steve Buscemi-starring and directed Trees Lounge (full movie/TubiTV).

“This movie sucks,” they say. “Come on, you have to hate this movie,” they tell me. In the words of Crispin’s Bartleby, in the awesome Jonathan Parker-version of Herman Melville’s short-fiction piece, “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” (Bartleby, 2001; full movie/You Tube), I say to them: “I would prefer not to.” That’s probably why I have no friends and write all day long. They’s nothing like a steely resolve in your movie preferences to drive away the sane people.

However, I didn’t say I wanted Crispin instead of: I want him in addition to Steve Buscemi. Do I really have to rattle off Steve’s credits for you: Escape from L.A., Fargo, Reservoir Dogs . . . but I will mention his Ed Chilton’s long-lost brother, Seymour, which you might have missed, from another one of my off-beat loves, Ghost World (2001; rental/Vudu).

So I think that little bit of insight to my VHS shelf will give you either fair warning to run—or leave your chops watering with bug-juicy anticipation for this Jonathan Wacks directed, chunky-chunk of weirdness. Hey, Jonathan is the dude who directed the Beatles’ George Harrison-produced Pow Wow Highway (1989) and produced the Monkees’ Michael Nesmith’s Repo Man. He directed porno-shock rockers GWAR (alongside Ethan Hawke from Reality Bites) in Mystery Date (1991). The dude ran, as Vice President of Production, the Samuel Goldwyn Company (of MGM fame). While he only did four feature films: they were awesome, unique original films and I love them all. I wished Jonathan Wacks stayed behind the camera and stayed out the executive suite. I wished fate would have had my own acting endeavors cross his path. I’d love to act in one of his movies. A gig as an under five/day player trading chops with Crispin and Buscemi in some crazy-ass road movie based on the writings of Hunter S. Thompson is in my thespian wheelhouse. I’d even take a part in a sequel to Ice Cream Man (see my Day 20: Option 4 review) just to work with Clint Howard.

“Dude, what the hell does this have to do with the ‘Day 20 Scarecrow Challenge’ regarding movies about or featuring food? While you were yacking about your man-love for Crispin Glover and Steve Buscemi, I went to the IMDB and it says Steve’s character doesn’t even run a restaurant: he owns and operates a hardware store. So, what’s he eating: sandpaper and paint chip sandwiches?”

Well, he’s not eating anything. But his dear, dead mom loves her bugs.

Lost somewhere between the cannibal-comedy shenanigans of Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul (1982) and Peter Jackson’s gooey zombie-comedy Dead Alive (1993), only not as clumsy as Eating Raoul and not as icky as Dead Alive, lies the cockroach crunch of Ed and his Dead Mother, with its comedic questions on how we deal with death.

Ed lives with his perpetual telescope-peering pervert uncle Benny (Ned Beatty of Deliverance, 1972). Ned’s living the life, now that his domineering nag-of-a-sister, Mabel (omnipresent character actress Miriam Margolyes), is dead; Ed is still moping about it a year later. That makes Ed easy prey for a smarmy, super slick salesman in the form of the white-haired and white-suit clad A.J Pattle (ubiquitous TV and film villain John Glover; Gremlins 2: The New Batch, In the Mouth of Madness) from the Happy People Corporation of Webster City, Iowa. His product: he sells reanimation services (to the recently-insurance loaded loved ones of the dead).

Ed lays down the $1000 bucks—and Pattle shows up at the door step with Mabel. Of course, since this is all an elaborate insurance swindle, the reanimation “runs out.” Now Pattle pitches HPC’s “reanimation kit” (a shrink-wrapped metal tin) for $349.99.

And what’s inside: cockroaches. Why: “Life my, boy. Life,” exclaims Pattle. “But only give her two a day. No more, no less. You don’t want to give her too much ‘life’ at one time. It screws up the reanimation process.” Naturally, Ed and Benny soon realize the now profanity-spewing Mable is not the woman she used to be. Of course, as with any Pandora’s Box: Once it’s opened—and you don’t follow the instructions—and, in this case, if you overdose on “life,” you become a crazed killer. And you develop a taste for dogs and cats and become addicted to lawnmower death—of the furry creatures, not the band.

And that sultry babe teasing Benny through the telescope, the one that Ed would never have shot with, makes a play for Ed. And why not? She’s the Happy People Corporation’s femme fatale secret weapon to bilk Ed of his mother’s inheritance. Creepy Uncle Benny’s into it for the vicarious ride and listens to Ed’s total failure in sealing the deal and suggests, “Maybe I can hide in the kitchen and scream out positions to you in case you get stuck on what to do next.”

And what should you do next? Pop the Orville Redenbacher, throw in a DiGiorno’s, pop a Dos Equis and watch Ed and his Dead Mother for free on TubiTv.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn about his work on Facebook.

2019 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 12 Option 4: Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence (1993)

DAY 12. THE FRACAS AND THE FUZZ: Something revolving around cops and criminals.

But what if the Maniac Cop found love?

This is the question we must answer.

Aren’t we all worthy of adoration?

Even those of us who have risen from the grave and killed numerous people in an obsessive quest for bloody revenge?

But first, the problem of bringing back the Maniac Cop, Officer Matthew Cordell, played once again by Robert Z’Dar. Leave that to Houngan Malfaiteur, played by Julius Harris from Hell Up In HarlemBlack Caesar and Superfly. I love the character names that Harris had in movies, like Tee Hee Johnson in Live and Let Die, Gravedigger in Darkman and Speedbagger in Prayer of the Rollerboys. He uses the dark powers of voodoo to bring our favorite boy in blue back from the beyond.

Meanwhile, there’s also another cop named Katie Sullivan (Gretchen Becker, who is also in Firehead and was Martin Landau’s partner until the end of his life) who gets shot in a convenience store holdup. Thanks to more police corruption, she’s painted as using excessive force and the man who shot her is due to go free, which upsets investigating officer Sean McKinney (the returning — and always awesome — Robert Davi).

It also upsets the Maniac Cop, who shows up to the hospital ready for mayhem. He kills one guy with defibrillator paddles and another with straight-up x-ray radiation. And the four reporters who joined in on Kate’s frameup? Toast.

McKinney joins up with Doctor Susan Fowler (Caitlin Dulany, who along with Jesica Barth, formed Voices in Action after the multiple accusations against Harvey Weinstein) to investigate the murders and Kate’s strange behavior, even though she’s braindead.

The Maniac Cop is interested in Kate, who Houngan claims refuses to return from the land of the dead. So he does what any of us would do. He sets everything — including himself — on fire.

Despite getting blown up real good, the body of the titular protagonist survives enough to hold Kate’s charred hand, even in the morgue.

This movie is packed with talent, including The Breakfast Club‘s Paul Gleason, one-time Freddy Krueger actor Jackie Earle Haley as holdup man Frank Jessup, and Doug Savant from Melrose Place and Robert Forster as doctors.

The church used in the film is the same location as Prince of Darkness, LA’s Union Center for the Arts.

Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence had a troubled production. Despite director William Lustig’s rough cut clocking in at just 51 minutes, he refused to shoot the additional scenes the producers wanted. That’s why the Blue Underground release has Alan Smithee listed as director. To fill in the gaps, there are several scenes that are obvious outtakes from Maniac Cop 2.

You can watch this for free on Tubi, Vudu and Amazon Prime. You can also get the blu ray directly from Blue Underground.

Skinner (1993)

Dennis Skinner (Ted Raimi) has moved into the Tate household, helping them with their financial situation while widening the gap between husband and wife. He seems nice enough, but a disturbing childhood — he only ripped his mother’s face off after his father forced her to watch him conduct her autopsy before punching him in the face — has led to him becoming a skid row slasher. However, Dennis’ past sins have come back to haunt him in the form of Heidi (an insanely perfect Traci Lords), a bad girl with a secret — horrible scars as she’s survived being flayed alive thanks to the power of her will and no small amount of narcotics — who won’t stop until he gets her horrible revenge.

Skinner was the kind of movie that haunted the video stores in my early 20’s. It almost made it into theaters, as well, because a newly reformed Cannon Pictures almost gave it a limited theatrical run. However, this new Cannon fell into bankruptcy before Skinner made it to screens.

It’s just as well — this is a movie made for home video. It’s gloriously scummy, revelling in darkness, grue and gore courtesy of Pittsburgh hometown heroes KNB. Where films like Silence of the Lambs only hint at the skin suits that their killers are making, Dennis Skinner creates muliple flesh fashions that he walks around in.

Former Hairspray lead and daytime talk show host Ricki Lake plays the lonely Kerry Tate, who lives a near-seperate life from her husband Geoff (certainly named for the former Queensryche frontman). As mentioned before, Traci Lords grabs every scene she’s in by the literal balls and leaves the viewer begging for more.

This whole paen to slicing up hookers was brought to us by Ivan Nagy, who may know a thing or two about the world’s oldest profession, as he was the ex-boyfriend of Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. In addition to directing episodes of CHIPs and HBO’s The Hitchhiker, Nagy also cooked the books for the mob. His work on Skinner would pair nicely with a film like Fulci’s The New York Ripper, providing a west coast glimpse of neon-hued squalor.

You can get Skinner in the most perfect form it’s ever been released in from Severin. It comes complete with interviews with Nagy, Raimi, screenwriter Paul Hart-Wilden and editor Jeremy Kasten, as well as alternate scenes and a trailer. As always, Severin goes above and beyond to deliver essential physical media. You can also watch this on Amazon Prime.