MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies: The Cowboy Way (1994)

Rodeo riders and ropers Pepper Lewis (Woody Harrelson) and Sonny Gilstrap (Kiefer Sutherland) have traveled from New Mexico to New York City looking for their friend Nacho Salazar (Joaquín Martínez) and staying to find his killer along with police officer Sam “Mad Dog” Shaw (Ernie Hudson).

Directed by Gregg Champion and written by Robert C. Thompson and William D. Wittliff (Legends of the FallThe Perfect StormLonesome Dove‘s TV script), this reminds me of the 90s when high concept buddy movies kept coming out. “So Woody and Kiefer are from Texas and come to the big city and stuff happens! We’ll even have Woody order a steak, you know, because he’s vegan! It’s kind of like Crocodile Dundee.”

Bad guy John Stark (Dylan McDermott) is the reason they’re in town, as Nacho was coming to buy his daughter Teresa’s (Cara Buono) freedom. The outcome is never in doubt, but there is a nice bit of character work as Hudson really wants to be a cowboy, which is supposed to be funny because the movie assumes audiences believe there were no black cowboys when history informs us that up to 25% of all cowboys in the settling days of the west were African American.

The Mill Creek Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies set includes  Kull the Conqueror, The Jackal and End of Days. You can get it from Deep Discount.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Downtown Heat (1994)

I never think of the world of Jess Franco existing in the same universe as the Hard Rock Cafe and their shirts, which were once everywhere, but here we are as the hero of this movie plays mournful jazz as he laments the death of his wife. Also: when they find the body of his wife, it’s in a junkyard and covered with mice and it turns out that she was having an affair with Melissa, who is Lina Romay and man, just when I was bored by this movie being a police sort of action movie, Lina shows up with a mohawk and eye makeup and a gang that looks straight out of the Bronx by way of Italy.

Oddly enough, this has some American names in the cast including former 20th Century Fox contract player, star of Desilu’s Whirlybirds and alleged early boyfriend of Rock Hudson Craig Hill and Mike Connors (I have no idea how Joe Mannix ended up in a Jess Franco film).

It’s also the last movie of Charlie’s daughter Josephine Chaplin, who was also in Pasolini’s The Canterbury Tales, Franco’s Jack the Ripper and Chabrol’s Cop Au Vin.

Unlike nearly every Franco movie, this was made in sync sound.

So yeah. Cop action. Dead wife. Evil drugs. Somehow the only movie that Jess made in 1994, which kind of blows my mind as much as this not being dubbed.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Damselvis, Daughter of Helvis (1994)

John Michael McCarthy has made movies like Superstarlet A.D.The Sore LosersTeenage Tupelo and oh yeah, he’s the man who found Bat Pussy. This is his first film, the story of the daughter of Helvis (Brady Debussey), a rock and roll god who is being opposed by the end of the world church run by Black Jesus (Adimu Ajanaku). He orders them to kill schoolgirl Isla M. (Sherry Lynn Garris, Gorewhore) before she is able to embrace her destiny and free her daddy from his pyramid tomb and help him destroy the Woofman (also Adimu Ajanaku; a lot of people think Jesus becomes a wolfman or a zombie and I don’t think that’s the intention).

Isla is nearly murdered by one of Black Jesus’ women, Candy (Ghetty Chasun from Red Lips!) and this leads to her being reborn as Damselvis, covering herself in leather and fringe, jumping on a motorcycle bound for Memphis to spread the singing gospel.

Oh the people you will meet, Damselvis! Like the wheelchair riding, former guitar playing and stunt death defying Evel Knievelvis (Robert Gann, who did the effects for this movie, Gorotica and Basket Case 2). A nude woman who tempts you in the woods! And oh, the soundtrack! The glorious fuzzy loudness!

Originally a comic book, this movie had no budget and more ideas than every other film you will watch this year put together. This was shot by Hugh Gallagher (Gorgasm), has a zombie Elvis that has one gigantic eye like a live action Big Daddy Roth cartoon and a creator who was brave enough to not only make it, but to try and get Lisa Marie Presley to play the lead.

This is the best $2,000 anyone has ever spent.

You can get this on blu ray from Saturn’s Core, a partner label of Vinegar Syndrome.

Rana, Queen of the Amazons (1994)

How did I get so far into these SOV weeks without doing a W.A.V.E. Productions movie? W.A.V.E. is a New Jersey-based horror and custom video company that makes their own films as well as custom movies for pay with usually no limits. It’s kind of like pornography but at once less filthy and creepier. They claim to be inspired by the horror and exploitation movies of the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s and there’s adult content but never anything explicit.

So, if you wanted to see Sheena, Queen of the Jungle or Wonder Woman struggle and get tied up even more than they did in their comics or movies, well, this time W.A.V.E. has a movie for you.

That means when you watch Alexandria Solace (Dawn Murphy) run through the jungle and fall into quicksand, you’re going to watch her struggle for like seven minutes. If this turns you on, look, I’m not going to judge, but I have no idea how you would be able to fulfil your fantasies outside of W.A.V.E.

Rana (Pamela Sutch) is the heroine, a jungle girl battling hand puppet snakes and the remnants of the German army. Her greatest enemy is Ilsa Van Todd (Tina Krause, a W.A.V.E. superstar who went on to direct the incredible movie Limbo) and yeah, my admiration for Krause kind of made her the heroine of this whole thing.

This is made from three shorts: The Jungle Woman versus the Nazis, The Jungle Woman and the Flowers of Death and The Jungle Woman and the Fangs of Death. There are also trailers, extended footage of Murphy having a wardrobe issue in case you didn’t feel bad enough watching this and a song with the lyric “You can count on Rana to be your friend.”

Ozone (1994)

Born in Akron, Ohio, J.R. Bookwalter has so many shot on video films to his credit such as The Dead Next Door, Robot Ninja and Zombie Cop and brought many more to audiences through his Tempe Entertainment releases.

He directed and co-wrote this with David A. Wagner and it’s the story of Eddie Boone (James Black), a cop who gets injected with the titular drug Ozone and starts to lose his mind and he’s either going to melt or turn into a zombie or kill everyone before that can happen.

Some movies would say that a body melting and a head exploding would be enough, especially one made on this budget. But no, Ozone goes one further by throwing you a mutant baby that can talk near instantly and has transulcent skin. Then, it says, “What if we also gave you a drug lord who was a gigantic fat man with a pig head? Would you like some of that?”

Yes, I would like some of that.

There’s also cage fighting, people wth syringe arms and women addicted to the slime that seeps out of the bubbles on Ozone users’ skin. There are some people who think this is too long, that it’s too slick for SOV and too scummy for a regular movie.

All of these people are morons.

You can watch this on Tubi or buy it from Makeflix.

Shatter Dead (1994)

After working as a production assistant to Frank Henenlotter on Frankenhooker and Basket Case 2, Scooter McCrae made this as his first movie. He’s only made two others since then — 1999’s Sixteen Tongues and 2015’s short Saint Frankenstein but man, every single one of them is astounding. And upsetting in a way that no shower can erase, no distance can take away.

Shatter Dead starts with a female Angel of Death making love to a human woman, stopping death from being real. Into this world walks Susan (Stark Raven) carrying a bag of groceries and anarsenall of weapons that she uses to pick off the living dead that get too close to her. Except these zombies don’t want brains or flesh or anything other than money and for someone to pay attention to them, making this as far from a zombie movie — that features zombies — as it gets.

After a preacher and his flock of the shambling masses steals her car on a country road. Soon, she meets Mary (Flora Fauna), an undead woman who committed suicide so that she could remain gorgeous for all eternity. There’s also a cult of religious zombies in this town that wants everyone to be dead and has no issue killing people to get them that way.

Susan runs from this insanity, making her way back to the preacher, who she shoots in the head and steals her car back. I guess that whole idea that death is better than life and how the old humanity is ending is now something that the man of the cloth can now live for himself.

By the time she makes her way back to her boyfriend and has the food for him, she learns that he’s already killed himself and come back from the dead. The blood no longer flows through his body, so to make love, she ties her gun to his crotch and takes it. She soon discovers that he’d poisoned her milk — add this to my Letterboxd poisoned milk list — and he tells her that now she can always be young and beautiful for him. She tries to shoot herself to ruin that but ends up blasting away at him, sending him out of a window to the unforgiving street below.

The preacher fixes wood all over Dan, allowing him to stand and walk almost as the Son of Man carried his cross. Susan tries to use water to bring life to her now dead eyes as Dan knocks and knocks, begging for her to let him in.

Shatter Dead is a movie with a vibe that corrects any issues of acting or pacing or shooting. It’s so different when it comes to not just SOV but movies in general.

McCrae told Quiet Earth, “I still love Shatter Dead because it’s just as crazy and sexy as it has ever been in my mind. In fact, I think it feels a bit more excessive now than when it was first made since there are not as many underground movies flooding the marketplace as there were back then. Explicit nudity and matter-of-fact sexuality seem more foreign to the current movie-going climate. What was shocking back then just seems unthinkable now, Shatter Dead feels like an artifact of a bygone era of moviemaking that I have a good deal of nostalgia for. I do wonder what modern viewers make of it.”

McCrae had originally titled this movie Dead People, which is ironic, as if this movie feels like any other film, it would be Messiah of Evil, a movie McCrae had not seen before he made it. Of that unheralded classic, he said, “I love the film immensely; I think in many ways it’s the closest thing we have to an American-made Dario Argento movie in terms of extreme stylization. So many beautiful shots of people wandering through rooms or standing next to paintings that they appear to become part of or disappear into.”

Trust me — Messiah of Evil is an untouchable work of Biblical level truth — but this movie gave me the same feeling that it exists on the very edge of something horribly real, at the outside of sanity, beyond the walls of my reality begging and screaming to be let in. It’s too real despite living in a world of unreal.

This movie really hit me perfectly. The end of the world is not gnashing and gnawing. It’s sighing.

You can get this from Saturn’s Core, a Vinegar Syndrome partner label.

Wicked Games (1994)

You can kind of sort of consider this the sequel to Tim Ritter’s Truth or Dare, even if it has none of the same characters, except that Gary (Kevin Scott Crawford) is the cousin of that first movie’s Mike. He’s having a lot of the same issues that that guy once did as he comes home to catch his wife riding another man. Now, a copper masked killer is running around and Gary’s friend Dan (Joel D. Wynkoop) starts to think that his buddy is that slasher.

We’re back to Sunnyville Mental Hospital, where Dr. Seidow (co-writer Kermit Christman) and it turns out that there may be more than one killer. Spoiler, there totally is or maybe this is all in Mike’s head and he’s been thinking of killing again. Dan is into kinky sex, Dr. Seidow is a maniac obsessed with one of his patients who likes to burn herself with cigarettes and all three — four — of them hate women.

This movie is the only film I’ve ever seen where a slasher takes a moment to take a bite of a sandwich while chasing his victim. It also has someone get killed with a sprinkler. By that, I’m saying they get a sprinkler jammed right through them.

There’s another somewhat sequel to Truth or Dare, Writer’s Block, but that movie doesn’t have insane genius — I say that in the nicest of ways, trust me — Tim Ritter, who imbues this with plenty of ridiculous energy. Is it central Florida giallo? Nearly.

You can watch this on YouTube.

A CHRISTMAS STORY: My Summer Story (1994)

Jean Shepherd started working on this movie in 1989 after wrapping up production on the TV movie Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss and realizing that he was making more off the replays of A Christmas Story than trying to create TV shows or films. The cast of that film was now too old to oplay the roles, other than Ralphie’s teacher, Miss Shields, who is played again by Tedde Mills.

A year after the first movie, Ralphie Parker (Kieran Culkin) is now battling with a new bully, Lug Ditka (Whit Hertford), with former bad guy Scut Farkus (Chris Owen) now just another student. The two battle spinning tops and most of the movie involves Ralphie trying to find the perfect top to defeat Lug. Randy is played by Kieran’s brother Christian.

Meanwhile, mom (Mary Steenburgen) is dealing with a movie theater giving away the same gravy boat every week — the same story is in The Phantom of the Open Hearth — while the Old Man (Charles Grodin, trying to do a grunting approximation of Darren McGavin) is battling an even bigger Bumpus clan.

Directed again by Bob Clark, this was released as It Runs In the Family but released on video as My Summer Story. It’s a cute enough movie — the moment where Ralphie realizes he’s now a man are really poignant — but you can see why the studio changed the name of the film so it wouldn’t be compared to A Christmas Story.

PITTSBURGH MADE: Milk Money (1994)

Shot in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Lebanon, Ohio, Milk Money is set in the fake Pennsylvania suburb Middleton. There, three kids — Brad (Adam LaVorgna), Frank (Michael Patrick Carter) and Kevin (Brian Christopher) — pay V (Melanie Griffith) to see her nude in the hopes that it gives them an advantage when dealing with girls. She ends up driving them home and staying when her car breaks down, living in Frank’s treehouse and acting like his math tutor and romancing his father (Ed Harris).

While all this is going on, her pimp Cash (Casey Siemaszko) is caught stealing from his boss Waltzer (Malcolm McDowell) who is also stealing from his boss Jerry “The Pope” (Philip Bosco). Cash tells Waltzer that V stole the money before he’s shot, sending the bosses after her with only a warning from fellow sex worker. Betty (Anne Heche) to get out of town.

Directed by Richard Benjamin and written by John Mattson, this is a movie that my wife has liked since she was a kid. I asked her why and she said, “Ed Harris is a sexy beast.” Sometimes, it’s better not knowing.


In the year 2022, John Robbins (Ray Liotta) has been sentenced to a prison island for assassinating his commanding officer. Run by The Warden (Michael Lerner), this prison is filled with society’s most violent and feared criminals and split between the The Outsiders, who are ruled by Marek (Stuart Wilson) and The Insiders, commanded Father (Lance Henriksen) and his followers Hankins (Ernie Hudson) and Casey (Kevin Dillon).

Robbins doesn’t care to join anyone. He just wants to escape. Yet by stealing a weapon from The Outsiders, he’s unleashed a civil war that could destroy everyone.

Based on the 1987 novel The Penal Colony by Richard Herley, this movie was directed by Martin Campbell (GoldenEyeThe Legend of Zorro) and really feels way too close to reality. Beyond being set in 2022, prisons are run by corporations and prisoners are seen as assets. Hmm.

There are plenty of stars in this and tons of action. Somehow, some way, I’ve never seen this before and was pretty entertained by it.

The Unearthed Classics DVD of No Escape has the original theatrical trailer, TV spots and an alternate beginning. You can get it from MVD.