Jugular Wine (1994)

If you ever wanted to see a vampire flick that slaughters Black Flag’s Henry Rollins (playing himself; then at the top of his solo game with The End of Silence and Weight albums) and comic-book icons Stan Lee and Frank Miller (an anthropology professor and a fellow grad student, respectively)—as it quotes the poems of Walt Whitman (remember: the father of the modern vampire genre, Bram Stoker, was a Whitman admirer, and later a pen-pals with the poet)—then this idiosyncratic vampire romp is your goblet of blood.

After several centuries of undead romance, Ms. Dracula needs a new neck in her life, so she decides to fall in love with the food that comes in the form of James Grace, a Philadelphia thesis-working anthropologist in Alaska (he’s on a ship; thus the Whitman quote about “deep waters” and “seas of god”) who becomes the unwitting third side in a gothic love triangle. Why? Because mortal women aren’t exactly banging down the doors of anthropologists . . . so when a several-centuries-old hottie shows up and drops her parka naked-to-go, you don’t did-a-doddle with your rocks and dirt: you go for it. (I would. Undead me, baby.) Well, it’s not that cheesy: Alexandra the Vamp is actually on the run to Alaska, the last earthly sanctuary for vampires as the nights grow shorter—and she’s being hunted by her kind’s eldest, known as Legion.

When the half-vampirized Grace discovers Mr. Dracula, aka Legion, has murdered Alexandra, his new undead-life’s love—as result of her mortal infidelities—he embarks on an Easy Rider meets Phantasm II-inspired sunless odyssey; a hallucinatory roadtrip through America’s underground lands of the undead where he meets an array of fringe-society characters in Los Angeles, Utah, New Orleans, and Philadelphia in his quest for revenge. Then there’s the side plots with Nickadeamous (writer-director Blair Murphy) tracking down Grace—and Grace tracking down Dr. Donna Park, who has the secrets to the mythical Induit creatures that fuel the vampire myth. And that she’s not dead or missing—but a vampire herself, and Grace killed her back on the ship when Nickadeamous attacked him.

One of the most—if not the most—ambitious indie-art house vampire flicks you’ll ever see (if there is such a genre), this vamp’s cross-country ambitions hold up (somewhat) against its aspirations-over-budget, courtesy of its avoiding the graveyard brooding and strip club clichés of most modern vampire flicks, as the protagonist’s search takes him to unconventional, underground-kitschy coffee houses and maybe-a-little-bit-more-conventional goth night clubs (aka, the pretty-cool named Caligari’s Casket that spins F.W Murnau’s 1922 vamp-romp, Nosferatu for “atmosphere”; you know, the place where Henry Rollins hangs out to become fang-chum).

It’s all from the mind of indie writer-director Blair Murphy who self-financed the film through his family’s funeral home business. Is this a case of “. . . if Tommy Wiseau made a vampire flick?” Eh, well . . . while this was made in the early ’90s and shot-on-film, the proceedings look like an ’80s “Big Box” SOV romp, ala (the much better granddaddy of SOV) Blood Cult. (But Jugular Wine isn’t as bad as fellow SOV’ers Spine. Or Things.) And we’re not sure if that’s from cinematic ineptitude, purposeful SOV-homage, or the battered VHS is so washed-out that it looks like an ’80s SOV’er. And what’s the deal with the white grease paint vamps? Again, we’re not sure if that’s special-effect ineptitude (due to cash) or a homage to Herk Harvey 1962 classic-creeper, Carnival of Souls, which, in many ways, Jugular Wine resembles in its self-financed, one-off guerilla filmmaking style. But make no mistake: Carnival of Soul (which should be as revered as George Romeo’s Night of the Living Dead) is the far superior film. Far superior.

While Murphy certainly possessed the same generous self-financing verve as The Room’s auteur, Murphy has a more effective grasp of filmmaking. Sadly, in lieu of his musician and comic-book stunt castings, he should have dug up a few down-on-their-luck B or C-List actors (Eric Roberts was already down to direct-to-video potboilers like Power 98 by this point; he would have been a prefect class-up-this-joint casting) to carry his intelligent script—as the strained overacting, in conjunction with its way-too-long 98-minute running time, make this vamp romp a hard swallow (yuk, yuk, sorry) . . . for you, maybe. But I dig this way more that Tom Cruise’s mainstream fang sporting, so kudos, Mr. Murph!

There’s no PPV-VOD streams or freebie rips of the VHS. And that “Blockbuster” plug on the box art is totally bogus. Across three local Blockbusters, I never one saw a copy of Jugular Wine on their mainstream shelves: this was strictly a 10,001 Monster Video or mom-n-pop rent-n-carry. For you digital hounds: Yeah, there are DVDs in the marketplace, but caveat emptor: they look like grey market burns. (No, they are definitely grey market burns.) For those of you that have never seen Jugular Wine, the best we’ve got is this eight-years post documentary (on You Tube in six-parts) that Murphy strung together in 2002, which features scenes from the film. Apparently, the later-issued DVDs contain the documentary.

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

Wolf (1994)

Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) once ran the New York publishing world, but now he’s been demoted by his new boss Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer) and has lost his wife and title to Stewart Swinton (James Spader). At least he’s been bit by a black wolf and has started to become something more than just a normal person, because otherwise, his life is pretty rough.

He soon begins to romance Alden’s daughter Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer) as he tries to control the wolf inside him. Of course, his rival is also a wolf and tries to take everything away from him all over again, but this time, he’s able to best him before becoming a full-blown wolf and running into the woods.

Mike Nichols wouldn’t be my first choice for making a horror movie, what with a resume of The GraduateWorking Girl and The Birdcage. At least the Ennio Morricone is pretty great. The make-up is awesome, too. If you’re going to make a werewolf movie, get the best. Get Rick Baker.

Nicholson had been trying to get this movie made with his friend, Jim Harrison, for more than a decade. The screenwriter and associate producer hated the result of the film so much that he left Hollywood.

The real problem, I think, is that no one could agree what the movie was about. Nichols thought it was about the death of God, the decline of Western civilization and A.I.D.S. Harrison wanted it to be a “celebration of oblivion and liberation.” And Morricone believed it was a story about a man trapped in a dream.

Oblivion (1994)

Full Moon, you so crazy. You filmed this Peter David written story and somehow put aliens in space and got Andrew Divorff to play the villainous Red Eye in a movie that feels a lot like an adult version of BraveStarr. They also grabbed Meg Foster, Isaac Hayes, George Takei, Julie Newmar and Carel Struycken, the giant from Twin Peaks to help tell the story of how the outer space west was won.

If a Western can contain empaths, aliens that can foresee death and cyborgs, then let this be that Western.

They filmed Backlash: Oblivion 2 at the same time, so if you liked this, good news. There’s more waiting for you.

Written by Charles Band, this was directed by Sam Irvin, who also made Elvira’s Haunted Hills.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Saturday Night Special (1994)

Ah . . . the ’90s . . . the era of the cheesy erotic thrillers inspired by the likes of Lawrence Kasdan’s far superior Body Heat (1981). And for every Paul Verhoeven noir-giallo Basic Instinct (1992) blockbuster . . . there was the great Willem Dafoe struggling to salvage Madonna in Body of Evidence (1992) . . . then there’s David Caruso bombing hard with William Friedkin’s Jade (1995). And let’s not forget Joe Eszterhas and Paul Verhoeven’s abysmal reteaming with Showgirls (1995).

And then there’s Roger Corman’s take on the genre: Saturday Night Special.

Image courtesy of monsterlandmovies/eBay

And while Corman was never one to let a set or a special effects shot go to waste (see all of his ’80s Star Wars/Alien knock offs as examples*), he never let a script go to waste either. So he made the same movie . . . three times.

First, in 1991, the script was made as Kiss Me a Killer. If you’re a fan of Robert Beltran (Commander Chakotay on Star Trek: Voyager, Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul, or 1984’s Night of the Comet), you’ll probably want to seek that one out concerning soft-core sexual hijinks in an L.A salsa club. Then Corman took the script and placed it into an Urban Cowboy-styled honky tonk as Saturday Night Special. Then, to capitalize on the media frenzy over Showgirls, he re-tweaked the script inside a Los Angeles strip club as 1996’s The Showgirl Murders. The upside to Saturday Night Special and The Showgirls Murders: both star Quentin Tarantino’s “favorite B actress,” Maria Ford. And of those two films, the one you want to watch is, you guess it, Saturday Night Special.

Yeah, but what does this all have to do with “Rock n’ Roll Week” at B&S About Movies? Well, this Corman noir stars country rocker Billy Burnette of Fleetwood Mac (formerly with Mick Fleeetwood’s side band, The Zoo; Burnette replaced Linsday Buckingham) in his acting debut . . . along with a cameo by Mick Fleetwood himself (remember when Mick showed up alongside Dweezil Zappa in The Running Man?).

Burnette is Travis, a ne’er-do-well drifter-cum-musician who gets a gig as the house musician at a local, dusty town honky tonky. And in typical film noir fashion, along comes Darlene (Maria Ford), the local femme fatale, who seduces Travis to kill her abusive, bar owner husband. Boobs, brawls, dead bodies, and to be honest, crappy country songs by Burnette, ensues. (Keep your eyes open for requisite low-budget screen heavy Duane Whitaker from Pulp Fiction, The Devil’s Rejects, Halloween II ’09 in an early role.)

Double Indemity or Sorry, Wrong Number, this ain’t. Hell, it ain’t even Jade. Or Showgirls. But if you’re a rock n’ roll film dog, like myself and Samuel, then there’s something here for you to watch. (A few of the other classic ’40s to ’60s film noirs we’ve reviewed are A Double Life, Black Angel, Fairwell, My Lovely, My Name is Julia Ross, The Possessed, and So Dark the Night — if you’re interested in the deeper roots that birthed Saturday Night Special. Some of the recent neo-noirs we’ve reviewed include Don Okolo’s recent Eric Roberts starrer Lone Star Deception, along with the early ’90s radio romps Dead Air, Night Rhythms, and Power 98.)

In lieu of bogging this review with Billy Burnette career trivia, his Wikipedia page will give you all you need to know . . . and You Tube will give you all you need to hear. However, in short: Aerosmith fans know the music of Billy’s dad Dorsey and his Uncle Johnny from The Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio with their cover of “Train Kept-a Rollin’“; Billy had his own early ’80s new wave hit with a cover of his dad’s ’50s hit, “Honey Hush” (but you probably know that one better for its kick ass cover by Foghat). Oh, and Billy’s cousin, Rocky Burnette (son of Johnny), had his own 1980 U.S Top 10 hit with “Tired of Toein’ The Line.”

Anyway, back to the movie . . . we all know how the uploads come and go on You Tube. So we’re giving you three links to choose from to watch Saturday Night Special HERE, HERE, and HERE. Sadly, there are no VHS rips of Kiss Me a Killer or The Showgirl Murders online, but we found the trailers for each of them HERE and HERE.

* Be sure to check out our “Ten Movies that Ripped Off Alien” and “A Whole Bunch of Alien Rip Offs at Once” featurettes. Astute Cormanites will be able to pick out his films with ease.

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

Class of 1999 the Substitute (1994)

While a sequel to Class of 1999, none of the storylines cross over from that film. There is, however, flashback footage on hand to help pad out the running time and give some vague remembrance of what has gone on before.

This movie is the very definition of a “the store’s closing, you better grab something” VHS rental era pick.

John Bolen — no relation to my old roommate and TNA Gut Check winner — is the new substitute teacher in Bend, Oregon. He beats up some punks for skipping class and when another teacher threatens to narc on him, he breaks the guy’s neck. John is played by Sasha Mitchell, who was Cody Lambert on Step by Step.

While obviously one of the androids from the last movie, John can still fall in love with a fellow teacher and go to war with a museum currator played by Nick Cassavetes (The Wraith).

There is also much paintballing and a year before Monica Lewinsky mention that Clinton had been indicted.

Originally called Class of 2001: The Substitute, this was directed by Spiro Razatos, who is still doing stunt work on this day on movies like the new Fast and the Furious and the Marvel films.

You can watch this on Tubi.

El Trono de Infierno (1994)

The title of this film is The Throne of Hell and madre de dios do I have a story to tell you about it. This movie is quite literally everything you want a 1994 cheaply made Mexican movie about possession to be, and by that, I mean it’s packed with gore and bad taste. That’s pretty much the description for nearly every movie that I love.

A group of archeologists excavating some Aztec ruins in Mexico City uncover a bizarre jar that has fumes that come out of it and before you can say Pazuzu, the main one has been possessed and begins wiping out people in all sorts of creative ways, like crucifying a woman upside down with a crown of thorns.

If you wonder, “Will they slowly take the nails out and have blood spray everywhere?” you have been watching too many Mexican horror films just like me.

A Catholic bishop figures out the solution: call for the Angel, who can walk on water and already has a demon-killing sword which may be Excalibur and the Seven Seals. Luckily, they also have a giant attache case with a gleaming gold shield, too. He’s some kind of Templar Knight. The big bad turns into a rubber-suited monster and they do battle.

This movie moves slowly in points and at other times, it rewards you with scenes of priests being launched out of windows and cops exploding. There’s also a solar eclipse and an earthquake, if you’re into those kinds of things.

Sergio Goyri plays both the knight and directed this, so I’m kind of hoping that it was some kind of crazy passion project. Every time I was ready to check out, this movie would reward me with something off the wall.

Police Academy: Mission to Moscow (1994)

I spent lots of money to get this on DVD. Obviously, my love for the Police Academy movies — not to mention Christopher Lee and owning absolute junk on physical media — is unmatched.

You know what’s awesome about the world that we live in? Of all the movies to be amongst the first Western films to be shot in the Soviet Union, one of the Police Academy films would be one of them, lensing right in the midst of Red Square.

Commandant Eric Lassard (George Gaynes), Sergeant Larvell Jones (Michael Winslow), Sergeant Eugene Tackleberry (David Graf) and Captain Debbie Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook) are joined by Cadet Kyle  Connors (Charlie Schlatter) and the despised Capt. Thaddeus Harris (G. W. Bailey).

Wait? Where’s Captain Moses Hightower? Well, Bubba Smith was asked to return, but when he was told that Sergeant Laverne Hooks (Marion Ramsey) wouldn’t be involved, he quit. This is exactly like the scene in the first Police Academy, which kind of makes me emotional.

Russian gangster Konstantine Konali (Ron Perlman!) is using Tetris to launder money. Russian Commandant Alexandrei Nikolaivich Rakov (Christopher Lee!) beings in help from the man he met at a police convention, Commandant Lassard.

Hijinks, as they say, ensue.

Is that Claire Forlani? Is that original Mousketeer Lonnie Burr as a gay Russian? Would you believe that the October 4, 1993 assault on the Russian parliament building almost took out the entire production team?

For his part, Perlman considers his work in this movie “a public service”, as he felt that he shut down the series, exclaiming, “I’m not going to apologize. I did that piece of shit.”

He forgets — as does most of the rest of the non-bonkers world, that there was a 1997 syndicated Police Academy series that followed a new crew of recruits across 26 episodes. Only Winslow would return as Jones, but there were guest-starring roles for Easterbrook with Callahan becoming a district attorney, Art Metrano as Mauser, Gaynes as Lassard, Graf as Tackleberry, who is now a Captain, Colleen Camp appearing in archival footage and Tim Kazurinsky as Sweetchuck. Bubba Smith would finally come back as well, with Hightower being promoted to Captain in episode 19.

There was also a 65-episode cartoon series that spawned a comic book and Kenner action figure line, which is amazing when you consider that the original Police Academy movies earned their R rating.

While the TV series is unavailable on DVD or even streaming, the cartoon certainly is. It was animated by Toei. Yes, the same studio that made Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon.

The Crow (1994)

James O’Barr created The Crow as a way to deal with the death of his fiancee at the hands of a drunk driver. Today, we may know it more for the death of its lead actor Brandon Lee. Take it from someone who was 22 when the original film came out and had already been a fan of the comic — it was the perfect movie for its time, a capsule ready made to be looked back on as I am now old and have so many memories around this time.

Eric Draven (Lee) has been killed after trying to save the life of his fiancee Shelley. One year later, a crow brings him back to life as he unleashes terror on the gang of Top Dollar (Michael Wincott, Strange Days).

It’s an incredibly simple tale of revenge, but the gothic look and soundtrack that reflects the time of its creation drive this movie beyond its simple origins. I remember being beyond excited when My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult was actually in the film, playing at Top Dollar’s club before his gang heads out to set Detroit ablaze on Devil’s Night.

Of course, there has long been discussion of the film being cursed. In addition to the accident where Michael Massee shot a live round — unbeknownst to the actor — a carpenter suffered serious burns, another worker was stabbed in the hand by a screwdriver, an equipment truck blew up, a stuntman broke his ribs, a rigger was electrocuted, a set sculptor flipped out and drove his car through the prop room and finally, a hurricane destroyed much of the set.

Another reason for so much of this — beyond fate — was that there was plenty of cost and corner cutting, with a crew member remarking that they were “trying to make a $30 million movie for $18 million.” As the movie was being shot in North Carolina, which is a right-to-work state, the unionized conditions of Hollywood did not exist. They switched schedules from night to day without the industry standard 24-hour break.  Rumors of rampant cocaine use on set also exist.

Due to Lee dying, many of the scenes had to be reshot with a double and CGI. All of the scenes with Michael Berryman’s Skull Cowboy character had to be cut, too.

Despite the tragic nature of its creation, The Crow remains a movie that reminds me of a different time in my life. Its influence on culture remains.

True Lies (1994)

Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is living two lives. To his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) and his daughter (Eliza Dushku), he’s a boring computer salesman. But that’s all a cover for his real job, as an agent of the elite Omega Sector. He’s Bond but perhaps even better, as the opening of the film shows him easily seduce Juno Skinner (Tia Carrere), steal important files and escape a society party by killing everyone in his way.

But what happens when his wife meets someone who could be a spy (Bill Paxton) and starts having an affair?

This is a movie that I’d not watched for some reason and I loved it. Particularly, I enjoyed Charlton Heston as Director Spencer Trilby and Tom Arnold as Tasker’s handler Albert Gibson. The spy action movies quickly, the action is big and bold, yet the love between Curtis and Arnold feels real.

Of course, this movie could never be made today, the way that it goes after Arabic people as terrorists. 1994 feels centuries ago in so many ways.

After September 11, 2001, Cameron decided to not do a sequel. He would say, “Terrorism is no longer something to take as lightly as we did in the first one. I just can’t see it happening given the current world climate.” Curtis would also say, “Terrorists aren’t funny anymore. They never were, but, it was distant enough from our psyche that we could make it funny. It’ll never be funny again. I just think that that is over, that kind of humor is over.”

That said, there remains a rumor that McG will be creating a series adaption for Disney+. For what it’s worth, this movie was based on the French film La Totale!, which didn’t get a sequel either.

From Beijing With Love (1994)

About the Author: Paul Andolina was looking for a Bond movie for this month and found a great example of a foreign take on the spy film. You can check out his blogs Wrestling with Film and Is the Dad Alive? for more.

I’m probably not the most qualified person to write about Bond parodies as I’ve seen so few actual James Bond movies, however, I am a huge fan of Stephen Chow’s particular brand of humor. I can’t understand Cantonese so a lot of his puns and jokes go over my head but I love the physical comedy in his films which is why I sought out From Beijing with Love.

A man in an iron suit with a golden gun has stolen China’s prized dinosaur skull and Ling Ling Chat (Stephen Chow) is sent to Hong Kong to retrieve it from the foreigners. He comes across the woman he believes to be his contact in Hong Kong, Lee Heung Kam but Golden Gun has instructed her to kill him. The commander who sent Ling Ling Chat on his mission is none other than Golden Gun himself!

This movie is as funny as Stephen Chow’s other films. Ling Ling Chat, a pork vendor with amazing dagger skills but who is not smart enough to be a spy is played by Chow himself. I love his characters who are usually dumb as hell but usually have hearts of gold. I am fascinated by the foolish antics of these types of characters in his films, which are usually full of nonsense. These types of films are known as mo lei tau. Stephen Chow is a phenom in Hong Kong and now Mainland China. 

I can’t speak on much of the parody aspects of the film because I am not super well versed in Bond films. Some of the references I did pick up though was there was a character modeled after Jaws from Moonraker (Moonraker is one of the few Bond films I have actually watched), the golden gun, and the soundtrack which parodies so many of the bond type introductions I have caught here and there on television. 

If you’re not familiar at all with Stephen Chow’s output but are a huge fan of Bond films, their ripoffs and parodies you will find a lot to love with this film. I hope it leads to you seeking out some of his other films as well, even the stuff he just acts in but doesn’t direct can be hilarious and heartfelt. This movie has plenty of explosions and blood in it as well for those who enjoy carnage in their spy films. If you are a fan of Chow and mo lei tau and have not seen this film, I encourage you to seek it out. It’s especially funny how it is critical of communist China and its corruptness when 3 short years later Hong Kong was ceded back to China after British rule would end there. It’s quite amazing that this film didn’t get Chow blacklisted after the transfer of sovereignty either.