The Colors of Infinity, aka Fractals: The Colors of Infinity (1995)

After discussing the public television broadcasts of the early “ancient future” computer precursor Hide and Seek (1983), which included a discussion of PBS-TV’s first feature film, A Lathe of Heaven (1980), we had to revisit this hour-long PBS documentary narrated by Arthur C. Clarke. And yes, The Colors of Infinity is, in fact, part of our “ancient future” theme week of reviews in tribute to the burgeoning technology of computers and the Internet committed to film in the ’80 and early ’90s — only we have to go through the Monsters of Rock festival and Pink Floyd to get there. Be patient.

Fans of the progressive rock scene of the 1960s know documentarian Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon for his longtime association with Pink Floyd. Or, if you’re a fan of ’70s British rock and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal of the ’80s, you know Gordon for his committing the very first “Monsters of Rock” at Castle Donnington festival to film in 1980 (You Tube/clip).

I bought this album from the back pages of Circus magazine for $3.99, plus a $1.50 shipping (what happened to my April Wine and Saxon hats)?

In 1966, while a student at the London Film School, Gordon preserved the first images of Pink Floyd on film (8 mm) with the eleven-minute, experimental silent short Syd Barrett’s First Trip, in which Gordon captured his high-on-magic-mushrooms classmate, Syd Barrett, frolicking in the Gog Magog Hills near Cambridge. Then, in 1967, Gordon chronicled Pink Floyd at Abbey Road Studios signing their first recording contract with EMI Records. (Both events have since been combined on one DVD. You can watch Syd Barrett’s First Trip on You Tube.)

Then, in a partnership with noted album design company Hipgnosis, Gordon formed his first production company, Green Back Films. In addition to creating promotional “pop clips” for Joe Cocker, Donovan, and Pink Floyd that aired on variety television shows, Green Back produced hit MTV videos for Big Country and Squeeze (“In a Big Country,” “Tempted”). They also produced Incident at Channel Q (1986), a long-form video/feature film that incorporated several of their rock video productions. Another one of their popular video rentals was the feature-length documentary Rainbow: Live Between the Eyes, which captured Ritchie Blackmore and company touring their sixth album, Straight Between the Eyes (1982) (since released on DVD and uploaded to You Tube).

1991-era tech. How quaint. Yet, it opened an undiscovered world.

Finally, we’re here. And it wasn’t even as deep as a Mandelbrot set.

Many of us were first fascinated by this documentary in 1995, aired as a post-script to PBS-TV’s commercial-free broadcast of the original, 1968 theatrical release — complete with intermission title card — of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The films were paired as result of their common denominator: Arthur C. Clarke, who serves here as narrator. The soundtrack is, of course, courtesy of David Gilmore of Pink Floyd. And Floyd fans take note: band aficionados claim the music from Fractals also appeared, in part, on the band’s The Division Bell (1994) and The Endless River (2014).

So, what’s a Fractal?

Image of VHS available on multiple mathematics, documentary, and online seller sites.

Fractals are an everyday part of our lives. The discovery of Fractals, aka Fractal Geometry, made Data Image Compression Software possible. You know all of those JPEGs you upload to your WordPress pages? All of those selfies you snap and share on Twitter? The ability to store all of that information on a tiny thumb drive? That’s all because of Fractals.

The Colors of Infinity is the story of Belgian mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot discovering what is now know as the M-Set (or Mandelbrot Sets) in the early seventies and coining the term “fractal” to describe the geometry behind it. It wasn’t until 1991, with the advent of personal computers, that man was able to gaze at the wondrous, psychedelic images — “God’s fingerprint” — created by basic fractal equations. Then, British mathematician and computer graphics researcher, Professor Micheal Barnsley, based on Mandelbrot’s discovery, developed the fractal image compression technology that we don’t go through a day in our ubiquitous, digital lives without using.

Think about it: The Linux operating system was first released in 1991. Tim Berners-Lee first turned on the web at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in 1991. We were just beyond our old Apple IIs and Atari 800s (packing 8-bits and playing Joust!), our Commodore 64s and DEC Rainbows 100 (Yikes, Rainbow, dudes: two huge operating manuals?), our TRS-80s (packing that Zilog Z-80 microprocessor!) and our first IBM PC clones running software from some guy name Bill Gates.

Then we had our “ancient future” digital life distilled to this:

z⇌z²+c

However, don’t let the fact that this film discusses the theories of Euclidean space deter you from watching, as Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon has a reputation as a documentarian for presenting the complex for easy consumption by mass audiences. Again, if you have a curiosity to know how your smart phone records and stores all of those still images and video into what is the size of a credit card, then this is a great watch.

After its U.S. public television broadcast on PBS-TV, Fractals was issued on VHS and, a few years later, subsequently released on DVD. However, caveat ye denizens of the Amazon and eBay marketplaces, as the DVDs for sale are straight VHS rips with a quality that’s no better than the washed-out uploads found video staring sites, which vary from either TV-to-VHS or direct-from-VHS rips.

In 2004, Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon himself reissued the DVD, included as a supplement to his authored paperback version of the film: The Colours of Infinity: The Beauty and Power of Fractals (copies are easily available on Amazon). You can learn more about Fractals and Mandelbrot sets on Wikipedia. You can also watch three of the many “Fractal Zoom” videos on You Tube HERE, HERE, and HERE; however, the music selections on each are questionable, poor choices. We suggest you play those videos with the sound off and use the audio from one of the many “ambient space music” uploads on You Tube to best enjoy the wonders and mysteries of Fractals.

Trip out as you watch Fractals: The Colors of Infinity in its entirety on You Tube.

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

Hackers (1995)

Before we begin discussing Hackers, perhaps the most 90’s movie of all time next to Singles, let’s apply our version of the Turning test to it to see if we can consider Hackers a true cyber punk film.

Does it have the title of a Philip K. Dick book but not really have much to do with it?

Nope. This is grounded in the world of phreaks and hackers, as best seen in real life in the documentary Hackers: The History of Hacking.

Is there a lot of rain?

Not so much.

Does the male hero wear dress clothes and/or a trenchcoat?

Oh man, everyone wears a trenchcoat at one time or another, as well as having their own very distinct style of uniform. It’s kind of like The Warriors on a much, much smaller scale.

Do Keanu Reeves, Ben Affleck, Dolph Lundgren or Udo Keir appear in it?

No, but man, I sure wish they did.

Does the internet do something it can’t do yet, yet look dated AF?

That’s this entire movie. Seriously, a lot of the internet appears as if it lives in the characters’ heads as clips from old movies and TV shows, as if this were Dream On (an ancient HBO reference I realize is going over the heads of way too many of our readers). Also: there’s a scene where the Internet is used to turn off a Wally George-style show (I was born in 1972, people) and a videotape of The Outer Limits plays in its place. Low tech in the service of high tech.

Are Stabbing Westward, KMFDM, Ministry or God Lives Underwater on the soundtrack?

This movie didn’t just have one soundtrack, it had three different releases. The first has Carl Cox, Machines of Loving Grace, Leftfield, Underworld and Orbital on it. The second has The Orb, David Bowie, BT and Moby. And the third has those artists plus Fluke and John Lydon. Even better, Simon Boswell, who did the music for Stage Fright and Phenomena, amongst others, did the score.

Is it a crappy version of Blade Runner?

Nope. There is a William Gibson reference, which I may need to add to the test.

Are there numerous Asian-influenced scenes?

Surprisingly, no.

Do people use future terms that make no sense?

Throughout.

Are there a lot of whirring sound effects?

Of course they do.

Do people stare at the camera as it moves through a neon-lit strip club?

Yes, it has a party scene that is so opulent that you wonder, “How can these be teenagers?”

Are there rock stars in it?

Yes! Marc Anthony plays an FBI agent. One could argue that Angelina Jolie is beyond a rock star if you want to get technical.

Is there a feral child?

I’d argue that every single one of the Hackers is a feral child.

By following the rules of this text, as designed by our team of engineers here — me, basically — the ruling is that Hackers is not post-apocalyptic (barring a Tenebre-level in the director’s head twist) nor is it cyberpunk. It is, however, an ancient future film and one that had my wife wondering, “Was this what the nineties were like?” She was born in 1984 and I have to confess to you, dear reader, that my 90’s were spent in college and working eighty-plus hour a week advertising jobs.

I told her, “This is what it was like all the time.”

Back in August of 1988, a hacker named Zero Cool used his 1200 baud modem to crash 1,500 computer systems and cause a seven-point drop in the NYSE. It turns out that said hacker was really eleven-year-old Dade Murphy, who is banned from all computers and touch-tone phones — how would he call 911? — until he turns eighteen.

Literally the day he turns legal, Dade becomes Crash Override and pulls off that VHS switcheroo we discussed above. He’s met and countered by another hacker named Acid Burn, who kicks him out. Oh yeah — and he’s also played by Johnny Lee Miller now.

He has a new school and has to fit in. Magically, this school has an entire roster of hackers who all follow the Hacker Manifesto.

“This is our world now… the world of the electron and the switch. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias… and you call us criminals. Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity.”

They are:

Ramon “The Phantom Phreak” Sanchez: Able to get into any phone system, he’s played by Renoly Santiago from Dangerous Minds and Con Air.

Emmanuel “Cereal Killer” Goldstein: Matthew Lillard is this guy, who seemingly dresses as if he was inside the Matrix four years before that movie ever got made. He’s also edgy and wears dresses because he’s a hacker and hackers do whatever they want. Lillard was also 25 when this was made, making him the oldest of the high school hackers.

Paul “Lord Nikon” Cook: Given this name because he has a photographic memory, this hacker is played by Laurence Mason.

Joey Pardella: Played by Jesse Bradford, he’s the youngest member of the group and has not yet earned his hacker code name (when I went to my first hackathon, they have us all printed name badges that many of us covered up with electric tape so no one could tie our faces in to our handles; I was 14 and my parents dropped me off. I was the youngest person there by several decades).

Kate “Acid Burn” Libby: Pretty much considered the greatest hacker around, she’s the frenemy of our lead and a rich girl who throws indulgent parties. She’s also Angelina Jolie and coming into her peak of power here. This part was originally going to be played by Katherine Heigl, who did the second Under Siege movie instead.

Crash Override has to prove himself to his new hacker buddies, so he breaks into “The Gibson” — yay cyberpunk reference —  the supercomputer that runs the Ellingson Mineral Company. While downloading a garbage file as proof, his mother — who is convinced he’s back to his evil hacking ways — unplugs the computer.

This brings him to the attention of sell-out hacker turned computer security officer Eugene “The Plague” Belford (Fisher Stevens, which when you think about it is amazing casting, as just eight years earlier he was playing the hero version of the hacker role in Short Circuit; Johnny Five would not be pleased by this turn of events). Yes, he is pulling off the Richard Pryor Superman III scam that would one day become the Office Space scam.

It turns out that the file our hero has downloaded isn’t garbage. It’s a virus that will destroy a fleet of oil tankers that The Plague plans on taking advantage of and blaming hackers. He brings in the Secret Service to go after our heroes, who have to use their powers of typing, logging on and pranking people to win the day.

There’s also an internet TV show called “Hack the Planet” that for some reason has no buffering issues, which remain a problem in 2021 much less in 1995 when this was made.

Also — how about getting Lorraine Bracco as our hero’s mom, Felicity Huffman as an attorney and Penn Jilette as Hal, an IT guy who gets no nickname? Plus, that bearded London-based hacker? That’s David A. Stewart of Eurythmics!

This is my favorite fact about this movie: “The cast spent three weeks getting to know each other and learning how to type and rollerblade.” Yes, rollerblading is an essential part of the plot!

Director Ian Softly — who also made Backbeat — would go on to direct K-PAX, a movie in which Kevin Spacey eats a banana skin and all.

Evolver (1995)

The renegade robot tomfoolery of Micheal Crichton’s Runaway (1984) — he also gave us Looker (1981) — (look for both reviews this week) and Jim Wynorski’s Chopping Mall, aka Killbots (1986), bring us to this “ancient future” ditty oft-run to ad nauseam levels during the earliest days of the Sci-Fi Channel before the double-Ys.

In the director’s chair is Mark Rosman, who made his debut with the Film Ventures International’s slasher The House on Sorority Row (1982). He was replaced on his second directing effort, Mutant (1984), by John “Bud” Cardos. As result of his clashing with FVI’s Edward L. Montoro, who produced, and subsequent firing from that Alien rip, it’s the film we remember Rosman for the most amid his 25 directing credits. (Eh, maybe Mutant is more of a zombie rip, or even hicksploitation-esque; who cares, it stinks in spite of its confusing marketing.)

Yeah, if we bought into the antiquated projections of all of the “ancient future” films we’ve reviewed this week — especially Evolver — all of our homes would be equipped with sentient robot scamps. Well, we are . . . but a table-top Alexa (for those too lazy to type or swipe) or a Roomba (for those too busy to vacuum floor schmutz) just isn’t the same as having a Robert Doornick International Robotics, Inc. SICO robot beep n’ boop us a “Happy Birthday” greeting.

Much like today’s smart phones, texting, and live video streaming fully integrating into modern screenplays, these MS-DOS-intergrated, teen-based movies came at us a fast and furious pace with the likes of the video game and computer nerdom of C.H.O.M.P.S (1979), Weird Science (1986), Short Circuit (1986), and to a lesser extent, Wired to Kill (1986). Not even Sly Stallone was immune, if you remember your Rocky films (IV, if you forgot).

If you revisited the films Prime Risk, Terminal Entry, and Defense Play with our reviews during this “ancient future” week, then you’re up to speed on the tech shenanigans of Evolver: we’re dealing with another bright and unmotivated teenager of the (lower-rent) David Lightman variety. While a whiz at computers, Kyle Baxter (Ethan Randall, aka Embry, “The Bass Player” from That Thing You Do!; Mark from Empire Records), much like Michael Brower from Brainscan (1994; reviewed this week, look for it), he’s evolved from hacking school computers-for-grades or bank ATMs to subsidize his allowance: he’s mastered the realms of online video games and virtual reality.

It’s in that VR-world that Kyle wins — after hacking the game — a national VR-Lazer Tag tournament held by Cybertronix, run by Q, aka John de Lancie. His prize: Evolver, a robotic opponent armed with a compressed air gun, which shoots soft-foam balls, to compete in real-life laser tag games.

True to his name, our little not-Johnny 5 doesn’t so much “short circuit”: he “evolves” across each successive game Kyle and his friends play. Now developed with an obsessive, human-driven competitiveness, Evolver’s changing out his soft-foam ammo for ball bearings and begins shooting out the eyes of and killing the school bully. As with JOSHUA before him, it isn’t just a “game” for Evolver, as his programming is based on S.W.O.R.D — Strategic War-Oriented Robotic Device. Oops. Calling Johnny 5 to set: Evolver is an A.I war machine — only he’s pissed off and not even Ally Sheedy can calm him down. And drivers beware: watch out for the flame thrower upgrade that can toast your vehicle.

As with the ten-years’ similar-earlier Chopping Mall with its souped-up, crazed Atari-meet-NES mini-bots, we could go back and forth on whether Evolver is a sci-fi action flick or tech’d up slasher film. And you may like Evolver. Or you may be on the fence. Or you may outright hate it. Me? I paid to see Evolver in theaters on a “date night” and it’s one of the few times my date (we met in a web-design class, natch) and I mutually agreed on a film critique and made it to the “Applebees phase” of the evening. The “chicks and films” thing worked — at least that time.

The proceedings , while outdated and behind the times in 2021 in the Year of Our Gates, Evolver is certainly better that the pixelated CRT monitors brain farts of Brain Twisters (1991) and Albert Pyun-directed Charles Band’s evil video game bum bomber that’s-not-Tron, known as Arcade (1993; yep, reviewed this week, so look for it). All in all, Mark Rosman gave us a pretty decent theatrical flick to kill a Saturday afternoon, or night, as per your own dating rules and regulations.

Rosman is still behind the keys and the lens with an interesting Beatles “What If” flick, In My Life (2021), starring Janeane Garofalo (in the just reviewed Lava) and Kevin Pollak (Outside Ozona). If you’re into the fairy tale romance of Prince William and Kate Middleton — and aren’t we all — Rosman made William & Kate (2011) for the Hallmark Channel and Sun, Sand & Romance with BSG-reboot star Tricia Helfer (2017) for Lifetime.

You can stream Evolver as a VOD on several platforms, but we found a free online stream on Roku for your personal devices.

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

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

The Turing test is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit the same intelligent behavior as a human. It often shows up in cyberpunk movies, so I’ve devised my own test. The ancient future test is one to determine if the movie that you are watching fits into that genre, a time when books like Neuromancer were being strip-mined for ideas to make high concepts films that were five minutes into the future in the 1990s but are now hopelessly mired in the past.

Let’s give Johnny Mnemonic this test.

Does it have the title of a Philip K. Dick book but not really have much to do with it?

Nope, but it was based on the story of the same name by cyberpunk godfather William Gibson  — who wrote the aforementioned Neuromancer — so it’s the next best thing.

Is there a lot of rain?

It doesn’t have to rain all the time, unless you’re in this movie.

Does the male hero wear dress clothes and/or a trenchcoat?

It’s Keanu. Of course he has on a black tie.

Do Keanu Reeves, Ben Affleck, Dolph Lundgren or Udo Keir appear in it?

Beyond Keanu, Dolph and Udo show up.

Does the internet do something it can’t do yet, yet look dated AF?

It’s 300 baud in a 5G world, baby.

Are Stabbing Westward, KMFDM, Ministry or God Lives Underwater on the soundtrack?

Oh man, does it ever. You get Stabbing Westward twice, KMFDM, God Lives Underwater and Orbital, as well as Helmet and Rollins Band for the kids who like it loud. And oh yeah. Bono and The Edge for some reason.

Is it a crappy version of Blade Runner?

Actually, it’s a crappy version of William Gibson.

Are there numerous Asian-influenced scenes?

This movie is so Japanese that it debuted in Japan and has Takeshi “Beat” Kitano in a major role.

Do people use future terms that make no sense?

Bleep boop yep.

Are there a lot of whirring sound effects?

The movie is mainly people making whirring sounds at one another. I’m joking, but it feels like it.

Do people stare at the camera as it moves through a neon-lit strip club?

This movie takes place in numerous neon-lit strip clubs and drinking establishments.

Are there rock stars are in it?

Are there ever! Ice-T and Henry Rollins! Plus Coyote Shivers from Empire Records, who was kind of a rock star!

Is there a feral child?

This is a trick question. A feral child means that you are watching a post-apocalyptic movie and not a cyberpunk film.

Director Robert Longo is a real artist, making everything from music with his band Robert Longo’s Menthol Wars to creating a series of drawings called Men in the Cities (you can see some of them in Patrick Bateman’s apartment in American Psycho), who found his way into making music videos for New Order (“Bizarre Love Triangle”) and R.E.M. (“The One I Love”).

After directing “This’ll Kill Ya” from the TV series Tales from the Crypt, he started talking to Gibson about making a low budget art film for the story Johnny Mnemonic. He told Wired in 2010 that the film “started out as an arty one-and-a-half-million-dollar movie, and it became a 30-million-dollar movie because we couldn’t get a million and a half.”

The movie is quite different from the source material — a common ancient future/cyberpunk trope — particularly because the Molly Millions character didn’t belong to the film’s producers, so Johnny had to become the action hero. Plus, well, this was cyberpunk’s mainstream debutante ball, so rough edges like drug addiction had to be deleted.

Gibson would say, “Basically what happened was it was taken away and re-cut by the American distributor in the last month of its pre-release life, and it went from being a very funny, very alternative piece of work to being something that had been very unsuccessfully chopped and cut into something more mainstream.”

The Japanese version of the film is much closer to the original cut, if it helps.

This film takes place in 2021, a time when everyone is on the internet all day, something that could never happen. All this overuse has led to NAS (Nerve Attenuation Syndrome), a disease that causes hostility and black outs. One company has figured out the cure and has hired memory courier Johnny Mnemonic (Reeves) to allow them to hack his brain and transport the information.

Oh man, this movie. The images in Johnny’s head are wanted by everyone, like the Yakuza — of course — and Japanese and Chinese corporations. One of them, Pharmakom, is run by Takeshi and he’s sent a man named the Street Preacher (Lundgren) to cut off our hero’s head and get his brain.

Luckily, a cybernetic bodyguard named Jane (Dina Meyer) saves him, along with the Lo-Teks gang led by J-Bone (Ice-T) and a cybernetic surgeon named Spider (Rollins). There’s also an AI ghost inside his brain and, of course, a psychic Navy dolphin that is ready to help him hack his own brain.

Sony went all-in to market this movie, with video games, soundtracks, a pinball machine and one of the first web experiences that offered $20,000 in prizes. Gibson referred to their web promotions as “kind of cute.”

Johnny Mnemonic disappeared from theaters but hasn’t gone away. The mega-hyped release of Cyberpunk 2077 had you play a character with information in your brain that everyone wants, as well as the avatar of dead rock star Johnny Silverhand, played by — you guessed it — Keanu Reeves.

The Net (1995)

Sure, the internet existed in 1995 but in no way did it work like it does in this movie, which is perhaps most memorable for positing a world in which Dennis Miller has seen Sandra Bullock’s intimate parts and for also giving us the best pizza ordering site we’ve ever seen.

I’ve also realized that I watch a ton of Sandra Bullock movies — I wish I knew her well enough to call her Sandy — and she eats a lot in them. This video confirmed my theory.

United States Under Secretary of Defense Michael Bergstrom commits suicide after being informed that he has HIV. This ignites a tech-thriller where Angela Bennett (Bullock) never leaves the house and works, communicates and even orders food — seriously, that pizza ordering scene! — online. In 1995, this was considered the future. In 2021, after a year of living with a pandemic, it’s life.

After a vacation to Cancun, Bennett discovers that a backdoor she stumbled upon is part of a conspiracy and that the net itself has erased her from existence. Before you know it, she’s sleeping with hired killers and trying to get her life back while realizing that maybe she should have gone outside every once in a while.

This movie sums up the “ancient future” genre in the way that the internet looks dated yet can do things that it struggles to do today. Also, despite being someone who never goes outside and doesn’t care about how she looks, Bullock remains gorgeous. Such is Hollywood.

You may remember the direct-to-video sequel directed by this movie’s director Irwin Winkler’s son Charles. But did you know this was a TV series? Yep. It starred Brooke Langton — who was in the basic cable all the time double feature of The Replacements and The Benchwarmers — as Angela.

Now, you may ask, is this a cyberpunk film? Well, it has one reference. Angela’s drink of choice is a mix of gin and vermouth with a pearl onion instead of an olive. That’s a Gibson, a reference to one of the creators of cyberpunk, William Gibson.

Mommy (1995)

Patty McCormack was the original bad kid after The Bad Seed. What if she survived the end of that movie and had kids of her own?

Well, maybe. McCormack is Mrs. Sterling, the single mother of 12-year-old Jessica Ann. She sets the tone of the film by visiting her daughter’s school to ask why she hasn’t won student of the year again. When she doesn’t get the answer she likes, she shoves a teacher off a stepladder like she stole her penmanship medal.

This movie boasts a great cast as it tells its story, with Jason Miller (The Exorcist) as the cop on the case of the murder, Brinke Stevens as Sterling’s sister, Majel Barrett as the teacher who dies early and Mickey Spillane — yes, the writer! — as an attorney.

Both Stevens and Spillane signed on because they knew writer and director Max Allan Collins, who is a mystery writer of some renown as well as the comic book writer of Dick TracyMs. TreeWild DogBatman and more. He’s also written several C.S.I.NYPD Blue and Criminal Minds books*. Probably his most famous book would be Road to Perdition, which was made into a movie starring Tom Hanks.

After an entire movie consisting of McCormack killing everyone that may implicate her in the murder and stealing that Student of the Year trophy for her daughter. Despite nearly killing her daughter, she does defend her from a vicious dog who mauls her, with the scene only ending when the police take her away.

Mommy isn’t a perfect film, but it’s a lot of fun. As always, McCormack is at her best when she’s obsessing about perfect things in an imperfect universe.

*He also wrote novelizations of In the Line of FireMaverickI Love TroubleWaterworld, Air Force OneU.S. MarshallsSaving Private RyanThe Mummy, U-571The Mummy ReturnsThe Scorpion KingWindtalkersI-SpyThe Pink PantherAmerican GangsterThe Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon EmperorThe X-Files: I Want to Believe and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Both of the Mommy films are available from VCI.

KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a ghostwriter of personal memoirs for Story Terrace London and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

In 1965 Daiei Studios decided to capitalize on Toho’s successful Godzilla film series with their own fire-breathing radioactive star, Gamera the flying turtle. At that time, Gamera was “the friend to children” and his films from that era are largely considered to be inferior to the Toho series of Kaiju Eiga (giant monster films), although they are entertaining and fun.

In 1995, after a 15-year retirement, Daiei brought back the shelled one and gave him a new lease on life. The man given the responsibility of transforming Gamera from a low-budget children’s monster into a serious modern-day contender fell to director Shusuke Kaneko whose earlier work consists of several successful horror films and comedies. He did a great job.

This time out, the origins of Gamera are Atlantis. The ancient people created him in response to the appearance of flocks of man-eating prehistoric birds called Gyaos – a favorite foe from the 1960’s films. Gamera’s intentions to save modern-day Japan from the birds is misinterpreted by the Self Defense Force and they attempt to

kill him. Director Kaneko largely removes the element of young children and instead, opts to endow Gamera with a magical jewel that enables him to bond with a teenage girl on the brink of womanhood named Asagi (played by Steven Segal’s daughter Ayako Fujitani.) Through Asagi, Gamera harnesses the added strength required to defeat the Gyaos in a grand battle that takes place all in broad daylight. Quite an ambitious undertaking for special effects director Shinji Higuchi whose shots blend seamlessly with Kankeo’s.

Aside from the bigger budget re-tooling, the film also succeeds

on a level far above that of the original series in the drama department. Kaneko treats the characters and plot with respect. More than any other director in the Kaiju Eiga genre, Shusuke Kaneko succeeds at melding humor and horror.

For those not into movies with guys in suits, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe also succeeds on the same level as the “Rocky” films. Gamera gets beat up pretty bad early on but comes back with fire-balls a-blazin’ to kick some serious Gyaos tail feather. Screw all the fancy CGI effects. This is one entertaining monster flick with as much ambition as you’re ever going to see in a movie of this kind. The sequels are even better, with the third in the trilogy Gamera vs. Iris (1999) considered by many to be the best Kaiju film ever made. The Japanese language versions with English subtitles are definitely the way to go for all three of these films. The 2020 release of the entire collection is amazing.

 

 

Leprechaun 3 (1995)

Becca rented this movie over and over in her childhood and ended up in Las Vegas, which I attribute to how much she enjoyed this movie.

Somehow since the last time we saw the leprechaun, a magical medallion turned him into a statue that ended up in a Las Vegas pawn shop. Now, he’s killing people throughout the strip and hunting down his wish-granting coin.

What makes this one of the better movies in this series? Brian Trenchard-Smith, that’s who. The guy makes every movie work, no matter how bad the circumstances.

Warwick Davis returns as Lubdan the Leprechaun, going up against Scott McCoy (John Gatins, who would go on to write Fight and Kong of Skull Island), his girl Tammy (Lee Armstrong, who only made two other movies, Magic Island and Classic Stories for Children), Fazio the magician (John DeMita) and Loretta (Caroline Williams, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2).

Shot in 14 days, this is a film filled with humor, cameos (look for Davis out of makeup playing a slot machine and Night of the Demons 2 stars Merle Kennedy, Zoe Trilling and Rod McCary) and gore. This became the biggest rental film of 1995 and it fits all the aesthetics of that era. I would definitely say that this is my favorite entry in the series before it goes to the hood and outer space.

REPOST: The Silencer aka Body Count (1995)

Editor’s Note: We reviewed this back on March 10, 2020, as part of our Explosive Cinema 12-Pack of reviews. We’re bringing it back as part of our B-Movie Blast 50-Film Pack (Amazon) flurry of reviews.

Just look at that VHS-’90s resume of David A. Prior: The spa ‘n blades romp Killer Workout, the David Carradine post-apoc flicks Future Force and Future Zone. The Filipino actioners Firehead and The Final Sanction. And while he didn’t direct them, through his Action International Pictures, aka West Side Studios (aka in homage to AIP – American International Pictures), founded alongside David Winters and Peter Yuval, Prior was involved in the production of the holiday horror Elves, the Battlestar Galactica rip-off Space Mutiny, the apoc-slop Phoenix the Warrior, and the exploitation zombie mess directed by our beloved game-for-anything John Saxon, Zombie Death House.

And as we’ve said many times before when referring to the direct-to-video oeuvre of David A. Prior: Here’s another one from the bottom of Action International’s very tasty barrel. Another piece of B&S wisdom: What David A. Prior movie doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

And how did we come up with this review, you ask?

You can either blame Mill Creek Entertainment or Pittsburgh’s Eide’s Entertainment. Take your pick!

Makoto (Sonny Chiba!, Kill Bill: Vol 1), a cold-blooded assassin, escapes from prison to extract his revenge on the mean streets of New Orleans against an elite squad of “Special Crimes” agents headed by Eddie Cook and Vinnie Rizzo (Robert Davi of Maniac Cop II and Steven Bauer from DePalma’s Scarface!). As Makoto and his sexy-vicious partner Sybil (Red Sonja? Brigitte Neilsen? *) execute the squad members one-by-one, it’s up to Tango & Cash, Rizzoli and Isles, Starsky and Hutch, Cook and Rizzo to find the deadly duo and stop the carnage.

“Hey, dude. What about me?”

Oh, yeah. Hey, Jan-Michael Vincent. I didn’t forget you’re Detective Reinhart. That sucks that Sonny Chiba tossed you off the building so early in the movie. We dig your work here at B&S.

“Yeah, well. You didn’t do me any favors by reminding everyone I did Alienator, buddy.”

“Hey, did I ever tell you ‘The Tractor Story‘?”

Hey, Cindy Ambehul? Sophie from the Seinfeld episode ‘The Burning’? What are you doing here?

“I know. I know. I’m so ashamed I was in this. I mean, I went from from Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead to this?”

Well, you were trying to build a theatrical resume and break out of television. It’s all good, Cindy. Besides your were uber hot and ass-kicking in this as Special Agent Janet Hood. That catfight with Brigitte saved the movie. And, I must say: You were the best of the Seinfeld babes of all time.

“Even hotter than Susan Walters?”

You mean Mulva-Doloris from ‘The Junior Mint’ and ‘The Foundation’? Oh, hell yes, Cindy!

“Hey, thanks for being a gentleman and not making any jokes if ‘they’ were real and spectacular.”

You bet, Cindy.

As you can see: what we have here is an exploitation cast wetdream . . . in a very bad movie. And that’s the way we like it here at B&S About Movies: mindless and fun, and oh, so “Prior” plotted.

Well . . . I challenge you to come up with a better review . . . and find a freebie VHS rip online. God bless those public domain DVDs collecting mold in the bins at The Salavation Army.

* Brigitte Neilson recently made the news for giving birth to a new baby at the age of 54 (story link) and that she would allow herself to be purposefully infected with the Chinese Cornavirus for a planned vaccine clinical trial to be done in London (story link). And get this: Robert Davi has 15 . . . yes, 15, films in various states of pre-and–post production, with a resume now at 161 credits.

Burial of the Rats (1995)

Oh man, this week has taken me to some strange places. Like this made for TV movie — cable, one assumes, because no normal network was going to play this — from Dan Golden. Dan Golden, the man who directed Naked ObsessionSaturday Night SpecialTimegate: Tales of the Saddle Tramps and T&A Time Traveler, says the voice inside my head? Yes, my imaginary special friend, the one and the same.

How does one even come to explain this one? One just dives in.

Back in 19th Century France, Bram Stoker — yes, the man who would one day write Bram Stoker’s Shadowbuilder and some other book — gets captured by a secret clutch of women who never wear more than bikinis and who have learned to use a flute to hypnotize rats so that they eat men.

Would it surprise you that this is yet another movie where Adrienne Barbeau is the queen of a sect of women who want to kill every man they see? Oh poor Adrienne, who went to Russia to make this and walked right into a coup attempt and then had to deal with the death of most of the trained rats, which meant that she was covered in fish eggs for most of the movie.

Golden used Maria Ford in his movies a whole bunch and she’s here, front and center, as is Olga Kabo, perhaps the only actress to be awarded the Meritorious Artist of Russia and then show up in what is basically a Cinemax After Dark movie.

This movie gets major points for having slow-motion sword fights that go on forever, as well as a cute little miniature guillotine that gets used when any of the rats get out of line. You can tell this movie isn’t from Italy, because when they kill one of them, it’s a puppet.

It loses points for having Linnea Quigley as a rat girl and doing nothing with her. Alas!

Thanks to the anonymous user who sent this video, which previews this movie and the Death Race 2020 comic book.