CANNON MONTH 2: Luise knackt den Jackpot (1995)

Luise (Marianne Sägebrecht, who would be best known to American audiences for being in The War of the Roses and genre fans for being in Dust Devil; she’s one of Germany’s most famous actresses) runs a travel agency with her husband Matthias (Oliver Reed). When the couple goes on a tour of Kazakhstan and do better than meeting Borat. She ends up winning millions in a lottery and buys a villa with her own butler (David Warner).

Menahem Golan directed this from a script by Pini Eden, an Israeli writer whose career in entertainment started as a singer. After spending some time in Europe, where she recorded more than ten records and won The Golden Bridge song competition, she started writing plays and then movies.

Of all the 21st Century releases that Menahem got out there, this is one of the hardest to find. Go figure — no one other than probably me has any interest in one of his films starring a cast of German and other foreign actors.

CANNON MONTH 2: Russian Roulette – Moscow 95 (1995)

Did Menahem Golan love Oliver Reed and Jan-Michael Vincent or what? They were in so many of his later films. Like this one, in which four American widows takes revenge on the Russian mafia in Moscow after their husbands are killed.

This has only come out on VHS and never made it to DVD or blu ray. It’s pretty difficult to find, despite having those two stars in the cast, as well as Barbara Carrera and Karen Moncrieff, who is also in a bunch of 21st Century films.

Made in Germany and Belarus and released in the German language, I’ve been trying to hunt this down. It was directed by Menahem and written by Andriew Sasmonof, who never wrote another movie.

Has anyone seen it? Do you have the VHS? Let me know. The best I can find is how I watched it, an OK.RU link, which is one small tiny little leap away from the Dark Web.

 

CANNON MONTH 2: Silent Victim (1995)

Directed by Menahem Golan and written by Nelly Adnil and Jonathan Platnick from a story by Bob Spitz, Silent Victim is a made-for-TV movie that tackles a subject that is still relevant: the right for a woman to choose.

Golan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — thanks to Hill Place for posting the quote —  “I’m not doing this for the sake of politics. The main thrust of the story is when it happens, everybody comes to take advantage of the situation.  I’m walking a razor’s edge.  I hope the movie will be good enough that people will learn something and enjoy it.”

Bonnie Jackson (Michele Greene, L.A. Law) is trapped in an abusive marriage with her husband Jed (Kyle Secor). All that he wants is to have a child, so he’s obsessed with making her take her medications and follow several rules toward having that baby. After a really bad fight, he beats her into oblivion, so she tries to commit suicide by taking pills. He takes her to the hospital but soon learns that she was pregnant and has lost the child from the overdose.

Jed brings her to court and charges her with a criminal attempt to commit suicide, failure to obtain a spousal notification, interference with her husband’s property rights and unlicensed practice of medicine. He brings on District Attorney Carter Evans (Alex Hyde-White, one of the last contract players in Hollywood, working for Universal with fellow contracted actors Lindsay Wagner, Andrew Stevens, Gretchen Corbett and Sharon Gless; he was also Mr. Fantastic in the Roger Corman-produced Fantastic Four) to make sure he wins.

Bonnie has help of her own, as her college best friend Lauren McKinley (Ely Pouget, The RiftLawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace) is now a major lawyer in Manhattan. There’s a problem, of course, as this case happens in the south and the real father isn’t Jed but instead, it’s her friend, black pharmacist C. Ray Thompson (Ralph Wilcox).

As you can imagine, the case brings in protestors for both sides and Newnan, Georgia becomes a battleground. Meanwhile, Jed is in a hotel sweating, screaming and getting drunk while watching the warden sapphically take a prisoner in Caged Fury. What a strange thing to throw in a movie, Menahem, and that’s why we love you! There’s also a Punch and Judy show so that the kids can understand the trial and they all cheer when puppet Jed beats puppet Bonnie to death. This is topped by a moment when Bonnie finally reconnects with both C. Ray and Jed while two actual clowns stand and awkwardly watch. Yes, not clownish people. Actual clowns.

By the end, Bonnie may or may not get back with Jed. She has broken with her lawyer, who she feels exploited her. And she has to pay $1,000 back to the state and Jed whips up his checkbook, which seems to be a strange thing to take to court. Oh man — I almost forgot — Evans and McKinley, the two attornies on this case, used to date!

There’s also a graphic miscarriage scene that shows instead of tells in the most bloody and graphic way possible.

Travis Vogt on Letterboxd had the best quote for this — and I wish I wrote it — and I have to share this with you: “It’s like Death Wish 3 but for abortion.”

Seriously, of all directors, Menahem is the very last person I would choose to direct a sensitive take on the abortion debate.

But the most entertaining one? He knows how to do that.

You can watch this on Tubi.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY BOX SET RELEASE: seaQuest DSV – The Complete Series (1993-1996)

Get ready for the adventures of the seaQuest DSV 4600, a deep submergence vehicle of the United Earth Oceans Organization (UEO). The UEO? Well, that group was created in 2018 — in the continuity of this show — after a battle within the Livingston Trench.

Designed by retired naval captain Nathan Bridger (Roy Scheider), the series begins as humanity finds itself out of natural resources and begins to mine the ocean floor. Several gold rush-style mining communities now exist within this unexplored territory and the seaQuest seeks to protect them from other countries and sometimes each other.

Bridger just wanted to stay retired, particularly after his son Robert died in a naval battle and he promised his dying wife that he would never go back to the sea. But you know…they keep bringing pulling him back.

This show debuted to great fanfare, with the first season’s plots all about oceanographic research, environmental issues, politics and the interpersonal relationships of the crew. By the end of the first season, low ratings led to a cliffhanger where Bridger sacrificed the ship to prevent an ecological disaster.

And that’s where things get weird.

When it was decided the show would come back, NBC and Universal moved production from Los Angeles to Orlando, which led Stephanie Beacham, who played Dr. Kristin Westphalen, to leave the show (all of the battles between the producers and network didn’t help either). It’s also why Stacy Haiduk (Lieutenant Commander Katherine Hitchcock) left, but Royce D. Applegate (Chief Manilow Crocker) and John D’Aquino (Lieutenant Benjamin Krieg ) were let go because NBC wanted a younger crew.

The original crew also had Lucas Wolenczak (Jonathan Brandis), Commander Jonathan Ford (Don Franklin), Lieutenant Tim O’Neill (Ted Raimi) and Sensor Chief Miguel Ortiz (Marco Sanchez). They’d be joined by the telepathic Dr. Wendy Smith (Rosalind Allen), weapons officer Lieutenant James Brody (Edward Kerr), genetically engineered gill-breathing Seaman Anthony Piccolo (Michael DeLuise), Lieutenant Lonnie Henderson (Kathy Evison) and Dagwood (Peter DeLuise), a GELF (genetically engineered life form) who served as the ship’s janitor.

Whereas season one often had serious science — and each episode ended with facts from oceanographer Dr. Bob Ballard, the technical advisor for the show, inspiration from Bridger and the man who actually discovered the wrecks of Titanic, Bismarck and Yorktown — other than finding an ancient spaceship, season two had a monster of the week feel to compete for better ratings. Demons, aliens, fire-breathing worms, the god Neptune, time travel, a prehistoric crocodile and so much more was, well, too much for Scheider to handle.

He referred to the new storylines, giving multiple interviews to the Orlando Sentinel where he said the show as “Saturday afternoon 4 o’clock junk for children. Just junk — old, tired, time-warp robot crap” and “…childish trash…I am very bitter about it. I feel betrayed… It’s not even good fantasy. I mean, Star Trek does this stuff much better than we can do it. To me the show is now 21 Jump Street meets Star Dreck.” That 21 Jump Street dig must have been directed at the DeLuise brothers, who were once on that show before joining the cast.

By the end of the second season, it seemed like the show would be canceled — yet again — so the final episode “Splashdown” has the crew being abducted by aliens, then fighting in a civil war that destroys the seaQuest — yet again! — and everyone dead.

And yet the third season happened!

Scheider requested to be released from his contract with NBC but was asked to appear in a few more episodes. Edwin Kerr asked to quit as well and was asked to stay long enough to die in season 3’s “SpinDrift,” while NBC’s scheduling — which contributed to low ratings as the series moved around all the time — caused the episode “Brainlock” to air with his character still alive.

Now, only Jonathan Brandis, Don Franklin and Ted Raimi stayed on, as if the show was a band playing ribfest with hardly any original members left (even Dr. Bob Ballard was gone). Now called seaQuest 2032, the crew arrived ten years back on Earth ten years later, Bridger retired and Michael Ironside came on as Captain Oliver Hudson. He immediately set some boundaries: “You won’t see me fighting any man-eating glowworms, rubber plants, 40-foot crocodiles and I don’t talk to Darwin.”

Oh yeah — Darwin was a talking dolphin voice by the man who is every talking animal, Frank Welker.

Elise Neal also joined the show as Lieutenant J.J. Fredericks as storylines moved more toward corporate greed running the world and political tension. Only 13 episodes aired before finally, the show was done for good.

There were model kits, trading cards, video games and even Playmates action figures (check out this article on seaQuest Vault), but the show always struggled to catch on with viewers, if they could find it.

Going back and watching this again in box set form, it’s fascinating to see how the show changes and struggles for direction in a condensed format. Week by week, it’s not as strange. When binged, it seems absolutely deranged. I’m glad in some way that I wasn’t in love with the show when it aired. It would have broken my heart.

The Mill Creek blu ray box set of seaQuest DSV has every episode of the show, plus new interviews and featurettes with the series creator Rockne S. O’Bannon, as well as the directors and crew. Plus, you get several deleted scenes. Get it from Deep Discount.

Junesploitation 2022: The Quick and the Dead (1995)

June 25: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is lethal revenge! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Why did I wait so long to see this movie?

Was I worried that it would disappoint me?

Did I need to explore the Italian west first?

I have no idea!

Simon Moore wrote this movie as a tribute to Sergio Leone and man, it comes through in every scene of the film. He had intended to direct his own script as an independent film and soot in either Spain or Italy when Sony Pictures Entertainment bought the script, got Sharon Stone as the lead and went with Sam Raimi after she was impressed with his work on Army of Darkness. She went so far as to tell the producers that if Raimi did not direct the film, she wouldn’t be in it.

Raimi would blame himself for the film’s failure, sayin “I was very confused after I made that movie. For a number of years I thought, I’m like a dinosaur. I couldn’t change with the material.” That said — it made $47 million on a $35 million budget and time has seen the movie be critically rethought.

The Lady (Stone) has come to the town of Redemption — a place where the only law is John Herod (Gene Hackman) — for a fast-draw single elimination shooting tournament in which no challenge can be refused and the gunfight goes on until a contestant yields or dies.

There are really only four people who can win the contest: The Lady, Herod, a former gangster turned preacher called Cort (Russell Crowe) — Herod’s former right-hand man who abandoned his violent career in favor of a peaceful religious life after Herod forced him to kill a priest — who is given one bullet per battle so he doesn’t shoot his way out of town and The Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio), who just might be the best gunfighter of all time if you listen to what he has to say.

Each of them must battle their way through, however, as Herrod defeats Sergeant Clay Cantrell (Keith David), a killer hired by the town itself to murder him and The Lady kills Eugene Dred after he assaults the saloon owner’s (Pat Hingle) daughter. Afraid that she won’t be able to achieve her mission — which is more than the money in the tournament — she nearly runs away before Doc Wallace (Roberts Blossom, Old Man Marley in Home Alone) hands her her father’s badge and tells her that she must clean up the town. At the same time, Cort must battle Spotted Horse (Jonothon Gill), a man who says that no bullet can kill him.

The flashback that follows — Herod caused her to kill her father (Gary Sinise) — sets up the reason why she must destroy not only the man who murdered her father but destroy his entire town, which won’t be easy.

This is the kind of movie I love so much, packed with actors of true character, like Lance Henriksen as trick shot fighter “Ace” Hanlon, Tobin Bell as Dog Kelly, Sven-Ole Thorsen as “Swede” Gutzon, Evil Dead II writer Scott Spiegel as Gold Teeth Man and Italian western star Woody Strode as Charlie Moonlight. This was Strode’s last role and the movie is dedicated to him.

This movie is full of not only amazing gunfights, incredible dialogue and plenty of tension but a bravura ending — daylight through a shadow! — that literally made me jump out of my seat. It’s also packed with montages and a moment where there are so many extreme zooms and rack focus moments that I was sure that the ghosts of every beloved Italian director had risen from their graves and taken over the film.

Junesploitation 2022: Personal Vendetta (1995)

June 22: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is lethal ladies! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

I’ve become kind of fascinated by the movies that Mimi Lesseos made, as she didn’t just act in them, she wrote and produced them, so they have the air of a vanity project but I can’t fault that because they’re all entertaining and wonderfully strange. Start with Pushed to the Limit and then come here.

Bonnie Blackwell (Lesseos) has been abused for years by her husband Zach (a scenery chewing and frothing at the mouth Timothy Bottoms) when she’s saved by the police and decides to train to be a cop instead of remaining a victim.

Sgt. Bill Starr, one of the cops that saved her — a harrowing scene where her husband repeatedly slams her face into a steering wheel until her forehead splits open and sprays blood — gets her into the police academy, a moment that has a jaunty song on the soundtrack that’s nearly a full spinning turn away from the dark tone that’s been the majority of this movie. It’s in no way an easy experience, as she’s put through a whole new level of hell as no one takes it easy on her, including hand to hand instructor Geno LeBell (Frank “The Tank” Trejo, a first generation student of American kenpo karate founder Ed Parker) whose name betrays Lesseos’ pro wrestling origins, as he’s named after “Judo” Gene LeBelle, a man who shows up in nearly every pro wrestling scene in every pre-WWE era movie.

Things move fast — Bonnie gets paired with a veteran cop named John Beaudet, they fall in love, she visits prison to tell her husband he’s going to be her ex-husband, he breaks out, her mentor is killed — and our heroine faces off with her husband, who we suddenly learn is involved in human trafficking, selling off Vietnamese/American teens as mail order brides.

Director Stephen Lieb also made L.A. Task Force (L.A’s most beautiful women are being killed by a maniac), Deadly Eyes (phone sex workers are being killed by a Jack the Ripper copycat) and Blind Vengeance (martial arts teacher falls for a student who is the ex-girlfriend of another fight master). You may read that list of movies and say, “What junk!” and you can’t find me to answer, as I’m hunting them down to watch them in my magical movie basement.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Junesploitation 2022: High Risk (1995)

June 4: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is 90s action! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Kit Li (Jet Li) is a Hong Kong Bomb Squad police officer who responds to the latest threat of The Doctor’s (Kelvin Wong in his final role) terrorist group. They’ve taken a school bus hostage and his wife and son are on board. He sends one of his team to diffuse it, but the complicated bomb explodes and everyone dies, including Kit’s family. He leaves the force behind and finds a new life as a stunt double for Frankie Lone (“God of Song” Jacky Cheung), a man who claims to do all his own stunts.

After Jacky’s latest movie wraps, Frankie’s father (Wu Ma) and his manager Charlie Tso (Charlie  Tso, who acted in Hong Kong softcore films and Police Story) invite Kit to the Hotel Grandeur for a jewelry show. The Doctor is on his way there and they cross paths as Jacky hears his voice, but no one will believe him. He and his gang destroy the hotel and his partner Fai-fai (Valerie Chow) uses her beauty to lead Jacky to a gang member named Kong (Billy Chow, Fist of Legend and the WKA world Welterweight champion from 1984 to 1986) who has dreamed of fighting the movie star. Jacky barely escapes with his life.

Meanwhile, a journalist named Helen (Chingmy Yau) out to expose Jacky’s secret discovers The Doctor’s identity. She and Kit fall in love over the course of this Die Hard scenario and if you don’t think that he won’t have to solve the same bomb that killed his family you haven’t been watching action movies.

How much does this movie make fun of Bruce Willis’ action epic? Its Hong Kong title was High Risk, Rat’s Bravery and Dragon’s Might which is very close to the name that Die Hard was released as in Hong Kong, Tiger’s Bravery and Dragon’s Might.

Director Wong Jing also made God of GamblersNaked Killer, the Street Fighter influenced Future Cops and City Hunter. That last movie is important as after it was released, star Jackie Chan not only disowned the film but also personally went after Wong in the press. Frankie Lone in this movie is supposedly Chan and the claim is that Jackie, like Jacky, is a drunken womanizer who doesn’t even do his own stuntwork. And while Jacky dresses like Bruce Lee, the fact that the Charlie Tso character is so similar to Jackie’s mentor Willie Chan hammers the point home.

The director of this film’s action, Corey Yuen Kwai, really pushed for this to outdo what American action was in the 90s. While Jet Li is, as always, astounding, the final hand-to-hand combat is between Jacky and Kong, as the star who has lived the high life for so long redeems himself.

Look for this movie as Meltdown on Tubi.

Cyber Zone (1995)

Is it Cyberzone or Cyber Zone or Droid Gunner?

More to the point, is this Fred Olen Ray film a homage to Star Wars or Blade Runner?

Marc Singer is Jack Ford, an android hunter out to capture four robotic ladies of ill repute and bring them back to their owner, Mr. Reginald (Cal Bartlett). They’ve been taken by a smuggler named Hawks (Matthias Hues) and Reginald needs them back immediately.

It’s a movie that uses the robot suit from Star Hunter, spaceships from Battle Beyond the Stars, dialogue directly from Predator, an ending that references For a Few Dollars More, an appearance by Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, Robert Quarry playing Jabba the Hutt but named Chew’bah, a world where New Angeles is under water, and most importantly, finds a part for Brinke Stevens as a human/cat hybrid dancer named Kitten.

That’s more than enough.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Bikini Drive-In (1995)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs 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

When Kim Taylor (Ashlie Rhey) inherits her grandfather’s beloved drive-in theatre, she and her friends must raise the money to save the failing establishment from both the bank and the evil clutches of land developer J.B. Winston (producer David F. Friedman.) When Kim’s dick boyfriend refuses to help her, Winston’s son Brian (Richard Gabai) goes against his father, and teams up with Kim (in more ways than one) to concoct a surefire way to sell tickets. The plan? An all-night monster movie marathon using all the old films Grandad saved with a scream queen and dancing bikini girls! A few (titty) twists and turns aside, the plan works, the bad guys, the bank and the meddling sheriff are vanquished and the kids all live happily ever after. 

It’s not the plot that makes this my favorite Fred Olen Ray film. It’s the inclusion of all the fake trailers (years before the QT/Rodriguez Grindhouse double feature) and all the original drive-in intermission shorts I enjoyed in my own youth. It’s a love letter to all the fun that could be had on a night out at the drive-in. According to Ray, many of the things you see in this film came from other films. “The monster suit, worn by (my son) Chris here, was from Biohazard 2… Michelle as the 50-foot woman was a test shot I had to do to prove to Roger that we could handle the effects, but since he made me pay for them myself I got to keep the footage (and the rights to it.) The sets from Dinosaur Island also appear in a fake trailer… and Jim (Wynorski) stole the title of my fake movie, House on Hooter Hill.” 

Appearances by Conrad Brooks, Forry Ackerman, Ross Hagen, Clare Polan and Anthony Cardoza among others as well as the Dick Dale-style surf soundtrack add to the overall nostalgic feel for a bygone era that spawned an entire generation of monster and B-movie enthusiasts. In her greatest comedic role to date, Michelle Bauer plays Scream Queen Dyanne Lynn, a spoiled actress served by a beefy manservant. It’s about time we ladies got a little equal opportunity exploitation in one of these films! 

Last, but not least, we have the director himself as DJ Randy Rocket, who, in full mid-‘90s fashion, gets a striptease in return for promoting the drive-in’s all-night marathon on his show. A tough casting choice, I’m sure. 

Most people familiar with this film probably saw the titty-free version on USA’s Up All Night back in the day, but there’s an uncut Blu-Ray on the way later this year from Ray’s Retromedia label which promises to include an entire bonus of restored drive-in intermission shorts from back in the day. Put the kids to bed, pass the popcorn, fire up the Pic mosquito repellent for a fun night in!  

Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold (1995)

I’m sure you’ve seen Attack of the 50 Foot Woman but this has ten more feet on that.

Inga (Raelyn Saalman), Betty (Tammy Parks) and Angel Grace (J. J. North) are the three finalists for Plaything’s Centerfold of the Year, which finds Angel heading to Dr. Lindstrom (John LaZar) to continue beauty treatments which he’s already told her could be dangerous. But when the first new dose makes her breasts grow, why would she stop?

After sleeping with the magazine’s photographer, Angel forgets to take a dose and sees wrinkles, so she starts taking beyond her prescription. This causes her to grow, as you can expect, into the titular 60 foot centerfold.

With a cast that includes Tommy Kirk, Michele Bauer, Ross Hagen, George Stover, Stanley Livingston and Russ Tamblyn, this movie gets in what you expect: two centerfolds brawling in the middle of Los Angeles, but giant ones, and then a doctor gets speared with a giant needle which is kind of what you really really wanted.

The urge to be beautiful is strong. When left unchecked, you end up really tall. There’s a moral somewhere.