When the Dark Man Calls (1995)

If you’re a voracious reader of mystery novels, especially if you grew up in the ‘80s, chances are you may have read at least one of the prolific Stuart M. Kaminsky’s 60-plus novels concerning the adventures of the ‘40s film noir-styled gumshoe Toby Peters, Moscow Police Inspector Rostnikov, and grizzled Chicago police officer Abe Lieberman.

However, when it came time to adapt Kaminsky’s best sellers to the big screen, it was his two standalone non-series novels, 1983’s When the Dark Man Calls and 1985’s Exercise in Terror, which made the transition. While Exercise in Terror became the 1993 USA Network TV movie Hidden Fears starring Meg Foster (John Carpenter’s They Live, Stepfather 2, Deep Family Secrets) and Frederic Forrest (Apocalypse Now, The Rose, One from the Heart), When the Dark Man Calls was first adapted into the 1988 French thriller Fréquence Meurtre (aka Frequency Death, Frequent Death) starring Catherine Deneuve.

Kaminsky’s New York Times–and European–best seller and the 1988 French language film adaptation.

In this inferior, homogenized English language version shot on-the-cheap in Toronto as a USA Network original movie (in the days before the channel was usurped by the NBC Network to run all-day Law and Order marathons), TV actress Joan Van Ark—who’s no Catherine Deneuve in the thespian department—stars as Julianne Kaiser, the stalked Chicago talk radio psychologist.

Yes, you guess it: As with any stalked radio psychologist, Julianne has her own closet of repressed memories and tormented skeletons: Twenty-five years ago, when she was a ten, she discovered her parents murdered in their bed. It was her testimony that put away the killer, Mr. Parmenter (Tango & Cash; Clint Eastwood stock player Geoffrey Lewis), a border who lived in the back room of their home—and he always claimed his innocence. Now that Parmenter has been released, he begins making threatening calls to her show. Then, when he turns up dead and the calls don’t stop, the whodunit red herrings start flipping and flopping.

Who killed Julianne’s parents? Who killed Parmenter? Who’s stalking her and harassing her 14-year-old daughter?

Is it her vengeful, soon-to-be ex-husband Max (familiar TV actor Barry Flatman; The Dead Zone with Christopher Walken; still acting on ION Network’s Private Eyes)? Is it her doting, construction company-owning brother Lloyd (Chris Sarandon from Fright Night) with his own closet of secrets? And there’s Michael (genial TV actor James Read; ‘80s TV series Remington Steele; still acting on the U.S soaps Days of Our Lives and General Hospital), her ex-boyfriend cop bumbling about, still carrying a torch for Julianne.

While the quality in casting, acting, and direction in a ‘90s-era USA Network original movie is certainly a step above a present-day Lifetime original flick and raises the violence bar (just a smidgen), When the Dark Man Calls is still a thriller with no thrills or suspense—ironically, just like a Lifetime movie. And that’s a shame when considering the great critical reviews for Kaminsky’s 1983 novel. (Because of the radio angle, I read it back in the ‘80s and it is a page turner. Kaminsky’s works should not only be better known, but subject to more film adaptations.)

Yes, Joan Van Ark is certainly gorgeous and she looks fantastic on screen (and still acting on a wide array of films and series). But so is Catherine Deneuve. While Ark is affable enough in an ensemble cast of a hit nighttime TV drama, in her case, Dallas and Knots Landing, carrying an entire picture as the put upon damsel-in-distress isn’t her forte; under her tutelage the on-the-edge-of-your-seat plot twists of Kaminsky’s novel fall flatter than a dead herring.

Sure, we get the always awesome Geoffrey Lewis as the revengeful convict and Chris Sarandon’s harboring-dark-secrets brother as part of the bargain (if not for them both, I wouldn’t have stuck with this one to the end) and they deliver the goods, but they’re not in the film long enough to make a lasting impact.

On the plus side: The set design is solid and the radio station looks pretty legit for a low-budget set build. But who built it, Irwin Allen? Yep, it’s more budget conscious, ambiguous dark voids to nowhere. (In all my years in the business I never, ever worked in a studio so dark.) And those dumbbell faux call letters of WRAP (talk, “rap,” really?). And the total lack of a 7-second audio delay in the studio. And the fact that no radio station would ever risk FCC fines or license loss by putting live calls on the air from a serial stalker—even with an audio delay—for the sake of “ratings” or to “catch a killer.” Another problem: Joan’s age. If we abide by the flashbacks and flash forwards, Julianne Kaiser is 35—a very hard 35: Van Ark was already in her 50s—again, she looks great—when she shot this flick. All of it stretches the limits of screenwriting credulity.

Unfortunately, the Catherine Deneuve version isn’t available online for a comparison—and it was never released on stateside video. However, When the Dark Man Calls was released by Paramount as a VHS in the states and overseas. There are no official online streams available, so you’ll have to settle for this VHS rip posted on You Tube.

If you’d like to watch Kaminsky’s Hidden Fears, it is also available on You Tube.

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



The Silencer aka Body Count (1995)

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.

About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

Fever Lake (1995)

Once upon a time, Corey Haim, Mario Lopez and Bo Hopkins went to Kenosha, Wisconsin and made a slasher. The end.

Ah man, I have to talk about this movie more than that, huh?

How about if I told you that a Native American mystic named Clear Springs — played by the not a Native America n Michael Wise — warns a bunch of teenagers that a lake is cursed and they still party and pay for it with their lives?

Bo Hopkins is in here and his IMDB reminds me that Murder, She Wrote was on so long that he was able to be a guest star on it twice as two totally different characters. He plays a sheriff, a role he seems born to play, as he was also the law in movies and shows like A Crack In the FloorDusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood MoneyGetting to Know YouR.I.O.T. the MovieTexas PaybackFertilize the Blaspheming BombshellMatlockThe Bounty HunterTrapper County WarA Smokey Mountain Christmas, The Fall GuyMutantSweet Sixteen and A Small Town In Texas.

That said, if you ever wanted to see one of the Coreys and AC Slater battle demons, you’re in luck. This was also called Demon Kid in a toned down version, but why would you want to watch a demon slasher movie and not at least get some blood?

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi. There’s also a Rifftrax version on Amazon Prime.

El Dia de la Bestia (1995)

Alex de la Iglesia met Jose Guerricaechevarria in the early 90’s, which led to their first short film,Mirindas Asesinas, in which a normal man becomes a killer. They’ve worked together ever since, particularly on the Pedro Almodovar produced Accion Mutante, a story of handicapped people fighting back in a post-apocalyptic future. He followed thet movie with this one, which won 6 Goyas — think Oscar in Spanish — including Best Director.

Father Angel Berriartua (Alaex Angulo, Pan’s Labyrinth), a priest and professor of theology, confesses to another priest that he is about to commit as much evil as possible. The other priest is shocked until he explains why, but before he can help, a large cross crushes him.

His mission takes him to Madrid, where he meets heavy metal fan, record shop clerk and Satanist Jose Maria (Santiago Segura, who has made the Torrente, el brazo tonto de la ley film series that parodies Stallone’ Cobra). Jose helps Angel find a place in his mother’s boarding house and continue his path toward evil, which guides him to steal a book by occult TV show host Professor Cavan.

Jose and Angel decide to kidnap the Professor and force him to teach them how to sell their souls to the devil. Why? Angel has decoded that Bible and learned that the Antichrist will be born at midnight on Christmas Eve. If he sells his soul, the Devil will trust him and allow him to witness the birth, which will allow him to sneak in and kill the Antichrist, saving the world.

The ritual will need the blood of a virgin, which is no easy feat in modern Madrid. Luckily, Mina, who lives in Jose’s mother’s boarding house, is one. As Angel draws her blood, he’s surprised by Jose’s mother, who ends up killing herself with a shotgun by accident. No matter — the threesome instead burns a piece of paper chaos magic style, takes LSD and finishes the ritual. Cavan jokes that it’s all a farce until a goat appears and the devil taunts them in a message, saying that he knows Angel’s plan.

Do they find the devil? You bet. A movie this insane totally needs a nearly nude gigantic Satan wandering the rooftops, ready to chuck people off to their doom. Even crazier, most rituals showed in the films are real Satanist rituals and weren’t altered at all. Or so they say.

After the movie’s moderate success in the US, de la Iglesia sold the rights for an American remake, which he was goign to direct. It never happened, nor did his opportunity to direct Alien: Resurrection. However, he did direct his next movie, Perdita Durango, in the U.S.

Man, we totally missed this in our Christmas movies and in our heavy metal movie spotlights, but I’m so happy that this movie is finally on our site.

Congo (1995)

Frank Marshall is more known as a producer than a director. After all, he was in that role for movies like Raiders of the Lost ArkPoltergeistThe Color PurpleBack to the Future and so many more films, but he didn’t direct until 1990’s Arachnophobia. He also helmed Alive and Eight Below, as well as this film. Again — he’s much better known as a producer, as he’s since executive produced the Jason Bourne and Jurassic Park films.

Speaking of Jurassic Park, a Michael Crichton novel also inspired this film, which had a long history before it finally played cinemas.

After the success of The First Great Train Robbery, Crichton wanted to write a movie for Sean Connery, as the character of Charles Munro, who he saw as an analog to Allan Quatermain. Ironically, that’s the character that Connery would play in his final screen role in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Crichton pitched the idea to producer Frank Yablans — the same guy who brought us The FuryMommie Dearest and Kidco — who liked the idea so much that he — without Crichton’s authorization thank you very much — sold the film rights to Twentieth Century Fox in 1979, a year before the book was published.

Once Crichton learned that he could not use a real gorilla to portray the character of Amy, he left the project. The film was offered to Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter before years later, Marshall came on board. That all came to pass because, during the making of Jurassic Park, Crichton was impressed with Stan Winston’s work. Producer Kathleen Kennedy suggested that Winston could make the apes for Congo, talked to her husband — yep, Frank Marshall — about the project and Yablans came back on board again.

However, the final film is only loosely based on the Crichton script, with John Patrick Shanley (Moonstruck) taking over the writing duties.

While testing a communications laser in the Congo, TraviCom employees Charles Travis (Bruce Campbell!) and Jeffrey Weems discover the ruins of a lost city. However, it looks like everyone dies as the company watches the exploration via satellite by Karen Ross (Laura Linney), a former CIA operative and also the former fiancee of Travis, whose dad R.B. (Joe Don Baker!) owns the company. Man, talk about run-on sentences.

There’s also primatologist Peter Elliott (Dylan Walsh), who has a mountain gorilla named Amy, who can speak via a special glove that translates sign language to audio. She’s been drawing jungles and intricate gems, which means that Peter thinks she should go back home to Africa. He funds that trip via Karen and TraviCom, as well as Romanian philanthropist Herkermer Homolka (Tim Curry).

They’re led by the greatest hunter of all time, Captain Monroe Kelly. You know what they always say: if you can’t get Sean Connery, get Ernie Hudson. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje — Killer Kroc from Suicide Squad — shows up as Munro’s second-in-command Kahega. And hey — there’s Joe Pantoliano as another merc! And John Hawkes (Eastbound & Down) is also here, as well as Delroy Lindo and Kevin Grevioux from the Underworld movies.

Between native tribes, gorillas being used to guard diamond mines and Tim Curry getting killed by a pack of those gorillas — not to mention a subplot that has Dr. Elliot upset when Amy ends up getting rawdogged (rawaped?) by a silverback and leaving humanity for the jungle, this movie literally looks like studio notes on film. There’s everything for somebody, I guess. Curry and Hudson are having a blast, however. Hudson is almost in a totally different movie than anyone else and has called out Congo as the best time he ever had making a movie. It shows.

1990’s kids had Kenner on hand to help them recreate the story of the Lost City of Zinj with Congo action figures. You could grab Peter, Karen, Kahega, Peter and Amy for the good guys — well, I guess protagonists, maybe, but who wants to tell kids that they are protagonists versus good guys? And then for the apes, you have Blastface, Mangler, Zinj Apes and the deluxe Bonecrusher. There were also two vehicles, the Net Trap and Trail Hacker. They fit into the Kenner aesthetic, just like their RoboCop and Jurassic Park figures. Seriously, Kenner made figures for every movie it seemed like — they made Waterworld figures, after all!

Speaking of Jurassic Park, my feeling on this movie has been that everyone wanted to will another series of films much like Crichton’s novel into existence. This whole thing was vaporware, based on a story that the author never really finished made by people who didn’t have any real concern with the source material, which never really existed in the first place. Millions were dumped into it and it actually did pretty well — $152 million worldwide on a $50 million budget — but no one really remembers it.

All they do remember is that there was a scene where one of the Zinj gorillas uses a laser. That scene doesn’t exist in the movie, but that hasn’t stopped people from remembering it in a Mandela Effect moment.

ANOTHER TAKE ON: Cruel Jaws (1995)

Theater of the Sea is one of the oldest marine mammal facilities in the world and has been operated by the McKenney family since its inception in 1946. Thousands have thrilled to its daily aquatic shows, yet somehow, it became the host for an Italian made for TV and then direct to video opus known as Cruel Jaws or The Beast and best of all, Jaws 5.

Yes, just imagine if the excitement of a film crew coming to your local otter park, shooting a movie in your neighborhood, and then the man you were told was William Snyder ends up being Bruno Mattei – the very same madman behind The Other Hell, Shocking Dark and Rats: Night of Terror.

An excitable Miami Herald article from December 4, 1994 proclaimed the big news that the town of El Portal was now Hampton Bay, which is perhaps Amity Island’s sister city. If they only knew what mania lay in wait. For Bruno Mattei was about to craft not just a shark movie, but a remix of all of his favorites. Yes, much like Girltalk or similar DJs mix together multiple songs to create a new patchwork narrative, Mattei was about to throw copyright laws and common sense to the wind to create an entirely new shark movie.

It all starts with a ship evading the Coast Guard to pilfer the remains of a sunken ship called the Cleveland because possibly Mattei had no idea what the Edmund Fitzgerald was. Within seconds, the scuba scavengers are beset not by pilfered footage from Enzo G. Castellari’s Great White. Yes, a movie that was sued into oblivion for ripping off Jaws has now suffered the very same unkind cut! That’s when the credits roll and promise us “Original Shark Design And Special Effects Created By Larry Mannini.” I’m here to inform you, dear reader, that none of these effects are original. Even more to the point, I refuse to believe that Larry Mannini is a real person. Much like Lewis Coates, David Hills and Raf Donato, I think it’s an alter ego to cover up that Mattei just simply spliced sharks from a variety of movies into this opus.

Soon, we meet Billy Morrison, who is not like Matt Hooper in any way, as he drives with his girlfriend Vanessa as she chides him for leaving her last summer to chase killer whales. This year, he promises her sailing, tennis and disco until dawn. If only, Billy. He’s on the way to meet his pal Dag Snerensen, a Hulk Hogan lookalike with two kids — Bobby and the wheelchair-bound Susy — who also owns a bottom tier Sea World.

Susy lost the use of her legs in the accident that also took Dag’s wife out of this world. And now it’s time to meet Sheriff Berger, who serves the Hulkster’s brother with an eviction notice. Turns out that he’s three months behind on his rent to the evil land baron Samuel Lewis and only has 30 days to pay up. 

But where are the sharks, you ask? Fear not. A bunch of kids running along the beach trip over the remains of one of the scuba guys from before and unlike an American movie that would just show their frightened faces, this film lingers over the gory latex aftermath. One autopsy later and Brody and Hopper – whoops, I mean Berger and Morrison — want to close the beach during the busiest weekend of the season.

After several party scenes and moments of cavorting on the beach, Mattei grows bored with presenting human beings that act like no real people you’ve ever met before and decides to start the killing anew, as a girl runs smack dab into the Chrissie Watkins scene from Jaws. Again, I’m not saying it’s a similar shot. It’s the exact same footage grafted into this film.

It turns out that the antagonist in this movie is a tiger shark engineered by the Navy to be a superweapon. Now, it’s killing people all over Hampton Island, so this film is also stealing the plot of Piranha, another movie directly inspired by Jaws. Along the way, the Mafia subplot from the novel Jaws was based on, the windsurfing race from The Last Shark and a Regatta stolen from Jaws 2 all happen. It’s like K-Tel’s Greatest Shark Attacks of the 1980’s with all your favorite great white super hits! 

If none of this convinces you that you need to see this film — made by an Italian crew shooting a largely amateur group of Americans — then let me add that Mattei included some of John Williams’ music from Star Wars on his soundtrack, where it sits alongside screaming synth music and generic disco. Truly, this movie has something for everyone.

“You’re a piece of shit! You’re vomit! You’re nobody!” one character yells at another at one point. It’s dialogue like this that keeps me coming back to Italian bootleg cinema. In fact, the word shit is thrown around here like a racist epithet in a Tarantino film; allusions to feces fill nearly every story beat of this epic. Yet the greatest line is when the sheriff yells, “We’re going to need a bigger helicopter.” You really can’t write dialogue that great, It just has to happen.

Scream Factory, a subsidiary of Shout! Factory, once planned to release this movie on blu ray as a double feature along with Exterminators of the Year 3000. However, once they realized how much footage this movie cribbed from the Jaws trilogy and other Italian shark epics, they canceled the release.

That’s cowardice. Was Bruno Mattei worried about stealing directly from Spielberg even after years of lawsuits against any film that came close to Jaws? Nope. He didn’t just take from the original, but its two sequels as well. It was if he was daring the American judicial system to come after him. 

Please keep in mind that this is no Sharknado or sub-Troma effort. Mattei was really trying to make a great shark movie. And that’s why I love this movie, particularly the big shark attack sequence about an hour into the film where everyone devolves into screaming morons. There were no second takes in this movie, no ADR re-recorded audio, no one in wardrobe to tell one of the girls that her white leotard outfit is ridiculous, no focus group to warn the filmmakers that this movie is borderline incomprehensible. 

Yet with every viewing, my romance with Cruel Jaws grows more passionate. How can you not love a movie that ends ninety minutes of body munching gore and profanity-laden dialogue with a Scooby Doo-laugh filled close where a seal launches the newly redeemed bad guy into the ocean?

This article originally appeared in Drive-In Asylum Special Issue #4, which you can buy here.

2019 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge: Day 20: Option 4: Ice Cream Man (1995)

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

Today, Tommy Wiseau markets his celluloid calling-card, The Room, as an intentional “black comedy.” Opinions vary on that assessment of that successful artistic disaster, but the same can’t be said for the exploits of Clint Howard’s dairy-swirled slasher, Gregory Tudor.

Considering the named cast that stars David Naughton (1981’s An American Werewolf in London; newly reviewed “Scarecrow: Day 10”), Olivia Hussey (1974’s Black Christmas), Jan-Michael Vincent (see my review of Damnation Alley for September’s “Post-Apoc Month”) and, holy crap, David Warner (From Beyond the Grave), I don’t think any of them signed on the dotted line for an “intentional comedy” done as a “campy” take on the serial killer genre. As with Tommy Wiseau’s The Room: The team behind Ice Cream Man, I believe, were making a serious horror film with dark humor touches—sort of a Motel Hell with cannibalism-confectionary treats instead of human-sausage meats—and it just deliciously careened off the rails and into our home video hearts.


Can you really see David Warner willingly—without being duped—signing onto a film where Clint Howard’s dairy slasher is able to stick ice cream scoops into the necks of decapitated heads, and work his thumb on the scoop to make the mouths move for his twisted ventriloquist act? I’ve never dug deep enough into this film to see, although it was made for TV and video, if it was shot-on-video or actual film; but wow, David Warner is damn near close to John Carradine’s SOV-slumming in Blood Cult (my new review for October’s “Slasher Month”). No, I won’t believe it. No way had Gorkon, the chancellor of the Klingon High Council—within four years—fallen willingly from the throne of Paradise City in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country (1991) to a film with heads-on-ice-cream-scoops. There had to be a nefarious scheme involving bogus tax shelters and a film-production covered drug smuggling ring. Was this pitched as Freddy Kruger as an ice cream man? What the fuck is going on here?

Just look at Clint’s lines when he’s about to give someone “the scoop”:

“You’re Ice Cream.”

“I guess not every day is a happy, happy, happy day!”

“You little turds are gonna learn you can’t run from the ice cream man!”

And, when he kidnaps the local fat kid, a cruelly-named Tuna, he chuckles, “Trolling for Tuna!” as he scoops the kid into his ice cream truck.

No. I won’t believe it. There’s no way Stringfellow Hawke, our bad-ass ‘80s Airwolf, is chasing a psycho ice cream man without producer or managerial misrepresentation on someone’s part. Jan-Michael in a film about chopped up dog and human-spiked Butterbrickel and Rocky Road? What the fuck is going on here?

Still, while technical inept, we’re going along for the whole, heartily-hilarious ride with Gregory Tudor. As a child, Greggy was traumatized by seeing a local ice cream man murdered. After being released from the nuthouse all Tudor wants to do is give children the happiness he never had. So he reopens the old ice cream factory and, well . . . you know that ain’t bananas in the Banana Fudge Swirl . . . and that ain’t “fudge.” (Riddle me this, kids: Why is it that guys, like Lawrence Aston in Spine (see my soon-to-publish, October 2019 review for B&S Movies “Slasher Month”), these mentally-toasted FUBARs, are always “cured”—then slaughter someone before the ink on the release papers has a chance to dry?)

One of the great, off-the-rail moments, amid the ice scream slasher sickness, is that it spins-out from being a kid’s movie, like The Monster Squad (1987), with way-to-smart-for-their-age Home Alone-styled brats who’ve given up on the dolt adults and plot to capture the ice cream man on their own. One minute: it’s cute, the next minute: it’s sick, tossing scared kids into the nooks and crannies of a ratty ice cream factory. What the fuck is going on here?

Regardless, I love seeing Clint Howard break from under his brother Ron’s shadow and ditch his second-fiddle status with a lead role. And they don’t come along very often, but when they do, we get Stanley Coopersmith in Evilspeak (1981). Yeah, Clint can screech that fiddle and scare the devil out of Georgia.

Of course, Clint is forever loved as the Tranya-swillin’ Balok, kicking Enterprise ass with the Fesarius (in 1966 and in 2010), but don’t forget: Clint was the school restroom-based entrepreneur, Eaglebauer, in Rock ‘n Roll High School (1979). He was friggin’ Rughead in the automotive-slasher The Wraith (1986). He was Slinky in Tango & Cash (1989). He was the lead as the adult Ricky in Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1991). And the list goes on and on: Carnosaur, Barb Wire, the penis-spotting radar tech “Johnson” in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Rob Zombie showed respect by casting Clint in The Lords of Salem and 3 From Hell.

The completely off-the-reservation and very cool (no pun intended), twisty-treat (pun intended) script was the screenwriting debut for Tisch School of the Arts-graduated David Dobkin. You know him for his directing Jackie Chan in the martial arts romp, Shanghai Knights, and bringing Peter M. Lenkov’s hit underground comic book, R.I.P.D, to the big screen. He directed the always on-the-spot Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers and directed the Tim Allen-fronted Christmas comedy, Fred Claus. That’s one hell of a kick-ass resume. And he gave us this film. And that kicks ass.

But who directed this film? Uh-oh, John Howard directing Spine alert! Yep, we are on the SOV fringes just as I suspected, once you realize that although director Paul Norman directed over 100 films—they were porn movies. And one of them was Edward Penishands (1991). Give a guy $2 million bucks and he goes from penishands to icecreamscoop hands. Only in American cinema.

I never, ever review a movie that doesn’t warm the cogs of my VHS-pumping heart cartridge. I love this movie in a Blood Salvage and Baker County, USA kind-of-way. There’s no way anyone—mainstream or porn—can direct a seriously-toned story about a demented ice cream man without instigating squirm-inducing discomfort. You have got to go for the camp, or you’ll end up on some puritanical nasty list and never be seen again. And Ice Cream Man is full on drag-queen, RuPaul camp—and a bag of chips. Or a bowl of Bloody Cherry (but hold the eyes).

Okay, I am going to have a bewitching scoop with Samantha Stevens—oh, god, Elizabeth Montgomery and Baskin Robbins. Yes, please! And bring along Josie from the Pussycats. Who needs Captain America movie ice cream when you have a sexy ‘60s TV witch serving up two scoops? Like Van Halen says: All of her flavors are guaranteed to satisfy . . . and so will this full upload of the movie on You Tube.

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

Assassins (1995)

Richard Donner gets a lifetime pass from me for The Omen and Superman, not to mention The GooniesScrooged and the Lethal Weapon films. He also directed the original “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” episode of The Twilight Zone. But for all these films, sometimes you must endure some of his misfires, like The Toy and, well, Assassins.

The original spec script was written by The Wachowskis, who sold it for $1 million to producer Joel Silver. He must have been flush with cash at the time, as he also bought their script for The Matrix for a million too. He then offered Donner $10 million to direct the film, but first, he wanted the violence toned down and Stallone’s character made more sympathetic. That means that Brian Helgeland (976-EVILA Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and Man On Fire, which he also directed) was brought in to do a rewrite, which led to the Wachowskis trying to get their names off the movie before being refused by the Writers Guild of America.

Robert Rath (Sylvester Stallone) is an assassin who wants to retire. He’s haunted by the memories of killing his mentor and has lost a step, as Miguel Bain (Antonio Banderas) gets to his next mark before he can.

Bain’s goal is to be number one, which means he has to take out Rath. Then they both take on the mission of taking out Electra (Julianne Moore), a computer hacker. All manner of shenanigans ensue, placing both men in one another’s crosshairs repeatedly.

Honestly, I struggled to even get through this one. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve watched thirty Stallone movies in seven days, but I don’t think that’s the problem. This is just boring where it could be so much better, although I love Banderas in the film. He made the actor’s decision to only eat fruit in the movie, which makes no sense, but it’s one hilarious bit of method acting.

Two Harts in 3/4 Time (1995)

When the Harts visit Montreal to accept a clock left to them by Max, their recently deceased friend, the timepiece becomes the centerpiece of a case involving blackmail and murder. Ah man — with Lionel Stander gone, these movies have lost a bit of steam. But hey — Joan Collins!

Here she plays Lady Camilla Ashley, who may seem to have the world at her feet, but who is dealing with a duplicitous boy toy. There’s also an appearance by Max’s niece Marie who has man problems of her own. And her partner in an antique shop Vivienne is actually the one sleeping with Lady Camilla’s husband Ronny, which leads to secret papers being shoved into the clock Max wanted to give away.

This episode was written by Donald Ross, who gifted us with Hamburger: The Motion Picture, and Matt Crowley, who wrote the play The Boys In The Band and also provided uncredited rewrites to The Eyes of Laura Mars.

Want to see this movie? Just get the new Mill Creek Hart to Hart Movies Are Murder Collection. You’ll get eight adventures of Mr. and Mrs. H to sit back and watch.

DISCLAIMER: This set was sent to us by Mill Creek. We appreciate it but it has no bearing on our review.

Secrets of the Hart (1995)

Jonathan and Jennifer Hart head to San Francisco for a charity auction, where she discovers an old heart locket with a picture of Jonathan as a child. He never knew his family, so he quickly learns that he may have a sister and nephew. But this being Hart to Hart, someone has to die before its all over. Maybe a few people have to die, actually.

This is the first of the reunion movies to be directed by someone other than Peter Hunt. Here it’s Kevin Connor, who was behind From Beyond the Grave and Motel Hell. He also directed six episodes of the original series.

Marion Ross (Happy Days) and Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) play the aunt and nephew, while Wagner’s daughter Natasha plays Tibby, the wife of Bateman’s character. You also get small parts from Rodger Bumpass (Squidward from Sponge Bob Squarepants), comedian John Pinette, Pat Morita as a Japanese Jewish jeweler named Ling Goldberg, exploitation fave Ross Hagen, Taylor Negron, John Beck (Moonpie from Rollerball), Edward Mulhare from Knight Rider and Michael Parks (Earl McGraw himself!) and Wendie Malick (Just Shoot Me, Dream On) as a murderous couple who clash with the Harts.

Sadly, this would be the final appearance of Lionel Stander died soon after making this. His appearance is really rough and his dialogue is often looped, so you can see it coming. It actually made me really emotional.

Not to get political, but as you can see from the clip above, Donald Trump makes an appearance. I really need to get on my Donald Trump as a character in fictional movies Letterboxd list. There’s Home Alone 2: Lost In New YorkGhosts Can’t Do ItTwo Weeks Notice54ZoolanderThe Little RascalsAcross the Sea of Time…man. An entire week of films ready for people to get upset about!

Want to see this movie? Just get the new Mill Creek Hart to Hart Movies Are Murder Collection. You’ll get eight total mysteries to enjoy, as well as all the Hart hijinks you can handle.

DISCLAIMER: This set was sent to us by Mill Creek. We appreciate it but it has no bearing on our review.