GREGORY DARK WEEK: Animal Instincts III (1996)

When Joanna Coles falls for blind rock promoter Alex Savage she finds the man who satisfies her desire for experimentation, as he’s a voyeur. But he’s also blind. Can I Do It Until I Need Glasses?

Oh yeah. He’s also a blind knifethrower.

There’s also some music industry ridiculousness — director Gregory Dark would know, seeing as how he directed videos for everyone from Sublime to Britney Spears — and lots of the voodoo masks and rituals that made up so much of the look of Dark’s even dirtier films.

But the most charming thing about this movie is that it was written by Selwyn Harris, whose name combines the Selwyn Theater on 229 West 42nd Street and the Harris Theater on 226 West 42nd Street, a man who also wrote The Devil in Miss Jones 5: The Inferno for Dark. And, in case you didn’t know, Selwyn was really Mike McPadden, perhaps the finest writer on not only 42nd Street, but heavy metal movies, teen movies and just life.

Sadly, Mike is no longer with us, but the books and movies and words he wrote are. He was a major inspiration to me, so seeing his other name appear in the credits made me so overjoyed.

Mike told The Daily Grindhouse so much about this movie: “Greg was a nut. He was a dear friend, a terrific talent, a great guy to work with, and, very much, a nut. At the time we started Animal Instincts III, Greg was heavily into hip-hop music and had expanded his intense martial arts regimen to include knife fighting. So his ONLY instructions to me were: “Make sure the movie has hip hop music and knife fighting.”

And thus the plot centered on a record producer who was an expert knife thrower. The fact that he was supposed to be blind, too, plays into the challenge of showcasing new variations on the oldest form of human interaction. When his wife fucks people in front of him while thinking he can’t see, it adds a deeper component to her exhibitionism and his voyeurism — in theory, at least. The finished movie is an apocalypse.

As a porn screenwriter, both hard and softcore, the sex scenes function as the posts from which the whole rest of the movie hangs. Like haiku, you can write whatever you want, as long as it fits into the form’s singularly defined structure.

One of the movies I wrote for Greg, Devil In Miss Jones 5: The Inferno is great. The rest meander from one near miss, Sex Freaks, to a couple of negligible efforts. Animal Instincts III stands alone as gloriously horrendous.”

Thanks for so much Mike. You still make me laugh and still will, long after you have been gone.

Still Screaming: 25 Years Later

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nick Vaught has worked in the entertainment industry for several years. Nick currently serves as an Associate Producer on the upcoming horror documentary In Search of Darkness: Part III. Nick also worked on the long-running CW series Supernatural. In 2019 he co-wrote the well-received episode “Don’t Go in the Woods.” In addition, Nick has written punch up jokes on multiple TV pilots and teamed with actor Jason Mewes to help write his biography.

Seemingly no movie genre lives and dies more than horror and in the mid 90’s, the horror genre was as dead as the asshole jock character that populates these movies.  Popular franchises such as Friday the 13th, Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street had run out of steam with both critics and fans alike. Let’s face it, sequels had killed our beloved franchises. The genre was in much need of an originality boost and that’s where ironically, Dimension Films came in. I say ironically because Dimension Films was part of the sequel-itis that was plaguing horror films. The Bob Weinstein-led subsidiary of Miramax was primarily known for its horror and sci-fi films. They scooped up the rights to Children of the Corn, Hellraiser and Halloween and began producing subpar (putting it mildly) sequels to the once-powerful franchises. 

Then, in 1995, they optioned a script by an unknown writer named Kevin Williamson. The script was called Scary Movie (before it was changed to Scream) and it was strong enough to attract the attention of horror master Wes Craven, who was in desperate need of a hit.  The script focused on a masked killer terrorizing a group of high school friends. The cast was comprised of a lot of up-and-coming actors: David Arquette, Skeet Ulrich, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy, Matthew Lillard; as well as tv stars, Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox. The biggest name in the cast was Drew Barrymore, who played “Casey Becker.” Barrymore was initially offered the role of “Sidney Prescott,” which would ultimately be played by Campbell. 

It didn’t take long after cameras began to roll for issues to begin to rise. Weinstein was incredibly unhappy with the first round of footage that came in; the footage of the opening scene with Barrymore. Editor Patrick Lussier scrambled to put together the scene in its entirety and get it to Weinstein, who was pleased enough with what he saw to spare Craven’s job.

After filming was completed, Dimension Films made an odd choice by giving the film a December 20th release date in 1996. Horror films simply weren’t released during the holidays; only blockbusters and feel-good comedies were. I suppose Weinstein was hoping for Scream to end up as counter programming Well, it didn’t work and Scream only made around $6 million in its opening weekend; it was dead, or so it seemed. Something almost unheard of happened the next weekend, the gross went up and up and up until the movie topped out at a whopping $103 million at the end of its run. How did this happen?

Word of mouth happened. The people that did see it on that opening weekend loved it and told others. The before mentioned opening scene became one of the most iconic opening scenes not only in horror history, but cinema history. Barrymore’s character finds herself alone in her parent’s house in the middle of nowhere making Jiffy Pop. She gets a call from what she assumes is a wrong number, but is actually a deranged killer with a cell phone and a penchant for horror movie trivia. The Jiffy Pop begins to rise as the tension does; a master stroke by Craven. Shockingly, Barrymore’s character is killed off and the movie never lets up after that. From that point, Scream focuses on Campbell’s “Sidney Prescott,” who gives a strong, grounded performance as the movie’s final girl.

Personally, I had only gotten into horror the year before and when I saw Scream for the first time it cemented my love of horror. Even though I was relatively new to the genre I had never seen anything like this. The filmmakers invited us to be part of the movie; we were watching ourselves onscreen. We were screaming the answers to “Ghostface’s” questions during Drew Barrymore’s scenes. We were yelling at Jamie Kennedy’s character “Randy” to turn around as he was saying the same thing to Jamie Lee Curtis’ character while he was watching Halloween. The characters were well aware that their situation mirrored that of a slasher movie; in fact, they would mock their predicament. The movie also introduces the rules of surviving a horror movie, some which hold true, but then subverts one of the biggest rules by taking Campbell’s virgin character, having her have sex and still outwitting the killers in the end. It was meta before the term would enter our cultural zeitgeist.

Metaness aside there was plenty else to like about the movie. For starters, the movie was a well-crafted whodunit with elaborate death scenes. There were several red herrings throughout the movie and while many in the audience may have guessed that the character of “Billy” was a killer, nobody in the audience could’ve guessed that there were two killers. I can still remember the audible gasps in the theater when Matthew Lillard’s “Stu,” the lovable, goofy sidekick was revealed as the second killer. The character of “Stu” was so popular that there’s still clamoring to bring him back, despite you know, him being a murderer.

Speaking of the lovable “Stu”, strong, three-dimensional supporting characters is another area where Scream excels. Most scary movies just throw a bunch of thinly written characters in the middle of the woods just for the sake of adding to the body count; you usually don’t even care whether they live or die. Scream gave us fully realized, grounded, characters that we had a vested interest in their fate. Rose McGowan’s death scene is a highlight of the movie, but we’re generally disappointed when her strong-willed, character bites the dust. 

And let us not forget the now iconic “Ghostface” mask. Every villain needs a killer look, pun intended. The Scream mask was instantly terrifying the first time we saw it and it gave the killers a sense of personality as well. I think it’s safe to say that people who haven’t even seen the movies know where the mask is from. 

Scream turned 25 years old on December 20th and not only are we still talking about it, but a new Scream movie is due to be released on January 14th of this year, which will give us a Scream movie in four straight decades. For many of us, Scream is a pinnacle entry in the horror genre and if you’re like me, it’s a major reason you have a diehard love for horror. Thanks to this franchise for keeping me screaming a quarter of a century later. 

Pandora’s Clock (1996)

Based on the book Pandora’s Clock by John J. Nance, this movie draws on the author’s experiences as a Braniff Airlines pilot by telling the story of a deadly virus on a Boeing 747-200. The governments of the world have left the passengers — including Ambassador Lee Lancaster (Robert Guillaume) — to die, but Captain James Holland (Richard Dean Anderson) and his crew are struggling to save them all.

Nance shows up as a high-ranking Air Force official, plus there’s Daphne Zuniga, Jane Leeves, Robert Loggia and Stephen Root on hand.

One could argue my smarts in watching a movie about quarantines and pandemics and viruses while the Omnicron variant is in the news. There are so many disease of the week movies that now are not as much fun to watch as they once were.

You can watch this on YouTube if you feel like dealing with some dread.

Carnosaur 3: Primal Species (1996)

Some terrorists think they’re stealing uranium. Nope, it’s frozen dinosaurs.

Some cops think they’re going after drug dealers. Nope, they find dead terrorists and then get killed by two velociraptors and a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

As for you, you’re here for the third Carnosaur movie, one that stars Scott Valentine, who went from being Nick Moore on Family Ties — a character so popular that they tried to spin him off three times* — to My Demon Lover, Roger Corman’s Black Scorpion movies and The Unborn 2.

He’s Colonel Rance Higgins, who must team with Dr. Hodges (Janet Gunn, Silk Stalkings) to escape the dinosaurs.

Seeing as how this was once called Primal Species, it was not made to be a Carnosaur movie. But we all know how 90s direct to video sequels work. I also have been made aware that 2001’s Raptor has footage from these films — and stars Eric Roberts — which means I will have to watch it, as does the 2006 movie The Eden Formula which also has the much better title Tyrannosaurus Wrecks.

*Taking It Home was canceled when Valentine’s co-star, Herschel Bernardi, died. Anther was a Friends style sitcom and the third was The Art of Being Nick, which did air unlike the other two pilots but was not picked up.

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

Directed by Kevin Yagher and Joe Chappelle, this is the last Hellraiser to play theaters, only has one returning character in Pinhead (Doug Bradley), the last to involve Clive Barker and is both a prequel and a sequel.

Yagher left the production after Miramax demanded new scenes be shot. This is a theme that will appear in nearly every 90s horror movie that Miramax got their weird creepy hands on. The new scenes and re-shoots changed several characters’ relationships, gave the film a happy ending, introduced Pinhead earlier and cut 25 minutes of the original cut Yagher turned in. These were enough changes that he was able to use the Alan Smithee credit.

Dr. Paul Merchant has designed a space station to be in the shape of a giant Lament Configuration. Yes, within four movies, the Hellraiser franchise does what it took Jason Vorhees ten to arrive at. Yes, we’re in space. And we’re also going back in time, as Merchant’s ancestor creates the original box that starts all of these demonic events.

The Merchant bloodline has been cursed ever since they helped open the gates to Hell. There’s also a new Cenobite, Angelique, who tempts people and this puts her into conflict with Pinhead, who only believes in pain. There’s also a Merchant ancestor in 1996 that has created The Elysium Configuration, an anti-Lament Configuration that creates perpetual light and will close the pathways to Hell forever.

Bruce Ramsay ended up playing all of the Merchants and I kind of like that the end of this movie attempts to close the story. But come on. They already made four of these movies and there was no way this would all end here.

How crazy is it that this was Adam Scott’s film debut?

You can watch this on Tubi.

JOE D’AMATO WEEK: Vizio e provocazione (1996)

One of the hardest things about a week of D’Amato films is finding SFW box cover art that won’t get flagged by Facebook. So if you see a lot of pictures of Joe’s smiling face instead of the actual poster art, that’s why.

A period drama set in the 1920s, Provocation is about Carlo (Gianni De Martis, who is in a bunch of Tinto Brass movies), an inn owner at odds with his sexually curious grandson Gianni. While they try and keep the inn in business, Carlo’s wife is sleeping with a guest while her husband sleeps with every woman that stays there — while his grandson secretly watches.

Then Marilena (Erika Savastani, who was also in plenty of Brass movies and Zora the Vampire) visits the hotel and people lose their minds. Like they can’t even look at her without starting to go insane. I mean, I get it, but they turn into wolves from a Tex Avery cartoon.

Man, I feel like a broken record but the 90s softcore D’Amato films are rough to get through because you can see the talent is there. However, he’s just going through the motions now. In the last three years of his life, D’Amato would make nearly a hundred adult films. That’s an insane schedule to be on, but he did it, and he wasn’t really worried with making art.

Alien Species (1996)

“Five miles below the surface of planet Earth, a new fear is born.”
— Most boring tagline, ever

“I feel like I am in a bad episode of The X-Files.”
— Dialog from the film that should have been the tagline for the film


Well, forget the tagline snafu. Look at that box art!

Made NOT by American International Pictures, but American INTERACTIVE Pictures.

No, Alien Species isn’t a lost film from the ’70s or ’80s repacked for the ’90s DVD market. Alien Species is, in fact, a sad, very sad, present-day ripoff of Independence Day and Species — all released in 1996 — made as a quickie-cash-in on those films. And to fill that 12th and 50th slot on one of Mill Creek’s many bargain box sets.

Yep! That’s Charles Napier (from another film, we’re almost sure of it) as the military officer — only, ugh, budget: they could only afford a Sheriff’s uniform.

Hey! That’s ’70s character actor extraordinaire Hoke Howell as the professor — of too many to mention Fred Olen Ray flicks!

Hey! Oh, ugh . . . that’s Jodi Seronick — the totally cute, but worst-ever, one-and-done actress committed to a Mill Creek box set — thepsin’ alongside Izzy from Shock Em’ Dead. (Plot spoiler alert: he’s one of the prisoners, and he dies.)

David Homb as Izzy, rocking’ the ’88s for Spastic Colon.

Wait . . . what the hell? The dude that gave us the ’80s apoc-romp Land of Doom — the movie with the cross-bow glove?!?! Hey, he’s also the producer of the Christian apoc-rocker Raging Angels with Eddie Wilson! You rock, Peter Maris! Wait, what . . . Maris made his debut in 1979 with the U.K. “Video Nasty” Delirium?

Load. The. Tape. I’m celluloid delirious.

LOAD THE TAPE!

When everyone bowed to the altar of John Carpenter.
From an Independence Day rip to a Road Warrior clone: it’s the B&S About Movies way.

STOP! Hit the fast forward button. No, just hit the stop button. Eject! Eject!

What the hell? The guy who made my cherished Delirium, made this? What went off the rails, here?

The awful cinematography. The insipid scripting (one of its golden lines: “We’re not in Kansas, anymore!”). A worse soundtrack. Poorly staged action sequences. CGI that’s an embarrassment to CGI. Charles I-love-him-in-everything Napier sleepwalking it — again, from what seems an unrelated film.

So . . . as with this film’s raison d’être: aliens show up circling the Earth, but with none of the dramatic or effects impact of a Roland Emmerich production. Er, uh, because this is more like an Ed Wood production — as two astronomers peck at keyboards at a desk in an office building tracking an object.

Then a fleet of ersatz Cylon Raiders appear in the sky.

Invasion over.

So one of the scientists from behind the desk — racing (or was it Hoke, don’t care) to somewhere to warn about the invasion (since there are no phones, cell or hardline, in 1996; an embarrassing plot gag that didn’t jive in the two-years later asteroid slopper Deep Impact) — ends up in a fender bender with a prison transport bus. Now, said scientist is part of a ragtag band of humans (both deputies and criminals), led by the Sheriff (cue Charles Napier to the set) because, well, the production couldn’t afford a piper cub and a cargo plane to do a Con-Air meets Independence Day ripoff. Uh, er, wait a sec . . . Napier isn’t in this part of the film, because he’s actually in “the other film” that’s cut into this film — we think.

Anyway, our human revolutionaries — not led by Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum — stumble around the woods and hide out in cave . . . the very cave that leads to the aliens invading Earth. Then errant cows and backwoods rubes sucked yonder by a transporter beam, found just-when-we-need-’em bazookas, shotguns that never require reloading, compatible alien-to-human computer software interfaces, saucers with no force fields, green force-field prison cells, the worst day-for-night/night-for-night cinematography, ever, and educated, Polyanna female leads hooking up for grungy, prisoner romance, ensues.

Ugh.

This ain’t an on-purpose nostalgia piece to honor Bill Rebane: Alien Species is just an incompetent, just-like-a-Bill Rebane alien invasion flick of old (see Invasion from Inner Earth and The Alpha Incident for more information), where we have people running around the woods and stumble-bumbling through caves (but not drinking a lot of coffee or smoking, as in a Bill Rebane flick) as they hurl insults at each other, that is . . . when we don’t have ol’ Hoke Howell (or whomever) pecking at keyboards (his niece, his daughter, or whatever-she-is, is the thepsy-screechy Jodi Seronick; Hoke’s students are the two behind-the-desk nerds; Jodi is friends with the unrequited-crushing male nerd that takes out saucers with a laptop, just like Jeff Goldblum).

“So, do any, actual aliens show up?”

Well, a couple guys in rubber-zipper suits appear in a darkly lit cave — if you haven’t already fast-forwarded through that part.

“Do we ever get a peek inside the mothership or a saucer cockpit?

No.

“Why do the aliens attack a small town instead of say, New York City — besides budget issues?”

The cave.

“The cave?”

Yeah, it’s all always been about that backwoods cave. Weren’t you following along with the plot: the aliens started their Earth colony, down there — which was teased in Bill Rebane’s Invasion from Inner Earth, but never delivered. So, at least Alien Species lived up to its tagline in that regards.

You know what?

I’m not even sure if my “plot” description is accurate. But it’s damn close. Not that my review is steering your wrong. Not in the least.

Hey, when I’m stuck reviewing a film that looks like pieces-parts of three films cut together (the two desk dorks, Napier’s sheriff in town shenanigans, the prison bus crash out in the sticks), I’m wishing I was watching the piecemeal efforts Evil Town or Night Train to Terror. Or Spookies. Or Fright House.

At least Peter Maris has the sense to put Jodi Seronick in sensible, flat shoes and not have her running around in designer heels like some Paul Naschy Spanish-cum-Italian zombie flick.

Yeah . . . why am I watching this instead of a Naschy or Amando de Ossorio flick? Boy, some robed monks with Omega Man eyes sure would have helped, here.

Anyway, there’s no trailer to share . . . but, if you must watch Alien Species, in full, you must. We found a copy on You Tube. And don’t go surfing for the end credits-announced Alien Species 2: The Invasion. It was — for all the obvious reasons — never produced. If you’d like a bargain-priced version of Alien Species for your collection, you can have it as part of Mill Creek’s Nightmare Worlds 50-Film Pack/IMDb alongside UFO: Target Earth and Invasion from Inner Earth — both which we also reviewed this week.

At least his review isn’t a total loss: your movie knowledge has expanded by knowing of not only one — but two — films each, of Peter Maris and David Homb. Well, three for Maris, as we suggest your checking out Delirium (which you can, on You Tube).

You check out the trailers for Delirium and Land of Doom on You Tube.

Get your copy! Image courtesy of JohnGrit/Unisquare.

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

The Stendhal Syndrome aka La sindrome di Stendhal (1996)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sean Mitus grew up watching Chiller Theater & Pittsburgh UHF channels and has been a drive-in enthusiast for the last seven years. Sean enjoys all genres but has recently become interested in Italian Giallo and Poliziotteschi genres. 

“A young policewoman slowly goes insane while tracking down an elusive serial rapist/killer through Italy when she herself becomes a victim of the brutal man’s obsession.” – IMDB

After licking his wounds from back-to-back underperforming releases filmed in the US (Two Evil Eyes and Trauma), Dario Argento returned to Italy (and some say to peak form) with The Stendhal Syndrome, hereafter referred as Stendhal Syndrome. The film stars his daughter, Asia Argento, as Detective Anna Manni and then Euro-star Thomas Krestchmann as Alfredo Grossi.  Argento’s Stendhal Syndrome is a fascinating inversion of the usual giallo tropes.  

The film opens with a cold open of Anna Mani and we have no idea who she is.  We see here have a transcendent experience while touring the Uffizi Art Gallery in Florence, Italy.  The experience is a purported psychosomatic phenomenon known as the Stendhal Syndrome and is visually realized in early CGI with visual flair by Sergio Stivaletti.  Anna is helped by a stranger, Alfredo.  Anna develops amnesia and begins to recover small details.  As she investigates the latest rape and murder crime scene, Anna is attacked and raped by Alfredo who turns out to be a wanted serial rapist and killer. What follows is another visual set piece of the rape and murder of another victim.

Anna escapes and attempts to put her life back together.  As she does, Anna has sudden shifts in her personality, appearance, and behavior.  She has another Stendhal experience before being reinstated to limited duties as a Detective with mandated counseling sessions.  Anna becomes obsessed in finding Alfredo and his visage begins to dominate her every thought.  She returns a colleague’s romantic advances with a simulation of her sexual assault by Alfredo.

Anna returns to her hometown and family for a more supportive environment.  However, her distant relationship with her father doesn’t help any.   Anna tries painting as therapy without rrelief  It actually seems to drive her deeper into mental instability.  While this goes on, we see Alfredo target, rape and murder another victim in a harsh set piece.  As Anna contacts early victims who attest to Alfredo’s brutality and devastating impact, Alfredo calls Anna from within her apartment and kidnaps her once again.  

Alfredo brings Anna to his lair and in the harshest set piece brutally assaults and rapes Anna.  He keeps her captive, and Anna has another Stendhal fugue of sexual torment.  Alfredo returns for another assault, when Anna manages to turn the tables on him.  She fights viscously and recovers her gun. In Alfredo’s attempt to exert psychological dominance, Anna manages to shoot Alfredo and disables him in a cathartic beating.  She taunts Alfredo before dumping him helpless into a waterfall and raging waters below.   

The final third of the film finds Anna unable to shake Alfredo’s psychological scars, even as she flips back to a feminine persona and appearance.  The investigation into Alfredo’s background reveals a distorted obsession with Anna.  She claims to be recovered from her visions and their effects.  She meets a French art student and the budding romance seems to put her on the path to recovery.  Suddenly, Anna is getting phone calls from Alfredo, and Anna’s new lover is mysteriously murdered.  Anna is notified that Alfredo’s body has been recovered and she seeks clarity from her psychologist who instead challenges her distorted point-of-view on Alfredo’s influence over her.

In the film’s climax, Anna’s colleague Marco rushes to see Anna as we see Anna fully transform to her feminine, protective self.  We see the body of her psychologist who was brutally murdered by Anna. We along with Marco see Anna finally revealed as the murderer of her psychologist and lover. Anna has finally succumbed to Alfredo’s madness in full. She lures Marco to her car and kills him. Anna attempts to flee, but we know she never will be free of Alfredo as the film ends.

As I mentioned, the Stendhal Syndrome is dominated by the theme of inversions: 

  • The story upends the usual giallo tropes with the killer being known early in the film.
  • The killer, Alfredo, is dispatched at the midpoint of the film.
  • Anna becomes predator a la rape revenge movies (Call Her One Eye; Repulsion; I Spit on Your Grave).
  • Anna becomes more aggressive both sexually and personality, dresses more masculine, and later seeks out and repeats her degradation on Alfredo
  • Anna later flips back to her feminine side to but continues to lose control of her sanity and ultimately descends into madness a la Repulsion

The Stendhal Syndrome is a strong entry in the giallo pantheon.  Argento’s aggressively misogynistic treatment of how women are assaulted and murdered, rivaling Fulci’s The New York Ripper) and Asia Argento’s relatively young age in the role (just 21 during release) may put off some.  I argue that by this time Argento had included more slasher-style set pieces as with Tenebrae, Trauma and Opera so this shouldn’t come as a surprise and that  Asia Argento’s performance does not limit her character development.  

Further strengthening the viewer’s experience is Thomas Krestchmann’s sublime performance as the sociopath Alfredo, the moody cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno, and Ennio Morricone’s usual nuanced score.  I recommend The Stendhal Syndrome for giallo and Argento fans who have seen his earlier works. Seek out Blue Underground’s 3-Disc Limited Edition for a full treatment of this deserved gem!

References

  • The Art of Madness: Inside ‘The Stendhal Syndrome” – Michael Gingold; Blue Underground 3-Disc Limited Edition © 2017
  • Film Commentary – Troy Howarth; ; Blue Underground 3-Disc Limited Edition © 2017
  • So Deadly, So Perverse, Vol. 2 – Troy Howarth; Midnight Marquee Press, Inc; © 2015
  • https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117658/reference

5 Dead on the Crimson Canvas (1996)

Man, a Super-8 looking movie made in 1996 that’s supposed to look like a scuzzy 1971 Italian film? Yes, that’s pretty much exactly the kind of movie that I’m looking for. And sure, the music is over the dialogue and nothing really makes sense, but if I worried about films making sense, I would have stopped this site long ago.

I mean, a beatnik poet spells out the title of the film and all of the dialogue is way off from the peope speaking it and there are big stretches where nothing happens, but hey — it’s basically an American crew trying to make something that hasn’t been made for a quarter of a century.

I don’t know how good the rest of writer/director Joseph F. Parda’s films are but with titles like Evil Streets and Machines of Love and Hate, they are wonderous if only in my imagination.

So yeah — it’s about an artist obsessed with death getting killed, his body disappearing and his brother searching for it through a sexually twisted underground. You know — what we call Tuesday around here.

Vibrations (1996)

Amid the flurry of Beatles movies we reflected on during this third “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” with our “The Beatles: Influence on Film” series, this one-watch, utterly forgettable Beatles-inspired sidebar came to mind. Then there’s our memorializing the late Tawny Kitaen . . . and our remembering her work in the analogous, sick ‘n sensitive musician flick, Crystal Heart (1986). (See our “Exploring: Tawny Kitaen” featurette.)

Yes, we said “Beatles” sidebar.

Now, before you start with the comments, let us explain.

Back in the days when Sting of the Police flexed his thespian skills and received positive reviews in his fifth project and first leading-man role in Brimstone and Treacle (1982), and then the lead as Baron Frankenstein in The Bride (1985), the pre-Internet rock press (don’t search for it online, it’s not there) reported Sting would star in the lead of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Inspired by the George Harrison composition from the Beatles’ “White Album” (1968) — Beatles’ friend Eric Clapton — who provided the lead guitar on the classic tune — would provide the soundtrack (it could have been in Circus or Hit Parader, maybe Spin).

The Beatles’ recording appeared on the soundtrack to Withnail and I (1987), a comedy film set in late-1960s London and produced by Harrison’s company, HandMade Films. (I can’t recall if HandMade was involved in the production, again, in that news blurb that . . . is not a figment of my imagination.)

Regardless, that proposed-rumored film, about a famous musician (Sting) losing his hands in a tragic accident (guitar by Eric Clapton), who then deals with the aftermath of no longer being able to create music, was never made.

And to the cinema gods, we thank you.

For meshing John Travolta’s The Boy in the Plastic Bubble with a Beatles rock ‘n’ roll subplot is a film that would send any sane Beatles lover screaming out of their local Blockbuster with blood-soaked hands. So, with that project from hell, finite: we get this Miramax-backed (curse you, Weinsteins) cyberpunk version of the Hands of Orlac, aka Mad Love (1935, but remade in 1961 and 1962), starring a then-hot Twin Peaks and Married . . . with Children alums.

Oh, HBO in the ’90s, when you were too cheap to purchase decent films to justify your excessive subscription rates, we love you for giving us films like Vibrations in between your incessant replays of Dom DeLuise’s Hot Stuff and nobody-asked-for-Bill Murray’s brother in Moving Violations.

Picking up the good vibrations: Daft Punk

Michael Paseornek — who gave us (well, at least me and Sam the Bossman) an always-welcomed Lorenzo Lamas (in the pretty fine 2020 indie, Water) one-two punch with his screenplays for Snake Eater (1989) and Snake Eater II (1989) — makes his lone directing bow with his seventh (and final) screenplay.

In this Ed Wood meets cyber-novelist William Gibson tale — we meet T.J Cray (James Marshall of Twin Peaks, but looking a lot like John Savage, here), an up-and-coming rock star. On his way to an A&R audition, he’s victimized by thugs — and loses his hands in the melee.

With his ability to make music, gone, and his girlfriend repulsed by his plastic-artificial hands (perpetual magnets for sharp, stabbing objects and fire), T.J becomes a homeless drunk. Upon his rescue of a damsel-in-distress outside of an illegal rave (this film is loaded with slobbering-for-fun-thugs), T.J finds sympathy from Anamika (Christian Applegate), a computer artist and the promoter of that illegal warehouse rave, because . . . well, in real life, hot girls always treat sketchy homeless men like a stray puppy in the movies. And, unlike real life street urchins, T.J is — even under the soot and grime — a non-alcohol, six-packed hottie, again . . . only in the movies: where the homeless, sans access to dental care or gym equipment, always have perfect teeth and muscle tone. (Just don’t. I am not making light of homelessness. I was, once, myself. So stow the acidic comments, Cletus.)

Anyway . . . taking up residence in Anamika’s artist-occupied apartment building (the income-to-abode ratio, as with Jennifer Aniston and the Friends gang, doesn’t compute), she introduces T.J to her Wired to Kill-inspired techno-geek neighbor who fits him with his new invention: robot hands, aka cyberhands. Then, fitted with a metallic “cybersuit,” and his piano skills returned — even more efficiently because of the robotics — T.J becomes an international sensation known as Cyberstorm.

And we’d rather go see the Blue Man Group and the Residents. Maybe if Cyberstorm wore a giant eyeball over his head. Or lost his eyes, as well as his hands, and received a set of Steve Austin* eyes . . . and became the internationally known Ministry with the worldwild hit, “Jesus Built My Hot Rod.”

But can he grind on a Hammond B-3 or a Yamaha CS-80? That’s the question.

Yeah, in case you’re wondering: this film’s knowledge of techno, rave, and avant-garde dance rock is utterly non-existent and is nothing but the set design window dressing that it is. (Illegal raves are by word of mouth; raves do not set up 800 numbers.) But if you can get past the dopey characters spewing techno-gobbly-gook, the music of the genre’s stars — who serve as the “sounds” of Cyberstorm — Utah Saints and 808 State, are pretty cool.

Sure, we got Daft Punk out the deal. But Jesus still didn’t build this hot rod — a hot rod that, if we go by the dates on the set-design flyers inside one of the rave warehouse gigs, took three years to transition from the film set to the cable screen. And notice that, before social media: you (apparently) called 800 numbers for the scenster hook-up.

Eh, whatever. It’s all captured in the lens well enough, but the proceedings are pure meh Albert Pyun — if you recall Radioactive Dreams and Vicious Lips. Marshall and Applegate are mediocre, and Faye Grant (TV’s V, Omen IV) and Paige Turco (April O’Neill from the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles franchise) have been better, and in better. And it saddens that Vibrations served the final film of journeyman TV actor Steven Keats (of the films Death Wish, Black Sunday ’77), who died in 1994 (at a youthful 49), just after completing his work on the film (which additionally “dates” the production).

And we dare you to call that number. We dare you. Hey, maybe Jenny will answer. You never know.

https://bandsaboutmovies.files.wordpress.com/2021/09/761e7-vibrations-11.jpg
Screencap courtesy of fellow fan Yum-Yum at House of Self-Indulgence.

As an executive producer, Michael Paseornek would go to great success with Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects, the critically-acclaimed Akleelah and the Bee (2006), the Americanized J-Horror The Eye, Punisher: War Zone, and The Hunger Games franchise. And, thanks to Mike, we get this sweet-as-hell box set.

Oh, hell yes, Mr. Paseornek. Oh, yes. We bow.

Even with its shortfalls, Vibrations is a pre-The Matrix VHS classic with a loyal fan base, as these You Tube uploads of the film HERE and HERE, and clips from the film HERE and HERE, prove. If you’re into the techo-rave side of ’90s alternative rock, this will hold your interest.

Now, when is someone making a metal version of The Hands of Orlac with Swedish symphonic metal bands?

Many thanks, once again, to Paul Z. over at VHS Collector.com for the clean images. Be sure to check out his reviews of the DVD and Blu-ray reissues of the lost VHS classics of the ’80s on his Analog Archivist You Tube portal.

* We did an entire week of Lee Majors flicks. Do join us with our “Lee Majors Week,” won’t you?

Speaking of Beatles: Be sure to join us for our three part “The Beatles: Influence on Film” series as we look at 33 films dealing with the legacy of the Beatles.

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