MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies: The Jackal (1997)

A loose remake of The Day of the Jackal, this was Sidney Poitier’s last movie, which makes me sad, as well as a movie that has an absolutely hilarious scene where Bruce Willis uses a remote controlled machine gun to turn Jack Black into hamburger.

You know who wasn’t pleased by this remake? Just about everyone involved with the original movie, including director Fred Zinnemann, author Frederick Forsyth, actor Edward Fox and producer John Woolf. They hated it so much that they filed an injunction to prevent Universal from using the original name and made the film use an “inspired by” credit.

I mean, how often how we wondered who would win in a fight, Willis or Richard Gere? But seriously, Willis is The Jackal, a killing machine, and Gere is Declan Joseph Mulqueen, an IRA sniper who may be the only man deadlier as an assassin.

Geeks like me went to see this movie because Gere’s lover Isabella Celia Zancona was played by Mathilda May from Lifeforce. Well, I also really liked Michael Caton-Jones’ Scandal, so that brought me in, same as when he made Basic Instinct 2. The script came from Chuck Pfarrer, who wrote Navy SEALsDarkmanHard Target and Barb Wire. All of those movies are more entertaining than this.

When Gere first appears, he has a mustache and goatee. He wanted to switch up his look, which upset  Universal, so that’s why there’s a scene where Gere asks for a razor after accepting the job. This is the absolute dumbest thing I’ve written in some time and I blame this movie.

The Mill Creek Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies set includes Kull the Conqueror, The Cowboy Way and End of Days. You can get it from Deep Discount.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies: Kull the Conqueror (1997)

It’s difficult to review this movie in 2023 instead of 1997, knowing what I know about Kevin Sorbo today. Regardless, I’m going to try and be impartial and just discuss how this movie isn’t very good based on its own lack of merits and leave my politics out of it.

Originally intended to be the third Conan film, Conan the Conqueror, this movie made the switch to another Robert E. Howard character when Arnold Schwarzenegger dropped out and Sorbo came on. He didn’t want to be a character already played by someone else — I mean, there’s no way you would come out on top no matter who you are when compared to Arnold as Conan — so the character was changed to Kull, even though the story is based on the Conan story “The Phoenix on the Sword” and the novel The Hour of the Dragon, as well as the Kull story “By This Axe I Rule!” which was rewritten as “The Phoenix on the Sword.”

Screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue (Psycho IIIDragonheartThe Fly) told IGN, “Both Dragonheart and Kull the Conqueror fell far short of where I had originally intended them to go. Two lauded scripts that were diminished in the long process that it took to get them to the screen. Dragonheart is a disappointment. Kull is a disaster. Both lost their poetry, panache and power.”

Kull — as per “Shadows of the Skull” a direct descendent of Conan and an enemy of Thulsa Doom, who was the character played by James Earl Jones in Conan the Barbarian — fights several soldiers to prove himself and be given the ability to join Valusia’s elite Dragon Legion. Then, General Taligaro (Thomas Ian Griffith) informs him that because he’s just a simple barbarian from Atlantis, he can never join a noble legion. That said, seeing as how King Borna (if you can’t get Arnold, get one of his best friends, Sven-Ole Thorsen) is going mad and killing all of his heirs, Taligaro rides back home with Kull following. Instead of the long road from gladiator to mercenary and civil war in the books, the King is quickly killed by Kull and with his dying words, makes the outsider the king.

Kull has a whole harem of women now, including the fortuneteller Zareta (Karina Lombard), who once told him he would be king. He tries to win her over and sleep with her, but she reminds him that she’s a slave and he must command her to do that. This kind of disgusts Kull, who decides that he’s going to get rid of slaves and this ends up making all the nobles mad.

Meanwhile, Taligaro works with the necromancer Enaros (Edward Tudor-Pole) to bring back Sorceress Queen and demon goddess Akivasha (Tia Carrere) and have her place Kull into a coma, which is blamed on Zareta, then taking over the kingdom. Luckily, Kull is saved by Valkan priest Ascalante (Gary Davis), who just so happens to be Zareta’s brother. Taking the ship of slaver Juba (Harvey Fierstein, who shut my mind off being in this), he travels to find the Breath of Valka, the only thing that can stop this demon in the force of french kissing it into her mouth.

So yeah. That’s the movie.

At least it has a role for Pat Roach, who always shows up as henchmen, like the flying wing mechanic Indiana Jones punches into a propeller and General Kael in Willow. He also appeared as Lord Brytag in Red Sonja and Thoth-Amon in Conan the Destroyer, so he knows Howard movies.

John Nicolella mainly directed TV — nine episodes of Miami Vice — before coming on to this movie. It’s mind numbingly bad and this is coming from someone who savors Italian sword and sorcery films like The Throne of Fire and Ironmaster. Kull never does anything to let you know why you should care about him, literally stumbling into being king, instantly having it taken from him and having nearly his entire crew get killed around him. It’s, as they say, a mess.

The Mill Creek Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies set includes The Cowboy Way, The Jackal and End of Days. You can get it from Deep Discount.

Strawberry Estates (1997, 1999)

When someone tells you that The Blair Witch Project was the first found footage movie, they weren’t even the first in the 90s.

A parapsychology professor, his students and a psychic have locked themselves in the haunted Smith Garrett Building or Strawberry Estates. It’s one of the greatest challenges of psychics and parapsychologists and has become legendary. That’s because this is a place that really is packed with evil and there’s no way anyone is making it out alive.

The 1997 version had a different cast, which included Debbie Rochon and Tina Krause, but director and writer Ron Bonk went back and shot all of that all over again.

It’s long, there’s a lot of talking — I enjoyed the faith discussions more than you may — and there could be a lot of fat trimmed, but when it works, it works.

As you may know, I dislike most found footage movies, so the fact that I finished this 100-minute-long film speaks to the fact that it has something going for it.

You can watch this on Tubi or buy it from SRS.

Wrath of the Skunk Ape (1997)

Suburban Sasquatch came from West Chester, PA but the Skunk Ape is from Detroit and he’s the creation of Mike C. Hartman, who went on to direct ChubbiesBlood Orgy at Beaver Lake and Detroit Blood City. His enemy is Stinky Thumbs Arbuckle, a redneck who dreams of one day getting to kill him and there you go. You get forty minutes of that.

You know how Stanley Kubrick shot Barry Lyndon by candlelight, forcing one candle manufacturer to cancel all of their orders for a year so they could exclusively supply him with the only candles good enough for him, as well as how the candles were so hot, used so much oxygen and gave off so much choking smoke that the crew was in danger so they used of reflectors to amplify them so they wouldn’t  be in danger any longer? Yeah, this was shot on a camcorder in front of a campfire and looks nothing like the magic that Kubrick and director of photography John Alcott got in that movie. You just get blurry images of a man with a goofy fake accent battling another man in a monkey suit that has a zipper showing.

The real skunk ape mostly shows up in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, not Detroit, and nearly had a law passed in 1977 that was to keep Florida hunters from abducting or killing this creature. Forty-eight out of sixty-seven counties in Florida have had sightings since 2010 and you know, that’s not really a surprise, is it?

The skunk ape also, as you can expect from the name, stinks as bad as this movie.

You can watch this on YouTube.

JEAN ROLLIN-UARY: Two Orphan Vampires (1997)

Lousie (Alexandra Pic) and Henriette (Isabelle Teboul) are the two orphan vampires of the title, blind and lost by day, wandering the streets of Paris for blood by night.

Based on his book Les deux orphelines vampires, Jean Rollin is a man of obsessions, coming back time and again to his nighttime world of lost bloodsuckers, a bleak place where tragedy is always close, but yet I find true joy within his films.

I also love that a copy of the Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs book Immoral Tales: European Sex & Horror Movies 1956–1984 shows up at one point, a book that introduced me to Rollins, Franco and Larraz, a debt that I can probably never repay.

Ghouls, a female bat named Venus (Veronique Dajouti, who permanently injured her back during this scene and never sued Rollin) and werewolves live in this fairy tale and oh yes, Brigitte Lahaie and Tina Aumont.

I could wander these same foggy paths — and assuredly will — with Jean forever.

You can watch this on Kino Cult.

Vegas Vacation (1997)

Vegas Vacation is the first movie in the series not to be a National Lampoon movie or a John Hughes script, although the extent of his work on National Lampoon’s European Vacation was that they took ideas he didn’t use for National Lampoon’s Vacation and had to give him credit. He didn’t like that the series had turned into a star vehicle for Chevy Chase and heard about the movie in a trade after it was already being made.

Ethan Embry is the new Rusty and Marisol Nichols is Audrey, while Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid and Miriam Flynn all return. So does Christie Brinkley, despite not being in the past few sequels. Hijinks ensue, this time in Sin City, as Clark becomes addicted to gambling, Rusty becomes high rolling Nick Pappagiorgio, Ellen gets chased by Wayne Netwon and Audrey becomes an exotic dancer with her cousin Vicki (Shae D’lyn).

Directed by Stephen Kessler and written by Elisa Bell and Bob Ducsay, this is a movie that wastes Sid Caesar in his last role and goes away from what made the two best movies — National Lampoon’s Vacation and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation — work. This has no basis in reality and instead is just a vehicle for schtick with no sentiment to make it memorable.

Home Alone 3 (1997)

Directed by Raja Gosnell (Scooby DooBeverly Hills ChihuahuaNever Been Kissed as well as the editor of the first two movies in this series) and written and produced by John Hughes, this was the first Home Alone movie not to feature actor Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister or director Chris Columbus and composer John Williams. It was also the last movie in the series to actually play big screens.

Terrorists Peter Beaupre (Olek Krupa), Alice Ribbons (Rya Kihlstedt), Burton Jernigan (Lenny Van Dohlen) and Earl Unger (David Thornton, the husband of Cyndi Lauper) have taken a million dollar microchip and hidden it in a remote control car that has been given as a gift by old Mrs. Hess (Marian Seldes) to new protagonist Alex Pruit (Alex D. Linz) when he shovels her driveway. You can guess what happens next, right?

Home Alone 3 going to be made at the same time as Home Alone 2: Lost in New York but that idea didn’t happen. There was also the idea to have Culkin to return as a teenage Kevin but that didn’t occur either.

An 11-year-old Scarlett Johansson is Alex’s sister Molly which is, I guess, one thing to look out for while this movie just drags. Oh yeah — James Saito, Shredder himself, plays a crime boss.

This movie is not good but compared to where the Home Alone movies would go after this…

88 FILMS 4K UHD RELEASE: Drive (1997)

Steven Wang co-directed The Guyver before making this wild kung fu movie in America in which Toby Wong (Mark Dacascos) has an advanced bio-device installed in his chest that gives him superhuman speed and agility. He doesn’t want China to get it after Hong Kong goes back into their control, so he runs to America to sell the device for $5 million with the Chinese government and their killer Vic Madison (John Pyper-Ferguson) and his henchman Hedgehog (Tracey Walter, always Bob the Goon) in the lead. Yet because they need the device working, they can’t kill Toby.

Meeting up with songwriter Malik Brody (Kadeem Hardison) and gun crazy Deliverance Bodine (Brittany Murphy), Toby makes his way to Los Angeles, finally engaging all of the folks chasing him — and the new Advanced Model (Masaya Kato) who has an even better device — in a battle to the death.

So yeah — it sounds like every other action adventure movie that went direct to video. But Drive is special, infused with just enough weirdness and off-centered ideas to be something really amazing. I mean, what other movie has former Leatherface R. A. Mihailoff play a singing trucker?

I don’t know how this movie never found me until today, but I’m beyond happy that it did. If you’re ready for some great fight scenes, fast chases and lots of unexpected oddness, grab this now.

The 88 Films release of Drive has a limited Edition slipcase with artwork by Sam Gilbee, a 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible), audio commentary with director Steve Wang, fight choreographer Koichi Sakamoto and stars Mark Dacascos and Kadeem Harrison, the original cut that didn’t appear in America, a behind-the-scenes documentary, six deleted scenes, an interview gallery with cast, director and crew and a trailer. You can get it from MVD.


15. A Horror Film With Special Effects by Olaf Ittenbach.

Olaf Ittenbach is something else. I mean, if you thought Black Past or The Burning Moon was all he was going to do, this movie takes those movies and blows them away.

Premutos is the first of the fallen, predating Lucifer, and his son has been preparing the world for his rule since before time. Meanwhile, Mathias begins to have flashbacks of being the son of this dark god and remembers being crucified next to Jesus, the diseases of the dark ages and Russia in the time of war. Now, he’s found an ancient book and a potion that will mutate him into his true form, which means he’s about to ruin his human father’s birthday and usher in the dark age of Premutos.

Shot on 16mm and blown up to grainy and gory majesty, as the human body is destroyed in so many ways. Chainsawed, exploded, shot, stabbed, pierced, split, sliced and so many more ways to see how much blood is inside a person.

This movie makes it seem like Ittenbach had taken a personal mission in making Germany the gore and splatter leader. I mean, how much blood is enough? Obviously that answer is infinity if you follow this one, because everyone and everything is covered in it. It’s like he saw Raimi, saw Jackson and said, “Hold my Schneider Weisse Aventinus Eisbock.”

You know how people were throwing up — allegedly — during Terrifier 2? This movie has a scene where a man has metal rods appear out of his body, pushing their way out of his teeth and his body is pulled apart by wire as it shoots blood all over an apartment.

This movie almost has too much in it and I love it for that. It was like its creator was worried he’d never make another movie, so he made every movie he wanted to make for the rest of his existence all at once. We’re all the better for it, unless you try and eat during this. Actually, I had a whole bunch of Extreme Sour Warheads and just kept adding them to my mouth at the end as everything went crazy and I went into a sugar rush and started screaming at the TV.

This is, as the assholes say, cinema.

You can watch this on Tubi.


5. A Horror Film Directed by a Fine Artist.

Cynthia Sherman is a fine artist whose work is mainly a series of photographic self-portraits, depicting herself in many different contexts and as various imagined characters. Her best-regarded work is the collected “Untitled Film Stills”, a series of 70 black-and-white photographs of herself playing the female roles of arthouse films and exploitation films.

Working from a script that she wrote with Elise MacAdam, Todd Haynes and Tom Kalin, Sherman made Office Killer, a movie in which Dorine Douglas (Carol Kane) goes from taking the corpse of her friend Gary Michaels (David Thornton) after he accidentally gets electrocuted to going on a murder spree that includes artistic murders of Girl Scout, the office manager Norah Reed (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and Reed’s lover Daniel Birch (Michael Imperioli). By the end, she’s on the road, a severed head in the passenger seat, looking for another office job.

Plus, Molly Ringwald works in the same office and Eric Bogosian appears in dreams as Dorine’s father.

This movie isn’t sure what it wants to be. Does it want to play the violence off-screen or shove your face in it? Is it a parody of slashers or just a bad one? It’s hard to tell. It reminds me of why I don’t really like C.H.U.D. because it seems like everyone in it is above being in a horror movie. I do like that the art for it tries to make it look like a 90s erotic office thriller, which it is not.