LEE MAJORS WEEK: Trojan War (1997)

Trojan War cost $15 million to make, played one theater for a week and made $309 dollars.

Yes. $309 dollars.

It’s also a movie that features Jennifer Love Hewett as the geeky friend, which seems like casting that most boys in 1997 would not agree with. It’s kind of an extended version of the condom story in Amazon Women on the Moon, as Brad (Will Friedle, Boy Meets World) is finally getting the chance to aardvark with Brooke (Marley Shelton, Planet Terror), yet she demands he get a condom, which is where the title comes from.

There are a few moments that 80’s comedy fans will like, such as a homeless man demanding two dollars and it ends up being David Patrick Kelly, who was Luther in The Warriors. Or Anthony Michael Hall not being a geek but instead being a bullying bus driver, driving the bus from Speed. Seriously. The exact same bus, which is Santa Monica bus #2525.

For those enjoying Lee Majors week on our site, he shows up as Officer Austin and ends up giving Brad a condom, which makes a bionic sound effect as the rubber sails toward our hero. His call sign is also Seven Mary Three, which fans of CHiPs will recognize.

Of course, this being a teen comedy, our hero will find the right girl and all will work out. Along the way, there are appearances by Danny Masterson, Wendie Mallick (I never miss the chance to make a Dream On reference) and, as all 90’s movies must, a cameo from Danny Trejo.

This was directed by George Huang, who put up Robert Rodriguez when he was new to Hollywood. He also directed Swimming With Sharks and How to Make a Monster.

The soundtrack to this is pretty interesting, with a mix of 90’s stuff like Letter to Cleo, Star 69, Everclear and Imperial Teen mixed with unexpected artists like Fu Manchu and Peter Murphy.

All in all, it’s not the worst teen movie comedy I’ve seen.

The Journey: Absolution (1997)

With most of Earth destroyed by an asteroid, only one small military base has survived. New America, located in the Arctic, is our last best hope of repopulating the Earth. Luckily, it’s staffed by 1990’s TV stars like Richard Grieco, Nick Spano, Jaime Pressly and most importantly, Mario Lopez.

If you’re wondering, “WIll I see Mario without a shirt in this movie?” allow me to set your mind at ease. David DeCoteau directed this. So yes, the fact that he even wears a shirt in the cold permafrost of the Arctic should amaze you.

This movie posits that a murder has happened on the base and that Lopez is there to investigate why Grieco’s character is abusing his soldiers. But really it’s about dudes just hanging and banging in their boxers or briefs while burning each other with cigars, hugging it out and sipping steroids out of a giant goblet, because look, DeCoteay has an audience and they — and he — demand such actions.

You can watch this on Tubi. There’s also a Rifftrax version which I’d watch instead of the original.

SON OF KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Godzilla Island (1997)

In the future of 2097,  Earth’s kaiju all live on Godzilla Island, living under constant watch from the G-Guard. Godzilla, Godzilla Junior, Rodan, Kumasogami, Jigora, American Godzilla, Dogora — who was never even in a Godzilla movie before — Fire Rodan, King Ghidorah, Mecha-King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla, Mothra, Mothra Leo, Anguirus, Gigan, Hedorah, Destoroyah, Baragon, King Caesar, Moguera, Megalon, Battra, SpaceGodzilla, Gorosaurus, Kamacuras and several versions of Jet Jaguar all reside there.

This show is pretty wild, as it was filmed with Bandai’s Godzilla Island toys with effects much like Robot Chicken to make them seem alive. The stories are crazy too, all told in three-minute episodes with overarching themes.

I mean, a Godzilla show that has The Edge from U2 doing music? It’s pretty out there.

The 22 stories of the show start with the Xiliens bringing Space Godzilla to Godzilla Island before battles ensue with Mecha-King Ghidorah, Godzilla being hypnotized by Space Godzilla, a Neo-Hedorah showing up and a Fire Fighter and Medic Jet Jaguar making appearances.

If you like Gigan, good news. He becomes a good guy over this series. And there’s a new monster named Gororin who is basically a cactus.

While this has never been released in the U.S. and Toho often pulls down any links, some brave folks have made an English dub and posted it on the Internet Archive. It’s silly, but a lot of fun, obviously made by people with a great love for all things kaiju.

 

Mommy’s Day (1997)

This movie starts right where the original ended, with former The Bad Seed Patty McCormack’s character Mrs. Sterling about to be executed by lethal injection for the murders in the first movie.

For some reason, her sister Beth (Brinke Stevens) has brought Mommy’s daughter to watch her die, as well as her attorney (Mickey Spillane!). Mommy is granted last rites and uses that to escape before being shot and wounded by her nemesis Lt. March (now played by Arlen Dean Snyder instead of Jason Miller) who has a stroke before he can finish her off.

For some reason — or we wouldn’t have a movie — Mrs. Sterling doesn’t go back on Death Row. Instead, her psychiatrist makes a crazy deal with the state. She’ll live as long as she undergoes a radical surgery where anti-psychotic medicine will be automatically be released into her body through a device implanted in her hand.

Sure! I mean, why not!

Everyone who crosses Mrs. Sterling as she tries to reconnect with her daughter gets horribly murdered, which we’re led to believe is all her doing. Or is it? There’s also the matter of her sister getting married to Paul Conway (Paul Petersen from The Donna Reed Show), the man who wrote The Mommy Murders, a book all about the first movie’s events.

By the end of the movie, rest assured, Mrs. Sterling is back to her old ways but strangely enough as the heroine of this story.

McCormack, Rachel Lemieux, Brinke Stevens, Marian Wald and Spillane all play the same characters as in the original film, while Sarah Jane Miller returns as the twin sister of the character that Mommy killed in the original movie. Shot in Iowa all over again, this movie even has a real TV show — Paula Sands Live — and takes advantage of Lemieux’s ice skating interest as part of her character.

The last shot of the movie, with Stevens looking like she’s about to kill everyone — was to set up a third film where she would try to do pretty much that while being opposed by a now heroic Mrs. Sterling.

Both of the Mommy films are available from VCI.

Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997)

If anyone can make a movie about the Leprechaun in space entertaining, it’s going to be Brian Trenchard-Smith. I mean, this is a movie where a space marine urinates all over the dead body of the little guy and the dead leprechaun’s spirit turns into VD and climbs into his urethra. With just that idea alone, I’m pretty much into this movie.

Also, Warwick Davis’ Leprechaun is going to marry Zarina, a princess, and become a king, but she just wants his gold. They both plan on killing one another when those space soldiers, led by the cybernetic Dr. Mittenhand, come to rescue the princess. That dude gets turned into a monstrous spider/scorpion and the leprechaun goes gigantic.

Obviously, this movie has nothing to do with any of the others in the series. It started as a ripoff of Apollo 13 and just got sillier from there. It works. I mean, this movie features nearly every single character getting horribly destroyed. I’m all for that.

Moon Over Tao: Makaraga (1997)

So just imagine if someone made a period samurai movie, then decided to base the monster design on something out of Giger*, all while keeping the sheer insane level of geyser blood that you demand from Japanese sword films.

This is that movie.

A retired warrior returns to visit his former lord and learns that someone is making indestructible swords from an unknown metal. Along with a swordsman and a young beekeeper who has seen three alien women who may be related to this metal, he undertakes a question to determine how to stop the beasts that have found their way to Earth. This issue becomes critically important when the alien monster is soon controlled by the elder warrior and young swordsman’s greatest nemesis.

This movie is completely ridiculous and you can consider that a compliment.

*Actually, they were designed by director Keita Amemiya, who also was a designer on the Onimusha games, as well as Zeiram and several modern incarnations of Kamen Rider.

Touch (1997)

If you know your Quentin Tarantino, and we know you do, you know the career of American novelist Elmore Leonard through the Q’s adaptation of Leonard’s Rum Punch (1992) as Jackie Brown (1997). Of course, that was preceded by Barry Sonddenfeld’s adaptation of Get Shorty (1995) starring John Travolta, which was based on the 1990 novel of the same name, and Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight (1998) starring George Clooney, which was based on the 1996 novel of the same name.

Of course, long before Tarantino exposed Leonard to a new audience, Leonard’s novels produced the Burt Lancaster-starring Valdez is Coming (1971), the Charles Bronson-starring Mr. Majestyk (1974), Stick (1985) with Burt Reynolds (Smokey and the Bandit), and 52 Pick-Up with Roy Scheider (Sorcerer). And Tarantino hasn’t given up on Leonard: back in 2009 he optioned the 1972 novel Forty Lashes Less One. But since the Q has stated he’s not making anymore films after Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood, sans his interest in doing a Star Trek film, we’ll have to accept that film will never come to fruition.

Courtesy of impawards.com

In all, twenty-six of Leonard’s novels and short stories have been adapted for the screen, with nineteen as motion pictures and another seven as television series and TV movies. And this film co-starring John Doe of X is one of those movies.

And unlike most of his works, which were westerns, mostly crime dramas, and a smattering of suspense thrillers, Leonard broke “format” and came up with Touch (1987), a lesser known, dramatic-black comedy concerning an ex-Monk (Skeet Ulrich of Scream fame) who becomes a substance abuse counselor; when he acquires the divine abilities of faith healing, he’s manipulated by a fundamentalist preacher (Tom Arnold) and washed up evangelist (Christopher Walken). Love triangles ensue with Bridget Fonda (Singles) and Gina Gershon (Prey for Rock & Roll). And Anthony Zerbe (Mathias from The Omega Man) shows up as a Father Donahue, a Catholic Priest.

Now, you would think that an Elmore Leonard novel adapted and directed for the big screen by Paul Schrader of Taxi Driver fame (and his rock ‘n’ roll love letter with Joan Jett’s Light of Day) would be a box office winner.

Wrong.

As with the poorly reviewed and, in most cases, rarely seen, and/or poorly distributed Be Cool (2005; with John Travolta), Freaky Deaky (2012; with Christian Slater of Playback), and (the truly awful) Life of Crime (2013; with a woefully miscast Jennifer Aniston), Touch failed in its test screenings and in its limited theatrical release before being dumped into the home video market.

And not even its alternative rock tie-in to the then “hot” grunge-rock wave engulfing America from the Pacific Northwest could save the film.

At the time, I was spinning alt-rock tunes and the Touch soundtrack was an instant add to our station’s rotation due to its grungy pedigree. All of the alt-rock rags and radio trades of the day made much ado about the film as one of the post-Nirvana projects by Dave Grohl; the drummer composed the film’s soundtrack (and played all of the instruments) for his new Capitol Records imprint, Roswell Records, a concern that found great success with the 1995 freshman and 1997 sophomore releases by Foo Fighters: Foo Fighters and The Colour and the Shape. While the majority of the soundtrack features instrumental tracks to score the film, it also featured the songs “This Loving Thing (Lynn’s Song),” a collaboration between John Doe and Dave Grohl (Doe would later rearrange the song with his solo band, John Doe Thing). Grohl also collaborated with Louise Post of Veruca Salt (remember “Seether“?) on the film’s title cut theme song, “Touch.” (Luckily, the extremely rare soundtrack is uploaded to You Tube to enjoy.)

Now, remember as you watched the quintessential grunge flick, Singles (1992), after Soundgarden released their fourth studio album, Superunknown (1994), you began to recognize snippets of that album’s songs — “Spoonman” in particular — appearing as instrumentals in the film? (An uncredited Chris Cornell scored the film for Cameron Crowe.) Well, in the grooves of Touch you’ll hear snippets of Dave Grohl’s drum rolls and fills — “Stay Away” (aka “Pay to Play” in its demo form) in particular — from Nirvana’s breakthrough album, Nevermind.

At the time, Nirvana was hot, John Doe knew a good thing with grunge when he heard it and got X back into the studio — after their 1987 demise — with Hey Zeus! (1993), and Louise Post was the new alt-rock darling with MTV offering their full support to Veruca Salt and their debut, American Thighs (1994; You Tube).

So, with that alt-rock pedigree behind it, darn right alt-rock stations were spinning the soundtrack. My station even used the instrumental tracks for various production vignettes. And, as with the John Doe-starring A Matter of Degrees (1991), the Touch soundtrack was better known and more successful than the actual movie it intended to promote.

Now, if you remember your grunge (soap) operas, you’ll recall Dave Grohl wrote “Everlong” from The Colour and the Shape (1997), inspired by his ongoing romance with Louise Post. However, prior to her romance with Grohl, Andy Thompson, the lead vocalist and guitarist with the Dallas, Texas, alt-rock quartet the Buck Pets was a bit more blatant in his love for Louise Post: the Buck Pets’ eponymous Island Records debut (1989) closed out with “Song for Louise Post.”

Ah, sigh . . . alt-rock love with Punk Rock Girls.

Been there. Done that. And heart broken. Curled up on the couch watching the VHS of Touch with Kim, my little “punk rock girl,” aka my “Louise Post,” is one of my cherished memories; her apartment wafted with vanilla incents and clove cigarettes. A “Greasy Boys Pizza” on the coffee table. And she never did return my copy of the Touch compact disc.

I hope Kim still has that CD, plays it, and remembers me the way I remember her, as I write this review for B&S About Movies “John Doe Week.” And Kim and I really did hang out a place called the Zipperhead (Room). And she liked Mojo Nixon and we went to see the Dead Milkmen live. We went to quite a few club concerts together.

True love. Now I am an adult and life sucks. To touch that alt-rock dream, again. So thanks for the memories, Mr. Doe. I need to buy you beer, my friend.

Touch was previously available as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV, but has since been pulled. You can, however, stream it for a nominal fee on Vudu.

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

Repost: Vanishing Point (1997)

Editor’s Desk: This review originally ran on August 7, 2020, as part of our “Fast and Furious Week I” week of reviews and we’ve brought it back for John Doe Week.

Did you know their was a remake of Vanishing Point? It’s okay. No one does.

The FOX-TV Network—back when they were in the business of creating original content, in lieu of reality programming and weirdo-dorky Seinfeld (sorry, Sam) wanna-be shitcoms—retooled this 1971 classic made by their sister film studio. Ack! No one should be poking around Richard C. Sarafian’s classic. And how did Sarafian go from this, to Farrah Fawcett’s Sunburn (1979), to become “Alan Smithee” on Solar Crisis (1990)? And so it goes in the B&S About Movies universe. (See? Too many movies, so little time. So many reviews to write!)

Of course, since this is a TV film, the vague existentialism and “thinking road flick” gibberish of the original is excised, thus transforming Barry Newman’s Kowalski into an action hero. Luckily: it features the same model 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T as the original film. Sadly: the messages regarding religious cults, racism, drug abuse, homophobia, and police entrapment are lost . . . and we’re stuck with a Challenger-driven Bonnie and Clyde redux.

And if you thought Sarafian’s transition from Vanishing Point ’71 to Farrah was odd: The director, Charles Robert Carner, wrote Gymkata (1985)* for Robert Clouse. Yes. The film starring American Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas—as if no one learned their lessons from trying to turn Olympian Mitch Gaylord into a film star with American Anthem* and American Tiger.

In the Challenger cockpit is the always welcomed Viggo Mortensen (who starred in the rock-religious flick Salvation with his then wife, Exene Cervenka of X (we are reviewing it this week; look for it) ; and yes, he’s Aragorn from Lord of the Rings) as Kowalski; he’s still employed by a car delivery service, but now he’s a Desert Storm veteran pining for his glory days as a stock car racer. This Kowalski’s “need for speed” isn’t the result of drugs, bets or personal demons: he’s a clean, faithful husband desperate to get home to his pregnant wife who’s suddenly hospitalized. While the ‘70s Kowalski didn’t need a reason to say “Fuck the Man!” to earn his folk hero status, the ‘90s Kowalski becomes an Americana hero as result of being mislabeled as a “terrorist” by an overzealous government abusing new anti-terror laws. 

Helping out on the radio front is a politically outspoken DJ simply known as “The Voice,” (Jason “Beverly Hills 90210” Priestly, a FOX-TV series, natch) on KBHX 106.5, “The Voice of the Rocky Mountains.” At least Priestly’s DJ is hip enough to spin tunes such as “Volunteers” by the John Doe Thing. Not helping matters is a hard-edged, ex-stock racer turned Utah State Trooper (the always welcomed Steve Railsback of Lifeforce) in hot pursuit with a Hemi of his own and a catch-Kowalski-at-all-costs attitude (if this sounds a lot like the Marjoe Gortner-Railsback persuit in The Survivalist, it probably is.) And in with the desert-dwelling assist is rocker John Doe (A Matter of Degrees) as an anti-government tax evader with a knack for repairing Hemis. (And rock trivia buffs take note: This is only time you’ll see the ex-husbands of X vocalist Exene Cervenka—Viggo and John Doe—together in the same film.)

It’s interesting to note that while a TV movie, Vanishing Point ’97 has a 90-minute, theatrical-running time. Movies shot-for-TV run 80 minutes, then 40 minutes of commercials are added to fill a two-hour programming block. Thus, 10 minutes of advertising are lost to fit the film into that 120-minute programming block. That’s bad business. So, considering Viggo’s status at the time, was this intended as a theatrical feature, and 20th Century Fox realized their production faux-pas and dumped it on TV?

What do you think, Eric?

“Jesus. Even the poster for this sucks. What the f**k was Viggo thinking.”
— Eric, purveyor of film quality and Seinfeld hater

Indeed, Eric. Indeed.

You can watch Vanishing Point ’97 on You Tube.

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

* Sam? Bossman? How many times must I lay down the American Anthem/Gymkata gauntlet? At the very least, all I want for Christmas is a Sam Panico review of Gymkata. Amen.

Slasher Month: Snuff Kill, aka Screen Kill (1997)

This is the one time when the grainy, washed-out, 3/4″ tape production values of SOV films works to the advantage of its subject matter, in this case: a grimy, underground snuff film. And this film wastes no time in getting to the “snuff”: a woman tied and blindfolded to a chair has a knife’s tip navigate her body — then she’s repeatly stabbed. And we haven’t even got to the hung-by-the-ankles head explosion, the torso-leg separation by chainsaw, and the not-so-garden variety decapitation. This isn’t a film for the weak: it’s bloody, the nudity is bountiful, and the psychobabble as to the “why” is plot piffle. (And, as I recall, there’s a bit of coprophilia involved; if not in this film, it was one of the Shock-o-Rama banner’s other titles. So, you’ve been warned.)

Yeah, Snuff Kill has already exceeded the sleaze and gore shock content of the Holy Grail of the SOV/Big Box plains, Spine, which was made with the sole purpose of taking John Carpenter’s Halloween to its next grimy, logical step — and failed.

But not Snuff Kill, baby.

The VHS cover that I remember.

It’s dark. It’s mean. This is a film tricks that you — courtesy of its lack of the usual SOV camp — into believing you’re watching real kills and not Karo-n-food colored special effects. Are there acting and production faux pas? Are some of the SFXs a bit off-the-mark? Sure. This is a zero-budgeted SOV, after all. But for what is, essentially, a bunch of high school friends getting together on the weekends to make a movie, it’s a commendable effort.

The “uncut” VHS reissue I don’t remember. Kevin Smith’s Clerks, anyone?

The noirish tailspin of Doug, a struggling filmmaker who settles as a struggling wedding videographer, begins when, instead of going to the movies to see a horror flick, his squeeze decides they should go to metal concert. And Doug, loving both horror flicks and metal, does as his lady doth request (you know, just another pussy-whipped, bloody-metal lover like myself and Sam, the B&S Movies boss).

Doug comes to realize that the band he and his wife just watched — its members adorned in monk habits who slit their throats on stage — is fronted by his old high school buddy, Ralis (writer-director Al Dargo). And Ralis enlists his old camera-totin’ friend to make the ultimate gore flick scored with the music of his band. Doug (the not bad Mark Williams in his only film role) is, at first, fascinated by the “realistic” gore that Ralis creates; he soon comes to realize the “kills” are real. Of course, as with any film noir protagonist, Doug is repulsed and fascinated his friend’s exploits and becomes his reluctant, murdering accomplice.

Sigh. Thanks for the memories of the good ‘ol days of hitting the ol’ mom-and-pop video store sandwiched between a quickie market and Punjabi eatery with a gym on the corner bay next door to an insurance agency; a dinky-cheesy outlet stocked with way too many titles under the Shock-O-Rama banner (the owner was stocking the shelves more for himself than his clientele, obviously). The label also distributed Doug Ulrich and Al Dargo’s first two SOV entries: the even harder-to-find (than Snuff Kill) Scary Tales (1993) and Darkest Souls (1994). The music of the film is provided by (very cool-named) Thee Enigma Jar and Doug and Al’s band Surefire.

Yeah! There’s an age-restricted, sign-in upload on You Tube for Snuff Kill! And bless the analog lords, ye uploader loves their SOV horror! There’s several SOV titles on the Letterboxd Funtime TY page that will interest you, along with Doug Ulrich and Al Dargo’s debut feature, Scary Tales. Yes! This is going to be one awesome October, baby!

From the I Did Not Know that Files: Doug and Al returned in 2013 with another SOV blood-boiler, 7 Sins of the Vampire, copies of which you can purchase through Amazon and Best Buy.

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

Spice World (1997)

Bob Spiers had worked in British TV for years — BottomFawlty Towers and Absolutely Fabulous of the shows that he directed — before he was asked to direct the movie of the Spice Girls. He had no idea what they looked like and turned the job down untl Jennifer Saunders told him that he should take it.

If you want to be snooty and say that the Spice Girls didn’t mean anything, they were the first act to reach number one with their first six singles, as well as the first to debut at #1 in the UK charts five times in a row. And this movie, despite critical savagery, is still the highest-grossing movie of all time by a musical group.

At once embracing the pop culture that spawned them and thumbing their noses at it, Spice World is, well, about the Spice Girls avoiding bad press from newspaper owner Kevin McMaxford (Barry Humphries, who is also Dame Edna) and his photographer henchman Damien (Richard O’Brien). There’s also a camera crew led by Piers Cuthbertson-Smyth (Alan Cumming) and two constantly on-the-pitch Hollywood writers George Wendt and Mark McKinney) who want to make a movie about the band.

The band is also playing Royal Albert Hall while making time for their mutual best friend, who is due to have a child any day now. That’s really all it’s about, but I’m certain that their audience was happy to come see the film and hear 15 of their songs in the theater.

The reason for people who may not enjoy the band to see this is becase it’s so delightfully weird and well casted, with Roger Moore as the secretive head of their recording label and cameos from Elton John, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Bon Geldof and more.

This movie also reunited Rocky Horror alums Meat Loaf and O’Brien, as well as O’Brien with his Shock Treatment co-star Humphries.

Perhaps what’s most interesting is what isn’t in this movie. Any mentions of Princess Diana and Gianni Versace were edited out after their deaths, as was a cameo by Gary Glitter.

Beyond having Moore in this, I kind of love that when the Spice Girls’ bus jumps the bridge, a similar slide whistle sound as the jump in The Man With the Golden Gun is heard. Victoria also dresses up as Honey Ryder from Dr. No.

Maybe you weren’t around for the Spice Girls. Maybe you were and couldn’t deal. Either way, you should still check this out. I mean, even as a lifelong metalhead, I could find things to enjoy here.