Beast Cops (1998)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a ghostwriter of personal memoirs for Story Terrace London and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

Movies like this are the reason I love cinema. Beast Cops is funny, touching, well-acted and perfectly directed.

HK cops Tung (played by Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) and Sam (Sam Lee) are slackers. They are in deep with the triads which basically means they can do whatever they want. The two of them hang out at the clubs and don’t do any real police work at all. Tung has a gambling problem and always seems to be short on cash. Ultra-skinny Sam enjoys womanizing and playing video games while on duty. Life goes on for these two pretty much as it always had until they get a new boss named Mike played by Michael Wong. Mike is part Chinese but was raised in the west and therefore a bit of a greenhorn in the ways of Hong Kong street life. He is also very serious about his job. In the beginning, this causes conflict between Sam, Tung, and Mike but then Tung rents his room out to Mike leading to a cross-pollination of their worlds. The majority of the film chronicles their day to day lives and the progression of the relationship of the three roommates.  Mike gradually gets used to Sam and Tung’s messy ways. He gets caught up with their lifestyle, even going so far as to drop E with them in a nightclub. When Mike meets Madame Yoyo (Kathy Chow), the two fall in love. Unfortunately, she’s the girlfriend of Triad Fai (Roy Cheung) who has fled the country for legal reasons early on. Conversely, Tung and Sam are influenced by Mike’s dedication and become (slightly) better cops.

When Fai returns to Hong Kong, he finds that one of his minions – the aptly named Pushy Pin – has taken over his turf while he was in hiding. When Cheung goes to confront him, the newly ascended Pushy Pin kills him with a really big, scary knife. The fight scenes in Beast Cops are few and far between. The script eschews action for character and relationship development. Fai was very good friends with Tung, who is now obliged to take revenge for him by going after Pushy Pin. To prepare, Tung downs a six-pack of Foster’s Lager and a fistful of pills before embarking on his mission. It is in one of the best “ballistic” performances I’ve ever seen. Of course, Mike and Sam show up to get in on the fun, too. The ending wraps things up so perfectly that it would be a spoiler crime to give it away. Anthony Wong covers a lot of emotional territory in his performance here. His character arc goes from mischievous freeloader to dejected lover to wounded animal all in the span on 90 minutes. He hits every note perfectly. It’s like watching a human symphony playing on screen. Justifiably, Wong won the Best Actor Award in for his performance at that year’s Hong Kong Film Awards.

If my plot synopsis leaves you feeling like this is just another cop film, it’s not. What makes this film so special is all the little moments the characters are given. There are a lot of scenes where the principles just stand around on a street corner talking. They are never boring. Each scene moves the story along and gives the viewer more insight to the lives of these officers. It’s not an action film, so much as a character study with an incredibly violent ending. The first time I saw this movie, I watched again within two days and loved it even more the second time. It is exceptionally rare for an HK cop movie to be this well-written. Every actor is perfectly cast in his or her part. Along with Wong’s award, Beast Cops also won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (for Pushy Pin), Best Screenplay, and Best Director (for Gordon Chan and Dante Lam.) It deserved all of them ten times over. Absolute kudos to everyone involved with this wonderful movie!

Lee Majors Week: Musketeers Forever (1998)

An English-French-Russian co-production action flick shot in Montreal, Canada, but set in Las Vegas? And starring Lee Majors and Micheal Dudikoff? And pinching from the Alexandre Dumas classic? Did Cannon Pictures make this?

Nope.

A company known as Betar Entertainment made it. But don’t worry, they made 1988’s The Ultimate Weapon with Hulk Hogan, so it’s all good.

Well, not really. We are in the direct-to-video low-budget lands where there’d be no original bones buried in this Las Vegas desert of the Great White Sands. Yep, Hoss! We be got ‘er selves a Road House rip-off where Dumas is rolling over in his grave.

Ben O’Connor (Lee Majors) is a retired ex-CIA and Special Forces bad-ass who comes into a little cash via a high-stakes poker game. So he decides it’s time to retire and open up his dream jazz club in Las Vegas, with two of his ex-army buddies as his partners. And since that fourth Musketeer from the good ‘ol army days died during a mission (protecting the Russian president), they’ll employ his son (Michael Dudikoff) as their chief bartender. Romance, but of course, ensues between Dudikoff’s D’Artagnan (seriously, that’s his character’s first name) and Malila (Sabrine Karsenti, who you may remember from Battlefield Earth and The Crow TV series), the local Indian Reservation damsel-in-distress.

And the action ensues when Brad Wesley Kenton Crawford (if you’re a Dolph Lundgren completist, you know actor Martin Neufeld from his work in The Peacekeeper) and his sidekick Irina (Sylvie Varakine, who reminds of Brigitte Nielsen; know your Rocky IV references), a pair of bad-ass Russian gangsters who “own the town” of Indian Creek (no joke) and the cops (see?), decides to plow down the reservation to build a casino — and level the newly-minted club in the process — it’s time for lots of barroom brawling. Hell, yeah. It’s not a time to “be nice” anymore, baby! Hey, at least, unlike Road House, we have a timely message about the death of progress and how the white man screws the Indians.

Granted, Majors, as well as Dudikoff, are clearly past their action-primes in this rare, hard-to-find rip on Dudikoff’s Cannon halcyon days of action yore, but the duo carry the film’s French-Canadian unknown-to-U.S. cast with class. Chalk it up to my enjoyment off all things Dudikoff and my Majors nostalgia, but I liked this one in all of its low-budgeted action glory. But man, we sure do wish Sam Elliot would roll up just to deliver that line . . . and ride off into the sunset, because there’s no way to twist the name “The Musketeer Club” into a joke about a feminine hygiene product. (Douchesketeer? No, that’s not working for me, either. That’s something a dicky, frat-preppy college jock would say as he pants a nerd. Wade Garrette would never say that.)

Musketeers Forever is scattered around the globe in a hard-to-find VHS tape and bogus grey-ripped DVD issued in multiple-region formats (dubbed in French — with and without subtitles), so know your zones. But guess what? Tubi TV comes through with a pretty clean English-language, free-with-ads upload to enjoy. So get your Dudikoff on this weekend and relive those good ol’ Cannon VHS days of yore.

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

Dark City (1998)

The Matrix may be the movie that most go to when they think of 90’s cyberpunk , but the truth is that Dark City came out a year before* and has many of the same storybeats. And Grant Morrison’s 1994 comic The Invisibles had plenty of the elements that The Matrix also mined, like the leap of faith from a building and a gang of anarchists being the actual heroes against a world of sameness.

It’s pretty amazing that this movie ever came out, as who would think that New Line Cinema would co-finance a movie that’s based on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave? You can see their studio notes all over this movie, like how the psychic scenes needed effects and the voiceover introduction that attempts to explain everything to the audience.

John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes up not knowing who he is except that he’s in a hotel bathtub. A call from Dr. Daniel Schreber (Keifer Sutherland) tells him to run, as there are a murdered body and a bloody knife in the next room, as well as a group of men called The Strangers after him.

For some reason, no one realizes that the city is constantly covered in the dark of night. Murdoch discovers his name, that he has a wife named Emma (picture-perfect should-be giallo queen Jennifer Connelly) and that he also has powers that allow him to reshape reality.

There’s also William Hurt as a cop who believes that Murdoch is innocent of the murders and the fact that the Strangers are really aliens living inside the skins of dead humans and oh yeah — the city itself is floating in space inside a giant energy field.

Dark City is packed with so many ideas that you could really watch it over and over and still find new ideas that were unseen in past viewings.

Also, cheers to director and co-writer Alex Proyas for casting Richard O’Brien, bringing the Rocky Horror creator into yet another cultural obsession for me (along with RockyFlash GordonShock Treatment, Jubilee and Spice World).

Unlike the aforementioned Neo-starring film, Dark City went up against Titanic and faired about as well as you’d expect. Honestly, this is a movie that finds its audience and keeps it, reminding them that there is a secret world somewhere in which alien corpsewearers will learn that the human heart means more than the brain.

As for me, I love movies shot completely inside on soundstages with cars and buildings that seem to come from no set time period. Therefore, if you’re looking for a perfectly unexpected movie to pair this with, I’d suggest Streets of Fire.

*It was also shot on the same sets at Fox Studios in Sydney.

Skyggen, aka Webmaster (1998)

“We will soon fix the programming error in the super semantic subset of your linguistic structure.
— JB

Remember how, when Neil Marshall’s Doomsday came out 2008 and Luc Beeson’s Lockdown came out in 2012, we all groaned at the absurd Escape from New York/L.A. ripoffness of it all? Well, this Danish sci-thriller copies that absurdity-of-it-all rip with Bladerunner. Only this shot-on-a-low-budget-with-Digital Betacams thriller gives us — not a Ridley Scott rip — but an ersatz-sequel to the (dopey-to-crappy) Lawnmower Man franchise (when you see the graphics, you’ll see the analogy): a “Part III” that’s cyber-adrift between 1995’s William Gibson-based Johnny Mnemonic and the Wachowskis’ 1998 cyber-standard, The Matrix.

The 2000 U.S-English-market reissue.

And you know what?

Regardless of its student film ambition-over-budget production design, character-arcs and plotting that’s even more tech-ludicrous than the cyber non-realities of Disclosure, Hackers, and The Net (all reviewed this week, look for them) writer and director Thomas Borch Nielsens produced a debut feature film with a heartfelt, Tommy Wiseau-commitment to the film (and I dig Nielsens’s convincing tech jargon). Courtesy of rescuing a copy of the dubbed-and-retitled U.S.-version of Skyggen (Danish for “Shadow”) from a Blockbuster cut-out barrel for $2.00 bucks — and having the ability to revisit it a few times over the years — Webmaster grew on me in an enjoyable, Circuitry Man kind-of-way. It’s a film where your individual “love to plug” into it may vary; however, it’s a hell of a lot better than the assembly-line glut of Asylum when-hybrid-animals-and-environments-attack romps backing up the direct-to-streaming rivers. The film’s only negative: its arthouse-vibe would have been better served in an English-subtitled form, as the dubbing is a poorly-done distraction.

As with Bladerunner, the world of Skyggen is a dark, atmospheric world where computers are available at every corner and everyone is a VR-addict clad in black leather and vinyl because, well, in the “ancient future,” all clothing stores only sell S&M gear (and you have your comparisons to The Matrix), everyone is mainlining something into their veins, ’90-era tech music perpetually throbs, and you have two hair-color choices: blonde or one of the rainbow’s seven spectrums.

The 1998 Danish-Euro version. No, that’s not Juliette Lewis in the upper left corner.

JB is a reformed hacker — who wears VR goggles and hangs upside down as he hacks and codes — hired as the webmaster of cyber-domain (foreshadowing Bitcoin) that specializes in the illegal transfers of digital currency (and the only way for users to log on is with a VR-headset, natch). When a cyber-intruder hacks the domain and steals the site’s funds, Stoiss, the site’s web-mogul founder, pulls a “Bob Hauk”: but instead of injecting JB with a set of carotid-artery severing micro-explosives, he installs a heart-explosive that runs out in 35 hours (and you have your comparisons to Escape from New York, but due to budget, more 2019: After the Fall of New York; a film which we love, so all is well). At that point, JB is off the net and thrust into the underbelly of a tech-noir detective thriller — with a hacker instead of a detective — navigating the usual double crosses and murders rife with bounty hunters, femme fatales, and cyberpunk gangs.

There’s no deying Jean-Luc Godard’s neo-noir Alphaville, Elio Petri’s pop-art romp The 10th Victim (1965), and Francois Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 (1967) are the prefect combinations of film noir and dystopian fiction. The same holds true for the later tech-noirs spun in the frames of Wolf Gremm’s Kamikaze ’89 and Claude Chabrol’s Docteur M. While Webmaster may not be up to the cinematic level of those regarded films, Thomas Borch Nielsens has, none the less, dreamed up a very creative and enjoyable, low-budget gem that’s worthy of you seeking out a copy of the VHS or DVD in the online marketplace.

Sadly, there’s no online streams to share. The best we have to expose you to the film is a trailer and the film’s opening title sequence that sets up the cyber-verse.

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

Amazon Warrior (1998)

Hey, you know how much we love Dennis Devine around the B&S About Movies’ cubicle farm, with our reviews of the slasher-rock epic Dead Girls, two reviews for Fatal Images, a “Drive-In Friday” tribute, and a review of Double D’s latest, a contribution to the indie Blood Camp franchise.

And for their joint, third feature film, Dennis and his longtime scribe, Steve Jarvis, went post-apoc.

Load the friggin’ tape!

Sigh. That dot-matrix printed VHS sleeve feels like home.

Okay, so taking into account this is a Cinematrix Releasing apocalypse — made for $750,000 . . . wait . . . are we sure that’s not an IMDb typo and the budget is $75,000 or, more likely, $7,500 . . . where’s the other $740-plus thousand? We ask, because, there’s no apoc-automobiles in this. Just lots of animal-skinned lingerie and walking. And talking. Lots of walking and talking (through the dusty woods of Palmdale, California). And horny, rape-inclined male chauvinists. And cardboard swords. And dirt. But at least all the S&M stores weren’t wiped out when the “Big One” dropped, because all those men would be naked as the day they were born. And there are not, despite the prehistoric look of it all, any dinosaurs. Not even a guy in bear suit. But there are tubes of lipstick. Or maybe they’re were just rubbing berries on their lips? And with all of that outdoor lingerie gear, is there sunblock to protect everyone from the SPF fallout? Well, obviously, there’s still hair care products to be found. . . .

Get it at the Apoc Swap Shop!

Anyway, after a voiceover’d Windows Movie Maker-pixled apocalypse, we come to meet a camp of Amazon women. And instead of banning together to make a new world, the usual Mad Maxian bandits slaughter everyone in the village — sans one child. Now a mercenary for hire, Tara takes a job escorting two princesses of a powerful warlord. And in the throes of protecting her charges, our mighty Tara comes to face to face with General Steiner: the one who slaughtered her people all those years ago. Lots of cardboard swordfights with combat-inept men, ensues.

Oh, and by the way: Amazon Warrior comes in three cuts: a “clean” 71-minute cut and the if-you-want-all-of-the-titilation-hanky panky 76-minute — and even pankier — 83-minute cuts. Which means that, as is the usual casting mystery with most Devine/Cinematrix releases, the actresses are probably incognito adult film actresses. So there’s that.

You can watch a VHS rip of the clean, 71-minute cut of Amazon Warrior on You Tube. Many thanks to Cinecurry Hollywood for preserving this Dennis Devine obscurity. Be sure to spend some time on their page, as there’s a lot of great VHS oldies to enjoy.

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

KAIJU DAY MARATHON: The Mighty Kong (1998)

When someone asks you, because they will, “What was Dudley Moore’s last movie?” you can now confidently look them in the eye and say, “He played both Carl Denham and King Kong in the 1998 animated film The Mighty Kong.”

Somehow, this movie also features music by the Sherman Brothers. Yes, the same men who wrote the songs for Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Aristocat and “It’s A Small World After All” for the Disney theme parks. And it has Jodi Benson (yes, Ariel herself) as the Fay Wray character.

All of these things sound fantastic until you see this movie, which is animated in perhaps the cheapest form of classic animation possible in 1998. Do not expect a Disney film but instead, Kong as told by folks trying their best to be Disney on a shoestring.

This is the same Kong story as always — it even borrows the waterfall scene from the 1976 remake — except beauty does not kill the beast. It does, however, knock it out for a  spell.

Art Scott only directed one movie and this is it. His career was mainly at Hanna Barbera, working on shows like The HerculoidsWacky RacesThe Fonz and the Happy Days Gang and more. He worked on several Disney shorts early in his career and even did some of the DTV animation pieces late in it. This was written by William J. Keenan, who was the right guy for the job, seeing as how he produced the 1966 American TV series of King Kong and wrote the translated dialogue for King Kong Escapes.

If you want a very kid-friendly intro to Kong, this will work. It’s on Tubi.

Repost: Black Circle Boys (1998)

Editor’s Desk: This review originally ran on October 7, 2020, as part of our October 2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge. We’ve brought it back for John Doe Week.

“I don’t want to take lessons! I wanna have a fucking band! Fucking be like Deicide! Deicide. Yes, Deicide!”
—Shane Carver, loser leader of the Black Circle Boys

Yeah, maybe the guitar is broke, douche-dick.

I won’t say I hate this movie. But I was certainly disappointed by this movie, considering it “starred” John Doe of X and dealt with a misguided ne’er do well finding solace in black metal music. A group of Satan worshiping dopers want to start a band—and kill people—and John Doe? I’m up for that.

Oh, be careful for what ye hail, black metal and horror film buff.

What we ended up with here is an all-male version of—without the supernatural hocus pocus—1996’s much better The Craft, which also gave us a peek into the teenaged occult, as well as 1987’s The Lost Boys. And, oh shite, this film pulls the ‘ol Eric Roberts (Power 98) bait-n-switch on you. (Bastards!) Either John Doe was cast—in typical Eric Roberts fashion—for one scene just to get a brand name on the box/in the credits, or Doe’s work as a police detective investigating the Black Circle Boys Murders, for whatever reason, ended up on the cutting room floor. And sorry, Donnie Wahlberg is cool these days (and excellent) in TV’s Blue Bloods, but he just isn’t an effective consolation prize when we came to see John Doe (but, truth be told, the ex-New Kids on the Block member, in his third acting role, is very good as Greggo, effeminate Satanist who introduced Shane to the Black Arts). Oh, yeah . . . blink and you’ll miss Lisa Loeb (remember her gal-paldom with Ethan Hawke and hitting the U.S. Top 10 in 1994 with “Stay (I Missed You)” from Reality Bites?) as an “angry goth chick” in a club.

As you can see, the casting on this movie is flat out, upside down FUBAR’d. Why would a production (granted, it’s low budget, but still) take known commodities—that inspire us to rent in the first place—such as John Doe and Lisa Loeb—and place them in one scene cameos; each should be in the larger, respective roles of Detective Roy, played by Victor Morris (NBC-TV’s In the Line of Duty film series and Bigger Than the Sky), and the Dead Head-high schooler Chloe, played by Tara Subkoff (The Last Days of Disco; The Notorious Betty Page).

True, both Morris and Subkoff are affable in the roles, but wouldn’t you, as The Devil’s Advocate (sorry) producer, want to predominately feature Doe and Loeb’s names on the box in smaller type under the leads and copywrite-plug their past, known works on the box’s flipside? Loeb could totally pull off the wiles of a hippy chick high schooler—and you could feature her playing the acoustic guitar and singing a folk song—to the antithesis of the goth kids running the school. And if you’ve seen John Doe’s work in A Matter of Degrees and his co-starring role as Teddy Connor, the leader of the once great Wotan, in the NBC-TV Law & Order: TOS 2003 “Ripped from the Headlines” episode “Blaze” (which took it scripting cues from Great White’s tragic 2003 performance at The Station night club in Rhode Island*), you know that Doe not only carries a film as a lead actor with distinction—he can pull off a goth rocker with class and style. (Sorry, Donnie. No offense. We love Doe ’round these ‘ere Allegheny wilds and crush any actor before him.)

Ye, hail Teddy Connor! Courtesy of Gregory Hill Design/NBC-TV

But alas . . . Black Circle Boys was made in 1998 and not 1988; so the producers decided to appeal to the then nostalgic-maturing New Kids on the Block contingent, instead of the ol’ punk codgers (aka myself and B&S boss Sam) who admire John Doe and rocked out to X in the ’80s via The Decline of Western Civilization and Urgh! A Music War. And yeah, David Newsom (ABC-TV’s Homefront) is a fine actor (and now a successful reality television producer; kudos, Dave!), but the divine Dee Wallace Stone of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Howling fame is wasted in her “Eric Roberts Casting” as the troubled mom; Wallace would have been more effectively utilized in Newsom’s larger role as the swim coach-physics teacher hybrid—and being the horndogs we are, even get a few scenes of her in a curve-accentuating one piece. And yes . . . that is the pride of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Richard “Les Nesman” Sanders of WKPX in Cincinnati (check out our review of FM) also being woefully underutilized in his one (uh, I think it was two?) shot role as Principal Dunkel. (At this point, the producers should have called in Eric Roberts—who we friggin’ love like blood around here. And yes, another major f-up by the producers: not having Killing Joke on the soundtrack, Deicide references be damned.)

Now, that’s how you cast, music consult, and sell tickets, kiddies. But alas, I am a schlub writer and not a casting director or music consultant. . . .

So, anyway . . . We meet Kyle (Scott Bairstow of FOX-TV’s Party of Five), a star high school swimmer wallowing in depression over a personal loss (an idiot friend fell off a bridge/water tower and broke his neck while they were drunk; instead of moving on and taking responsibility, Kyle blames “the world”)—which makes him easy pickings for paranoia-poster child Shane Carver (a very good Eric Mabius; big screen debut in Welcome to the Dollhouse, noticed in Cruel Intentions) and his little goth clique, The Black Circle Boys. Kyle is introduced to hard booze, drugs, devil worship, and frog beheadings-by-mouth in quick succession . . . and murder, by way of drug-dealing Rory (an early Chad Lindberg of The Fast and the Furious), a BCB “slave-trainee” by Shane as a form of sacrifice. Along the way the boys start a band, which is an utter failure. So, out of frustration—and a parnoid belief his goth-clique is betraying him—Shane starts killing off the other members of ‘the Circle.

At least I think that’s what happened. Yeah, they lost me. That’s what happens when you deny me of my John Doe fix, boondoggle me with Donnie Wahlberg, and don’t give us the black metal we came for and stick us with a bunch of never-heard-of bargain bin basement clutter that is neither “black” nor “metal” or anything worthy of woof or a tweet. I mean, come on . . . a movie about “black metal murders” that only uses the word “Satan” once? And what in the Sam Hill (another music consultant f-up: no Glenn Danzig and Samhain**) is this B.S. referring to Satan as “Father” all the time? Get the Anton LeVey (The Devil’s Rain) out of here, Mr. Politically Correct screenwriter. Fuck, dude.

And what the hell, bass player? Learn your root, 3rd, and 5th triads. Fuck me. Even the shittiest of shite bassists know ’em. You deserved Shane slashing your throat and tossin’ your lame ass off a bridge. I’d nut-punch you myself, dick breath. The Relentless from American Satan would dissolve you and your “boys” into a puddle just by pissing on ‘ya. Pusswads.

In the end, what we have here is an ineffective, low-budget variant of 1987’s far superior River’s Edge (starring Crispin Glover and Keanu Reeves), in the Black Circle Boys claims in its promotional materials that it is “Based on a True Story.”

F-You, marketing department. Your “true story” and John Doe bait-n-switch be damned, pisses me off. And you too, Mr. Music Consultant.

That “true story” takes us back to Slayer, whose loud and aggressive music—featuring violent themes that would even scare Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath—went beyond the usual horror-film influenced, satanic lyrical themes to include odes to sadism, necrophilia, serial killers, and Nazi death camps. Not helping Slayer’s reputation in the eyes of the Moral Majority was Slayer’s music being predominately featured in the River’s Edge, the film itself based upon the 1981 California murder of Marcy Renee Conrad and the 1984 New York murder of Gary Lauwers, where their troubled-teen killers bragged about and returned to the murder site of their victims.

The most catastrophic example of this ignorance regarding hard rock and heavy metal music was the highly publicized, 1994 West Memphis 3 case in which questionable “evidence” led to the wrongful conviction of three non-conformist boys as murderous Satanists. Their only guilt: a shared interest in rock music, horror films, and unconventional art and books (you know, guys like myself and Sam, B&S About Movies’ boss. And we’re harmless, really).

A seriously f-up dude giving AC/DC a bad name.

The occult and the America justice system simmered in a cauldron of abhorrence and ignorance once again in the 1999 Columbine massacre, as satanic-panic maligned the music of shocker-rocker Marilyn Manson and, to a lesser extent, the industrial/goth bands KMFDM and Rammstein as underlying causes. The misguided controversy forced Manson to cancel the remaining dates of his 1999 Rock Is Dead world tour and negatively affected the sales of his third album, Mechanical Animals (1998). Additionally slandered as “co-conspirators” were Oliver Stone, by way of the Quentin Tarantino-scripted Natural Born Killers, in addition to the designers behind the video games Doom, Wolfstein 3D, and Duke Nukem. (A 1999 Rolling Stone article: “Columbine: Whose Fault is It?,” in addition to Dave Cullen’s 2009 in-depth tome, Columbine, examine the tragedy.)

Paving the way for the legal atrocities of the West Memphis 3 was the 1986 case regarding the seminal British metal band, Judas Priest. In that judicial miscarriage against the creative arts, the parents of two Reno, Nevada, teenaged boys sued Judas Priest and its label, Columbia Records, for $6.2 million dollars, claiming the band’s 1978 release, Stained Class, contained backward, subliminal messages that drove the boys to suicide (the court dismissed the case in 1990).

F-in railroaded. Man, Don’t even get me started.

Prior to Judas Priest’s slandering by religious zealots, Ozzy Osbourne, the ex-lead singer of Black Sabbath, became the victim of another bogus suicide-by-rock music claim. Three sets of parents sued the “Prince of Darkness” between 1985 and 1990, claiming the song “Suicide Solution” from Ozzy’s 1980 debut album, Blizzard of Oz, encouraged their young sons to commit suicide—all three cases were eventually dismissed. In an archetypal overreaching misconstrue by the Christian Right blinded by satanic-panic to deflect their parental failures and to excuse the “misadventures” of their own children, the clearly anti-alcohol and an anti-suicide song, with lyrics written by bassist Bob Daisley, was a touching tribute to Bon Scott, the then recently deceased lead singer of AC/DC (AC/DC: Let There Be Rock). Other tomes claim it was actually about Daisley’s concerns regarding Ozzy’s health. Whatever Daisley’s lyrical motivation, the song certainly is not a clarion for teenagers to commit suicide.

Anyway, back to Black Circle Boys.

This ain’t no River’s Edge and director Joe Berlinger’s theatrical, three-film documentary series Paradise Lost is more disturbing and far more engrossing (in addition to the non-fiction books Blood of Innocents by Guy Reel and Mara Leveritt’s Devil’s Knot, both which examine the WM3 tragedy at length; the later book itself was adapted into a 2013 film). If the filmmakers behind Black Circle Boys had only adhered to their source material: David St. Clair’s 1987 expose Say You Love Satan, about 17-year-old Ricky Kasso and the murderous exploits of the Knights of the Black Circle (which resulted in the death of the aforementioned Gary Lauwers).

You can stream Black Circle Boys for free on You Tube, as it is not available on any streaming platforms. Used copies of the unnerving Say You Love Satan are readily available in the online marketplace—it’s a highly suggested read. In fact, read the book instead of watching this movie.

Seriously, though: The appreciation of a film—whether it is good or bad, well-made or poorly made—is based in the age of the viewer; for film appreciation is of a time and place. While I love my horror movies (Phantasm to Rocktober Blood) and my Killing Joke, Samhain, The Misfits, Venom, King Diamond, and Deicide as much as the next guy, I was already ensconced in adulthood (wearing shirts with collars, even ties!) when Black Circle Boys was released. So, if you were in middle school or just starting high school at the time Black Circle Boys was released—as I was when the juvenile delinquency drama Over the Edge was released in 1979—rewatching this film will warm the cockles as your own person “classic” film.

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 Great White tragedy also served as the basis for the Mark L. Lester-directed and Eric Roberts-starring Groupie.

** Glenn Danzig is in the film biz these days. We recently reviewed his film Verotika. Yeah, we adore auteur projects and movies with rock stars ’round here. Speaking of which . . . you can get all of the rock ‘n’ roll flicks you can handle with our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II” features from this past July and September with links to over 100 films reviews.

Black Cat Run (1998)

Before he gained mainstream Hollywood notice for the Val Kilmer-starring The Salton Sea (2002) and went mainstream with two back-to-back Shia Labeouf-starrers with Disturbia (2007) and Eagle Eye (2008), before he gave us xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (2017) and tossed his hat in the ring to direct the upcoming G.I Joe: Ever Vigilant, D.J Caruso directed this Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist) co-penned retro-action flick for HBO Films that aired on the cable network on September 18, 1998.

Hot from his 30-plus episode run on TV’s Melrose Place and his debut in a theatrical-starring role with Starship Troopers (1997), Patrick Muldoon (American Satan, The Comeback Trail) stars as Johnny Del Grissom, a gas-station attendant who chases down the chain gang escaped convicts who abducted his girlfriend — and he’s also on the run, as he’s blamed for her father’s murder (Rex Linn, TV’s Better Call Saul and Young Sheldon). And, of course, her pappy is the sheriff. And so ensues the Fast & Furiousness with Johnny chasing down the convicts and Deputy Norm Babbit (Jake Busey, S.F.W. and Starship Troopers) chasing down Johnny.

Macon County Line or Jackson County Jail, anyone? Yes, please!

Seriously, how can you not like a movie (and there are detractors) that rolls out a tricked out Olds 442 tweaked with Nitrous . . . and gives you John Doe, our favorite punk bassist from Los Angeles, matching thespin’ chop-for-chop alongside Kevin J. O’Connor (Deep Rising, The Mummy), Peter Greene (Pulp Fiction, The Mask), our favorite ex-Bond girl Lois Childs, and Jeffrey DeMunn (currently starring on Showtime’s Billions; Dale Horvath on The Walking Dead)?

You can’t. Not with a writer and director and cast like that.

In spite of its obviously low budget, Black Cat Run burns rubber and then some, all working in a Mad Max, big-dumb-engine sort of way, which was just an Aussie western trading out horses for horsepower.

And we love it, for this is pure A.I.P retro-cinema: a ’70s Drive-In dream that would make Roger Corman proud, filled with 44-Magnums, exploding tanker trucks, cheesy one-liners that would make make Eastwood cringe, and every other B-Movie absurdity you can think.

Watch the full movie as a free rip on You Tube. You can thank us later.

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

Vice Academy 6 (1998)

I don’t know what I’m more upset about: the fact that I have watched six Vice Academy movies or that they never made the seventh film.

Candy (Elizabeth Kaitan), Traci (Raelyn Saalman), the commissioner (John Henry Richardson), Devonshire (Jayne Hamil) and Irwin (Chad Gabbert) are all back, while Holly Lauren is playing a new character named Monique McClure, soap star Tamara Clatterbuck shows up and Nikki Fritz is in this as a character named Savvy. And yes, Ginger Lynn shows up as Holly. She really should have had a spin-off.

Rick Sloane made all six of these. This time, the plot has masked bikini bandits who get our heroines put in jail, because, well, the universe of these movies makes no sense. But who cares, right? I mean, let’s face it. The world kind of is in a horrible place right now and it’s really simple for me to wallow in depression and wondering when people will start being decent to one another. So if I decide to watch all the Vice Academy movies in one day — perhaps more than once — and yell the lines out at the screen like a moron, aren’t I engaging in a form of self-care?

People make fun of how bad the Police Academy movies are. Let me tell you, these movies make Mahoney and company look like the cast of an Altman movie by comparison. But I could care less. The world is poorer for the fact that USA Up All Night is no longer on the air, playing movies like this that are complete — and wonderful — wastes of time.

You can watch this on Tubi.

SLASHER MONTH: The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself (1998)

When we last saw Dr. Alan Feinstone (Corbin Bernsen), he was being sentenced to a maximum security mental hospital and being menaced by his wife Brooke (Linda Hoffman). However, he’s hidden a weapon inside his own skin and escaped, but his aforementioned ex knows that he’s gone to one of the towns that he’s kept postcards from and she’s going to get the money he owes her to pay back all of the teeth and the tongue she’s lost.

This Brian Yuzna (SocietySilent Night, Deadly Night 4: InitiationFaust: Love of the Damned) directed film — he also made the 1996 original — seems like a sideways sequel for The Stepfather, with Dr. Feinstone becoming Dr. Lawrence Caine and starting all over again in the town of Paradise, Missouri.

Of course, he’s still a maniac and all the issues he had in the first film all come raging back all over again, like his extreme jealousy when he falls for local Jamie Devers (Jillian McWhirter, Dune Warriors), who looks just like his last wife.

Also, much like the last time we saw the evil dentist, if you have to get any work done on your chompers, you shouldn’t watch this beforehand. There’s also a Clint Howard appearance, which is always welcome.

Alan Howarth did the score, so listen for stingers that sound suspiciously like the ones from Halloween 2. And I almost forgot that Big Ed Hurley’s eyepatch-wearing wife Nadine (Wendy Robie) is in this.

You can watch this on Tubi.