Sunday, June 25, 2017

Killpoint

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!



It has been almost a quarter century since I escaped Cape Girardeau.  Sure, I didn't appreciate that at the time and pined away for some time to get back to the Midwest.  It wasn't until I tried to move back I realized either I had changed, or Missouri had - in either case, I made my way back to the IE.  In retrospect, I realize I have spent the bulk of my professional career working in Riverside, California. First for the County of Riverside and currently at the greatest University on the face of the Earth - UC Riverside (Although UC Davis or UCLA or the other UC schools might argue with me about that.  But, certainly it looms over schools like the University of Redlands ...but I digress).



Riverside is a gorgeous city.  It is full of history.  The Mission Inn has hosted many Presidents, it will soon be the location of Cheech Marin's art collection, and it is the place where I have consumed more beer and had more amazing times than I can count.  Because Riverside has such personality, I've always been shocked more films aren't made here.  The downtown area to the University are spilling over with locations and should have a film crew around each corner.



I bring this up because, in 1984 I stumbled into a small theater in my hometown to watch one of my favorite old time actors - Cameron Mitchell - in an "action" picture called Killpoint. As it turns out, most of the film was shot in Riverside and nearby Corona.  Looking back at the film now, I can see where I worked 11 years...and, of course, had not idea as a high school student I was looking at where I would spend most of my professional life.  I was just there to watch Cameron Mitchell chew the scenery...and in this film, he tops himself.



During the opening scene, we see our co-villan, Nighthawk, played by Stack Pierce, gun down a solider guarding an armory. We later find out, all the weapons have been stolen by a guns dealer named Joe Marks, played with gleeful disdain by Mitchell himself.

Suddenly, Riverside has become the weapons capital of the nation with every low rent crook sporting an M-16 (kinda like every day in St. Louis...or San Bernardino). 



Assigned to the case of tracking down the weapons, and the dealer, is Lt. James Long, played by Martial Artist and former Methodist minister, Leo T. Fong.  We find out, through a bit of truly stilted exposition that Long's wife had only recently been raped and murdered leading a Federal agent to ask "Is he alright?" and his commander's response of "No, he's not alright. Would you be? But I tell you one thing,  he's gonna the job done". Interestingly, in the discussion Joe Marks last name is spelled Marx but the credits and IMDB have it as Marks. To assist Long, the ATF sends in Agent Bill Bryant played admirably by Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree.

 Another amazing thing about this picture is it reunites two cast members from one of my favorite films (which was recently released on Blu-ray) Raw Force.  Hope Holiday, who portrayed the owner of the cruise ship in Raw Force shows up in Killpoint as an associate of Marks.  However, Holiday's duties on the film were not entirely in front of the camera.  She was also a producer and the casting director.

IMDB gives the film a respectable 4.5/10 and the soul crushing Rotten Tomatoes, a site run by people who must hate movies, gives the picture a 2.1 out of five with a measly 10% liking it. WTF? 


If you are from the IE - track this film down and take a walk down memory lane with Killpoint.






Miss you pops

Saturday, June 24, 2017

What can I say about....Fertilize the Blaspheming Bombshell

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!

I admit, looking over the 40 previous blog posts I have noticed not only a shit ton of typos (the result of late nights or good beer..or both), but I also tend to pine away for "the old days".  I can write that off a bit based exclusively on the topic I write about. Let's face it - with the exception of Gila! and Plan 9, most of the films I pontificate about are not recent...and/or films I have a distinct sentimental attachment to - and sentimental attachment comes with the passage of time. I loved Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, but, I have not yet become sentimental about it...and perhaps never will.



I mention this because, when I think about and re-watch Fertilize the Blaspheming Bombshell (yes - I've watched the film, or at the very least had it playing in the background more times than I can count) I remember a time when finding amazing, weird, gorgeous cult classic films was a bit harder but more fun.  The first time I saw this movie it was on USA Up All Night.  An amazing show that aired quite late (at least in the Midwest) and and was hosted one night by Mr. Gilbert Gottfried and one night by the gorgeous Rhonda Shear - and these were the days when the USA Network had amazing shows like Duck Man, Weird Science and Campus Cops (not to mention Silk Stalkings). Now USA Network is just another cable channel showing the same tripe available on all the other cable channels. Don't get me wrong - I am very happy I can fire up Amazon Prime or Full Moon Streaming and watch virtually any classic film I want.  But, I have to admit, I've experienced very few "Eureka!" moments doing that and certainly nothing on par with the night I rented The Toxic Avenger and Demons.  Finding those wonderful nuggets of insane beauty were glorious and some how made me feel part of an exclusive, unnamed club.  Of course, I know this might not be the case for a young kid in college today just discovering Rocky Horror Picture Show or Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers.



In any event, on to the film at hand - the 1990 thing of beauty called Fertilize the Blaspheming Bombshell which also goes by the far less entertaining title Mark of the Beast, a bit more accurate in regards to the story, but not nearly as memorable. In the first few minutes of the film, a young lady and her fiance are on the way to Vegas to get married - but, of course, the the groom to be has decided to take a shortcut.  Why people try to find shortcuts to Vegas is beyond me, but I digress.  Also in Vegas is Sandy's twin sister Susan, an Anthropology teacher "at the University".  The couple ends up in a small, un-mapped town and later meet grisly ends.



Sandy mentions in the opening minutes of the picture that she and her twin sister are so close they feel each others pain..and in fact, Susan is awakened with a sharp pain in her chest as she feels her sister's murder.  The film then shifts into detective mode as Susan is determined to find her sister's murderer(s).

Yes, I know the point of my blog is to defend "bad movies" but, I must echo a common complaint about this film which is, the night shots are so dark they are virtually undecipherable. It's really just darkness, punctuated by the occasional torch or fire and talking.  But, I won't beat that dead horse because I'm sure the film's budget was meager and the DP was doing their very best.



If you check out the IMDB page here - you'll see a rating of 2.9/10 which is beyond ridiculous. Sure, it is not ever intended to be an Oscar contender - but a 2.9.  But wait, it gets worse at the Yelp! of films - Rotten Tomatoes.  The site where lockstep mentality is applauded and dissent cut out like a cancer.  Their rating is 13% liked.  Sure, not everyone's cup of tea I guess but holy shit - 13%?

Me? I love the earnest feel of the film and each time I watch it, it takes me back to the much less stressful early 1990s.  I suppose I understand how a younger generation may not feel as enthusiastic about this picture - but, track it down and give it a shot.  It is truly a fun film.







Miss you Pops


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Wake up to .....Nightmare in Wax

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!



I own a lot of movies.  I mean a lot.  That isn't unusual though - people have been collecting films for years.  I only mention it because it occurred to me recently I have not been writing about some of the more obscure films I have, with possibly one or two exceptions.  So, I'm going to try and ferret out some films which, while not unknown, may be less known to you than some of the previous films I have written tonight.



The subject of today's film is also a collector.  He is Vincent Renard - played with perfection by one of the few actors whose films I always seek out...and they never fail to please, Cameron Mitchell. My obsession with Mitchell began in May 1982 when I had the distinct honor of seeing the film Raw Force, aka Kung Fu Cannibals, at a drive-in.  Of all the films my Dad took me to see at the drive-in (and he took me to see all the classics - Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Last House on the Left, Flesh Gordon, Phantasm, The Manitou...the list goes on) - seeing Raw Force was for me the zenith of drive-in experiences.  He and I both knew the drive-ins were dying and we had to enjoy it.  In that wonderful film was Cameron Mitchell delivering the goods like the pro he was.  When he appeared on screen I distinctly recall grunts of acknowledgement from both my Dad and I. I had seen Cameron Mitchell in any number of films and TV shows, and enjoyed his work.  But, his performance in Raw Force cemented in my mind his magic. Later that same year I was pleased to see him in a much different film, with a much bigger budget - My Favorite Year, which had the irony of being released in my favorite year.  There was Mitchell in a big budget film playing gangster Karl Rojeck.



Thankfully, Mitchell worked for a number of years afterward and made appearances in a number of great films including the amazing film Killpoint (another film my Dad and I saw...he and I went to the movies a lot obviously).  But, back to the film and character in question...Nightmare in Wax starring Mitchell as Vincent Renard.

From the title, it would be easy to assume this film is merely a rip off of House of Wax, and a wax museum is, in fact, involved.  However, Nightmare in Wax speaks to a great more many subject than the classic House of Wax.  The primary difference between the two is...why collect the dead...when you can collect the living.



That alone should make this film worth watching.  But wait - there's more.  What if I told you one of the greatest writer / directors of exploitation film has a role in this film as Sergeant Carver?  It's true, no other than John "Bud" Cardos himslef, who went on to be a second unit director for Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, and then moved on to such classics as The Kingdom of the Spiders, The Day Time Ended and of course, Gor II. Now... imagine it also has Berry Kroeger and Virgil Frye.  You read that right!!!  Of course, at this point I really should not even have to give you the plot...you should be tracking this film down.  Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness I will give a quick synopsis:



Mitchell's make up artist Renard has his face burned badly in an argument with Max Black (Berry Kroeger) over the affections of Marie Morgan (portrayed by Anne Helm).  Vince leaves the industry and takes his skills elsewhere and opens a was museum while he plots his revenge against Max.

The film is a glorious moment in time - and a reminder there was a time people could smoke literally anywhere and they just dropped their butts where they pleased.  This film has a wholly inaccurate 3.4 out of 10 on IMDB and a 6% on Rotten Tomatoes (although those who are familiar with me know I am no fan of Rotten Tomatoes).  Nevertheless, don't let those ratings deter you...find this film...and every Cameron Mitchell film, crack open a beer and have a great time.



Miss you Pops.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Summer of 1978 was great because....Piranha

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!



What would you say if I told you there was a film which starred Dick Miller, Kevin McCarthy, Barbara Steele, Richard Deacon, Paul Bartel, Keenan Wynn....and Heather Menzies? Pinch you? Sure...because the film is real and it was written by the amazing John Sayles and directed perfectly by the god-like Joe Dante - and it is called Piranha.



It is hard to fathom (see what I did there?) the impact Jaws had in 1970s until you really contemplate all the knock off films that followed in its wake including Barracuda, Tentacles, Up from the Depths, Killer Fish, uh...Jaws 2...and, of course, Piranha. And although I love each of the films I've listed (and half a dozen more I've failed to mention), the one that is absolutely most near and dear to this old heart is Dante's Piranha!

Although this film has all the hallmarks of a drive-in flick, my family saw this genius film in a theater...and it was packed.  Films like this were often released in waves, hitting the coasts first and moving towards the mid-west as the weeks passed.  By the time it got to Cape Girardeau, there was already a bit of buzz and the theater owner knew they could count on butts in the seats.



The plot you ask?  Uh, well, killer flesh eating piranhas...eat people.

Ok, sure, that covers the plot but this gorgeous example of late 70s exploitation cinema is so much more.

Early in the film we meet a skip trace named Maggie McKeown (the beautiful Heather Menzies who I had been crushing over ever since I had started watching Logan's Run - on Monday nights if memory serves).  She is searching for a couple reported missing, and like the bloodhound she is...ends up in the backwoods of Texas where she pushes herself upon the hapless, and endlessly drunk, Paul Grogan (played note perfect by the amazing Bradford Dillman) who she enlists in helping find the missing couple.  What happens next unleashes the most veracious predator on Earth into the nearby river...(and possibly the ocean).



With brilliant sub-plots, wonderful acting and amazing script...poetry happens.  Sure, I think any film with a title like Piranha contains a few leaps of logic that can be puzzling.  And, our female hero, who creates the situation, blaming others for the carnage had my daughter and I scratching our heads (although I've been scratching my head about that failure to own one's fuck up since 1978) - I mean, on a serious note, surely she was prosecuted for causing the whole thing - but, Sayles was ensuring we knew his political position, so the person who didn't unleash the carnage on a nearby resort and summer camp is the one who is blamed...and no one in the film seems to question that...odd.



BUT!!!  That one small issue aside - this film is essentially perfect.  I watched the old special edition DVD I bought years ago.  I probably watch it about once a year, but this was the first time watching it with my daughter who, along with Day of the Animals, enjoyed this film as well.  Track it down on disc or streaming media and revel in the 70s goodness!

Miss you Pops.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Today is....The Day of the Animals

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!



There is a name that should have been known in every household just as Spielberg or Scorsese are today. That name is William Girdler.  Born in Kentucky in 1947, William Girdler began his film career at a very young age, and sadly, it ended at a very young age as well. In a career that only spanned six years, William Girdler is responsible for creating some of the most memorable films of the 70s - the quality of each film improving exponentially leaving, I wholeheartedly believe, little doubt that Girdler would have gone on to write and direct some of the greatest films ever to see the screen.  Sadly, a helicopter crash in 1978, while scouting locations for his next film, end an all too short career; his death snatching from film fans the greatness that would surely have followed.

It is his final three films that provide evidence of his skill - Grizzly, The Day of the Animals and Manitou (please check out my essay regarding that film here Essay about The Manitou ).  Today I'd like to focus specifically on Day of the Animals.

In the 1970s, the word ecology was just entering the American lexicon when it was discovered that all the deodorants and other aerosol based products had been eating a hole in the Earth's protective Ozone layer.  I can recall my mother and her friends expressing their concerns while did macramé and their astrology charts (ah...small town mid-west hippies...)  Using the concept of a depleting Ozone layer to his advantage, Girdler directed a screenplay written by William and Eleanor Norton and gave us one of the greatest eco-disaster films of all time. Day of the Animals.

Perhaps one of Girdler's greatest gifts was the ability to consistently gather a great cast, and this picture is no different. Christopher and Lynda Day George, Michael Ansara, Richard Jaeckel, Paul Mantee and a shirtless, bat-shit crazy Leslie Nielsen add heft and credibility to the proceedings.  However, there was sufficient overlap in the cast of Grizzly and Day of the Animals that some thought the latter was a sequel to the former.  Although not the case, there was a Grizzly 2 that never made it to cinemas and the story of its production is worthy of a film itself (or at the very least an essay).

The picture follows a group of hikers led by Christopher George's character Steve Buckner.  Along for the lengthy hike are a group of people that play like tropes in the jaded 21st century, but, were generally well written and presented for 1977 - just a few years after life began to get a little strange in the United States.  You have the standard young couple, the couple with marriage problems (because the husband is successful?), the older divorcee and her young son, a native American (taking grief from a mad dog Ad Man), a news anchor woman and a University professor.  In general their back stories are presented very well.  Sometimes it seems a bit hackneyed but I think that has more to do with the fact this was going to be a roughly 90 minute film from the git go and the story needed to be moved forward, even when the exposition was a bit rough.

Down in the small town the group departed from, the Sheriff is noticing how the sun "cuts right through you" even though he says it isn't hot.  It is at the small diner he and his deputy discover the truth of what is going on until the Federal Government comes to the rescue.  Additionally, there is a particularly well done sub-plot involving one of the hikers who had to leave the group and discovered a stranded little girl (perhaps the daughter of the group that disappeared from the first camp site?).

The film is brilliant tense and well done.  Amazing cinematography and a wonderful score by Lalo Schifrin add to the quality of this amazing film.  I watched a really nice copy on Amazon prime, although I'm certain it is available elsewhere.  I would encourage to check out all of Girdler's films but certainly his final three are worth a marathon viewing.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Shop till you drop at....Chopping Mall

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!




As I begin to write this, I realize I may have to temper myself just a bit.  I'm feeling terribly sentimental lately, and often the films I (re)watch to write this blog have the somewhat unintended effect of making me all the more so.

After a rather long day at work earlier this week, with some additional research to do when I got home, I headed to the headquarters of In Defense of Bad Movies (otherwise known as my garage) and popped one of my favorite, and oft watched, DVDs in the Blu-ray - Chopping Mall.  I generally alternate - one time I'll watch without the commentary, the next with the commentary (which I've heard about nine times).  Tonight was with commentary and it was nice to pretend Director Jim Wynorski and co-writer and 2nd unit Director Steve Mitchell were hanging out in the garage knocking back a few brews.




Unfortunately, I did not see this film in the theater.  I honestly cannot recall if it made it to Cape Girardeau, but, I suspect it did not because, this is entirely the kind of film my Dad and I would have gone to see...probably several times.  I discovered this film on videotape.

Indulge me a moment while I provide a short History lesson for the younger readers.  There was a time, long gone, but not as far gone as the storied Drive-In theaters, when people of all backgrounds, political beliefs, races, creeds and colors would go to a magical emporium called...The Video Store.  They went by a number of names in Cape Girardeau - The Video Spot, Videos and Cream (an odd name because they both served ice cream and had "the book" if you wanted to rent adult videos), The Movie Hub, but, the two best places in my home town were in grocery stores - Schnucks and The Food Giant.




People interacted in these magical places.  Random people would ask "Have you seen this movie?" and you'd discuss it.  Sometimes to the level of disagreement but rarely.  Lawyers bumped elbows with dishwashers, Republicans and Democrats, Baptist and Catholic (usually in line to look at "The Book") all in one place like a a movie safe space.  I believe Americans only began to eat their own when they stopped interacting in person and began to interact in Facebook likes and 140 character Twitter rants (says the guy who will post this review on both Facebook and Twitter).  But...I digress...

Given the distrust of AI that Elon Musk (and anyone who has seen the first two Terminator films)  this film probably should be required viewing by many.  The story revolves around the implementation of security robots at Park Plaza Mall.  Employees are provided bar code badges to ensure they aren't body bag fodder and the intent is to use "non-lethal" force on the random late-night thief discovered by the bots.




And then it all goes wrong with a single bolt of lightening....

I won't give too much away - but, do keep in mind the film is called Chopping Mall so...

The cast, as is always the case in a Wynorski pictures, is letter perfect and spot on (see the IMDB link) here.  I mean - just look at that cast - Kelli Maroney, Barbara Crampton, as well as some amazing cameos by Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov as the Blands, the always brilliant Gerrit Graham and Dick Miller as...you guessed it, Walter Paisley.  

The 80s were an amazing time.  I feel, as I get older, that it is derided and frowned upon, even by some who were getting their first taste of success during that time.  It was pre-digital age where you needed a shopping mall to shot film in if your story took place in...you know...a shopping mall.  I think it was the last era when film makers had to really be creative.  A time when "fixing it in post" was not generally an option.  Sure, the digital world has opened up opportunities for a number of film makers for whom the "old ways" may not have seemed appealing. But, trust an old man when he says...new ain't always better.  




I continue to watch the 2004 DVD for sentimental reasons (yeah - I'm a sentimental old fool I know) but, there is a recently released Blu-ray with a butt load of goodies that I'm hoping one of my kids will get me for the upcoming Father's Day (assuming my family actually reads this which is, of course, unlikely).  I'm going to add a link to some of the reviews of the Blu-ray because the amount of extras included is mind-blowing. 

Someday, Jim Wynorski (along with Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau) will win a well deserved Oscar (hopefully because I was able to get them a copy of my screenplay).  I've already gushed about Wynorski's work on Gila!  There is magic there if people would only accept it.

Here is a Blu-ray review. Unhappy they indicate the film is not "good" but still good stuff on the 2016 release



Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Killer Flick - Drive-In Massacre

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!



August 10th is a day like no other for two reasons.  One of those reasons being the infamous date a sword wielding madman began removing the heads of unsuspecting drive-in patrons from their bodies!  And thus begins one of the most under-rated films of the 1970s - Drive-In Massacre.  A slasher film that was several years ahead of the entire late 70's (and most of the 80s) slasher craze.

Like many films of that era - this show made the rounds at drive-ins through the 70s and into the early 80s.  However, I never saw this amazing flick at a drive-in, but, at a well attended midnight showing at a small cinema in Cape Girardeau (the next weekend was Motel Hell...another classic).  In the pre-Internet days, as I've mentioned before, it was a bit more difficult to get solid information about certain films.  Especially a non-SAG film like this which used SAG members but under assumed names to avoid a SAG shakedown (yeah...I said it). 

The story is straight forward - a crazed killer is dispatching the patrons of the Simi Valley Drive-in theater.  Who can it be?  The Peeping Tom Creeper who attends the drive-in every night to see couples making whoopee?  The not-quite-there grounds keeper who was a sword-swallower when the location was a local carnival?  Perhaps the chronically angry manager?  Two police detectives certainly have their job cut out for them (if you'll excuse the pun).

Although it is always my intention to defend a film, and this film is expertly directed by Stu Segall, I will admit to a small number of faults, that, in fact, make the film a bit more endearing to me.  The establishing shot goes on far too long, as does a warehouse scene.  Sure - the screenplay was a bit light and needed to be padded a tad.  Happens to the best of them.  But, I'm a little jaded...a lingering opening shot of a long gone drive-in may not move the plot forward, but, it does cause a pang of sentimentality that I'll simply never get over.

The film was written by actor George "Buck" Flower, who managed to appear in everything from Back to the Future to Sorority Babes in the Slimbeball Bowl-a-rama, and film co-star John Goff under the pseudonym of Hemingway's balless character Jake Barnes. As mentioned earlier, the film is directed by Stu Segall who went on to have a great deal of success in television.


The film was written in a week and shot in four days, with all external night shots done in a single evening.  Some may think it shows, but, I was shocked to find it out.  I've seen much more appreciated films with shoddy production values - this film can boast well done interiors and exteriors in addition to the acting of a solid cast.

The film is not available consistently on streaming services - currently on the poor transfer (from which these screen captures are taken) is available on the Full Moon streaming service.  That is why I absolutely must plug Severin Films (@SeverinFilms on Twitter).  This is not a paid post - just have to be honest.  I picked up their extras packed Blu-ray of this title and it is something.  The transfer is clean and bright.  The colors snap and the sound is infinitely better than the evening I saw in the theater. But, in all honesty, I would have been happy with a poor transfer from video tape as along as the extras were included.  A commentary by director Segall as well as video interviews with the writers among a host of other extras makes this particular purchase one of the best I've made....seriously.  While it is available - pick it up!




Saturday, March 12, 2016

Pay a visit to......Plan 9

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!



There is a reason I have to defend some films...and some film makers.  Two of those reasons are Harry and Michael Medved; two gentlemen that, to best of my research, never wrote nor produced a single film.  However, neophytes though they were, they took it upon themselves to list in book form some of the worst films ever produced in a small tome published in 1980 entitled The Golden Turkey Awards..  Certainly some of it was "tongue in cheek" , but, in their esteemed opinions, one visionary was selected to be the worst director ever (and of the worst film ever no less) - one Mr. Edward D. Wood, Jr.

I was unaware of the book in my youth, but, I don't doubt I would have enjoyed it at the time.  However, I'm certain my enjoyment would have had a great deal more to do with compiling a list of must see films than sitting on the sidelines with a self-satisfied grin while mocking the work of others.

I have in the past engaged in beer fueled rants about the brothers Medved and their snarky book only to have the person stuck listening to me say - "But, didn't they bring the work of Ed Wood to a whole new generation of people?"

Meh....perhaps. But, I'd also say it's just as likely the best selling Don Post Tor mask was doing the same thing.  And, in fact, having never seen nor read Medved book - I was certainly well aware of Ed Wood thanks to a number of other publications and the fact that, in the golden age of television...the 1980s, there were once independent television stations that had to fill time; and sometimes they filled that time with Ed Wood films.

And I loved them.

I loved them dearly.



However, in 1992, Rudolph Grey did what the Medveds could not be bothered to do and wrote a well research book about the auteur himself in the oral biography titled Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.  It was only two years later when Tim Burton's amazing film Ed Wood brought to life the Eddie the world should know.  Wisely the Burton film ended with Wood's release of Plan 9 from Outer Space...his masterpiece.  Had the film continued, there wouldn't have been a dry eye in the house when the credits rolled.

Happily, since the 90s, the mystique and brilliance of Ed Wood has become more uniformly recognized. And, thanks to a new crop of film makers and artists - a new film - a tribute to the works of Wood - has been released.

Plan 9

Written and directed by John Johnson, Plan 9 is both an amazing film and a fitting and loving tribute to Ed Wood himself.  Taking inspiration from Wood's original film, Plan 9 tells the story of an alien invasion from the perspective of the residents of the small town of Nilbog. Thanks to advances in digital technology, Johnson and his amazing cast, can now represent Wood's story in a that, I feel certain would have made Eddie pretty damn proud.



Here is where I would discuss the plot of the film in more depth - but, honestly, check the film out for yourself.  What I want to do now is give accolades to one of the best and most sincere casts ever assembled.  I would watch this cast work together on a hundred films...and then wait for a hundred more.



First and foremost, I have to mention the performance of Ed Wood regular Conrad Brooks as Jamie.  Sure, like Wood, Brooks is often written off and under appreciated.  But, this film clearly indicates Brooks, has, and I believe always had, the chops to be a spot on actor.  Equally as impressive is the work of Mister Lobo as Criswell (at least when he's on set).  If you are familiar with my blog, you already know I've written about my respect for Mister Lobo.  An unequalled visionary, writer and actor, his performance in this film is a career making turn for an artist who should have been a household name 15 years ago (IMHO).  I'll have to gush about Mister Lobo just a bit more.  See, I love genre films, B-Movies, forgotten classics and grindhouse fare...so I safely write a blog about these film in my spare time when I'm not an IT geek.



Not so Mister Lobo.  This brilliant man talks the talk...and then walks the walk.  A film lovers film lover with an encyclopedic knowledge of genre films (and all things in general), he, along with is bride and a handful of others carry the torch of people like Ed Wood for future generations.  I've not had a chance to meet him yet, but, once I've met him and Fred Olen Ray I will be have all wishes fulfilled and will happily die in my sleep (or in a drunken bar fight while channeling Charles Bukowski..don't know yet).
 

But the rest of the cast is incredible as well - I'm certain all of them will go on to do a great many well know films.  The cast includes Brian Krause, Matthew Ewald, Monique Dupree...and John Johnson himself...as Kelton (I love that).

I watched it on Wal-Mart's streaming service Vudu but have a copy coming for more regular monthly viewings (as this has quickly become one of my all time favorite films).  Please, check it out - and if you see Mister Lobo tell  him "Hi" for me!






Friday, February 19, 2016

The Wraith....awaits

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!




Shitballs Batman - the 80s were rife with revenge flicks - Ms. 45, Death Wish II, Savage Streets, Vigilante, The Exterminator...and tonight's classic - The Wraith.




The Wraith stands out for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, it is certainly the least graphic of the films mentioned above (although the Princess Bride would certainly be the most family friendly revenge flick of the 80s).  Secondly, short of the aforementioned Princess Bride (and Ghost), The Wraith has a supernatural twist.  And thirdly, but not germane necessarily to the subject of the film, it stars two actors who, at one time I respected a great deal...and then they decided to go batshit insane - Charlie Sheen and Randy Quaid.  




The film takes place in a state I'm not terribly fond of, although it certainly excels over the state I'm from in average teeth per mouth and obsession with Duck Dynasty - the state of Arizona.  I'm guessing about the time this film was shot, Arizona was still not bothering to observe Martin Luther King day because, well, Arizona? Who the fuck knows.  Additionally, some of the most obnoxious (and noxious) people I've ever known were either from or attended college in Arizona.  All this to say, I could completely see the events of this film taking place in this state (at least in the 80s).




You can't have a revenge flick without two things - 1.  A major league douchebag and 2. a death.  This film provides provides both in the first few minutes of the first act.  A small town in Arizona (and aren't most of them) is home to a group of essentially road pirates who, through violence, force people to race and if they lose (and they always do) they have to give up their cars.  The leader of these adorable band of ragamuffins is a tool named Packard, played with brilliance by Nick Cassavetes; the son of a couple of the most brilliant filmmakers ever, John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands.  As a child he starred in one of the his father and mother's most heart wrenching films ever - A Woman Under the Influence.  Side note - if you have not seen Woman Under the Influence - stop reading this right now, watch that film, then continue reading this essay.




Back?  You're welcome.  Yes - I know that film was a roller-coaster ride and you probably cried like a baby. Now moving on with The Wraith.

The town is so small, when a motorcycle riding Charlie Sheen suddenly appears in town, everyone acts like its Dodge City in 1870.  Also appearing at the same time is a mysterious, and fucking gorgeous, high-tech car unlike anything Packard and his band of road pirates have ever seen.  Soon Packard's cronies begin to die in each race.  




Now, I defend bad movies.  And, in fact, I don't believe the films I write about are bad - I believe them to be classics made by hard working, yet underappreciated artists.. I've loved this movie since my sitting alone by myself eating pizza and pining away in the dog  days of 1987.  But, I have to simply point out one crazy flaw. The local sheriff played spot-on, as usual, by Randy Quaid, seems to have no issues with people essentially have their car's stolen, threats of violence, rape, stalking or any other of the myriad of crimes committed by Packard and his gang.  But, when Packard's gang starts dying off while racing a mystery car, then the sheriff turns into fucking Clint Eastwood.  Nevertheless, no one plays a potentially morally ambivalent law man like Randy Quaid.




As the story goes into Act 2, we discern who the Wraith is, his connection to Billy Hankins (portrayed by Matthew Barry) and how he plans to seek his revenge.

I'm the first to admit, this film might not be the classic it is today were it not for one of the greatest casts ever assembled.  The film not only stars Cassavetes, Sheen and Quaid, but also Sherilyn Fenn, Clint Howard (brother of Ron Howard), Griffin O'Neal (son of Ryan O'Neal) and some purely amazing work by Jamie Bozian and David Sherill as Gutterboy and Skank respectively.




I watched the film on Hulu and the transfer was pretty clean.  I'm sure it's available on other streaming platforms as well.  Completely random memory, I rented the tape of this film in November of 1987 from the Schnuck's grocery store in Cape Girardeau, MO - the Arizona of the midwest (just kidding....I guess).

By the way all - if you like what you read (or don't actually) Leave a comment or drop me a line.  It's been a bit quiet lately.

The Rotten Tomatoes Link for the Wraith

The IMDB page for The Wraith





And for crying out loud - watch this beautiful film.  It will change your life.