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.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Night is right for....Night of the Demon

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 was so much harder to be a genre fan in the 80s.  Sure, you could find lots of great movies at the Mom and Pop video shop, but, it was hard to distribute the word about a great film when you found one.  Not so today - social media has certainly made getting recommendations for films much easier; that is especially the case with the film I discuss in this essay - Night of the Demon.  Unable to sleep a few weeks ago I took to trolling Twitter and thanks to @badmoviesunday1 I discovered a film I'd never even heard of - and then proceeded to have playing non-stop on my PC for the next few days.

One of the things I find most interesting about Night of the Demon are the similarities between this film and the equally unusually titled Shriek of the Mutilated.  Both films center around Big Foot, involve a college professor and his students performing research in an isolated environment.  Each also have rather shocking endings.

In my opinion, Night of the Demon is the more "over the top" film however. Unless someone had their penis ripped off in Shriek of the Mutilated and I missed somehow.

Night of the Demon follows Professor Nugent and his band of students as they head out to track down a mysterious Big Foot creature or the conspiracy keeping the truth hidden.  Once there, there investigation leads them to witness an odd religious rite where a woman appears to in danger of being raped.  Professor Nugent and his students scare off the locals and then began to uncover a mystery involving a lady written off by the town locals as "Crazy Wanda" - who may have been raped by Big Foot and gave birth to a deformed Big Foot baby.

Read that last line again. Yep.

Stylistically the film is intriguing because most of the "documented" attacks discussed by the professor and his students are told in flashback. In fact, for the gore hounds out there, it is the flashbacks where the damage the beast can inflict is indicated.  Although how a huge monster could be hiding in the bushes and separate a man from his penis is not entirely explained.  Nor do I care - the film is simply too wild for me to concern myself with minor details.

If I have a complaint, it is just that the flashbacks seem like an afterthought.  In fact, I believe they were.  The IMDB page for this film contains trivia that indicates a substantial part of the film was cut out after completion and I feel the flashbacks, or most of them in any event, are added to pad the film and make it releasable to drive-ins and theaters.

I watched this film on Amazon Prime - and as much I liked it, the transfer is a horrible dub from a VHS tape.  Nothing more off putting than feeling like you need to adjust your tracking while watching something on a PC.  However, Code Red did release a blu-ray version and a no frills DVD version is available...but pricey.

Many of the cast continue to work, especially Michael Cutt who portrayed Professor Nugent.  He has worked steadily since this film, usually playing military or police officers.  The writers, Jim L. Ball and Mike Williams, as well as director James C. Wasson, appear to have only this picture to their credit.

As is generally required for a film I write about, the IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes rankings are not stellar.

IMDB Page for Night Of The Demon

Rotten Tomatoes Page for Night Of The Demon

Nevertheless, order a pizza and grab some beers and have a great time with Night of the Demon.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

No, not the Khardashians but another kind of....Breeders

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'm always a bit surprised when I find and watch a film for the first time that I should have seen 20 or 30 years earlier.  Such is the case with Breeders. Stranger still as I'm very familiar with Tim Kincaid's Robot Holocaust and Mutant Hunt films and wonder how I missed Breeders

So, in the interest of honesty - if you look at the Rotten Tomatoes page you'll find a score of 8%
Rotten Tomatoes page for Breeders
This is a travesty and a slap in the face of the artists who worked so hard to make this film.  Sure, I get it.  It does border on soft-core porn ( and in what world did that become a negative) and does appear to be a bit derivative of other, equally as brilliant films.  However, I have to wonder why it is acceptable for a film like Star Wars Episode VII ( a wonderful film I've seen several times) to mirror Episode IV but Breeders can't have a C.H.U.D. vibe to it?  Oh, that's right - Disney.  But, I digress.

This film is written and directed by the talented Tim Kincaid (Tim Gambiani of Santa Barbara, CA) the artist behind such films of my youth as Mutant Hunt, Robot Holocaust and Bad Girls Dormitory.  As much as I've enjoyed his genre work, Mr. Kincaid is better known for his adult films produced under the name Joe Gage.

Shot in New York City in the late 80s, the plot revolves around the investigation of Det. Dale Andriotti (Lance Lewman) and Dr. Gamble Pace (Teresa Farley) to determine the assailant of  women who have been attacked, sexually assaulted and disfigured in New York.  Despite the oddities of the attacks, neither Dr. Pace or Det. Andriotti suspect the cause for the attacks is extraterrestrial.

I'll be very blunt - despite the Rotten Tomatoes rating or the meager 3.4 on IMDB, this film is very well done.  In films of this strain that are better rated, many of the characters are cookie cutter, toss away after thoughts.  Each portrayal in this film, no matter the amount of screen time, is a fully realized person and contributes to the breadth and depth of the story being told.  I simply can't reject the derision of this film more strongly.  Teresa Farley and Lance Lewman are remarkable in this film - that is a straight fact.  As does every actor is this picture, from Frances Raines to Matt Miller and the absolutely amazing portrayal of Dr. Ira Markum by well renowned make-up artist Ed French.

If you troll several of the reviews of this film online you'll find one of the primary complaints is the film is soft-core porn.  Are there a number of nude women in this film?  Yes.  But, this film was a late 80s film - nudity has been, and ever will be, a staple of genre film. Sure, the film Eegah did not have nudity, but, sexuality is throughout the film.  Simply because some mores had altered between 1962 and 1987 seems a vapid argument against this enjoyable picture.

There are a small handful of pictures I watch in which members of the cast or crew don't move on to bigger or better things - not the case with this picture.  Ed French has gone on to be Oscar nominated and lance Lewman has a very extensive career including stints on Homicide: Life on the Street and House of Cards.

Tim Kincaid continues to be very successful in his adult career - though his films are not in my wheelhouse I'm certainly pleased he is still out there and making his art.  I watched this film on Amazon Prime, so I can't encourage you enough to either rent it through Amazon or get a Prime Subscription.  Watching this film has reminded me how much I enjoy his other pictures so I'll be checking them out tonight - Thank you Mr. Kincaid and crew for all the work you've done.