21 April 2008

The Giant Claw

United States - 1957
Director – Fred F. Sears
Goodtimes Home Video, 1989, VHS

The more of these old black and white monster flicks I watch the more I like them and the more I want to watch, especially if I get them for 2 bucks on tape.

The Giant Claw is one such film, bristling with stiff Cold War military paranoia and posturing. The narration; about as colorful as a classroom etiquette and hygene training film. Bad boy electronics engineer Mitch MacAfee flies planes around to test the sparkly new RADAR system he’s building for the military. On one such flight he sees a blurry distant monster of tremendous proportions as it flies past. After reporting it to HQ, some fighter jets are scrambled and one fails to return after a fruitless search. Scorned as a prankster since the object never appeared on RADAR, MacAfee is soon vindicated by another sighting. After boarding yet another plane, MacAfee and his mathematician coworker Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday) are attacked and the plane crashes on a remote farm maintained by a superstitious French Canadian bootlegger who gets them drunk on cider.

Suddenly the bootlegger is attacked, and goes insane leading to another plane flight in which MacAfee sexually assaults Sally and they banter coyly. We are now to assume that they are engaged an established well functioning intimate relationship.

Finally, another plane flight later and with the sounds of rainforest jungle piped in the monster appears. It's a giant bird, wobbly rubber neck and stiff wooden wings suspended menacingly from a system of visible wires. Tracking it with their fancy SuperRADAR the Army Air Corps attacks it, but all their conventional weapons are useless.

After a lecture on atomic nonsense by a clammy-faced professor, MacAfee sweats out the plans for a special kind of atom gun while Sally feeds him sandwiches and coffee. Meanwhile, the feathered nightmare on wings is no slouch either, reducing the populace to a shrieking mass of delicious crunchy bird-feed running through the streets.

Sally squeezes out the idea that the bird might have a nest, and so she and Mitch go out and shoot the giant eggs before heading back to the lab to build the anti-matter gun that will save humanity from The Giant Claw.
An old poster for The Giant Claw which says the bird is prehistoric, a fact never mentioned in the film itself:

Mara Corday from the October 1958 Playboy:

08 April 2008

T & A Academy 2

T & A Academy 2
a.k.a. Gimme an F
United States - 1984
Director – Paul Justman
Impulse Productions, 1991, VHS

With a name like that what could possibly go wrong? A tough question when confronted with the challenge of this movie. Clearly one of the numerous knockoffs spawned barely by Porky's, a quick glance at the box art will tell you it's going to be a poor imitation. One of those cut and paste jobs with a picture of people who just scream, "Not actually appearing in this movie".

Before we get started, I'll tell you right now that I was pretty ripped when I watched this, and even though I laughed my ass off, that doesn't mean a thing.

After the school year ends, a number of cheerleading squads go off to Beaver summer cheer camp, where they train with so called "professionals", led by Tommy, in what almost comes across as a self-improvement seminar atmosphere. Our professionals are a bunch of mid-20's partyers who never got over high school cheer squad, and despite their accumulating overplayed self doubts, and the bumbling tyranny of the camp president Dr. Spirit, continue to hold jobs at the camp. The various groups of girls who arrive to attend the camp are no less stereotypically categorized than their instructors. The girls from the "punk squad", Demons, are inevitably at odds with the girls from the "rigid discipline", Falcons squad, and the predictably cute counterpoint paraded in front of this uninspiring if pityable backdrop are the stars of the movie, the "naïve and mildly religious", Ducks squad, whose innocence is matched only by their sure-to-be-overcome-by-the end-of-the-movie-incompetence.

The worshipful campers shriek appropriately during the numerous dance fueled faith-healing style rallies staged by their saccharine counselors.
A cathartic confidence building male dance montage follows.
Tommy experiences some self-doubt brought on by a bout of self-observant shame. What can a lazy 25-y.o. party boy, with an easy job teaching high-school girls how to dance, do? Teach some high-school girls how to dance, that's what. Taking an immediate shine to the underdog Ducks and their lead hot-blonde Phoebe, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend/co-instructor, he lavishes poorly-scripted if enthusiastically recited attention on the girls. The big cheer competition is just a few weeks away, and all the teams are wrapped tight as a nun's knickers. With barely mild surprisification Tommy sticks to his guns, confessing to a fawning Phoebe that he's already got a gal he loves.

A great deal of lead-up, weak - completely un-disappointing lead-up which I never believed, and which doesn't deliver. Well, really, it was the title, the cover, and the whole girl concept that had me waiting. But frustratingly enough, there is no, or rather, essentially none here of what a formula is made.Tommy's dance scenes begin to hint at this in the very beginning, and later scream it. His good pal Roscoe, who thrusts and gyrates while wearing lycra shorts with a target printed on the ass is definitely an ominous sign. Yes, and a man in the shower dance scene is everything I needed to make this movie complete.

I swallowed the whole bag, receipt, bottle caps and all, and was surprised only to find that I wasn't necessarily the target audience. Humor value in this case is as fluid as the bottle that fuels it.
Dutch video cover with the original American box art (image courtesy Dan's Film Collection):

07 April 2008

Basic Training

United States - 1984
Director - Andrew Sugerman
Vestron Video, 1986(?), VHS

A naïve young lady, Melinda, from Ashtabulah Ohio moves to Washington D.C. with grandiose ideas about doing important things for her government and country. She arrives at her new home to find her old friend noisily screwing some military guy. Add one more brain dead blonde nymphomaniac roommate and you have a star team of Pentagon secretaries.

Despite all her good intentions Melinda quickly discovers the sweaty underbelly of DC politics. The lieutenant for whom she works expects very little actual secretarial effort from her, but instead continuously attempts to ambush her pants for short-arm inspection.

While her roommates slut around with just about every other male in the cast, a cleaning lady (at the Pentagon? Oh wait, realism went out the window with the pre credit strip and song routine) accidentally erases the entire Soviet Defense file from the Pentagon mainframe computer.
Melinda gets fired from her job for refusing to put out, but aggressively seduces the thick-headed Lieutenant into re-hiring her. It works for a time, and Melinda uses her new powers of manipulation to move up the secretarial ladder and induce several flat scenes of crass physical humor. Finally while at a high-class party she is introduced to Boris, the Soviet diplomat who takes a slavering decrepit interest in her top secrets. Melinda is kidnapped by the rebuffed Red, and taken to his room at the Soviet Embassy where she extracts the lost top-secret Soviet defense plans by exposing her own secrets.
Melinda is out of place as the uptight good girl in the middle of a debauched decade of military overspending and sexual liberty. The film seems to half-heartedly extol her as a virtue of chastity and patriotic idealism but completely undermines that by simultaneously reinforcing the theme that sexuality is the only reliable way women can advance in our society. Am I over analyzing?
No-one in this movie has a problem taking their clothes off, hey there’s even a 50+ person all-nude pool party scene. But Melinda spends so much energy and time keeping hers on that you can't help but feel relieved when she finally gives in.

This early Playboy production feels a lot like a National Lampoon movie with more boobs, and fewer jokes that work.
Apparently someone thought it would be a good idea to put this out on DVD, once again scrapping the great painted cover art you saw at the top:

She Wolves of the Wasteland

She Wolves of the Wasteland
a.ka. Phoenix the Warrior
United States - 1988
Director- Robert Hayes
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment, 2007, DVD

When something like Phoenix the Warrior makes it’s way onto DVD with retooled packaging and a new name to boot, it’s something of a mixed blessing. You lose the cool cover artwork, but gain access to an almost intolerable movie.

Women hunted down in (unmodified) dune buggies by angry group of other women who call themselves “Wolves”.
Our post apocalyptical ladies labor under wire-headed queen mother cyber-crone who prophesies various shit and directs the breeding program from whence a pregnant woman and her warrior friend (Phoenix) flee.

Bring your own dirty and stylishly ripped bikini – skirts to this lavishly un-acted corrugated metal and M-16 fest. All girls, all the time.

Note: Awesome “Over & Under”.
Only the best “extreme” names are used for characters, such as “Riptide”, and “Whiplash”. “Lezpocalypse” fight between Wolves and Phoenix set to sweet synth tension music and defused with waterfall shower scene and sparkle music.
Blargh, baby born among friendly lesbian tribe who debate, then promptly fight rival tribe, the Wolves.
Dusty-closet caliber of homemade, the camera never moves like an early Cable/Sci Fi Channel movie titty flick with ranting monotonous dialogue that nearly bores me to tears.

Great deal of levity featuring TV watching skeletons ensues. Do I sense self fulfilling metaphor!?
I get it, they’re robo Lepers!
I’m reaching, adding a desperately positive outlook to a resoundingly famished and flayed carcass, resume boreification.

Original painted VHS cover art which was modified for the updated photoshopped DVD cover above: Turkish VHS cover art: I can't read the entire tagline on this (European?) VHS cover, but it sounds like it's good:

01 April 2008

Manchurian Avenger

Manchurian Avenger
United States - 1985
Dir. – Ed Warnick
Thorn EMI/HBO Video, 198?, VHS

There were words said somewhere about this film having Charles Bronson in it, or I’m crazy. It does not, but it does feature a torrent of schlock, and an angry Asian guy who has the same canyonous face as sir Bronson, thus follows the metaphor.Very low budget disembodied dubbing and anti-chinese racism introduce the film, and a simul-scene of Bronsonesque mustachioed Chinese guy coming into town drive the point home. Now you know there’s going to be some throwdown. Terribly scripted TV quality humorous racist stereotypes that smell frightfully of Three Amigos.
Goofy music accompanies scene of Chinamans stage-coach being ambushed by banditos, and following that another scene of Chinese Bronson defeating a bunch of outspokenly racist cowboys in a bar, with a humorous one line at the end that falls flat.

Two Chinese Americans serve as awkward English speaking siblings to out of place non-comunicative(actual Chinese guy) Bronson. There is a secret trove of gold related to which, Bronson utters one liners and initiates the first of a series of brutally dry, dark and uneventful flashbacks.

Another poorly shot fight scene between Bronson and some racists contributes to a distinct feeling of monotony. There is no building crescendo of humor, but rather a constant flat stream of shoddy painful mediocrity. On top of that, fourth gay/childish sibling goes in search of the “four winds” and brings another stumbling synthesizer scored flashback scene crashing down onto the rapidly accumulating wreckage of this movie.

The final showdown features a thoroughly boring and unconvincingly edited fight scene between Bill “Superfoot” Wallace the Bronson mimic set to what I can only describe as science fiction movie music and a total absence of empathy for any of these people from me.
With little discernable logic but grim determination this film bursts the misguided low budget genre cross-over dam, flooding its kung fu western setting with a relentless deluge un-humorous one liners delivered haltingly by a full round of racial charicatures. Alas, despite such a downpour of good intentions, only the cacti of irony grow in this celluloid desert.