24 June 2013

Nomad Riders

United States – 1984
Director – Frank Roach
Vestron Video, 1985, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 30 minutes.

It takes a certain panache for a film to claim right on the cover to follow a particular tradition or style.
The forebears mentioned are, predictably, popular and successful films to which the adherent whishes to attach itself and against which it is inevitably, poorly compared. There’s nothing at all wrong with this, and in fact it requires some devil-may-care confidence to openly cite one’s aspirations. Negative comparisons can only follow. Then again I suspect that the people writing the synopses on the box are not the same people who made the film.

Our hero, slouching toward vengeance...
Nomad Riders asserts on the back that it was conceived in not just one, but two traditions, those of Mad Max and of Death Wish. The first ostensibly because it takes place, at least partially, in a rural desert landscape, but also because it centers around one man’s quest to avenge the murder of his wife and child, which also brings us round to the Death Wish franchise. Unfortunately, protagonist Steve Thrust has none of the charisma of either of those leading men and is in fact quite a detestable jerk. It’s one thing to be angry, another entirely to be sadistic. Pretty early on in Nomad Riders one begins feeling sorrier for his victims, to say nothing of his poor family, than one does for Thrust himself. None of the victims are very nice either, but Thrust’s tiny head and fashionably oversized glasses perched atop an all white outfit make him look remarkably like a predatory insect.
The Nomad Riders vs a circular saw, nobody wins.

Nomad Riders takes its name from a group of three bikers working as heavies for a “Mr. Vacci” by the writer/director. Having exceeded the parameters of their assignment to merely intimidate by actually killing Thrust’s family, the bikers are now the target of both their own employer as well as the aggrieved. But that doesn’t let Steve of Mr. Vacci’s hook yet… As vile as all of these characters are, and there are lots of them to despise, there is something appealing about this protracted and often incongruous cat and mouse game. There is no subtlety, no ‘acting’ in Nomad Riders, only a form of direct address, a sort of yelling-in-the-face line recitation that gives the whole thing a constant sense of physical urgency. To the best of my knowledge (a cursory IMDB search) none of these people, from the writer/director to Thrust to any of the other principals did much more than this single film. It’s a confused and abrasive experience, but its austerity gives it a jarring sense of authenticity lacking in the big budget productions like those it invokes. Thrust and his cohort may be heartless unlikable pieces of shit, but at least they’re honest about it.

This short clip of senseless destruction is both hilarious and well shot. A perfect example why the amateurishness doesn't detract from Nomad Riders. Notice grandma's reading material. Thanks to user XXTUBBYXX who has uploaded a number of other great scenes from this movie...

17 June 2013

9 1/2 Ninjas

United States - 1990
Director - Aaron Barsky
Republic Pictures Home Video, 1990, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 28 minutes

This low budget ninja parody film neatly secures a place among the most irritating films of all time with a spectacularly grating performance from, everyone in the film. Granted, there are a number of brilliant double entendres and visual puns sprinkled throughout, the script is actually quite good, it's just the execution that's lacking. Not in the enthusiasm category mind you, but the subtlety category. I realize that subtlety is not the stock in trade of physical comedy, quite the opposite, but when all is said and done with a film like this, one almost feels emotionally abused rather than entertained. I'm not stupid, you don't need to punch me in the face with ham, just humiliate yourself and everything will be fine. Perhaps that's the problem. When the characters are so annoying that you can't empathize or identify with 'em, even when you're laughing, it's no longer funny.

14 June 2013

Rental Store - Hillcrest Video

As you can see, these gorgeous full color labels from Hillcrest video in beautiful Palos Hills, Illinois are on my copy of the surefire crowd pleaser Lunch Wagon, AKA # 232.
Love the grey-flap tapes...

10 June 2013

Yor: The Hunter From the Future

Italy, 1983
Director – Antonio Margheriti
RCA/Columbia Home Entertainment, VHS, 1983
Run Time - 1 hour, 28 minutes 

We first posted Yor's nifty tab/flap RCA box way back HERE, but it seemed time to give it a more thorough treatment and by chance, our friends over at Ed's Pop Culture Shack did the same thing....

Not content merely to skim the profits off the still cooling carcass of the sword and sandal cum caveman cycle, Italian director Anthony M. Dawson or Antonio Margheriti as he was sometimes known, decided to weave his ridiculous half-baked story arc into another popular genre, this one culled from the tattered edges of an epic space opera franchise that would later be consumed by a giant evil mouse.

Utilizing the last-minute-generic change of heart for which the Italians held a peculiar affection, Dawson does his countryman and contemporary Bruno Mattei one better by filming a kind of what-if version of Planet of the Apes in which Taylor hits his head during the crash and wanders the planet searching for his identity. (The opening scenes of Beneath the Planet of the Apes suggest that this is precisely what happened since the first film.) Of course, its nearly twenty years and four sequels late, but so were Yor’s special effects, resembling more the homemade, rubber-bat stylings of another late sixties sci-fi television franchise than anything out of the relatively more technological 80’s.

But that’s par for the course with Yor. Even the man behind the mullet-wig, Reb Brown himself was a couple of decades out of step, detouring through European cinema just like Bronson, Eastwood and others did when jobs were scarce in the States. Again though, that was in the late sixties, and those guys had comebacks in the 70's and 80’s when tough-guys were in style along with the president. So those jobs weren’t scarce in the 80’s, Reb just never had what it took to be a tough guy. He’s hard not to love as the scenery-chewing whatever he’s playing, but in spite of his paucity of emotion, he’s simply too cuddly to cut it. His jaunt across the screen as Captain America in the 70’s being perhaps his most memorable domestic role, was nevertheless laughable because the guy lacked the steely ex-paratrooper chutzpa that the character demanded. That’s probably why they deliberately wrote him as the son of the original Captain; plausible deniability.

Yep, its Luciano Pigozzi, the old guy from ExY3K
So too is Reb as Yor, way, and I mean waaaaaaayyyyyyy behind the times. Ostensibly a caveman in the Fiction-olithic era, the film opens with a bang, but quickly devolves into a monotonous whine. By the end we discover that indeed, like its better known simian predecessor, Yor’s planet shared the same fate, and a present that looks like the past is actually a dystopian, post-nuke future. By now, precisely thirty years after Yor’s release in the States it would be superfluous to describe or validate the film, nor do I feel masochistic enough to try. Others have already done so, and better. People familiar with the type of product Margheriti produces, Last Hunter, Cannibal Apocalypse, will not be surprised by Yor’s rambling, sleep-inducing middle act. For the blissfully ignorant in search of something so-bad-it’s-good (as I was, many years ago when I found Yor,) it should be noted that euphemism is highly subjective. Legendary among fans of bad and Italian and particularly bad-Italian, which is a distinct flavor, Yor represents a particular depth of ridiculously inept filmmaking. I can think of other shitty movies that I enjoy more, but few that try so hard.

This French poster art comes courtesy of www.golobthehumanoid.com. I could be wrong, but it looks very much as if it was painted by master comics artist Philippe Druillet.

Other image credits from top:
That's my VHS box

05 June 2013

Future Tense

Future Tense
United States - 1991
Director - Fred Carpenter
 Mars Hill Productions, 1991, VHS
Run Time - 30 minutes

I realize that its the sort of thing that lots of people can relate to, but I'm not sure that comparing the Rapture to missing or catching an airline flight is really a good idea. I mean, I don't think I know anybody who likes to fly, and it suggests that being a Christian might just be like waiting in the concourse your whole life. Such terrible food, and the booze is way overpriced.

03 June 2013

That Lucky Touch

United Kingdon - 1975
Director - Christopher Miles
Video Treasures, 1987, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 33 minutes