29 May 2009

Evil Spawn

Evil Spawn
United States - 1987
Director- Kenneth Hall
Camp Motion Pictures, 1987, VHS
Run Time – VHS: 1 hour, 30 min., (DVD: 1 hour, 40 min.)

Evil Spawn comes in several versions, on the VHS tape, and the credits on the DVD as well claim that Kenneth J. Hall directed this trash-splat classic. IMDB adds a second name, Ted Newsome, but, on the DVD (cover art featured below) in the special features, Fred Olen Ray also claims to have directed it.

In any case, the story is a classic self-referential B-movie from the 80’s. Low budget and crude, it relies on the base exploitation draws (girls, and gore) and plays them to the hilt. Plus the entire movie is scored by a two-bar knockoff of one single track from Ennio Morricone’s The Thing soundtrack (Humanity, Part II), which actually works out pretty well.

In a janitorial closet/laboratory a woman with an awe-inspiring pompadour mullet releases an insectoid hand puppet from its storage crate. The insect attacks a guy in the lab who staggers into an alley and attacks a young couple. Ripping the man’s arm off in a geyser of blood just before the woman is able to crush the attacker against the wall with her jeep.

Pompadour (Dawn Wildsmith, an F.O. Ray regular) visits her boss, a drunk, or at the very least incredibly near death John Carradine. Just before dying he mutters something about his work at which Pompadour scoffs and returns home to stroke a gun, wear a wig and act insane. She has an unexplained stalker fetish for Lynn Roman, an aging Hollywood starlet trying to land the lead role in a movie called “The Savage Goddess”. Unfortunately Lynn (Bobbie Bresee) is considered too old and instead is offered a role in “The She Demon”. Doesn’t sound like a big difference to you and me, but to Lynn, this is a hearty portion of shit soup, so she goes into a downward spiral of vanity depression. In an attempt to recapture the youth she thinks will land her the lead. She’ll do anything, sunbathing, drinking cocktails, injecting alien serums peddled by sinister women with giant pompadours who break into her home. After a nightmare in which she becomes a rotten zombie while accepting an Oscar, this last option begins to sound pretty appealing.

The serum does make Lynn more attractive, at least to her sleazy biographer who intermittently narrates portions of the film while smoking and banging on his typewriter like a noir detective. Lynn confirms the results by checking herself out in the mirror and taking a shower, which is nice, but a bit ironic since Bresee herself is aging, yet she is the lead, and her lady parts are prominently featured. Nudge nudge.
But the side effects, oh yeah, the “hell hath no fury” side effects. Whenever Lynn finds herself getting brushed off for younger women she mutates into a giant clawed insectoid alien, with a vanity problem.
Which is plenty more excuse to deliver the goods, first with her own assistant Elaine (the gorgeous Pamela Gilbert who vanished from the films shortly hereafter) who takes a very generous skinny-dip in the pool before getting devoured by bug/Lynn, and of course the adulterous husband, the biographer, the agent…

One of my heroes Richard Harrison was listed as a star in several places, including IMDB which had him top billed. After watching the VHS with nary a sign of ol’ Richard, I bought a DVD which promised an extra 10 minutes of runtime. Unfortunately, still no Dick Harrison, that 10 minutes was entirely Fred Olen Ray being a self absorbed douchebag. But, there are a few special features that did make the DVD a worthwhile investment. The cover art on the VHS is waaaayyyy better and comes from Camp Motion Pictures who have released a good deal of super low budget 80’s fare on DVD that is well worth tracking down. So you win some, you lose some.

The DVD cover art referred to above.

Among the alternate titles for this film the only one I found art for was The Alien Within.

25 May 2009

An Eye For An Eye

I know this is the DVD art, but it's the same as my VHS box.

United States – 1981
Director – Steve Carver
MGM Home Entertainment, 1998, VHS
Run time - 1 hour, 46 minutes

In his second Steve Carver helmed movie (the other being Lone Wolf McQuade), The Norris plays another bull-headed, single-minded good-cop with little tolerance for any way but the "my-way". Everybody else gets round-housed down the "hi-way". All the better, supporting actors just drain attention away from The Norris. If you've ever wanted to see The Norris kick serious drug-peddler ass in a bright-red Members Only jacket or a puffy lumberjack-chic vest you get to see it here. Isn't that dandy. I also think this might be only the second movie in which I've seen The Norris crack a smile. It can be a little bit frightening, but don't let that deter you, it doesn't last for long. Even if it's completely formulaic, An Eye For An Eye doesn't pull any punches, just do not take it on an empty stomach.

On a big time undercover investigation, The Norris, here named Sean, and his over-the-hill partner, who's so unimportant I forgot his name, are set up, and partner is burned to death while pinned by a car. Sean resigns, throwing a hissy fit to Police Capitan Richard Roundtree. Partner's 26-year-old wife, Linda, a local news anchor, fake-cries on The Norris' shoulder and immediately does a long boring TV expose on the drug problem in San Francisco. As if this is something that is going to ruin their enterprise, "The Drug Business" sends some thugs after her. Just before they mercifully stifle her forced and wooden shrieking, she calls Sean, and tells him she found "something".

Later, Right before Roundtree kicks him out of Linda's apartment Sean encounters the deceased's neighbor/best-friend/coworker Heather. CAUTION: Weepy plain-looking ear and eye irritant. Sean goes to Linda's dad's house, a diminutive asian fellow (Mako) named…James. Duuuhhhhh. Okay then. Grrr, James want's revenge for his daughter's death so he ordered home delivery thugs, and he and Sean team up Double Dragon style.

Sean takes Heather to his wharf-side display home to add to his collection of emotionally dependent accumulate. There, she dramatically increases the stomach turning "Queasy Factor" of Sean's ratty dog as they frolic gaily about in his gilded cage. At his sizzling sweaty sexiest after waking up from a "flashback-to-the-first-scene" nightmare, Heather runs her fingers through Sean's dewy moist chest carpet and gradually sinks below the surface into Stockholm Syndrome. Retch.

The uncomfortableness of this quaint warm moment is quickly replaced by reaffirming masculine brutality when Sean and James team up again, first at the TV station where they discover the not very surprising heavy-handed truth about the powers behind the San Francisco drug trade. And finally with a tender moment on a grassy hillside outside the kingpin's decadent mansion. Disappointed with Sean's performance, sensei James quips, "I do not think this is going very well!" in his best wise Chinese guy sidekick voice.
The subsequent massacre of nearly every moving thing in the mansion has no effect on their chipper moods, Heather included, and they stroll gaily away from the bloodbath arm in arm, smiling and laughing in socially acceptable racist comic relief, apparently unconcerned that they just took something like 80 eyes for an eye.

Where's the dog? I need some playful yapping. Do not crush or chew, swallow whole. In case of ingestion, induce whiskey.

Some classic Embassy clamshell VHS box art.

Nice poster art I found at Atomic Pulp

19 May 2009

Dark Tower

United States - 1987
Director- Ken Barnett
Video Treasures, 1994, VHS
Run time - 1 hour, 31 min.

I personally believe that it is a bad idea to try and push anything other than the plot of the film at hand on the box itself. The obvious deduction when you see a video sleeve with claims like “in the tradition of…” is to think the film can’t stand on its own merit. When it’s an indie movie, like Dark Tower, it might also be a bad move to call out all the actors and their previous roles, in a bulleted list no less, to try and generate interest in the film. In short, any attempt to play up the quality of a film by invoking other films is a bad idea. But, for all I know, that was the only thing the marketing team though they had going for them.

Carolyn Page (Jenny Agutter) gives a bunch of fellows a tour of a skyscraper under construction and then retires to her office to undress and walk around in some underwear. A window washer catching an eyeful cranes his neck to get a better look but when she sees him he suddenly starts getting jerked around by an unseen force, his head bashed against the window and finally hurled over the side of his pulley falling like a giant bird poo to splatter on top of one of the guys who was just getting the tour. This says less I think about the fall, than the woman’s full closet nightie setup in her office, in an otherwise totally unfinished building.

Dennis Randall (Michael Moriarty, The Stuff, Hanoi Hilton) is called in as a head of security or something, to give the film a procedural feel and sporadically squeeze out his lines with a manic yell. Randall also has numerous waking psychic episodes in which he visualizes himself raping Carolyn while some guy in a shabby suit watches. He also appears to be sleeping with her while he has these visions, but the films producers deemed this paradox beneath clarification. That evening a security guard is menaced by a malfunctioning fluorescent light fixture and some spooky music. The whole thing is like a primitive god concept, in which a little understood phenomenon, mechanical failure in this case, is explained by the irrational invention of a supernatural controlling force. Hence the evil elevator, which drops at terminal velocity to splatter the security guard, but remains functional for the rest of the film to perform the same trick ad nauseum with the same boring static shot. Nobody calls a repairman, it’s just taken for granted that it's an evil spirit.

Instead, Randall hires a "French" paranormal-psychologist to bring still more verbal diarrhea to this buffet of talent. The shrink, Kevin McCarthy (My Tutor and Innerspace among other gems) gets drunk and tells everyone they are stupid. Advice for the ages to be sure, but perhaps better received prior to signing a contract to be in this film. In any case all three of the boys team up to tackle the building's poltergeist, dragging a snarky Carolyn along for laughs. Soon confronted by some wind and noises, everyone becomes overwhelmed by the awesome vapidity of the film. Randall becomes possessed by said spirit, apparently Carolyn’s dead husband, and barks out the whole back-story like a steaming hairball into Carolyn’s lap. Inexplicably he becomes a cheap rubber zombie and chases Carolyn around the building, grabs her and magically re-seals them both back into the broken concrete piling of the buildings foundation before reappearing moments later as Moriarty, apparently at peace with the whole ridiculous poltergeist-zombie-transmogrification thing. Well, that’s faith for you. Amen.

IMDB claims that this was directed by Freddie Francis who was later replaced by Ken Wiederhorn (
Return of the Living Dead II, Shockwaves), the former seems ridiculous because he's a multiple Oscar winner, but the second sounds more feasible simply because this is his caliber of film

16 May 2009

Land of Doom

United States - 1984
Director- Peter Maris
Avid Home Entertainment, 1992, VHS

Not very many movies have the guts to boldly declare on the back of the box, which movies they knocked off. Land of Doom is one such movie. its awesomely alluring painted cover by Renato Casaro which promises the beginning of a battle (involving a gauntlet-crossbow with five fingers and no thumb) and has at least one scene from the movies that inspired Land of Doom.

The battle begins with an extensive raid scene which goes on and on with numerous killings and rapes. Amidst all the screaming, in one fiery hut a blonde woman, Harmony, fights off a caveman with a meat cleaver and escapes to another nearby cave where she encounters a wounded foxy dude named Anderson. Bent on building a better wasteland, Anderson lays a heavy peace and love trip on Harmony, overcoming her outright hostility enough to convince her to travel as a team. They are shortly caught by a goofy/crazy bad guy who laughs and taunts them, but repeatedly emphasizes his goofy/craziness, and frosts that little cupcake of irritation with stupid. Saved by Harmony, Anderson works on his own bakers dozen of unrelenting irritating utopian babble-ass, and Harmony understandably tries to ditch him again.

They wind up at some rock houses carved out of cliffs and boulders, and there is a battle which they watch from afar and then steal a motorcycle with ridiculous “post-apocalyptic” scrap metal armor welded on, using it to run away. Moments later, the bike runs out of gas right near some other rock-houses. These ones inhabited by French post-apocalyptic hillbillies whom Harmony and Anderson ask for food.

Discovering that the French have served them human meat, H & A flee again and watch another battle from a hilltop.

Some movies are not very good but have a few exciting set pieces or scenes to wake you up and make the rest of the movie worth sitting through. Land of Doom has none of those. The interesting scenery and typical, if entertaining apocalypse gear is worth a laugh or two. But sadly, like Anderson's droning future-hippie psycho-babble, this uniquely terrible movie is little more than an exercise in monotony.

This poster from Wrong Side of The Art is way better, but it looks like Harmony is accidentally discharging her weapon.

The concept art for the sequel from the directors website Maris Entertainment.

Turkish Land of Doom box art from Post Apocalypse.

And some Australian box art from Rolfens DVD. I'm sure the Aussies loved the taint of this movie on their homegrownpost-apoc franchise.

15 May 2009

Why Chuck Norris?

Some of you may have been wondering why I've been posting so many reviews of Chuck Norris movies recently, (and more to come) so I ought to set the record straight. I was trying to come up with the best Chuck Norris movies I could find for the Kung Fu Grindhouse annual December Chucksmas event and I thought it would be amusing, or perhaps painful to try and watch every single Chuck Norris movie ever made. So I did.
There were two exceptions; I did not watch any of the Walker Texas Ranger TV movies, and I did not watch 2 movies that I couldn't find, one being The Student Teachers in which he only has a tiny role, and some other one with Wire in the name.
I wrote a review of every single one for Genrebusters.com, but since they are defunct and most of these reviews were fairly amusing, I'm reposting them here with additional info if I can find any. I wrote an intro to the series, and a concluding statement when it was all over, but the latter is nowhere to be found at the moment. Above is the banner I did for Genrebusters, though they never used it, and below is the intro statement;

"Join me in a quest to discover what truly is the meaning of life, or perhaps the meaning of the life of Chuck Norris, and also to try and find a palatable Chuck movie to subject the drinking public to at Kung Fu Grindhouse. I am willingly subjecting myself to a long series of Clockwork Orangesque video brainwashings. Having begun the experiment, I cannot deviate from the path. I will admit that in many ways I am a glutton for punishment. Nobody understands me and I am alone in the world. I suffer for it, I am the champion of the people. (Much as Chuck erroneously believes himself to be) I am a martyr, but don’t get me wrong I’m not a Norris fan, nor do I expect this to be anything but trying, but I’ve justified it by convincing myself that I’ll be a better stronger person for doing it. Yes please, and thank you.
As I watch, I experience, feel, touch and taste that which is Chuck and bring to the printed word as much as I can of the experience. In this case I think the Stream of Consciousness is a direct tributary of Shit Creek."

During the experience I was also inspired to do two paintings for a couple of art shows I contributed to.

So anyway, that's why all the Norris, and if you're in Seattle next December come to Chucksmas, it's fun.

13 May 2009

Logan's War: Bound By Honor

This amazingly shitty DVD triple feature contains Logan's War and both President's Man films.

Logan’s War: Bound By Honor

United States - 1998
Director - Michael Preece
Madacy Records, DVD, 2004

And thus begin the Norris TV years, with a bang and a wailing shriek of flag-masticating-papal-patriotic pressure release. In the pickling years of Chuck Norris's life, he begins to develop the deep earthy flavors and sharp bite of an aged right wing cheese. In the two years since Forest Warrior, Chuck and Aaron's "managed wilderness" masterpiece of pasteurized processed cheese-food kiddie fare, Aaron has hung up his director's blindfold for a writer's hatchet, and Chuck has recovered from his struggle with gall stones or skin cancer or whatever; instead of looking like a fat Twinkie fed bear, he looks like a lean and mean mummy, his waxy skin pulled tight across his stubbly skull bone.

As Jake Fallon, Norris is the ex-Army Ranger uncle of Logan, a 10-year-old whose District Attorney family is snuffed out by an organized crime boss. Logan swears murderous vengeance, which Jake casually endorses as a rite of passage. Logan is also a clairvoyant (think Sixth Sense rip-off), and as soon as this skill is crudely revealed, Chuck decides to train him in Karate, and, after an "aging transition effect", continues to train the adult Logan in Army Ranger skills.

Afterwards they meditate with a bald eagle flying in an overlay shot, making brutal vengeance not only zen, but patriotic too. I feel like somebody just took a big red, white and blue crap in my mouth.

Logan goes on to become that Army Ranger, distinguishing himself as an invincible and dutifully destructive pawn of the military industrial complex. After winning sundry awards for exceptional cockiness, Logan leaves the Army and embarks on a private quest to fulfill his earlier declaration of premeditated vindictive manslaughter, again with the complacent macho cowboy consent of Jake and his waxen beyond-the-grave gaze. Yawn.

This movie is boring, there is absolutely nothing new here, Aaron (and co-writer Chuck) go so Hitman-derivative they even have Logan call himself "The Hitman" as he goes ridiculously "undercover" into the mafia. As a face-bashing goon, he gets "made" and meets the Don Bambino within 10 minutes. Undercover, schmundercover, think it aint bad enough? Chuck Norris re-appears from a Cribbage game at the retirement home at the exact moment Logan needs some karate-backup. (see also Sidekicks)

Blech, who wins is who needs to wins, and I drank till I got the spins.

Alternate DVD covers, as if we needed 'em.

The Dark

Just because the movie sucks doesn't mean you should cut the box!

The Dark

United States - 1979
Dir. – John “Bud” Cardos
Media Home Entertainment, VHS, 1982

I bought this movie probably eight months ago. Somehow I knew it was one of those ones, one of the, damn... Somehow my aversion was foreknowledge. After I find some movies, I don’t watch them for a while, 3 months, 6, a year. Some it’s because the film holds no interest for me, I know I need to save it, but not watch it. Others, I have to see, but I have an aversion. I know something is going to be wrong. The Dark is one of the latter, clearly though, I watched it. What made me pick it up was William Devane’s (Rolling Thunder) name. My friend Daniel told me stay away because the director had a “quoted” nickname. I told me to stay away because the cover/poster looked too expansive, like it couldn't help but overstate the contents.

My first impression is that the neo-gothic doomsday narration at the beginning is a bad sign. My second, after the monster talk and a quick kill, is that this is a Slithis rip-off with a psychic. I hate movies with psychics, they are never good. There may have been a point in the 70’s/80’s when psychics were heavy business, but really, they’re just a joke or a pre-CSI syndicated afternoon soap-cop-era. Too bad this movie was made in the middle of the psychic era, crap.
DeVane is an ex-con horror novel writer whose daughter happens to be the first victim of the beastie. The detectives on the case are a donut-eating old man cartoon, and a tough as nails cynic, the same fellow who put DeVane away for murder (this is mentioned as an afterthought). Meanwhile, a sexy female TV journalist asserts her feminism by insisting on covering the story, and making mattress friskies with DeVane. Bad sign.

Each time the monster is about to attack someone with the ridiculous lasers it shoots from it’s eyes, a chorus of reverbed voices on the audio track begins whispering “oscurita” which I guess is supposed to be where the movie got its name or something.

DeVane, in aviators, a headband and a Corvette, starts tracking the monster through his association with the psychic and a cocaine party on a yacht. With the help of the reporter chick this is accomplished using a montage. With the help of a lot of dumb dialogue, we know now that this is a boring 70’s monster movie that’s trying ever so hard to be suspenseful, despite it’s lame updated cross of gothic horror and sci-fi.

Finally in the last “climactic” scenes, the big reveal occurs, and we see the monster. Now I know where they came up with the Leprechaun makeup, thankfully they dramatically improved on it. This guy just looks like a big friendly renaissance–fair troll.

The original poster art, the version on the VHS box at the top is probably better but I'm including this for posterity or whatever.

I think this is an alternate poster, maybe someone else has better information?

A triple feature DVD from Shriek Show, and you can get a DVD with the poster art for the cover, but I wouldn't recommend it.

11 May 2009


United States - 1992
Director – ?
Delta Queen Steamboat Company, 1999, VHS
Run time: 5 minutes

This is going to be an intense journey through five minutes of concentrated advertising, and it’s amazing that for the shortest film I’ve reviewed I have more images than any other film I’ve reviewed.

If you believe that Dixieland, that is the plantations and legalised racial hierarchy is nostalgic, then Steamboatin’ tours are for you. The Steamboatin’ tours are all about reclaiming a lost piece of American history, and eating, and making both of them sound incredibly appealing. Steamboatin’ is an experience in long term consequence denial. You can look back in admiration at the history and feel nostalgic despite the slavery, while looking forward with covetous desire to unlimited helpings of chess pie despite the obesity and heart disease.

If the details of the tour sound a little bit dubious, the testimonials of the cosmetics caked blond folks who’ve taken the cruise, and those who lead them will reassure you that this is completely unlike the “blue water” cruises you’ve heard about. Steamboatin’ cruises (perpetual emphasis on the apostrophe blank, because it’s fucking colloquial and hence authentic) take you to the heart of America where you can witness the majesty and splendor of Ohio cornfields and admire the fully restored celebrations of institutionalized racial exploitation all set to a grating loop of canned popular American folk song clips.

It's one thing to read about these things or have them recited to you by the strung out tour manager, but its another thing entirely to go on shore yourself, and "go back in time" to see the plantations and re-live American history (which I'm beginning to gather includes whipping) the way mark Twain would have (only with a buffet line). We love the plantations and American history and on Steamboatin' tours you can see the plantations and really enjoy it just as much as we do.

One assumes that the women behind the matte-finish all-weather exterior are referring to the melanin endowed crew of the boat, prominently featured performing authentically menial duties. They may not all be authentically “black” but they are definitely not white.

On board in your tacky suite you can sit awkwardly in uncomfortable furniture and pretend to read, or even write things down. On deck after enjoying any number of authentic meatballs, hushpuppies and/or dumplings you can stand on deck and gaze at the thrilling paddle wheel churning you at 8 miles an hour past an authentic river bank like they used to have back then.

If you're tired of artificial vacations, and want a truly authentic one in which you are able to really "get situated" and unpack and experience authentic local American culture and plantations between meals, then come on down and join us on the beautiful and historic Delta Queen Steamboat where the only thing historically inauthentic is that we don't openly speak about our racism, we just keep it in our heartland.

The Delta Queen and her sister ships do have an inherent historical value at least, completely removed from this context, but as of this writing they are no longer plying the muddy waters of middle Americana, and are in fact up for sale. So that makes this video like, rare right?

Because I know you want to read it, I present you with every single goddamned page of the Steamboatin' brochure included with this video.

And of course the rare shore tour certificate. I was lucky enough to get an authentic original in my copy of the Steamboatin' promotional video.