25 December 2013

13 December 2013

Rental Store - Peters Video Center

This label for a shop in St. Helena or Calistoga, California was stuck to my VHS copy of the epically bad Zombie vs Ninja.

10 December 2013


Philippines - 1986
Director – Cirio H.Santiago
MGM/UA Home Video, 198?, VHS
Run Time: 1 hour, 24 minutes

For a movie named after its lead protagonist, Silk is infuriatingly coy about using her. Few action films are so audacious as to be named after the key protagonist but in such cases there is no hesitancy to demonstrate the reasoning behind this decision. Both Dirty Harry and Cobra open their films with an explosive introduction that sets the tone for the rest of the film. Perhaps it is because Silk is a woman that director Santiago didn’t feel that people would buy the idea of a tough, trigger happy female cop. Perhaps it’s because the name doesn’t make any sense considering the character’s lack of personal suavity and the film’s dearth of nudity.

I won’t say that it’s all downhill from there, it’s not a bad movie per-se, but neither is it very memorable. Cec Verill (you wouldn’t know her from anything else) plays Silk, a hard-ass cop who busts drug smugglers in Hawaii (actually the Philippines.) Trouble is, much of the film seems to be about her male coworkers arguing amongst each other and fighting over money. Through a meandering plot Silk tracks down baddies and blasts ‘em, uncovers nefarious plots and blows ‘em up, gets captured, escapes and does it all again, but despite claiming to be “so fucking smooth,” her primary function appears to be fucking up dude’s plans. With a name like that I expected a veritable cacophony of one-liners or a sea of sweat slicked skin. I’m guessing the movie was named after the fact (as often happens) in order to create as false an impression as the cover. An image which, though titillating in the extreme, is about as egregious as the movie gets.

Santiago didn’t often waste a chance to get the women out of their clothes, (his earliest efforts included numerous Women In Prison films) but I can’t understand it here. I do appreciate the fact that her value to the film is not purely sexual (her outfits do make this claim dubious) but her hard ass attitude is as much a sensationalization of her gender (in it’s “unusualness”) as T & A, but the extra skin would have cheapened its appeal even more. Perhaps that’s the irony of Silk. In all it’s unreasonableness it upsets our expectations and reminds us not to make assumptions. Or not. Maybe I’m trying to validate what’s really just a bunch of crap.

Go read the review at Comeuppance!

05 December 2013

The Jolson Story

United States - 1946
Director - Alfred E. Green
RCA/Columbia Pictures, 1986, VHS
Run Time - 2 Hours, 9 Minutes

12 November 2013

Ghetto Blaster

United States – 1989
Director – Alan Stewart
Prism Entertainment, 1990, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 19 minutes

So are you like, Rambo or somethin'?
Watching 80’s exploitation cinema one begins to tire of all the lamentation about Vietnam. Between the vets wracked by guilt for what they did, or haunted by flashbacks of the horrors and unable to reasimilate into civilian life you would think the cottage industry in ‘Nam vet characters was a symptom of some kind of national trauma. It was as if by cinematic proxy the U.S. was trying to come to terms with what had happened. Yet easily as common as the Regret Vet was his cinematic contemporary, the Vengeance Vet. He reclaimed all that was lost, fixed everything that was broken and righted all that was wrong about post-Vietnam America (lord knows the government couldn’t do it.) If the war had taught us national humility, Vengeance Vet hadn’t gotten that memo.

Ghetto Blaster’s Travis is not the kind of ‘Nam vet who needs to commiserate. Like his eponymous 1976 predecessor Travis Bickle, he’s more interested in talking about cures. The film opens with Travis’s return to his childhood home in Los Angeles where he reunites with his estranged father for the first time after returning from The ‘Nam. In search of some sense of normalcy after the loss of his wife, Travis and his daughter find that the familiar old neighborhood has instead become a "hood." But if routine has taught us anything, the very war Travis is trying to put behind him is where he learned the same esoteric martial-arts combat skills that will enable him to fight it all over again in the streets of America.

Who you trying to get crazy with ese?
Within minutes of arrival, Travis finds himself at odds with The Hammers, a movie-tough gang of Chicanos who promptly murder Travis’s father. Despite a desire to quickly sell his dad’s corner-store and re-leave L.A. just as fast as he came, Travis makes the same mistake as his dad; he refuses to pay The Hammers for protection. But it takes the death of his most loyal customer (how’s that for American prioritizing!) for Travis to revert once again to his “urban warfare, extractions” training and hit The Hammers back as if he were, as his rivals mockingly suggest in a moment of fourth-wall-shattering clairvoyance, “some kind of Rambo.”

As a matter of fact… Camouflaging himself in what clearly is the urban equivalent to mud and leaves; a clown suit, Travis hijacks a shipment of cocaine from the Hammers, leading to the reciprocal and banal hostage/chase/shootout-in-the-abandoned-warehouse climax all too common in low budget drug-crime action films. Still, re-waging the entire war (racial demarcations included) in the ghetto not only reinvigorates Travis and America’s masculinity, it does the tough and morally burdensome job of drawing a clear line between who has the right (and might) to dictate the rules. Set to that wiggy-wiggy wild rap beat all the kids love these days, Ghetto Blaster mixes roughly equal parts of The Exterminator (1980) and Colors (1988) in an almost flawless agglomeration of the ‘Nam Vet revenge/vigilante trope that re-invigorated 80’s exceptionalism and the ghetto-drug-crime genre that would scare the piss out of white people in the 90’s. And as if spoken by former president George H. W. Bush himself, Ghetto Blaster proves without a doubt that we’ve finally defeated the Vietnam Syndrome.

Go read my friends review over at Explosive Action!

08 November 2013

Rental Store - Video Station

Long ago, in a city far, far away in Wisconsin, Video Station carried a VHS copy of that spectacular film 9 1/2 Ninjas.

25 October 2013

Rental Store - Southampton Video

Southamton Video was a shop somewhere in the States that once carried my VHS tape of Gumby for President. Where was Southampton?

11 October 2013

Rental Store - The Video Palace

This label, from one or the other of the Alexandria or Manassas, Virginia Video Palace storefronts, was securely adhered to the side of my Murder Weapon VHS tape...

23 September 2013

Banzai Runner

After an absence of nearly three months as we moved our headquarters from a secret mountain bunker to a lakeside chalet at the center of the world, Lost Video Archive is more or less back in action. We re-open our acute dissection of forgettable and often shitty cinema with just such an entry from the annals of the Reagan Era:

United States - 1987
Director - John G. Thomas
Vidmark Entertainment, 1987, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 26 minutes
The wonderful thing about the American Southwest is that it is largely empty of human made infrastructure save one thing; highways. Over vast distances of desolate and unforgiving terrain there is literally nothing but a strip of asphalt stretching to the horizon. This makes the Southwest, an area I personally know well, a great for location shooting both post-apocalyptic sci-fi and road racing movies on the cheap. Some of this has changed over the years of course, development has encroached on the desert and the various state’s chambers of commerce have learned to take advantage of these things. In the latter half of the 20th Century though, the southwest was still a veritable blank slate. Take for example 1987’s Banzai Runner, shot on location in California City, California. Boasting at present a population somewhere near 16 thousand, it was at the time of filming an as-yet undetonated boom-town with a mere four thousand souls living at the center a vast network of hot, empty pavement.

I’ve previously railed about comparing little unknown films to larger well-known titles. It’s generally unfair I think and neither requires nor expects much intellectual capacity from audience or writer. I am inclined however to point out the similarities, other than titular, between another recent LVA acquisition, Nomad Riders, and Banzai Runner. Though you mightn’t initially guess it, both films share an affinity for the open road, and in particular, the dusty barren open road of the southwest. They also share a thematic similarity that goes beyond the title screen to a plot about a guy driven to exact revenge on the nefarious highway-rogues who murdered his family.

Our protagonist Billy Baxter (Dean Stockwell) staggers into vengeance like a Sunday morning drunk into chapel. He was a cop out to bust high-speed, thrill-seeking Runners on the highway, but when his zeal proved excessive he was fired and now mopes about the house, aimless and distant. He only decides to avenge the hit and run murder of his brother as an afterthought when he stumbles across the murderer Syszek (Billy Drago) during a drug-sting, and then only after he takes that job to save his own house from a bitter ex-wife. Hey, if the opportunity presents itself, just twist his arm.

I might be displeased, but I'll let it slide this time!
This less than pressing vigilante justice nearly comes at the expense of Billy’s humanity, but when the rubber meets the road, Banzai Runner is really one of those old frontier fantasies that preceded the internal combustion engine into the mythical West. The rich jerks who flaunt the law will surely get their comeuppance when that magical (and effective) force of objective moral justice floating around out there inevitably sets things right for the downtrodden little guy. In classical fantasy tradition as the emotionally garbled lawman reluctantly pursues vindication he will learn to love and trust again and all will be right with the universe as class is once again carefully shorn of its relationship to power and smothered in a dose of corn sap fit to choke a small horse.

All fluffy feel-good stuff to be sure, but not very convincing. In Nomad Riders, the protagonist was an vigilante too, and an unlikable one at that, but he knew what he was up against. He was not encumbered by any delusions of an external morality to whom all must answer. Steve Thrust, that unpleasant bastard, knew that he had to make justice, to take it himself if there was to be any at all. Plus, he did it to a better soundtrack. 
This picture is about as clear as my  feelings about Banzai Runner are going to get.

06 September 2013

Rental Store - Sigma Video

Retrospectively speaking, Sigma Video carried a copy of the Canadian boxing action flick Half the Action which is where I found this label.

09 August 2013

Rental Store - Video Time II

Not that long ago, Hampstead, New Hampshire video shop Video Time II carried a copy of the low-budget gorror flick Death Row Diner.

18 July 2013

Messenger of Death

United States - 1988
Director J. Lee Thompson
Media Home Entertainment, 1990, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 32 minutes

12 July 2013

Rental Store - Family Video

This Family Video label was slathered on the side of my chopped-box copy of Boxcar Blues.

11 July 2013


United States - 1994
Diamond Entertainment, 1994, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 38 minutes

09 July 2013


United States - 1986
Director - Peter Manoogian
Playhouse Video, 1986, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 36 minutes

To be released by Shout! Factory today on DVD with Arena and several other 80's Charles Band productions.

08 July 2013

Master Yamashita Bo Techniques

Master Yamashita Bo Techniques
Tape # 5 of a continuing series
United States - 198?
Panther Home Video, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour

02 July 2013

The Lord of the Rings

United States - 1978
Director - Ralph Bakshi
Republic Pictures, 1993, VHS
Run Time - 2 hours,  10 minutes

01 July 2013

Dracula vs. Frankenstein

United States - 1969/71
Director - Al Adamson
VidAmerica, 1990, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 30 minutes

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

27 May 2013

The Wild Pair

United States - 1987
Director - Beau Bridges
Media Home Entertainment, 1988, VHS
Run Time -1 hour, 29 minutes

As a late entry into the 80’s buddy-cop cycle that was turned up to 11 by one Eddie Murphy, The Wild Pair is yet another white-cop/black-cop combo, but it is also another local-cop/federal-cop pairing. Yet neither of these “ironies” is mined for its humor. Baby-faced Beau Bridges plays FBI agent Joe Jennings with enough suave confidence and pig-headdedness, and Bubba Smith plays short-fused Narc Benny Avalon with sufficient pathos to be convincing, but given that by this late date the context has been standardized, it’s not surprising that their performances are also comfortably standard. Together they foil a criminal endeavor perpetrated by a fairly run-of-the-mill array of semi-inept punks and nominally-sinister kingpins and all ends more-or-less happily. As a result, The Wild Pair is both predictable and unsensationally flat, an otherwise forgettable flare-up of Action’s most chronic case of sub-generic herpes.

And yet, beneath this placid, run of the mill surface is a not so subtle current of transgression just waiting to drag you under. The Wild Pair could have gone the way Hellbound  and Cop and ½ eventually did (following precedent), making Benny into a Jim Crow stereotype to compensate for the film’s flaccid storyline. But Benny is not the comic relief to Joe's more serious (and hence we are led to surmise more important and worthy of our identification) quest/project. His physicality, in it's unusualness (to the film) is certainly hard to ignore, and (as with obesity, shortness, boobs etc.) simply must be exploited by the conventions of low comedy (Police Academy) reliant on physical idiosyncrasy for narrative engagement. What humor there is in The Wild Pair (and there aint much) is dependent on Smith's being huge, not on his “acting black" and fulfilling those standards that make white viewers feel safe liking him.

This works because while Jennings is technically on the other side of the tracks, the film is not about his discomfort and the sort of coming to terms for which white audiences need irony and stereotype to feel vindicated. It makes sense then that Benny is the character with depth, history and personality while Jennings is a two dimensional milquetoast (despite Benny’s pointed questioning: “Do you drink your own bath water?” “Sometimes.”) It is after all his neighborhood, his friends and ‘his’ kids who are being subjected to the terrorism of drugs and political violence perpetrated by a racist white conspiracy that goes right to the top levels of government.

Thanks to Ronald Reagan’s little war, drugs and junkies were as necessary to 80’s cinema realism as punk-rockers, but it was his predecessor Richard Nixon who initiated the War on Drugs, clarifying that it was really about black folks, you just couldn’t say it was. At the same time, the CIA really was deliberately introducing narcotics into black neighborhoods to undermine the Black Power movement. (Not surprisingly this was also the same time that the NRA was for gun control; to prevent armed Blacks.) To be sure, there’s a black guy in there peddling drugs in The Wild Pair. It’s easier to dismiss all of this conspiracy stuff if they do it too, but I choose to see his name “Ivory” as somewhat more than accidental. As my friends over at Comeuppance Reviews said in their write-up of The Wild Pair, “it’s all there,” to which I would add; IF you choose to see it. It may appear too convenient to find all this baggage in a forgotten crime dramedy, but after realizing that The Wild Pair has already subverted the staid norms of its genre, its allusions to history appear much more deliberate. The Wild Pair may not be the most original buddy-cop flick out there, but for rocking the narrative boat, it does have the most to say.

24 May 2013

Genre Box Stickers

Remember these things? Used to be they were on almost every VHS tape in the shop, as if you didn't know what genre you were getting into.

I couldn't help but turn them into refrigerator magnets and buttons. (I'm always on the lookout for small round images) Yes this is a shameless plug for a product I make; you can buy a set of four, in a cool package, at my Etsy shop An Enormous Door.

Leave a note saying you saw this on Lost Video Archive and I'll throw in a fifth one for free.