Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Some Hot Cocoa For Your Winter Evening

As a person grows up, they tend to pick up cultural debris in their collective memory. This is where you get scenes like the one in Slacker where two people are discussing the merits of Scooby Doo, or hipsters sporting T-shirts with retro products like Mr. Bubble. These things stick with you and influence and flavor all that you see. Most of the time, this phenomenon is a positive thing that connects us to new events, ideas and experiences.

When these preconceived images face down something that threatens their comfort zone, a person can find life suddenly makes little sense. This can be a mild sense of displacement in most cases, but that does not make it any less awkward when it happens.

I grew up watching Lola Falana on various variety shows. She was always lively, fun and very pretty as she danced and sang and joked her way through these shows. So I had a warm fuzzy feeling about her from these warm and fuzzy appearances on these warm and fuzzy shows.

We jump ahead a large number of years to 2009....

I get my copy of Urban Action Cinema 15-movie set from the lovely folks at Sure, I have some of these movies, but there are enough titles new to me that I figure it is worth the whopping 5 bucks. After it sits around for a day or two, I get around to popping the thing in. I figure I'll start with the first one on the first disc that I haven't seen. It is a little film called Lady Cocoa. A lady turning evidence gets a day out of prison and has to be protected while she waits for her deposition the next day. Standard fare. Nothing new from the sound of it, and Lola Falana is in it. Has to be some cheap made-for-TV thing, I figure.

You have the leering female guards from the finest exploitation films, but that is no big shock. You have Afros that stretch the limits of physics, but it is the mid-70s. And people are driving gunboat type cars, so obviously the gas crisis hasn't hit yet. Nothing too upsetting, until our group of three (Lola and her two bodyguards from the police) show up at a resort in Lake Tahoe. She turns into a foul-mouthed gutter snipe. She used language that made me cringe, and I have to watch my language around sailors. When she compared a modern art painting in their room to something she would find on a used Kotex, I was double-checking the cast list; this couldn't be Lola Falana. Surely there are two people with that name. But this woman has those same large lovely eyes I remember and that delicately structured face. But that voice and that memories were destroyed utterly when her character is asked what she intends to do and she responds with "I'm gonna shit, shower and shampoo."

But enough of my trauma.

This movie is one of those wonderful sneak attack movies. Stupid and boring as hell for the first 30 minutes or so. Sure, you get her potty mouth. Let's not forget Mean Joe Greene as one half of a pair of hit men who speak no words, but provide some wonderful comic relief during the film. I'd watch a movie of these two on a mission. Far more fun than Terrance Hill and Bud Spencer. But this is all you get for almost one-third of the film. Filler and exposition and distraction, laced with references to Vietnam and pointless posturing.

Finally the story starts taking shape after 30 minutes or so, but it is in granny gear, just barely moving along but you know things are coming together. You start seeing how the characters are taking this side or that, and the hired killers seem to be taking their time to do the job right. Thankfully, Lola has parked the foul language and does her best to be fetching and sultry, and she is almost enough to make a male viewer break down as she talks about how she has been alone in her jail cell for the last year and a half. You want her to have some satisfaction. Yes, Lola can act when pushed, especially when she is being sexy and vulnerable.

Things explode during the last 30 minutes. There are weird and woolly chase scenes, gun fights, naughty and naked sex and some betrayals telegraphed in the first 30 minutes come to fruition. And I won't reveal this bit of fun, but let's say there is a surprise concerning an assassin that they linger on a bit too long. Creepy stuff there.

The quality of this particular copy is iffy. The Garr Group, who released the DVD set, isn't there to digitally remaster these films; much like Mill Creek, they are there to take your money and hand you bargain entertainment. I'm not dissing this company. I have communicated with the woman in charge, and she is very friendly and is happy to know there are fans of the product her company puts out. I'm not adding their web site link as it is currently under restructuring, but you can find a lot of their product in the $5 bin at Walmart as well as searching on Amazon.

For those you who were movie-goers in the 70's, you might have heard of this film under the title Pop Goes The Weasel, which a very good title for this film and it is the song that our wonderful star Lola Falana sings during the opening credits.

Worth your time if you really want to plumb the depths of blaxploitation. This is less urban than most, but it still puts the African-American actors in the foreground. If you want the hardcore type of films of this genre, you might avoid this.

But really. Lola Falana uses THAT language? Motherfucker.....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Private Conversations With a DVD Junkie

So, it's been a while. Yup. I am great at avoiding things. If there was money to be had at avoiding things, I could have retired nearly 10 years ago onto my own private island. Ah, hell, who am I kidding? I could have retired while still in college and paid to have the bimbo of my choice bound and delivered to me with a bow wrapped around her. Money would NOT have been an issue.

Just for a change of pace, and for a bit of self-humiliation, let's talk about issues. Oh, we won't delve into things like throwing myself into something too soon because it feels right and then letting that turn into sourness and loathing like I did with a relationship that ran for 15 years. We won't talk about what is an obvious inability to commit to something as simple as a blog that allows me to revel in the two things that mean more to me than, well, just about anything that can come to mind, and those two things are movies and writing. I'm a guy; we have commitment issues...and, yes, that is a cop out, and a big one at that, but we aren't on the Doctor Phil show, and if that dog wants to hunt, then it should be prepared to be on the wrong end of a shotgun wielded by a drunken sod with less common sense than a kid with 20 bucks in a 5 cent candy store.

But in the same vein as the kid with that 20 bucks, we will talk today about what has brought me (and, oddly enough, you) to this particular place at this time.

I am a DVD junkie. Formerly a VHS junkie. A junkie is a junkie. Well, not if you read William S. Burroughs, but we aren't here to talk about his drug-fueled literary upchucks. Nope. We are here to talk about an unbridled desire to own more DVDs (read: movies) than a reasonable budget will allow. The sin of avarice. Ah, sweet desire. Bullshit. Let's call it what it is. It is an addiction.

Here's the scene: Walking through Wal-Mart. It's a Saturday so the trailer parks and the clapboard shitholes have puked up their contents, and they are wandering the aisles, all looking for something that will make their misery go in the other room, at least for a while as the people pretend to be happy for a while. As I find my nose and upper lip curling in disgust, I realize I am part of them, and we are Legion. If it were not for us, Wal-Mart would find no foothold in American society. They prey on feelings of emptiness and inadequacy. Come and buy of our fruitfulness and forget your wretchedness, until the credit cards come due and the checking account holds so little that you can't make your gas bill payment in the heat of summer.

Wal-Mart doesn't make it easy. As you walk in, you are confronted with over-sized dumps of the newest and hottest DVD releases, and the "incredible" prices are displayed in sizes large enough the most myopic folks can make them out without corrective lenses. You can buy the single DVD or you can buy the two- or three-DVD Special Editions or you can buy the new and definitely elite Blu-Ray version. And you DO have a Blu-Ray player, right? No? What kind of person are you? It can play your new Blu-Rays as well as your old DVDs and it will make your old DVDs look better than reality with the unearthly magic of up-conversion, but only if you have that new LCD TV and that 60 buck HDMI cable, but you don't care about price when it comes to having Sandra Bullock look so natural that you can smell the sweat of her motorhead husband from the randy bout of morning sex they had prior to that scene of her falling off her high heels and right into your living room.

Somehow, you resist. Actually, it's the stomach-emptying reflex you get from anything by Michael Bay or starring Will Ferrell that helps propel you further into the store, but you don't argue. You have only 48 meager minutes to do your week's worth of shopping before the next bus rolls through the parking lot at a speed that barely allows you to fall into the open door without being dragged underneath the beast's grinding wheels. You know you need to hit your marks and hit them fast. That falls into the background. You know that there is a display of 5 dollar movies just up here, in the middle of the register area.

As you walk there, you remember with a fondness the annoyingly tightly packed cardboard displays of the super-thin DVD cases released by Digiview at 99 cents. All those schlock titles that pepper the public-domain landscape. How you bought them by the fistful, rationalizing the fact that they were only 99 cents, and a lot of them were double-, triple- or quadruple-features compressed to the point of meaningless pixels on one side a dual-layer DVD. Cheap bastards. But you are as much of a cheap bastard, so you bought them like a panty-sniffing freak in a Chinatown laundry grabs undies.

But those days are gone. Now corporate greed has won out over the public domain. How can you walk past a copy of Mean Girls with the still lovely Lindsey Lohan in all of her Ann-Margaret-"Kitten With A Whip"-sexiness for only five dollars? An hour and 30 plus minutes that will keep you on the couch and away from the porn sites that dump malware on your computer. Or maybe you want to delve into Tom Hanks career prior to his aura of respectability by buying "Volunteers". And how about scoring 20 movies in one shot with The Garr Group's collection of Westerns or World War 2 movies, all for the paltry price of $5? You'd be a fool not to want to own William Shatner's Western shame-fest known as White Comanche alongside a ton of no-name Spaghetti westerns and John Wayne's contract Westerns. And let's not forget scoring 300 cartoons in one set. Relive your childhood while scratching your head over what passed as entertainment in the primal years of animation.

You stand paralyzed while looking at these. You really DO need a copy of the complete Ringu series in one four disc set for only $5. And how is life not complete without the Special Edition of Animal House?

You look into your handcart and find that you now have enough DVDs to equal $40. A quick check of your shopping list tells you that this is more than your groceries for the week. So you go over the pile of DVDs and DVD sets, figuring you can pare it down. No, you deserve that 15 movie compilation of horror movies because, even though you have multiple copies of 14 of them, you DON'T have a copy of Last Woman On Earth so that makes it worth five dollars. And maybe that version of The Severed Arm will actually contain those edited 45 seconds that you so desperately need.

As you head off to buy things that will keep you from offending the noses of those you meet on a daily basis and those things that will nourish your body and keep you from passing out from hunger, you fondly recall the days you found VHS movies for a dollar or two dollars. Ah, those copies of Crazy Fat Ethel 2 and Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things and even Oasis Of The Zombies!

Ooh, wait, that 20 horror movie set has Oasis Of The Zombies. But does it have the nude scenes....

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

It's Christmas In July, folks. And all I want for Christmas is...

Christmas is just too much fun to confine to December. And face it, do you really want to overdose on Christmas cheer when you have screaming relatives, pointless gifts and tons of heart-stopping food surrounding you? Watch The Littlest Angel one too many times around the 25th and you'll be retching up your toenails from the sugar overload.

So spread the Christmas fun around. Hence, Christmas In July. We take some time from the month of independence to taint our souls with holly and tinsel. And what better way to do that than to review the classic Two Front Teeth.

You've never heard of it? Well, children, gather around the fireplace, whip out your peppermint sticks and let me tell you the story of a very special Christmas Eve.

A little while ago, in a city probably not too far away, there was a fellow named Gabriel Snow. He was a committed reporter of all things corrupt about Christmas: Mrs. Claus doing naughty photo shoots, elves gone wild and a mysterious plane crash that may have Santa's claws all over it. And for his wife's Christmas present he was going to present divorce papers.

Apparently Gabe's goal of debunking all things Christmas had left his marriage a bit of a wreck. That would explain why his wife, Noel Snow, was at home trying to bang Kevin, the mall Santa. But things weren't going so well for Noel and Kevin. It seems there was a gnarled, angry, leather-clad, neck-biting elf stalking them.

Not that things were going swimmingly for Gabe. His boss was pumping him for the source of his story about the crash of Flight 1225, and, for a Christmas present, he gave Gabe a hand gun. Gabe, who has a dislike of Christmas and a debilitating fear of Santa, suspected something was amiss. There was. The boss's ear and his sense of reality were gone, but he demanded Gabe go home because Noel was very likely in deep danger.

Soon, my children, Gabe and Noel found themselves on a slay-ride littered with savage elves, red-nosed reindeer, assassin nuns and a vampire Santa. And their only hope was Gabe's source for the airplane crash story, a man named "Pete" who knows more than he is telling.

If this whole thing seems far-fetched, you'd be right. It is. Unless you find Christmas to be sacred, you should be in for one fairly fast, joke-filled, horror-lace tribute to Christmas. The writer, Jamie Nash, was strung together so many off-hand cracks connected to most people's favorite holiday that it truly bears repeat viewings. Sure, it's shot on video, but the upside is that this production actually took the time to make what they put in front of the camera look good enough that it doesn't distract you from the comedy of the story.

Funny things to take note of: The evil elves are almost all played by women, and if you search down photos of what they look like in real life, you may be stunned at how attractive they are. See how many headlines you can read when they show shots of the Xmas-Files tabloid Gabe writes for. Break out the spiked eggnog for a drinking game in which you attempt to drink when you find every Christmas reference (you'll be drunk enough that you may ignite the Yule log with your breath). And watch for the insane animated sequences.

Face it, Christmas for us adults can be more stress than fun. When the tykes are nestled in their beds with visions of mountains of goodies, pop this off-beat little gem into your DVD player and let those muscle spasms caused by relatives and maxed-out credit cards ease as you find there is more to Christmas than getting a beat-down by some old lady after the same item you are.

(See more Christmas weirdness at WTF-FILM this July!!)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

I Think I Was Barking Up The Wrong Tree

In the land of the cheap, you find that not everything is all dandy like candy. That screwdriver set you bought for $1 appears to be made of something softer than lead but not nearly as valuable. The generic can of baked beans had a pretty picture but they taste like they were soaked in kerosene. The off-brand dandruff shampoo holds true on its promise to rid you of dandruff; what they don't tell you is that it makes your hair tend to fall out.

Just because something is cheap does not mean that it is defective or even bad. Still, you have to approach things in a realistic fashion and accept that "cheap" also indicates you aren't going to get prime product. That brings us to the object of today's review. Mill Creek Entertainment has long been a favorite of mine as they release movies in bulk at pocket-change prices. They never promise Ingmar Bergman quality for Pauly Shore bargain dump rates. I know this when I pick up anything from their catalog and I accept all responsibility for what I get.

On a whim, I picked up Rescue Adventures Collection from Mill Creek. Five movies for five bucks. I figured it was time to give the slashers and monsters a break and try something a little different. The few people who know me seem to think I have something against anything that is not horror or fantasy. Not true. I just tend to find most genres are not likely to have the howlingly bad films the horror genre often produces. But thankfully I seem to have a nose that leads me to crap in whatever packaging it is wrapped.

I chose Poco as my first film to watch. Yes, I know they have Ann Archer in all her hotness in Night Of The Wolf, but I wanted to visit the slums first.

Poco is also known as Poco...Little Dog Lost. Personally, I think that gives away too much of the plot. Okay, that IS the plot. Little dog gets lost. Little girl misses dog. Little dog wanders through scenic locations. Viewers over the age of 6 lose interest.

I actually made it through this one without any real problems. Benji movies have me ready to doze or run away by the second cute thing the critter does. Little Poco doesn't do cute things. He does stupid things. Things like snarling at people who are trying to save the little girl who loves him, or running further into the desert when someone tries to be nice to him, or hides from a police man (setting up a distrust of law enforcement officers in the youngsters viewing this film). These are things Benji would NEVER do. Truly, Poco is a dog of the people.
You have to give a sweet family film a nod of respect when it starts with a car crash in the desert that jacks up everyone in the vehicle except the little dog. Slap the kids with a dose of traumatic reality from the onset and they'll hope for any level of warm fuzziness thereafter to assure them the world is NOT out to engulf them in pain.

Ah, if only Poco was that kind. Bad enough the mom and daughter land in the hospital and the car is totalled, but then not-to-bright Poco chases after the ambulance and then avoids anyone who tries to help him for the next 15 minutes. That's about 24 hours in dog time, which is enough time for our little "hero" to realize desert heat, blazing sun and a small dog with long, thick, unmanagable fur are things that do not go together well.
Next bad lesson from this movie: It is okay to pimp yourself to get what you need. There is a movie out there called Mooch Goes To Hollywood. They should have called this Mooch Hangs Out In The Desert. The dog plays hurt and near death to play on the sympathies of people, especially one lonely old guy who runs a gas station. He takes their kindness, he takes their food, he takes their water, and then he takes a hike. The second time he stiffs the old gas station guy, I couldn't shake from my mind the old saying: "If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, love is true. If it does not, hunt it down and kill it." Now THAT would have been one rip-snorting film; an old geezer and a shaggy little dog trying to outwit and kill the other in Yosemite.

I'm sure the intent was to show love triumphs over all, including heat stroke, burned and cracked pads on the paws and playing on the sympathies of kind-hearted folk. Instead, you get a movie that makes you wonder if PETA shouldn't be notified, but only after you stake the manipulative little canine out for the coyotes and buzzards to have at. I won't ruin the ending for you because you know how this kind of tripe ends anyway. It ain't Old Yeller. But I do have to let you know that a chimp has a fine time towards the end of the film and the reaction shots the chimp gets are almost worth sitting through this bit of fluff.

In the end, Poco is worth watching if you like dopey movies (and I do) or if you have kids who love animals (and I don't...have kids, that is) or if you are in a full body cast and someone sticks this in your DVD player without your consent. Is it worth the five bucks for the Mill Creek set? Well, it's worth a dollar.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

They Tried To Bury This One In The Movie Itself

Okay, let's face it. I'm a guy. Guys aren't always the smartest critters on the planet. Actually, if you ask a lot of women, they might have a lower opinion of guys, but we'll just go with the concept that guys aren't too bright sometimes.

We do things for, well, no good reason we can explain other than, "It seemed like a good idea at the time." What that often means is either "I wanted to" or "My little head was thinking for me" or somewhere between the two. We react and act on basic stimuli: hunger, competition, comfort and sex, or, ideally, something that involves all four. (Basically, making it with the pizza delivery girl on the couch after being the first person in the apartment to answer the doorbell.) Don't ask us to justify these stupid actions. Either shake your head in confusion and just keep loving us, or call a good lawyer. The former option can sometimes be easier, but not always cheaper.

Given that men will, and do, make stupid choices based on stupid impulses, we come to today's film of choice. I was with a lovely lady who loves me dearly, and we were in Big Lots. If you don't know this store, they sell stuff that other stores wanted the hell out off their shelves because it wasn't selling. Big Lots will discount the living snot out of it and hope some happy slack-jaw bozo will help out their bottom line. Well, meet a slack-jawed bozo. I bumped into a rack of $3 movies within 20 feet of the front door, and I forgot I was with anyone. I pulled a few flicks out that I felt I needed, and grabbed one that, well...I bought it based on a flashback to a sexual response to a celebrity.

Kathy Ireland was, and still is, a stunningly attractive woman. Okay, to hell with it, she is hot. She makes me whimper. I'll stop there to spare myself further embarrassment and the potential for lawsuits based on extremely crude comments and references. There I am, holding up a copy of Alien From L.A., and my companion leans her sweet head on my shoulder and asks, "Is that a good movie?" Huh? Who are you, and why is your head on my shoulder? Then I could smell the top of her head, and my senses, such as they are, came back to me. And, to my credit, I was honest. "This? Not that I've ever heard, but I've wanted to see this movie since it came out." She looked at the cover carefully, looked at me, winked and said, "I'll bet she had nothing to do with you wanting to see that." Sweet sarcasm.

Kathy Ireland had EVERYTHING to do with me wanting to see that movie. Okay, it is a fantasy film, but it has Kathy Ireland. Huh? Need I say more?

Normally, a movie that I buy will sit around for days, weeks, months and, in a few cases, years before I get around to watching them, if ever. I had this thing in my DVD player inside of 24 hours. Practically a record for me. And then Karma started in with the bitch-slapping.

Never seen Alien From L.A.? Here's the basic story. Ms. Ireland's character is a poor waif who is dumped by her hunky boyfriend because she is so timid. Her mother died years before and her father is always gone while he explores the world, looking for Atlantis. She gets a letter one day stating her father is dead, having fallen down a endless pit, and that she should travel to the far side of the world to help settle his affairs. Plucking up her courage, our lovely heroine takes the offer, and, in short order, follows her father down the same hole in the ground. Does she die? We are not so lucky. It seems the hole drops straight down to the underground world that hosts the Atlantian people. Realizing her father may not be dead, our heroine sets out to find him while being hunted down as an alien.

You know, when put like that, it sounds like a pretty good set-up for a movie. And considering you get a shot of Ms. Ireland looking rather fetching in a bikini very early on, you might be thinking you've landed a good deal for only $3. Sadly, her character opens her mouth and all hope bolts for the door as it waves a gun at you to cover its escape. Her voice is...hmmm...fingernails on a chalkboard are like Mozart in comparison. You fear your ears will bleed. What makes it worse is that the voice is affected. You can see her straining at times to speak as she does. Why? So there could be a couple of throwaway jokes about that being her "real" voice. I hoped that something would happen to the character that would make her voice normal. Don't waste your time hoping. It doesn't happen. I suggest having a dentist drill your teeth each time she speaks; it will be comforting in comparison.

Even if you put her voice aside, the movie itself is, well, just sad. You can tell the writers were going for a goofy adventure movie. Director Albert Pyun gives it a try, but he just doesn't seem to balance the comedy with the chase sequences. It looks like he wanted to make a tribute to Big Trouble In Little China, but the comedy and action pull in different directions, unlike the movie he was imitating. The whole thing is dark, drab and why the hell does everyone living underground dress like rejects from an 80s retro rave? The humor is cheap and light to the point of not being there. It isn't fun, it isn't terribly exciting, and Ms. Ireland spends way too much time wrapped up in way too many clothes. What? You thought I wanted to see this for her thespian nature?

Am I going to keep this? Yes. Will I watch it again? Wow, that's a tough one. Maybe. Perhaps I'll play a CD of jackhammers on a New York street corner instead of listening to the movie. I just figure holding on to it will be the perfect thing in case anyone EVER wants to play a bout of one-upmanship on "I can't stand so-and-so's voice." I'll never lose with this tucked away in my collection.

And Ms. Ireland will be eternally heavenly in her bikini. That's worth $3 any day.

(I have to give thanks to Andrew Borntreger and his web site, While Googling this film for good screenshots (Yes, I'm lazy.), his site had the best, and his review of this film is far more detailed than mine. God help him, he can't be right in the head after watching this film enough times to get that level of detail. Please, send contributions and letters of sympathy to his family. We can only hope he didn't expose any of them to this film.)

WARNING! This Youtube video of the trailer has a VERY LOUD VOLUME! Be warned that this trailer also contains a sample of Ms. Ireland's voice. Please wear appropriate ear protection. Thank you.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Don't Feel So Super, Superchick

We are back to the subject of being misled. It happens. Someone makes a simple comment with one thing in mind, but the wording suggests something completely different. There is no intention to mislead you, but it happened just the same. When I was a kid, we were at my grandmother's house, and we were bored senseless. Rain outside and nowhere to go except the living room. My cousin is looking through the TV listings and he suddenly shouts, "Iron Man comes on in ten minutes!" We were giddy with anticipation. We tuned the station in and waited. The movie started. We were treated to boxing. I had no idea that Iron Man started out as a boxer. I just wanted him to turn into a superhero and start kicking some butt. After nearly 30 minutes of talking heads and boxing, we knew we had been had. Yes, the movie was called Iron Man but it had nothing to do with the comic book. What a let down.

When you find a movie called Superchick, you kinda have some expectations. But I had seen the trailer, so I wasn't utterly uninformed. She wore this tight black outfit. She knew what passed for martial arts and kicked the snot of three guys. She flashed her ample assets in bikinis and funky 70's style clothes. She has a secret identity. Okay. That pretty much sets the tone for me. I mean, really, this simply cannot as lame as Phenomenal. Right?

I must have read the messages from the trailer all wrong. No superhero. As this little film unspooled, I had no idea WHAT the hell I was watching. Okay, so I'm not the most reliable person when it comes to understanding things. I had a woman ask me back to her apartment in the middle of the day, and I told her I wanted to go to a used bookstore. D'oh!!

See what you make of this. Superchick is known as Tara B. True. I'm not kidding. As an airline stewardess, she is a mousy brunette who wouldn't mumble "Crap" if someone squirted a pile in her mouth. She leaves the plane without the slightest hint of recognition from her crew mates. Once inside the terminal, she slips into the ladies room, and seconds later, the mousy lady is gone and we have the buxom, sexually-potent, blonde bombshell we paid our money with shaking, sweaty palms to see. She is confident. Her shapely legs stride proudly as her lovingly curved hips sway from side to side. Both men and women stop and watch her pass. She is stunning. She is incredible. She IS Superchick.

Do we see her dashing about saving the world, the downtrodden, or, at least, some kittens stranded in a tree? Nope. She is met by her East Coast lover who never touches her due to a phobia, but still manages orgasms by talking himself into a frenzy. Then she is back to the plane as Ms. Mousy, jetting away to her next lover, a pop idol who is doubting himself and sees Superchick as his Muse. Then it is back into the air to her next fling with a guy who lives on a boat and is financially in debt to a shady character.

Between juggling these three bozos, she manages to hang out at a pot party, beat up Dan Haggerty and his biker buddies, helps a young Marine raise his flag pole and finds her open-minded morals tested by a dirty-minded John Carradine. All this while keeping her two identities in their own little worlds. So, yeah, that would take a super chick. Now you can sit there and analyze the implications of what you are seeing. You could suggest that it is about the development of women's sexual identity, or the real world versus empowering fantasy. I think it was just a case of the producers attempting to throw enough crap at the walls with the hope that something might stick.

The movie has potential, but it never seems to figure out what it is and so the whole thing ultimately just sort of lays there. It's appealing enough. Face it, Joyce Jillson, for all of her bleached blond hair, is rather cute, and though there isn't much nudity on her part, she does flash enough to make you keep your eyes on the screen. It is fun to watch for the direct references to the fact you are watching a movie, and no one seems to take the thing very seriously. Neither should you. Just let it play and kiss your money goodbye. You could have done worse; you could have bought a movie with Mariah Carey in it.

To save yourself money, I recommend buying the 20-movie set called "The Exploitation Cinema Collection" sold at Best Buy. No, I'm not advertising for them, but if you buy this on it's own (well, you get a double feature with "Policewomen"), you're gonna spend 10 bucks and the 20 movie set is only $20. Do the math. Even if you only watch half of the 20-movie set, you've spent less.

(I offer a humble apologies to XTC for borrowing a line from one of their songs for the title of today's review. I love your music, lads.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Debra Blee: Naked and Wet

I'm sure I speak for both sexes when I say that, at some point, all of us had a crush on someone in the movies and/or television. A certain person who, when he/she comes on screen, makes us perk up. Even when we are too young to understand sexual attraction, we know that there is something about that person that makes us feel funny, good or confused, but in a VERY pleasant way. One of mine was Goldie Hawn back on "Laugh-in". I couldn't bear to miss a second of the show in case she was dancing in a bikini with all those goofy phrases written on her skin or she might flub a line and laugh, and my god, wasn't she just wonderful!

Sometimes, things carry over into our adulthood. Like acne or baby fat. This "crush" thing continues with me to this day. It works a little differently these days. I mean, if I see someone who appeals to me in the here-and-now, I tend to have a little more detailed idea of my attraction. I'd call that "lust". Still, I find myself developing crushes, but they only exist for women in the older movies I watch. Most of these women have now either passed on, are up in their 60s and 70s, or are missing in action. I'm seeing them as they were 20, 30 or 50 years ago, their beauty and charm locked away in film. But, oh, how that attraction can still tug away at me!

I've been watching far too many movies of late, so a lot of them tend to blend and blur together. One of them has stayed at the top of the cesspool of memories. It isn't because the movie was very memorable. It isn't because the action was incredible. It was due to one person. The amazing, the lovely, the heavenly Debra Blee.

The movie? The Beach Girls. One of the seemingly endless Crown International films that kept drive-ins in business until the late 80's. They threw horror, action, drama and comedy movies in every direction, most with the exploitation factor cranked up, but never over-the-top. The object was what would horny teens and college students part with their money for. The Beach Girls is a prime example of this formula.

Take three pretty young girls. Put them in a beach house with no parental guidance and provide them with sex, booze and trash bags full of weed. Slam the clapper shut and yell, "Action!" In an attempt to provide some break from the bouncing breasts and corny drug humor, they added a Coast Guard cutter looking for some bad guys who are smuggling in the weed. But for fun, let's make the Coast Guard crew the "butt" of a lot of gay jokes. Very, very nice.

As I suggested, the film itself isn't wonderful. It is inoffensive. It hits its marks and provides enough cheap humor and attractive women to keep a person from getting bored. If you can live with the occasional inserted bit of a bikini-stealing dog lifted from Malibu Beach, which is, if you can believe it (he says with tongue in cheek), very similar, you might even find yourself glancing at the screen more than your date might like.

Given all the things this film has going for it, for me, they all pale when Debra Blee is on the screen. Is she a great actress? Not really. She doesn't come off as Oscar material, but then she basically has to look fetching and not sound like a bubble-brained bimbo. She has these big eyes that draw your attention. She moves about in such a timid fashion that you just want to protect her. She is simply wonderful to watch.

Watch carefully, though. She stayed with the film business for only five years. She made a few more films, notably Savage Streets with Linda Blair and Hamburger: The Motion Picture, and did a few TV shows. Then - POOF! - she vanished. Oh, Debra, where have you gone? You are only 50. I'm sure you are still a lovely woman. Treat us to an appearance in SOMEthing.

Okay, okay, enough praising a retired actress of films of questionable quality.

You can find The Beach Girls on BCI's "Welcome To The Grindhouse" double feature teamed up with Coach. I'd actually recommend going to Best Buy while you have the chance and buy the 20-movie "The Exploitation Cinema Collection" as it was made just for Best Buy. It's 20 bucks and so worth it if you want to relive the late 70's and early 80's theater experience with trailers and snack bar commercials. BCI has been restructuring and, as sad as it is to say, this kind of thing is being killed off due to short-sighted executives. Grab it while you can.

In the mean time, enjoy the screenshots of Ms. Blee. I know I do.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How Cheap CAN You Get?

There are times that you know you just cannot belly up the ducats for, well, anything. Okay, maybe some Ramen noodles. But if you want protein to go with that, yer screwed, dude. So there is a similar situation for those of us who love their movies cheap, in every sense of the word.

Wait, don't think that I'm referring to myself. I mean, hell yeah, send me free movies and Ramen noodles and cash. All worthy donations will be accepted, and anything offensive will either be trashed or turned over to Homeland Security. Heck, I've been buying movies like idiots buy whatever drops out of Oprah's mouth. And I eat somewhat better than Ramen noodles, thank you. (Not that I have anything against Ramen noodles.)

Having cleared up any confusion, I do understand that others aren't as fortunate. So I'm going to introduce you to a resource for the downtrodden (who can somehow afford a high-speed internet connection). Okay, it can be used by people who can't cough up $100 bucks for a VHS copy of a some obscure movie on Ebay. It can also be used by tight-ass misers.

Go to A great place to score public domain weirdness. And not the usual suspects, either. Just a word to the wise...and the cheap.

There. I've done my random act of kindness for the day. Now on to the reason for being here. Wait, you thought I was gonna pimp someone's site and be done with it? Forget that. Like I said, I've been kind. Now I heap the cruelty on with a shovel.

The references to food haven't been without reason. The main cause of food being brought up is the fact I'm hungry. How's that for honesty? But it also plays very well into the theme of today's film. Actually, the title is enough to send me into the kitchen. Of course, after watching this movie, food doesn't seem as appealing. And not for the obvious reasons.

We are gathered here to take a look at Lunchmeat. No, really, that's the name. Yeah, I thought the same thing. WTF? And if you look at the cover of the VHS, you'll get an idea of where this might be going. Also like the cover, this ain't gonna be pretty. Kinda like painfully ripping off that Band-Aid and finding a festering maggot hole. Okay, maybe not that bad.

Here's the disposable plot: City kids fall prey to a family of cannibals. Yup, that's it. Where have we seen that one? EVERYWHERE! We'll cut this one a little slack. It was from the 80s. Anything from the 80s has to be looked upon like the mentally challenged cousin everyone ignores as he messes his pants and plays with food on YOUR plate. Hey, I love the 80s, but that doesn't mean I can't look at it realistically.

The build up to the slaughter is enough to break a person. The family of cannibals actually happen to be the most interesting part of the first 30 minutes. They seem to barely tolerate each other. They scream at each other. The father whips the hell out of the brain-dead "baby" of the family who just wants to eat anything he can wrap his porky fingers around. That would be him on the cover art. Paw, Elwood and Harley are the others and they insult each other happily. Elwood just wants candy bars and should be requesting a box of Depends instead. All of them need to take long baths.

You lose all interest in the group of cute city kids the instant they hit the screen as they are offering up a jolly rendition of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". Before they finish the first chorus, you want all of them to die horrible, painful, bloody deaths. You don't want to wait. You want it before they start on the next round of that damned song. What you want is not on the filmmaker's mind. The pain continues. Like gargling with Pop Rocks and minced sheet metal, you suffer through the development of these morons in what I can only guess is an attempt to make you care for them. It doesn't work. I was fantasizing about how they should die before they even get within a mile of the cannibals. You will do the same. You actually hope the story will switch back to the smelly, rude and incontinent cannibals.

Soon enough, the kids are ambushed by the wacky family, and everyone scatters into different directions. Okay. So the last unbearable 30 minutes of developing the struggles and character conflicts of these people are rendered pointless? Damn it, I could have been repainting the house. Worse yet, the ONLY character I halfway liked gets slaughtered two seconds after she steps out of the vehicle.

As has been pointed out in other reviews, the film then turns into an hour-long chase that is the film's highlight. Yes, it is cheesy. And, yes, the effects are cheap. Of course, you see the same bits of background when there shouldn't be repetition. Still, given the insanely pathetic budget, you kind of get sucked in, even if it is on a "Good Lord, what are they gonna throw in next?" level. Really, it is the whole last hour of the film. A chase.


The other thing that everyone seems to bring up when discussing this film is that one of the female leads went on to have a long career in the porn industry under a different name. A bit of a shame. She is the only one in the whole film who seems to understand how to act, although she has some bad moments. Her hair threatens to overtake every scene it is in, and she should be thankful there were no pyrotechnics as that hair would have went up faster than a pedophile's hand when they called for volunteers to join Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

Overall, the film looks like crap as it is most likely dubbed off a VHS tape, but the quality looks shoddy anyhow based on the fact it comes off like a video feature transferred over to film. At least the sound is decent and too good in some shots as you can hear the camera running. The direction? Kirk Alex wrote, produced and directed this. Given what he had to work with, he didn't utterly embarrass himself. Sadly, he never followed up on what has become a bit of a minor cult hit.

Hey, if I couldn't say anything else nice about this movie, I could at least be proud of the fact it didn't cost me more than the time to download the file.

P.S. Like a dog with a bone (there are those food references again), I just keep poking into this film. First thing, the image I have at top shows DVD in the bottom right corner. No legit DVD release ever that I am aware of, but I'm happy to be corrected by anyone who wants to send me one for free. Second thing, the VHS release was by...TAPEWORM VIDEO!!!! Okay, I thought it was funny.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Whip Me, Beat Me! Satan, You're Such A Naughty Boy!

The one of the best things in the world about crap movies is the anticipation that the title alone can create. Who doesn't get a thrill from titles like "Blood Shack," "Invasion of the Blood Farmers," "The Killing Of Satan," and "Chain Gang Women"? You get all of these wonderful mental images of weirdness and violence and the chance of nudity. (Let's be honest here. Guys are the primary audience for this nonsense. Women usually have better sense.) The reality of the movie most often does NOT live up the promise of the title. Is that really the filmmaker's fault? Usually not. They either give you a fairly juicy-sounding but accurate title, or they give you some title that could mean anything. What you make of it is up to you.

Given a title like Satan's Slave, you have a number of images that can crowd into your brain. Degrading behavior, kinky violence and Ol' Nick popping in for a bit of slap-n-tickle maybe? After seeing the stunning Candace Glendenning, you can't wait for the naughtiness to begin. And you know from the opening sequence that her amorous cousin has a passion for rough sex. Don't forget the burning deaths of her parents and her menacing uncle played by Michael Gough. Oh yes, this is gonna be tasty.

Break out the unsalted crackers and the warm milk. Oh, sure, there are a few kicks and thrills, but really, you want a visual and visceral experience. Go watch Jerry Springer.

The set up: Out of the blue, Candace's mum and dad hear from dad's long-lost brother who invites them to spend the weekend. Wouldn't you know it, but just as they roll into the drive, Dad has a seizure, smacks into a tree at around 5 miles an hour which gravely injures Mum and as the daughter runs to the house for help, the car explodes into flames and -- POOF! -- instant orphan. Uncle just happens to be a doctor, and his prescription has nothing to do with calling the cops. He orders the poor girl heavily medicated, for her own good of course. What happens after that is a series of weird visions, kissing cousins and the feeling that the poor girl's good health isn't the order of the day.

I have to give this film credit for being wonderfully shot and the wardrobe master found some incredible outfits for Ms. Glendenning. It had all the qualities of a good Gothic tale, but it somehow went wrong. Not sure when or where. And the ending...well, you should have counted on it from the opening bit of exposition. Even though nothing of great importance happens in the film, it still moves at a rather decent pace and even when it slows down, you can still look at the heroine of the film. She looks like a variation on Catherine, Douglas.

What does seem unfortunate about this particular version, released through BCI's Exploitation Cinema series, is that it appears that quite a bit of the gore has been trimmed. In a rather film of this nature, snipping even a few seconds of anything can lead to a loss. When you see something happen and the film seems to jump to an after-the-fact bit of blood, you start wondering what the hell you missed. The storyline, such as it is, doesn't seem to suffer, but I rather enjoy seeing all the icky bits.

So, bottom line, buying this film on the double feature with director Norman Warren's later feature, "Terror", is questionable. It can be had for ten bucks and you get some cool trailers mixed in if you watch the thing as a grindhouse double feature, but considering BCI (which is being resructured and may make the next comment moot) tends to re-release their features in 8- and 20-film sets for $10 to $20, you may consider holding out to get more bang for your buck. Personally, I wish I had bought "Chinese Hercules". Oh well.