Friday, November 30, 2012

Trailer Triumph: XTRO

This week work was a little too crazy to be able to post anything of substance.  In it's stead I offer a sweet trailer for a sweet movie.  XTRO. 



Monday, November 26, 2012


Charter Entertainment
85 Minutes, Rated R


Frankly. It's awesome. You get a big fat redneck wearing bibs. He has a sweet swamp dweller necklace. He looks like he hasn't bathed in at least 6 days. He has a huge meat cleaver, which has obviously been customized to meet his demanding specifications (fur tufts, extended handle etc). Gentle smoke bathes our beefy redneck and light pours through the doorway for effect.

The title looks brutal. This title style has been done by hundreds of slashers. How can you argue with it though? Bloody titles certainly add color to usually very dark box art. The renter/buyer knows what kind of movie it is immediately and are usually treated to quite a bit of gore.

I must say that someone put a great deal of effort into this drawing. It's very well drawn and very effective. It looks menacing. It showcases the killer very well. During the age of Freddy and Jason, everyone was looking for the next big killer. While Buddy might look a dirty badass, he never became a household name. I certainly commend the artist for his efforts on this box.


Slam dunk.


Pretty much a Texas Chainsaw Massacre wannabe. Just look at the photo on the box in which buddy has a "leather face" that looks like himself as a troll.

Admittedly I haven't watched this movie for a few months. I remember it being pretty slow. Not very gory. I also recall Buddy being a dimwitted redneck and not very likable at all. The box paints Buddy Bacon as being a larger than life character and he just falls flat on his face. He's boring. I think the filmmakers were going for Leatherface. . . with a face. They swung. They missed. Big time.

They try very hard to make Buddy the "Hero" but back then, the more brutal of a killer you were, the more the audience loved you. They give Buddy a cause. Killers aren't supposed to have a cause in slashers. They're supposed to be indiscriminate murdering animals. Look at Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhies. Maybe if the kills were more memorable or bloodier people would have liked it more.


The box. Hands down.

-M. McSlam

Friday, November 23, 2012

Review: After Life (1998)

Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
118 mins.  Color.  
DVD Released by New Yorker Video, 2000

Kore-Eda Hirokazu comes from the tradition of Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi and Shochiku Studios.  They made small, human dramas that focused mostly on family.  Each one has a gentle, loving nature toward their characters.  However, they also don’t shy away from the angry, bitter world they live in.  Villains and heroes don’t exist, just people.  Every character is getting through their lives as best as they know how, some do it with grace and some bitterly hurt others, but there are no archetypes.   

With After Life, Kore-Eda confronts the idea of death through that lens.  The cast of characters in this film is huge, but he approaches each one of them individually.  It starts with two caseworkers discussing last week’s cases.  They are walking through a broken down old building that is a kind of halfway house between life and death.

At the sound of a bell, the recently deceased walk in from the fog and check in at the front desk.  Giving their names, they are asked to go to the waiting room.  Eventually they are called to go to a conference room, where they will meet their caseworker.  

In a montage of caseworkers and their cases it is explained, “I’m sure you understand the situation, but I must tell you officially, you died yesterday.  I’m very sorry for your loss.  You’ll be with us for one week.  While you are are here you are welcome to relax, but there is one thing you must do.  From all your years, you must choose one precious memory that you wish to take with you.  Our staff will do their best to recreate it on film.  There is a time limit.  You have three days to decide.  On Saturday, we’ll screen all the memories.  As soon as you have relived the moment we’ve created for you, you will move on, only taking that memory with you.”

Much of the film is presented in an almost documentary fashion, as characters are interviewed by someone off screen.  One man hopes to not remember anything that he has done and considers the loss of memory as truly heaven.  A sweet little woman remembers her time dancing before her brother and friends, so she can have some chicken fried rice.  For another it is simply cherry blossoms falling beautifully from a tree. Others find it much harder to choose that one precious memory.

Through all of Kore-Eda’s films, he gets across his worldview that each person, when they are honest, are truly seeking love and comfort.  And, that there are no inherently bad or good people, only lives spent in regret or with great joy.  For instance, an older man (Tðru Yuri), only wants to talk about sex during his interviews, but then chooses a memory of his grandchildren.  Another man, Taketoshi Naitð, has a difficult time choosing a memory and feels that he only wants to take something with him that has great value.  Upon looking back at his life, he realizes that he mostly ignored his wife and simply talked about doing things of value, but never did them.  

This film gets under your skin.  It’s beautifully shot and the interview style makes it feel like a documentary.  But, it’s also an existential invitation to keep you questioning the nature of your own life.  What is the one memory that you would take with you?  What moments do you most treasure?  

In the end this film is as much about filmmaking as it is about the afterlife.  Each character meets with the staff and discusses details of their memory, making sure that things are believable.  The staff then builds everything on a set, and gathers actors, etc...  For one character, his memory is flying through the clouds in an airplane.  The crew gets to work building the plane and creating effects that will resemble clouds opening up into the blue sky. But, moreso, it’s about the transporting nature of film.  As the dead view their recreated memories, they are whisked into the next life.  Now, I’m not so sure most people who have seen their lives recreated on film would say that it was a transporting experience, as Hollywood tends to get it wrong.  However, the people here are so delighted by the experience, it’s impossible not to be reminded of the childlike excitement of seeing something amazing on-screen.  

Do it Right:

The Packaging:
This one is pretty bare bones.  In America, New Yorker Video has put out the DVD and has done a pretty shabby job for such a great film.  The front cover is pretty weird, and I’m not sure who decided that it was a good idea to just have five people stand there, but there it is. Included is both the Japanese and American Trailers, Production Notes, Web Links, and a Director’s Profile.  None of which do you care about or will you look at.  Let’s hope Criterion gets around to putting this out soon, so there is a decent release of it.

-J. Moret

Here is a trailer that gives you a sense of the film.  It’s not the American one, as that is embarrassingly bad, but this one is also pretty weak.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: Rapid Fire

20th Century Fox
95 Minutes, Rated R
Almost every action movie fan is aware of the fact that Brandon Lee died on the set of THE CROW. A tragedy that is widely discussed to this day. Another tragedy: No one actually talks about Lee’s work. Most notably, no one talks about RAPID FIRE. Bruce Lee was a phenomenon. His work transcended race and culture. His son could have never filled his tiny kung-fu slippers. RAPID FIRE was as close as Brandon got in his short life

Rapid Fire is a formulaic action piece. Viewing the movie definitely puts you in a specific place and time in film history. It was a time when Stallone and Schwarzenegger were collecting checks for sub-par classics such as STOP OF MY MOM WILL SHOOT and LAST ACTION HERO. Not to downplay the efforts of those that worked hard on those movies, but the best had already been seen by those two action giants. Brandon Lee could have been then next one. RAPID FIRE is a good action flick and shows the promise Brandon Lee had as an action star.

RAPID FIRE follows the story of student, Jake Lo (Bra. Lee). A young man haunted by his past. His father was killed during the Tienanmen square protests and he was there to witness his demise. Lo has a very nihilistic view of the world. When asked to speak at a student protest / meeting about Chinese democracy efforts Lo refuses. He is then asked on a date by a nude model. She lures him to the meeting. This meeting erupts into violence when Antonio Serrano (Nick Mancuso), a chicago Cosa Nostra drug lord, kills heroin specialist Chang (Michael Paul Chan) to move in to Tommy Tau’s (Tzi Ma) drug territory.

Stop right there. This movie has already become a 1990’s action movie stereotype. It’s taking Tienanmen square, nihilism, political apathy, the italian mafia, the chinese mafia, and heroin trafficking. Is this movie trying to do too much? What’s next? Corny renegade cops? . . . . Oh you bet.

Jake witnesses Serrano waste Chang with a twelve gauge. Chang goes flying from an interior second story window. This is a recurring trend of this movie. When people get kicked really hard or shot, most of the time they go flying through an object or out of a window. I am not complaining. I think it’s totally sweet.

Jake becomes the FBI’s star witness for putting Serrano in prison. He is flown to Chicago to discuss the case and take the stand. Lo is placed in protective custody in Chicago. His FBI protection however, is in Serrano’s pocket. Lo kung-fus the crap out of them (with a barbeque fork to the gut, refrigerator door, and a kick out the window) and escapes. He ends up with Lt. Mace Ryan (Powers Boothe) and April O’Neal A.K.A. Karla Withers (Kate Hodge), those renegade cops I was talking about. Their home base is a bowling alley. Renegade.

This rag tag team sets up a raid on Serrano’s restaurant (italian stereotype) and then brings him down. I’m leaving out a lot of the double crossing and police procedural stuff that goes on here because it’s boring and it hardly matters. What matters is that this action scene is great. tons of Uzi fights, kung-fu, Snipers, S.W.A.T. teams, high caliber mounted machine guns firing from from restaurant windows, lofts being collapsed onto henchmen. . . it’s fantastic. Pure carnage.

At the end of this scene, it seems Serrano and Lo are the only survivors in the building. Lo brings Serrano to police custody (after smashing his face). The story should end there. Tommy Tau is still out there, but at this point in the movie he feels like a minor villain. But of course, Karla and Mace wanted Tau more than Serrano. Karla convinces Lo to come see his father’s CIA file at her apartment. Lo realizes that his father died for a cause he was passionate about. They fornicate. Then the most out of place Roxette-ish style rock music starts playing and a montage of sex, surveillence, and Tommy Tau unravels before our eyes. This montage ends with Tau’s henchman Minh (AL LEONG!) dressed as a cop, throwing a ninja star at Serrano. Wouldn’t it be hard to hit a guy in a prison cell with a throwing star? I guess if anyone is capable of such a feat, it is Al Leong.

After getting some action, Lo decides eradicating Tau is a cause he can fight for. They pull an independent three person raid on Tau’s industrial drug laundry (Of course the front is a laundromat, Tau is chinese) where he infuses heroin into bedding. Karla and Mace are kidnapped. Jake is left to save them. Of course he does.

The final fight between Lo and Tau is strange. When the main villain has to ask, “Who are you” to the hero of the movie before they fight, plot-wise something isn’t right. From the message about the cost of war and protest to not knowing who you’re fighting against is very confusing.

Tau’s demise includes severe electrocution and being hit by the “L”. Pretty much the most awesome thing in the annals of film history. Plot deficiencies aside, the writers of the movie are brilliant for this alone.

Tau’s demise was great, but this movie should have ended with Serrano. When you spend over an hour of the movie building and focusing on how bad a guy is, having him murdered by Al Leong in a prison cell with 30 minutes left kills all momentum the plot had. Tau doesn’t even seem like such a bad dude. Why not have Serrano get broken out of prison, show him taking out Tau, then having him fight Lo at the end?

As you can tell, the plot is not why I love this movie. RAPID FIRE delivers superior action scenes. Every action scene has impact. This is one of the few films that can use the phrase, “high octane action.”

Director Dwight H. Little has done a lot in his career. He directed the terrible full motion Sega CD game GROUND ZERO TEXAS after working on RAPID FIRE. He directed FREE WILLY 2, then pretty much became a TV director for shows such THE PRACTICE, 24, and BONES.

It’s a shame really. Little had to have been a talented guy to pull this movie off. RAPID FIRE certainly has shades of John Woo and Yuen Woo Ping mixed with american action sensibilities. Lee was a perfect vehicle to bring the eastern and western action styles together. Lee was a talented martial artist as well as a decent actor. His performance as Jake Lo isn’t phenomenal, but it’s serviceable. Lee didn’t quite have the charm of his father, at least not here. However his performance was much better than anything Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal ever turned in.

In terms of action, this movie works very well. So much so, that the confusing, awkward plot and characters don’t matter in the end. The action is vicious, fast, and crazy. While it isn’t in the upper echelon of action films, it certainly delivers the goods. RAPID FIRE was Lee’s last full movie. RAPID FIRE shows his potential as an action star was great. He certainly could have been the next big thing.

Brandon Lee on Leno promoting Rapid Fire. Jay Leno is either really stupid, or kind of a racist.


This movie is packed with several recognizable bit players. The most important of those being Al Leong. Leong is a legend to action movie fans. I can list all the movies he was in, but it would be easier just giving you a link to his IMDB profile. The man is a legend.

Another henchman legend that appears in RAPID FIRE is Tony Longo. Most people will know him as “that one big greasy guy.” Again, I’ll let his resume speak for itself.

It doesn’t stop there. There are more.


The Laser disc jacket appears to use the promo poster photo. It features Brandon Lee with a car exploding behind him. The title is like this: RAPID FIRE

The back of the jacket has a story summary and a brief note on some of the action choreography of the movie. Apparently the “L” train was still running during the final fight. Sounds dangerous. . . Good thing nobody got hurt. . .


“Unarmed and Extremely Dangerous”

Hmm. What fantastic marketing. Generic taglines and poster shots don’t sell tickets and tapes. Not to mention, the tagline is simply inaccurate. During the course of the movie, Lee brandishes all sorts of weaponry. From sticks to shotguns.


All Star Video favorite David A. Prior also directed a movie called RAPID FIRE. The box has a dude that looks like Alice Cooper with a bird beak for a nose.

Brandon Lee wanted John Woo to direct this film. 20th Century Fox didn’t want Woo to do it because they thought Woo could only make gunplay movies. Stupid.


I’d recommend an Americanized Chinese dish such as Sesame Chicken. With that, I would pair Chicago Style Hotdogs.

Beverage wise, I’d recommend a cocktail of Diet Coke, Arizona Green Tea, and Tequila.

Maybe make it a picnic style affair and lay out your spread on heroin infused bed sheets.


- Matt McSlam

Monday, November 19, 2012

Box Art: FINAL CUT (1988)

Sometimes movies aren’t as awesome as the box art and description they present.  Today, I offer Larry G. Brown’s FINAL CUT.

The Description:
“Caddo, Texas: The treacherous eerie bayou was the perfect location site for a Hollywood film crew.  It was the final location for WES, the veteran director...  KELLY, the stuntman, MARK, the technician and the wisecracking SMILIE.  They were finishing one of the greatest action films ever made.  An incredible piece of technology, a high-tech rocket boat, was poised for a record jump over the trees.  Penetrating the deep swamp, the four men were getting close to stumbling upon the local SHERIFF’s sinister scheme.  Suddenly, SMILIE and a local GIRL disappear.  

The game is on... a life or death race to unravel the mystery.  Will the steaming Tournee bayou be their final resting place?  The stunning conclusion is unreeled in the action packed... FINAL CUT.  There are no second takes!” (They probably should have taken some)

As you can see, the copy I found was from a West Coast Video.  They took the liberty of cutting the art to fit within one of their boxes.  However, the art is pretty sweet, with the montage of hot lady leaning back in the light (not in the movie), the woman with the gun (who’s head is covered with the price sticker) and a motorcycle guy with a gun (only in the first 5 minutes of the movie.)  On the back we are treated to gun-fire and a glider plane coming to land on a semi-truck.  
No doubt, all of this is sweet.  As you can also see on the front cover, this movie is Rated R.  Because they already have this rating, I wish they would’ve gone all out.  There is a great scene where Kelly, the stuntman, ambushes a group of the back-woods low-lifes and guns them down with an UZI.  However, the concurrent shot is just of a bunch of guys lying down.  If it was slow-motion with speed metal and juicy squibs going off like crazy, this movie would have been so much sweeter.  In fact, I would say that pretty much describes the entire film.

-J. Moret

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review: Dust Devil - The Final Cut (Limited Collector’s Edition) (1992)

Directed by Richard Stanley
Final Cut: 108 mins, color.  Work Print: 115 mins, color.
DVD released by Subversive Cinema, 2006

Dust Devil is that rare movie that is both art film and genre piece.  It is beautifully shot and wonderfully put together.  And yet, it is in that strange unmarketable space of being strange and creepy, but doesn’t have the scares or gore needed to draw a horror audience.  Not surprisingly, the distributor (Miramax) hated it.  Stanley originally brought in the film at 120 minutes, and Miramax cut it to 87 minutes without his permission or cooperation.  The version they cut removed all supernatural elements of the film and cut out nearly all of Zakes Mokae’s scenes, as he was a non-traditional hero, ie: African Zulu. The studio, Palace Pictures, went broke and the film disappeared, never finding any kind of wide release.  Stanley hunted down the negative, which was being held by the investors, and he personally paid for his own cut of the film.  Subversive Cinema has now released Stanley’s final cut of the film.  

The film centers on three major characters: Ben Mukurob (Zakes Mokae), who is a Zulu policeman who has been hunting the Dust Devil (Robert John Burke) and Wendy (played by Chelsea Field, who you might know better as the flight attendant in Commando “Don’t wake my friend, he’s dead tired” or Teela in Masters of the Universe -Dolph Lundgren!).  The Dust Devil is a supernatural evil, called a Nagtloper.  He is a drifter who kills and feeds off the life-force of those who have lost the will to live.  As the narrator tells us, he can smell towns and people that are dying.  He ritualistically cuts people apart and then keeps their fingers, as we are later told, “there is a whole lot of power in fingers.”  Mukurob has dedicated 15 years of his life to the hunting of this man, this serial killer, this Nagtloper.  His room is plastered in newspaper stories linked to this devil.  Wendy walks out on her abusive husband and decides to just drive, with no sense of hope.

Wendy ends up picking up the drifter and giving him a ride.  Mukurob continues to hunt, but is caught in the politics and mire of South Africa, which is in the midst of civil unrest and racial tensions are high.  Wendy gets involved with the Devil, and becomes his next target.  She escapes and he chases her into the desert.  Mukurob follows them into the wasteland, where there is surreal showdown in a deserted city sunken in the sand.  

At one point, Mukurob tells Wendy to wait, saying:
“I know what I’m doing.  I’m a cop.”
Wendy replies, “That Won’t Help.”
Mukurob, “I know.”

Exactly right.

The film was shot in Namibia, and sand dominates every inch of it.  It can be seen in the hair and teeth of every actor.  It blows constantly and seems to cover every surface.  The color temperature and film stock give the film an almost Aussie exploitation look.  It feels all the more epic with the giant sweeping helicopter shots and long wide takes.  Simon Boswell’s Morricone-ish soundtrack adds another dimension to the moody, atmospheric feeling of the film.  All the elements of a Western seem to come to the fore after the soundtrack really finds it’s place near the end of the film.  

I originally heard about Richard Stanley when I read his wonderful essay, “Dying Light: an obituary for the great British horror movie,” in a book a friend loaned me (thanks Tom!), British Horror Cinema.  In it, he discussed The Scala cinema in the King’s Cross neighborhood of London.  The cinema had originally been London’s first Primatarium (an ape house).  His love for the theatre and his description of the programmers and projectionists at the theatre made a deep connection.  Unfortunately, the Scala is now closed, and I feel a bit mournful for a place I will never know.  But, it is from there that he met the people from Palace Pictures and how we now have Dust Devil.

Biggest Surprise:
That this doesn’t have much of a following.  Something this creative and well made should have been picked up.  It is also a shock to me that this doesn’t have a sequel of any kind.  (though, that is a good thing)


  • Richard Stanley is the great-grandson of the great explorer / adventurer Sir Henry Stanley, who saved Sir David Livingston, coining the phrase “Dr. Livingston, I presume?”
  • Stanley left South Africa at 16 years old to avoid being drafted into the military
  • Stanley was with the Mujahedin in Afghanistan when his first film, Hardware, was approved.  (He is Rambo in Rambo III!)

Set Yourself Up:
  • The film’s pacing is slow and moody, so set the lights correctly.  Don’t have the fluorescent overheads on.
  • Get some Tyson Chicken Fingers and a few cans of Castel, put them in your basement and let a small layer of dust form over them.

The Goods:
The Limited Collector’s Edition is an outstanding release.  Subversive went all out for this one.  Limited to 9,999 (that seems like a lot, but it does appear now to be out of print), it is a 5 disc tribute to Stanley’s work.  The first disc is a great transfer of Stanley’s Final Cut of the film.  The second disc is his work print, which is interesting only if you want to see his editing process, but still really great to have. Unfortunately, they must have taken this from an old VHS or something, because the aspect ratio is 4:3.  The third disc is Secret Glory, Stanley’s documentary on Otto Rahn, a Nazi SS officer who was obsessed with the holy grail.  The fourth disc contains two of his short documentaries, Voice of the Moon, about his time in Afghanistan, and The White Darkness, a film he did for BBC about voodoo practices in Haiti.  The fifth disc is the soundtrack, which is great.  You also get a Dust Devil comic book, two commentaries, featurettes, a production diary, essays on his documentaries, and the original trailers (that are horrible at selling the film).  All in all, this is one of the best releases I have found in awhile.

You also get this quote from Steve Beard:
“Looks like Tarkovsky on acid and feels like Nightmare on Elm Street placed through a cultural blender.”  Whatever that means.

-J. Moret

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rant: That Greasy Video Store Guy You Can Trust

We started this site to discuss films that have been ignored, misunderstood or forgotten.  Netflix and other online media sources have made a giant glut of films available to stream and, in  effect, deemed them all disposable.  There are now thousands of titles available at any moment, but without a sense of direction or recommendation, it is as if we are all in that situation at the video store again, when we just wander the aisles.   In the end, it was always that greasy guy behind the counter who had the best recommendation.  (Some sweet smelly dude at Suncoast Motion Picture Company recommended Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki and for some stupid reason we ignored him and years later regretted it.  Thanks and sorry smelly guy). We, in effect want to be one of the sweet smelly guys who you can trust.  For years, we had been hunting down and sharing films together.  Now, we are sharing that process publicly and as we do, we're hoping you will share films with us as well.  We will share some forgotten or little talked about gems, and some films that should be reconsidered.  Some of the films we are extremely excited about can't be considered "good" in the traditional sense, but we share them because they gained our affection in one way or another.

Over the past fifteen years there seems to be more curiosity about exploitation films and “bad” films.  Much of this has arisen out of an ironic disdain for such films.  Films like The Room are a prime example of a generation that loves to dote on and share “bad” films.  We were definitely part of this.  In high school, we would have “Fests” where we would watch 14 hours of bad films in a row, and then go to school the next morning.  It was a badge of honor to see each other so exhausted, but it was also a deep social connection.  I had a “Bushwhacked Party” at my parent’s house one night and I remember fifteen or twenty people coming over to watch Daniel Stern bumble his way through the insane 1995 film.  Certain members of the group watched with a certain disbelief and bored disconnection.  However, for the rest of us, it was magnetic.   At the time, something about sharing that experience with others and laughing at the film was the whole enjoyment of it.

A few years later, I was introduced to Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960).  I was astounded.  I began to see film as a transformative art.  I wanted to study it and be near it in anyway that I could.  Like most, I began hunting down every classic director I could find and watching everything I could get my hands on.  However, I was always trying to reconcile my love of the strange little "bad" films that have no reason to be respected, but have their own charm.   At first, it was defending truly brilliant films like Videodrome and Dawn of the Dead.  But, soon,  I was recognizing the drive to find anything different and I started re-thinking the “value” of films altogether.  Obviously, something like  Blow Out can’t be discussed in the same way as An Autumn Afternoon or Touch of Evil.  But, It is both entertaining and insightful.  I truly love the film.   I have moved beyond the irony.   I now see that films like The Dead Next Door and Frankenstein Conquers the World can be as interesting and worthwhile as any major studio film or art film.   In the no-budget movie world, there is a sense of surprise and tension that cannot be found in most Hollywood films.  You can’t tell where the film is going because of its possibility for true spontaneity.  There is not a million-dollar budget, so there is no producer to keep things tight.  There are no seasoned professionals to keep it within the parameters of the three-act format.  There is no studio keeping tabs on their investment.

A film like The Avengers is enjoyable because it is so predictable.  Each beat is pre-described for the audience. But, because of this I find it completely forgettable.  When you are looking for an entertaining and interesting film, the plots and ideas really aren’t that much different between Phantasm and Thor.  However, for those of us that spend every moment of our free time that we can on watching films, the predictable becomes increasingly tedious.  Therefore, something like Phantasm has that much more appeal.
I will say here, that I do think there are bad films.  But, I think those films probably connect with someone and I see no reason to run them down.  In the end, a huge fraction of the films one will either enjoy or dislike is completely conditional.  I wasn’t ready to enjoy and truly love Kubrick’s films when I was a teenager, but re-watching them now as an adult, I love them.  Likewise, a film like Sledgehammer is so much more enjoyable with a group than it is alone.  And, because of that, we are not going to be focusing our attention on films that we don’t enjoy.

I will definitely be writing about all kinds of films here, because my tastes are varied and my enjoyment of movies is not contained within one type of film experience.  However, I hope to make it clear that we don’t love things simply because they are bad.  There is, of course, a certain irony in acknowledging that something is poorly made, and yet finding great enjoyment in it.  I’m as guilty as anyone in this. But, I also understand there is a certain cruelty in that.  Laughter and degradation of films come at the expense of honest intentions and very often, a lot of passion and hard work.  And, it is this passion and hard work that I find so entertaining and exciting.  It is often people working with limited resources, trying to create something worthwhile.  It is not our goal to make fun of these films or the people in them, but to bring attention to the ones that we think are worthwhile.

-J. Moret

Monday, November 12, 2012

Box Art: THE JAR

Sometimes movies aren’t as awesome as the box art and description they present.  Today, I offer Bruce Toscano’s THE JAR.  It Blows the Lid off Terror.

“Paul, once an easy-going guy, has just experienced the shock of his life.  And now he’s gone absolutely crazy.  He’s just come face to gruesome face with a repulsive, embryonic creature he discovered in a jar, and it sure looks like it’s out to get him.  He can’t get hold of himself, and those bizarre nightmares are really getting on his nerves.  He’s not even paying attention to his beautiful neighbor Crystal, and that’s not normal.  It’s that thing in the jar that’s to blame.  But for some reason, he just can’t seem to get rid of it.  It’s already made his life miserable, and now it wants to kill him.  Boy, does Paul have a monster of a problem.”  

How killer does that sound?  In reality, I found this movie rather indecipherable.  There was indeed a jar, but no sweet stop-motion monster or gore to go with it.  There were some neat effects (such as his bathtub filling with blood), the acting was pretty funny (all dubbed?  Probably from Italian) and the music by Obscure Sighs was killer, but it ultimately failed to entertain.  But, if you find it cheap, you can’t go wrong with that art.    

-J. Moret

Friday, November 9, 2012

Review: Killer Workout (Aerobicide) (1987)

Directed by David A. Prior
85 mins.  Color.
Mom N Pop Video Shop edition.

David A. Prior is an All-Star Video favorite. Sledgehammer, as you will soon find out, is the current gold standard for us when you talk about the largely unseen that simply must be experienced. Killer Workout is Prior’s third film, and it’s hilarious. I am finding it incredibly difficult to not tell you this is the best movie ever made in the history of film, so I won’t even try. It’s his first film shot on 35mm, but the only way to watch it is on Youtube or buying it on DVD from “Mom N Pop Video Shop,” a little public domain operation that most likely transferred the movie from a VHS tape. They have a “David A. Prior Collection!”

With Killer Workout, Prior does away with plausibility, continuity, and characters. He goes right to the jugular: Girls doing aerobics in weird 80s leotards, the best fight scenes ever caught on film, a great synth-pop soundtrack, awkward nudity, and a serial killer with the worst weapon I’ve ever seen. But, that doesn’t it mean it’s poorly made or fails to entertain. Prior was a young man learning the craft, and this gem captures the spontaneity of non-professionalism so perfectly.

The film opens with a young lady (we don't see her face) coming home to an answering machine message saying that she will be on the cover of Cosmopolitan, but that she needs to be tan because the agent said she would be. She ends up at Second Sun Tanning Salon to brown down. While inside the tanning bed, something goes horribly wrong and flames begin to shoot out. It’s pretty awesome. Years later Final Destination 3 would totally rip this off.

Rather than give you a full rundown of the film, here are three sequences in the middle that exemplify the reasons you should watch it. Chuck (the amazing Ted Prior) is taking out garbage behind Rhonda’s Workout (where most of the movie takes place) and a Camaro aggressively stops right in front of him. Chuck angrily throws the garbage to the side and out steps Jimmy. This being their first time meeting, this is their exchange:

Chuck, “Hey, what’s your problem?”
Jimmy, “Problem? I don’t have a problem. New around here?”
Chuck, “First day. Who’s asking?"
Jimmy, “Someone who’s going to give you some real good advice. Stay away from Rhonda.”
Chuck, “Get out of here.”
Jimmy, “Stay away or I’ll take you apart, piece by piece.”

Then, Jimmy throws a punch, and they have a sweet fight. Jimmy attempts a spin kick (!) and Chuck shoves him against the wall. Meanwhile, busty babe Deb comes out in a pink leotard with a strange mesh covering and a MASSIVE golf visor. She watches for a moment and then asks Chuck if he’d like to go for a ride. He replies, “That’s the best offer I’ve had all day.”

From there, they go to Deb’s house and sit in the front yard. Deb goes inside to change. Chuck picks up the phone (yep, they are outside on the front lawn and inexplicably there is a phone on a little table), he proceeds to dial:

Chuck, “Mr. Erickson, yep, I know all about that. I haven’t done that yet. Don’t worry about it. I gotta go.” Deb comes out in a robe.
Deb, “You aren’t leaving are you?”
Chuck, “I need to get back to Rhonda’s. I’ve got a lot to do.”
Deb, “You have a lot to do right here.”
Chuck, “Is that right?”
She then drops the robe to reveal she is now in a bikini and they make out. End scene.

Prior’s depiction of women here is absolutely appalling and hilarious. Every female shown in the film has the exact same body type (giant boobs, super small waist). The entire wardrobe for the women consist of workout leotards that show too much skin. In-between every wildly entertaining moment of dialogue (I am quite convinced there was no “script” per se, just a basic outline) there are close-ups of women doing aerobics, which are obviously very sexually suggestive. Somewhere in the back of his mind, I think Prior was attempting to make a point about how image obsessed the aerobics world is (this actually sort of comes through and isn’t just me trying to give him credit, but I won’t reveal how). However, what really comes across is that this dude loves watching hot ladies gyrate and thrust.

Most surprising thing about this movie:
Not very much nudity. Sure, you get a little, but by the amount of time that the camera is directly focused on women’s breasts, surprisingly sparse.

The Hype:
In order to convince your friends to watch it with you, tell them this: “Someone is murdered for vandalism.”

Needless Trivia
- Prior hated working with the cinematographer because he didn’t respect his opinion. Apparently that cinematographer hadn’t seen Sledgehammer, or didn’t enjoy close up shots of spandex clad breasts.
- Chuck is also the name of Ted Prior’s character in Sledgehammer. Not sure if this means that this is a spin-off from that movie or perhaps an inside joke between Ted and David.

Set Yourself Up:
Gather two or three friends in a dark basement. There are some movies you should watch alone and some you shouldn’t. If you’re a weirdo (like us), you can probably have a good time with this one on your own, but it’s best with friends. Purchase some sweet alcoholic beverages. You’re probably best off with Coors, Schlitz or Pabst. If you’re going to make a night of it, go Karkov. Cocktail Weenies, BBQ sauce, taco flavored Doritos.

You can find Killer Workout in it’s entirety on YouTube here:

You can also buy it on Amazon from the Mom N Pop Video Shop. It is a print on demand DVD with no special features whatsoever. All of their releases are based on getting films in the public domain. However, if you buy this DVD you are treated to a great german poster on the front, pretty sweet neon lines and four outstanding stills from the film.
You also get this fantastic description on the back of the DVD:
"Two Years ago, a young woman named Valerie was burned after entering a tanning salon. Now, her twin sister, Rhonda runs a local gym where all of a sudden, people are being murdered."

-J. Moret