Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Drive-in Double Feature #1: May 1959

This is the first entry in a new semi-regular series here at Barbaric Bs of Schlocky Creek - the Drive-in Double Feature. The inspiration came from perusing some of the awesome retro double-bill newspaper adverts at one of my favourite blogs, Scenes from the Morgue ( I got to thinking how cool it would have been to see some of those double features back in the day at the drive in, and being the film nerd I am, my next thought was 'hey, I could do that now', minus the drive in of course.

So my wife and I sat down to watch two 1950s drive in movies (which played together in May 1959) back-to-back, and I even played some drive in "snack time" commercials in between. As I said, I'm a film nerd through and through.

Image courtesy of Scenes from the Morgue

Night of the Blood Beast (1958)
Director: Bernard L Kowalski
Starring: John Baer, Angela Greene, Ed Nelson, Georgianna Carter
 Format: Youtube

Plot: An astronaut returns from space dead. The base that recovered him is then cut off from the outside world by an alien. The revival of the dead astronaut, the death of a scientist, and the discovery of alien embryos inside the resurrected astronaut's body bodes ill for the survival of those trapped at the base and the rest of humanity.

Overall thoughts: You've heard of comfort food, right? Well, creaky old school B movies are the movie equivalent for me. Even if the movie itself isn't very good, watching black and white scifi/horror/whatever from the 30s, 40s and 50s usually puts a smile on my face. Night of the Blood Beast definitely falls into that category, and you'll probably need to share my perverse love of these schlockers to enjoy it. Like a lot of 50s scifi B movies, it's full of wonky science and ridiculous made-up techospeak dialogue. Director Kowalski (ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES, KRAKATOA) doesn't have much of a script to work with (written by Roger Corman's brother Gene) and can't cover up the almost non-existent budget. He does manage to keep things interesting during the build-up to the arrival of the alien monster, which is when things turn to unintentional hilarity. It's not quite as bad as some other aliens (Robot Monster, It Conquered the World etc) from the time, but still laughable in a parrot-crossed-with-a-giant-slug kind of way. And naturally there's a morality message at the end, playing on audiences' fear of what space travel might eventually mean for mankind.

She Gods of Shark Reef (1958)
Director: Roger Corman
Starring: Bill Cord, Don Durant, Lisa Montell
Format: AVI

Plot: Two men escaping the police by ship are blown off course by a typhoon and shipwrecked on an uncharted island populated by women who make a living diving for pearls. What the men don't know is that the women are also part of a shark cult that sacrifices young virgins to the sharks in the surrounding ocean in order to appease the shark gods.

Overall thoughts: How's that for a great title? It's a pity the movie can't live up to it. She Gods of Shark Reef was filmed in 1956 by King of the B-Movies Roger Corman while he was in Hawaii filming Naked Paradise. It was put on the shelf for a year and a half, before being released as the secondary film of this double feature with Night of the Blood Beast. The truth is it's just not very good. Sure, the locale makes for some nice scenery, and there are plenty of nubile island girls dancing their way around, but all of that wears thin after a while when there's no real action to break it up (besides the opening scene, which is quite good). The sharks are small and not scary at all, the "human sacrifice" is ho-hum, and the acting is (apart from Don Durant) uninspiring. There's also bad logic galore (why can they swim to and from the "shark reef" whenever they want without being attacked by the sharks?) and a script that doesn't deliver on some interesting plot points (the shady Island Company remains off-screen, which is a shame).  Not one of Roger Corman's best, and that's saying something.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Blastfighter (1984)

 The cover of my VHS copy of Blastfighter

Blastfighter (1984)
Director: Lamberto Bava
Starring: Michael Sopkiw, Valentina Forte, George Eastman
Format: VHS (Medusa)

Italian director Lamberto Bava is best known to most of us as the son of the great Mario Bava and for his gory horror movies Demons and Demons 2. But he dabbled in other genres as well. In 1984 he helmed two action movies, the much-maligned Devil Fish (victim of a MST3K lampooning) and the lesser-known Blastfighter.

Jake "Tiger" Sharp (Sopkiw, 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK) is an ex-cop just released from jail for the murder of the man who killed his wife. He heads to his old hometown in the mountains of Georgia, where he is soon butting heads with the redneck locals, led by former rival Tom (George Eastman, 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS). Tom, his brother Wally (Stefano Mingardo, ATLANTIS INTERCEPTORS) and their hillbilly buddies are torturing wildlife for a Hong Kong businessman, who uses the animals to make aphrodisiacs for the Asian market.

Tiger's daughter Connie (Valentina Forte) shows up unexpectedly and after the war escalates father and daughter are soon fleeing the killer hillbillies through the mountain forest. With his back against the wall, Tiger retrieves a special gun given to him by a cop buddy and goes on the rampage, killing the rednecks off until he faces a final showdown with Tom.

Plot-wise, Blastfighter is a fairly predictable revenge-in-the-woods flick with elements of Deliverance, Walking Tall and First Blood. If it were an American production it would definitely be worth watching, but the Italian influence makes it even more fun. It's got the overdubbed voices we all love from Italian cinema (including some hiliarious redneck accents), a synth-heavy Euro soundtrack by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis (who did a bunch of Bud Spencer/Terrence Hill comedies), and even a cameo by another Italian director, Michele Soavi (CEMETERY MAN), who was assistant director for this film.

Most of the fun comes from the Italian take on American hillbillies, which is pretty campy, and there's more unintentional humour in famiiliar places (like vehicles exploding in huge fireballs from just a small crash into a ditch). There's also a really cool action set piece towards the end, with lots of explosions, smoke and spotlights, and the final shot (playing off an earlier scene of a truck full of animal carcasses) is well done.

Blastfighter is an excellent revenge flick and well worth hunting down, if you'll excuse the pun.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

SUMMER OF 87: Finished

It's just after 10pm on Saturday night and the SUMMER OF 87 VHSATHON has come to a close, 36 hours after it started.

In those 36 hours I've watched 12 movies, all of them released in the year 1987 and all on VHS. It's been fun. I got to see my first Andy Sidaris movie and I loved it. The good movies (Hard Ticket to Hawaii, American Ninja 2, The Stepfather, I Was a Teenage Vampire, Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission, Creepshow 2, Death Wish 4, Three for the Road) vastly outweighed the bad ones (Hello Mary Lou, Teen Wolf Too, Munchies) 8 to 3, which is an equation I'll take any day. There weren't as many action flicks as I would have liked, but I was restricted to what I had on hand on VHS. And the main thing is I made myself watch 11 movies for the first time, many of which I've repeatedly passed over on my shelves.

So, all in all SUMMER OF 87 was another fun edition of what has now become an annual movie marathon at Queen's Birthday Weekend. Who knows what next year will bring?

SUMMER OF 87 #12 - Three for the Road

The cover of my VHS copy of Three for the Road
8.15pm, Day 2:
Three for the Road
Director: Bill L Norton
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Kerri Green, Alan Ruck, Blair Tefkin
Format: VHS (Roadshow)

Plot: A crafty political aide (Sheen) and his soft-spoken pal (Ruck) are assigned the job of delivering a senator's out-of-control teenage daughter (Green) to an institution.

- NOTE: I was originally going to end this marathon with NEAR DARK, easily my favourite vampire movie of all time. But I watch that one a lot, and my wife decided to join me for this finale, so I picked something we could enjoy together. So comedy it is.
- This movie is like a convergence of two of my favourite 80s movies, bringing together Charlie Sheen and Alan Ruck (both in FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF) and Kerri Green (who was in THE GOONIES). Sheen and Ruck also acted together on the TV series Spin City and Sheen and Green starred together in 1986's LUCAS (with Corey Haim).
- I've never seen this movie. In fact, before I found it on VHS I had never heard of it. I don't think it's ever been released on DVD.
- Hey, it's Uncle Phil (James Avery from Fresh Prince of Bel Air) as a Jesus-freak truck driver.
- Nice undies Charlie.
- Blair Tefkin. I remember her from the original scifi series V, a role she got when Dominique Dunne was murdered (look it up if you're unfamiliar with the case). Here Blair is definitely switching things up from her square girl role in V, as she plays a fast-talking southern party girl.

Overall thoughts: This seems to be a forgotten 80s comedy - you just don't hear anything about it. I'm not sure why that is, because it's actually pretty good. The closest comparison I can think of is another 80s roadtrip comedy, The Sure Thing, except here the girl's the loose cannon and the guy the square. At this point in his career Charlie Sheen was a likeable lead man, Alan Ruck puts in another solid performance as a neurotic sidekick, and I was happy to get to see Kerri Green on screen again, because she never made another mainstream movie after this. If you're a fan of these types of movies it's worth tracking down Three For The Road.

SUMMER OF 87 #11 - Death Wish 4

 The cover of my VHS copy of Death Wish 4

6pm, Day 2:
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown
Director: J Lee Thompson
Starring: Charles Bronson, Kay Lenz, John P Ryan
Format: VHS (Kerridge Odeon Amalgamated)

Plot: Architect/vigilante Paul Kersey (Bronson) takes on the members of a vicious Los Angeles drug cartel to stop the flow of drugs after his girlfriend's (Lenz) daughter dies from an overdose.

- Unfortunately this marathon hasn't had as much action as I would have liked. Let's change that with some mindless revenge!
- I've seen the original Death Wish but none of the sequels.
- J Lee Thompson (GUNS OF NAVARONE, the original CAPE FEAR) is a top director. I somewhat liked what he did with another Bronson vehicle, WHITE BUFFALO, and he also helmed the underrated slasher HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.
- I've always had a bit of a thing for Kay Lenz (WHITE LINE FEVER, HOUSE).
- Wow, Dana Barron, who plays the daughter of Kersey's girlfriend, sure did grow up between 1983 (when she played Clark Griswald's annoying daughter Audrey in NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION) and 1987.
- And there's Mark Pellegrino (Satan on SUPERNATURAL, Paul Bennett on DEXTER) in an early bit role as a punk rocker!
- Dig the Wine Salesman bit. Kaboom!
- Pellegrino's not the only Supernatural alumni in this movie. Mitch Pileggi has a bit role as well.
- Bronson + uzi + factory full of bad guys = a good ol' time. Well, not for the bad guys.
- A sure sign you're watching a movie made no later than the 1980s: it contains at least one scene set in a Roller Rink.
- Well, that was certainly an impressive exit for the main bad guy.

Overall thoughts: I haven't seen any of the other Death Wish sequels, so I can't tell you how well this one stacks up against them. But as a standalone it's fairly good. Not as jam-packed full of action as I was hoping, but it has enough explosions, gunfights etc to keep things entertaining. Bronson is as brooding as ever, albeit getting old by this stage and pushing the bounds of credibility as an action star. But he blows away people with a big gun, and that's about all you want from a Death Wish movie, right?

SUMMER OF 87 #10 - Munchies

 The cover of my VHS copy of Munchies

3.40pm, Day 2:
Director: Bettina Hirsch
Starring: Harvey Korman, Charlie Stratton, Nadine Van der Velde
Format: VHS (CEL)

Plot: Simon Watterman (Korman), a space archaeologist, discovers the "Munchies" in a cave in Peru. Cecil Watterman (Korman again), Simon's evil twin brother and snack food entrepreneur, kidnaps the creature. What Cecil does not know is that the creature, when chopped up, regenerates into many new creatures -- and are they mean!

- Disclosure: No, I haven't seen this one.
- From the long line of Gremlins rip-offs (Critters, Ghoulies, Hobgoblins, Beasties, Spookies etc) comes this Roger Corman-produced effort, directed by Bettina Hirsch, who worked as an editor on Gremlins. This was her only directing gig, which doesn't bode well.
- From the look of the cover I'm expecting a second-rate Gremlins knockoff with an emphasis on sex and toilet humour. Although the PG rating tells me any sex will probably be more implied than shown. Boo-urns!
- They're not even trying to disguise how much of a ripoff this is. Arnold sounds just like Gizmo.
- I wonder how much they spent on creature design for this movie? My guess is $20 tops.
- Alright I get it now. They're proudly flaunting the fact this is a Gremlins ripoff (look for all the in-jokes - Gizmo in a newspaper ad, licence plate that says OHGIZMO etc).
- Veteran comedian Korman sure is hamming it up as Cecil Watterman, and Alix Elias, who plays Cecil's wife, is just plain annoying.
- I bet Robert Picado (STAR TREK VOYAGER) looks back on this movie as a career highlight. Or not.
- As I suspected, the only T&A is pretty tame (panty flashes). And no gore to speak of. Those two things would probably save this movie. Okay, they wouldn't save it, but maybe make it more bearable.

Overall thoughts: Dumb. So very dumb. Take Gremlins, remove Joe Dante's stylish directing, replace the monsters with cheap, annoying knockoffs, switch the talented cast for nobodies and hammy cartoonish acting... well, you get the picture. The best thing is if you haven't seen Munchies, you don't need to. I've seen it and I can safely tell you to avoid it.

SUMMER OF 87 #9: Creepshow 2

 The cover of my VHS copy of Creepshow 2

2pm, Day 2:
Creepshow 2
Director: Michael Gornick
Starring: George Kennedy, Lois Chiles, Dorothy Lamour
Format: VHS (Cinema Club)

Plot: Three more bone-chilling tales that include a vengeful wooden Native American, a monstrous blob in a lake, and a hitchhiker who wants revenge and will not die.

- I know a lot of people like the first Creepshow movie better than this one, which gets some bad reviews, but I've always loved this movie. It might be because it was one of the first horror movies I ever saw (soon after it came out on VHS here in NZ), so it's got nostalgic value. I should also add that I'm a Stephen King geek - I have every book he's ever written and a few rare pieces of memorabilia. Heck, I even visited his house in Bangor Maine back in 2000.
- So yes, I've seen this movie before, several times in fact. It's one of only two "cheats" I'm allowing myself during this marathon.
- This anthology (like the first Creepshow movie) is Stephen King and George Romero's homage to the EC comics of his youth (Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror etc). King wrote the stories and Romero adapted them for the screen.
- Director Gornick was cinematographer on the first Creepshow movie.
- The first tale, Old Chief Wood'nhead, is a simple story of revenge that is pretty schmaltzy, but good performances by veterans George Kennedy (THE DIRTY DOZEN) and Dorothy Lamour (who starred with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in a string of their Road To movies in the 30s) have the viewer rooting for the bad guys to get what's coming to them.
- I dig that Cisco Kid is playing on the TV in the houses of each of the bad guys. I love that TV series.
- Old Chief Wood'nhead's makeup is great. Creepy too.
- The second tale, The Raft, is the one that really stuck with me after I first watched it all those years ago. It creeped the hell out of me, pun intended.
- Nice segue I never noticed before: The two guys in The Raft refer to themselves by the nicknames Cisco and Pancho.
- I remember thinking a lot about how I would try to survive the "killer" in The Raft. Like I obsessed with thinking up survival scenarios after watching The Swarm on TV as a kid.
- Even when his life's in danger, a teenage boy's gotta get laid. Especially if his name is Randy.
- I still love that ending. Awesome.
- The final tale, The Hitchhiker, is my least favourite of the three, but did provide me and my friends with a line we would use all the time: "Thaks for the ride lady!"
- Cameo by Stephen King as a truck driver. He had more of a starring role in the first Creepshow, as unfortunate bumpkin Jordy Verrill.
- The third tale is definitely the bloodiest of the three. Some nice gore right at the end.
- The wraparound animation is good fun, as it should be on an anthology like this.

Overall thoughts: As I said at the start of this review, I enjoy this movie for nostalgic reasons, so I can't review it objectively. But if you're a fan of EC Comics-style horror anthology like Tales from the Crypt, Tales from the Darkside and Monsters, you should enjoy this movie. And because it's a movie, it has T&A and gore that you won't find on those TV series.

SUMMER OF 87 #8: Dirty Dozen The Deadly Mission

The cover of my VHS copy of Dirty Dozen: Deadly Mission
11.30am, Day 2:
Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission
Director: Lee H Katzin
Starring: Telly Savalas, Ernest Borgnine, Vince Edwards, Bo Svenson, Vincent Van Patten
Format: VHS (CEL)

Plot: Learning of a Nazi plot to attack Washington DC with a deadly nerve gas, Major Wright (Telly Savalas) leads twelve convicts on a suicide mission deep into occupied France to destroy the secret factory where the poison is made.

- Disclosure: I last watched the original Dirty Dozen movie quite a few years ago. I haven't seen any of the TV movie sequels, of which this is the second (following 1985's The Next Mission and before 1988's The Fatal Mission).
- The set up is the same as the first two movies, but with Savalas taking over the Lee Marvin role as the leader assigned to whip 12 condemned prisoners into shape for the big mission. Savalas was one of the original Dirty Dozen but his character was killed off in the first movie, so his Major Wright here is a new character.
- Among the new Dirty Dozen are: Gary Graham (ALIEN NATION TV series) as rebellious Joe Stern; real life brothers Vincent (HELL NIGHT) and James (SAW 4 and 5) Van Patten as the German-looking Webber brothers; Bo Svenson (WALKING TALL) as cunning Fontenac; Randall Cobb (BLIND FURY) as the giant Swede; Thom Mathews (Tommy Jarvis in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 6) as clean cut Kelly; Paul Picerni (1960s TV series THE UNTOUCHABLES) as counterfeiter Ferruci; and Branco Blace as explosives expert Martinez.
- Director Katzin has some 69 credits to his name, all but a few of them in TV series and TV movies, everything from the Mission Impossible series in the 60s to Miami Vice and Walker Texas Ranger. So he knows how to put together action sequences in a TV format. Writer Mark Rodgers had a similarly-long career in TV.
- This movie opened with a good shootout and there was another soon after the Dozen drop into enemy territory, but things slow down in the middle as the soldiers infiltrate the local population and do lots of sneaking around.

Overall thoughts: This Dirty Dozen sequel is at its best when Nazis are being machine-gunned down and things are blowing up. There's plenty of that at the start and the finish, but it gets dragged down by a slow middle portion. Because it's a TV movie, there's no grittiness, but a solid cast and just enough action makes it watchable.

SUMMER OF 87 #7 - I Was A Teenage Vampire

The cover of my VHS copy of I Was a Teenage Vampire
10am, Day 2:
I Was a Teenage Vampire
Director: Jimmy Huston
Starring: Robert Sean Leonard, Evan Mirand, LeeAnne Locken, Cheryl Pollak, Cecilia Peck
Format: VHS (Filmpac)

Plot: In Houston, teenager Jeremy Capello (Leonard) is a normal middle-class boy, who lives with his parents and has Ralph (Mirand) as his best friend. He has a crush on Darla Blake (Pollak), but he is shy and does not date her. He works making deliveries for a supermarket and is seduced by his sexy client Nora (Peck). While getting it on with her, Jeremy is transformed into a vampire. His friend Ralph is mistakenly chased by two weird vampire hunters, Prof Leopold McCarthy and his assistant Grimsdyke, who believe he is a creature of the night. Meanwhile, Jeremy learns how to use his new powers with the help of Modoc, and falls definitively in love for Darla.

- This movie is listed on IMDB as My Best Friend is a Vampire, which I think is the US title. Here in New Zealand, and in Australia, it got retitled as I Was a Teenage Vampire.
- Five seconds in and this is already funnier and more entertaining than Teen Wolf Too.
- Hey, it's a very young Robert Sean Leonard, who plays Dr James Wilson on the TV series House.
- Great soundtrack so far - Blondie and Pat Benatar. Nice!
- All the best 80s teen comedies are about the teen male protagonist wanting to get laid. Isn't that the biggest motivation for any teenaged guy?
- This was director Jimmy Huston's follow up to Final Exam, a derivative-but-interesting slasher I reviewed in June last year.
- Darla (Cheryl Pollak) has that Molly Ringwald "hot but geeky" look.
- A couple of familiar faces in key roles: David Warner (Sark/Master Control in TRON) as vampire hunter McCarthy, and Rene Auburjonois (Clayton Runnymede Endicott III on the TV series BENSON) as vampire Modoc.
- Wow, a young and slim Kathy Bates (MISERY) in a small part. I hardly recognised her.
- And the soundtrack keeps on rocking 80s style with the pre-requisite Oingo Boingo song. According to IMDB they had songs used on 20 movies in the 1980s (the most well known being the Weird Science theme song).
- Most of the vampire gags are pretty standard (no reflection in mirror, aversion to garlic, hunger for meat etc), but as teen rom-coms go this is fairly well written and quite fun.
- "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades". Another great 80s song. I'm really digging this soundtrack.
- Two funny scenes: Misdirected mind powers in the punk club, and Jeremy's parents mistaking his vampirism for him being gay.

Overall thoughts: I enjoyed I Was A Teenage Vampire. It's a fun little 80s teenage comedy. Sure, it's not going to make it onto anyone's favourite movies list, but for this kind of movie it's entertaining enough. Not out-and-out hilarious, but a movie that'll make you laugh in places and put a smile on your face. It also has a kickass 80s soundtrack. Comparing it to Teen Wolf Too, a movie with similar subject matter that I watched yesterday, this movie is a million times better - the acting, the writing, the cinematography, everything.

SUMMER OF 87: Day two begins

After watching six movies from 1987 on VHS yesterday, I'm now sitting down to watch six more today. Yesterday I saw a fantastic Andy Sidaris boobs-and-guns flick, an awesome ninja movie, a pair of solid psychological thrillers, a completely unnecessary teen comedy sequel and an even more unnecessary horror franchise sequel.

What's in store for today? Well, you'll have to keep reading to find out, but I'm kicking things off with another teen comedy. Hopefully it's better than Teen Wolf Too, although that won't be hard.

Friday, June 1, 2012

SUMMER OF 87 #6: Rampage

 The cover of my VHS copy of Rampage

8.45pm, Day 1:
Director: William Friedkin
Starring: Michael Biehn, Alex McArthur, Nicholas Campbell
Format: VHS (Kerridge Odean Amalgamated)

Plot: Liberal district attorney (Biehn) decides to seek the death penalty for a man (McArthur) who slaughtered a family at Christmas time, then drank their blood. He escapes, though, and starts killing again. Based on the true story of Richard Trenton Chase, "The Vampire Killer" who killed six people in the course of four days in January 1978.

- I've always been a fan of Michael Biehn. Everyone knows about his roles in The Terminator and Aliens, but my favourite role of his was in Tombstone. His performance as Johnny Ringo is outstanding.
- Friedkin is of course best known as director of The Exorcist and French Connection. He also helmed the underrated To Live and Die in LA.
- There's Whitby Hertford, a couple of years before he played the creepy kid in Nightmare on Elm Street 5.
- Grace Zabriskie (TWIN PEAKS, GALAXY OF TERROR) in one of her trademark wide-eyed crazy roles.
- Alex McArthur isn't an actor I'm familiar with, but he's very effective in his role as serial killer Charlie Reece. Charismatic in a boy next door kind of way, with an underlying creepiness.
- So apparently this movie wasn't released in the US until 1992, due to its distribution company going under. Mind you, it would have been tough to market anyway - a movie revolving around the trial of a serial killer isn't an easy sell.
- For the most part this is a crime procedural, but there are sporadic scenes of disturbing violence, with lots of bloodshed.
- I've been reading that Friedkin changed the ending when this movie was released theatrically in the US in 1992, but from what I can tell my VHS has the original ending.

Overall thoughts: It's hard to review a movie like Rampage. It's well shot, has a great score by Ennio Morricone, and has good acting performances across the board, particularly from Biehn and McArthur. William Friedkin knows how to build drama and suspense and the violence is brief but brutal. If crime thrillers are your thing, then you're going to enjoy Rampage. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it to a certain degree, but give me boobs, ninjas and explosions over courtroom drama any day.

SUMMER OF 87 #5: Teen Wolf Too

 The cover of my VHS copy of Teen Wolf Too
7pm, Day 1:
Teen Wolf Too
Director: Christopher Leitch
Starring: Jason Bateman, Kim Darby, John Astin
Format: VHS (Filmpac)

Plot: Todd Howard (Bateman), the cousin of Scott Howard (played by Michael J Fox in the first film) has recently been accepted into Hamilton University on a full athletic scholarship on the recommendation of Coach Bobby Finstock (Paul Sand), who was Scott's basketball coach at Beacontown High. Finstock's hope is that Todd has the family genes to become a werewolf and turn Finstock's new struggling boxing team into championship contenders. Todd is horrified by his "family affliction", but eventually gives in to it and finds fame after winning his first boxing fight. With it comes girls, top grades etc, but he starts losing his friends. Can Todd relearn to be humble while also winning the big championship fight coming up?

- After a break for dinner, we're back into it with the third of four "part two" sequels I'll be watching during this marathon. I guess 1987 was a big year for sequels.
- Disclosure: Of course I've seen the original Teen Wolf (1985), which from what I remember was pretty good for an 80s teen comedy. I'm also aware MTV made a Teen Wolf TV series a couple of years ago, which I haven't seen, and because it's MTV I have no desire to see it.
- So apparently Michael J Fox didn't sign on for this sequel partly because he didn't want to go through all the makeup again.
- Bateman and Fox are of course connected by Jason's sister Justine, who played Fox's sister on TV's Family Ties.
- The support cast in this is pretty good and includes two actors whose most famous roles were in the 60s (John Astin, Gomez in the Addams Family, and Kim Darby, who was so brilliant in the original True Grit).
- Tim Kring, who wrote this screenplay, went on to have more success writing about people with hidden powers. He wrote and produced the TV series Heroes.
- So far this movie isn't offering anything very original, but the song and dance number to Do You Love Me was fun.
- You can't get much more 80s-centric than a soundtrack containing songs by both Oingo Boingo and Real Life. "Send Me an Angel" is a weird choice for a "studying hard for exam tomorrow" montage though. Unless it morphs into a "getting it on with the girlfriend" montage. Touche.
- Semi-interesting trivia: Estee Chandler, who plays love interest Nicki, only made one more movie after this, but was visual effects producer on Team America: World Police.
- Well, I saw that "twist" involving Kim Darby's character coming a mile away.

Overall thoughts: That was pretty bad. I mean, there's nothing overly offensive about Teen Wolf Too. It's just unnecessary. If you've seen the first movie, there's absolutely no need for you to see the sequel. All they did was change basketball to boxing and substitute Michael J Fox for the less-charismatic Jason Bateman. The end result is a poor imitation of the original and a movie that I'd recommend bypassing.

SUMMER OF 87 #4: The Stepfather

 The cover of my VHS copy of The Stepfather

4.30pm, Day 1:
The Stepfather
Director: Joseph Ruben
Starring: Terry O'Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack
Format: VHS (Virgin)

Plot: A family-values man named Jerry Blake (O'Quinn) marries widows and divorcées with children in search of the perfect family. As soon as his new family members show signs of being human and not robots who will march unquestioningly to his tune, his dreams of domestic bliss begin to crumble, and he kills them. Then he alters his appearance, assumes a new identity, and skips to another town to begin the deadly ritual all over again. He marries Susan Maine (Hack), who sees him as the ideal surrogate father for her teenage daughter Stephanie (Schoelen), and he is soon up to his old tricks when she proves to be too much of a troublesome teen to handle.

NOTE: I was originally going to watch Ghoulies II in this spot, and in fact did watch about 40 minutes of it. But then I realised two things: I'd already seen it, and it was released in 1988, not 1987. The strange thing is my VHS copy says 1987, but every reference online says 1988. It didn't feel right to continue so I stopped Ghoulies II and moved onto the next movie in the marathon. I'll find something else to make up for it at the end of day two, to still hit my target of 12 films.
- I haven't seen this. It's one I've been wanting to watch for years but just have never gotten around to it.
- I know Terry O'Quinn is best known these days from his time on the TV series Lost, but I never watched that show. I know him from TOMBSTONE (one of my favourite movies) and from the TV show MILLENNIUM.
- Shelley Hack is best known for her short stint on Charlie's Angels in 1979.
- Okay, so I didn't write many notes while watching this movie. Mainly because it's not the kind of movie you can make wisecracks about, and also it's the kind of movie you just want to sit back and watch.

Overall thoughts: I know most people have seen this movie and I was late to the party finally getting to see it, so I don't need to say to much about it. It's just a really good psychological thriller, which is carried by a fantastic acting performance by Terry O'Quinn. He's brilliant because he looks so innocuous most of the time, but through subtle movements and looks he begins to show what lies beneath, until finally he goes nuts. If you're into these kinds of slow-burner thrillers and you haven't seen The Stepfather, definitely hunt it out.

SUMMER OF 87 #3: Hard Ticket to Hawaii

The cover of my VHS copy of Hard Ticket to Hawaii
1.50pm, Day 1:
Hard Ticket to Hawaii
Director: Andy Sidaris
Starring: Ron Moss, Dona Speir, Hope Marie Carlton, Harold Diamond, Rodrigo Obregon
Format: VHS (RCA Columbia)

Plot: Two drug enforcement agents are killed on a private Hawaiian island. Donna (Speir) and Taryn (Carlton), two operatives for The Agency, accidentally intercept a delivery of diamonds intended for drug lord Seth Romero (Obregon), who takes exception and tries to get them back. Fellow Agency operatives Rowdy (Moss) and Jade (Diamond) get involved, and a full-scale fight to the finish ensues, complicated here and there by an escaped snake made deadly by toxic waste!

- Disclosure: I haven't seen this movie. In fact, this is my first Andy Sidaris movie. I've heard a lot about his stuff so I'm looking forward to this.
- Bare breasts and gratuitous shotgun violence before the opening credits. We're off to a good start!
- Super cheesy opening credits.
- Very Toto-esque theme song by Gary Stockdale.
- Donna to fellow blonde bimbo Taryn: "Let's unload and hit the jacuzzi, I do my best thinking there". I think that best sums up the vibe of this movie so far.
- "If brains were birdshit, you'd have a clean cage". The awesome dialogue just keeps coming!
- Sledgehammer of plot: Donna and Taryn have a poster of Malibu Express (the previous Sidaris movie) in their apartment. They mention that the star of that movie, Cody Abilene, is a cousin of Rowdy Abilene (Ron Moss' character in this movie). Awkward way to tie the two flicks together.
- The acting is terrible across the board, but Rodrigo Obregon's efforts take the cake. Laughably bad.
- Speaking of laughable, the snake special effects are hilarious. More hilarious than the actual jokes, that's for sure (most are the kind of toilet humour we all told when we were 10 years old).
- Andy Sidaris has a cameo in this as a TV director.
- So apparently (according to IMDB), Sidaris made quite a few sequels to this movie, with Donna and Taryn as recurring characters.
- First moment of sheer awesomeness: Bad guy on a skateboard with a blowup sex doll(!) gets taken out with a bazooka. And then the doll too!
- Man, this plot is all over the place. For no reason there's an interview with football players that pops up mid-movie, and the sub-plot with the mutant snake is so out of place with the rest of the plot.
- Great frisbee kill!
- And nice use of a microlite.
- I never knew bamboo furniture could stop bullets.
- Despite the two leading ladies being quite attractive, IMO the hottest chick in this flick is Cynthia Brimhall, who plays Edy. Apparently Sidaris liked her too, cause he recast her as Edy in five more of his flicks.
- Woohoo, Donna used the four-barrel bazooka off the VHS cover!
- Sweet Jebus that was a crazy ending. Mutant snake, bad guy that won't die, dirtbike, bazooka, spear gun, nunchucks, samurai sword... I love it!

Overall thoughts: I can now say I've seen a movie written and directed by the infamous Andy Sidaris. And I can honestly say I need to see more Sidaris magic!
Hard Ticket to Hawaii has bad acting, lousy dialogue (full of groanworthy jokes like "She's so dumb she went home to study for her pap test"), dumb special effects... but it's so much fun! You'll groan at the bits where you're meant to laugh and laugh at bits that're meant to be cool, but the one thing you'll never be is bored.
The best way I can sum up this movie is like this: It's as if Sidaris came up with the plot for a simple "chicks with guns" movie, where two hot chicks spend half their time naked and the other half battling some bad guys over diamonds. But then he realised that would only come to about an hour's worth of film. He needed other stuff to fill it out. To do that he wrote down a bunch of random words on pieces of paper and put them in a hat and drew a few out. Whatever he drew out he would throw into the movie. And the words he pulled out were: Mutant snake, sex doll, skateboard, bazooka, microlite, dirtbike, speargun, frisbee and American football. And somehow he managed to fit it all in and make a kickass movie in doing it!

SUMMER OF 87 #2: Hello Mary Lou Prom Night II

The cover of my VHS copy of Hello Mary Lou
12noon, Day 1:
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2
Director: Bruce Pittman
Starring: Lisa Schrage, Wendy Lyon, Michael Ironside, Louis Ferrera
Format: VHS (Premiere)

Plot: When Hamilton High's Prom Queen of 1957, Mary Lou Maloney (Schrage) is killed by her jilted boyfriend, she comes back for revenge 30 years later. Bill Nordham (Ironside) is now the principal of Hamilton High and his son (Ferrera) is about to attend the prom with Vicki Carpenter (Lyon). However, Vicki is possessed by Mary Lou Maloney after opening a trunk in the school's basement. Now Bill must face the horror he left behind in 1957.

- Alright, after a bit for lunch it's back into the marathon with some cheesy 80s horror.
- Disclosure: I've seen the original Prom Night, but haven't seen this sequel. I remember very little about the first one except it had Jamie Lee Curtis in it (I think I remember the killer reveal correctly too).
- Alright, it looks from the opening scene that this sequel is going to be part comedy. I wasn't expecting that.
- It also looks like this is from the "sequel in name only" department.
- Michael Ironside as a high school principal. I bet he doesn't take any crap from the kids.
- Holy 80s fashions Batman! So much teased hair, so many giant earrings.
- Characters with the last names Carpenter, Browning, Henenlotter, Waters. Nice way to homage great genre directors.
- Nice tease job on the first kill (well, the first kill after Mary Lou bites it).
- Louis Ferrera has been in a bunch of stuff (DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, SAW IV, STARGATE SGU tv series etc).
- This isn't the worst movie I've ever seen, but it's very derivative of Nightmare on Elm St (slow mos, dream sequences) and Carrie (overbearing religious mother, mousy girl protagonist). Only without any of the suspense of those movies.
- When a movie is this boring I end up scrolling through looking for interesting trivia. Here's a couple of tidbits - Wendy Lyon and Terri Hawkes (who plays queen bitch Kelly) both ended up voicing main characters on a Sailor Moon cartoon series in the mid-90s. And another: Brock Simpson, who plays nerd Josh, was in the original Prom Night, playing a young version of one of the main characters.
- Full frontal female nudity and a (albeit unfulfilled) lesbian shower scene... things just got a little less boring.
- Hey and a cool kill scene, with some actual suspense. Maybe there's hope for this movie yet?
- Yikes. Daddy seemed to be enjoying that kiss with his possessed daughter a little too much.
- Death by neon, how very 80s!
- Cheesy ending, but kind of fun.

Overall thoughts: I've seen lots of bad reviews of this movie and... well, they're on the mark. There's nothing special or original about Hello Mary Lou (which, as I mentioned, has nothing to do with the original Prom Night). It's like director Bruce Pittman took a bunch of ideas that weren't used in the first two Nightmare on Elm St films and used them without the style or suspense that Wes Craven would have added. Things improve after Vicki gets possessed and the cheese factor ramps up for the climax, but you have to sit through an hour of generic and uninteresting stuff to get there.

SUMMER OF 87 #1: American Ninja 2

 The cover of my VHS copy of American Ninja 2

10am, Day 1:
American Ninja 2: The Confrontation
Director: Sam Firstenberg
Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Steve James, Larry Poindexter, Gary Conway, Jeff Celentano
Format: VHS (RCA Columbia)

Plot: On a remote Caribbean island, Army Rangers Joe Armstrong (Dudikoff) and Curtis Jackson (James) investigate the disappearance of several marines, which leads him to The Lion (Conway), a super-criminal who has kidnapped a local scientist and mass-produced an army of mutant Ninja warriors.

- Opening disclosure: I haven't seen this movie. I have seen the first American Ninja, but not in about 20 years. I remember enjoying it though.
- A bar brawl and our first shot of ninjas inside the first two minutes. Nice!
- "Move to the City" by Guns n Roses! Great soundtrack so far.
- Apparently this was filmed in South Africa. Interesting that Apartheid-era South Africa would double for a Carribean island.
- WTF? They just had some other guy standing in for Dudikoff in a scene of Armstrong walking out of an office, and they showed his face clearly. The guy doesn't even look anything like Dudikoff! Whoops!
- Classic moment as Joe and Curtis leap off a huge cliff and land in a boat like they had only jumped a few feet.
- One thing you can always count on from an 80s action flick: At least one of the thugs will have a great mullet.
- They've done a pretty good job hiding the fact this was filmed in South Africa... until that barmaid spoke in a heavy Afrikaaners accent.
- The main bad guy, The Lion, is played by Gary Conway, who starred in the late-60s TV series Land of the Giants.
- Great scene with a ninja being dragged behind a truck, then climbing onto it, ending in a nice big explosion.
- An ending with ninja fights _and_ gun fights. Making me double happy!

Overall thoughts: What can I say? American Ninja 2 was the perfect way to get this movie marathon started. It's just a fun ninja flick, with everything a discerning action fan could ask for.
The meat in the sandwich is of course the ninja fights, and there's plenty of them (the bodycount must be over 50, maybe closer to 100), but there's also plenty of humour, a simple-but-entertaining plot involving mad science, a little love interest, lots of interesting minor characters, and towards the end some explosions and gunfights are even thrown into the mix.
About the only thing I would add is that while watching American Ninja 2 I kept wondering if it would have been better with Steve James in the lead role. He's a better fighter and a better actor than Dudikoff. Not saying that Dudikoff is bad - he does a good enough job and has the all-American looks that sell a film like this - but James is the best thing about this movie. But regardless, American Ninja 2 rocks!

Announcing... Summer of '87 VHSathon


The first weekend in June in New Zealand is Queen's Birthday Weekend, a three-day weekend when we celebrate the birthday of our monarch. Last year I used this long weekend for Cormania 2011 - a movie marathon in which I watched 11 movies over two days, produced or directed by the King of the Bs, Roger Corman.

It's hard to believe a whole year has passed since Cormania 2011, but Queen's Birthday is here again, and you know what that means... it's movie marathon time!

This year I've got today (Friday) off as well, so I'm going to be holding my movie marathon over Friday and Saturday. I'll be watching 12 movies over the two days and blogging as I watch them. If you've read any of my past marathons you'll know what to expect - bullet-point observations rather than fully-blown reviews.

This year's marathon is called SUMMER OF '87 VHSATHON. All of the movies I'll be watching fit two criteria. They a) were released in 1987, and b) are on VHS. Simple as that. Most of them will also be movies I have never seen before. There are a couple in there I have seen before, but I've still avoided all of the obvious choices from 1987 (Beverly Hills Cop 2, Robocop, Predator, Hellraiser etc).

So stay tuned for updates as the marathon proceeds!