Nemesis 5: The New Model (2017)

We’re nothing if not completists here at the ISCFC, and that’s what early 2019 is all about – wrapping up long-running review series, giving you, dear reader, the information you need to make an informed choice about the entire filmography of a certain director, or every sequel, prequel and spin-off of some franchise. Or entertaining you, at the very least, as only crazy people would care about some of these movies.

I was completely unaware of the existence of a fifth movie in the “Nemesis” series until yesterday, when I was aimlessly flicking through the movies available via my preferred streaming service. Who thought it would be a good idea? Presumably, the name cost someone money to obtain, so how far down the list of utterly forgotten 90s sci-fi properties did they have to get before they found a name they could afford? Were “Project: Shadowchaser” and “Cyborg Cop” too expensive?

Which brings us to this, a movie which barely makes it to 70 minutes, and that’s with a solid 6 minutes of credits at the end, a long info-dump at the beginning and several entirely static scenes where someone gives a monologue about information that was already covered in the info-dump.

While I recommend you go and read the reviews of parts 1 to 4 (click HERE to go to our sci-fi franchise review page), I’ll give you a potted history of the franchise. The first movie deals with what appears to be a turf war between the LAPD and an organisation called the Red Army Hammerheads, but is actually the Hammerheads trying to stop the takeover of society by a robotics company, who are creating duplicates of powerful people and killing off the originals. Freedom fighters – good guys, LAPD – bad guys. Then, part 2 takes place 70 years afterwards – the hero of part 1 was killed offscreen just after that movie ended, and humanity is screwed.

Alex (Sue Price), a bodybuilder and non-actor, is sent back in time to 1988 to as she’s got super-DNA which will help to defeat the robots, and her mother doesn’t want her to fall into the hands of the baddies. She hangs out somewhere in Africa and has future bounty hunters and cyborgs chase her, which takes up the entirety of parts 2 and 3. Then, in part 4, she’s back in the future, when the war is over, or at a truce or something, and is a killer for hire, and she also has a bunch of cybernetic implants now because why not?

I’ll give part 5 the faintest praise imaginable – they tried to square the circle of a series where none of the sequels were really related to what had gone before (except 2 and 3, as 3 was created largely from offcuts during the production of 2). The long Star Wars-esque scroll at the beginning attempts, using “er, time travel”, to make them all part of the same whole, and as much as anyone can be bothered about the continuity of a bargain-basement B-movie series whose last instalment was 21 years ago and never gave a damn about its own continuity before, they make it work.

My question of “who would make this?” was answered when I checked IMDB, and discovered the director’s name was Dustin Ferguson. Mr Ferguson, who’s directed an eye-watering 60 movies and shorts in the last ten years, makes his living from no-budget horror production and distribution, filling the lower ranks of Netflix searches with cheap, ugly garbage. But, and this is slightly more germane to us because I’m beyond tired of modern no-budget horror movies now, he also creates very cheap sequels to long-dormant franchises, either those which never filed their copyright claims properly, such as “Night Of The Living Dead”, “The Legend of Boggy Creek”, and “Silent Night, Bloody Night”; or modern remakes that no-one cared about, such as “Sleepaway Camp 2”, “Camp Blood” parts 4 and 5, and a couple of movies with “Amityville” in the title to beat that long-dead horse some more. Plus, he does terrible-looking original movies that just try their hardest to look like more famous franchises, such as “Robo-Woman” (Robocop), “House Of Pain” (The Purge) and “Horndogs Beach Party” (which I just wanted to mention because it had such a ludicrous name).

Then this. I have no idea why this happened. No-one in the world was crying out for a continuation of the franchise, were they? Best guess is, Ferguson met Albert Pyun (director of parts 1-4 and one of those awful lazy directors whose work we keep stumbling across here) at some event and plucked “Nemesis” out of thin air as a project he’d like to work on. Pyun agreed to hand over the name in return for a cut of the profits and an Executive Producer credit, and $20,000 later, here we are.

800 words in and I’ve not even mentioned the movie yet! Can you tell I’m trying to put it off? Ari Frost is first seen as a young girl in the far future, where the Red Army Hammerheads have won and turned the world into, er, even more of a dystopia than it was before. No explanation is given as to why they’re the bad guys, except it was 2017 when this movie was made and people don’t even think of criticising the police any more. She meets the now elderly Alex (Sue Price, making her first appearance in front of a camera since Nemesis 4), who trains her and tells her all about the past. As Alex is too old and breaking down now, they decide to send Ari back in time to 2077 to stop the Hammerheads from taking over the world’s media, although to call this plan somewhat undercooked would be giving it significantly too much credit.

So she goes back, gets involved with…some guys?…and runs around the wilderness, a few vacant lots and some ugly interiors, for about an hour. Slap on a miserable non-ending and you’ve got yourselves a movie!

Let’s discuss sound. If there’s any two bits of advice I could give to low-budget filmmakers, it would be to invest more in lighting and sound. Stop paying women to take their clothes off and get a decent microphone, my friends, because the sound here is just abysmal. A solid half the lines are basically inaudible, and if you turn the sound up loud enough to hear it, the background music wrecks your speakers. There’s just no excuse for this pitiful display nowadays.

Not even a little powder to take the shine off his face? Seriously?

Lighting is sort of dealt with here by having a ton of day-for-night shots with a heavy colour filter over them, which honestly isn’t the worst idea in the world. But, it’s one of those effects which ought to be used a little more sparingly, perhaps?

I’d like to break down one scene, and that’s where our rag-tag group of freedom fighters go to a bar. Now, there’s a Nebraska licence plate in one scene, so I noticed the posters on the wall and a quick Google later, discovered this is a real place called the Zoo Bar, in Lincoln, Nebraska, a fun-looking dive bar by all accounts. But that’s not important! So, they turn up, and the bar’s owner is persuaded by his girlfriend to rat them out to the Hammerheads. So, the patrons of the bar go from uninterested barflies to gun-toting maniacs, and our heroes are forced to slaughter them all. Minutes later, the same “busy bar” background noise is playing, as who cares about making an effort to make your movie good, right? And there’s a bunch of people sat round as if there wasn’t just a huge massacre ten feet away from them.

The “climax” is them facing a Nebula robot, which you may remember from Nemesis 2. It’s supposed to be this near-invincible killing machine, but a couple of people who look like they’ve never held a gun before are able to defeat it quite easily – perhaps a metaphor for the amount of effort “Nemesis 5” made. Oh, and there’s a few hand-to-hand fights featuring Ari, and even though she’s not a fighter in the slightest, they make her do it. Did no-one realise it looked terrible? Could you not cut around it, or just not have a fight scene if none of your actors were capable? Oh, and the guns are cheap plastic kids toys, in case you were expecting anything better.

So, factor in the long opening and closing credits, the tedious monologues, and the sub-Youtube level drone footage, and the amount of actual movie in this movie is somewhere around 30 minutes. Why do people insist on doing this? Actually, I think 75% or so of low budget genre movies are just excuses for guys who look like me (schlubby, late 20s to early 40s, metal fans) to hang out with attractive women for a few weeks, with the finished product being incidental.

I’m annoyed I spent any time with it, although I imagine the people who made it have turned a profit from us small handful of people who remember the Nemesis series enough to check out a new one. Shame on all of us, really, but please, dear reader, avoid this like the plague.

Rating: thumbs down then into the eye sockets of the people who made this movie

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Phantasm: Ravager (2016)

Even if “Phantasm” were nowhere near as good a series as it is, you’d have to give it some credit for its continuity. Going since 1979, no reboots or anything like that, with the same guy in charge (writer/director Don Coscarelli just co-wrote and produced this most recent instalment) and the same four actors starring in this one as starred in the first one 37 years before. Also, they bring back one of the actors from part 3 in 1994, who basically quit acting back then but looks like she hasn’t aged a day. It has, admittedly, been 18 years since the last instalment, but they’re still keeping on.

 

One of the things that was most unusual about part 1, the dream-like logic that came with filming on off-days and weekends over a two year period with no money, is right back at the centre of things here, for a similar reason. Director David Hartman (best known for the Transformers animated series) and Coscarelli were making a series of “Phantasm” shorts and realised they had enough footage to turn it into a movie. The leaps between realities are handled pretty well, though.

 

Anyway, we first see Reggie (Reggie Bannister), still in his ice-cream man outfit, trudging down a desert road, lamenting the loss of the car he hid out in the desert 18 years ago. But luckily, the thief drives up to him and Reggie’s able to get it back. He’s chased by silver balls, and then gives us a line which he’s used at least once before – “like all good stories, it starts with a girl”. This is Dawn (Dawn Cody), and Reggie helps her before doing a bit of mild flirting, but she rebukes him and he immediately accepts it – a pleasant change from the old days. But then the silver balls come again and he’s on the run.

Or is he in a mental hospital, after having been found wandering the desert, being looked after by his old friend Mike (A. Michael Baldwin), apparently suffering from dementia? Or is he in a nightmarish future of an Earth completely taken over by the Tall Man and his silver balls, having been asleep for a decade? These are the main strands of story which are weaved through over the course of the movie.

 

I sort of assume you know the rough story of the Phantasm franchise, if you’re reading a review of part 5, but perhaps not. The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) is first seen as an undertaker, stealing bodies in his hearse and taking them to (SPOILERS) an alternate dimension where they’re turned into midget minions and…not really sure what his end-game was, honestly. Universal domination? What happens with a person when they actually achieve their plans, I wonder? What would you do if you owned literally everything? He merrily goes on with this plan over the course of the series while Reggie tries to stop him. The two brothers who were the stars of part 1 (Reggie being the comic relief, sort-of) pop up to help out too.

 

Anyway, Reggie is reunited with Mike and even Mike’s older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury, whose last non-Phantasm acting role was in 1984), and it’s really cool, seeing the three of them together again after little more than cameos in the previous couple of movies. Which strand of reality is the “real” one? Will the Tall Man finally be defeated, this being the last movie and all?

Here’s where I’d like to get on my soap-box a little. Those of you who remember the last episode of “Quantum Leap”, where they knew without a doubt it was the end, may sympathise with me. At the very end, they just throw their hands up and say “yeah, he never made it home, just carried on leaping for the rest of eternity”. Is this satisfying?

 

I think it’s fair to want an ending to a piece of entertainment, for the foe to be defeated and for the sacrifices made by the main characters to mean something. This doesn’t apply to everything, of course, but it feels like a slight cheat to know you’re not making any more movies (your lead villain being terminally ill during shooting) but still to just leave it open-ended. There are other analyses of the ending of “Phantasm: Ravager”, but it’s still us imposing our wishes, desires, or whatever, on an unfinished piece of entertainment. Imagine if “Moby Dick” had ended with Ahab still chasing the whale?

All that aside, it’s not bad! The main actors and Coscarelli clearly have a deep friendship that’s lasted down the decades, and it was nice to see Gloria Lynn Henry as Rocky again, although it was weird that, during the mid-credits sequence where she and Reggie meet up again, he’s not more pleased to see the last woman he had sex with (in fact, he makes a reference to her companion, who he briefly met earlier in the movie, and not her, as if she was added in at the last moment after they’d already filmed Bannister’s scenes). It was a little sad to see Angus Scrimm so frail, though, although they hid it well by having one scene be filmed in bed, and lots of middle-distance shots where you can CGI his head onto someone else’s body.

 

I didn’t love the almost non-story, the cheap special effects or the disjointed-for-its-own-sake narrative, though. I’m surprised there was so little money available for a “Phantasm” sequel in 2016, given the generations of fans it had, but I wish they’d sat down and written a proper movie, or kept it as the web-series it was originally intended as, because this halfway house is unlikely to really please anyone. Amazingly, the budget of “Ravager” was the same as the budget of the first movie from 1979! ($300,000)

 

One last thing is the interesting ambience that parts of 3 and 4 had. The Tall Man took over whole cities, after starting with small towns, not to invade but to use humans as slaves to do whatever it was he was doing elsewhere in the universe. Villages were empty, and at the end of part 4 LA is completely taken over. This is an interesting idea, but although they have the same setting for this one – empty roads, desolate areas – they have none of the same atmosphere. There’s always the idea that humanity is carrying on as before, just off camera, and the Tall Man is just after the three of them.

I’m sorry to see the end of “Phantasm”, but perhaps it was for the best. RIP Angus Scrimm, and the franchise you made so memorable.

 

Rating: thumbs down

 

 

 

 

 

Murder In The Orient (1974)

Sometimes the obscurest movies pop up in the unlikeliest places. One of those 4-movie DVD sets that were given away with cheap DVD players back in the day contains “Kill Cruise”, a completely forgotten Patsy Kensit / Elizabeth Hurley / Jurgen Prochnow movie from 1990; “Zig Zag”, which is like twentieth on the list of movies with exactly that title, and is a Russian-made, Russian-acted (just in English) thriller from 1999; “Massacre”, David Heavener’s first movie which we covered years ago; and this.

 

Ronald Marchini has long been a favourite of the ISCFC, a legit martial artist who for a time acted, making gems like “Omega Cop”, “Karate Cop” and “Jungle Wolf”. For years, we’ve been trying to track down his first movie, but it wasn’t even available from less legal online sources. When I discovered that new ISCFC favourite Leo Fong also debuted in the same movie (!), I tried again, and happened upon this terribly obscure box set. One excited trip to eBay later, and here we are!

It feels like this movie predates the trend of giving legit martial arts champions their own movies. Chuck Norris’ first starring role was in 1977 (he’d been in a few movies in bit parts and villain roles before that, admittedly) and all the rest of the champion-fighters-turned-actors didn’t show up til the 80s. There’s a martial arts documentary, produced by Elvis Presley, from 1973 called “The New Gladiators” which featured Marchini and perhaps sparked interest in putting him in front of the camera. No, I’m not going to research it and find a proper answer! Baseless supposition is this site’s bread and butter!

 

“Murder In The Orient” was originally known as “Manila Gold”, which is a much better name, even if it sounds more like a strain of weed than a movie. It appears that the trend of changing names to get money meant for a more big-budget production is older than I thought, as there was an A-lister stuffed version of “Murder On The Orient Express”

 

Paul Martelli (Marchini) is a playboy, caught in the movie’s opening scene in bed with a married woman. As he’s escaping the scene in his sweet 70s ride, another woman, being chased by some mean hombres, hops into his car and asks for his help. This is also a central plot point to “No Retreat, No Surrender 4”, featuring ISCFC Hall of Famers Loren Avedon and Sherrie Rose, and respect to those guys who’ll just help whatever random hottie happens to hop into their car.

The plot, which is thin even in relation to other paper-thin things, involves gold buried by Japanese soldiers during WW2, and the Filipino government wanting it back.  The woman doesn’t survive very long, but she gives Paul a piece of a map, or something – the map is on two different ceremonial swords, which need to be put together in order to show the location of the gold.

 

Chasing the gold is a gang, led by King Cobra, and his main enforcer who goes by the name of Kang The Butcher; plus a couple of excellent goons. They’re trying to track down the map, and when they kill the woman, this brings her brother Lao Tzu (Fong) into the plot, who’s living in another country as a karate instructor. He comes seeking revenge, and he even gets into a fight with Paul (“They Live” style) before he realizes they’re both on the same side, Paul having been recruited by the Filipino government to track down the gold in the meantime. There’s fights, action, lots of high-quality blood squibs when people get shot, everything the discerning fight-movie fan will want.

 

I like that Paul keeps getting distracted by women and then smashed over the head, as it reminds me of one of my favourite old TV shows, “Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased)”. He gets a sweet beach scene with his love interest, wearing matching (and genuinely hideous) beach outfits, too, and shows that…well, let’s say he was as good an actor in his first movie as he was in his last. That sort of counts as a compliment, right?

Leo Fong is a different kettle of fish altogether. He was already 46 years old when this, his debut, came out, and had been a minister, a professional boxer, been friends with Bruce Lee, been featured several times in “Black Belt” magazine, and had developed his own style of martial arts (he and Marchini would go on to write a book together). I imagine he’s a fascinating guy, and friend of ISCFC Len Kabasinski hired him to act in his most recent movie, “Challenge of the Five Gauntlets”, at age 90. Both he and Marchini appear to be having some sort of secret competition to see who can do the most wooden line reading, but they’re both fine, honestly. Who cares about wooden acting when you’ve got an entire movie stuffed with the sweetest 70s fashions and wildly overacting goons?

 

It’s cheaply made and underlit, even by the standards of the time, and it’s legitimately been thrown on the garbage heap of history by even martial arts movie afficionados. But thanks to the presence of two legends of our particular corner of the internet, we picked it up and present it to you now.

 

The DVD clearly used a very poor quality print of the movie, as it’s full of scratches and jarring edits (which may, I admit, have been present in even the best print) and the dialogue is completely inaudible at times. But, it just adds to that grindhouse flavour, and at 74 minutes, you’ve got no time to get bored.

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle

The Battle For Glory (2000)

The ISCFC is finishing up some long-dormant review series in 2019, because we know what you want! “Mark,”, I hear you ask, “what about some reviews of movies so obscure we’d have to pay a small fortune or break the law in order to watch them?” I’ve got you, dear reader, so let’s spend some more time with Donald Farmer.

Farmer is a legend, one of the reasons I started doing these reviews and a genuinely nice chap. He’s still making movies, and I’m even a producer on one of them! (this involved Gofundme $$$, not me getting on the set and demanding big changes be made) We reviewed almost all his movies in 2015-2016, but a few of them slipped through the net – mostly, it’s that they were either unfinished or never got a home video / DVD release (Charlie and Sadie, Fighting Chance, Bollywood and Vine); in the case of today’s review, it’s that the DVD was obscure and expensive and I wasn’t even aware of its existence until Mr Farmer helpfully pointed me in the direction of an Amazon listing.

We’ve already covered part 1 of this movie, “Blood and Honor”, and it might be a good idea to go back and read that. I had to, it being over 2 years since I saw it, to refresh my memory of characters and so on. But…it’s sort of confusing, if you intend to watch “The Battle For Glory”. Why is that?

David Heavener, an enduring name in low-budget cinema, is the producer of these movies. The original version Farmer handed in was a “Gone With The Wind”-esque 3 hours, designed to be split into two nights as a TV special / mini-series, and was based on a vanity-published novel by Maurice J Fagan (a dentist with a number of inventions to his name). In a two-and-a-half-hour format, this did indeed get at least one run on TV, on the long-forgotten B-Movie Channel. Then, Heavener decided the best way to go for home release was to edit this into two separate movies (this edit had no Farmer involvement), but not really to have them as part 1 and part 2 – in fact, they use a lot of the same footage, just occasionally edited to give it a slightly different perspective. I admit that I did check my notes several times to make sure I wasn’t just watching the same movie again.

There’s even, according to “sources close to the production”, a fair amount of stuff that never made it to either version, including most of Michelle Bauer’s scenes. Her character is massively underdeveloped, and it’s a shame – given how she’s one of the more famous actors in it, it seems especially strange.

This shares a “trick” from the previous movie of having a voiceover play over footage that clearly has dialogue in it, leaving us wondering what those characters were saying (possibly, “stuff about plots we cut”). This voiceover was specially requested by Heavener, who called Maria Ortiz into a recording studio to do it – it at least provides a different flavour to part 1. There’s also some edited highlights at the end, some of which weren’t actually in the movie – I feel like this was done deliberately to be confusing, or as a joke by someone involved in the editing, but who knows.

I don’t think it’s really all that worthwhile to write a whole fresh review. The main differences are that Henry is a slightly better character, not forcing himself on any women; and Caroline the maid (Ortiz) is more central to proceedings, and gets a rather bonkers monologue at the end which seems to imply that she’s the Devil, or an angel of death, or something like that. There’s also less Miles O’Keefe in this movie, which is a shame as I rather liked him.

My overall thoughts are exactly the same as they were for “Blood And Honor”. It’s entirely competently made Civil War story, and Farmer gets some excellent performances out his cast, most notably Maria Ortiz, who really deserved a bigger career than she got (she died, sadly, at age 27, in 2000). The problems are nothing to do with Farmer, and that’s the pedestrian source material, which I’d suggest was dictated by the author (who served as a producer, and has a co-writing credit); and also the editing, which trimmed lord knows what from the final two cuts.

I forgave “Blood and Honor” quite a lot, because I assumed we’d get the ending to the story in “The Battle For Glory”. But we didn’t, and the ending is barely an ending. It would have been nice to have a scene at an actual battle (as opposed to randomly spliced in footage of some Civil War reenactors), or to have the end of the Civil War featured, or indeed anything than a retelling of the same few events (unhappy marriages, scheming maid, Union soldiers staying in a southern home).

Thanks to that source for my production info (although I made sure to keep some baseless supposition in there, because I know that’s what my readers love), and honestly? You could do a lot worse. Watch them back to back with a few friends and some stiff drinks and enjoy!

Rating: thumbs in the middle

The Las Vegas Serial Killer (1986)

In 2019, the ISCFC is going to finish some of the things it started, as we’ve got a few filmographies with review holes, movies we couldn’t get hold of years ago, new releases to long-running series, that sort of thing. So there’ll be more Donald Farmer, Len Kabasinski, Phantasm, and Puppet Master reviews coming your way soon; but we’re starting with Ray Dennis Steckler.

Steckler is bad movie royalty, having been featured in the Medved brothers book “The Golden Turkey Awards” (the grandaddy of every bad movie blog on the internet); “Mystery Science Theater 3000”; and British TV’s “The Incredibly Strange Film Show” – the latter interviews him in the late 80s and finds him a funny, interesting, smart, self-deprecating man. This fame was mostly for his 60s movies, but he carried on, after a fashion.

Between 1971’s “Blood Shack” and 1986’s “Las Vegas Serial Killer”, he made dozens of movies, but only one of them is what you could call “legitimate”, and that’s 1979’s extremely sleazy “The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasher”. He got into the “jizz biz” in a big way, making such entertainments as “Sex Rink”, “Debbie Does Las Vegas” and “Weekend Cowgirls”. After uncredited directorial work on legend Ted V Mikels’ “Angel of Vengeance” in 1987, he seems to have retired (“The Incredibly Strange Film Show” was around 1988, and whatever he was shown filming at the time of that documentary remains unreleased). We’ve already covered his last movie, 2009’s “One More Time”, which is little more than a home movie made for his friends and family, but we’re here to talk about his last “real” directorial work.

“Las Vegas Serial Killer” is a sequel to “The Hollywood Strangler…”, featuring Pierre Agostino returning as Johnathan Klick, who loves killing prostitutes (helpfully illustrated by liberal use of old footage). Even though he died at the end of that movie, he was apparently revived and admitted to the murders, spending 6 years in a Las Vegas jail before…this is pretty stupid to write out, but they never found most of his other victims, apparently, and the helpful radio guy who acts as a narrator for proceedings informs us was probably just lying in order to be famous. The one victim they can pin to him only results in a 2nd degree murder charge, so he’s back out on the streets and ready for more fun.

There’s another plot, running entirely separately (apart from a very brief coming together at the end), which involves two unappealing-looking fellows, sat in a hotel room listening to the radio guy give us the details of Klick’s crimes. This piece of audio is repeated, as are several others, which indicates Steckler ran out of anything approaching a script and hoped we wouldn’t notice. Anyway, they hear about the newly released serial killer and decide that a trip to Vegas is a good idea. Are they people who kill killers? Assassins paid by the families of his victims? Or are the two events entirely unrelated? Those of you who guessed unrelated, give yourselves a pat on the back. There’s even a scene early on where both Klick and the two guys are sat at adjoining tables in a strip club and don’t look at each other, in case you were confused.

When you’ve got over the trauma of the fakest of the fake 80s boobs at the strip club, there’s a scene which was probably just intended to be a party backdrop for Klick’s next murder, but is inadvertently perhaps the sleaziest scene in the entire movie. It’s sad looking topless women and old men in speedos leching on the women, presumably some sort of fake industry party where the women were enticed with the prospect of meeting producers but actually just met ugly old men. That Klick is able to abduct a woman from this party and kill her in full view of everyone (although the voiceover in the next scene tells us he took her to a nearby field, as if he realised how confusing the editing of the scene was) passes as completely normal in this world.

ASIDE: the one good thing about that scene is that it was a birthday for Hollywood superstar Cash Flagg, aka Ray Dennis Steckler himself (it’s his acting pseudonym). I mean, it’s not worth sitting through the scene for, but it’s there.

Steckler realised at some point in the mid 70s that filming sound along with his pictures was unnecessarily expensive, so he just stopped, and got round this by trying as much as possible to not have someone’s mouth in shot when they were speaking. Obviously, it’s weird, but you sort of get used to it after a while.

Things drift along, for a while. Klick keeps murdering women with shocking ease, firstly as a pizza delivery guy, in one case sneaking into a house where a photo shoot is taking place, killing a woman who’d gone to get a soda, then stealing a camera in the confusion – the garden where the shoot is taking place is gross and ugly, but I guess they weren’t expecting people to check the amount of grass on the ground.

Okay, not fun

Seeing the camera gives him an idea, so at about 58 minutes of this 75 minute film, Klick goes back to his old plan from the first movie, calling “photo models” (aka prostitutes) and then killing them, having been unable at any point to just buy a camera. Heck, why do you even need a camera? You’re only going to kill them! He also loves whispering “die, garbage, die” as he’s doing his thing, but I’m not sure I’m buying his plan to just be cleaning up the streets. I think he might be deranged, you guys. The two guys, who keep running into Klick but paying no attention to him, just keep robbing people and hanging round street corners; and the radio news voice keeps repeating the same set of information for both sets of people. It’s odd. The two guys, by the way, wear the same clothes at all times, despite the movie taking place over, at least, a week.

There’s a couple of wider points about this grubby movie that I wanted to share. Firstly, is that none of it is titilating in the slightest. For a man who’d spent the best part of 20 years shooting porn, you’d think he’d have an idea of what turned people on, but this parade of hollow-eyed misery with an occasional bare breast isn’t anyone’s idea of pleasant, surely?

My favourite, though, is the way this serial killer is all over the media, presumably with photos everywhere, as the radio guy mentions both he and the robber pair are suspects in this spate of strangling murders that started as soon as he got out of prison. But, he’s able to walk the streets, get a job in a pizza place, and stand around photographing people without anyone recognising him. He’s pretty distinctive looking!

The last thing, though, is how this movie seems out of time, as by 1986 (the date of this movie’s release) serial killer movies had moved on quite a lot. When you’ve got multiplexes drenched in gore, it seems like a curious choice to make a movie this way, like Steckler wasn’t really paying attention to the wider world. Perhaps some of it was shot in the late 70s and he had to match to the footage he had available?

Klick never seems happy with his work, the murders bringing him no pleasure, or sexual gratification, or anything like that. It’s just something he has to do, like an itch he has to scratch every few days. Nor do they bring we viewers any pleasure, I suppose.

The ending is genuinely pathetic, like he remembered he had two plot threads and brought them together in the clumsiest, most half-assed way possible. Then the credits list a “psychiatric consultant”, and I’d be interested to know what they did on set.

Steckler seemed like a decent guy. He enjoyed meeting his fans, he enjoyed his work and the interview with him shows him to have a good sense of humour about his place in the world (and that his ex-wife continued to work with him after the divorce and has nothing but good to say about him in the more recent interview footage speaks well of him). But he got worse as a filmmaker! I understand budgets were tight, but that doesn’t excuse the layout of this movie, which repeats the same few beats over and over again to avoid coming in at a running time of about 45 minutes (which is all this story needed, honestly). It doesn’t excuse the dialogue or the fact he couldn’t be bothered to record live sound (which even micro-budget filmmakers like Donald Farmer managed, with largely similar equipment). It doesn’t excuse that back in the 60s, he could make a roughly coherent movie with a beginning, middle and end, and now that’s beyond him.

Its main redeeming feature is showing a side of Las Vegas we don’t get to. Not the flashy casinos and high rollers, but the grime and dirt and people living on the fringes and the exploiters and exploited. You may feel like you’ll need a bath after it, and I’m not sure it’s worth the time investment, but there’s something there. There’s an extra layer of sleaze in knowing that all the people he films on the streets of Vegas 100% did not give permission.

Expect more (non-porno) Steckler reviews, although, honestly, I assume most of them are going to be pretty much like this.

Rating: thumbs down

2019: After The Fall Of New York (1983)

Welcome to our newest feature here at the ISCFC – “movies with the current year in the title”. There are two gems, both starring a fellow by the name of George Eastman, for the current year, and we’ll be covering them both.

 

If anyone’s interested, we could also review movies set in 2019? That covers stuff like the Ethan Hawke vampire movie “Daybreakers” (even released in a few places as “2019 – Year of Extinction”); all-time classics “The Running Man” and “Blade Runner”; ISCFC favourite “Steel Frontier”; ISCFC non-favourite “Heatseeker”; and Ewan MacGregor movie “The Island”, among others.

 

Today’s choice, though, is one of the huge number of post-apocalyptic movies made in Italy – check out THIS LIST which isn’t even all of them. It might fairly be said, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, and when it comes to this movie it might fairly be said that you’ve seen it multiple times.

It’s most similar to “Escape From New York”, but there’s elements of “Mad Max”, “Death Race 2000” and even a little “Buck Rogers” to go with dozens of scenes that look lifted from sci-fi classics of the time. The situation is, there’s been a nuclear war between the Euraks (Europe / Africa / Asia) and the Pan-American Alliance (North and South America, basically) and the Euraks won. The nuclear war has left all the women sterile – this being a movie made by masculine men, no mention is made of the state of their reproductive parts. Somewhere inside New York is the one remaining fertile woman, and the Alliance wants her.

 

They send definitely-not-Snake-Plissken Parsifal (Michael Sopkiw), by bribing him with…a place on a space-ship to Alpha Centauri, where there’s a livable planet, apparently. We’re first introduced to Parsifal when he wins a sort of Death-Race-style race, and is awarded a bunch of tokens which allow him to freely murder up to 5 people, and a woman. I’m not sure the sexual politics in this are going to be the strongest, dear reader.

He gets a couple of sidekicks for the mission – the strongest man in the Alliance, who just looks like a fairly solidly-built middle-aged guy, and a chap with a metal arm who was abused by the Euraks, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the city of New York. Remember that. Encyclopaedic knowledge. So off these three guys pop into the heavily guarded city of New York to retrieve the last fertile woman.

 

Literally thirty seconds into the city, Mr Knows The City is panicking and asking Parsifal which way to go, and no-one comments on it or asks “why the hell are you here?” so, I guess just enjoy him tearing a few throats out with his metal arm. They run around, encounter a few gangs, then I guess the boss of the Euraks becomes aware of them. The Eurak boss has what I assume is meant to be the original “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso in his office, and seems aware of what it means, so perhaps there’s meant to be more nuance in the original script? Who knows.

 

If you really like people running around disused warehouses and so on, then there’s a lot to enjoy about the second half of this movie – otherwise, not so much. Parsifal finds a girlfriend, who he thinks is the fertile lady but isn’t, there’s an occasional double-cross or two, and a curiously bleak atmosphere overlaying proceedings. I like the sexily evil female second-in-command of the Euraks (Anna Kanakis), who does a lot with her screentime.

Is it any good, though? I mean, some movies are sort of derivative of genre classics, and others are just straight-up ripoffs; it wouldn’t surprise me if this wasn’t released somewhere in the world as an unofficial sequel to “Escape From New York”. I’ve seen more than my fair share of Italian-made post-apocalyptic movies, and I keep hoping one of them will try and do something different, use the building blocks in a more interesting way, but none of them do. They’re all Trumpian in their sexual politics, they all have that same washed-out colour palette, they all have the same sort of anti-hero…I guess if you only watch one of them every two years or so, it ceases to be a problem, or think of it as, say, a retelling of the same story, and it might not be too bad.

 

I’m sorry I can’t be any more decisive about this one. It’s…tolerable?

 

HOW WELL DOES IT PREDICT THE PRESENT? Well, if it had been set in certain areas of St Louis, I’d have called it not bleak enough (satire?) but it does appear like we dodged a nuclear annihilarion bullet, preferring the slow annihilation of environmental collapse and fascism.

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle

 

2019: Barbarians of the Future (1983)

I try not to be over-dramatic when writing these reviews. But this…wow, this film is bad.

You may have discovered this film under one of its alternate titles – “Warriors of the Wasteland” is its proper English language title, but that doesn’t fit in with our current review series. Later-in-the-movie dialogue reveals to us 2019 is 10 years after a nuclear holocaust which finished off most life on Earth. Small groups of people survive, and we’re greeted by one of those groups of people, shortly before they’re attacked by the Templars.

The Templars are all dressed in white, and seem to favour the beach-buggy as a mode of transport. This isn’t the first post-apocalyptic film to heavily feature buggies, so I was wondering if these films are all made by the same company, the head of which has a brother who owns a buggy hire firm? Perhaps we’re supposed to believe that in the 10 years since the apocalypse, tastes have shifted dramatically from cars that protect you, and have space to store things in, and have drifted towards flimsy death traps.

As well as the Templars, we meet Scorpion, played by an Italian guy who’s been given an English name on the credits, because an American leading man is important to the people who’d be likely to stump up cash for this baffling film. He slaughters a different group of scavengers, mercy kills the last person left over from the Templar’s massacre, and then heads off to mess with the Templars themselves.

Oh, there’s a sideplot with a cute kid, who fixes Scorpion’s car and helps him out at the end, but we can safely ignore him. He doesn’t die, can’t act and serves no purpose other than presumably to be a relative of one of the financial backers of this film. But Scorpion’s car is worth mentioning, the sweetest ride in the film, full of unnecessary features and a giant plastic dome on top that makes it look like some hot-rod version of the Popemobile.

One of the occupants of the van who get rescued by Scorpion in a dull fight scene is Alma, who’s…the love interest? Sort of? Played by Anna Kanakis, who judging by her photos on IMDB is still a strikingly beautiful woman and has aged a great deal better than this film has, she’s…well, I’m trying to think of a way to describe her, but I give up. She doesn’t drive the plot, or do much of anything else (but more on that later). Scorpion does sort-of pressure her into having sex with him inside a see-through luminous green tent, though.

There’s trouble in the Templar camp, as the boss (named One) and his lieutenant argue over the best way to dispatch Scorpion. There’s something a bit fishy about these fellas, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at the moment. Was it the fancy matching uniforms, all pristine in the middle of a no-more-washing-powder apocalypse? Or something else? Well, it’s something else, but you’ve got a paragraph more of my garbage before we get to that.

Scorpion needs a hand with a band of baddies, and luckily gets it from Fred Williamson, who plays another mercenary just wandering the wasteland. Fred Williamson is a badass. He’s almost more than 100% man, just a force of nature who dominates this film (despite not being, let’s face it, the world’s greatest actor). To prove my point, here’s a photo of him from the 70s in a sweet suit. Have you ever been a tenth as awesome as this man? Of course not.

I doff my cap to his magnificence

I doff my cap to his magnificence

Scorpion, Williamson and Alma disover a whole other group of wanderers, who’ve found a signal which indicates civilisation is alive, well, and only ten miles away. Ten miles? They’re waiting for their vehicles to get fixed before making the last drive, rather than, I don’t know, sending one guy on a bike to make the 20 minute journey and get help. While they’re walking into the camp, we get another gem of dialogue explaining why this group are being nice to them – “they believe in something called God”. Now, it’s been ten years since the bombs dropped, and in that ten years we’re supposed to believe that adults have completely forgotten about religion to the point where “something called God” is a thing that a person might say. Dear me.

In the camp Williamson has shockingly easy sex (luckily this is one of those free love Christian groups) with the only other black person in the film, and Scorpion heads off, leaving everyone else behind. He’s captured almost immediately, and…I really can’t quite believe this. The Templars are a gay doomsday cult, who are trying to kill everyone off so humanity is no more, hate religion, and initiate Scorpion by raping him. Yes, that happened.

There’s a lot of violence in this film. There’s no real need for it, and judging by the poor quality mannequins they couldn’t really afford it – several heads explode, one or two people get thrown under cars, people fall of cliffs, that sort of thing. But the greatest death of all is saved for One, who is on the run after having all his henchmen killed off in increasingly brutal fashion by our male heroes. How does One get his, I hear you ask? Well, Scorpio has a drill attached to the front of his car, which he uses to anally penetrate and kill One. Hurrah!

It’s hard to say who ought to be more offended by this film. Women are seen as barely objects, and despite both our brave heroes having sexual partners who’d presumably like to see them remain in one piece, they do nothing – the kid with a slingshot does more than them. But really, it’s gay people who should be hating on this film. They’re referred to as “queers”, they all hate God, rape honest straight men and are trying to kill humanity. It’s not even subtext, it’s just right out there, front and centre. Whoever made this film was either the world’s dumbest person or a misogynist homophobe (or more likely both).

It’s certainly never boring, and provided you can laugh at its appalling gender / sexual politics, you’ll have a decent time. And it’ll cost you nothing other than bringing you 86 minutes closer to your own death, so enjoy!

Warriors of the Wasteland on IMDB

 

Rating: thumbs down?

Youtube Film Club – The Helix…Loaded (2005)

The era of the parody movie seems to be behind us, thank heavens. The last Friedberg / Seltzer movie with any sort of money behind it was 2010’s “Vampires Suck!” (which I sort of half-liked), and while they made a Fast and Furious parody as recently as 2015 – “Superfast” – it was straight-to-Netflix and barely anyone watched it. Their “Taken” parody, “Who The F*** Took My Daughter?” has been abandoned, so it would seem, and while they have a Star Wars parody in the works, there’s a decent chance that never makes it either.

Even though they’re justifiably mocked as terrible and not funny, they’re far from the worst operating in this particular cesspool. That honour must go to David Murphy, writer / director of “Not Another Not Another Movie”, which paid Burt Reynolds, Chevy Chase and Vinnie Jones to wander through the set for half an hour with a camera on them, and is among the more miserable experiences of my life. Honourable mentions go to such people as Marlon Wayans, who continues to churn out parody movies, such as “A Haunted House” and “Fifty Shades Of Black”; Josh Stolberg gave us “The Hungover Games”, not to be confused with Friedberg and Seltzer’s own “The Starving Games”; and a monster by the name of Craig Moss has made “The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It”, “Breaking Wind Part 1”, and “30 Nights Of Paranormal Activity With The Devil Inside The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”.

I’m a believer in us getting the sort of entertainment we deserve, and this catalogue of misery was foisted on us because we kept giving them money. Luckily, we all woke up from this national nightmare, and aside from the occasional accident, like a budget that was decided ten years ago and no-one had the heart to cancel, we are free.

All this is sort of irrelevant when talking about a movie from 2005, though, even one that I was completely unaware of until earlier this morning. What’s perhaps surprising is that, in this torrent of parody movies, “The Matrix” survived relatively un-mocked (the billion comedy sketches about its two or three most famous scenes notwithstanding, of course). Then, this fine new year’s morning, as I sat shivering on the sofa, trying to beat the cold I picked up a few days ago, I discover this, and find it’s available in its entirety on Youtube!

There’s even a plot. A group of party-goers are looking for a mysterious substance called “The Helix”, which is like the ultimate high or something, but Orpheum and his sidekick Infiniti know that it’s got some mystical enlightenment powers and they need “The Other One” (“The One” having died in a boating accident) to combat some super-powered agents and the mega-corporation that employs Nuvo and his friends.

Anyway, that’s all you’re getting of that. Aside from the majority Matrix stylings, there’s a bit of “Fight Club” mixed in there, as they were really aiming hard for that late 90s audience…in 2005. The jokes are unbearably lame, as like so many others, it seems to think that having a character dressed like someone from a famous movie, or say a line from one, is enough for the joke.

But there’s a section roughly in the middle that feels like it was written by a funnier person. There’s a joke about Sha-Na-Na in there, which would have flown over the heads of 99% of the people watching it, Sha-Na-Na having ceased to be a thing 30 years before the movie came out. Then there’s a segment which gently parodies “Koyaanisqatsi”, the Godfrey Reggio experimental documentary (with the legendary Philip Glass soundtrack), which made me smile but must have been done purely for the filmmakers’ own amusement.

The final battle is just terrible, though, as the movie grinds to a halt when it should be going full-tilt for the end. It felt like every actor demanded their own mini-scene when they didn’t need it – the lack of anything approaching a central character was a bit of a bummer throughout (the Keanu Reeves avatar, who was more interesting in doing a “Bill And Ted” impression anyway, kept disappearing from the movie for entire scenes, like he was busy doing something else during filming).

When your big acting name is Vanilla Ice, and it’s 2005, there are some serious questions you need to ask yourself. Well, one, and that is “should I be releasing this damn thing? Is this not just a vanity project to show my friends anyway?” Poor ol’ Vanilla doesn’t even get all that much screen time! The one acting name I had heard of – Jennifer Sky, star of the Robert Tapert / Sam Raimi produced series “Cleopatra 2525” – is in one scene, for about 5 seconds; and the weird thing is, she’d have been totally decent in the one central role that cast an actor who looked a lot like her, much better than the woman who ended up being cast, and I can’t imagine she was too busy or charged too much then either.

It’s cheap-looking, certainly, and is filmed in a variety of ugly interiors, but some of the special effects are good – the ones that most directly parody similar scenes from its more famous parent are pretty well done, and honestly not that much worse than the original. Kudos to the special effect guys!

Movies like this are almost enough to convince me the Matrix is real – think you’ve got it figured out and they’ll just tweak reality on you. How did this movie make it all the way to 2019 without me ever having heard of it? Plus, it’s got Vanilla Ice in it! I’m pretty sure it never existed until this morning, and I fully expect this review to disappear, along with my memory of it, Youtube and IMDB links, and so on, when the Matrix’s programmers figure out the mistake.

Rating: thumbs down