Guns And Lipstick (1995)

This might, just might, have the most ISCFC-level star-studded cast of all time. If you’re not at least intrigued after I list them, then…well, I’ve got no idea why you’re reading this.

 

Evan Lurie (Expect To Die; Hologram Man; Cyborg 3)

Sherrie Rose (Summer Job; Night Claws; No Retreat, No Surrender 3; Cy-Warrior)

Robert Forster (Maniac Cop 3; Scanner Cop 2; Supernova)

James Hong (Big Trouble In Little China; Epoch; Bloodsport 2; Operation Golden Phoenix)

Sonny Landham (Predator; Best of the Best 2; The Warriors)

Bobbie Phillips (the three Chameleon movies; TC-2000; Back In Action)

Wings Hauser (Rubber; Beastmaster 2; hundreds of B-level action movies)

Joe Estevez (The Roller Blade Seven; Karate Raider; Demolition Highway)

 

Add in a starring role for the great Sally Kirkland, whose oeuvre has sadly missed our critical eye, and you’ve got a hell of a cast. Which is nice because everything else about “Guns and Lipstick” is weird, or confusing, or both.

(Also, there are a few brief shots of full-frontal nudity in this, and tons of boobs. I thought Youtube was opposed to that sort of thing?)

 

With absolutely no preamble whatsoever, we’re right into the “action”, as private eye Danielle (Kirkland) gets a case from stripper Mary (Rose). She’s worried about a guy stalking her, and it turns out she’s entirely right to do so, as the moment Danielle calls it a night on her surveillance, Mary is murdered. Danielle is the prime suspect due to her being an ex-cop who was thrown off the force, and due to Detective Dimaggio (Forster) having it in for her. Well, kind-of, he seems like an okay-ish guy at the beginning.

 

The prime way “Guns and Lipstick” moves forward is the plot twist. Just when you think you understand something, a new wrinkle is introduced or everything suddenly lurches 90 degrees to the right, to the point where you just stop caring, knowing that the person you’re seeing will change motivation a couple more times before the movie ends.

 

There’s Mr Song (Hong), who wants Danielle to find the guy who’s suspected of murdering Mary. There’s Mary’s brother, Andy (Lurie), who is central to the plot for the flimsiest of reasons. There’s “The Albino” (the definitely non-albino Sonny Landham), who’s after the same thing as Mr Song. There are friendly strippers who keep turning up dead, like someone sort of wants to frame Danielle for all the murders but can’t be bothered to do a very good job of it – they leave no evidence behind or provide no plausible motivation. There’s Mr Song’s “daughter”, Felicia (Phillips) who’s brought in a little over halfway through and is just straight-up evil from the get-go. There’s Michael (Wings), who is living in a house that’s sort of guarded by Mr Song’s people, but no-one bothers telling us why he’s there.

The thing which motivates everyone is the MacGuffin Stone, which has a real name but I didn’t write it down and it appears none of this movie’s other reviewers did so either. Who cares? Song offers Danielle $2 million for it, and she seems like “hell yeah, let’s do this so I can get out of here” but never gets the chance to sell.

 

So, a private-eye plot (if a fairly bonkers one), with a couple of movies worth of stuff squeezed into 90 minutes. Let’s discuss details a little. The Albino has a couple of goons who came from “oddball central casting” – one of whom looks like a buff John Carpenter, the other a buff Cheech Marin. Song’s two goons are both English for no reason, and one of them has a magnificent mullet. Then, cars! Let’s talk cars. Whenever you see a fairly wealthy character driving a horrific-looking beat up old Volvo, you know the sole reason is they’re going to roll that car over, or set it on fire, or hurl it off a cliff (at least, to their credit, they didn’t just use stock footage and only match the colour of the car). They also do the terrible-looking trick of making a car chase look fast-paced by just speeding the footage up, a gimmick I thought had died with the legendary “Samurai Cop”.

But, my favourite detail is when Danielle goes to the library to find out more about the MacGuffin Stone. The librarian lists a couple of incredibly false-sounding book titles, but the final one is just wonderful – “Myths And False Beliefs Among The Prisoners Of San Quentin”. That’s the one she wants, because it was written by one of the people who died earlier on, and when she’s seen flicking through it, it’s very obviously the script of the movie with a new front page added. And then she doesn’t even bother reading it!

 

Evan Lurie is, once again, the best thing about a movie. He’s living in what looks like a college dorm, with a poster for “Gandhi” on the wall? I love a good weird detail. Anyway, he kicks a ton of ass in a bar-room brawl which starts for the flimsiest of reasons and is great and has the final, most-stupid-of-all, twist for himself. Kirkland is fun too, and even gets her own fighting move, doing what people in law enforcement refer to as the “pimp slap” (a chop to the neck, where a bunch of nerves are, that can drop a person apparently). The rest of the cast I listed above all give it their best, but I’m pretty sure no-one really knew what was going on.

My best guess is, this was pitched as a sequel to 1991’s “VI Warshawski”, the Kathleen Turner-starring story of a hot blonde cougar private eye who quips better than any man. Then they were turned down almost immediately so the writer, one Andras Totisz, wrote a book to pretend to base the script on, changed a few details about the main character, and away we go.

 

I mean, it’s available for free, so the only thing it’ll cost you is time. But even so, I’m not sure it’s worth it. It’s a mass of plot twists masquerading as a movie.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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Youtube Film Club: Krush The Serpent (2002)

Let’s make a deal, dear reader. Any movie that comes along looking like this, let’s just assume it’s terrible, stop watching it and move on with our lives. The warning signs:

1. The IMDB budget is listed at $10,000, and I’d suggest that’s being generous

2. There’s no lighting, but not in a Dogme 95 way, in a “we made this with one video camcorder and nothing else” way

3. Someone spectacularly blows a line in the first five minutes and no-one cares enough to re-shoot it

4. It’s back-door religious propaganda

 

Life is too short to watch something that I’m reasonably sure anyone with a weekend and a few friends could make something better than. This is barely a movie, so we’re not going to need to be here all that long. But if you want to check for yourself, here goes:

Jacqueline Lovell has had an interesting career. From a decade or so of soft-core late night cable-style thrillers and extra roles in mainstream TV (there’s a lot of “uncredited” next to her character name on IMDB), she made a fantastic performance in the Full Moon movie “Hideous!”, then…back to being an extra and doing soft-core stuff for a few more years. Plus, there’s a brief appearance in one of our bottom ten of all time, the painfully terrible “Dead Country” and quite a lot of her own projects (of which this is an early example).

She’s married to a fellow called Ed Nyahay, and together the two of them have decided to make a lot of movies and cable access shows with a heavily religious message. Take for example “Bug Boy Adventures” from 1999, about a bug who tries to find his place in the world as he seeks out God. If that was too subtle for you, here’s a segment from their own website, www.krushtheserpent.com :

God Bless Our New Pope Francis !!!

Our Lady of All Nations predicted a “final Marian dogma” proclaiming Our Lady “Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate”.   Pope Benedict XVI when he was head of the Propagation of the Faith of the Catholic Church prompted the re-investigation and release of information pertaining to this dogma.  He reportedly wrote the visionary Ida Perleman that there were no theological barriers to the possible proclamation of the dogma.

Our Lady of All Nations is the inspiration behind “Krush the Serpent”.

This is something the Nyahays feel strongly about, and good for them. But if you’re going to make a movie, might I suggest making something that other human beings might actually want to see? Lots of great movies wrestle with religious themes, but no great movies have dialogue in the first few scenes drowned out by a toddler unaware it was being filmed, or an aforementioned adult woman blowing a line so badly I was a little embarrassed for her.

 

There’s a plot. Lovell is sad over the death of her husband, and goes to Our Lady Of All Nations shrine in Amsterdam to get some closure, communicate with her husband, etc. And that’s pretty much it, for a way-too-long-for-a-movie-this-cheap 103 minutes. You’ll see unlit scenes, you’ll see Dutch angles, you’ll hear poorly recorded voiceovers, well you won’t see or hear any of this stuff because unlike me you won’t bother watching it, I hope.

Even Jacqueline Lovell is terrible in “Krush The Serpent”. I think she’s a talented actor and absolutely deserved a better career than being in tons of soft-core porn, a few Full Moon movies, and this. I’m reasonably sure, if she’s got a Google alert on her own name, she’ll read this review and go “someone bothered watching it?” On their website, the Nyahays have home video footage of a road trip they took in 2012, and that footage, which is nothing other than a loving family seeing the sights of the California coastline, is better than this – better shot, more interesting (they see seals! Yosemite is really beautiful!), actually audible dialogue, all that good stuff.

 

So there you go. I may be the only person not related to them to have seen this movie all the way through, and…I’m not thrilled about it. I have a book I’m about halfway through and am really enjoying, I could have read some more of that. I could have been mowing the lawn. Pretty much anything else.

Rating: come on, you really don’t need a rating

 

PS. Digging further into Edward Nyahay’s work, he fancies himself a musician, a “Gotholic priest”, and I guess “gotholic” means “to do a terribly bad impression of Marilyn Manson with songs about religion”. He’s also written a book about a rock star trapped in a war between heaven and hell, and has made a video promo for it. Here’s a screenshot:

Would you trust the strengths of a novel if the guy who wrote it can’t spell “strengths”? Me neither. Ah, he’s married Jacqueline Lovell, he doesn’t care about my mockery.

Youtube Film Club: Expect To Die (1997)

We here at the ISCFC are long-time haters of Jalal Merhi. He’s perhaps the worst actor to ever headline multiple movies – he made his money from his family’s jewel business and plowed all that cash into making his own starring vehicles, always producing them, and often directing too. It’s really hard to over-emphasise just how bad an actor he is, though, seemingly unable to portray any emotion or deliver a line in anything other than a monotone.

But, he knows how to surround himself with actors we like, and he’s at least competent as a director, so here we are, on our…tenth?…Merhi review. Today’s movie features David “not the British character actor” Bradley and Evan Lurie, both high-quality B-movie veterans, and tells a story of virtual reality, managing to get the future weirdly right (there’s a VR game coming out this year for the Oculus, PS4 and Steam called “I Expect You To Die”, coincidentally enough). Apart from the thing about VR killing people, I guess? Also, it’s not to be confused with the previous year’s “Expect No Mercy”, also about virtual reality being too powerful, also with people fighting inside it, also starring Merhi.

 

Things kick off with a military test of virtual reality software, where a soldier dies because the VR was too real – a solid standard 90s plot device. The guy who invented the software is Dr Vincent MacIntyre (Bradley, completely bizarrely miscast) and he’s furious that the military want to cancel the research; and he’s even furiouser that his company kicks him out because he’s a loose cannon. This is tied into his dead father, who was a Colonel who was framed for murder by the military establishment? This completely undeveloped plot thread makes “Expect To Die” feel like the sequel to an unmade movie.

Luckily, both the Army and the software company are okay with MacIntyre selling the software to a criminal, I think?

 

Hold on, I need to try and establish how confusing this whole thing is. There’s an illegal arms sale in a warehouse, where all these wealthy bad guys have women on their arms as nothing more than set dressing (Merhi is among the most sexist of the 90s action crowd, no mean feat), but one of the bad guys wants to pay for the merch with computer disks, which has “Expect To Die” on it. This is the game created by MacIntyre’s old company, but is a normal “Mortal Kombat” style fighting game – we learn this thanks to Merhi’s girlfriend, a computer programmer / plot device (she gets kidnapped later on). The virtual reality “game”, with the same name, is being developed in secret for some criminals, but why is either never mentioned or I wasn’t paying attention for those five seconds. How much profit is there in a game which just straight-up kills you?

 

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. Merhi’s female partner gets shot (while in her underwear, for the flimsiest of reasons) so he needs a new partner. Evan Lurie! There’s a bunch of references to Lurie getting shot when they were partners before, which again leads me to believe this script is the sequel to something which never got made? Anyway, Lurie tries his best with the dead weight of his co-star but it’s tough at times.

What’s most important to note about this movie is it’s a complete ego trip for Jalal Merhi. He’s got a gorgeous female partner but he’s devoted to his wife; he’s also the best martial artist in the world. Want to know how I know this? Evan Lurie, a talented screen fighter, only has one fight scene, and David Bradley, who was the star of an entire action franchise, doesn’t fight at all. Can’t distract from the star! Merhi kicks ass all over the place, of course, and even shows off how buff he is in the VR bootcamp program he’s plugged into, but even then, there’s a weirdly small amount of martial arts in a movie with three martial arts stars as the top billed actors, especially as the plot seems designed to have fighting in it?

 

This is a really bad one. Even though it’s got two great action stars in it, it uses them terribly – Lurie really ought to have had a few starring roles, not second banana to a charisma-vacuum like Merhi; and it’s interesting seeing Bradley as the bad guy, even if he’s given a really weird character. But everything else just feels like it was thrown together at the last minute, mostly at random. The number of dropped plot threads might be, in the hands of anyone with a modicum of skill, a joke in and of themselves, but here you’re pretty certain they just didn’t consider why anyone would care about anything other than Merhi being the ultimate badass.

Definitely one of the more confusing 90s action B-movies. Worth watching for that purpose? I don’t know. Merhi’s previous directorial effort, “Operation Golden Phoenix”, was quite good, and “Expect No Mercy” was at least fun and didn’t take itself too seriously. This is po-faced, not very exciting and probably not worth your time (even if it is available for free).

Rating: thumbs down

Ninja: American Warrior (1987)

Someone set up as the hero who dies after a few minutes! People wearing masks so they can appear to be other characters! Two entirely different plotlines running simultaneously! Yes, dear reader, we’re in Godfrey Ho country!

 

Although I’ve given you a potted biography of him several times, I keep finding out new information or thinking of new ways to mock him. Anyway, for a time in the 1980s and early 1990s, Ho worked for a company called Filmark – sadly, their offices burned in 1996, resulting in the deaths of 40 people…and the destruction of the only known list of every movie Ho ever directed under his multiple pseudonyms. Filmark were particularly notorious for buying up movies produced elsewhere in the Far East, whether finished or unfinished, and either splicing in parts of other unfinished movies, or filming new scenes with white actors, with the perception that would make it easier to sell them overseas. As I’ve said before, I think if you were white, could stand upright, and wandered into the Filmark offices on any day in the 1980s, Godfrey Ho would give you work.

 

If you’ve read any of my reviews before, or know anything about Ho, you’ll also remember that the amount of effort put in to make the two halves of movie bear any relation to each other was minimal at best, and non-existent at worst. Often, this produced dull, confusing movies (see reviews passim) but every now and again, the gods shined down on them and some piece of bonkers outsider art was given to the world. I adore “Ninja Terminator” and a few others, and I’m very happy to say that “Ninja: American Warrior” is right up there with the weirdest, most confusing but gosh-darned entertaining of the lot.

(ASIDE: much like “Ninja Terminator”, this movie features at least one song that they 100% didn’t licence officially – that one had “Echoes” by Pink Floyd, this one has “In The City” by Joe Walsh, plus a song from the Warriors soundtrack whose name escapes me. Next time you want to complain about movie piracy, bear this in mind)

 

It starts with a nice normal-looking woman with 80s mom hair fighting a bunch of badass ninjas and pretty easily dispatching them all. She has a bit of trouble, though, with a guy who sets his gloves on fire and fights her with flaming gloves! I guess he treated himself and everything around him with flame-retardant gel before beginning the process, as the dry grass and the rest of his own clothing stays remarkably flame-free, but it’s a fun fight to watch. After beating the last of them, the nice lady says “well, I’m now the best ninja of them all, I just need to fight the Black Cougar Ninja” and, for reasons which any fan of Ho will guess immediately, puts on a rubber mask and a black wig.

 

Boom! Next scene, she’s now an Asian lady, wandering through a large house and again, dispatching everyone she meets. But the Black Cougar Ninja whups her ass with embarrassing ease, and then, which is weird because how did they know she was wearing a mask, they (well, an offscreen hand) pulls it off to reveal the nice lady from the beginning, whose story is over before it even began. The bad guys expect this to be someone by the name of Amazonia, so they’re upset she’s not dead yet, and the Black Cougar Ninja says he’s a master of time-travel ninjutsu (at least, that’s what I think he said) but, don’t worry, this never comes up again.

I did a bit of research about this one, which is weird for me, but I enjoyed it so much I wanted to find out about it. There are two movies called “Queen Bee” and “Queen Bee’s Revenge”, both from 1981, both of which were bought by Filmark and spliced in with fresh footage for re-sale. “Queen Bee” was turned into “Ninja And The Warriors Of Fire”, which has largely the same plot just with a few ninjas in it, and “Queen Bee’s Revenge” was turned into this, which I have been reliably informed bears almost no resemblance to the original’s plot at all.

 

There’s a drug deal which is almost stopped by the dumbest cops of all time, then the bad guys fight back, then the cops win, just letting one bad guy escape, a big blond guy who bears a passing resemblance to Frank Zagarino. Now, all this is new footage, as is a scene where Amazonia meets up with a CIA agent who’s also got some ninja training…seriously, weren’t these supposed to be secret arts? Literally everybody knows how to fight ninja-style in these movies! The CIA agent and Faux Zagarino were friends at one time, in Vietnam together, and there’s some amazing newly shot footage of the two of them rampaging through hordes of Vietcong, getting drunk and ranting about the soldier’s lot, all that.

There’s an unusually large amount of new footage here, so the plot of the original is reduced to a bunch of really cool fights and scenes featuring primary villain, “The Shrew”. She’s the sort of boss who’ll stick a cigarette holder through your throat if you even slightly annoy her, and she inspires this exchange between two good guys.

 

“She’s a mean old cow!”

“I’m not afraid of cows, I’m a real man!”

 

Something get lost in translation, or were there a spate of frightening cows in the 80s? Amazonia is trying to track down the Shrew because not only is she an international drug dealing lunatic, but she also killed her friend, a pretty nice normal guy called Charlie (I think). You’ll forgive me for getting the finer plot details of this insane classic a little confused, I hope?

I don’t want to just recap this movie, as it’s right there at the top of this page, available for all to see on Youtube (and wow, do I recommend you do so). I’ve given you a flavor of the main plot threads, but I want to mention a little about how it ends. If you’ve seen any of the Ho / Filmark movies before, you’ll know they almost always end with an incomprehensible battle in the woods, between multiple ninjas in brightly coloured outfits, ninja being known for their love of colours which don’t blend into the scenery at all. This, of course, happens, but it’s what comes before that that made me laugh – a final showdown between the good guys on one side, and the Shrew along with her goons on the other. I love a good abrupt ending, and going from gunfire to the Shrew being sheepishly marched off in handcuffs in the space of seconds is a doozie.

 

There are so many movies from Godfrey Ho and his cohorts, and almost all of them are weird and terrible and force you to pay extremely close attention to try and figure out what’s going on only to reveal to you that they didn’t care about making things make sense at all. Just casting an eye over his IMDB page a few minutes ago reveals dozens I’d never heard of, and I’m a fairly big fan of the guy.

But “Ninja: American Warrior” is different. It packs in enough plot for two movies, and the new footage shot by Ho is actually pretty good – the Vietnam war stuff, the fights between the CIA guy and the other ninjas…The violent scenes in the “Queen Bee’s Revenge” original are decent too, so there’s a heck of a lot to enjoy here.

 

Rating: thumbs up

Cy-Warrior (1989)

If any of this stuff had happened, it would have been a fun movie

Our Youtube Film Club reviews are a bit more spoiler-y, as it’s right there for you to watch for free. Go have fun! Then stop having fun and read this : (

Frank Zagarino is one of our favourite b-movie actors here at the ISCFC – we’ve enjoyed his work in many action epics, but of course his best work is the “Project Shadowchaser” series, where he portrays an android (well, I’m pretty sure he’s an android in at least three of the four movies, I think he’s an alien or something in one of them).

It would appear, to be honest, that he was working out the kinks in his “robot acting”, as this movie predates “Project Shadowchaser” by a couple of years, and he’s really weirdly terrible in this. He moves like a stereotypical boxy robot, except when it’s inconvenient for him to do so; he does a weird stilted sort of talking, except every now and again when he shows some sort of emotion, seemingly at random.

Italian genre cinema has gone in all sorts of interesting ways. They started off with the Westerns, obviously, and some time around the turn of the 1980s they switched towards post-apocalyptic movies, using their arid landscapes and empty villages to create convincing hell-scapes. Since, oh, let’s stick a pin in a board and say 1979’s “Zombi 2” (“Dawn of the Dead” being known by the title “Zombi” in that part of the world), filmmakers also discovered they could abuse Italy’s non-existent copyright laws and produce “sequels” to well-known franchises. Then there’s filmmakers like Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso who made movies that sort of look like normal Hollywood fare, only made for a fraction of the budget – action, horror and sci-fi were the order of the day for them and the people even less inspired than them.

1989 represents the very end of this period, though, when…this is the section when a reviewer who’d done more homework than me would tell you the tax law that changed, or the cultural shift, but I’m more a big picture kind of guy (or “lazy”). Suffice to say, while there were a trickle more movies of the sort we cover from Italy, by the early 90s it was all over with.

Onto the topic of the day, “Cy-Warrior” (aka “Cy-Warrior: Special Combat Unit”). The opening credits are laid over the top of the creation of one of these machines, but they go one step further by having goo poured over the top of the robot parts to form the human flesh. Problem is, the goo wasn’t mixed very well by some poor underpaid production assistant, so it occasionally comes out as powder, or is lumpy, or is too watery and spills all over the side. Or maybe that’s the correct recipe for cyborg warrior fake skin, I’m no scientist. A group of lazy naval guys are transporting Cy-W (for that’s the name he’s given) and accidentally knock against his box, which is all it takes to wake him and force him to kill the soldiers, who are levelling guns at him – most of which happens off screen, because of course.

That stuff is supposed to be under his skin, I guess?

So, we get a healthy exposition dump from a nerdy scientist, and then the great Henry Silva shows up as the US government guy tasked with getting Cy-W back. Only problem is, they dub him! One of the best voices in the game, and they dub him with some generic guy! So, Silva is immediately the most hostile guy in movie history, calling Cy-W a “goddamn bastard” and a “piece of garbage” when, I have to stress, he’s done absolutely nothing! I mean, he offed those few guys in the beginning, but that doesn’t count – he was defending himself! Anyway, Silva and his men use comically over-the-top language to describe their opponent throughout proceedings, despite him really not being any sort of threat to them.

Because…no damn reason I can think of…the movie takes a sharp turn into sentimentality too. Cy-W saves a kid, or the kid saves him (I’m certainly not going back to check) who then takes him back to his house to meet his mother / older sister (again, not going back to check). The mother is an ISCFC favourite, possible Hall of Famer, Sherrie Rose (“Summer Job”, “Lauderdale”, “No Retreat, No Surrender 4”`) and…well, my notes read “please ask What Is Love? In that dumb robot voice soon, please”. They take his being a robot designed for killing in their stride and soon they’re giving him encylopedias to read and changing his hair and clothes, making him burgers and taking him out dancing. Unfortunately, they can’t teach him to move his head like a normal human, but we can’t have everything.

Silva ratchets up his campaign to ludicrous levels, slaughtering dozens of innocent bystanders in a market and being delighted about killing hundreds more, again, to stop one escaped robot who’s not shown the least indication of being violent, and definitely hasn’t received the software to turn him into what the military wants. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even use a gun to defend himself at any point, which makes it even more ludicrous that they’d kill so many people to get him.

With Cy-W’s weird robot voice and the servo-motor sound (which isn’t there all the time, oddly), I feel like the sound guy had some fun working on this, but no-one bothered to tell the actors. Like, if they’d been told “we’re going to make this guy sound like a Speak & Spell machine, please react accordingly” the whole “are you really a robot?” conversation might have been a little quicker. I did like that he had a bunch of skin-goo on hand to repair himself after one tough battle, though.

The story comes to a grinding halt when Silva, with delight in his eyes, blows up the kid. I mean, I hated the stupid floppy-haired idiot, but even I was a bit surprised. Of course, the kid survives, and the final final scene, where the kid is in hospital but the power is failing, is one of the more absurdly melodramatic things I can remember.

“Cy-Warrior” feels like something produced by an industry that had forgotten what it was supposed to be doing, which makes the presence of actual real talent behind the camera surprising. Written by Dardano Saccheti, who also wrote “Zombie Flesh Eaters” (uncredited), “The Beyond”, “House By The Cemetery”, “New York Ripper” and “City of the Living Dead” and tons of ISCFC-covered stuff; also, directed by Giannetto de Rossi, who is more famous as a special effects guy (“Dune”, among many others). It’s just cheap and terribly dubbed and way too over-the-top with the simplistic emotional stuff and not original, even a tiny bit.

One to put way down your list of “rainy day Youtube movies”, I think.

Rating: thumbs down

Youtube Film Club: Star Crystal (1986)

None of the images on this poster appear in the movie

This is a pretty curious one. If you read the title and the VHS box art didn’t load up just above these words, I imagine you’re half-thinking “is he talking about The Dark Crystal under some weird alternate name?” No, dear reader, but you may be wishing I was at the end of this review.

It’s an “Alien” rip-off, just made at the same time as “Aliens”. It’s cheap and ugly and stupid and wildly sexist, but the one thing I feel confident telling you is that its ending is next-level, top-ten-of-all-time bonkers, from so far out of left field that you may begin to wonder if you’re watching an alternate movie with the same cast they edited in the ending from. I won’t spoil it, as it has to be seen to be believed I think, but equally I don’t want you to watch it as it’s terrible. As it’s on Youtube, though, you can watch, say, the first twenty minutes and the last twenty minutes, to produce a slightly more bearable experience.

A thing is found on Mars. Well, I guess it’s Mars, it could be any non-Earth planet I guess. It’s taken on board a space station, and the outer casing falls apart, to reveal a large crystal and a small living blob of goo. Fairly quickly, the blob takes over the controls of the station (no, I don’t know how), turning the oxygen off and killing almost everyone. The only people to escape, on a small ship, are what I imagine Golgafrincham Ark B (Hitch-Hiker’s Guide reference!) to look like – a barely competent computer guy, a “nutritionist” who’s only called that because they couldn’t get away with just having a housewife walk round the spaceship giving everyone their sandwiches, an engineer, the computer guy’s friend, who appears to have no useful skills at all, and the love interest, likewise no skills. There’s probably a few more people? Ah, who cares.

The alien doesn’t actually move from its original location at all, and relies on people coming to it in order to be killed and drained of their life-essence. Luckily, almost all the cast do, so by around the 45-minute mark, all we’re left with is the computer guy and the love interest. Then the movie stops for the next half-hour.

I wish I could force everyone who watches the movie as a result of what I’ve said to film a “reacts” video when you get to the ending, as it’s a doozie. Is it enough to make up for an often staggeringly dull, unoriginal first three-quarters? I don’t know.

So, take a group of actors you’ve never seen before, a low budget, a writer / director who only made one other movie, and an alien comprised of mostly KY jelly, and you’ve got yourself a movie. Well, something roughly the same length as a movie. It’s an odd one. You may develop a phobia of air ducts that are large enough for a person to climb through – ON A SPACESHIP – by the end of this movie too.

Rating: thumbs down

Youtube Film Club: Prototype (1992)

Thank you for sticking with us for a few weeks while we did a bit of “housekeeping” – in other words, reviewing series that have been added to since we stopped reviewing them, once-lost-now-found movies from our favourite directors, that sort of thing. You, dear reader, are likely much less obsessive about these things than I, but hopefully you’ve been entertained and informed.

We love covering post-apocalyptic movies here, too, and given there are approximately an infinite number of them, we’ll never run out of review material. 1992’s “Prototype” is a peculiar one, though, for several reasons. It’s a welcome return for one of our favourite directors, Philip Roth (“Interceptor Force” 1 and 2, “Total Reality”, “Digital Man”, “Velocity Trap”) and a slightly less welcome return for “the extremely confusing plot”, and its twin brother, “the info-scroll at the beginning that doesn’t really explain anything”.

 

So, it’s the future, and I guess there’s been an extinction-level event of some sort. The remnants of humanity are hanging on, then some boffin creates “Omegas”, who are genetically altered humans. I think. They figure out how to reprogram themselves, and this period of history is known as “the time of the mad minds”.  Why? I don’t have the foggiest idea, my friends, because the Omegas don’t appear to do anything bad, either before or after they re-program themselves.

Then, again for reasons that are never revealed to us, humanity invents the Prototypes to hunt down the Omegas. Whereas the Omegas are just people, the Prototypes are a sort of garish rip-off of Robocop; it appears they’re successful, as the last one powers down, its mission complete, after killing off what it believes is the last Omega. Sadly for it, the Omega thing, whatever that thing is, is implanted in a little blonde girl who manages to escape the carnage.

 

Fast forward 20 years. There’s the adult version of the blonde girl, a scientist working in what I presume is the last military base on Earth, someone who might be a soldier or she might just be his assistant, a guy in a wheelchair with a really sweet mullet, a kid who’s maybe related to the guy in the wheelchair, and a guy with that cornrow / mullet combination who is, a later info-scroll tells us, a genetically engineered protector for the Omega. Not an Omega, who are also genetically engineered, just a super-strong fighter who’s there to protect her. If you’re feeling a little lost, join the club.

One of the comments from my wife while watching this movie was “is this sponsored by Marlboro?” Everyone smokes, all the time, to the point where you have to wonder how cigarettes are still being made in the post-apocalyptic world of 2077. But such trifles distract from the central question relating to “Prototype”, viz:

 

What the hell is going on?

 

The info-scroll definitely indicates that the Omegas are the bad guys, and the Prototypes have restored peace in some way, yet later on the final Omega, Chandra Kerkorian (Lane Lenhart) is the hero, and the organization behind the Prototypes are the bad guys. Wheelchair-mullet guy, Hawkins Coselow (Robert Tossberg), we discover, was once in the Army, so scientist lady asks him to step up to be put in the Prototype armour, which will allow him to walk again (they had a body on ice for this purpose, but the bonding process didn’t take).  He’s definitely a good guy, and is in love with Chandra, who seems completely indifferent to him, and indeed every other person in the cast. But then there’s a virtual reality sex thing where Hawkins goes through his fantasies with Chandra, although she might be taking part in some of them?

The movie sort of ambles along for an hour or so before they decide to put Hawkins in the suit and get on with the plot. It bears some similarities in its meandering please-get-to-the-point nature, as well as a post-apocalyptic setting, with British sci-fi movie “Hardware” (not much of a compliment). But it also has a kind of film noir feel to it, like the filmmakers were aiming for something they weren’t quite talented enough to pull off, which goes to the editing as well, which is extremely curious in places (presumably on purpose).

 

Even though I tried to find entertainment in “Prototype”, as I love a good post-apocalypse movie, I just couldn’t quite manage it. Whose side was anyone on? Who are we supposed to want to win? Are there any normal humans in this movie? What was this war all about?

 

Unless you’re a completist, either of Roth movies or post-apocalyptic ones, might be best to steer clear of this one. But, it’s up there for free, so you’ve only got your time to lose.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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