Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018)

The Puppet Master series exasperated us over the late 2013 / early 2014 period, but the main takeaway was that Full Moon head honcho Charles Band tried, repeatedly, to make half a movie’s worth of plot stretch to feature length. This is literally the case with parts 4 and 5, which was going to be one cinema release, but when it was decided to release it straight to video, Band decided to split it into two movies to make more cash.


His penny-pinching tactics eventually caught up with him, and he went from having a major label distribution deal with decent budgets, to just hanging on at the outskirts of the micro-budget market, with hardcore fans and people who think a title like “Evil Bong” is intrinsically funny his only customers. Getting annoyed with Full Moon movies became boring a long time ago, but they’re still going, even if no-one’s really paying attention. “Puppet Master” is Band’s most abused franchise, stretching to 11 instalments (plus a “non-canon” entry where they took on Band’s other group of mini-things, the Demonic Toys). As well as the split movie mentioned above, there’s the ultimate scumbag’s trick, the clip movie – yes, part 8 of this least glorious of all franchises has about 5 minutes of new material in it

Which made the news that Fangoria Films were making a reboot of the series, with no Full Moon involvement, sort of good news. A proper budget! Actual actors! I heard Thomas Lennon, Charlyne Yi, Michael Pare and Mathias Hues were going to be in it, I started having the thought that…maybe this would be good? Add in sitcom “That Guy” Nelson Franklin and Full Moon veteran Barbara Crampton (who was actually in the first “Puppetmaster”, briefly, and was amazing as the star of “From Beyond”) and I was sold – the writer and co-directors seemed like new faces, but free of the “let’s do it for $10,000 in a week” impulses of Charles Band, I was ready for a winner.


I was not disappointed! This is easily the best “Puppet Master” movie, which is admittedly a low barrier to clear, but it’s funny, well-acted, actually quite frightening in places, transgressive, and liberally drenched in gore. It makes the puppets, who’ve long been cutesy figures of fun, into genuinely scary monsters, and left me really wanting more – a feeling that has yet to trouble with me any other Full Moon movies.


There’s a cold open with Udo Kier in it! He’s Andre Toulon, who’s been in most of the Puppet Master movies, as their initial creator, then a villain, then a sort of benevolent voice from beyond the grave. Here, he’s a full-on Nazi who escapes Germany with his inventions in tow when he sees the writing on the wall for Hitler and his lot. But we first see him in 1989, in a dive bar, when he butchers two women who make fun of his weird appearance and habits, and think he’s a creep. I mean, they were right, as he did murder them.

Thomas Lennon is Edgar Easton, a recent divorcee forced to move back in with his parents – the father seems to hate him, the mother is kinder. He works in a comic store but also draws a well-regarded strip, which has been on hiatus since the divorce. His employer at the comic book store, Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) and he have a fun, banter-filled relationship which actually sounds like how real nerdy friends talk to each other; and he meets a woman, too. The younger sister of one of his old high-school friends, Ashley (Jenny Pellicer), and they fall almost immediately into the sort of perfect romance that you get quite a lot of in movies, but sadly too little of in real life. But, the characters are good, and it’s enjoyable to watch them interact.


But this is a Puppet Master movie! It’s not just about well-observed characters and too-sudden romance! While cleaning out his old room, he finds a box of his deceased younger brother’s toys, including our old friend, Blade (who’s had a slight character redesign, but still looks good). He discovers it’s an original Toulon-created toy, and is worth a small fortune, and luckily there’s a convention coming up with a guided tour of Toulon’s old home (who was a well-regarded toymaker as well as being a famous murderer).


Markowitz and Ashley decide to accompany him, because of course, so the main table is now set. We’ve got a bunch of people bringing their old toys to a hotel, so you know there’s going to be some puppet-based mayhem. And mayhem there is! The puppets begin disappearing and people start turning up dead, and they do not spare the blood.

When I mentioned “transgressive” earlier, I really meant it. An early death scene involves a puppet flying up a pregnant woman’s vagina, then tearing out of her stomach and stealing the foetus from inside her; and it becomes clear that the puppets preferred murder victims are those who don’t correspond to Nazi ideas of ideal people – a lesbian couple, a black guy, and a Jewish couple, are among their early victims. There’s an amazing scene later where Markowitz, who’s a fairly observant Jew, takes a Hitler-looking doll and throws it in a lit oven, saying “see how you like it”. Limbs get chopped off, innocent children die and the corridors of the hotel are covered with bodies. There’s also a fair bit of sex and nudity, well, more than you’d expect from a movie with Thomas Lennon in it I guess.


Michael Pare turns up as the cop, Barbara Crampton is the tour guide, being one of the cops who killed Toulon back in 1989, Charlyne Yi is a hotel employee who strikes up a flirtatious friendship with Markowitz, and Mathias Hues is a random German tourist who gets his spinal cord replaced by a puppet and turned into a puppet himself. By a distance, the best cast any Puppet Master has had.


For us Full Moon-heads, a bit of puppet talk. Pinhead, Blade and Tunneler are the three main puppets from the original series to make an appearance here – there’s also Kaiser, who looks a bit like one of the Nazi puppets from the more recent movies, and Happy Amphibian, who replaces Jester. One of the models has six arms in tribute to Six-Shooter, who doesn’t make an appearance, but Torch does (who’s not been in the “classic” movies since part 5). Oh, and talking references to earlier movies, one of the characters drives a van with “Bodega Bay” on the side, the name of the hotel from multiple previous movies.

So, it’s a gore-drenched masterpiece, in terms of Puppet Master movies, anyway, but there’s some criticism too. Ashley’s character feels like she was waiting around for Edgar to come back into town, and the beginning of their relationship is horribly under-written (although they work extremely well together as characters). The three of them being so excited about going to a fairly niche convention about a Nazi murderer is a bit unlikely, too. It feels like Barbara Crampton’s police officer had a bigger role left on the cutting room floor, although it’s nice to see one Full Moon alum in this. It feels like there’s a few too many people with significant roles in it, and it could have stood with being a bit longer, or having a few of those actors trimmed. But, again, this is still so much better than every previous Puppet Master movie that I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun I had watching this.


The writer, S Craig Zahler, is already something of a genre superstar, having written “Bone Tomahawk”, “Brawl in Cell Block 11” and the soon-to-be-released “Dragged Across Concrete”. He must have been a fan of these movies growing up, but like any half-sensible human, figured he could have written better, and did. The two directors have their upbringing in low-budget horror, but I’m interested to see what they do in future.


I hope there are more of these movies, and the hilariously perfunctory “to be continued” scene indicates there might be. There are some excellent images and ideas, and I hope it was enough of a success that we get more. Although that will no-doubt encourage Charles Band to knock out more in his “original universe”.

A quick word before we say goodbye, dear reader: one of the more mainstream reviews of this movie said it robbed the puppets of what made them special. Comparing this unfavourably to any of the Full Moon movies? What had that reviewer seen? Special? Did he see part 8? Okay, they don’t have a ton of personality, but I’ll take this over 80 incident-free Full Moon minutes any day of the week.

Rating: thumbs up


Ghoulies 2 (1988)

I was really struggling with the thought of watching three more Ghoulies movies. But then I discovered two important things – one , that this actually featured the ghoulies more, making them part of the plot and not just window dressing; and two, that this is the last entry to have any involvement from Charles Band, as he sold the rights to the “franchise” to another company in order to try and save Empire Pictures, which was going through financial difficulties at the time. Whether those financial difficulties were anything to do with Band basically making the same movie over and over, doing it cheaply and never ever delivering on the promises put out in pre-release publicity is unknown.

I discover there’s a couple of books written about Mr Band, both of which seem to share my opinion of his work and attitude. The thought of spending that much time thinking about Full Moon makes me sad, but good work to Dave Jay for writing them both. One’s called “It Came From The Video Aisle” and the other is “Empire Of The B’s”, both perfect stocking stuffers for someone you don’t like very much.

Let’s get on to Ghoulies 2, though, which features a full moon prominently at the beginning, so much so that I wondered if this was where they got the idea for the company name from. But possibly not? Anyway, we establish immediately that the little critters laugh off being thrown in a vat of acid, by an unknown saviour of humanity; they stroll off and find the next passing truck to stow away in, which is one of the set trucks for a carnival (funfair?), on its way to its next small-town engagement.

Now, carnivals are rubbish. Always have been, always will be. Watching them set up is a profoundly depressing experience, with their spray-painted sidings always reflecting pop culture references a good decade out of date and their games which are designed to not be won, or to award pathetic prizes…although the carnival here appears more modelled on that in “The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies”, the all-time most miserable-looking carnival ever. There’s a few “freaks” (bearded lady, etc.), a bunch of scantily clad dancing ladies, and – the thing we saw the Ghoulies hitch a ride with – a chamber of horrors.

That attraction is run by old drunk Uncle Ned (Royal Dano), his nephew Larry (Damon Martin) and the midget who dresses up as a weird goblin thing to scare kids, Sir Nigel Penneyweight (Phil Fondacaro). They’re in danger of being closed down by the new evil corporate owner of the carnival, but “luckily” the Ghoulies start frightening asshole teenagers, who go and tell everyone, and then the haunted house becomes the no.1 attraction.

You’ll definitely side with the Ghoulies in this one. Divorced of any particular reason for their existence, they’re just little plastic puppets trying to live their best life, and are having a good time. Everyone else is just a money-grubbing carny. I guess there’s the love interest of Larry, one of the dancers, who rejects the advances of the owner and immediately helps out when Larry needs it, although she’s perhaps the homeliest-looking exotic dancer in the history of the movies. Nothing wrong with that, but I do wonder why she attracts the attention of so many different men.

It’s perhaps best to think of it as a cheap Gremlins ripoff. Although the first one predates the first Gremlins, it’s clear that Band and co learned their lesson – that lesson is “be as similar as possible to something which made a ton of money”. This just happened to be part of that sweet spot of time where one of Band’s obsessions coincided with a popular movie franchise.

I’m not sure what to say about this, really. It reminds one of the aforementioned “The Incredibly Strange Creatures…” and that is never, ever a good thing. It’s a bit more interesting than the first instalment, but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement. The ghoulies still look absolutely terrible, like they were knocked up in someone’s shed in the weekend before filming began, and the gore is still rubbish.

I’m really, finally bored of Charles Band movies. I wonder why anyone would be a fan of this sort of thing, really, enough to keep him going for over 30 years. There must be people in the world who look forward to new Full Moon movies? There’s not a single one of them that wouldn’t benefit from being 20 minutes shorter, and…treating them as a bit of a laugh, or cheesy fun, distracts from how mercenary and soulless it all is.

Or maybe I’m being too harsh. I don’t know. But I do know that when Ghoulies is done, I’m going to move on to something more fun.

Rating: thumbs down

PS. Oh yes, the toilet. The cover of the first movie has a ghoulie coming out of the toilet, but there’s no such scene – they sold the movie based on the poster, no doubt, and they suffered criticism for not carrying through on their promise (one of many lies they’d tell). So they put one in this, and it allowed them to mostly re-use the previous cover.

Ghoulies (1984)

“Ghoulies” is one of the many 80s-based horror franchises I never bothered with at the time, but for some reason have decided to visit for a movie review site in 2018. And it was with sinking heart I noticed it was a Full Moon movie, produced by our old friend Charles Band. I wasn’t planning this (honest).

Let’s make a list of all the other different franchises and individual movies Charles Band has had a hand in in, that feature miniature creatures as the main villains:

I got bored of looking through his filmography at this point, so there are almost certainly more. No-one seems aware of why, but at some point even the most casual observer must think “why so many? Is there really that much of a desire, even among Full Moon’s hardcore fans (pity the poor souls) for tiny creature movies?” Even now, when the budgets are almost non-existent and the return on investment must be microscopic, he’s still knocking out “Puppet Master” sequels.

ASIDE: This movie predates “Gremlins”, so even though Band can be accused of many things, plagiarism (in this instance) isn’t one of them.

Anyway. We’ve got a movie to cover. We start off with a Satanic ritual where a baby is about to be sliced up by a guy with glowing green eyes. He’s got some followers that appear willing until the baby is brought out, and then one lady shouts “no! You said no babies!” and hands the tyke off to Jack Nance, who runs away to keep him safe.

Now, right away, you might think it’s curious to be into Satan but to draw the line at sacrifice, but what do I know? Well, I’d know to get better followers who didn’t immediately wuss out on me, but whatever. Sadly, we leave this little section and jump forward to the present day, where that baby, now an adult man called Jonathan, is taking over possession of his father’s old house, alongside his girlfriend Rebecca. Jack Nance, who for some reason stands mute when Rebecca questions him about why he’s wandered up behind them, is sort of vaguely around as well, although he pretty much disappears at this point up to the last five minutes of the movie.

All this felt a little lazy to me. How long has the Dad been dead? The state of the house would indicate decades, so why didn’t Jonathan take possession of it before now? Why didn’t he introduce his girlfriend to the man who’d brought him up, or at the very least show her a picture of him?

While cleaning the house, he notices a few of his Dad’s old demonic things, and while throwing perhaps the most 80s party ever (non-John Hughes division), decides on what seems like a whim to do a ritual which they think fails, but actually wakes up…the Ghoulies.

When I reviewed “Subspecies” (which is by far the best series Full Moon ever had a hand in), I commented that, considering they’re the titular creatures, they don’t have a lot to do with the movement of the plot. Much is the same here, as the Ghoulies don’t really show up til halfway, then just become the familiars of Jonathan til the final conflagration. Also, they’re a really naff special effect, little rubber creatures with absolutely no articulation at all.

Jonathan gradually gets taken over by the same desires his Dad did, and although you might think, at some point growing up, Jack Nance would have told him what happened, or warned him away from the dark arts, you would not think the same way as the person who wrote the script. He gets worse, eventually his Dad is resurrected, and much like “Hideous!”, it then becomes a Bad vs. Worse battle in which it’s impossible to give a damn about either side. Oh, and there’s a genuinely crappy non-ending which renders the already fairly slow second half completely irrelevant.

Full Moon, I know, used to sell movies to distributors based on a poster, or a title, or a synopsis, and once again I presume those same distributors were less than thrilled to receive something which didn’t deliver on that central promise at all. That Full Moon had a sweet deal with Paramount which they lost due to sleazy tricks like this, and led to a long slow reduction in budgets, talent and fun, should only be a positive for people who’ve never had to sit through any of their later stuff.

My main criticism is how little thought went into any of it. It’s full of holes when there’s no need for them, not funny or scary or gory. The acting is surprisingly great, with a lot of 80s stars in fun roles – Scott Thompson (whose character has a gay subtext which I’m guessing was done by the actors going into business for themselves), Ralph Seymour and Michael Des Barres all do the best with what they have. And it’s the screen debut for one Mariska Hargitay, long before her twenty-year run in the “Law and Order” family of shows.

The best thing about this movie, and they’re treated like an afterthought 😦

There are three more. I feel ill and I really am not looking forward to three more of these damn movies, but I hear part 2 is “Troll 2” levels of bad, so fingers crossed.

Rating: thumbs down

Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017)

Puppet Master is back! After a break of five years since 2012’s “Axis Rising”, the WW2 setting of the previous movies continues. This also represents the first series to have made a new instalment since we’ve started covering them. But let’s talk Full Moon for a minute first!

After “Axis Rising”, apparently, Charles Band promised Full Moon’s fans that there would be a new Puppet Master movie every year. This, of course, didn’t happen. They’ve been too busy churning out new instalments in the “Evil Bong” franchise, I guess? Then, they decided to do an Indiegogo campaign for “Axis Termination”, which was apparently a success although if the news of its existence didn’t make it to me (I’m on their mailing list), I’m not sure how well it was advertised. Anyway, the $77,000 or so they raised allowed them to surpass their goals and bring back Six-Shooter, one of the more beloved of the puppets.

Now, a cruel, or realistic, person might say “perhaps if you can’t afford to make it, don’t” but clearly none of those people spoke to Charles Band before production. If you’re an extremely well-established movie company with a decent fanbase, how on earth do you need to raise money before the actual thing-that’s-supposed-to-make-profit release? The money that was raised for Six-Shooter, by the way, resulted in a grand total of ten seconds of screen time and basically no animation for his puppet. We were promised stop-motion, and there’s perhaps a few seconds of that, too – the low point for special effects comes when we’re treated to a long-shot of a few of the puppets, which is clearly just people in puppet costumes filmed from a distance (they move entirely unlike our friends normally do, for one). We were also promised puppet Torch, but they obviously couldn’t afford to animate him…er, “couldn’t find a place for him in the script”.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, a little. Full Moon being somewhat economical with the truth and acting like scumbag carnies (one of the reasons they were dropped from their major studio development deal back in the 90s, I’d have thought, from which they’ve been dying a slow death ever since) is old hat indeed. Let’s talk the result of their campaign.

Friend of ISCFC Jean Louise O’Sullivan, by far the best thing about the last chapter, does the Final Girl thing of being killed immediately at the beginning of the next – her boyfriend’s muscle-bound Army brother Brooks cradles her dying body and vows to look after her sack o’puppets. Almost immediately, the movie then pivots to be a black magic movie, as evil Nazi black magic guy Sturmbahnfurher Krabke and evil Nazi scientist Dr. Gerde Ernst try, for some reason, to find the formula for the serum that creates the puppets. They both have extremely deadly psychic powers, so quite why they’re so determined to master the puppets, when the little fellas are, to be fair, a bit limited, is a question the movie never answers.

In fact, the entire puppet cast is secondary to proceedings – the Nazi puppets Bombshell, Blitzkreig and Weremacht; good puppets Blade, Pinhead, Leech Woman, Tunneler, Jester and Six-Shooter (with the last two barely even making an appearance) could be removed and I’m not sure anything would be that different. The good guys have a black magic fellow too, “Russian” Dr Ivan Ivanov (who, even though they draw attention to his accent, sounds completely English throughout – fun fact, he’s also Peter Dinklage’s stunt double in “Game Of Thrones”) and the real conflict is between those two forces. The only two puppets who get anything close to any animation are Blade and Tunneler – a few of the others are just shown hanging on to people’s backs as they thrash about in pain.

What they’ve done is really camp things up. Out are the realistic-ish characters of the previous two instalments, in are wild overacting Nazis and weird colourful Russians and impossibly brave square-jawed American soldiers. They’ve also removed the central character of Andre Toulon, the guy who created the puppets – he shows up in footage borrowed from part 1, at the beginning of 2010’s “Axis of Evil”, and since then he’s been written out of the story, basically. Well, as much story as there’s actually been (all three movies could reasonably have been made into one good, action packed one). I know he’s supposed to be dead, but that never stopped anyone before, and it’s weird that his name never even comes up.

This camp element could be fun, and a few of the actors go for it, but it’s so amateurishly acted in the main, poorly made and leadenly directed by Charles Band (garishly lit interiors, no visual flair at all) that it ends up not being that enjoyable. I can see what they were going for but I genuinely expected more from a guy who’s been making movies for over 30 years. He must have developed some directing chops, right?

While my first hope is that this franchise is now done with forever, I’m aware enough to know that’s not going to happen. I at least hope we can wave goodbye to this setting, which is among the more pointless cul-de-sacs (culs-de-sac?) in horror franchise history and has never done anything remotely interesting (that wasn’t already done to much greater effect in part 3, also set during WW2 but with the benefit of a budget).

While it’s not as awful as “Axis Of Evil”, or “The Legacy” (which remains the most shameful pathetic rip-off of a movie we’ve covered at the ISCFC), it’s still bad. At least it’s short, scraping in at 74 minutes, with a decent amount of that being credits? Avoid, obviously, unless you’re a glutton for punishment.

Rating: thumbs down

PS – 2018 is set to bring us bizarre Puppet Master news – a reboot of the series, with no Full Moon involvement, called “Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich”, starring Thomas Lennon, Charlyne Yi, Mattias Hues, Barbara Crampton and Michael Pare, among others! I mention it because I’m not entirely convinced it’s not just a joke or a tax dodge or something, but if it is released this year, we’ll be there to cover it.

Dr. Mordrid (1992)


Full Moon Pictures once held the rights to make a movie based on “Dr. Strange”, the popular Marvel Comics character who’s in the cinema right now. Strange is the “Sorcerer Supreme”, gifted magic powers in order to protect the Earth; he wears a cape and has a powerful amulet. Sadly, nothing came of this, and the rights lapsed in 1991.

In unrelated news, Full Moon released this movie in 1992. Dr. Mordrid is given powers by the godlike Monitor in order, partly, to protect the Earth; he wears a cape and has a powerful amulet. One must salute their originality in bringing these visions to our screens.

It’s pretty strange seeing Jeffrey Combs, who’s played so many creepy villains and oddballs, as the lead. One gets the feeling that co-directors Charles and Albert Band (Albert being the Dad) would have liked Bruce Campbell, who’d have been perfect for the part, but he’d have been making “Army Of Darkness” at the time; Combs, with a decent haircut and an occasional smile, is a perfectly reasonable replacement. He lives in a massive apartment, walls covered in books, maps and arcane detritus; down the hall are a couple of colourful characters who might as well have “filler” stamped on their foreheads, and the smart “independent police consultant”, Samantha (Yvette Nipar). She consults with the police on black magic and cult stuff – a little surprised there’s a full time job for that, but whatever.


The villain is B-movie mainstay Brian Thompson (who, along with Combs, seems to have been in all the different “Star Trek” iterations) as Kabal, who’s also a very powerful interdimensional sorcerer. There’s a long and complicated history between the two, but Kabal escapes from magic prison and rounds up some alchemical items in order to open a portal back to the weird floating city that both call home, which is another dimension or something. This will let out a bunch of demons, and then it’s “beyond an apocalypse”, but luckily Mordrid is on the case.

I liked, although was a bit confused, by the scene where Samantha goes to a lecture on “Criminal Justice And The Supernatural”, given by Mordrid. He gives the same speech anyone who’s seen an episode of “Ancient Aliens” will recognise – “can we say this crazy thing isn’t plausible?” and “you must expand your minds!” – followed by a lot of rubbish about the moon and how it affects stuff on Earth (mostly untrue). She’s evidently extremely impressed by this, though, and gets to know the reclusive Mordrid, at the same time as he’s trying to stop Kabal from taking over.


Mordrid gets arrested, and while you might think he probably should have set up some spells to stop this stuff from happening, it leads reasonably onto the rest of the story. The creeping realisation comes, about halfway in, that this movie is really pretty good! Well, for Full Moon at least. Combs really gives it his all, attempting to convey his alien-ness while aiming for human at the same time, and one gets the feeling he appreciated the opportunity to lead a movie (perhaps angling for a franchise, as this would’ve made a great ongoing story, perhaps a TV series). He might be a little too earnest in places, like he didn’t quite believe what he had to say, but it’s a small criticism. Nipar’s great too, that tough-and-brilliant character whose love interest status was secondary to their character, that the 90s seemed to do so well. Thompson could have done this role in his sleep, but kudos to Jay Acovone as the cop who doesn’t believe a word of it, too. A cast, top to bottom, of people who can act, which – given the murky cinematic waters we usually swim in here – is by no means a given. And the effects are decent too, especially considering the budget, with the finale featuring two stop-motion dinosaur skeletons having a fight and not embarrassing themselves with it.

This is what I wished Full Moon had done more of. 75 minutes with no lulls; a logical, coherent story with a nice helping of camp to it (check out Mordrid’s blue outfit, clearly a Prince ripoff, and marvel at how Combs kept a straight face while wearing it); and an interesting world to take part in. This could well be the best Full Moon movie of them all, with that “house style” working for them – it’s a toss-up between this, “Subspecies”, and “Dollman”, I think.


Get yourself to www.fullmoonstreaming.com, drop a few $$ and enjoy this (and a few other excellent films too).

Rating: thumbs up


Ragewar (aka Dungeonmaster) (1985)


If you’ve ever seen the TV show “Mythbusters” you’ll remember the bit from the opening credits where co-host Adam Savage says “I reject your reality and substitute my own!” It may come as a surprise that he lifted that line from this movie, a rather obscure early effort from Full Moon Pictures (when they were still known as Empire); and the sad thing is that that bit of trivia is one of the more interesting things about “Ragewar”.


Actually, maybe the most interesting thing is the way that 2015’s biggest tech billionaires watched this movie for inspiration too. The star of this movie is Jeffrey Byron, playing computer programmer Paul Bradford – as we see him navigate a typical day in the life, he uses things which seem extremely similar to Google, Google Glass, the iWatch and Siri. I love the idea of Steve Jobs watching this movie and going “ah, that’s what I’ll do!” This is the X-CaliBR8 system, basically sentient, and he’s got a neural interface to communicate with it. Nice!


Paul’s girlfriend Gwen (Leslie Wing) is a little dismayed at the link he has with his computer, but she accepts his offer of marriage and things seem to be going pretty well until they’re both, for absolutely no reason, beamed out of their apartment by evil wizard Mestema (Richard Moll, just before “Night Court” would make him a star). He’s the Devil, pretty much (according to Paul’s computer) and is so bored with his Satanic existence that every now and again he’ll take one of Earth’s champions and challenge them to a duel, and because Paul has invented X-CaliBR8, which is super-good, he’s decided that Paul is the guy. Armed only with his basically magic Siri-powered armband, will he be able to beat Mestema’s seven challenges and rescue his fiancé?


The body of the movie, the seven challenges, are actually different segments directed by seven different people – Dave Allen, Charles Band himself, John Carl Buechler, Steven Ford, Peter Manoogian, Ted Nicolaou, and Rosemarie Turk. One would think, in a 77-minute movie (actually 72, sans credits), that this would lead to an absolute crash-bang-wallop action-fest, with the foot never leaving the accelerator for one second. But this is Charles Band we’re talking about! He’s never met an idea he couldn’t stretch out to twice its optimal length, and everything just ends up being slow and sort of dull. Best guess – he had a ton of sets left over from the other movies he was involved with and just got his friends and Empire employees to direct tiny segments to pad out his episode-of-a-TV-show-length idea. There’s a serial killer segment, a “Cave Beast” segment, a zombie segment, and oddest of all, a W.A.S.P. segment.  Yes, the thoroughly awful 80s hair metal band put in an appearance, basically an excuse to fill three minutes of the movie with one of their songs.


Because it bears repeating as often as possible, a movie this short shouldn’t have to resort to filler like that, even though it’s a criticism that can be levelled at so many of Empire / Full Moon’s movies. It feels half-finished, like the movie was made as a money-saving venture but even re-using old sets and in-house directors, they still managed to run out of money or time. If you watched it first when you were a kid, or really like old-school special effects, then you might find something to enjoy here as they throw everything at the screen and it’s a ton of colour. Maybe?


Aside from the above, it does have another problem. The segments are so short, and so lacking in suspense (there’s no way he’s going to fail challenge 3, for example, he’s making it all the way to the end) that it all feels insubstantial – plus, I think it looks ugly as heck, but it’s a sentiment not shared by many Full Moon fans. Anyway, there’s no development through the stories, no sense that Paul is getting better at taking on the challenges or that Mestema is getting increasingly frustrated with Paul’s success. If they’d just had three or four challenges, or turned a couple of the segments into tiny sketches – for instance, showing him fighting a room full of zombies for just ten seconds or so – it could have felt a lot more interesting. I wanted some development from the challenges, is all.


Add on a really awful score from Charles’ brother Richard, who’s (dis)graced many a Full Moon movie’s soundtrack, a sort of limp non-ending, and you’ve got yourself a classic Charles Band movie. You might have heard of a movie made right at the end of Empire’s relationship with Paramount, called “Pulse Pounders”, which is an anthology movie featuring short sequels to their other properties – there’s a “Trancers” segment, an original HP Lovecraft adaptation, and a sequel to this. This movie really really doesn’t need a sequel…well, it didn’t need a first movie either, I suppose.


Oh, just to cement this movie’s bona fides as money-grabbing garbage, you may have noticed it got an alternate title (again, not uncommon for Full Moon / Empire). Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was at the peak of its popularity at the time, so Band and co just gave it a new name for its cinema run (such as it was). But they were forced to include a “this movie has nothing to do with TSR” (the creators of AD&D) disclaimer, which both makes me laugh at the pathetic nature of it all and compare it to those dirtbags at the Asylum.


Rating: thumbs down

Terror Vision (1986)


This particular review series has been dormant for so long that I forgot about it when I was writing about our long-dormant review series the other day! But, much like my dog keeps going back to the spot he found a cheese sandwich once, so the ISCFC will keep going back to Charles Band and Full Moon (although this was produced under his “Empire Pictures” name, when they were getting major studio distribution).


This is very much Charles Band and his crew – in this case, his dad Albert as producer, brother Richard as composer, and regular director Ted Nicolaou – in their classic mode.  What is “classic” Full Moon, I hear you ask? Well, there are a couple of criteria that need to be matched.


  • Strong cast, top to bottom (kids don’t count)
  • Monster of some sort, created using practical effects
  • Very light tone, a whisker away from being a full-blown comedy
  • Great use of sets for what I presume is a limited budget
  • The poster was designed first, the movie later


When you think of 80s B-movies, chances are at least some of what you think about will be Full Moon-related. And you can watch em all for a low monthly price these days! Go to www.fullmoonstreaming.com and knock yourself out. But never mind that, on with the review!


The Putterman family are just your average, wholesome, good old fashioned American family. Mum and Dad (Mary Woronov and Gerrit Graham, B-movie royalty) are swingers and have decorated their home in spectacularly hideous 80s pornographic “art” fashion, complete with gaudy lighting, a massive indoor Jacuzzi, and so on. Daughter Suzy (Diane Franklin, “Better Off Dead”) is a punk with a boyfriend called OD (Jon Gries, super “That Guy” actor). Grandpa (Bert Remsen) is a survivalist who’s built a bomb shelter underneath the house, and happily watches gory horror movies with his grandson. You know, like all families!


Dad installs a satellite dish in the back yard – perhaps the fakest looking “outside” set ever – to get tons of bootleg TV, but it has an unfortunate extra bonus. On the far side of the galaxy is an alien race who’s figured out an easy way to get rid of their rubbish, and it’s to turn it into energy and just fire it out into the universe. Two problems manifest themselves, and the first is that a garbage monster was accidentally beamed away with the rest of it. Second, of course, is that a slight miscalculation leads the energy beam to find the Putterman’s satellite dish, and materialise in their back yard (it has the power to beam itself in and out of TVs, because of course it does).


The Grampa and grandson see the alien first  – well, the satellite repair guy really sees it first, but he gets eaten immediately afterwards – and then it’s sort of a cat-and-mouse game, with time spent trying to convince the rest of the cast that the alien is real, including a Medusa-dressed local midnight movie TV host, and the swinging couple that the parents bring back. OD even briefly pacifies the alien, a nice touch. The alien garbage man who made the mistake even beams himself to Earth to try and help the humans, and his story arc is hilarious.


So, there’s lots of fun little touches in this movie (including the information that the director and production designer did a tour of swingers’ homes to get some visual ideas. I wish I could have seen those photos) and the central performances from Graham, Woronov and Gries are all hilarious. Band and co know how to make a tight, light monster movie, and if I’d seen this at the time I’d have loved it even more. But…there’s that problem again, where Full Moon seem unable to fill the middle part of their movies with anything particularly exciting. The swingers were given an enormous amount of screen time, considering their fate and how central they were to the plot, and it felt like Grampa chased that damn alien round the house for about three hours. The beginning – fantastic; the ending – stupid and very good fun; that middle bit – *shrug*.

terrorvision medusa

Still, if you see Charles Band’s name attached to anything before about 1997, you can watch it, safe in the knowledge you’ll get some good cheap gory fun.


Rating: thumbs in the middle

Delirium magazine #4


Those of you who’ve read any of our old reviews will know we have a huge soft spot for Charles Band and Full Moon films. While we don’t always love their stuff, they’ve been out there for 30 years, making fun, independent horror and sci-fi movies, giving opportunities to up-and-coming filmmakers and causing people who like continuity some terrible headaches.

They also have their own in-house magazine, “Delirium”. If you like the stuff we cover here, chances are you’ll be interested in at least one of their articles, and issue 4 has some fun stuff. I was chiefly bothered with the interview with Tim Thomerson, one of our favourite B-movie actors and a long-time collaborator of Band’s. He’s been in the “Trancers” movies, “Metalstorm”, “Dollman” and many many others, and the interview was about what you’d expect – full of self-effacing humour and cool stories. Damn, has he got a good memory! Unless he’s the world’s best interview preparer.


There’s also a really interesting interview with the current boss of Something Weird video, Lisa Petrucci (who took over from her sadly late husband Mike Vraney), plus a chat to director Frank Henenlotter, who’s the silent partner at Something Weird. They’ve released some of the best stuff, I only have a few of their DVDs but they’re real treats, full of special features.

On top of other filmmaker interviews, Charles Band pops up for his back-page editorial, and it’s hard not to love the guy, as he talks about recording commentaries for some of his movies, and is just full of enthusiasm for them, even now.

I can’t let this little review go without mentioning they’re masters of the kind word – as they talk about some of the films of David DeCoteau and Fred Olen Ray, for example, I was going “I don’t remember these fun, great little movies they’re talking about. What I remember is a load of cheap boring trash” – so be careful if you read this and want to rush out and grab an armful of their product. By all means load up on the classics, and buy yourself a few Puppet Master dolls too, but check back with us before dipping your toe any deeper in the Full Moon waters. Or just get their streaming package, which is insanely good value.

Visit http://www.fullmoonstreaming.com to get access to an amazing amount of movies for $6.99 a month.