Compelling Evidence (1995)

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Normally, when you’re looking through the filmography of some genre superstar (take, for ISCFC purposes, Joe Lara), you’ll ignore the non-genre stuff. No sensible sci-fi or horror fan will care that Lara starred in “Operation Delta Force 4” in 1997, for example. But Donald Farmer is different. Since his initial sub hour-long monster movies, we’ve been devoted fans here, and his entire filmmaking style is bizarre enough to give even his movies with not a single supernatural baddie a shot. There are, of course, other reasons to have a passing interest in “Compelling Evidence”, but more on that later.

 

Rick Stone is the world’s biggest movie star. As the clip of his new soon-to-be-released “Lethal Assault” does not immediately bring to mind a big blockbuster (it more brings to mind a typical Donald Farmer movie), we’re helpfully supplied with a couple of studio execs who tell us how amazing it is, how much money it’s going to make, and so on. Rick, though, wants out of the business, and wants to take his money and his mistress, Stephanie, and head off to Europe for ever. As he’s leaving the studio, he’s spotted by tabloid TV journalist Dana and her cameraman, and they follow him, capturing some X-rated home movie footage at Stephanie’s home from the bushes.

 

Now, I’ve got to break this off to discuss a couple of things. First things first, someone’s given Farmer a proper camera! He tries his best to make it look as cheap as possible, still, but it’s real! This is the first movie from “Stratosphere Entertainment” (which still produces Farmer’s movies today), and I’d guess it’s either Farmer himself or a rich friend, but good on him for working out a business model.

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More important, though, is the acting. The first ten minutes will amaze and delight you. Danny Fendley is Rick, and he’s…unique? I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a performance. He’s got a high-pitched southern accent and is so amazingly bad that I assumed he was the main money man behind the movie; plus, his sex scenes (and boy, are there a lot of those) certainly appear as if he’s never seen a female human before. He certainly got on with Farmer, though, as he appeared in several of his later movies; heck, perhaps he was the money man? His wife Michelle is played by Brigitte Nielsen! Now, she’s no A-lister, but can act (after a fashion) and has been in real serious movies; therefore, she’s the biggest star the director had to this point, by a million miles. Another solid performance from Farmer regular Melissa Moore as Stephanie and a wild cameo from the director himself (as the sleazy producer of the sleazy TV show) brings us to the only reason anyone other than us oddballs have ever even heard of this movie.

 

Dana Plato was the daughter in 1978-1986 sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes”, although every episode now acts as a cautionary tale about the use and abuse of child actors in Hollywood, judging by the lives of her co-stars. She was getting high on a cocktail of different drugs by age 13, became pregnant very young and was kicked off the show for a season in 1984. Her serious acting career stalled, and she was just very poorly served by almost everyone in her life, including an accountant who stole all her money. She posed for Playboy before it was cool to pose for Playboy, worked a variety of normal jobs in between acting work, but sadly didn’t have either the talent or the luck of people like Lindsey Lohan, another child star who descended into drug addiction but managed to make her way back out. Living with her “manager” in a mobile home, the day after an appearance on the Howard Stern radio show to say she’d been clean for 10 years, she died of a prescription pill overdose. It’s a sad story, for sure, and one that made sure my wife wouldn’t watch this film with me. An even later movie, titled “Different Strokes” to cash in on the remnants of her fame, was made by another ISCFC “favourite”, Michael Paul Girard (“Oversexed Rugsuckers From Mars”) in 1997, and just sounds unbearably sad.

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Aside from a few scenes where she looks wired, she seems absolutely fine here, though. She’s Dana the TV reporter, and she’s dragged into the story in the time-honoured way – Rick sees the TV show with his infidelity in it, goes round to the TV studio and tries to choke her to death (while being filmed). To say he has temper problems might be putting it mildly; but when he’s release from jail for the assault, and then attacks his wife, again on camera, outside the jail!, things get even crazier. His wife is murdered in a scene which seems assembled from cheesy drama clichés – the soft lighting, the large empty house, the meaningful swig of whisky…and then the offscreen murderer where our soon-to-be victim says “what are you doing here?” without thinking of mentioning the name of the person with the gun in front of her.

 

Before you get too excited by any of this, though, there’s still plenty of that Farmer flair. Plato is doing a piece outside a “top Hollywood hotspot”, but it’s some scummy dive bar they couldn’t even be bothered to sweep the leaves up from the front of. The locations are tons of fun – movie studio offices look like the sub-cellar of a failing tech company, and of course we get the huge budget “Lethal Assault” with its scene set in a field. There’s plenty to love in the background of “Compelling Evidence”.

 

I think the subplots of this movie are definitely personal to Farmer, and could be summed up with “Damn you media, and damn you movie studios!” Everyone’s just conspiring against Rick – the movie studio refuses to let him retire, and the tabloid TV people follow him everywhere. His mistress seems upset at his cavalier attitude over his wife’s death and notices his rather large alibi-hole; Dana smells blood…it’s all there. Rick has a plan to clear his name which I less-than-politely described in my notes as “dogshit”. He beats up Dana’s cameraman and leaves him unconscious, then kidnaps Dana, ties her up and forces her to say, on camera, that’s he’s innocent. Amazing! She kicks him in the crotch and escapes, then runs into the road, freezes much like a rabbit with a truck’s headlights bearing down on her…and Rick saves her.

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I’m sorry I’m just recapping this, but like every Donald Farmer movie the plot is a rich stew of “what the hell?” Dana, realising that a proper murderer would have just let her die on the road, decides to help him prove his innocence and, of course, falls in love with him. And there’s still plenty of time to go! He’s remarkably chill about what a gigantic asshole he’s been (and the number of pathetically obvious red herrings he’s been leaving everywhere), and Dana quickly agrees to a live interview to help him clear his name.

 

Again, readers, I need to tell you how this movie ends. I whole-heartedly recommend you watch it, even after these spoilers, because it’s a lunatic classic. So…after the interview, Dana and Rick go backstage and, inevitably, have sex, with Dana going topless and Rick keeping his jeans on (as is the Farmer tradition). One might ask why he’s doing this, maybe two days after the death of his wife with his mistress being his alibi to get off a murder charge, but the reason would be because men should be able to have sex with whoever they want, whenever they want; and women who get upset about that are obviously psychotic. Stephanie hears him lie on the show so goes to confront him, sees the sex, then storms off to call the police and blow his alibi.

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It’s pretty obvious who the murderer is at this point, sorry Stephanie. But she kills Dana before she moves onto her endgame, which appears to be mussing her hair so she looks like a proper psycho, and then killing Rick too because reasons. The final fight between the two is hilarious – they take killing blows, and drop, but then a few minutes later they pop back up and the fight continues. It all wraps up with Rick shooting Stephanie a bunch of times; add in a little coda with Rick doing another interview on the tabloid show, where he announces his return to acting and they helpfully inform the audience all charges were dropped, plus a loving tribute to Dana, and we’re done.

 

Wait, what? In a movie as full of scenes that start nowhere and go nowhere as this movie is, it still feels way out of left field. Let’s backtrack. Rick is the suspect in three murders; the last of the three is the woman who he lied about being his alibi, and who just exposed his lie to the police. There’s no witness to any of this, so apparently everyone was fine with taking Rick’s word for it…a splendidly bizarre ending to a splendidly bizarre movie.

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If you were a fan of “Diff’rent Strokes” growing up, it might be best to avoid this, just because of the sad memories it will inevitably bring. But Plato honestly looks fine, and a million people have done topless scenes in movies. However, if you’re a fan of sex scenes that look remotely fun or erotic, it also might be best to avoid this – Rick has one move, and that’s go for the boobs, then sort of have the woman sit on you and wiggle about while you’re still half-clothed.

 

It feels like Farmer really had some issues with women that he worked out with this – we’ve got the money-hungry shrew, the obsessed workaholic, and the deranged mistress (with an assist from the sociopathic agent), and while Dana gets redeemed by the end, it’s a bit too little, too late. But you have to take the rough with the smooth when it comes to his movies, and this is another fine example of his unique style, with the added bonus of being able to see and hear what’s going on! Although with the often pitiful acting, that might not be a good thing.

 

Rating: thumbs up

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Invasion Of The Scream Queens (1992)

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Firstly – much love for Wild Eye Releasing. Those folks are doing some sterling work bringing ultra-low budget and completely forgotten works of horror cinema to a wider audience, and if you have any spare money I heartily recommend buying some of their stuff and having a good time. Well, a good time is not guaranteed, but you know. Get this film from here.

 

This also continues our Donald Farmer season. The great Farmer, after dropping the insane classic “Vampire Cop” on the world, decided to do a documentary featuring the women of the new world of low-budget and shot-on-video (SOV) horror. Well, “decided” might be too strong a word – it looks like he was offered interviews with a bunch of women in their homes, or waiting in the reception room of some movie company, and saw a buck to be made.

 

There’s absolutely nothing interesting visually about this documentary at all, unless you count the sound drops and weird tracking problems that came from Farmer’s original VHS tape and Wild Eye’s transfer of said VHS. So I’d normally try and say something about the movie itself, but in this case I’m stumped. Pro wrestling fans will recognise a lot of the “shoot interview” trend in this, where a wrestler was filmed telling stories in a hotel room on the road somewhere for a couple of hours. No-one has ever said “this shoot interview was really well filmed”.

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A substantial number of women are interviewed, and what’s interesting I think is the mix of extreme honesty and typical Hollywood back-covering from them. Sadly, a lot of them had to rely on, for want of a better word, bottom-feeding scum like Jim Wynorski and Fred Olen Ray for work, and those guys were far more interested in whether a woman would take her clothes off on camera than telling an interesting story (with one or two minor exceptions for both guys). So you get young women like Melissa Moore, Michelle Bauer and Brinke Stevens, and veterans like Mary Woronov and Martine Beswick, all trying to be as polite as possible about men who I’m sure they’d have crossed the street to avoid had they been in any other line of work. Stevens even manages, from the vantage of 2015, to be a little heartbreaking, as she talks about writing movies and getting into A-pictures…when we can see her IMDB page and the last 20 years is full of cheap horror garbage I’d never even heard of.

 

I think the politeness spoils it, slightly. For instance, making a movie in four days must have been a bizarre experience, and it’s brushed over as “well, I was new, and I’d do anything”. Tell us more! Give us dirt!

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There are no new ideas in the world, and so it is with this movie. Farmer must have seen “Scream Queen Hot Tub Party”, released the previous year, which was a Fred Olen Ray / Jim Wynorski joint effort and basically an hour of mostly naked women talking about the shitty movies they’d been in…although Farmer changes it up and also interviews people like David DeCoteau, who artfully skates round why he doesn’t use certain actresses any more (real answer: they had the temerity to join a Union, and his cheap garbage is most definitely non-Union).  DeCoteau, “interestingly” enough, is still trading on the “Scream Queen” name, casting Linnea Quigley, Bauer and Stevens together in 2014’s “3 Scream Queens”.

 

It’s an fascinating artefact from a fascinating time, and thanks to Wild Eye for putting it out there. But, all told, I’m glad Farmer went back to doing what he did best – making spectacularly cheap horror movies. While I have my soapbox, though, I’ll add a little bit about Wynorski and Olen Ray, as their shadows loom large over this sort of cinema. A lot of sites and magazines will call them “legends”, or make reference to their “gleefully un-PC” cinema, or will even pretend to like their movies. This is 100% bullshit, though. Not only did they make cheap crap with very few redeeming features, they exploited women, and if you think “well, the women could have refused to work for them” then I’m sorry that you don’t understand how the world and power relationships work. Anyway, after the era covered by this movie, Wynorski went on to basically make soft-core pornography (including “Witches of Breastwick” and “Cleavagefield”, and those movies are not as much fun as the titles suggest) and Olen Ray, along with also making soft-core horror, just with less entertaining titles, made super-cheap family movies (“Abner The Invisible Dog” is one), because his entire business model relies on fooling old people and children in video shops and Netflix queues.

Look at this asshole

Look at this asshole

B-movies, cheap SOV horror or whatever you want to call it, can be sleazy fun without being so exploitative, but if you only had their work to go on, you’d never realise that. I’m far from a prude, but if being called a prude means I don’t have to pretend to like the person who made “Girl With The Sex-Ray Eyes” then I accept the title. Hell, I’ll be an equal opportunities prude, just look at the front cover of any David DeCoteau movie made in the last decade and tell me you don’t feel a little bad for the guys on the posters.

 

I realise I’ve spent over half this review talking about people who aren’t in it. Sorry ISCFC readers, but “Invasion Of The Scream Queens” comes recommended – just don’t expect much of the documentarian’s art.

 

Rating: thumbs up

Scream Dream (1989)

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Our Donald Farmer season continues! Thanks to the wonder that is “Vampire Cop”, we’re big fans of Farmer’s work here at the ISCFC. Lord knows why, though – the chap is, for one, unable to tell the difference between vampires, cannibals, witches and demons; if you’re killed before the halfway point of one of his movies, you’re dead for good, but after then and chances are you’re coming back to life to start attacking other people; and his shot-on-video (SOV) is cheap-looking, even among other SOV horror of the time. But he’s got something weirdly compelling about his movies that gets us watching and reviewing them, and hopefully get you watching them too.

 

You want an opening scene with nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the movie? We got it! You want a song performed in its entirety right after that, a song which is almost brain-buggering in its badness? We got that too! “Scream Dream”, the song, is performed by a band which is never identified by name at any point (although the credits call them Rikk-O-Shay, which might be their real name or their movie name, not sure) and their lead singer is a magnificent creature called Michelle Shock.

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Confusion piles on top of confusion, dear reader. Those of you with large record collections, or former readers of Rolling Stone, will remember Michelle Shocked, the alternative-folkie turned oddball pop star turned born-again Christian; she was enjoying her first flush of success in the mid / late 80s, so it seems pretty unlikely that at the very least, someone working on this movie wouldn’t have heard of her. Why the almost identical name, then? Sadly, we may never know – although I am going to try and get an interview with Donald Farmer when I’ve finished reviewing his old films, as he’s got a couple of new ones in the pipeline I hope he wants to promote.

 

After a 30 second pause, the song is repeated! Rick, a scumbag, decides to spend his girlfriend Suzy’s car payment money on a trip to a (UNNAMED BAND) gig, and she comes along even though she quite reasonably thinks they suck. Backstage afterwards, and she still doesn’t leave him when he describes her as his sister to Michelle, only walking out finally when Michelle invites him to hang around and have some sex. Rick gets eaten, of course, but only after doing the second least convincing “I’m getting a blow job” face ever (behind only “The Room”, of course).

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(UNNAMED BAND) get some really bad publicity, with the local TV news calling them devil worshippers and so on. As the lead singer is a witch (just the sort of witch who transforms into something that looks like a demon, complete with horns), this is pretty much fair enough, but their record label boss fires “the most controversial singer of all time” despite her being the only reason anyone would possibly be interested in this lot.

 

The thing I love about Farmer’s movies is the layers of weirdness you have to dig through in order to get to the core of what he’s doing. The male lead of the movie is one of (UNNAMED BAND)’s backup singers, called Derrick, and he goes round to Michelle’s house to console her, only to get attacked. As he’s the only person in the movie who even thinks of defending themselves, he kills her and runs off…and the villain of the movie is dead before the halfway point and stays that way. What? But luckily, we get the replacement lead singer going over to her house to take some of her outfits, finding the body, and then deciding to eat her? Honestly, that bit confused the hell out of me. So after having a little nibble on her predecessor’s corpse, she gets possessed by the spirit of the witch, or something, and pretty much takes over where Michelle left off.

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That replacement is Melissa Moore, star of many a terrible B-movie (including “Samurai Cop” and “Vampire Cop”), and she’s mostly in this so she can do about half her scenes in the nude. Her character’s name is Jamie Summers, one letter different from the Bionic Woman (Jamie Sommers), so perhaps the Michelle Shock thing was a joke too? Nude is, I suppose, better than being a complete doormat, which is the fate of most of the women in the movie. There’s the other backup singer, described as the drummer’s girlfriend, who leaps into bed with Derrick at the first opportunity, even after he’s horribly insulted her; the TV reporter, who’s offhandedly told by some guy working on her show to “get me a coke”, which she immediately complies with; poor Suzy at the beginning; and a few others with even less screentime and / or self-esteem. Perhaps Farmer was going through a bad relationship at the time?

 

There’s a worm-monster thing in Michelle’s house, but I’m really not sure what it’s doing there. As the movie is 69 minutes long, I’d have been happy with another minute telling us about the worm, but it’s just there, hanging out, leaning round corners as if it’s the most obvious glove puppet in movie history (which it is).

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I’m not 100% sure I can tell you what “Scream Dream” is about, to be honest. The IMDB description says she possesses Jamie to get her revenge on the band, and I’m not sure that’s the case, although she does kill a few people who wronged her while she was alive, though, so I’ll give her that. Oh, and she (as Jamie) has a very un-erotic love scene with Derrick, in the house where her corpse is still lying downstairs. We get to hear the classic song “Angel Fire” from Farmer’s previous movie “Demon Queen” too, so there’s that. Continuity fans will enjoy the scene with the female backing singer accompanying the band, hours after her death, too.

 

I’ve really barely scratched the surface. Farmer appears to be devolving as a filmmaker – the sound is worse, the lighting is worse, the music is worse, the acting couldn’t get worse but stays at the same level…next up on our chronological Farmer odyssey is “Invasion of the Scream Queens”, a documentary about female horror actresses, and that is, apparently, quite good. What?

 

If you can find the DVD of this, and it’s really really cheap, pick it up and have a laugh.

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Rating: negative thumbs up

 

 

Vampire Cop (1990)

Now that's how you do a tagline!

Now that’s how you do a tagline!

As a bad movie enthusiast, I occasionally worry about running out of the really weird, low-budget movies whose reviews have littered these pages and which have become so famous. I think “there’s only a finite amount, right? One day I’ll have seen the last really bonkers one”; but every time I feel that way, I pop on something like this and discover a masterpiece.

 

This may be a tricky movie to track down, especially on this side of the Atlantic, and not just because it’s fairly obscure. There are lots of self-published “dark romance” novels about vampires and cops, the Rick Springfield “Forever Knight” pilot has been renamed “Twilight Vampire Cop” by some enterprising soul, there’s a Japanese film called “Vampire Cop Ricky”, another movie called “Vampire Cop” from 1993 which was eventually renamed “Midnight Kiss”…but of this, no trace. Hell, if “Hollywood Cop” and “Demon Cop” can get distribution and bad-movie love, this deserves to be there with them!

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The first ten minutes of the movie, as well as having one of the most amazing opening songs of all time, appears to be the psychic visions of a sleeping Melissa Moore (who we loved in “Samurai Cop”, talking of amazingly bad movies whose titles end with that word). Some drug deals go down, a guy appears to buy two women from a bikini beauty contest (?), a scumbag tries to rape a woman, and we meet the mysterious backlit vampire. Over and over again, the guy is backlit, even after we know who it is and it makes no sense for him to be stood that way – well, it might make more sense to say they repeat the same bit of footage, a complaint we’ll return to later. Moore is Melanie Roberts, a TV news reporter, and after being approached by a woman who the vampire saves from rape, decides to do some investigation.

 

Our hero is amazingly billed on IMDB as “Vampire Cop Lucas”, just in case you confused him with one of the movie’s other Lucases, and is played by a guy called Ed Cannon, for whom this was his one and only acting credit. He’s bloody terrible, in case you were wondering, but I’m kinda interested in how he got the role, and his acting seems to mainly consist of baring his awful vampire teeth and slowly walking towards people who are shooting at him. Well, that and sex. The love scenes are enough to make me bored of sex, as they just go on and on, making sure the man is as fully covered, and the woman as naked, as possible. Poor Melissa Moore has to take a phone call related to her job with one of her boobs hanging out!

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I’ve still not really described the plot of the movie, have I? The local drug kingpin wants to keep the cops and reporters off his back, and does this by giving lots of money to charity (and killing a surprising number of people, including taking a chainsaw to a police Lieutenant who’d just gone on the air to say he was going to bring the guy to justice!) He realises Lucas is a vampire and wants the power for himself, while Lucas, on the other hand, despite having lived for over a century, has inexplicably become sloppy, biting his enemies and letting them turn into way more powerful enemies. He’s also not exactly a nice guy, being seen killing and eating at least one prostitute – which was perhaps justified as cleaning up the streets? God knows. Anyway, good ol’ Vampire Cop kills and eats his way to victory, with Moore pretty much just along for the ride (although she does finish off the last bad guy by exposing him to sunlight, and then is given perhaps the stupidest ending of any movie ever).

 

Somewhere in this movie is a sense of humour. The news producer talks about his favourite former segments, which include “Transsexual House Pets” and “Men Who Name Their Testicles”, and one of the Kingpin’s goons (no names on IMDB, so I can’t narrow it down) is clearly having a good time. But these moments which are funny on purpose are few, and far between. The stuff which is brain-hurtingly bad by accident is far more plentiful.

I've got no idea why this bloke was in the movie

I’ve got no idea why this bloke was in the movie

I’d lay good money on this movie having an interesting backstage story. First up, it’s only 82 minutes, with an extremely slow credit sequence taking up a good 7 of them. The Vampire Cop just disappears a few minutes before the end, never to be seen again, which makes me wonder if he was a little “difficult” – also, check out the number of times the same footage of him driving his car and standing there backlit is repeated over the course of the movie. And then there’s the slow motion! Almost every scene has some slow-mo in it, including those for which it actually works against the story, or is just meaningless (Moore running down some stairs at her beach-house, for example). So, if you take out the credits and the repeated footage, speed up the irrelevant slow motion, and halve the sex scenes (which would still leave you with a heck of a lot of sex) this movie would be about half an hour long. But it’s a fun, bizarre half an hour!

 

It’s a movie set in a variety of ugly spaces. One scene set in Moore’s bedroom pans across a little too far so you can see the other bed in what is very obviously a hotel room; in fact most of the movie seems like it was filmed on the fly in whatever cheap motel had an offer on that day. To this barrage on the senses, you can add the cheap, gaudy cars that everyone drives too – drug dealers and cops alike.

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I feel bad for Moore, exploited in movies like this and “Samurai Cop”, and I feel bad for that one good actor (not enough to find out his name, obviously). But everyone else pretty much deserves whatever they get. Writer/director Donald Farmer appears to have spent his career making movies of this sort – “Cannibal Hookers”, “An Erotic Vampire In Paris” and “Chainsaw Cheerleaders”, among others. If only they’re all as wonderfully terrible as this!

 

Wholeheartedly recommended (if you can find it) for your next bad movie night.

 

Rating: thumbs up