Future War (1997)

When I saw this in my “list of future movies”, I got quite excited – a cyborg master race from the future! Dinosaur trackers! Human slaves! The battle taking place in modern day Los Angeles! But something was nagging at the back of my mind.

Then I remembered. “Mystery Science Theater 3000” did it. Their last season, admittedly, when they weren’t exactly firing on all comedic cylinders any more, but still their writers are probably better at their job than I am.

The basic gist of things is a Nun accidentally runs over an escaped slave from the future, and helps him in his battle against not only the dinosaur trackers, but the cyborg super-race who “created” them both. Now, it’s shown early on that our hero Daniel Bernhardt (who was in the “Bloodsport” sequels before appearing in lots of fairly big budget things in small roles – he’s a goon in “John Wick”, for example) is really good at kicking ass, so you’re presented with the “why aren’t the cyborgs much stronger than the humans?” conundrum right from the beginning. It wants to confuse you! That the cyborgs are schlubby looking guys with mullets and raccoon-eye makeup is just par for the course here.

Anyway, not too much sense going on about this one. The experts have covered this ground, but I wanted to refresh your memory, in case you wondered why I’d ignored such a (relatively) well-known addition to the “Future” canon. Or, indeed, an entry in the respective filmographies of Bernhardt and the late, great Robert Z’Dar, who’s also a future cyborg but annoyingly eschews the makeup.

Rating: thumbs up


Young Rebels (1989)

The late great Amir Shervan made 5 movies in English – “Hollywood Cop”, “Killing American Style”, “Samurai Cop”, this, and “Gypsy” (which we’ve yet to cover). They’re a strange bunch, for sure, and while “Samurai Cop” is clearly the best of the bunch, being entertaining, deeply odd, and really funny (both accidentally and on purpose), they’ve all got something to recommend about them.

Although I’m still not entirely sure what that something is about “Young Rebels”. It’s a revenge story, sort of? But one where both main players, plot-wise, die long before the end of the movie so you’re left with people who you’ve not really been following to wrap things up. For large portions of its run time, it’s one group of anonymous white guys looking sternly at, then shooting, another group of anonymous white guys, with a subplot about migrant workers getting sacked for wanting the minimum wage (a plot line that is borrowed for “Gypsy”, apparently) that goes nowhere.

But I shall bring my (minor) film analysis skills to bear to try and piece together just what happens in “Young Rebels”. By the way, there are no particularly young people in this movie, nor could they be said to be rebelling against anything. Sidetracked again! The first scene is a b-movie classic, the “Drug Deal Gone Wrong” (as if drug deals ever go right in B-movies). Showing up briefly here as “goon no. 3” is Eric Freeman, whose name you won’t recognise but whose most famous scene you probably will:

The person buying the drugs is none other than Shervan regular and ISCFC favourite Robert Z’Dar, and he wants to keep both the drugs and the money, and also to ensure that no-one else will ever sell him drugs again. Of course, the double-cross turns into a bloodbath, and Z’Dar has to return to his father, Mr Vincenzo, with his head hung in shame. I feel like this exact plot was used in “Killing American Style”, but my brain is refusing to let me go back and check.

This brings in, not the hero of the story, but the idiot brother of the hero (or if not hero, then the person whose image adorns the video box) – aka Ben, who rather foolishly borrowed $25,000 from Vincenzo some time ago to gamble with, and lost it all. So, he’s kidnapped, and told that unless his brother Charlie, an expert helicopter pilot, flies down to probably Mexico, picks up a couple of guys and flies them back, he’s a dead man. Luckily, Charlie isn’t that busy so agrees sharpish.

It’s around here that things become confusing. When Ben goes to get Charlie, he’s in a house with the woman you assume is his wife, but it turns out to be Ben’s fiancee? Then, when he goes to Mexico to pick up the two guys, the criminals down there are all “you’ve flown so many missions for us before, Charlie, you’re the best at human trafficking”. Wait, what now? I thought he was doing his dodgy brother a one-time favour? What on earth is going on? But you’ve hardly got time to warm to this thoroughly confusing story before Ben and his fiancee are both murdered and it’s all about Charlie and the two guys who were at Ben’s stag night at a strip club, vs. Vincenzo and his goons. Endless, generic, ugly looking goons, about whom it’s almost impossible to form any sort of opinion.

Well, this isn’t quite all. There’s some of the worst acting I can remember, primarily from Ben (whose name is listed wrong on the IMDB and I can’t tell which non-photo, never-acted-again cast member he’s supposed to be) but also from Joselito Rescober, who you’ll remember as the ultra-camp waiter from “Samurai Cop” and from the fact he’s probably rich and bought his role in these movies as he’s listed as the producer. There’s a chainsaw torture scene which manages to produce very little blood. There’s the way that punches sound like a bomb going off and are so ludicrous that I can’t even imagine a late 80s no-budget action movie seriously going “yes, this is effect we’re going for”.

Or how about a Japanese poster for “Hollywood Cop” on the wall of Vincenzo’s office, which indicates he’s either a fan of fine cinema or they filmed it at Shervan’s house – the framed publicity photos of strippers and hideous indoor jacuzzi would sort of indicate it’s the latter. Talking of strippers, there’s a heck of a lot of nude female flesh on display, long past the point (reached at about 30 seconds) when you’re just begging Shervan to get on with it. How about the meal eaten by Charlie about two-thirds of the way through the movie, which consists of nothing but a raw courgette and some crackers? Or the sheer number of chase scenes which have people firing randomly out of car windows?

What about my favourite thing in the entire movie, the random “Free Puppies” sign that’s propped up in one of the houses they fight their way through? Where are those puppies? I want to see the cute dogs! Puppies >>>>> this movie.

I’ve perhaps made it sound more “so bad, it’s good” than it really is. It’s mostly boring and vaguely incomprehensible. The way that characters abruptly changed relationships didn’t make me laugh, it just made me annoyed. The way Charlie went through pretty much every villain without breaking a sweat, but Vincenzo turned into a super-fighter despite being old as the hills and out of shape, left me bored.

It’s ugly as hell, too. The three sets they could afford are just shabby houses, and the scenes that aren’t in one of them are in random scrubland that provides nothing for the eye to find interesting at all. None of the actors are fun to look at, either, neither beautiful or odd. Just sort of doughy and not remotely like they should be in front of a camera (which, with a very few exceptions, none were again). Z’Dar tries his best, and is a presence to be sure, but he’s not in it enough.

I’ll give it credit for some truly magical bizarre choices, though. The final scene is given to a cop who’s barely been in it, but I can see why Shervan did it – he delivers a line beautifully, and his last two are: “Go call the fucking coroner!” followed by a pause as the camera pans in slightly, then “I’d better watch my fucking language!” The end!

Rating: thumbs down

Youtube Film Club – The Final Sanction (1990)

You may be aware of the work of the Prior brothers. From 1983’s “Sledgehammer” to his death in 2015, David A. Prior directed 34 movies, most commonly military / conspiracy thrillers; 32 of them featured Ted Prior, usually in a starring role. You might have of “Deadly Prey”, covered by the Red Letter Media fellas, or “Future Zone”, which had a comedy commentary provided it by Rifftrax; or you might have got lucky and avoided all of then. Well, today we begin another project we’ll probably get bored of halfway through, and are going to review all the Prior brothers’ work. I feel confident doing this because, despite it being a bit cheesy, both of them appear to be actually competent at their jobs!

Also, Ted had that sweet sweet AIP money behind him. AIP was American International Pictures, then Arkoff International Pictures, then Action International Pictures, and no matter what company claimed the three letters, they all produced cheesy b-movie fun. Back in the video shop days movies such as “The Final Sanction” could actually have a budget, as there was money going round at even the lowest levels, so they sort of look okay, have effects and real actors in them.

If you love movies which grossly misjudge the future, I have you covered. Made in 1990, this posits a world which tips over the line into nuclear war between the USA and the Soviet Union…despite the Iron Curtain coming down the very next year, and the interest of the pro-war section of the US ruling class switching to Islam pretty much immediately afterwards. So, we see a bunch of bombs come down, and then…nothing?

I don’t know what would happen if multiple nuclear weapons were dropped in the USA and the Soviet Union, but I reckon it would affect peoples’ lives quite a bit. After the stock footage, in fact, no reference is ever made to it again, and we move into the meat of the movie, which is a one-on-one fight between a hand-picked Russian soldier and one of America’s finest, much like “The Hunger Games” crossed with “Rocky 4”. The Russian rep is Sgt. Sergi Schvackov, played by the late great Robert Z’Dar (making his second appearance this week for the ISCFC), and he’s trained by the ultra-gruff Maj. Galashkin (William Smith, another legend of low-budget). His training is full of mental toughness exercises and high-tech gadgets, plus target practice with those fancy combat shovels that the Spetznatz guys used to use, whereas the American training is…er…we see their guy eating a healthy lunch one day, I suppose? This is for all the marbles, although quite what will happen when one comes out victorious is never mentioned – will the USA just hand over the government to Moscow if their guy goes down? What a difference that would make today, amirite guys?

Ted Prior is Sgt. Tom Batanic, and he’s brought back into the Army specifically for this fight, having been in prison for the murder of his entire unit during an exercise to protect the Secretary of State. He’s obviously innocent, which is the B-story rumbling along while the A-story explodes across the screen, and he’s also got a communication chip implanted in his head and gets advice from Lt Tavlin (Renee Cline, who was a badass in several movies in the late 80s), who starts off hating him but gradually warms to his wisecracking personality.

The huge majority of the movie is set in a variety of disused buildings and forest areas, as we see one or the other soldier stalking round it, firing at his opponent, the other firing back, and so on. It’s important to state that, despite both these being well-trained soldiers, never really resorting to cover, they barely ever take a hit, and then only a glancing one. Why are people in movies such terrible shots?

No sense spoiling any more, though – it’s on Youtube and you should all pop it on and have some fun. You’ll enjoy the developing relationship between the two men, and the one between Batanic and Tavlin (two names generated by picking letters out of a Scrabble bag, surely) and the inevitable but no less fun for it resolution of the conspiracy plot. Damn you, military industrial complex! “The Final Sanction” also features one of the most bizarre beginning-to-end arcs in movie history. Take the first scene and the last and see if any of it makes the slightest bit of sense!

I’ve picked it apart a lot, but the Priors made a fun movie. Ted can act, and it’s sort of a surprise he never really did anything away from his brother, as he’s got a good action-hero look too. The rest of the actors are fine; the only real crime is not having enough stuff happening in act 2. A lot of other reviewers have bashed it for not being a “typical” (read: hilariously awful) AIP movie, but that’s a pretty strange criticism to make – “I didn’t like it because it wasn’t bad enough!”

A quick word, though, about the extremely misleading poster, provided above. AIP may well have been like Cannon and got funding for movies that hadn’t been made yet, based on the promotion – well, neither of them wears leather at any point, there are no souped-up fast cars (or trains, if that’s what is in the background), and that sort of makes it look like they’re fighting together, which is misleading for like 95% of the movie’s running time. In fact, it makes it look vaguely post-apocalyptic, which I can believe was the first draft of the script but is definitely not what made it to the screen.

Pop it on, have some fun, and we’ll back with more AIP or David A. Prior reviews soon.

Rating: thumbs up



Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993)


This movie has an interesting-ish bit of trivia about it. It’s the last one ever to use the Alan Smithee pseudonym, which would be discontinued in 2000. Although he’d been credited up to that point, original director William Lustig had his name taken off for the blu-ray in 2013, a release from his own company (he owns Blue Underground). It’s not like I needed that clue to be able to tell something was a bit off about “Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence”, though.


As you may remember, Officer Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar) had his name cleared and was given a full police funeral, which was a nice ending to two excellent movies…until, in true slasher fashion, his hand emerged from the coffin right at the very end to reclaim his badge. Well, the beginning of part 3 goes out of its way to tell us how he was framed and only went after the people who lied about him…unfortunately, for those of us who’ve seen the first two, this makes no sense. His first on-screen act is to snap the neck of a woman who was running away from a couple of muggers, and he murders dozens of innocent people. Dozens!


Turns out his resurrection this time is due to a voodoo practitioner called Houngan, and his motives are…a trifle unclear? By that, of course, I mean “completely 100% unexplained”. Well, there’s something about a Bride of Frankenstein-esque deal for him, but to call it half-baked is an understatement. Anyway, as he’s doing his thing, a couple of ambulance-chasing freelance TV cameramen are filming a holdup in a chemists’, where super-brave cop Kate (who’s been given the nickname “Maniac Kate” due to her excessive zeal) injures junkie thief Frank Jessup (Jackie Earle Haley) and kills the clerk, getting shot herself in the process; it turns out the clerk was Jessup’s girlfriend and was in on it.


I’ll pause for a second to allow you to ponder the image of mad-eyed Jackie Earle Haley and a sweet-looking Hispanic girl being a couple before continuing. The camera guys decide to edit the footage to make it look like Kate murdered the clerk in cold blood – this being the aftermath of the Rodney King beating – even though she’s mortally wounded herself and in a coma; the news report with this footage is presented by Ted Raimi, a nice callback to brother Sam’s performance in part 1. This gets her friend Lt. McKinney (Robert Davi, who doesn’t exactly look like a “McKinney” now I think about it) riled up, and it really annoys Houngan, although why we never find out why. He dispatches Cordell to do his maniac thing in protection of Kate, and this involves killing her doctor, killing another doctor who’s going to turn off her life support, freeing Jessup from the bed he’s been handcuffed to and giving him a gun (not sure why he does that either), and then slaughtering those two camera guys, part of which involves handing over the unedited footage to the cops so Kate’s name can be cleared.


Stunt supremo Spiro Razatos is back for this one, and although I presume the budget was slightly smaller, he does manage one absolute gem of a scene, a car chase between Cordell – who is on fire the entire time! – and McKinney, plus his sidekick / love interest Dr Susan Fowler (Caitlin Dulany). And while we’re in the plus column, it’s fun to see a couple of big-ish names brought in for short cameos – Paul Gleason as the cop who wants Kate’s life support turned off, and Robert Forster as the doctor who agrees to do it. Plus, Robert Davi is again excellent, clearly loving being able to play a good guy for once.


But we really need to discuss that “Alan Smithee” credit. Lustig’s original rough cut came in at 51 minutes (!) and when he was asked by the producers to film the extra scenes to bring it up to feature length, refused and walked off the production, never to return. It turns out the script was written for a black star, but someone decided black star = poor box office, and retrofitted it to be a “Maniac Cop” movie; also, Lustig refused to work with Laurene Landon again, so they had to introduce the Kate character. It sounded like a weird one.


One of those producers, Joel Soisson (whose recent career has been producing endless “Children of the Corn” and “Hellraiser” sequels) stepped in to finish things off – this must also have been tricky, as several of the scenes are very obviously outtakes from part 2. For instance, Cordell does the “walk up stairs while shooting cops” thing again, only in the footage used in part 3 you can see one of the corpses break his fall by grabbing onto the bannister. So, it’s disjointed, the voodoo thing makes less than no sense and it’s paced terribly – at around the 30 minute mark, you realise nothing remotely interesting has happened since Kate got shot. Even with reshoots and the intervention of professional “save our movie” editor Michael Elliot, it just feels unfinished.

maniac cop 3 09

I think there’s a law of diminishing returns with slasher villains  (which Soisson no doubt understands very well). There comes a point, usually after part 2 of a franchise, where the hoops that need to be jumped through in order to bring the villain back for yet another instalment either slowly make even hardcore fans resentful, or bore the low-rent TV channels and video distributors who are their main customers. What, we’re not the customers? Oh, no. We’re the people whose goodwill towards previous entries is being sold, to scumbag businessmen who couldn’t give a toss about anything other than money. Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, Pinhead…they’ve all been killed, for good this time, so often that it’s a joke. But the joke is on us (Freddy Krueger only escapes because he’s always been dead, and because his movies a cut above the others in terms of quality). Those guys are the parents of today’s endless sequel / reboot culture, because when part 7 of some godawful slasher franchise can make more money than a far superior original horror idea, movie companies realised that original ideas were a mug’s game.


Don’t know why “Maniac Cop 3” inspired that rant – possibly because parts 1 and (especially) 2 were so good. The stink of pointlessness is strong, even if it’s not an incredibly terrible movie, so I suggest just pretending the franchise ended after the second one. RIP Matt Cordell, you weird indestructible maniac cop, you.


Rating: thumbs in the middle

Maniac Cop 2 (1990)


I enjoyed “Maniac Cop” recently, but had been told by a few smart people that part 2 was better, that director William Lustig and writer/producer Larry Cohen had figured out what worked and what didn’t and built on the strengths. And those smart people were absolutely right – “Maniac Cop 2” is a stronger, leaner, more fun movie, with its weaknesses buried way down and its strengths magnified. Plus, it’s got an amazing purpose-written rap song playing over the end credits! One of my favourite movie things is when they have a song which is about the movie – in fact, I might make a compilation of them one day.


What “Maniac Cop 2” does is bring the slasher movie subtext out, front and centre. This is about a horribly disfigured, supernaturally powerful killer with a very strange moral code, who relentlessly pursues his goal, slaughtering everyone who gets in his way (although he does hide his actions quite cleverly at the beginning). We see Matt Cordell (the late great Robert Z’Dar) thanks to this movie repeating the last few minutes of part 1, getting a metal bar to the chest and driving into the bay, but as part 2 starts – with Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon being cleared by the Commissioner – he’s nowhere to be found, as he wasn’t recovered with the dredged police truck he was driving. But you know that he’s just biding his time before going back to work!


The Commissioner is still trying to stick to the line of part 1, that it’s just a large psychopath dressed in a police outfit, but luckily this rather pointless stance is mostly ignored. As Campbell and Landon are both dispatched – in classic slasher movie fashion – fairly quickly into the sequel by a revitalised Cordell, with grey skin, horrible scars and a missing nose. Now, this might be a problem with HD versions of the movie, but as they try and half-hide Cordell’s face, it’s mostly visible on several occasions, making the big reveal when it comes a little anti-climactic. But anyway.


The stunts, thanks to Spiro Razatos (who’d go on to do the stunts for “The Expendables”, the last three “Fast and Furious” and the two “Captain America” movies) are superb, and are peppered liberally throughout the movie. The two new stars – Robert Davi as Detective Sean McKinney and Claudia Christian as police psychologist Susan Riley – are put through the ringer, most memorably as Christian is handcuffed to the wheel of a car (from the outside) then the car is pushed down a hill. But there’s tons of great action, to go along with Cordell’s slaughtering.


There is a plot, in case you were wondering. Leo Rossi is Turkell, a deranged fella who sees it as his job to clean up the filth from the streets – he’s killed a number of strippers before he and Cordell cross paths. The two of them form a friendship, of sorts, and even though Cordell utters one word (his name) they’re able to communicate. Anyway, Rossi is eventually caught, which gives them an idea – take a guy who’s about to be committed to Sing Sing prison, pretend to be his guards to gain access, then slaughter their way through the prison to bust out everyone on Death Row and form an army of psychopaths. Oh, and while he’s there Cordell can get revenge on the people who “killed” him when he was an inmate there too, which is a nice bonus.


McKinney and Riley, while initially sceptical, meet Cordell themselves and head up the search for him, going over the head of the Commissioner to the press (again). I like their little team – not a hint of romance, but a believable friendship. Also, I reckon Robert Davi and Claudia Christian must have quite enjoyed the chance to star in a movie, and they’re both excellent. They give fairly straight police-thriller performances, even though they’re in a slasher movie, and I like it. Oh, and popping up in an entirely wordless cameo is Danny Trejo as “Prisoner”. That guy got around.


But all this plot and investigation is really just a framework on which to hang some brilliant set-pieces. Seeing Cordell shoot his way through a police station (never mind how a grey-skinned zombie monster got in there in the first place) is super-exciting, and the final set piece in Sing Sing is brilliantly done as well. Although…the way they finish off the Maniac Cop, by clearing his name of the stuff which landed him in prison in the first place and giving him an official police burial, making sure the corrupt cops admit to their crimes too, is a fascinating way of doing things.


It’s a huge improvement over part 1, a tense, tight, gore packed, stunt packed, little gem of a movie. I’m moderately afraid part 3 will be a flop, but after two such strong entries, this series is already strongly in the “win” column for me.


Rating: thumbs up

Maniac Cop (1988)

Now that's a tag line

Now that’s a tag line

I love Bruce Campbell in movies and on TV, but I think I’m so used to seeing him play light roles that when he’s called upon to be completely serious, it’s a tiny bit jarring (luckily, this happens very rarely). He’s got the looks and the talent to be a leading man in stuff like this, I just think he’s too odd – in a nice way – to stick with straight thrillers for long.


Our first shot is of the World Trade Centre, which is always sad to see on film, then straight into the killing! A barmaid leaving her late shift gets hers first – she’s attacked by a couple of Puerto Rican robbers, then when she runs into the park (rather than, I don’t know, back to the bar she just left) and attempts to get help from a cop stood in the shadows, she gets choked to death and her neck snapped for good measure. That this disgusts even the two criminals is a nice touch. The first time you get a glimpse of the Maniac Cop’s profile, any fan of trashy cinema will go “okay, that’s Robert Z’Dar. Why are you hiding him?” but I guess they do sort of explain it later. He kills a random fella driving round, too, and this eventually gets the police to thinking it’s a guy pretending to be a cop, with the lead detective the sole dissenting voice that it might actually be a cop.


That lead detective is Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins), and he’s got red herrings, sorry co-workers, in the shape of Captain Ripley (William Smith) and Commissioner Pike (Richard Roundtree). The B-movie superstardom is strong in this movie! When they’ve finished setting things up, only then do we get to meet Bruce as Officer Jack Forrest, a man trapped in a loveless marriage who’s having an affair with his co-worker, Detective Therese Mallory (Laurene Landon, whose parents obviously wanted a son called Laurence and had already filled in half the birth certificate). His wife discovers them in a motel – when presumably Mallory has her own place they could go to – and it’s here when things get a bit odd. The wife is abducted from right outside, killed viciously and then dumped back in that same motel room when the lovebirds have left, pinning the murder – and by extension, all the others – on Forrest!


There’s twists and gory kills and extremely helpful side characters who fill the main characters in on the plot, but I don’t just want to recap it all. It’s a curiously structured movie, for sure, but at least it’s different, and different is worth celebrating. When you finally see the Maniac Cop, front and centre, you’ll think “how on earth did he just walk into that police station?” but boy oh boy, does he love killing and doesn’t mind who. They also give us a flavour of what New York would be like if it was leaked to the press that someone was dressed as a cop killing people – one timid-looking woman ventilates an innocent patrolman’s head, for one – and the TV is full of black people telling their tales of all cops being maniacs when it comes to their community. When our heroes eventually figure out who it is, we also get his backstory dropped into the action, which is both sad and horrifying.


Campbell’s old friend Sam Raimi pops up in a rare acting role as a TV news guy, and he also apparently shot some of the footage round a St Patrick’s Day parade in order to secure funding for the rest of the movie; this adds to the authenticity of things, as that’s the movie’s actors in a real parade


When you think about it, it’s pretty much a slasher movie crossed with a police thriller, even if I wish they’d been a tiny bit more explicit about why he’s indestructible – he takes dozens of bullets to the chest and a few to the head, none of which faze him. But it’s got some great set-pieces, including the assault on the police station (definitely not inspired by The Terminator, how dare you?) and the definite feeling that the people who made it put some serious thought into it – the villain’s motivations were once vaguely sympathetic, and the TV news mentions how low crime is with him on the streets, a nice touch. I also admire how they never really tried to make Bruce Campbell a suspect, despite the slight chin-based similarity between him and Z’Dar, and that the nominal hero of the movie is a guy cheating on his wife who doesn’t really do much of anything at the climax.

maniac cop 2

It’s stupid in places, but the energy and strange turns the plot takes (plus grimy real New York locations) make up for that. That’s due, I think, to the B-movie talent behind the camera as well as in front of it. The director is William Lustig, who also gave us “Maniac”; and writer Larry Cohen, who among many movies wrote “It’s Alive!” Oddest of all – this movie’s excellent stunts were brought to us by Spiro Razatos, who’d go on to do the stunts for the last three Fast & Furious movies!


Thoroughly enjoyable shlock fun. Give it a go.


Rating: thumbs up

Cherry 2000 (1988)


This review thanks to a request / dare from regular reader Dave.

What we have here is a fascinating, funny movie with a great visual style…that completely fails to answer its own central mystery. It feels like some explanation was edited out deliberately to keep us in the dark, and that particular problem will become apparent in a paragraph or so. But what it does have is one of the greatest B-movie casts ever assembled, with three ISCFC Hall of Famers (should we ever do one) gracing the screen.

It’s 2017! The lead drives a weird car with two wheels at the front and one at the back (literally all the other cars in the movie are perfectly normal, though)! Something bad has clearly happened to the world, but LA still largely functions, and Sam Treadwell (TV stalwart David Andrews) works at a huge recycling centre, where endless queues of people bring in metal, cables and suchlike in return for large boxes of something or other. Food, maybe? There’s a fun bit of world-building here, as Sam and his friends go to a bar where lawyers act as pimps for prostitutes, negotiating insanely complicated one-night contracts – the main lawyer is Larry Fishburne, before the early 90s would make him famous (also, this movie was filmed in 1985 but not released til 1988).

CHERRY 2000, Pamela Gidley, David Andrews, 1987, (c) Orion

CHERRY 2000, Pamela Gidley, David Andrews, 1987, (c) Orion

Anyway, Sam goes home at the end of a hard day to his beautiful and somewhat vacant wife, only for it to turn out she’s a robot, a “Cherry 2000” model. While they’re about to have sex on the kitchen floor, the water from an overflowing sink causes her to have a complete meltdown (a rather substantial design flaw, when you think about it), which leaves Sam alone and distraught, especially when he realise she can’t be fixed. He even goes to a robot mechanic, who offers him a variety of other robot women, but he’s all about the Cherry.

What he still has is her (apparently very rare and valuable) personality chip, a tiny CD-looking thing, and armed only with that and a knowledge of where replacement Cherry 2000 models can be found  – the no-mans-land of Zone 7 – he sets off for the Wild West town of Glory Hole to find himself a Tracker to take him into this forbidden area. Melanie Griffith is E Johnson, the best tracker of the lot, but because Sam, along with pretty much every man in the world, is a touch on the sexist side, he tries to find a “better” one and ends up with Brion James, who just takes him into an alley and tries to jump him.

He eventually hires E to take him to Zone 7, which brings him into conflict with Lester (Tim Thomerson), a psychopath who cheers his gang up with sports-coach-cum-New-Age platitudes. Lester’s girlfriend / hostess / assistant is, coincidentally enough, Sam’s ex-girlfriend, and their whole section is funny and odd and promises much. Anyway, Sam and E have to fight their way through all sorts of problems, all sorts of people, and when they reach their goal they have to fight their way back. There are some pretty fantastic set-pieces, like when they’re caught with a giant car magnet and start shooting and throwing grenades at their captors as they’re being swung across a large canyon, and if you can’t tell the ending then I would like to show you a new game called three-card monte.


To create some very slight tension as to what that big old problem is, I’ll tell you the good stuff. It’s got an amazing visual style, with three very distinct areas – the city and its postapocalyptic, claustrophobic look; Glory Hole, like a techno-Wild West; and Lester’s place, what looks like a 1950s view of the future (along with a submerged-in-sand Las Vegas). Either they had an amazing location scout or this was a higher-budget movie than I expected. It’s also got a fantastic cast, leaving aside a not-terribly-great pair of central performances. Brion James, Tim Thomerson and Robert Z’Dar are all B-movie royalty, and have a fine time here, even if Z’Dar barely says a word and James is ditched after only a few minutes on screen. The two non-Griffith women in the movie, Pamela Gidley as Cherry and Cameron Milzer as Elaine, Sam’s ex, are excellent too.

But it’s not all amazing sets, great guest performances and an exciting, fast-paced script! That script, by the way, is the first screen credit from Michael Almereyda, who’d go on to make the amazing “Another Girl, Another Planet” in 1992 using only the Fisher Price PXL200 kids’ movie camera (it recorded onto normal audio cassettes) and is still writing and directing today. It’s got a huge great gulf at its centre, and that gulf is women.

When you discover that Sam, and lots of other people, have robot wives, the first thought that came to mind was “ah, so women have mostly died out, for some reason”. It sort of explains things, but then you see the wider world and women are everywhere! And it’s not like they’re all radiation-scarred or whatever (Griffith herself is testament to that), so one would hope there’d be a reason why so many men would choose robots without much in the way of brain power over real living women. If there is one, it was either mentioned in passing at the beginning, while I wasn’t listening, or edited out. It could have been an interesting feminist statement about the way society treats women, but it ended up just being the story of a guy who wanted a compliant, dull, sex-slave/housekeeper who finally realised by the end that he’d prefer a real woman. In fact, poor Cherry, resurrected in a new body, is just tricked and abandoned at the end because “she’s just a robot”, which seems unnecessarily cruel to someone who’s “loved” him as she has. It’s all rather confusing.


Trying not to get sucked into the rabbit hole of understanding this movie, it doesn’t even make sense on its own terms. Firstly, there are no male robots, and the subject never even comes up, as if that would be the stupidest thing you could possibly imagine.  Sam’s decision, after having a rather fun-seeming human girlfriend, to get married to a robot, is also never explored.

But if you don’t think about any of that, then you’ll have a really good time. The sense of humour is strong and it’s pitched at just the right level; it looks fantastic; and it races along at a fair old clip. I can see why the movie company had a tough time marketing it, as it’s a pretty odd little mix of styles, and it would have never been a hit, but we still get to enjoy it.

Rating: thumbs up

Beastmaster 2: Through The Portal Of Time (1991)


The squeamish among you will be pleased to find out that no animals are put in any sort of danger in “Beastmaster 2”. You think one of his menagerie dies, but they don’t, the tiger is normal tiger-coloured and the ferrets save the day. Hurrah!

Never mind part 1 altogether, really. The peace that Dar achieved at the end of the first film…er…what first film? Look over there! *runs away* We’ve got some serious B-movie royalty in this one – the bad guy, Arklon, is Wings Hauser (last seen by us in the amazing “Rubber”); one of his henchmen is Robert Z’Dar, returning to the screen soon for “Samurai Cop 2”; making a brief cameo is horror legend Michael Berryman; and introduced later is Kari Wuhrer, who we loved in “Sharknado 2”  and “Alien Tornado”, but who really ought to have been a far bigger star. And, even though I don’t go searching his films out, this is again Jim Wynorski-related, as he wrote the script.


The gimmick of this film is a tried and tested staple of low budget cinema – the baddie opens a portal to present day LA! Theirs is a parallel universe, apparently. So, after a little bit where Wuhrer, playing wild child Jackie, accidentally drives through the portal and has a very hard time believing she’s not in LA anymore, the entire main cast decamps to present day LA, and Arklon goes looking for the neutron detonator, a mega-nuke of some sort that can destroy the Earth. Arklon sucks all the knowledge of the earth from some poor cop’s head using magic, Dar follows Jackie and evil witch Lyranna has been watching LA through the portal for months so knows all about our customs.

There’s a surprisingly small amount of “fish out of water” comedy on display, as if everyone realised that would be too cheesy. Arklon is trying to get the neutron detonator to take back to his world and rule unopposed, and Dar is trying to stop him, nice and simple-like. There’s a “hey, we’re the real barbarians, man” moment; Dar gets into rock n roll and calling people “asshole”; there’s the sort of scene that “Wayne’s World” parodied, when Dar happens to meet a monster in the woods at the beginning who gives him a huge amount of incredibly important information; there’s the way Kari Wuhrer can’t shut up, even though unless her IQ is in single digits she must realise something very weird has happened to her; there’s the way Dar isn’t remotely curious about where this utterly alien woman has come from. In other words, this film is packed with little OTT details that really elevate it.


I know this film is cheaper than part 1, doesn’t look quite as beautiful, has a less strong cast, barely any death (must have been aiming for a family-friendly certificate) and is played for laughs much more than serious questing…but I think it’s a better film. The ending fight alone is a minor work of comic genius, even though the stakes are high and the characters are taking it seriously. You’ll have yourself some fun with this one.

Rating: thumbs up