The Terror Within 2 (1991)

I imagine the sequel to “The Terror Within” was born thus. Star Andrew Stevens and producer Roger Corman are sat having lunch, discussing the boffo box office that their “Alien” rip-off did; Corman would naturally like a sequel. Stevens says yes, but only if he can direct; Corman agrees, but also wants him to write it. Stevens thinks about it for a second, and goes “can I just re-use the script from the first movie?” to which Corman laughs and goes “go ahead! It’s not like it was original in the first place!”

 

My wife asked me this morning what I thought of “The Terror Within 2”, to which I replied it was a cheaper, stupider cover version of part 1; although it felt a little strange even having an opinion about it, as the plot and setting are, essentially, the same, but we’ve got a few interesting things to talk about, plot holes to drive through and a few weak jokes to crack, so let’s begin.

Actually, before we begin, there’s a “huh?” credit, and that is the cinematographer, one Janusz Kaminski. He’s won two Oscars (“Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List”), been nominated a few more times, and also worked on “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, “Jerry Maguire” and many many others. Of course, we here at the ISCFC remember him most fondly for his work on the Vanilla Ice vehicle “Cool As Ice”, but if you wondered why this otherwise bargain-basement movie looked way better than it had any right to, you have this guy to thank.

 

Okay! Dr David Pennington (Stevens) is travelling through the desert-y mountain-y region between the Mojave and the Rocky Mountains – at least, that’s what the movie claims – once again with his brave dog Butch by his side. Butch was our favourite in part 1 and he’s similarly excellent here, just happy to be walking along with his friend – there’s a nice scene where the actors stop but Butch carries on walking, clearly because his bowl of water is behind the camera and he’s thirsty. His female companion from part 1 is no longer with us but he soon picks up a new lady friend, Ariel (Claire Hoak) after happening upon her and her brother getting attacked by gargoyles. They’re in love and getting naked incredibly quickly, then what seems to be the next morning (but could be a month?) she announces she’s pregnant, that she “just knows”.

For those of you who saw the issues with gargoyles impregnating humans in the first movie, you may be wondering “surely they’re not going to go the same route?” to which the answer is…well, you can guess. Anyway, while they’re on their way to the Rocky Mountain CDC base, we see the people up there, trying to make a vaccine for the virus that killed so many people. There’s “That Guy” actors par excellence Chick Vennera, Burton Gilliam and Renee Jones, and Andrew Stevens’ mother Stella is there too. The great R Lee Ermey, presumably enjoying the opportunity to play a non-drill sergeant role, is in charge of the base.

 

It’s right around here where you can tell an inexperienced director is in charge. They just kept adding storylines! We have – David and Ariel walking through the wilderness; a finger chopped off a gargoyle still being alive, but no-one pays it the slightest attention as it grows and mutates and kills a mouse and eventually breaks out; Ariel getting raped by a gargoyle; one of the science ladies betraying everyone else; there’s a cave with a whole group of people surviving in it; and then there’s the inevitable battle against Ariel’s mutant baby, and the thing that the severed finger turned into. Oh, and the cave-people kill Butch, which does sort of trigger a John Wick-style response from David (spoiler because I know some people don’t like watching movies where dogs die).

If I don’t focus, this review could be as long as the movie. Let’s give you a few of the wilder plot holes, though. The cave-people seem pretty friendly, although they’re obviously not – they let David and Ariel sleep there, then offer to take David to pick some peyote (for the vaccine). While he’s gone, they take Ariel to another cave to be an offering to the local gargoyle, and the two people accompanying David try to kill him. Er, why not just kill him in his sleep and chain her up?

 

My favourite, though, and the thing that must have had Corman scratching his head when watching the finished product, is why David lets the same thing happen in this movie as happened in part 1. She gets pregnant from the gargoyle, her belly grows in hours, the last time this happened the baby killed everyone he knew, so…he’d be all for aborting that foetus or killing it as soon as it came out, right? Nope! He just sort of vaguely hopes it all works out, like neither he (the character) or he (the writer / director) had ever seen the first movie.

 

The monsters, when we see them, go so far beyond bad as to be laughable. I mean, they could have just borrowed the rubber suits from part 1, but no! They, instead, chose to just cover a normal guy in red goo, tape half a horn to his head and just leave it at that. Seriously! Is this worse or better than the gun effect? The gun effect is, basically…nothing. You see a gun, and hear the sound of it firing, but no-one either had an actual prop gun that looked like it was being fired, or bothered adding the effect in post (or hiding the barrel of the gun from actually being on camera). It’s so weird and so distracting, and I’ve got no idea why no-one noticed it or cared.

It’s a curious mess of a movie. The acting is fine, the direction is okay for a first-timer, and the cinematography is, of course, excellent. It’s just got too many subplots that don’t add anything, and really needed a few more script drafts, or someone to read it and go “hey, Andrew, why is this happening?” at some of the odder choices. Also, they really should have cut down on scenes that were identical to scenes in the first movie – like the camera getting shredded outside the base, which actually (I think) used the same footage from part 1.

 

If you really want to see another movie where a weird mutant (that feels the need to sneak everywhere, despite being largely indestructible) chases a group of scientists round an underground base, then go ahead and watch this. But if you’re just a person who likes cheesy movies AND ALREADY SAW PART 1 WHICH IS IDENTICAL, then maybe give something else a try.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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The Terror Within (1989)

We here at the ISCFC are experts in movies that borrow liberally from other, more famous movies, but even we, cynical as we are, were a little taken aback by just how many plot points this borrows from two famous entries in the same franchise.

 

In 1981, the great Roger Corman produced “Galaxy Of Terror” which is famous for two things – being the first movie to rip off “Alien”, and for being the first job in Hollywood for James Cameron, who’d go on to give us “Aliens”. Corman clearly felt he’d not gone far enough, so in 1990 he gave us a movie which heavily borrows from both “Alien” and “Aliens”, but sadly doesn’t feature anyone who’d go on to greater fame and fortune (unless your definition of either term is very generous).

 

It doesn’t borrow every bit of story from those two, though, as it starts off, on Earth, in a definitely post-apocalyptic situation, caused by a virus, or germ warfare (it’s never really made clear) that wipes out 99% of the population and turns some of the survivors into “gargoyles”, huge rubber-suited monstrosities. Our heroes work for the CDC, and are in a base deep underneath the Mojave Desert (and one of the most famous locations in movie history, the Vasquez Rocks in California, are featured prominently in a few scenes); they’re in occasional contact with another base, but other than that, humanity appears to be pretty much done for. Every now and again, a small team heads out to try and find survivors, or maybe a dead gargoyle to do experiments on; no idea how long it’s been since the apocalypse.

In charge of the base is Hal – George Kennedy, who must have owed someone a favour; Andrew Stevens (more famous these days as a producer) as his second-in-command David, and Star Andreeff as Sue, who’s having a secret-ish relationship with David. Andreeff is a beloved regular here at the ISCFC, having appeared in “The Vampire Journals”, “Scanner Cop” and “Ghoulies 2”; but so is the “obviously the Sigourney Weaver replacement”, actor, Terri Treas as Linda. We’ve enjoyed her work in “Deathstalker 3”, “House 4” and the TV version of “Alien Nation”, and it’s definitely the ladies that get all the interesting stuff to do, too.

 

They find a survivor out in the wilderness! But she’s pregnant! And the foetus is developing at an insanely fast rate! Before we get much time to even take this in, we’ve had a moment of pure “Alien”, where the creature pops out of the woman’s stomach and escapes, growing to 6’6” remarkably quickly. The effect is pretty good, honestly, even a little gross.

The monster just seems to be mad, not hungry (which is weird, given how quickly he grew). Even though we establish very quickly that normal weapons do basically no damage to the creature and it could just walk up to everyone and kill them, we get a whole movie of it skulking in air vents and killing almost everyone in the base slowly. Oh, it kidnaps Sue at one point, and there’s a whole discussion after her rescue about whether her pregnancy is thanks to David or the monster.

 

Like so many B-movies of the era, the budgetary restraints show everywhere, from the use of the same three locations for almost all the running time, to the rubber alien suit (shown way too much in the back half), to the relative lack of action. It’s not slow, particularly, it could have just been a bit more action-packed? It would have been nice to have more of a sense of their predicament, how long they’d been down there, stuff like that.

I almost forgot the best actor! That would be Butch, an American bulldog who – in the credits – shares a last name with Andrew Stevens (so I assume it’s his dog), and he’s obviously delighted to be hanging out with his best friend. But he knows what to do, and falls down when the monster “hits” him, lays there covered in bandages for most of act 2, that sort of thing. He’s a good boy!

 

There’s not a ton more to tell you about “The Terror Within”, honestly. It’s a ripoff of “Alien”, with a healthy amount of “Aliens” too, set in an underground base, with an okay cast and a low budget. There is a sequel, which Andrew Stevens also wrote and directed, so I’ll guess we’ll give that a go?

But before we leave, I regret to inform you that despite the low levels of originality on display here, “The Terror Within” is but a silver medallist to the all-time great ripoff movie, 1989’s “Shocking Dark” (aka Terminator 2)”. Don’t let that title fool you! Here’s how I summed up the plot of that one:

 

A group of marines is forced to take a non-soldier along on a mission – a woman with curly auburn hair. They encounter a creature which doesn’t kill them immediately, but takes them away and stores them in a gooey webbing, where they beg to be killed. They rescue a small girl who’s survived in the hostile environment for some time. The soldiers have radar trackers, and at one point they’re detecting signals from monsters who should be in the room with them, they’re so close. The corporation representative tries to trap the female and the kid in a room with the monster, and turns the camera off so no-one knows what he’s doing. While setting off the base’s self-destruct mechanism, the woman gives the girl a wristband that will allow her to be tracked, seconds before she falls down a long slide and out of sight.

 

So it’s not even the most unoriginal. Sorry movie! Unless you’re jaded and have seen all the other VHS tapes ever released, don’t make too much of an effort to get hold of a copy of this.

 

Rating: thumbs down

 

 

Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf (2015)

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Much like everyone remembers the “Sinbad” series as Ray Harryhausen movies, even though he didn’t direct any of them, the name Roger Corman has been attached to many movies that he only produced. Admittedly, that’s often because the movie was so terrible that his name is the sole reason anyone would bother watching it, but that’s by the by.

 

After the original “Sharktopus” in 2010, it was the enormous success of “Sharknado” (I can already tell the word “shark” is going to lose all meaning to me by the end of this review) that brought the creature back for a sequel – 2014’s “Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda”, which we loved. Conan O’Brien cameo’d, Robert Carradine was great, it had the all-time great line “I have an appointment with a dolphin”, it knew exactly what it was aiming for and hit the bullseye. There was an announcement of a “vs. Mermantula” sequel, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside: let’s keep our fingers crossed they’re saving that for part 4.

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What they’ve done here is make a straight-up comedy. The creatures, drama and action sequences, while all fine, are definitely just there to serve up jokes and ridiculous situations – we have writer Matt Yamashita (who also wrote the last one) to thank for that. We’re also given a wide variety of funny characters, even the ones with only a few lines have had thought put into them. I’m starting to gush!

 

Our star is Ray Brady (Casper Van Dien), a perpetually drunk hire-boat captain, and we first see him drunkenly emerging from his cabin to find his ship is being used to bury someone at sea. He has his slightly more sober sidekick Pablo (Jorge Eduardo De Los Santos) to thank for that, but there’s no time to argue, as Sharktopus attacks! I can’t tell you what a relief it is to have a movie that gets going quickly, that doesn’t feel the need to have the first half-hour be dull setup.

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It’s set (and filmed, by the looks of things) in the Dominican Republic, which is baseball country, and we get a down-on-his-luck major leaguer, Felix Rosa (Mario Arturo Hernández), who’s gone back to the island to visit the Reinhardt Anti-Ageing Clinic; apparently, even steroids aren’t enough to keep Felix in the Bigs, so he’s prepared to try anything. Dr Reinhardt (Catherine Oxenberg, who’s married to Van Dien, although the two of them don’t share a second of screen time) does a ludicrous German accent – bit too young to be a Nazi, although you know that’s what they were aiming for – and, thanks to her job at the place that invented Sharktopus, has got the technique for splicing DNA down pat. Felix eventually agrees to treatment, perhaps because he wants to have sex with the nurse (Jennifer Wenger), and after the first blast from a DNA-altering laser, demands another dose immediately. This appears to kill him? It’s at this point my streaming service started stuttering and I missed this whole scene, as it looks like the doctor dumps him in the bay but in the next scene he’s back in her lab, fully transformed into…Whalewolf!

 

The other part of the story is voodoo master Tiny (Tony Almont) and his desire to control a Sharktopus. Brady owes him some money so he’s forced to go out hunting Sharktopus on his behalf; officer Nita Morales (Akari Endo), who happens to be Brady’s ex-girlfriend, gets involved too when she sees Sharktopus kill a couple of party girls late one night.

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But all this is just the framework for farce, and all manner of knowing dumbness. There’s a hilarious parody of “The Bachelor” called “El Soltero”, with the bachelor reading his lines off a cuecard and the women petrified of taking his rose as the first one he gave it to was immediately eaten; how about how Sharktopus has a Twitter account (he follows back very promptly)? The cop who shouts “call the Navy, the President, maybe the Pope”? Van Dien is an absolute star in this, despite not doing much comedy in his career he’s great at it – almost every chance he has to be a hero, he just gets drunk instead, preferring the life of a layabout (he even almost sets off for Belize, deciding to leave everyone to Sharktopus). And he fights dirty! After a brief blast of stardom post-“Starship Troopers”, he’s found a niche starring in movies like this, and long may it continue. He and Corin Nemec need to team up at some point.

 

The special effects during the many Sharktopus / Whalewolf fights (actually, those guys should have teamed up) are cheap and rubbish, but seriously, don’t embarrass yourself by complaining about them. It all adds to the glorious melange of oddity that is this movie. Provided you go into this expecting a comedy movie with giant monsters in it, as opposed to a giant monster movie with the odd funny line, you’ll have a great time. Well done SyFy Channel, well done Roger Corman, and long may the series continue.

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Rating: thumbs up

Alien Avengers (1997)

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When a movie can be described as “one-joke”, it had better be a funny joke or you’re going to be in for a bad time. You know the sort of thing – what if there were a 40 year old virgin? What if a kid had the superpower of being able to fart a lot? So, as this movie progressed and I expected to get bored, I was pretty pleased that it handled its one joke remarkably well. In this instance, it’s “what if there were super-friendly aliens from a peaceful planet, who came down to earth to brutally murder criminals and lowlife scumbags?”

 

A rather unusually quiet opening, where Joseph, a young black guy, has to deal with the pull of the local drug kingpin but keep on the straight and narrow, then his mother dies and he inherits her large, run-down old boarding house, is a little more understandable when you see Roger Corman’s name on the credits. Corman is one of my heroes, a titan of low-budget cinema who’s retained a strong social conscience throughout his life, taking on the KKK in 1962’s “The Intruder”, capitalism in 1975’s “Death Race 2000”…okay, and producing the “Sharktopus” series of movies. But he’s one of the greats, and has given a ton of huge names their breaks in the business (Jack Nicholson and Ron Howard, to name but two).

Roger Corman

Roger Corman

The film really kicks off, though, when Charlie and Ronda turn up. Played by “Cheers” legend (and former “House” co-star) George Wendt and TV star Shanna Reed, they’re a colourful bright parody of a 1950s couple and want to rent the top floor of Joseph’s house, despite it still being full of junk, with a leaky roof, etc. They’re clearly hiding something (not-particularly-a-spoiler: they’re aliens) but Joseph lets them stay thanks to their daughter, Daphne (Anastasia Sakelaris) fluttering her eyelashes at him. They renovate the house overnight, serve rather unusual food (a beans sandwich, for one) and the excuse they give for wanting to rent a house in the blackest, most run-down area of LA is to expose Daphne to other cultures.

 

Of course, the actual reason is Charlie and Ronda want to hunt. Their planet is crime and violence-free, so they take a vacation in the scummiest places possible and hunt other planets’ lowlifes, like parading through a back alley with a large gold watch and hoping someone tries to rob them for it. They treat this ultra-violence as a bit of sport, and it is pretty violent – at one point, they tear off a potential rapist’s leg and beat him to death with it. A lot of the humour comes from this way out-of-place couple in the ghetto, and it’s great.

 

Joseph and Daphne’s budding relationship, and her parents’ completely non-human response to them having sex, is a really well-done B story; slightly less interesting is the “I suppose we’d better have a normal plot” plot, about a couple of cops who just don’t like Joseph very much. They’re investigating Charlie and Ronda’s killings, and due to their odd values (despite liking Joseph, they’re happy to let him take the fall for them) they leave a gun with his fingerprints at a crime scene…

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A problem with movies that sound great described like this – “a couple of aliens straight out of the 50s come to earth to kill criminals” – is that they’re never quite as OTT as you want them to be. There’s always a boring normal subplot, or a valuable lesson to be learned, or something along those lines. This is no different, although it comes pretty close to just ignoring normal movie morality and going all out; it’s still an absolute ton of fun though.

 

Wendt and Reed are both brilliant, giving it their all, and while Christopher M Brown as Joseph is a bit of a wet blanket (as are the cops, and the rest of the humans), Sakelaris is wonderful as well. Her career went absolutely nowhere after this and its sequel – bit parts and one-off TV appearances, then nothing after 2007. It’s a damn shame, as she’s both crazily beautiful and gifted at comedy.

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It’s listed as a TV movie, although I can’t imagine this sort of movie playing on any TV channel in the late 90s (maybe HBO? The writer, Michael McDonald, has acted in tons of TV comedy, although I don’t suppose that information helps). Anyway, we’ve got a sequel to look forward to, with most of the cast and crew returning (Reed is replaced by Julie Brown, which is a shame although I like Brown just fine).

 

It’s a surprisingly great movie, chock full of fun and gore, and I enthusiastically recommend it, should you be able to track it down.

 

Rating: thumbs up

Death Race 2000 (1975)

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Without a trace of hyperbole, “Death Race 2000” is one of the best films of the 1970s. If you think in terms of b-movies, it’s perhaps the greatest b-movie of all time. It’s got a black heart and the sense of humour of a man being led to the gallows, and represents a very early example of the arthouse meeting the grindhouse.

 

The arthouse comes from director Paul Bartel and his long-time friend and co-star Mary Woronov. He was involved in the Theater of the Absurd in the 1960s, and she was a protégé of Andy Warhol, before he turned into a hack. The grindhouse comes from Roger Corman, the exploitation movie mastermind, one of my favourite movie people, who gave breaks to people like Jack Nicholson, Bartel, Joe Dante and Ron Howard, among many others.

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Thanks to the oil crisis of 1973, peoples’ dystopian ideas suddenly became a bit less dystopian, as the West looked to a future with basically no oil. So, in the alternate history of this movie, the two main US parties have merged to form the Bipartisan Party, and the President-For-Life rules from his Summer Palace in China. To keep the masses placated, they introduce the Death Race, and by 2000 it’s in its 20th year. The Death Race is a cross-country road race, but as well as points for finishing first, the most important element is killing people. You get points for offing various sorts of folks, with the highest scores going to the elderly and infirm (as who needs them, right?)

 

So you’ve got the race, which is the majority of the movie; the hideous commentators; and the resistance, led by Thomasina Paine, which is trying to bring down the Bipartisan Party and bring back democracy. Simple, effective, no padding or nonsense of any kind.

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The racers are truly amazing. Star is Frankenstein (David Carradine), who wears a leather mask and cap in public to hide his hideously scarred face and prosthetic limbs; then there’s “Machine Gun” Joe Viterbo (Sylvester Stallone), Nero The Hero (Martin Kove), Calamity Jane (Woronov) and Matilda the Hun, fully decked out in Nazi regalia along with her co-pilot Herman The German. The competitors are magnificently over the top and treat their job with relish, in different ways – Frankenstein appears the calmer type, but he’ll run over a bunch of doctors and wants to win as badly as anyone else. Frankenstein’s co-pilot is the stunning Simone Griffeth, and their relationship is cleverly written and central to the side-plots.

 

A lot of critics seem to think that the frightening aspects of this film are an accident, that Corman’s sole desire was to churn out a quickie to hoover up some of the money that future-sport classic “Rollerball” was going to get in 1975. I disagree. Corman wrote the original treatment for the movie, and realised that his serious take on the subject wasn’t cutting it, so handed it off to be reworked into a comedy – but his support for the little guy against the right-wing forces running the USA, demonstrated in this and many other of his movies, was present from the beginning. The ending is darker than it first appears, if you think about it for more than a few minutes, and that’s no accident either – Bartel and Corman may have both taken delight in shlock, gore, wildly OTT comedy and violence, but they had a social conscience, and it’s that melding that makes “Death Race 2000” the classic that it is.

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Compare it to the recent “remake”, which is a great film, but a great mainstream one – the competitors are forced to take part (in this, they’re very willing participants); it’s more race and less death; and they feel the need to waste time with backstory (this movie starts on the starting line of the race, and is much better for it). It’s not so much that “Death Race 2000” wouldn’t get made today – although it wouldn’t – it’s that no-one in the mainstream movie business would even think of making it.

 

Why is this movie so damned good? Entirely leaving aside the fun technical aspects of it – the driving, the gore effects – we have a very nihilist core, perhaps the blackest of all black comedies. The Nazis are seen as charming good guys, for one, and that’s just an entrée to the way that killing people is now the most popular spectator sport of them all. I mentioned above how it’s a product of its time, the oil-paranoid mid 70s, but as society keeps getting worse, while our mainstream entertainment becomes ever more safe and bland, “Death Race 2000” appears more prescient and frightening than it did then.

 

Rating: thumbs up

Bloodfist 6: Ground Zero (1995)

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I imagine the conversation about this movie went something like this:

 

CORMAN: Do you want the next Bloodfist to rip off either “Under Siege”, “The Rock” or “Die Hard”?

DON “The Dragon” WILSON: Yes!

 

It’s a cheap Roger Corman-produced cover version of those three action classics! I could really abandon the review here and you’d have a fairly good idea of what this film would be like, but I don’t get paid the big bucks (earnings so far: £0) to just write five lines!

 

A good indicator of what this film will be like is contained in its very first scene. A naked woman strolls across the shot (Catya Sassoon, who played a different villain in part 5), talking to Major Tillman, whose woodenness is understandable when you realise who he is. Steve Garvey was famous in the late 70s and 80s as first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers (baseball, in case you were wondering), then for many years hosted a series of “celebrity” golf and fishing shows on ESPN, while acting very sporadically. He appears to have never gotten that good at it.  Anyway, she’s an undercover villain, and a group of Islamic terrorists sneak and shoot their way into control of a nuclear weapon base.

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Luckily, stopping to bandage up the foot of a rabbit means military courier Nick Corrigan (Wilson) is late getting to the base and misses the slaughter; but Tillman manages to slip one of the keys to trigger the nuclear weapons to him so he becomes involved. After a couple of fairly complex (in terms of your average martial arts film) thrillers, it’s interesting to see the series take another swerve into more traditional action movie territory. It’s got the mysterious European villain (bearing a striking resemblance to Timothy Olyphant, who would have been great in this); the crazily OTT plot (a plan to launch nukes at every major city in the USA) and the lone hero with radio communication to the outside (in this case, the Major who has to suffer the sexist jibes and wrong analysis of her superiors).

 

The low budget shows most obviously in the way most of the movie takes place in the same two corridors, with no attempt made to make them look different; and the way they hired a baseball player in a major dramatic role. But they do as decent a job as possible, and Wilson is great as usual. I loved the “but he’s the most badass Special Forces guy ever who was busted down for being too awesome!” reveal when they wondered how a simple courier could take on a base full of terrorists too.

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If you can put this film’s more famous cinematic parents far from your mind, you’ll have fun with this one. It’s fast, it’s fun, it gets the job done with a minimum of fuss. If you’ve got a fetish for films where millions of rounds of ammunition are fired off and maybe three guys actually get hit with a bullet, then this is definitely the film for you! Seriously, you terrorists, learn to shoot!

 

Rating: thumbs up

Mind Storm (1996)

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Ian Ziering has managed to resurrect his career, and will no doubt be starring in a network sitcom or a few big-budget films as soon as the Sharknado series is done. But he never really stopped working, and even when he was in the middle of his decade on “Beverly Hills 90210” he appeared in films during summer hiatus. Fortunately for us, one of them had the same name as the last film I reviewed, and was available for free on Youtube!

Eh, perhaps he should have just gone fishing, or read a few good books, because this really wasn’t worth his time. He’s Darrin, a computer game designer who takes a job with CTC, who might as well have a board outside their offices reading “A Completely Evil Corporation”. They’ve got some business going on where they do subliminal badness with their games, although the subliminal messages just look like what happened to a new computer when it boots up. Just flashing up “ANGIE” and “SEX” is enough to make you want to have sex with Angie, apparently.

So, there’s evil corporate drones, and someone’s offing people by using the computer program to send them individual messages. But here’s the thing – if you know that you make evil subliminal message programs, and you get a mysterious CD in the mail, would you touch it? These people are pretty dumb.

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“MInd Storm” is known under a great variety of names, possibly because its original title, “Subliminal Seduction”, is rubbish. So you’ve got “The Corporation,” and “Roger Corman Presents Flash Frame”, as well as “Mind Storm”.

What you also get is boobs. Ziering is involved in quite a few steamy scenes, involving his wife (Katherine Kelly Lang) and a few of the other corporate ladies. There’s little more erotic than brainwashed sex! Anyway, with this, the Stepford Wives vibe that comes across, and the slow reveal of just what CTC are up to, you’re not left too bored at any moment.

I’m sort of stumped as to what to think of this film. It’s surprisingly tense and decent for what it is, but the computer tech is laughably awful, and although they do a lot of clever shooting to make it look like they’ve got some great sets, that cheap TV movie stank is all over it (this one was made for US channel Showtime).

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Corman is a master of doing a lot with a little, so enjoy the surprisingly clever moments, and wonder if even by picking films virtually at random I’ll ever get away from him and Jim Wynorski (listed here as a production executive). Damn you!

Rating: thumbs down

Youtube Film Club – Sorceress (1982)

Weirdly, all this stuff is in the film

Weirdly, all this stuff is in the film

Misleading title alert! While “Sorceress” is a cool enough title for a film, there are no sorceresses in it. There’s a bloke who does magic, and two barbarian heroines, but that’s your lot.

Jim Wynorski is both a hero and a villain for us at the ISCFC. Hero because he made a heck of a lot of entertaining low-budget monster movies; and villain because those entertaining movies stopped around the turn of the millennium and turned into dreck, plus his attitude to women might reasonably be said to be somewhat behind the times – watch “Popatopolis” if you’d like any further evidence. He got his start thanks to the great Roger Corman, this is his first credit of any sort and although he only wrote it, the template for his later career is there.

 
There’s a whole heap of fantasy names at the beginning, so I’ll put them all up here, and you can refer back to this paragraph if you get lost. A guy called Krona is a sort of good wizard; someone called Kalgara is an evil deity; a fellow called Tragon, who looks awfully similar to serial killer Peter “The Yorkshire Ripper” Sutcliffe, is a bad wizard; and there’s a couple of twin babies called Mara and Mira. Tragon wants to sacrifice one of the babies, who he fathered, in order to…definitely something to do with Kalgara.

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After being sure to let everyone know that girl babies are literally the most pointless thing in the world, Tragon gets killed (but he has three lives, because of course) and Krona rescues the children. But not for long! Because he’s got important stuff to go and do, he just gives the babies power to be the most awesome warriors ever – the power of “The Two Who Are One” – and packs them off to his old friend Dorgon to be their foster-dad. The film really kicks off 20 years later, when they’ve grown up into Playboy Playmates Leigh and Lynette Harris, and when their village is raided by the troops of the freshly resurrected Tragon.

I don’t just want to recap the film for you all, but this scene has a lot of oddness about it, so allow me to linger. The troops slaughter all the villagers, but Mara and Mira are saved thanks to their bad-ass fighting powers, plus a very late assist from barbarian Valdar and his satyr sidekick, who had previously been ogling the ladies as they swam naked. Even later is Krona, who turns up after everyone is dead. Thanks for that lifetime of protection you promised them! Tragon is all hot and bothered about “The Two Who Are One” as well, despite all that stuff happening after he died the first time. Unless it just means they’re twins?

Anyway, they swing by the nearest town to pick up Valdar’s friend Erlick, who’s the main romantic lead in the movie – despite being of normal height, Valdar is the spitting image of every fantasy dwarf you’ve ever seen – and then set off for Tragon’s castle. They make half an effort to pretend the twins are boys, but the wardrobe department puts them in skirts and makes sure we can all see their huge breasts, which may have given the game away.

There’s twists and turns aplenty on their way to the castle. The two girls have been brought up totally innocently, so don’t know about the difference between men and women; there’s the jolliest group of sacrificial virgins you’ve ever seen; and…well, another scene I need to describe in a little more detail. One of the twins and Erlick are captured and brainwashed, and there’s a whole thing about how he needs to impregnate her for some sacrifice or other. But the twins are linked, so what one feels the other feels, and while we don’t get the love scene, we see the other twin writhing round on the floor in orgasmic bliss while a dwarf and a satyr look on. Valdar realises what’s going on, and seems incredibly proud of his friend’s sexual prowess – weirdly so, in fact.

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Add on to all this one of the strangest climactic battles I’ve seen in a long time and the battle of the two gods in mid-air, and you’ve got a recipe for huh? It’s a feast of terrible acting (half the cast are dubbed, and the extras seem like they’re working at gunpoint), crappy special effects and exactly the sort of film you’d expect to have two Playboy models starring in it. Oh, and topped off with a wonderfully sexist coda!

The director, Jack Hill, had his name taken off this film after feeling Corman treated him like garbage – refusing his one casting request and drastically cutting the special effects budget- and this was his last ever film. Still, Quentin Tarantino has helped bring his name out of purgatory in recent years and he’s still fondly remembered for his 70s blaxploitation films.

Despite all this, the film was a big hit, although watching it now I’ve got no idea why. It’s a right load of old rubbish, is what I’m saying. If you want a sword-and-sorcery film, heck, even if you want one with Jim Wynorski involvement, then Deathstalker 2 is the way to go. I’d only recommend this if you were some weird completist for every film starring a Playboy playmate.

Rating: thumbs down