Guns And Lipstick (1995)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Rating: thumbs down

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Double Threat (1992)

I had a whole thing planned for the beginning of this review based on a line from the “official” IMDB synopsis. It reads in part: “The plot becomes difficult to follow as it changes between real life and the movie they are making.” I was expecting some bonkers David A Prior film-within-a-film nonsense, like 1990’s “Invasion Force”.

But it turns out that doesn’t happen, and IMDB are lying to us. There’s a grand total of two scenes from the movie they’re working on, and it’s totally obvious that’s what it is (because the characters have different names, for one). So let’s journey through this “erotic thriller” together and see if he’s figured out how to make one by now, eh?

Anyway. Sally Kirkland, Oscar-nominated (“Anna”, 1987) and way too classy for this, is Monica Martel, an ageing movie star who’s attempting a comeback after 20 years away. We’re never informed what caused her hiatus, but she’s back, and starring in an erotic thriller alongside her much younger boyfriend Eric Cline (Andrew Stevens, “Mongolian Death Worm”...and “Dallas”, “Massacre At Central High” and tons of other things – best known now as a producer, though). When the director shows the producer what he’s got, the producer (Tony Franciosa, who was in “Tenebrae” and tons of other great things, and was also nominated for an Oscar, in 1958’s “A Hatful Of Rain”) likes it, but says there needs to be more flesh. I mean, he’s not wrong, as no-one watches this nonsense for the plot.

So they hire a body double, Lisa. She’s played by Sherrie Rose, who we first met in the extraordinary “Summer Job”, and is now something of an ISCFC regular, appearing in “Lauderdale”, “No Retreat, No Surrender 3”, and “No Retreat, No Surrender 4” (as a different character).

While Monica does not want to take her clothes off for the movie she’s making, Sally Kirkland has no such issues, and we’re treated to a scene of her masturbating to a video of Eric lifting weights, and a few topless segments later on. Anyway, she’s furious about the body double but there’s nothing she can do, so after the necessary introductions we get a love scene between Eric and Lisa which is, I have say, not how I’d film a sex scene involving a body double. I’d probably do it by filming Monica’s face in close-up looking all excited, then filming a variety of shots of the naked Lisa, but making sure her face wasn’t in shot or was obscured. They just straight-up film the scene with Lisa instead of Monica here. Regular ISCFC readers may remember Prior’s “Deadly Dancer”, which features one of the craziest uses of a body double in history, and maybe he got mocked for it so much that he decided to make it a plot point in a future movie?

There’s also a cop lurking round proceedings, played by Richard Lynch (“Invasion Force”, “Scanner Cop”, “Terminal Virus”, “Cyborg 3”, “Puppet Master 3”), who suspects Eric of some unspecified but serious crime; and the producer is immediately established as a nice guy, which is a really weird choice. He’s Lisa’s Dad and the ex-husband of Monica, which I’m ashamed to say I completely missed the first time I watched it – yes, reader, I’m thorough.

Right, I’d best get on with it, if you wanted a vague recap of the movie you could just head to IMDB. Eric is a dog from minute 1 and tries to get with Lisa, Monica suspects and Eric barely tries to pretend he’s not going to have sex with her the first chance he gets. There’s a PI sniffing round, paid by person or persons unknown, a one-scene appearance by Ted Prior as a hoodlum, and another nice hefty clue in the shape of a missing gun which is full of blanks.

Aside: Again, I’m not a director, but the movie-within-a-movie scene where Monica tries to shoot Eric but there’s no bullets is ended by the director saying they’ll have to shoot the entire thing again. Er, why? It cuts to Monica right before she pulls the trigger, why not just shoot that bit again? David A Prior, you’d been making movies for over a decade by this point, you must have been aware of that, right?

The plot lurches all over the place in the last half-hour, as people try to kill other people, and people react weirdly to being told they’re being cheated on, and there’s an extremely risky strategy to expose the real villain. You know, one of those house-of-cards plans that just needs one thing to happen in a slightly different way to bring everything crashing down. But I’ll try and avoid spoilers, even though…are you going to spend all the effort I did to track down a VHS copy of this movie and watch it? Probably not, honestly. Just ask yourself – these people appear to have known each other for some time. Would there not have been family photos lying round? Or parties that family members were invited to?

I’ll say no more. Prior shoots this like every other bland TV movie, flat lighting, scene transitions like in TV, and were it not for Kirkland going all out to make it better than it deserved to be, it would totally appear to be every late-night Cinemax soft-core erotic thriller you’d ever seen (not that I’m implying you’ve seen a lot of them, dear reader, that’s just me). There’s just a little bit too much of that thing where the movie deliberately misleads you, rather than writing a clever script, and characters when there’s no one around to fool, acting like they don’t know each other when they very much do. Still, it’s nice to see a change from Prior.

It’s also nice to see a professional cast. While I don’t love Andrew Stephens, he’s a fine leading man; Kirkland is superb; Lynch is great too; the supporting cast are all okay; and Sherrie Rose deserved a much better career than these bottom-of-the-barrel movies we love so much here at the ISCFC. The budget remains high, though, with a car getting wrecked for no reason, and actual sets to accompany the real actors he’d hired.

Next up is a movie starring David Keith, Robert Hays, Stacy Keach, Charles Napier, and…Pamela Anderson? I presume it was filmed some time before its 1994 release date, as she was among the most famous women in the world by that time, two seasons into “Baywatch”, appearing on “Home Improvement” and getting her own starring vehicles.

Rating: thumbs down