Heatseeker (1995)

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This guy isn’t in the movie

Like any sensible B-movie enthusiast, I was drawn to “Heatseeker” by its amazing IMDB description.

“A kickboxing champion is forced to fight cyborgs in a tournament when the company kidnaps his fiancee.”

Given its free availability on Youtube, I hope there’s at least a few of you who’ve already stopped reading this review and have gone to watch it. But for those of a more cautious bent, read on!

Time to deflate that excitement bubble. Writing, producing and directing is one Albert Pyun, who we’ve encountered many times – from “The Sword And The Sorceror” to “Cyborg” to “Captain America” to “Dollman” to the “Nemesis” series, he’s genuinely one of the worst directors to have ever been employed for as long as he has (34 years and counting). His particular directorial fetish is to not show how one scene connects to the next scene, and that’s in full effect here. Joining him are some of his favourite actors – most notably for us, ISCFC Hall of Famer (if we had one) Tim Thomerson, as a futuristic corporate type who appears to have turned up in “Hunger Games” cosplay gear; but also, Norbert Weisser (too many Full Moon movies to bother counting) and Thom Matthews (“Return Of The Living Dead”), among many others.

“Heatseeker” (why is it called Heatseeker? No bloody idea) rests on a number of very shaky premises. But before I get to them, I’d best fill in the plot. Chance O’Brien (Keith Cooke, who was also in both “China O’Brien” movies, so I’m sure just a coincidence on the name) is the world full contact karate champion. In the far off future of 2019, all the other fighters are cybernetically enhanced (to a maximum of 10% of their body mass) but he’s pure human, and is still the best. At the beginning, we see him defeat the uber-powerful Xao (Gary Daniels, who can be great but really isn’t here), but we also see the Sianon Corporation build an entirely new cybernetic body for Xao, who I guess is just a brain and a nervous system at this point.

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Sianon has had the idea of putting their cybernetic enhancements to the test against those of the other cyber-corporations, and to that end puts on a tournament in international waters, so all the psychopathic fighters can kill their opponents with impunity. Each corp sends their best fighter, with their best enhancements (up to a limit of 50% of body mass this time), and the winner will dominate the tech market for the foreseeable future. But there’s a problem! Chance wants nothing to do with it, so…well, you know, having read the first line of the review. There is a cool scene where Xao invades Chance’s post-title defence press conference, a classic sports movie trick, so I guess we shouldn’t complain too much.

A solid hour of the movie is just this fight league, with one guy we’ve never seen before fighting another guy we’ve never seen before, along with a very upbeat commentary as this is obviously being shown on whatever TV channel was in “Videodrome”, as there are a ton of murders and mutilations in it.

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The idea of corporations and their different tech is sort of similar to the story of how the UFC started. The Gracie family from Brazil wanted to both make a lot of money, and to show how superior Gracie jiu-jitsu was, so put on a tournament where the masters of a bunch of styles got together and fought (this was before every fighter worth his salt cross-trained in every different style) – it’s possible that’s where Pyun got his inspiration from (UFC started in 1993, this is from 1995).

Let’s deal with the first baffling premise. Part of why corporate bad guy Tsui Tung (Weisser) kidnaps Jo (Tina Cote), Chance’s trainer / fiancée, is so she can help Xao. But not in terms of his fighting style, which is almost perfect, but in terms of his heart, by pretending to love him, which will apparently make him a better fighter. Jo, quite reasonably, tells him to go forth and multiply, but he shows her tape of Xao and says if she doesn’t play along, Xao will kill Chance. Okay, I guess, but wouldn’t it have been a ton easier to just lock her up and pay some prostitute to provide the “girlfriend experience” for a week or two? He is in charge of the world’s biggest cybernetics corporation, after all, so can’t be short of a few quid. They end up having sex at least once, and as she’s being coerced into it, it leaves a distinctly unpleasant taste in the mouth.

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There’s a very big and very odd elephant in the room, though. The whole point of this tournament is to decide which corporation is better, but Tung also wants Xao to get revenge on Chance. If you’re already stacking the deck in your favour by having 50% cybernetic enhancements (and not really checking when people cheat and use even more), and the pure human is able to hold his own in any way against your robot, that’s a terrible endorsement for your product! Although it’s never mentioned (Pyun not being a fan of explanations of stuff) Chance’s lack of enhancements seems to be a personal choice, so people who also don’t want cyber-enhancements are not part of your target audience. Why bother involving him at all and taking the risk? I’m pretty sure this question never occurred to anyone during the making of “Heatseeker”, because that question asker would also have asked about the title, and that would have set a house of cards crashing down, I’m sure.

I do need to mention the ending, so spoilers ahoy. Jo is being very visibly held at gunpoint by one of Tung’s goons, on camera, and then when Chance starts beating Xao, pretty easily, Tung grabs his gun and storms the stage. The commentator then continues to commentate on the murder and mayhem all around – hold on mate, aren’t you a corporate employee? Shouldn’t you cut to adverts or something when your CEO starts shooting people? Also, how does Xao get beat worse the second time around, when his opponent is fighting injured (broken wrist, acid-burned hands) and he’s got way more and better cybernetic implants? And why are there so many white Europeans with Asian names in this movie?

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Hopefully this has provided you with a flavour of how terrible this movie is. It’s almost literally impossible to care about most of the fight scenes, because they’re just random dudes; the acting is either way over the top (Weisser) or wooden as hell (everyone else); and Pyun is a crappy director, with his one redeeming quality (to his employers) being he delivers the right amount of footage, on time and on budget (this was apparently shot in 11 days, and it shows). Still, one more for you “fighting tournament movie” completists, and one more to add to your “never watch ever” list for the rest of you.

Rating: thumbs down

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Cherry 2000 (1988)

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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.

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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.

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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

Delirium magazine #4

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nemesis 3: Time Lapse (1996)

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I feel like maybe I took a very unusual drug this lunchtime, or reality itself is bending around me. Or maybe I just saw a really bad film. Anyway, I’m going to try and recap the third in the “Nemesis” franchise and help you all understand just what happened.

Tim Thomerson is back! After dying then not dying at the end of part 1, he’s “Farnsworth 2”, sent back to the present day from 2077 in order to capture and return Alex, who has DNA that will…nah, still not sure on that one. I think she’s like a super-human-soldier who will help in the future war against the cyborgs, but you’re forgiven for not remembering that as we’re now two entire films from the last time we saw the slightest evidence of this future war.

Anyway, Alex wakes up in the middle of an empty plain, still somewhere in East Africa, with amnesia. She wanders back along the path of her own footsteps and eventually meets Farnsworth 2. He appears to want to help her, but holds a gun on her a few times, which she seems not to be too bothered about. He gives her some sedative or other, she stumbles about his jeep for about ten minutes, with regular flashbacks to the action of part 2, and then she eventually sort of remembers what’s going on and shoots him.

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“22 hours earlier”! Okay, here we go. How did Alex get from the jeep she was taken away in at the end of part 2 to her predicament at the beginning of part 3? This film represents the fullest flowering of director Albert Pyun’s complete inability to show how one thing follows another in any sort of logical sense. In fact, while watching this film you may come to the conclusion, as I did, that the scenes could be arranged in pretty much any order and the film certainly wouldn’t be any worse.

If you’d like an example of this, I’ll provide a timeline. Let’s say time goes A – B – C – D – E. Event E should follow event D, and so on. Here’s that order for this film:
D – E – B – A – C (with a tiny bit of extra E at the end)
If there were a reason for this – if it helped the film in any way, I’d understand. If it were designed to be deliberately odd, as an experiment, I’d understand. But this isn’t so much confusing as pointless. Watching Alex through the film, I was genuinely baffled as to her whereabouts in her actual timeline at any moment.

Farnsworth 2 is after Alex, as are a couple of future bounty hunters. They appear to be Lady Gaga lookalikes, but Lady Gaga after she became a gym freak for a couple of years. They laugh at each other all the time, and in one scene they’re wearing those jokey sex t-shirts – “Cyborgs Do It With…” but I couldn’t read the last bit. Surely if they have a sense of humour, our job as humans is pretty much over? I say let the cyborgs have control of the planet. Anyway, a bunch of people are after Alex, she finds a few friends, bang bang bang, the end.

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I don’t think there’s enough negative words for me to use about this film. But I’ll try. First up, a quick mention of the location. We’re still in East Africa somewhere, so you might reasonably expect there to be a few black people knocking about. Not a single black face since halfway through part 2, film fans. Second up is Alex herself, Sue Price. Because this film has so much less action in it than 2, we rely on her actually acting, and she’s really really not good at it. Not her fault (as I mentioned in my last review, the three Nemesis sequels are her only film credits of any kind) but it makes it really tough to watch.

But the big picture is where all the problems lie. What’s the point of this film? A curious question to ask, given I’ve seen it and you (probably) haven’t, but I really haven’t got a bloody clue. I’ll go bullet-points, to see if I can work out the throughline of these three films:

* Cyborgs are slowly taking over the world
* Olivier Gruner, you think, has stopped them, but they wanted sequels so he failed
* Cyborgs take over completely, and enslave humanity
* Human scientists invent some super DNA which could turn the tides
* They send the first super-baby back in time to 1980
* She grows up, and the cyborgs from the future send people back to kill her

The first five points are done with by 3 minutes into part 2. The last bullet point is virtually the entirety of the last two films, and that’s it. There’s no development, there’s no sense that she’s closer to any sort of understanding of the overarching problem or her place in it, there’s no sense that the world of 2077 has been affected in the slightest by the events of the sequels, nothing. If the films were better, if they worked on their own merits, then at least there’d be something. But all it really is is a woman running about Africa, getting shot at and shooting other people, for no reason. Oh, and she kisses a guy with a mental age of 3 at one point.

IMDB. normally as impartial as possible, stops pretending here. The first line of their synopsis is “Using footage left over from Nemesis 2 and a very thin story line sees Alex again fighting the cyborg mercenaries in 1998 East Africa”. Thank you, IMDB.

Even Tim Thomerson can’t save this one. It is unbearably boring, and absolutely pointless. I will force myself to watch part 4, then destroy the part of my brain with memories of the three sequels with strong booze. Please, part 4, don’t be in Africa again. Please do something.

Rating: thumbs down

 

Youtube Film Club – Nemesis (1992)

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We review all sorts of films here – from comedy to horror to oddball documentaries to martial arts. My real love, though, is for the B-movies of the 80s and 90s – when video rental meant that there was budget enough for even relatively cheap films to look great (compared to movies of a similar ilk from today). If it’s vaguely sci-fi-related and was made in the era of straight-to-VHS, chances are I’ll give it the time of day.

Even though he’s not even the star of this movie, the same applies double to Tim Thomerson. We’ve long admired his stuff at the ISCFC – from the “Trancers” series, to “Metalstorm”, to “Dollman” (with which this film shares a director and a few cast members) – he’s a former standup who made the move into acting, and has been busy pretty much constantly since the early 80s.

In this one, he’s the police commissioner Farnsworth in the year 2027, trying to coax Alex (Olivier Gruner) out of “retirement”. Now, things will immediately get complicated, and if you want a badly written recap of the film you can just go to Wikipedia, so I’ll try and sum it up quickly for you. Alex is a cop, who is forced by injury to get more and more cybernetic enhancements, and feels a bit ambivalent about this. He meets a group called the Red Army Hammerheads, who realise there’s some cyber-armageddon coming and want to save humanity from robot clones and so on. He quits the police, then becomes a smuggler, then is captured by Farnsworth and sent off to try and track down his former partner, who’s stolen some cybernetic secrets or other.

There’s double-crossing, and discussion about what it means to be human, oh and Alex has a bomb implanted in his heart on the off chance he doesn’t want to help Farnsworth out. You know, normal stuff. The majority of the film, just about, is set in a place called Shang-Lu, which is designed to represent the melting pot that is the future (Japan and the USA have merged, with the USA the weak partner, which tells you the age of this film better than a birth certificate). But you’re left on the back foot a little by the direction – he goes from being a cop, to being a burnout in some remote village, to being an undercover cop in Shang-Lu, and there’s no real sense of transition between the scenes. You have to be on the ball to follow it, that’s for sure.

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The one thing this film absolutely nails is the action scenes, though. Gruner is a former kickboxer and Army special forces guy, and despite this being only his second film, he does what he needs to do pretty well. He was probably never going to be a star on the level of a Schwarzenegger or a Norris or even a JCVD, but he’s a reasonable actor and great at the physical stuff. He’s helped with some surprisingly inventive special effects and stunt work – them running from a gigantic collapsing industrial tower is absolutely real (and must have been pretty terrifying), and a scene where Gruner takes a very short route to the ground floor of a building has been copied in bigger-budget films since.

Along with Thomerson, this film also features some B-movie royalty, in the shape of Brion James, and two people who went on to bigger and better things, Jackie Earle Haley (who was also in “Dollman”) and Thomas Jane. Jane is entirely naked during his performance, even though you only see a back view, should that be your cup of tea.

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Albert Pyun is renowned as one of the worst directors ever, apparently, but I’ve rather enjoyed the films of his I’ve seen. His original idea for this film was to cast a 13-year old Megan Ward as the Olivier Gruner character, but his backers told him he could do whatever he wanted as long as he changed the star to their prefered person. I think he slipped in a few references to this – there are a lot of androgynous names in this, or women with traditionally “male” names. There’s some oddities, like he can’t do transitions worth a damn (Gruner and his sidekick go for a run near the end, and go through jungle, forests and a snowy mountainous region all in the same jog). But otherwise he’s made a tense, action-packed sci-fi thriller whose only flaw really is the plot is a bit too dense.

Nemesis (Albert Pyun, 1992)

So hopefully you’ve already watched it now, because I just wanted to chat about the ending a little. Gruner and his sidekick, having defeated all comers, are on their way to finish off the cyborg baddies. Credits ready to roll, and then as they walk off into the distance we hear a voice saying “shall we kill them now?” and Tim Thomerson replies “why wait?” Even though they’d shot his skin off in one of the more amazing stunts in the film, and then destroyed his robot body, there he was at the end, still alive and kicking. BORING! Why do films feel it’s a cheat to just have a happy ending?

Anyway, that minor criticism aside, this is a fun film, and with three sequels (none of which had any Gruner involvement, apparently), it’s tickled my fancy enough that we’ll be reviewing all four.

Rating: thumbs up

Dollman vs. Demonic Toys (1993)

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It’s a rare film that manages to be the sequel to three different films – in fact, “Dollman v. Demonic Toys” is probably unique in that regard. But what isn’t unique is recycling footage and the truly insane Full Moon dedication to deliberately ignoring their own continuity, and we fans of that particular cinematic subset get plenty to chew on in this.

This is made up of significant portions (in flashback) of “Dollman”, “Demonic Toys” and “Bad Channels”. Dollman, who we saw briefly after the end credits of “Bad Channels”, is hitch-hiking to the town that film took place in, because he wants to make the woman who was left shrunk feel better about herself – an admirable and noble endeavour, no doubt. We then get caught up with Judith (Tracy Scoggins)from “Demonic Toys”, who relives the events of the first film in a dream while waiting outside that same toy warehouse. Now, if you’re thinking a toy warehouse that suffered significant damage and was the location of several murders would be unlikely to carry on in the same line of work, you’d be right – and if you think it’d be unlikely they’d still be carrying the same shitty toys they were before, well, double rightness for you. Anyway, some dead hobo’s blood is enough to kickstart the demonic toys this time, and Judith (already on suspension) is arrested and loses her badge for going into the warehouse, finding the toys again and opening fire.

The last of the three is Nurse Ginger, the remaining shrunken person from “Bad Channels”, living her life in a surprisingly well-made set and making her bed in a kitchen drawer. Only, there’s a slight problem here – she was alive, well and of normal size at the end of that movie, and it was Bunny who was left inside the glass tube. Now, every other dumb error in a Full Moon film I can chalk up to laziness or incompetence, but they actually show a clip of the end of “Bad Channels!! Given this is only 64 minutes long, they had plenty of time to explain why Nurse Ginger agreed to come back for a sequel and Bunny didn’t. It’s yet another perplexing chapter to Full Moon’s story.

"I don't understand why you're back for the sequel either"

“I don’t understand why you’re back for the sequel either”

Anyway, Dollman and Nurse Ginger almost immediately fall for each other, then for reasons which – again – aren’t terribly well developed, Judith turns up asking for Dollman’s help in kicking the demonic toys’ asses, and he agrees. As well as the three main toys from the first one, we get Zombietoid, who’s a Duke Nukem-looking fellow – but like before, only Baby Oopsy Daisy gets dialogue.

I thought they were going to handwave away the first Demonic Toys as a dream sequence until Scoggins made a brief mention of the kid she was pregnant with during that film, and while you have to admire their balls in cobbling together three unrelated franchises, shooting a few days worth of new footage and calling it a new thing, you don’t have to be terribly entertained by it. Tim Thomerson is always good value, though, and his comedy roots can’t help but show through – he seems like he’s in on the joke in a way that the filmmakers probably didn’t intend – but the strong smell of pointlessness permeates every bit of this film.

There’s a “Demonic Toys 2” from 2010 which features characters from a 1997 film called “Hideous!”, so look forward to reviews of both of them soon.

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Dollman (1991) – or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Full Moon Films

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Tim Thomerson is the B-movie seal of quality. No matter where he is, you can rely on him to take everything seriously, but with a little twinkle in his eye that lets you know he’s enjoying himself with whatever oddball plotline this film has. As you may have guessed from the title and the poster above these words, he has plenty of opportunities to do so in this.

10,000 light years from Earth is planet Arturos, and Thomerson is Brick Bardo, a cop with an attitude – imagine Dirty Harry, but an even bigger asshole. It seems you can blow a lot of body parts off someone on this world and they can stay alive, so no-one seems especially surprised when Brick’s nemesis is revealed to be a head, mounted on a sort of flying platform. Anyway, they have a disagreement (floaty head is annoyed that Brick keeps shooting him, Brick is annoyed he keeps not dying) so there’s a fight and BRICK’S GUN IS AMAZING. He gets anywhere near you and you’re blowing up in a shower of bits and pieces. Anyway, the fight transfers to little flying car / spaceship things, through a wormhole and…he wakes up crashlanded on some industrial wasteground near New York!

Both hero and villain survive, but unfortunately their world is a bit different to ours, six times different to be precise. Brick is 13 inches tall on our world, and his gun isn’t quite as amazing as it is on Arturos, but he’s still able to help Debi Alejandro, a tough and brilliant young woman who’s trying to bring up a kid, hold down a tough job and fight against the gangs peddling drugs on the streets. Floaty Head helps the villains, obviously, led by Jackie Earle Haley, post-Bad News Bears and long-pre-Watchmen.

Without giving this film too much credit, it has a surprising amount to say about the world. Haley, while undoubtedly villainous, realises that the rest of the world doesn’t care about either him, Debi, or anyone else in the inner city, and has just chosen a different path. Debi’s attempts to organise a Neighbourhood Watch only really kick off when Brick starts killing the gang members, and the local cops obviously couldn’t care less.

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The special effects are actually pretty good. They get round their problems by rarely having Brick share the screen with anyone else, and although there’s an awful model shot in one scene, most of the time they handle things well. The end of Floaty Head is both shocking and hilarious.

All in all, thumbs up for this film. Fun, good action, and even though the Dimension Bomb at the end is a bit of an irrelevance, it all sort of made sense.

Allow me a slight diversion on the subject of Charles Band and Full Moon Films. I’ve reviewed quite a few of their films, and seen even more, but what surprises me is how he gets so much from so little. As much as I hated certain films in the Puppet Master series, the really bad ones weren’t directed by him; and in terms of producer credits, Band is as prolific as Roger Corman ever was. Often, he’ll make a low budget go a long way, and his films usually have a knowing wink to the genre-savvy audience – even though everyone on screen takes it seriously. That the “Puppet Master” films had none of that makes them baffling, but maybe I’m reading too much into them.

Making genre films is tough business, as no-one will turn on you faster than us nerds. That he’s been able to keep at it as long as he is testament to at least some understanding of what people want to watch; he’s never turned into a virtual porn merchant like Jim Wynorski either, and while some of his films aren’t that great, they’re at least entertaining enough to be worth a rental (virtual or otherwise).

Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983)

I know what the ISCFC’s readers like, and that’s films where the title bears very little resemblance to the action contained within. There’s no storm, metal or otherwise, in this, and the destruction of Jared-Syn? Well, I’ll leave that to you to find out.

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This film, rather unsurprisingly, feels like a mashup of many different films – we get scenes “inspired” by Star Wars, Dune, Mad Max, sword & sorcery movies, westerns, and many others. This mashup appears to extend to the plot, which is so confusing I had to look it up on Wikipedia to see how close to right I was with my initial guess (not very). Deep breath…

A guy called Dogen is venturing across the galaxy to track down a super-criminal called Jared-Syn, who’s ended up on the desert planet of Lemuria. Syn is now, for some reason, in charge of a race of one-eyed fellas who apparently gouge their eyes out in some ritual or other; and his son, a green-skinned chap with metal all over his face and an arm which is actually a weird gun that shoots green gloop (I know), is wandering the desert trying to…seriously? I can’t believe how dumb this plot is. The son is trying to start a war with the human miners of some precious substance, also on this planet, in order to get all the warring alien races together, so Jared-Syn can become their ruler, kick the humans off and get all the lovely mining rights for himself. Unfortunately, the people who made the son’s make-up / mask didn’t think of making one that could move, so he keeps the same expression throughout and all his dialogue appears as if it’s telepathy.

Apart from a few minutes right near the end, none of this has any relevance at all to the film. In case you were wondering.

This is one of those early 80s films that got lucky with its casting. Kelly Preston plays the daughter of a prospector who finds a huge crystal, only to be killed by Syn’s son. Preston, wandering and grief-stricken, is found by Dogen, and the two of them find they have some super-powerful bond that gives Dogen some weird strength and energy boost (but does nothing for the woman, of course, she is a prize to be claimed and not an actual character!) They both want Jared-Syn dead, but get separated blah blah blah.

On his way back to her, he hooks up with a drunk old hunter called Rhodes, played by Tim Thomerson. It appears the director (Charles Band, the guy responsible for the Puppet Master series too) liked Thomerson enough to make him the star of his “Trancers” series a few years later, as well – man, I love the “Trancers” films. I might have to review them soon. They encounter, fight and then befriend Hurok, played by Richard Moll from TV’s “Night Court”…okay, it’s not the greatest cast of all time, but it’s rare to find a film like this that features people on their way up the ladder.

Never mind this lot, the real star of the movie is Jared-Syn. He reminds me of Bennett from “Commando”, with his extremely camp but psychopathic performance, and he steals every scene he’s in comfortably. You kind of want him to win just because he’s so much fun, even though you know he won’t.

You magnificent bastard

You magnificent bastard

There are lots of driving scenes in this film, from the POV of the front bumper of the car. As it’s a desert planet, there are dune buggies everywhere, but these are crappy dune buggies with thin wheels. I know nothing about cars, but I know cars in the sand need wide wheels, so they don’t just sink. During one of the numerous chase scenes, tons of the bad guys die through sheer incompetence, driving off hillsides or just crashing into other bad guys – and their cars are made of petrol, because the slightest nudge and they explode.

There are lots of fun things to notice about this film too. Dogen manages to look different in every shot, which is weird – just the light or a slight alteration to his hair, and he’s 10 different actors. Maybe he’s just got one of those faces? Also get ready for a pre-Lethal Weapon “I’m getting too old for this stuff” (he doesn’t swear, sadly) and some genuine old-school 3-D effects. An arm gets torn off and thrown at the camera, that sort of thing.

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As you may have guessed, I had a blast watching this film. It’s stupid and makes no sense, but everyone’s having a good time (and there’s a strong sense that none of the main actors are taking it that seriously) and it rips along. Charles Band clearly gave more of a damn here than he did about the Puppet Master films. It also bears a weirdly strong resemblance to the film “Roadhouse” in terms of the beats of its plot, one almost too strong to be a coincidence (even though it definitely is). Seriously, check them both out and tell me I’m wrong.

Two enthusiastic thumbs up from me for this one. I recommend tracking it down and having yourself a good time.