Night Wars

•January 13, 2012 • 3 Comments

So far on this site, I’m two movies into a Vietnam Flashback Film Festival.  Here we have a David Prior film, co-written with Ted Prior, starring Dan Haggerty. They had me at “Prior” but there was so much acting and screaming in the first 10 minutes of the film I knew it was something special.  This movie focuses on two former soldiers who have nightmares of reliving the war.  Sounds standard enough, until one day they start waking up with real life wounds.  Their dreams are out to kill them.  Krueger style.

We’re gonna delve in to all that.  Don’t worry.  But first I wanna get this guy out of the way.  He’s one of two truly horrible actors in this otherwise ridiculous but well-acted piece of fiction.  I give you, Jack Shane, used car salesman.

I also want to point out that Jack is such a smooth operator that he can gloss over the car’s main flaw: it seems to only have a driver’s side door.  Anyway, later in this scene our hero experiences a flashback while test driving the used car.  But I promise you, I showed you the truly scary part.  Thank you for bearing with me.  I’ve got it out of my system now.  On with Night Wars.

Two war buddies are suddenly experiencing vivid night and daymares about their time in Nam.  They feel guilty about their pal who was left behind in a pit and they are haunted by the traitor member of their team who turned all crazy and traitorous.  They start waking up with wounds from their night wars and there’s even a scene where a gun comes through the bathroom mirror like so many Freddy Krueger faces have come through walls before.  Luckily Grizzly Adams is the psychiatrist who’s gonna help us get through this nightmare.

It becomes “clear” that the dead guy who was left behind isn’t really dead and he’s trying to reach out to them from some other dream dimension. One of the guys is gonna go in after him while the other stays awake to bring him back/wake him.  The main difference between what’s happening here and what’s happening on Elm Street is that his friend is holding a loaded weapon and firing it haphazardly around the room in his sleep.

Below:  Front row seats to the Night Wars

Grizzly comes over to get to the bottom of this, but the boys won’t give him any info.  But Grizzly has sworn a Hippocratic Oath, so he means business.  He pulls a gun on them.   “Doctor” is apparently my dream job.  You get to wear tight white pants, no socks and carry guns.

Grizzly thinks the boys are just strung out.  He drugs them up so they can finally get some sleep.  Meanwhile, the traitor evil guy has somehow infiltrated our hero’s wife’s dreams and has engaged her in forced seduction/rape.  Grizzly goes over to check on her and finds her getting sleep stabbed by the bad guy.  The budget was not here to flail her around the room, but she does a decent reenactment of Tina’s Elm Street demise.

Now, the boys mean business.  In the clip below they declare “Ready. Let’s do it” (and by “do it” I mean let’s put on costumes and curl up in bed together).

In their dream world, people start rising from their dirt graves ready to fight. “I don’t believe it,” exclaims our hero.  Really?  You’re trapped inside a dream world reliving your Vietnam flashbacks in order to save a man who died 10 years ago.  And zombies are what’s giving you a hard time?  I’m prepared for zombies to happen at any given moment.  This afternoon, tomorrow morning, my birthday… any moment.  But Vietnam Freddy Krueger?  I don’t have a preparedness plan.

Below:  Grizzly gets a message from the boys and must rush to their rescue

Anyway, this is my favorite movie because Grizzly Adams busts up in these guys’ bedroom wearing what I first thought was his thermal underwear and is confronted with the scene of his two buddies decked out in their best camo and face paint, flailing around in their beds, guns ablazing.  Find that scene for me in some Elm Street shit, I dare you.

In the end, they somehow bring their friend Johnny back. I truly don’t get it, but I am still applying Elm Street rules, so call me a fool. Sarge, however, dies and stays in the dream world.  Which is really for the best, cause how do you get over your war nightmares coming to life and raping and stabbing your wife to death?  It’d be tough to sleep in that bed every night.

The credits expose us for the first time to several hit songs from the soundtrack.  The songs are actually about the plot and quote two of my favorite lines from the movie Just in Case and It’s Not Over.  (When the hero shoots the bad guy, they ask “What the hell did you do that for?” “Just in case“) (The bad guy calls out across the dream void “I’ll get you Matthews! It’s not over! It’s not over!”)  The only thing that could be better would be a Dokken song called Night Wars Warriors.

This one is hard to find.  Netflix does not seem to know about it, and the only clip on youtube is above.  I’m pretty sure it only exists on VHS.  So, if you want to see this you’re gonna have to come over to my house.  Sleep well tonight, you cinemanicas.

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell

•January 11, 2012 • 4 Comments

I love dogs.  And I love horror movies.  So anything that can fit the bill for both of these interests is working overtime for me.  I love this made-for-tv demon dog movie so much.

You have probably not noticed, since it would make you an unbelievably bigger nerd than me, but my avatar is from  Zoltan: Hound of Dracula.  This is another wonderful example of the demon dog genre.  These two pooches would make a double feature that would make Sarah McLachlan proud.

In this movie, a cult of satanic dog worshipers get their hands on a pooch and ensure that her offspring will forever be aspiring little Zuuls.

Below:  Satanic Dire Straits concert/dog demonification

Then, in a move that only a true evil mastermind could come up with, the cult peddles the pooches in a roadside veggie stand/puppy mill.  Turns out the kids from Witch Mountain have just lost their pooch to mysterious circumstances (seriously.  i think they’re trying to lead us to believe that the satanic dog worshipers went out of their way to run over the previous dog.  couldn’t they find some other family on the block that was poochless?  maybe the kids from the Apple Dumplin’ Gang?).  Anywho, the kids fall in love with the puppy and who are the parents to say no?

Ultimately, the only person who’s a little suspicious of this face:

Is this face:

The maid.  She is Superstitious.  And she is from The Old Country.  So there is no way she’s gonna let this puppy put one over on her, what with its furry body and floppy ears and wagging tail and green glowing eyes.  And rightfully so, cause once again we have a textbook case of a family innocently going out for the night resulting in another new-puppy-killing-the-Mexican-maid-with-pyrokinesis event.  And this little devil dog must be working the magic on the family already, perhaps through mind control, because apart from exclaiming “My God!” when they discover the maid, the family seems to forget all about her.  Mexican maid’s memory is not invoked in this movie ever again.

Some highlights of Lucky the Devil Dog’s Spree of Evil Deeds include almost (but not quite) making dad cut off his arm in the lawn mower; persuading the boy to cheat at winning his class elections;  killing the neighbors dog, and then, well, the neighbor;  enticing the mom to sleep with the school guidance counselor;  and inspiring this bit of fan art from the kids:

But I’d say Devil Dog’s finest performance was this suspenseful moment shortly before he seduces the mom to join the black arts.

Ultimately, the dad is the only one not won over by the puppy demon’s charms.  He learns an ancient ritual and defeats the demon dog in an epic battle of whatever they used before After Effects on crappy made for tv movies.  I hope this has inspired you to track down a copy of Devil Dog:  The Hound of Hell.  It appears to be on the YouTubes.  If you’ve wasted this much of your time reading my description of it, you might as well make the commitment.  Enjoy.

Metal Messiah

•January 7, 2012 • 3 Comments

This 1978 movie is about an alien covered in silver body paint that does P.I. work, starts a glam band in an attempt to take over the world and then is crucified.  I think.

My copy of this is pretty bad, but it was woefully low budget in the first place.  Yet, although filmed in dark-o-vision, there are lots of great shots.  Apparently it was Tibor Takács’s first film (who later went on to direct The Gate, I, Madman, and a slew of Sci-Fi Channel TV movies).  It’s overall a pretty fun watch, but it has its shortcomings.  My primary complaint – there are too many words in this movie.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like words.  I’m writing them right now.  But these words aren’t really doing their job.  I wouldn’t call it pretentious, but it’s definitely a little too ambitious for what it was able to deliver.

As I was saying, the first half of the movie is full of the words.  Words that may have had more meaning if I cared to pay more attention to them, but, nah.  HOWEVER, if you stick around for the second half of the movie, it’s all glam rock and orgies.  Way more my speed.

Actually, I enjoyed reading about this film more than I enjoyed watching it.  Here’s some info on the film and on the affiliated Canadian punk bands I had never heard of. And if you’re really curious to see what it’s all about, you can find it on youtube.

Dunwich Horror

•January 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This one is kind of a stinker.  It’s not quite up to the same standard of “abomination” that I usually strive for.  It’s just kind of blah.  Still, any movie that kicks off with Sandra Dee holding the Necronomicon has to have some redeeming merits.

It has very little in common with the short story save for a few names and places.  It does, however, boast the most suspenseful tea making sequence ever committed to film.  And, as leading men go, I’ll take Dean Stockwell over a nine foot tall goatman any day.  I’m a real prude like that.

Below:  Stockwell’s brown mustache has a protective coating of blonde mustache to ward off evil

For all its faults, I got through this pretty easily.  And it has an awesome animation sequence at the beginning.


I’ve had Lovecraft on the brain lately.  My dreams have been crawling with Cthulhu and random imaginary octopi, octopuses and octopodes.

So far, the hardest part of this project has been deciding what to watch when I’m alone.  Some of the more promising movies get pushed to the back burner so I can watch them with a crowd.  One of my solo projects is a list of movies with Lovecraftian themes.  This one obviously qualified.  Gonna work my way through them as I go.

That’s all for today.  While I can’t heartily recommend it, it’s also on Netflix, if you’ve got some time to kill.  If nothing else it gave me some practice pronouncing Yog-Sothoth correctly.  And maybe now my nightmares will be fueled by psychedelic hippie madness instead of damned interdimensional sea creatures.

The Living Dead Girl

•January 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Jean Rollin films are new to me.  They are French with subtitles and have that 70’s atmospheric/plodding quality that ensures that I will be watching them alone.  Even the enticing allure of naked French ladies is not enough.  Apparently, according to my male friends, you can look at boobies for free on the internet at any time.  Oh well.

There’s some great acting (the actresses playing Catherine and Hélène) and some bad acting (pretty much everyone else).  And the story itself is pretty brilliant (Hélène morphs into a cold-blooded killer when she realizes she must bring home fresh meat to sustain her newly zombified bff Catherine. It’s interesting to see females at the center of a story like this, even if it’s probably just for the sake of tits.)  The music is synthy and haunting.  And the gore isn’t too over the top, but fun nonetheless.  I’m gonna try to hit most of Rollin’s films in the near future, and many are on Netflix to watch instantly, so log on and join in if you’re up to it.

Vive la France!

Karate Cops

•January 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

1988’s Karate Cops, a.k.a. Hawkeye, written, directed by and starring George Chung and featuring Chuck Jeffreys and Troy Donahue, is a classic.  It is not to be confused with 1991’s Karate Cop featuring David Carradine, or with 1987’s Hollywood Cop, also featuring Troy Donahue along with Cameron Mitchell and Aldo Ray, OR with 1997’s Hollywood Cops featuring David Heavener, Julie Strain, William Smith, Robert Z’Dar and Linnea Quigley (wait, why am I not watching that movie).

I can already promise you I will not do this film justice.  Chung and Jeffreys are two cops, reluctantly partnered up, who are trying to bring down a Japanese mobster.  It’s tempting to classify Chuck Jeffreys as the poor-man’s Eddie Murphy.  But Chuck’s too good for that.  He’s more of a lower-middle-class-man-who-has-trouble-paying-his-medical-bill’s Eddie Murphy.

This is one worth tracking down if you’re actually into this sort of thing.  The acting is atrocious.  And the location scouting is even worse.  My personal favorite scene is when George Chung points out that he learned karate at the YMCA, so he goes to a training camp, located in what appears to be an Insurance Agency’s front yard, to earn his black belt.  His instructor is played by a man who can neither act nor karate, so how he landed this gig is lost on me.  Today, when texting my dear Mr. V-lo, I learned a little something about that scene and I want to share it with you.

V-lo: Do you remember the instructor’s line?  Las Vegas Grand Temple whatever blah blah?

Mr. V-lo: “Las Vegas Grand Temple?  I must be crazy!”

V-lo:  Wait.  Is that in reply to where he trained?

(stage note, the quote from the movie is delivered in deadpan monotone, however the last word of sentences with exclamation points are to be delivered 1/2 octave higher in tone than the rest of the sentence).

Mr. V-lo:  No.  That’s in relation to where they are in that scene.  It’s where Hawkimoto (Chung) was competing for his black belt.  Here’s how it goes: “I must be crazy! I fought in Korea, Japan, but never anywhere like this!  I came here to get certified, not pasteurized!  Las Vegas Grand Temple I must be crazy!

V-lo:  Nice.  Thanks.  Wait.  So does that mean the Holiday Inn parking lot where that scene was filmed is supposed to be Las Vegas Grand Temple?

Mr. V-lo:  Uh yeah!

(Pictured below: Las Vegas Grand Temple, birthplace of pasteurization)

365 in 2012

•January 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I took a short break.  But I’m still watching movies.  In fact, I have made a vow to watch 365 movies this year.  And Father Time is calling my bluff by giving 2012 365 days.  So we’ll see who delivers come Dec. 31st.

Here’s where I failed the first time.  I long to create a blog with prolific writing, brilliant screen shots, hilariously relevant youtube clips and heavily researched background information on my favorite shitty actors.  But, nope.  If I’m ingesting the dregs of movie-dom, then the dregs of blog-dom is what I’ll produce for you, gentle reader.  So we’re setting the bar low and seeing what happens.

Kicked the year off with Chuck Norris as The Hitman.

Somehow, in spite of having watched every episode of Walker, Texas Ranger at least once, I have seen very few feature presentations starring Mr. Norris.  I tend to think of them as being “real” movies, so they fly under my radar.  But it’s a new year, so new leaf and all that.

Chuck is a bad guy in this one.  Wait, strike that.  According to imdb, he’s an undercover hitman.  I did not catch that at all.  But, it was New Year’s Day, so drinking was involved.  He wears a black trench coat and has used a box of Just For Men Dark Brown on his facial hair to hint at his ominous nature.    He is almost killed.  (A doctor declares, “He’s dead.  Clinically dead.” only moments before he wakes up ready to kick butt).  A kid shows up at his doorstep, they make model airplanes together and practice a kickboxing move, the kid is exploded, but is somehow unharmed.  All of that to get us to the infinitely watchable last 10 minutes of this movie. Chuck ties bad guy Michael Parks to a chair, suspends him outside a highrise window and says:
“Now if you feel the need to piss your pants Del? Just squeeze them cheeks… real tight…”

(I discussed the possible anatomical implications of this with my male friends, thinking perhaps I didn’t understand because it didn’t apply to my own personal plumbing setup. I still don’t get it. But I don’t love it any less.)

Then this happens:

So here we are, friends!  It’s 2012, there are festive confetti sprinkles of Michael Parks in the air and I have 364 movies left to bore you with!  Up next, Karate Cops.

David Heavener is the Ragin’ Cajun

•January 8, 2009 • 2 Comments

All right. I’m gonna roll up my sleeves and get started with Ragin’ Cajun starring one of my faves, David Heavener. This is not the last we will be hearing from him, and it’s not even the best of the lot, but it’s a good introduction. This is also my penance for not including him in the banner for the site (he and Michael Moriarty really belong up there).

Ragin’ Cajun is the story of Cage Demanna, a former kickboxer who loves singing and suffering from Vietnam flashbacks. In fact, our opening scene features a (Vietnam) flashback within a (kickboxing) flashback. This is art, people! It’s just like Hamlet! Turns out, Cage is reliving all this in therapy at his local VA hospital. But his therapist (Samantha Eggar) is cutting him off, telling Cage he needs to get over his issues and experience life on the outside. Cage is scared, damnit, but he’s got to give it a whirl. Before he goes, he stops in to visit his friend Legs. Now, ever since I first saw this movie I’ve remembered Legs in a wheelchair. But strangely enough, for a vet who lives in the hospital and is named “Legs”, Legs does indeed have legs. It seems his ailment is, instead, agoraphobia. Legs refuses to leave his room. Perhaps a more appropriate name for him would have been “Outside”, but who am I to quibble? He gives Cage his guitar as a going away present and Cage vows to help cure Legs’ agoraphobia by “reading up on it”. I don’t want to give away a key plot point here, but I bet you can guess that Legs will one day emerge from the hospital and Cage will crack nary a book throughout the course of this movie.

Cage’s friend Ali (Charlene Tilton) takes him out of the hospital and sets him up in his old apartment and gets him back his old job as a dishwasher at the local club. But things aren’t so perfect for Cage. Not only is his old promoter looking for him to get even for a bet he lost when Cage took a dive, but Cage can’t quite shake the Vietnam. Apparently there are too many similarities between washing dishes and the horrors of war.

But there is a softer side to Cage. He’s been writing songs all this time, and these odes to life and love are just the stuff that Ali, an aspiring singer at the club, has been looking for. They may, in fact, be the songs that put her on the map when the club has their Big Show scheduled to take place at the end of the movie.

The bad guys have tracked down Cage by this point. His old promoter has set up a Fight to the Death and he’s got plans for the kickboxing legend Ragin’ Cajun to top the bill. Then, I guess the promoter’s goons just get distracted for a few days, cause there is neither hide nor hair of them while we give the budding romance of Cage and Ali some time to develop. To illustrate this plot point, here’s a little song that I like to call “Fucking Awesome” but that David Heavener likes to call “I Just Slipped on My Best Friend and Fell in Love”. It features a musical montage of Cage making a few trips to the psychiatrist’s office. Oh, yeah, and lyrics about slipping on another human being.

Just when things were looking up, the goons are back. But they are no match for the Ragin’ Cajun, especially when he’s fueled by the power of Vietnam flashbacks!

He gets away in the end, but they get their hands on Ali for kidnapping and torture fun. It’s time for The Fight to the Death, and Cage is going through with it in order to get Ali back safely. And even more tragically, this is all taking place during The Big Show when Ali was supposed to perform and catch her rising star! Instead, she’s watching Cage get his butt kicked while she sits on the sidelines and nurses her own torture-inflicted wounds.

One more Nam flashback and a heartfelt “I love you” from Ali later, Cage takes the other guy out (and I’m assuming doesn’t totally kill him), grabs Ali and makes a break for it. And by “it” I don’t mean “the hospital” or “home” or “the Tijuana border”. No, these two are heading straight to the club to take part in The Big Show. So they crawl onstage, perform an inspirational song and, oh, hey, who’s that in the audience? Why, it’s Legs! The End!

I love movies that are almost musicals.  And David Heavener loves to sing, so it turns out we’re a match made in heaven(er). (Sorry, couldn’t resist). Someday, we’ll revisit the work of Mr. Heavener, hopefully in Outlaw Prophet and other religiously themed shenanigans he’s created almost single handedly. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for the Ragin’ Cajun soundtrack. On vinyl.

The Art of Trying

•December 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

It was nearing the end of one of those phases of my life where I didn’t quite know what to do with myself when I seriously began to watch bad movies.  I was still pretty fresh out of school and was feeling antsy most of the time.  That’s when I met my future husband.  He and his best friend looooooved bad movies.  In fact, a whole crew of their friends would get together every week or so and serve up some unwatchable delicacy.  So I dove right in and joined the club.  And even from the start, I wasn’t completely new to the format.  I had always been a fan of slasher and gore.  I had seen more than a few Troma films and in college I had tried to see every “cult” title that made its way to my Alabama video store (for whatever that’s worth).  But what we were about to get into was different.  For years now, we have combed through every video store/tanning bed/gun shop/gas station that hasn’t already been bought out by Blockbuster or Movie Gallery.  These Mom and Pop stores are still full of all the same sun bleached video cases that were on the shelf twenty years ago.  And we’ve “saved” as many as we could now that they’ve slowly begun to sell off their now-obsolete VHS collections.

For the most part, these were films that no one watched.  Films that had either fallen into obscurity after that first run on the new release shelf or, more likely, films that were buried in the back of the video store to begin with.  They were horror, action, sci-fi, sometimes comedy, occasionally even a musical.  Most were made on miniscule to nonexistent budgets and featured actors who garbled their lines.  Simply put, they were the stuff of MST3K.  Movies you didn’t have to be sober to follow, movies you could talk through, the throw-aways of a motion picture industry that is bloated with disposable income and bursting at the seams with wanna-be stars, writers and directors.  These films didn’t reek of mass market pre-testing.  These were dirty little gems that slipped through the system.

A lot of people watch B-movies on occasion, mostly because they are SO over the top and SO outrageous that no one can believe they made it to public consumption.  And that’s definitely part of the appeal for me, too.  But here’s the surprise.  What sold me on these films, and what made them work for me on a weekly basis, was always coming back to see who had tried what.  It was the humanity of these films and the sincerity with which they were made.  They are the Charlie Brown Christmas Trees of cinema.  Sure, many of these people probably knew what a huge pile of crap they were working with and went with it for the camp value.  But often, these people were auteurs: writing, directing, producing and staring in their own movies.  What really sold me on these films was this- these people did not necessarily have something to say, they did not necessarily believe their films would skyrocket them to success, they did not begin or end their projects with “vision”.  They just loved movies.  And, by God, they got out there with whatever money or resources they could scrape together and they made a movie.  They left their mark.  And they did it with such spontaneity and creativity and tenacity that even the worst-of-the-worst movies came away with some watchable quality.

These movies make me giddy.  I will yell at my TV, clap my hands, sing along with the horrible soundtracks and smack myself in the head three hundred times in the course of watching one of these films.  I’m going to try to hit some of the highlights on a regular basis.  We have a lot of “classics” that I’ll watch again and again.  But there will be a lot of shit as well.  If I end up sitting through two hours of something unwatchable, I will still write about it with painstaking detail (I hope).  So yeah, here’s hoping that I can keep this up on a semi-regular basis and that you find something you like in the vault of horrible, too.