Sunday, June 2, 2013

Talk About Your Bad

Since my earliest days of being a slightly mature horror film fan (somewhere around the age of 14 or so when I quit hiding in the bathroom for hours because I was certain some monster was waiting just outside the door), I had a goal in mind when it came to movies. It was a simple goal, with a couple of variations. I wanted to find a horror movie that either scared me so bad that I wet my pants or grossed me out so much that I brought my last meal up for a second look.

I have yet to find a movie that made me tinkle in my undies. Sure, I've seen movies that created such a dark mood that it stayed with me for hours, but...well, I don't hide in the bathroom anymore, so that should tell you something. As far as being grossed out, I've been pushed to the point of muttering, "Oh, that is just WRONG!" That is nowhere close to half-digested Doritos in a frothy Mountain Dew/stomach acid sauce.
 Today, we skip down the streets of Grossville looking for Lucker-The Necrophagus. This film is one of those that gained a bit of a "legendary" status among gore fans as it was basically a "lost" film due to the original prints and negatives were reportedly destroyed by a producer, and, as a result, the film was only available in a shoddy VHS version with Dutch subtitles. In the heyday of what is known as "grey market" dealing, the movie was copied, duped, and handed around from whatever version people could find. This kind of thing tends to make mountains out of molehills because word-of-mouth without evidence to back up those words causes a lot of false information to be handed out as gospel. A good number of people feel Lucker ranks among the Mount Olympus of gross gore films.

We should be so...lucky. (Sorry, had to do it.)

At this point, I would like to cover the story of the film. 

There isn't any story. Now I can mark that off my list....

Okay, okay, a nutball who at some point in the past killed and THEN raped 7 or 8 women. I swear they say 8 but then they say one survived (survived being killed then raped?), so that would make it 7. Who cares? He's a nasty piece of work. Now, moving on. He is put up in a private clinic while he is being transferred from one place to another after he tried to kill himself. Huh? He took a long time to decide to kill himself depending on which length of time you accept that he's been held for his crimes. Yes, the movie's sense of time has no sense of time. You'll see why I say that soon.

In spite of supposed around-the-clock police supervision, our psycho overcomes medication that is supposed to keep a city full of people knocked out for a year, wanders about the hallways pulling a Scooby Doo-type routine of jumping from door to door to stay hidden, kills an orderly, walks out of the hospital in the guy's clothes (even though the guy is half the size of our killer, so let's hear it for Spandex) and drives off after beating a nurse's head against the steering wheel of her car.

The movie loses itself in a few minutes of shots of Lucker walking along a deserted expressway while we are treated to the visual exposition of him brutalizing the "one who got away" and a voice-over talking about her being released from the hospital after a year of recovery from her wounds, which the images indicated torture and a throat slashing (but it could have been a different girl as all the primary women he goes after kinda look the same).

Now that he knows his missing victim is out of the hospital, he does what any reasonable loon would do: he looks her up in the phone book and goes to her apartment building. I'm not making this up, I swear.

After a couple of pointless and unintentionally funny killings that use the same sound effect for squishing guts and a bleeding head wound, he hooks up with a whore who happens to live in the same building as his target. The convenience doesn't stop there. She tells him that she and the couple upstairs (his target and her boyfriend) are the only people in the building, so her and her freaky clients can scream and yell without bothering anyone. She should have the words, "Please kill and butcher me!" tattooed on her forehead. Lucker does kill her. Bet you didn't see that coming, huh? Then he turns up the heat in the apartment and, according to the information on the screen, allows four weeks to pass for her corpse to ripen. You know, some like it hot, some like it cold, others like it 30 days rotten. Ain't nothing that a little funky corpse banging won't fix, right?

Ultimately, he gets off his ass and goes after his target, who has no scars despite her throat supposedly being slashed. Long, pointless ending with 4 more deaths involved, with Lucker being one of them.

Yes, I told you how it ends. Don't act hurt. If you are inclined to watch this movie, you aren't there for the brilliant screenplay or for a shocking twist ending. If you want to see this movie, then you know why you want to see it. Gore. Stomach-churning, cover-your-eyes, kick-the-cat grossness. You don't care how it ends. Quit whining.

Is it gory? Yeah, kinda. Is it gross? Yeah, pretty much. The most notorious scene is the necrophilia bit with the ripe corpse where he rubs the gooey body with his hands and then licks them. Trust me, I'm making it sound more interesting than it is. It's artless and boring. That pretty much sums up the movie.

Now, let's address the lack of ability for the movie to account for the passage of time. The whole bit with ripening the corpse expresses this best. You are clearly shown that 4 weeks passed, yet, when 2 of the hooker's friends come over to see her, one says she saw her a week ago. Not unless you had a date with Lucker. And we all know what happens to his dates.

Add a problem with tacked on footage that looks completely different than the original footage, as well as completely altering objects the actors are holding and...oh, forget it. This is the "director's cut", mind you. Cobbled together from what bits and pieces he could find and sloppily glued together with these pointless added on scenes. The director must have WANTED to make a huge steaming turd of a movie.

All of this would just mean an awful film in normal circumstances. This particular DVD version also contains a fair copy of the original VHS version with Dutch subtitles. When you watch the VHS version, you realize that the "director's cut" is not only awful, but stupid and insulting. Not saying that the original version is much better. It DOES explain how Lucker knows how to find his missing victim (he sees a television report that stupidly SHOWS where she now lives, even though they are also reporting Lucker's escape). Instead of 4 weeks, the original had him waiting 6 days for the corpse to ripen, which makes more sense and explains her friend's comment about seeing her a week ago. And to make matters more insane, the VHS dupe looks BETTER than the "director's cut".

I heard about this film years ago, and it has been on my list. Instead of being grossed out, all I got was a headache from thinking, over and over, "Can you just end this thing before I go to sleep?" Forget the hype you may have heard. Take the time to find a copy of Necromantik instead. It is truly gross because the filmmaker knew how to craft a film properly. Lucker is pure amateur work.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Step up, step up!! See the transformation of woman into hideous beast!!!

For those of you who may be too young to remember, there used to be a form of entertainment known as "The Sideshow". Called so because you found it off the main strip of the carnivals or fairs where they operated like some parasitic being. Here you found the things adults whispered about and kids clamored to see and share stories of with their friends. You saw strip shows, belly dancers and bawdy comedy acts.

Yet there was a darker side to these tents and trailers. You also found the freak shows and the weird little short films that presented things normal, rational people turned their face from. You could see Amazon princesses turn into howling beasts. People who could pop their eyes out of their heads. Folks who pierced their bodies with needles, nails and swords. Deformed babies floating in pickle jars. Headless bodies that moved as if alive.

You wanted to see it. You knew all your friends would want to see it too. Even though you felt a thrill of anticipation as you approached the tents with their shouting barkers extolling the wonders beyond the curtains behind them, there was always a sense of dread, of fear. Sure, it was all fake. But what if it wasn't? Would you see something that would forever change your way of facing reality? How would you handle it?

Thanks to the glory of political correctness, those things are gone, or commercialized into hipster traveling shows that command $40 a ticket. The days of cheap, seedy thrills are buried in the past.

Or are they?

Satan's Black Wedding, from the descriptions you may run across on the web or even on the DVD cover, may seem like just another low-budget piece of offal you'd avoid unless every other single DVD had been rented at the video store, and even then, maybe you'd just watch the traffic light change instead. Pick it up. Put it in your player and forget the upconverting. Just shut off the lights and wonder what you might be seeing for the next hour.

Satan's Black Wedding starts in with the full sideshow hook. A woman dressed in black roaming the countryside before descending into a dark chamber. The lighting is dim and oddly colored in reds. It's hard to see clearly what is happening, almost like watching with your hands over your face, or one of those dreams where something bad is happening but you can't open your eyes enough to see. There's a guy in a coffin with cheap plastic fangs. You want to laugh, and you might. Still, these people aren't laughing. They are dead serious. And that's when you start to feel slightly uncomfortable. If they are serious, then what are they willing to do next?

Slaughter, that's what. The woman who entered the chamber is suddenly in the comfort of her own bed, but there is no comfort there. She is having a seizure, and you are treated to visions of her face pulled into a horrible rictus grin as her muscles strain. She pulls out a razor and begins slashing her wrist, once, then twice and then over and over in a fit of mania. Yeah, that looks like red poster paint splashing the walls but this woman seems intent on seriously injuring herself. Meanwhile, the fellow with fangs watches her from the shadows and drools obscenely.

Welcome to the deranged world of Nick Millard (known in the credits of this film as Phillip Miller). Go on, search him on He's made a number of films and precious few of them are worth the time it takes to look away in embarrassment. Yet, when he decided it was time to attempt making a little money off horror movie drive-in fare, he made a mark on cinematic history. Okay, you have no idea who he is, and you may not know his films, but trust me when I say that there are folks out there who gurgle like happy babies at the thought of this movie and even more are fans of the whacked-out Criminally Insane. You are in the vintage weirdness aisle.

Satan's Black Wedding manages to capture something on film that I do not believe the director intended. It is honestly creepy. Not scary, but you have a constant sense of not knowing what is going to be thrown at you. You have moments that leave you shaking your head, like when the suicide victim's actor brother decides to stay in her house while he looks into her death and he finds himself in the still gore-drenched bedroom in which she died. There are people attacked by the undead sister. She is gnashing her dimestore plastic teeth, but she seems so intent that you start to wonder if she isn't off her rocker. And backing all of this is a soundtrack of a piano that does a drunken dance like a merry-go-round's calliope out of control. You are in someone else's bad dream, and you aren't getting out until they wake up.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Welcome to Hell, y'all!

As I started watching the film up for review this time around, I heard ringing in my ears Lee Marvin's immortal quote from the film Paint Your Wagon: "Welcome to Hell, preacher!" Seeing as I am an ordained minister, it seemed even more fitting. Is it possible Lee Marvin saw this film in a vision? It would explain his heartfelt gusto in delivering that line.

Come and join me in the lowest region of Hell. Here, people have their limbs removed so they cannot leave. Their heads are nailed to the walls so they must face the images projected before them. Their eyelids have been removed so they may not close their eyes. What horror are they subjected to that could cause such suffering that the mind shatters? They are forced to watch Bill Rebane's Twister's Revenge throughout all eternity.

Bill Rebane is most famous for The Giant Spider Invasion. Having seen that movie many times, I can assure you that it is the high point of his career. Once you've seen any of his other films, you will freeze like a wild deer in a Mack truck's headlights when someone mentions the name of Bill Rebane. If someone suggests watching Twister's Revenge, you are dealing with either a total innocent or someone who has held a long-festering grudge against you. Run away as fast as you can.

On paper, this movie sounds like it might be...maybe...kinda watchable, given proper chemical alterations of your senses. Let's go with that for right now.

We are given the simple story of a cowboy who drives a monster truck for state fair exhibitions and such, his new bride who is a total computer geek and fairly easy on the eyes and their monster truck, know as Mr. Twister. Into this happy world comes three grease monkeys who decide to steal...something. It started as grand larceny by trying to steal a computer from a van, so it was a minor leap to full-blown felony kidnapping of the young bride.

This could be fodder for an interesting action film. Do keep in mind that this is a Bill Rebane film. Not only are the "heroes" of the film bland as distilled water, but the would-be criminals are denser than a slab of granite. All in the name of comedy, Wisconsin-style on a two dollar budget.

After nearly ten minutes of pointless Scooby Doo type car chases mixed with bad voice-overs that utter fail at humor, the bride is kidnapped. Suddenly, the truck reveals he is the redneck cousin of K.I.T.T from Knightrider. So our suddenly single hero teams up with the monster truck to recover the fair damsel.

That's it. Really.Oh, wait, I forgot to add the horrible sound, utter lack of acting, the worst rear projection of ANY movie ever made, shoddy camera work, a cast of hundreds of extras who capture that pure hick quality because they ARE hicks, an absence of logic, action sequences more tedious than paint drying in an empty I need to go on? Honestly, attempting to give you detailed examples of any of these problems would mean I spent more time explain things to you than the entire crew spent on this film.

It isn't hard to see how Mill Creek Entertainment can sell their 50 movie packs so cheap when they have movies like Twister's Revenge on tap. I have little doubt that Mill Creek received a fat check from someone for including this fecal storm on their Drive-In Classics set. In case you have that set, it is the second movie on Side A of Disc One. If you are wise, you will never, ever watch that side of Disc One. I think even Bill Rebane would decline an offer to watch this film again.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A New Day, and A New Way

We are looking at the first disc, side A of the Drive-In Classics 50 movie set, just in case you want to keep up.

We start with The Devil With Seven Faces. No, Tony Randall is not in this movie, but there is an appearance by a very annoying Asian gentleman with a horribly dubbed over-blown Asian accent. Mickey Rooney would be proud.

Enter into a world hopelessly mired in awful 70's fashion. I could hardly pull my eyes away from the woman wearing the hideous patchwork quilt looking granny dress. Yes, we can truly be thankful for a change in decades. Oh and don't be fooled for a moment. Yes, those are Dutch locations running behind the credits, but take note that most of the crew's names end in enough vowels to make Vanna White turn pale.

We start with a rather uptight woman being stalked by a paparazzi, and then she seeks out the help of a rather distracted looking Stephen Boyd. Within minutes, Boyd and his overly-horny friend Tony, who happens to be a race driver (it is sure to figure in somehow), rescue her from thugs and proceed to become her guardian angels. Though I have to give the race car driver credit for being rather single-minded whereas Boyd is prepped to dip his wick in any honeypot that presents herself.

It seems our damsel in distress is one of a set of twin sisters. One is being stalked for her involvement in some shady jewel heist, and the other one is being harassed as well. One is in England while the other is in Amsterdam, yet the crafty bad guys can't seem to keep track of either one. According to a picture they show, one has dark hair and the other has light hair. How the bad guys can't figure who is whom makes about as much sense as anything else in this movie.

The characters run around and hop from one location to another with no real sense of purpose. And everywhere our heroine goes, someone dies. Why these two guys hang around a harbinger of death is beyond me. She isn't THAT good looking. Maybe that is mercenary of me, but I had to occupy my brain somehow to keep myself awake and distract me from the fact the heroine's hair changes length at random. And in one scene at the beach, Julie wears a huge blue wig that looks like someone sent part of a cosplay outfit back through time.

The highlight of the film is a car chase that almost looks like it should be in a Keystone Cops short, with overclocked film speeds and goofy action.

Then comes all the double-crossing you could see coming from the first 10 minutes. People die, people are tortured, and Stephen Boyd says he's rushing to the rescue and proceeds to sit at his desk while people come to nasty ends. I almost expected Christina Lindberg to show up and start wasting people. Alas, it didn't happen.

Ultimately, you walk away wondering how people this brainless and inept managed to pull off a heist to begin with.

Recommendation: Watch ONLY if you feel you have to see every movie Stephen Boyd ever made. Otherwise, just realize you don't need to know why the devil has seven faces.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Digging up an old one


Barry Mahon is the focus of our post today. Well, not him so much as one of his movies. Mahon is the purveyor of a large number of cheesy/sleazy movies early on in his career, like The Beast That Killed Women and Rocket Attack USA and Juke Box Racket. Later in his career, he did movies for kids, like Thumbelina and Jack And The Beanstalk and a seriously deranged classic called Santa And The Ice Cream Bunny. Yeah. Try finding that one cheap on Ebay...ain't gonna happen. We are all hoping for a special edition DVD or Blu-ray.

The movie we are looking at today is called Blood Of The Zombie, also known as The Dead One. Media Blasters, under their imprint Shriek Show, has released what could possibly be the best copy ever seen. It has the original trailer under the title of The Dead One, and it looks like like it was released just last week, and it is in anamorphic wide-screen. It is very much a case of polishing a turd. An interesting turd, but a turd nonetheless.

The basic story is voodoo hijinks mixed with the age-old inheritance thriller. It has all the trappings of a gothic romance. Not the classical Gothic literature, but the more recent trash of young virginal type entering into a new life where she is unwanted. Unfortunately, they missed the mark and instead focused on the husband. What a shame! This could have been more fun as a cheap paperback-style movie.

Music PR/manager type guy John Carlton, played by John McKay, is set inherit the family plantation when he marries, which he does at the beginning of the movie. Ah, but Mahon knows his audience is the drive-in crowd, and he doesn't do a slow build up to the fun and games. No, sir. He starts with John's deranged cousin, Monica (played by Monica Davis (I guess they were such bad actors that they couldn't have characters with different names)), summoning her dead brother Jonas to make sure the new bride doesn't live long enough for John to gain possession of the property. The zombie looks a bit jaundiced, with his yellow skin and off-kilter walk.

Cut to the end of the marriage. They have to play a bit of the standard Wedding March just so you know it is a wedding. The fact the bride is in a white wedding dress and tosses her bouquet isn't clue enough, I guess. So, after the wedding scene, our leading man drags his new bride through Bourbon Street so he can do business. The weirdest scene takes place when another woman of unclear heritage named Lacey sits with them while listening to the jazz stylings of one of John's clients. The new wife Linda, played by Linda Ormond (again with the name thing), eyes the new woman like a hungry dog looks at a piece of raw meat. Awkwardness abounds when John introduces them and the wife asks, "Are you a friend of John's?" and Lacey responds with, "Who wasn't?" Our sweet, bewildered young bride has married a man-slut. He then takes her to a club where women do cheesy sexy dancing right behind the bar. I'm guessing times were a little different than Leave It To Beaver would have us believe.

On to the family plantation where cousin Monica makes it clear she isn't happy with losing control of the property to John. Even though she has put a supernatural hit out on John new wife, Linda makes herself so sweet and charming that the cousin, in a rare bit of possible real acting, seems put off of her hatred of the interloper.

During a long-running set of scenes that allow exposition, we find out that Monica's brother and Monica got involved in voodoo together and when Jonas blew off the Creole woman who loved him so he could marry a big-money white woman, he wasted away due to a voodoo curse. You'd think Monica would have a little resentment towards the voodoo heritage that killed her brother. but then you aren't really looking for brains in this movie, are you? Well, I mean, other than brains splattered on a wall. Which you don't get, just so you know.

John is even a nice guy about things. He offers to let his cousin stay on as the grande dame of the plantation, but she throws a fit. A little fluff-muffin the newlyweds picked up when her car broke down on their wedding night pops up here and there, mainly to predict people's obsession with solitaire (though most people are addicted to the Microsoft version) as she keeps playing it off and on through the film.

Of course, zombie and voodoo fun and games commence when cousin Monica decides to snuff out the only threat to her claim to the plantation. Where else will you see a zombie thwarted by a bed?

Yes, this is a turkey. Online, you will see it compared to the interest level of dust, but I liked it. It is a silly bit of fluff that moves at a brisk enough pace and is brain-dead enough to keep your head shaking long enough to keep you awake. The ending will have you wondering about how the cops handle crimes back in the early 60s. But it was a nice touch having an African-American cop in the New Orleans area at that time. It shows some lovely progressive thinking on Mahon's part.

Worth checking out, especially if you can scoop it up on Amazon for under 10 bucks, which, at the time of this review, you could definitely do. Happy oddity from the days before the nihilist concepts started altering the world of zombies we now know. Plus, you get a bonus film not even mentioned on the packaging, but I must warn that it seems to be cobbled together from various elements the filmmakers had left waiting for post-production. Still, there is a rather lovely and bloody beheading.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nah Nah Nah Nah Hey Hey Hey...Goodbye

1 comment

Some movies stick with you when you see them as a younger person. Doesn't make them good, but there was just something that leaves an imprint on your memory. In some cases, this would be known as a "scar". In other cases, it might be known as a wistful remembrance of days past.

The film today would be considered more of a lobotomy.

Kiss Daddy Goodbye has been knocking around in my head for a good 20 years, I think. I have no real idea when I first saw it. I just remembered the kids and the bikers and the dead daddy. I couldn't remember the title and just never gave it enough brain power to research it. Still, I saw scenes in other films now and then that would spark a memory.

Recently, while researching another film, I noticed a review of this film. I thought, "Oh, it's that movie," and promptly forgot it again. Then, one night in a drunken bit of net surfing, I looked for it with a passion. I didn't recall the title, which means I must have seen it under one of its other titles like Caution, Children At Play or Vengeful Dead or Revenge Of The Zombie, which sounds like the title I saw it under. And there it was.

There is just something fun about kids with special powers and has-been stars of days past struggling to find work. Throw a zombie and some bikers into the mix and you have the basic elements for prime pizza-munching fodder. Let me introduce you to just such a film.

Kiss Daddy Goodbye is the brainchild of Ronald Abrams and Patrick Regan...and Alain Silver.......and Mary Stewart. That everybody? Yeah, I think so. If not, they can claim their cookie later because I forgot them. Moving on. Patrick Regan directed the film. To save money, he cast his two children, Nell and Patrick III, as the main moppets, Beth and Michael. Amazingly, they landed Marilyn Burns from Texas Chainsaw Massacre for a starring role, and former pop idol Fabian puts in a performance as a deputy who is trying to figure out just what the hell this movie is about.

Just what IS it all about? New deputy Blanchard who gets to work a nice coastal area where the friendly inhabitants flash bare boobs at him. He introduces himself to the local store owner, who points out both the local real estate agent who special orders booze and gripes about the bikers trashing his properties and the local recluse, Guy Nicholas, who has twins.

As the deputy lingers inside the local store to get the gossip, Mr. Nicholas takes his groceries out to the car, only to find his kids using their psychic powers to retrieve a Frisbee the boy threw across the busy highway in an effort to show his frightfully cute, though beaver-toothed, sister who has the real power. He forgets she can look cute and whine, but she does that later. Dad drives the children home and tells them to hide their powers because they will be taken away and have needles stuck in their heads. This is how the viewer will feel around 40 minutes into this film, so consider this to be a sub-textual warning.

The sheriff finally leaves with a gut full of coffee and a head full of insight about the area folk only to see the bikers the real estate agent fussed about. They look like the usual dirty, dusty, unshaven types you would expect to see on Harleys in the 60s and 70s. Never mind Harleys were mostly bought by Yuppies who wanted to feel "tough" during the stock booms in the 80s. This is a movie. You want reality, watch American Idol.

Sorry, had to choke back some vomit there.

Back to our family, we realize Mom checked out some time back. She must have read the script and decided death was a better route. Still, we get to see the twins use their talents to put away the groceries. What a wonderful way to utilize such a gift. Maybe the dad can have them weed the garden later, but for now, they have to get dressed up because the social worker who checks up on their homeschooling is coming around for her monthly review.

While the family attempts to look normal, the group of scruffy bikers spies the hot tub and decide they will help themselves to its charms. Oddly enough, the dad, who couldn't tell the difference in a motorcycle engine and a car engine, takes exception to this choice and decides he needs to pack a gun to have a chat with the friendly folk. I guess having the kids make the water boil or something like that would be out of the question. Yeah, confronting 4 people while wielding a cheap handgun is much better than hiding in the house and using psychic powers to run the dirt bags away. Well, it might work if you are Bruce Willis. Daddy doesn't fair so well. In fact, he gets knifed and shot for his trouble.

The kids watch Daddy get snuffed, but do they twitch one little synapse to help him out? Nope. Guess Daddy's brainwashing worked a little too good. I just wonder if his last thought was, "Why aren't you doing something, you little bastards?" The world may never know.

The schoolmarm doesn't ride to the rescue because her Porsche breaks down while heading up to the house to check in with the kids. This allows our rugged deputy to flirt with the helpless female. Ah, yes, what would a movie be without some sort of love story thrown in? A lot shorter and more fun, that's what. So we now have two government employees awash in testosterone and estrogen while Jodi and, wait, that's a different show with a creepy brother and sister. Anyway, the kids are left to their own devices with a dead father and a hot tub full of biker stink.

Do they call for help? Do they run across fields of heather looking for the neighbor's house? Nope. They sit around the body and talk about what to do next. They talk in such a languid fashion that you suspect that just outside camera range they are poking Daddy with sticks. After a while, they levitate their parental unit and float him into the house where they proceed to use some paint and a book on ancient rites to make the corpse look like someone who dropped too much acid at last year's Burning Man.

The real estate agent, who has been knocking back a few cocktails from cans, decides it is time to put a strong-arm act on our Parent Of The Year. Not quite sure what it is all about, but it provides filler, I guess. He shows up mostly skunked and proceeds to yell at the kids and tell them they had better get Daddy out to the living room pronto. The kids shrug and the little boy goes to get Daddy. The little girl tells the drunk, "I don't think Daddy's gonna be in a good mood. I think you'd better get out." Truer words have rarely been spoken. Daddy comes in and manhandles the jerk until he has a heart attack and dies. Daddy was definitely NOT in a good mood. The kids load the body into the drunk's car and mentally push it right into the lake.

At this point, the film just kind of wanders about with the kids playing hide and seek with their dead dad every time someone comes around. The dad, mostly likely directed by after-death anger or the little boy, who probably likes setting fire to ants with a magnifying glass, proceeds to do in the bikers while the kids play Atari games with their minds. Oh, and the deputy and the social worker go to bed with each other. Fabian plays cold fish to Marilyn Burns, who does a bang-up job of being sexy and aggressive.

The final insult comes when the whiny kids decide they are done with Daddy and think it is time for him to take a dirt nap; they have him dig his own grave. No respect for the dead. Not a bit.

The ending...well, they try to wrap things up, but you just have to see how things turn out on your own as I would not want to give away the suspense. Not that there is much, but the camerawork definitely improves at the end of film. That's something to look forward to. Trust me, you may need that small saving grace to help you through the film.

Okay, I've given it a hard time, but it is fun, in its own fashion. At least it keeps moving along, even if it doesn't make much sense. However, I'm sure the cuteness the kids use to bluff their way along will lose it's charm somewhere after the decision to dump the dead realtor in the drink. Just tell yourself that you are there so you can say you saw every movie Marilyn Burns ever made.

For those who care, the commentary on the version I bought was interesting, but only from the production standpoint. Endless chatter about short ends and camera angles, but some times more interesting than the movie, especially during those long breaks between the action.

I'll leave you with a last view of our little-buck-toothed vixen. Too bad I can't share with you her whiny voice.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hangin' With The Cosbys-Ninja Style


Every once in a while, you run across one of those movies that really make you stop and think, "What the hell was THAT all about?" Not that you don't follow the story or that the movie itself makes no sense; you just cannot quite put your finger on why it was made or what the filmmakers were trying to do. A prime example of this kind of film is Blood Freak, which has been called a Christian, anti-drug gore/monster movie, among other things. You have no idea if the filmmakers were dead serious about some of it, all of it or none of it, and if it was a comedy in disguise, the filmmakers played it so straight that the joke is truly on all of us who have seen it.

The film this time around is almost the same type of thing, but to a far lesser degree. Nothing can be as weird as Blood Freak. Our film today is The Black Ninja. And we are not talking the other weird movie with the same name that had Chris Kelly with badly-spliced together footage from an old martial arts film and a more modern film that had ninjas who looked like Power Rangers. Nor is it the OTHER film called by the same name that came out in the early 80s.

Our version of The Black Ninja stars Clayton Prince, whom you may know from many classic roles in The Cosby Show, Hanging With The Homeboys or as "Seaweed" in the original Hairspray. He plays criminal defense attorney Malik Ali, one of the most sought-after lawyers in the Philadelphia area as he can get any criminal off no matter how guilty the scumbag is. But do we get introduced to him right off the bat? Oh hell no! We get to see three street thugs threaten the safety of some utterly generic, and apparently incredibly STUPID, woman who wanders into a section of town I wouldn't enter in broad daylight with enough weaponry to make Rambo green with envy. As they offer to help themselves to her ample sexual charms, some douche bag in a black outfit shows up and ruins what could have been a very interesting opening to a rough porn film. He kicks, slaps and boot-plants these jokers like they have no idea how to defend themselves. They scurry away to an abandoned building and think they are safe. Our "hero" then takes an obviously illegal explosive device (a concussion grenade from the look of it) and tosses it into the building where the rambunctious fellows ran. They escape in time to avoid seeing an obviously cheap mock up of building (which looks little like the real building) explode. Not only is the fellow in black a bully, but he is also a terrorist.

We then are whipped to some of the most laughably bad opening credit animations ever created. Not THE worst, but, as you can see from the included screen shots, this film is basically telling you they spent their budget on these bad animations and that this film is a comic book, at best. Already we are being told what to think. Not only do we have no confidence in the filmmakers and find the guy in black to be a spoilsport, but now they try to control how we should look at this film. I'm already finding myself not happy about this turn of events.

Moving from Cartoon Cheesefest 2003, we find ourselves watching a crime being committed, with a sneaky man stealing keys, shutting down lights and ultimately assaulting a poor single woman in her home. Wait. I remember reading this was a comedy. So...rape is comic fodder? I must remember this for my stand-up career when I do a show for the women at Vassar; they'll be ROLLING in the aisles.

Yet ANOTHER transition to a courtroom where we finally meet dapper Malik Ali. Behind the final credit of the opening credits. The one that reads, "Written & Directed by ME". I'm NOT kidding. The image you are seeing has not been Photoshopped. An amazing display of hubris, overweening pride, with many thanks to both Strangers With Candy and former New York mayor, Harold Washington. Then the attorney proceeds to trash his client's intelligence to achieve a victory that only Matlock could envy. Okay, so we have a comedy...maybe.

On to what has to be one of the best scenes in the movie. A lovely Asian reporter is commenting on the events of the courtroom and interviews Ali and Pooky, his client, as they exit the courthouse. Pooky, when asked his opinion, says, "Damn, girl, you fine. You got any black in you? You want some?" Okay, we have a comedy.


For the next few minutes, we bounce back and forth from the film showing us political commentary to romantic hints to more action as the Black Ninja does his glorious moves in a lovely repetition of three times, which you saw in the opening scene and you had better get used to it. Apparently the filmmakers read Twain and his belief that nothing sticks in the mind unless it is repeated 3 times. I don't think he meant 3 times in succession, but what the hell, right?

Are we even close to the real story? Do we have a hint? Where is the stank of the story?

Here it is. We get the back story of Malik as he talks to his new obvious love interest, Dr. Tracey Allen, whom he has saved from attacks before. Now, as a client, he bares his exposition as he explains how he defended Shinji Hagiwara, an obvious psychotic killer, and how he stole all of Hagiwara's money to defend the nutcase. Shinji does not take kindly to this and slaughters the good lawyer's family in return. We see images of the slaughtered family and of Shinji writing a message in the son's blood on a mirror. Eh, comedy...anyone,!

The obviously disturbed psychologist (what kind of patients does she deal with?) stops the interview and sends Malik on his way. Within minutes, she is harassed by armed thugs sent by Tony Fanelli, who killed a cop and the good doctor happened to be a witness, although you would be hard pressed to find her in the flashbacks, but who am I to doubt anybody? Still, the good doctor, who seems more tightly wrapped than a generic tampon, just happens to have a print of the Marx Brothers on her office wall. Hmmmm. Are we to believe she has a comedic side we aren't seeing, or are the filmmakers just flailing about to find some decoration? Don't look for subtext. This film isn't that deep.

The Black Ninja jumps to her rescue...again. So much for strong female characters in this film, huh? Our hero (okay, do I really need to maintain an aura of secrecy over who The Black Ninja really is?) goes after the lead assassin Mr. Fanelli uses. With a few well-placed punches, the gunslinger coughs up his boss and his address. Meanwhile, the good therapist is arrested for the murder of the assassin's sidekicks, and she immediately calls Malik Ali. Not sure, but isn't this a conflict of interest? Oh, wait, this is a movie and reality has no place here.

Next we get some happy bonding with the female doctor and the sleazy lawyer. But he has a heart of gold. Oh, wait, he is...but the good doctor doesn't know, so we won't say anything yet. And we get to see a bit of rather obvious over-dubbing as we meet Pooky again as he is being locked in a cell with a massive cross-dressing sex freak called Frenchy. Despite the subject matter of the movie, the filmmakers decided it was important not to do anything that would net them anything worse than a PG rating. A marketing ploy no doubt, but it isn't like it got them anywhere as I don't think this has received airplay beyond a few UHF and alternative digital channels.

Where the hell is all of this going? I don't know and I've seen it twice now. Okay, quick trip through more plot developments to get to more fun stuff.

Malik/Black Ninja keeps psychologist locked up to protect her. Finally gives in and bails her out. He saves her again. She realizes Malik is The Black Ninja (slow, girlfriend, very slow). Ninja Boy goes out to find out more about the plans to kill the good doctor while telling her to stay in his secret hideout. She leaves hideout and the Red Ninja kidnaps her.

Thank God for The Red Ninja. This movie was going nowhere until he shows up and proceeds to gnaw scenery like a starved rat. His over-the-top performance actually makes you believe this film MIGHT be a comedy. Or is he just overacting? Still, his bug-eyed looks and smarmy expressions make this role one of the best for the entire film. And the actor, one Yuki Matsuzaki, has gone on to better things, unlike most of the rest of the cast. Check out the two lovely screen caps shown here.

So, his treatment of The Black Ninja's new love interest provides motivation for the rest of the movie. This includes a ridiculous bit of padding about a diamond theft that does nothing for the story.

Do I need to hold your hand to make it clear how this movie plays out? I'm not gonna give it away, but, really, do you need me to paint a picture? I will tell you that there is one interrogation on a toilet seat that fans of bathroom/fart humor will find so wonderful that they may need to visit the toilet themselves. Honestly, you have to see it to believe it.

Ultimately, the question is this: What the hell IS The Black Ninja? I have no idea. Is it boring? Heck no. Is it worth watching? Definitely. You will be tossed from side to side, from serious action flick to comedy to social commentary, and the damned thing never sticks to one and it never seems to know what it is in the end. But it DOES entertain, even if on the level of "How stupid can they get with this next scene?" Even on that level, you will not be disappointed.

Biggest overall complaint is that it appears they took a movie shot on 35mm film and gave it an awful transfer over to a video print for easier distribution. The thing just looks plain ugly and grainy. But then, given the movie does not seem to have any sense of what it it, MAYBE they shot it so it would look so ugly. Nah, they couldn't be that crafty.

Now, for the downside. If you go to the trouble of buying this film, which it is worthy of if you can score it for less that 6 bucks, you may be tempted to watch the "making of" featurette on the disc. Do so ONLY after watching the film at least once. I will not go into detail, but I will say that the "making of" film is better in many ways than the actual film and may just have you feeling a touch awkward for laughing AT the film instead of laughing WITH the film.

But don't listen to it. Even though it isn't as utterly stupid as the Chris Kelly Black Ninja, this is seriously dopey movie that deserves an audience that with laugh both at and with it.