Directed by: Gil Bettman
Category: Trash Cinema
Yes, that is a real poster and this is a real movie. It actually exists. And, it stars the weird combination of John Stamos, Vanity and Gene Simmons.
Where. Do. I. Begin.
What the fuck did I just see?
I'm still trying to digest the images and ludicrousness of it all and make some kinda sense out of the film. Still trying to wrap my brain around the crazy ass film that I actually had to hunt down on purpose. You know what it is? Trash Cinema. Pure unadulterated trash cinema that's so bug nuts insane and unintentionally hilarious throughout that it falls into the "so awful that it's good" category.
And I agree, because as I watched this film dumbfounded, my first thought was simply that it was awesome! How awesome? John Stamos plays a character named Stargrove. The theme song played during the opening credits is called Stargrove. Brilliant. I also need to point out that this poster is misleading. It makes it look like it's going to be some 80's version of "If Looks Could Kill", but it's anything but. It's probably one of the craziest, most fucked up action pics I've seen in years and that's putting it lightly.
I was recently reminded of this film and sought it out on the internet on a whim. I remember seeing it when it first hit VHS back in '86, but I think it was just that once and I don't remember anything about it except mainly that Gene Simmons played a drag queen or something. So I really had no idea what I was getting into or what to expect when I popped it in tonight.
Stamos (complete with mullet) plays a gymnast in college whose father is some James Bond type of secret service agent also named Stargrove (they're both referred to as just Stargrove in the movie) who's stolen a disc from the bad guy in drag Velvet Von Ragnar. When Ragnar kills Stargrove, his son Lance Stargrove teams up with his father's partner, played by Vanity, and gets caught up in a world of secret service agents and espionage intent on avenging his father's death.
There's a whole story about Von Ragnar trying to polute the city's water supply for whatever reason, but there's really no reason to get into it because as the movie plays out, you don't remember any of the plot details or even care about what's going on because:
A) You have Vanity either half naked or naked in the entire film.
B) You have Gene Simmons playing a hermaphrodite in drag "and" a secret service agent.
C) You have a young John Stamos playing a gymnast "a la Gymkata" who miraculously learns how to fight and use martial arts one day even though he's never thrown a punch in his life.
D) Enough absurd Road Warrior action in the modern world circa 1986.
E) Yadda, Yadda, Yadda
I will say this, the film was a blast from start to finish. Some insane shit goes on in this movie. I'm shocked it's not considered a bona fide cult classic?! It's got all the ingredients, John Stamos+Vanity+Gene Simmons in drag+ridiculous B-Movie grade Road Warrior style action=Badass Cinema. Plain and simple people.
It was just so ridiculous that you have to wonder what the hell everyone was thinking when they made this. Was it all on purpose? Because it's played pretty serious. Or were they really trying to make a god honest big budget action flick. I don't know. What I can tell you is that it's so utterly horrible, that it teeters on campy brilliance. Crazy action, tons of nudity, Gene Simmons in drag and horrible script. I love it.
Gene Simmons plays two characters here. One is a secret service agent under cover complete with fake red beard and wig named Carruthers. Somehow nobody seems to notice how incredibly fake his wig, beard and painted eyebrows are. And he also plays his alter ego, a hermaphrodite in drag named Ragnar (sounds like one of Godzilla's foes) who is the leader of a Mad Max style biker cult gang or something. Yes that's right, a hermaphrodite. I got nothing against hermaphrodites, but Gene Simmons dressed as one is disturbing. I'm just sayin'. As Ragnar, he's dressed from head to toe in leather complete with high heels and a face full of makeup. Actually, doesn't look too different from his "demon" getup fro Kiss, just a little more feminine.
There's a scene where Simmons' character, apparently a main attraction at a biker bar doing song and dance, appears on stage in a semi-Kiss getup with a showgirls head piece. Yup, a middle aged, overweight Gene Simmons in a see through dominatrix outfit singing a song provocatively on stage. Sooooo disturbing. And in true showgirl fashion, the outfit is mostly see through. I'm still trying to shake that image out of my head. It might be branded there forever unfortunately. I guess Simmons was trying to broaden his horizons with this one after playing regular bad guys like in Runaway and Wanted: Dead or Alive. But he's clearly having fun here, playing Ragnar about as zany as you can imagine. I guess playing the demon from Kiss for most of his career up until that point grew tiresome and decided to go the complete opposite direction with this character.
Vanity, who you think couldn't look anymore sexy than she did in The Last Dragon and Action Jackson outdoes herself here, appearing half naked through most of the film. Actually, within her first 5 minutes of screen time. Gotta love it! I saw an interview with her about 10 years ago where she married some football player and gave up music (she was a protege of Prince a looooooong time ago) and film and gave her life to God. Which is fine, but what a shame too. She easily could have been the B-Movie queen of the 80's, no doubt. Just look at her track record! The Last Dragon, Never Too Young To Die and Action Jackson. She coulda been somebody! (as I do my bad Marlon Brando impression)
The filmmakers need to be commended here. This thing easily could have been C-Movie quality direct-to-video trash, but it easily rises to B-Movie status thanks to the fact that it's filmed straight faced with a decent budget. Speaking of budget, I'm also glad they went full on brightly colored bloody squibs with this and didn't half-ass it when someone got shot. There's nothing more annoying than when you see someone get blown away by a machine gun and you don't see any bullet holes in the guy. The script, most notably the dialogue is horrible, but everyone delivers there lines with bravado here, no matter how ridiculous the dialogue is. The direction, by a T.V. veteran from shows like The Fall Guy and Knight Rider isn't half bad either. And did I mention that this film is just crazy!? I can't stress that enough. Like, during a fight at the end of the movie between Ragnar and Stargrove, Ragnar's female breasts (remember, he's half female) get exposed for a second and Stargrove uses that opportunity to bite one of them. Aaahh!
The film takes place in the present, meaning 1986, but every time a bad guy shows up he's dressed like he came right outta The Road Warrior! There must be some kinda Mad Max subculture in the city, just a guess. But it's so weird! Stargrove is riding his motorcycle on the highway minding is own business and there come the Mad Max guys again wielding chains and axes and shit outta nowhere! What do people think when they're not out to kill someone and just cruising dressed like that? Oh, and these Road Warrior second rate bad guys don't believe in guns. At least that's what i'm guessing since they never use any. They prefer chains, nets and axes.
And the most fucked up part, the part that actually scares me the most is that I actually saw this with my mother. Dude, i'm telling ya. I remember when this hit VHS and we rented it, I remember watching this at home with her. I must have been somewhere around 10 I think. I can't imagine what the hell she was thinking. Thanks mom!
Trying to explain this movie would just be too difficult because there are just too many "why's".
Like, why Stargroves roommate shows up half way through the film in a brightly colored neon getup at Stargroves fathers secret farmhouse that Stargrove himself didn't even know existed acting like Rambo and shit. Doesn't make sense. Way to blend in pal.
And why does Stargroves roommate seem to supply Stargrove with cool gadgets and weapons and shit for no reason? Like, he's in college, but makes weapons for no apparent reason. Like he's the "Q" to Stargroves' James Bond.
Why does anybody not know Ragnar is actually Carruthers? The dude has the same eyes and the same voice! He doesn't even try to change it!
Why do none of the villains, Ragnar included, ever just get a freakin' gun!?
Why does Stargrove suddenly know martial arts?
Why, why, why?
This movie's crazy and for the most part doesn't make a lick a sense. But it's brilliantly crazy and Trash Cinema has never looked so good. Unfortunately, it's never been released on DVD and I doubt it ever will, but if you ever find this in any format, I say get it. Doesn't seem like it was ever meant for Anamorphic Widescreen anyways. And look at that poster ladies. Stone washed jeans tucked into high top tennies. That's how we did it back in the day.
So I know it sounds like i'm doing nothing but making fun of this thing. But the truth is, I had an absolute blast watching it and it was probably one of the most fun flicks I've seen in a really long time. Watch this with a group of your movie buddies and a few beers and I guarantee you that a good time will be had.