Hands of Steel VHS Cover

Image courtesy of robotGEEKSCultCinema.blogspot.com

1986 Lightning Video release of director Sergio Martino's Italian Trash Cinema epic. 
I seriously love this film. To me, it represents the best of the
 Italian Trash Cinema craze of the 1980's. 
I reviewed this way back in August, so for a recap you can check it out here.
As I said before, it's the best 
low budget-futuristic-cyborg in a post apocalyptic land-arm wrestling-Italian Trash Cinema 
of it's kind. Gotta love it!


Review: Captain America (1990) Extended Director's Cut

Director Albert Pyun with star Matt Salinger

This one has been a long time coming. I purchased this director's cut directly through director Albert Pyun's website months ago along with his Cyborg: Director's Cut and only now was finally able to sit down and take it all in. One of the best things about this DVD set is that it comes with it's own separate commentary disc with Pyun giving you a scene for scene play over the entire movie. It's really great stuff for a filmgeek as he goes into the whole backstory on how the Captain America film came to fruition as a concept and how he initially wanted nothing to do with it as he felt the original idea was to make it really "hammy" and how once writer Stephen Tolkien came into the project how he really liked his take on the story. He also goes into the mess with the character rights, the Golan/Globus partnership as well as every aspect involving casting, finances, budget, stunts, effects and all that good stuff. 

I should start off by saying that this "director's cut" is off of a workprint given to Pyun when he left or was let go of the project, depending on how you look at it. This workprint consists of Telecined tapes as well as the 35 millimeter workprint, so the picture quality is pretty low, several levels below VHS. But with this workprint were given a better look at the vision Albert Pyun had in mind when agreeing to sign on as director of this big undertaking. At the time, it was supposed to be a much bigger film than what eventually transpired, and as evident in the final product, he worked with what he had and with the budget he was given (or not given I should say). During production, funding ceased and the producers were left scrambling trying to secure funding to at least "finish" the picture. So imagine being a director hired to make a big budget film based on one of the most well known comic book characters of all time only to be told smack in the middle of filming that we've lost all our money? Inevitably you're left with having to improvise "everything", set pieces, action, effects, locations, etc.

I always knew that Pyun wasn't 100% completely to blame for what ultimately became Captain America. He had big ambitions for the character and the film and after several artistic failures like Cyborg, he wanted to go more mainstream and shoot the film much more straight forward and less artsy like his previous recent attempts that left no impact at the box office. Only what else can you do when your financer's back out and don't follow through with funding? You're left with no other choice "but" to be creative so you can finish the film you were hired to do but only now, with no money. So that's basically what happened with Captain America in a nutshell. Funding fell through which left no money for effects, stunts and most importantly the action. There is "some" action for sure, but in all honesty not nearly enough to satisfy a comic book geek or an action film fan. While some of them were pretty cool, they always felt so brief and I always felt short changed. 

So how do I feel about this "extended director's cut"? 
It's hard, because on one hand with Pyun's own constructed version of the film you see what film he was "trying" to make. But on the other hand it doesn't erase the fact that there was still zero budget to work with when he filmed it. So even though he's added a few new scenes and changed things around slightly, it doesn't really deliver a totally different impact than the film we got on VHS back in 1990. The film still looks cheap and there's still barely any action and the red skull still only looks like the red skull for a mere 2 minutes of screen time, and the red skull still talks with that ridiculous  Italian accent. If anything, Pyun showed us how he was trying to go more into the melodrama aspect of it with his cut. I don't know, but for me I'd much rather have it be as campy as hell and with lots of ridiculous action as opposed to a more drama filled story about Steve Rogers not fitting in modern society and grieving the loss of his true love. Look at one of Pyun's later films for example, the awesome cyborg actioner Nemesis. I know it has to do with cyborgs and double crosses and stuff like that, but I honestly couldn't tell you what the entire story was about because it was filled with so much insane action and violence that I really didn't give a shit. A plethora of blood, bullets and boobs is what made Nemesis work. I think it would've been a great idea that, once the funding disappeared and they couldn't make the film they initially set out to make, to just go the complete opposite direction and throw in as much ridiculous action as possible so that we could at least say "well it wasn't the Captain America film we wanted, but man the action kicked ass!"

After seeing this cut twice in the last few days I've grown more forgiving to some of the things that drove me nuts before. Like Matt Salinger for one. I still don't think he looked like a good Cap, but I gotta give it to the guy, he gave it his all and put his heart into it, and you really couldn't ask for more. You wonder why he just didn't physically bulk up for the role after they shot his Steve Rogers scenes. Budget reasons I guess. But it's still so painfully obvious he's got some kind of padding or whatever he's got going on underneath his oversized  long sleeved clothes and Captain America outfit. But this time around I was really able to see Matt Salinger the actor really delivering the goods. I might as well just give that credit to the entire cast as well because they were all pretty great in this. Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, Michael Nouri and even Scott Paulin really do there best with what they're given. 
Another is the action. Yea, there's not much of it in here but what there is, is put together really well under the budget constraints. The editing and multiple camera angles really give it a much broader feel than what there actually is. Inventive filmmaking to say the least. 

The biggest problem that you feel throughout though is that you just want "more". More, more, more of everything and there just isn't any there because there was no money so it was never filmed. The workprint is a nice addition to your Captain America viewing experience and give great insight to the hellish conditions with which director Albert Pyun had to work under, but it won't win over any new fans or change your overall view of the film in general. It's a low-budget film that looks cheaper than what was envisioned on an already modest budget. No matter how hard it tries, it will never escape the camp factor because of this. Which is why I feel they should've embraced that aspect of it long ago and went full throttle with it. Raise the camp factor and just have fun with it. It's pretty interesting listening to director Pyun talk during the commentary about how bad a lot of it looks and as he repeatedly says, "he did the best he could with what he was given". The guy flat out admits that, for the most part, a lot of it doesn't look very good. That's what I respect the most about him I think, the honesty. 

Director Albert Pyun has always been a "you either love him or you hate him" filmmaker. The guy has certainly delivered some gems in the past; some I even consider to be my favorite films of all time, but he's also given us some pretty terrible pictures as well. But here, I see talent in a man who wanted to make a name for himself and make something he had never done before in a way he had never tried. Who knows what kind of film he would have given us had he had the money to do so. The fault clearly lies on the studio producing the film. Giving the go-ahead on a film with a certain budget and then losing that money after filming had already begun is not good movie-making practice. So as with The Punisher, it never got a U.S. theatrical release and only got released on VHS after being shelved for 2 years because the studio still had no faith in the project and had no money to release it. So it's safe to say the poor guy had almost all the cards stacked against him. 

If you would like to purchase this DVD, you can do so directly through Albert Pyun's website @ Albert Pyun Movies or by emailing your order to CurnanPictures@gmail.com. 
For the technical specs on the 3 disc DVD set, check out my previous post here


VHS Cover Of The Day - The Hitcher

Image courtesy of robotGEEK'S Cult Cinema.

Original THORN EMI/HBO VHS Video Release in white clamshell case.
I know I just did a review on this, which you can find here, but it's such a badass cover and I'm just happy that I was able to get my hands on a copy of the original. Easily one of my absolute favorite thrillers of all time and one of my favorite Rutger Hauer performances ever. 


Review: The Punisher (1989)

Directed by: Mark Goldblatt
Category: Badass Cinema

Dolph Lundgren plays Frank Castle, a cop who's family has been mistakenly murdered by the mafia as a result of growing mob violence in the city. Believed to have been killed in the same accident, Frank disappears underground and goes vigilante as The Punisher hell bent on revenge and putting an end to mob violence as a one man killing machine. If society won't punish the guilty, he will. Meanwhile, the Japanese Mafia has moved into town led by the ruthless Lady Tanaka. After failing to secure the Italian Mob as her cohorts she decides to kidnap the children of all the mob bosses in an effort to get them to give her control of there operation. After being the only one who didn't go to a meeting set up by Lady Tanaka that instead became an ambush where all the mob heads were murdered, head mob boss Gianni Franco forcibly enlists the help of The Punisher in rescuing the children, most importantly his own son, who will ultimately become the head mob boss one day, by kidnapping and threatening to murder Frank Castle's old partner Jake (Gossett Jr.) if he doesn't succeed. The Punisher agrees as he uses his own children's death as a reminder of why he does what he does and knows that the children are innocent victims in all of this and to ensure nothing happens to his old friend and partner Jake. Can The Punisher successfully rescue all the children and will Franco keep his end of the deal when it's all over?

After 3 attempts, to me this will always be the definitive Punisher movie. Sure, the film's not perfect and I do have problems with some aspects of it, mainly not having the standard punisher costume from the comics (remember, this was 1989, they hadn't started severely altering comics outfits for films too much by then). I still don't understand why they didn't at least include a skull like on a t-shirt or something.
But if you take the Punisher comic book character aspect out of it, this is a seriously violent and awesome piece of badass cinema. I mean, the action is relentless. As I sat down to watch this today, I tried to keep a body count, but right up to the halfway mark I lost track at number 65 and I can tell you that after that halfway mark there were many, many more bodies to be added. So I can tell you that it's at least a 100. Now that is my kind of action film.

As a Dolph Lundgren fan, this along with other films from around this period in his career like Showdown in Little Tokyo, Army of One and I Come in Peace rank among some of my favorite Dolph films. I think he was perfect in this, even with the ridiculous painted-on 5 o'clock shadow. I've always thought that he looked most different in this than in most of his films, a lot thinner and less muscular. After reading the linear notes my suspicions were confirmed. He purposely dropped to 200 pounds to match his weight when he was competing professionally as a fighter. But the guy is still big and physically imposing. I also love how he's such a sarcastic son of a bitch. For example, there's a scene where he's captured and strapped to a table where his limbs are tied to chains at each end and where he will ultimately be stretched to death by the push of a button. As the villain of the film, Lady Tanaka, is leaving and as he's facing certain death, he tells her "Hava a nice day" while she's walking out the door. Gotta love it.

If society won't punish the guilty, he will.

I've been collecting comics on and off since the mid 1980's, and right from the start of my hobby The Punisher was my very first "favorite" comic book character. He always has been and probably always will be. There's just something about a vigilante character that I'm instantly drawn to. I still have some of the very first Punisher comics that I ever collected like Return To Big Nothing, the very first issues of The Punisher War Journal by Jim Lee and even the Punisher magazine.
So of course when I heard they were making a live action Punisher film way back in 1989, well you can imagine my excitement. Except my excitement turned to frustration after seeing images of Dolph as The Punisher start to trickle out of entertainment magazines and he resembled nothing like the comic book character I so dearly loved. Then, as if that wasn't bad enough, we never got a theatrical release of the film here in the United States since New World Pictures went bankrupt and it would be at least another year before it hit VHS. But I always remember hearing that the reason we never got a theatrical release was because it was too violent.

The Punisher has such an interesting amount of talent in front of and behind the camera compared to the other low budget films Marvel was trying to make around this time, most notably the never released Fantastic Four movie and Captain America. Fist off, you have the awesome Dolph Lundgren, but you've also got Louis Gossett Jr. who doesn't even have to try to be as naturally talented as he is. The guy could do this in his sleep. Directing The Punisher, you have film editor Mark Goldblatt who was making his second go at feature film directing after the insanely awesome Dead Heat from the previous year. For the writing duties, you have Hollywood writer/director Boaz Yakin making his feature film debut also. Producing The Punisher is Robert Mark Kamen who has written a lot of big budget Hollywood films like the Karate Kid trilogy, Gladiator and Lethal Weapon 3 as well as teaming with Luc Besson on a lot of films like The Fifth Element, The Transporter films, Taken and Kiss of the Dragon. A ton of talent involved in this film to say the least.

A lot of people give this film a lot of shit and I still don't know why. I'm sure it's just the fact that he simply doesn't look like The Punisher and his right hand man Chip was nowhere to be found, but man, if you can just look past that part of it, this movie kicks some serious ass. Yes, it's low-budget, but not drastically like the other Marvel properties mentioned previously. In fact, the budget looks so much bigger than "most" of Dolph Lundgren's films these days.

Looking back on it now I've found so many new things to appreciate about it. I've always loved this film, right from my first viewing, but watching it again has brought more things to my attention. Like the awesome opening credits sequence. I never noticed before how it looks just like something out of a 70's detective thriller or Euro-Trash film, right down to the score. Unfortunately the score never sounds as awesome in the rest of the film as it does during that opening credit sequence, but that's a minor complaint because the performances, action set pieces and absolute carnage that fills the film makes this one of my favorite action films of all time. I mean, how many films can claim a body count that easily tops 100?

I've always had suspicions that there was an alternate cut of this film out somewhere in the world. I mean, obviously since on the back of the VHS and DVD release there's an image of Dolph as Frank Castle before he becomes The Punisher. He's standing on a street wearing plain clothes with his partner Jake (Gossett Jr.) and Sam (Everhard) dressed as a prostitute. That scene is not in any available version of The Punisher in the U.S. But I never put much thought or effort into finding this version until recently. Apparently there is a "workprint" version of the film with a few deleted scenes floating around out there and I will be doing a review on this "workprint" edition soon.

As far as action films go, The Punisher packs a serious punch. Yea, there are some problems with it, but it still kicks ass and though there are aspects of all 3 incarnations of The Punisher that I like, so far I like this version of the character the most overall. The insane amount of action and carnage, Dolph Lundgren at his best and director Mark Goldblatt not being one to shy away from gore and violence, The Punisher is one serious piece of Exploitation and Badass Cinema.


Review: The Hitcher (1986)

Directed by: Robert Harmon
Category: Cult Classics

First time director Robert Harmon makes his feature film debut here with The Hitcher and packs this thing with so much style and substance that, along with Rutger Hauer's creepy performance, easily ranks as one of the best thrillers to ever come out of the 80's. The Hitcher has a lot of things going for it with so many different ingredients in the pot that makes it seriously stand out. The main ingredient? Rutger Hauer. If the guy didn't creep you out before, he certainly will after watching this. The guy is in full on "scares the shit out of you!" mode here and while he's played a lot of villains in his lustrous career, I don't recall ever seeing him play anybody as fucked up and pure evil as John Ryder. Sam Elliot had actually been hired to play the role of the hitchhiker but had to back out because of scheduling conflicts. Though I personally love the guy and think he could have done wonders with the role, thank gawd he backed out and Hauer took over cuz come on let's face it, Hauer was born to play the role and after appearing in well over 100 films, this is easily one of his most identifiable roles.

But it's not just Hauer that makes The Hitcher work. You also have superb direction by former photographer and director of photography Robert Harmon and a taut, tense and supremely suspenseful script by Eric Red who also wrote Near Dark, Blue Steel and Body Parts. Throw in a "then" popular C. Thomas Howell and you have a match made in heaven in 80's cinema.

I had actually been wanting to see this one for a really long time. I remember it being one of my favorite films from that era but at the time, was never able to find it in Widescreen. There are some films that I just cannot watch unless they are in Widescreen, no matter how much I love them. I know I can be a snob when it comes to that kind of stuff, but that's me. But anyway, I do remember searching and searching often throughout the years but from what I could find, the bare bones HBO DVD release was always in Full Frame, as was the Laserdisc and subsequent VHS releases and was never able to find it in Widescreen. Long story short, I was wrong and apparently it's been available in it's proper 2:35:1 aspect ratio for quite some time on both DVD and VHS. What a serious waste of several years of my life looking and waiting for this kind of release. I must not have been looking hard enough. Anyway.

But this is one of those films while being very dark and suspenseful, I also remember being visually stunning. Robert Harmon (making his directing debut) blew me away with his visuals here. It's a fairly simple story and with anybody else at the helm, I doubt they would have given the film as much panache as Harmon does here for this type of film. 25 years later I'm still blown away at how beautiful it all looks.  Harmon takes full advantage of the Widescreen format and I just couldn't imagine watching it any other way. To this day, while the talk is always about Rutger Hauer's perfomance is scary as hell, I'm still surprised nobody ever mentions how stylish the film is.

Besides Hauer's performance, one of the main things I love about this film is that it doesn't waste any time getting to the point. We're not set up with a long and drawn out prologue about who Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) is or why he's driving out in the middle of nowhere. You kind of figure it out immediately and it's after his first conversation with John Ryder (Rutger Hauer), the hitchhiker he just picked up, that it's confirmed that he's driving a car from Chicago to California for a company.  Right off the bat the hitchhiker tells him that he just killed the previous guy who gave him a ride by cutting off his arms, legs and head and he was going to do the same to him, unless he stopped him. And that's a constant theme found throughout. John Ryder tells him on several occasions that he will stop, if Halsey will stop him. He wants to stop doing the things he does, but nobody has ever been able to stop him. And while he's given clearly at least a dozen instances where he could easily have killed Halsey, he doesn't. Instead everything he does from the beginning on is to ensure that Halsey is free and able to keep moving and hopefully stop him. It's like he sees something in Halsey that he hadn't found before. Like Maybe this is the one guy smart enough to finally put me down. Halsey is even arrested several times in the film and every time Ryder bails him out by killing every single person that get's between him and Halsey. It's amazing really how efficient Ryder is at killing. He does it so easily and seems to be unstoppable. It doesn't matter if it's an unsuspecting family or a horde of cops, he always comes out in the end the victor and able to move on with his obsession with terrorizing this young man.

You also start to wonder who Ryder "really" is. You don't know anything about him or why he's doing what he's doing. Halsey even asks him point blank on 2 occasions "why are you doing this to me?".  Ryder never gives a clear answer, only saying once that "you're a smart kid.......you'll figure it out." But nothing is ever revealed as to the "who" or "why". You begin to wonder if Ryder even actually exists and is maybe some part of Halsey's split personality and Ryder is his alter ego because some of the things Ryder does seem unnatural, like he's a ghost. He always seems to magically appear wherever Halsey is (hotel rooms, coffee shops, jail, gas stations, etc.) and though there are dozens of murdered bodies lying all over the desert road at the hands of Ryder and the fact that there are hundreds of cops on his trail, he's never caught. Even when he's captured at the end we're given nothing about him. The cops can find no name, I.D., birth certificate and nothing comes up from his prints. It's only then that Halsey remembers him telling him his name is John Ryder when he first picks him up in the very beginning. But again, even after being caught and arrested he's still miraculously able to escape from a bus during transport with a dozen armed cops eyeballing his every move. Another reason to suspect the reality of it. But whatever, it's a fun guessing game and with Hauer in full on creep-mode you're kinda mesmerized at how purely evil this guy is and don't really stop to think about any of that stuff. In the end, we're never given a clear or definite answer anyway. Speaking of Hauer in full on creep-mode, that sequence with Jennifer Jason Leigh being tied between a big rig and the trailer it's pulling with Ryder at the wheel still blows my mind.

Having not seen this for for almost 20 years, I gladly say that I was still completely blown away by this. From it's visual brilliance to the top notch performances, no bullshit setup, taut fist-clenching induced suspense and tight structure, The Hitcher easily ranks as one of the best suspense thrillers I've ever seen. You owe it to yourself to seek out the Widescreen transfer of this film. The film was painstakingly designed and shot intentionally that way and it's really the only way to see it.


VHS Cover Of The Day - First Blood

Image courtesy of robotGEEK'S Cult Cinema.
If you use this image, give credit where credit is due. 

Original 1982 Thorn EMI/HBO Videocassette release in white clamshell case. 
The cover simply says it all. Badass.


Review: 13 Assassins

Directed by: Takashi Miike
Category: Badass Cinema

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that Takashi Miike directed this. I've been following the guy for about 10 years now and while I haven't seen "everything" he's ever done (there are just too many to keep up), I have seen a good chunk of them. While I do have some favorites like Ichi the Killer and Fudoh: The New Generation, a lot of his stuff is just too fucked up to get into. Like, I enjoyed the Dead or Alive trilogy to an extent, but I still don't know what the hell it all meant. But he has made some great films in almost every genre you can think of as he's probably one of the most prolific filmmakers ever. I think his most proficient year was 2002 where he directed 8 films that year alone. I wish I could say all of his films are great, but the fact is that he's made a lot of crap too.

Which surprises the hell out of me that the same guy who made countless upon countless films of that caliber turned out easily one of the best samurai epics ever made. The skill that went into making this is truly something to behold. I mean, right from the opening shot you know your not going to be getting your standard Miike fare. Every shot is epic in it's beauty and simplicity. No quick edit or hyper-kinetic camera work here, just good old fashioned filmmaking at it's finest.

 With 13 Assassins it seems Takashi Miike set out to show the world, especially his biggest haters, that he does in fact possess the skill to direct a big sweeping epic without buckets of blood or gore, but can still keep the violence level high and realistic without turning a lot of people off.
I'm not going to say that the film is perfect, because it's not, but it's pretty badass and highly effective in the type of story it's trying to portray and easily ranks as one of the most violent and exhilarating samurai films of all time.

Pretty much everything I'd heard about it is true. Slow first half where it's building the story and backgrounds of who will ultimately become the 13 Assassins and why they are on the mission they have chosen, and violent and brutal second half where, just as most of the reviews agree, is pretty much one big 45 minute long battle sequence. As long and as violent as this last half of the film is, for a Takashi Miike film it's surprisingly restrained. Some of the stuff happens just off camera, or the victims are turned the opposite way so you don't actually see them getting sliced and diced until they turn around after the fact to face the camera. But it all works so damn well with Miike's impressive visuals, the outstanding cast and muted bleached out colors of the film.
Speaking of the cast, it's a pretty damn impressive cast. Every actor in here delivers the goods ten fold and the casting of these characters is nothing short of brilliant, especially the main guy Koji Yakusho, who plays Shinzaemon, who spearheads the recruiting of the assassins. The guy is just awesome in this. Aged with wisdom and experience, but ruthlessly brutal when he draws his sword.
I really liked how the assassins were a mixed group of young and old. To me, the older guys were the ones that I enjoyed watching the most. Yea, they were older and all, but they definitely weren't any slower. Shinzaemon had a right hand man in the group, a guy even older than him who was so much fun to watch on the battle field. I had such a blast with that guy. He wasn't scared of shit and could single-handedly take down an entire fleet of samurai and ronin in the span of 10 seconds. Simply awesome!

As far as story goes, it's pretty basic. Evil lord needs to be assassinated or else he'll destroy the country and plunge it into war. And we're given a lot of back story in the first half of the film as to how Shinzaemon figures into the equation and what motivates him to give his life to end that of the evil lords. And as most people complain, the first half does drag on for a while, only offering a quick fight here and there to liven things up. It's only when the film hits the halfway point that things pick up and when they do, all hell breaks loose in an impossibly long battle that surprised even me at how long it went on. But that's a good thing. An endless samurai battle is always fun to watch.

Miike also throws in a few "WTF?" sequences here and there, just to add that special Miike flavor. Like a scene where as the enemy arrives into town as the assassins are lying in wait, they unleash a horde of cows on them that are on fire. Yea, the cows are on fire as they are running right at the enemy who are scared shitless at the sight. Another is when one of the assassins and one of the enemy are fighting as a bomb explodes that's strapped to the chest of one of them. A nice shower of blood soon follows. Great stuff!

My buddy over at A Hero Never Dies did a very nice write up on the International Blu ray release of this film, you can check that review out here. As far as samurai films go, this is definitely one of the best. Violent, brooding, bloody and epic in it's scope, 13 Assassins might go down as director Takashi Miike's most main stream and majestic film to date. After another viewing or two, I might even rank this up there with my favorite all time samurai film to date, Sword of Doom. But it's not there yet.


Review: Alien:Resurrection Special Edition Blu ray

Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Category: Sci-fi Cinema

One of the things that I love about the Alien franchise is that each film offers something totally unique from the one before.
Alien was a horror film in space. Aliens was kind of a war film in space and went full on action. Alien3 went the complete opposite from the one before and went "no guns" and was a brooding post apocalyptic thriller almost entirely set in a prison with Ripley being the only female. Then with this entry, they went full blown Sci-fi and brought the film back to it's roots where the majority of the film took place on board a spaceship, as in Alien. But with Resurrection, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children) and writer Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) combined all the elements of what made the three previous films work and upped the anti. I really love this film. To me it represents the best of what a science fiction film should be. It's a visual marvel with top notch effects work to match. The script by Joss Whedon is so completely absurd , but such a blast when it's all put together so well by director Jeunet and the cast he's assembled.

The second I heard the Alien films were going to be released on Blu ray I was all over it. I already owned the fantastic DVD Quadrilogy set that came out a few years back, but who can pass up the chance to watch these films in glorious 1080p? After watching both versions of the film, I have to admit that I prefer the "special edition" version more. Jeunet does a little intro before the film stating that for the sole purpose of this boxed set and to offer something new he agreed to include these new scenes but felt that the version released in the theaters back in 1997 was in fact his "director's cut", the cut he liked most. With the special edition the biggest changes are that there is an alternate opening sequence and an alternate ending, both of which I prefer more than the theatrical version. In the opening sequence we see a great effects shot where you see giant teeth open and you think that it's the Alien, but as the camera pans back you realize it's a tiny bug the size of a fly which subsequently get's squashed by the pilot of the ship while the camera continues to pan back and the we see an enormous ship soaring through space, all in one take. A beautifully and well constructed effects shot that, to me, better sets up the tone of the film to come.
The ending is another big change. In the theatrical version after Ripley has destroyed her offspring the ship enters Earth's atmosphere and were shown through the reflection on the glass of the ship a beautiful planet with bright blue ocean water and big white clouds as Ripley and Call (Winona Ryder) are pondering what the future holds and we then roll to end credits. In the special edition we see the ship actually land on a catastrophic and devastated Earth. Ripley and Call get out and do pretty much the same monologue and after look out to a view of what appears to be Paris, France in total ruins. I don't know, for me the bleak ending worked better than the optimistic ending of the theatrical cut. I like how given all the shit the crew went through to get to this place called Earth they find that it doesn't look to be any better of a situation than what they just escaped from, as we roll to end credits. That's a pretty ballsy ending in my book and one I felt worked much better.

I honestly do not know why this film get's so much flack. Of course whenever anybody refers to an Alien film as being one of there favorite, they are usually referring to Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) or James Cameron's Aliens (1986). Nobody ever mentions David Fincher's failed attempt with Alien3 (a film that failed not at the fault of Fincher, but a film I deeply love anyway) or Resurrection. I understand people were still probably seething from the mess that was ultimately Alien3, but people, you need to give Resurrection another chance. It's what sci-fi cinema is all about. Great visuals. Great effects. Sigourney Weaver kicking all kinds of ass. Great, if not totally absurd, story. Great cast. You've got action, suspense, gore, thrills, and a relentless pace that never let's it slow down long enough for you to ever get a chance to glance at your watch.

Speaking of the cast, let me mention how badass this cast is. First off, you have Weaver who's clearly having a blast playing almost a caricature of herself and someone who know's she's not human and uses it to scare the shit out of people. She might even be a little psycho, but that's always a good thing. You've also got a collection of badass space pirates led by the gravely voiced Michael Wincott (The Crow) as well as the always reliable Ron Pearlman (Hellboy) as a big, nasty and violent ape of a man who chooses to let his fist do his talking, Winona Ryder who surprisingly blends in well with this kind of film, Dominique Pinon (a Jeunet regular), Gary Dourdan (CSI) playing a tough guy sporting some serious hardware under his sleeves, cult favorite Brad Dourif (Child's Play) playing a doctor who learns the hard way you don't fuck with an Alien, and Leland Orser (the guy who was forced to have sex with a prostitute while wearing a cock contraption with razors in Seven) who always impresses me in almost everything he does. This is a truly great cast all around and one that raises the bar as far as ensembles go.

David Cronenberg and Danny Boyle were originally approached to direct this installment before ultimately going to Jeunet and Caro who had made Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children together. Caro was uninterested in making a film from such a well known existing franchise however, but Jeunet jumped at the chance and I'm so glad he did. This was his first solo outing as a director after splitting with his longtime directing partner Marc Caro. After Resurrection Jeunet would later go on to direct other solo projects like Amelie, A Very Long Engagement and Micmacs; all stunningly beautiful films, but it was with this film that he proved he didn't "need" Caro to make a film. In Resurrection his visuals are simply breathtaking as breathtaking as they could possibly be in a claustrophobic, dark and murky spaceship setting. But somehow the man makes it work. The film simply looks stunning from a technical level with Jeunet's inventive camera work and Darius Khondji's cinematography.

As far as Joss Whedon's script goes, it's brilliantly insane. He's put so many over the top and outstanding moments in here that it's almost impossible to just name a few, but I'll try. Like the scene where Purvis (Orser) learns that he was kidnapped, bought and sold to the doctors to be impregnated by the facehuggers. Later in the film when he knows he's about to die as the Alien starts to burst through his chest he runs after the doctor who did that to him and even after being shot a shitload of times, grabs the doctors head and puts it to his chest knowing the Alien will burst through his chest and right through the doctor's skull. Classic. Or the weird and creepy moments with Ripley and the hybrid Alien that deems Ripley as it's mother and all the strange interactions between the two when they are together. Creepy stuff. Or that badass and completely edge-of-your-seat underwater sequence where the Aliens are chasing Ripley and the space pirates. Who knew Aliens could swim? This film's brilliantly insane with a shitload of "WTF?" and "Oh Shit!" moments.

I could go on an on and on as to why I think Alien:Resurrection is such a great piece of science fiction cinema, but it would take forever and I've got other shit to watch. The film has never looked better as it does on Blu-ray and I urge you to sit down and experience the "special edition" cut as opposed to the "theatrical cut". Big differences mainly with the opening and closing sequences but changes I felt made the film much better in terms of keeping with it's style, pace and structure. If you're looking for a science fiction film with tons of action, thrills, suspense and gore, you can't go wrong with Alien:Resurrection.


Review: Crime Zone

Directed by: Luis Llosa
Category: Sci-fi

One of the things I always know is that there is always a 50/50 chance that the movie I'm about to watch won't be any good. There have certainly been a few examples of that in the recent past, but for the most part I can find some kind of redeeming quality that will let me forgive the rest of the film's shortcomings. Maybe it has an insane amount of action. Maybe it's just so bugnuts insane that it ends up being all kinds of crazy awesome. Maybe it's stylishly directed to a fault and though the story might suck, it at least looks good.
This film has none of those things going for it and in the end it's nothing but a complete bore. Amateurishly directed with practically zero amount of action to even give it the slightest amount of redeeming quality really leaves you wondering what the hell kind of film they intended to make. It's certainly not a science fiction film, and it's neither an action film nor a thriller.

First off, I need to point out that this VHS cover is 100% completely misleading. This cover is pretty much the main reason why I actually put effort into seeking this thing out. It looks cool right? You've got John Carradine's name over the title and Roger Corman producing and along with that cool cover art I thought this would at least be a badass craptastic piece of trash cinema. Nope, not by a long shot.
Beginning with the cover art, with Carradine's name over the title of the film, I actually thought that was him on the cover art. I also thought he was the star of the film. Nope. In truth, he doesn't show up until at least 30 minutes into the film and at first he plays a shadowy figure who later is revealed to be somebody else who shows up here and there. But still, that's not him on the cover. In reality, that's not anybody from the movie. A total misconception. Maybe the fault lies with Roger Corman since as I saw recently, he recycled the same exact poster 2 years later for another one of his films starring Don "The Dragon" Wilson called Future Kick. Yea, they made some changes to it obviously, but come on, it's pretty much the same. In Crime Zone, nobody looks like that artists rendering on the VHS cover and the city does not look like that either. It resembles more of a post apocalyptic wasteland future instead of the shiny bright lights with beautiful skyscrapers as shown on this cover. In fact, there's not a single shot that takes place during the day, instead using the darkness of night to mask the complete lack of futuristic sets. And when it comes to futuristic, the filmmakers apparently think that if you put enough neon lights on everything, including pool cue sticks during one sequence where the two stars of the film are playing a game of pool in a bar.

Honestly, I don't even want to waste my time with the plot or anything like that as you're probably not ever going to see this film and for good reason. When I saw that it was directed by Luis Llosa, who later went on to make bigger budget films like Sniper, The Specialist and Anaconda, I thought it would at least have had the look of a competent and even handed film. Again, not the case here. It looks amateurish and even in the world of low-budget direct-to-video films, very bland and unimpressive to say the least. Obviously, with a cover like this you are expecting to see a science fiction film with some action. Instead this plays more like a drama, not even a thriller, just a drama and I was so bored from beginning to end because of the lame directing and incredibly weak script that I just didn't care about any of the characters or about anything that was going on. A sex scene with Sherilyn Fenn can't even save this piece of trash. I can't remember the last time I was so bored out of my mind while watching a movie.


Return of the Living Dead Documentary Release Date and Info!!

Official press release:
"It worked in the movie!" When an army drum is breached and a mysterious chemical gas is released into a nearby cemetery, the dead return to life with only one thing on their minds...brains! The zombie menace quickly descends upon a group of misfits who must fight for survival as they are picked off one at a time by a horde of the undead. "Do you ever wonder about all the different ways of dying?"

Dan O'Bannon's outrageous splatter classic The Return of the Living Dead has continued to terrify and entertain horror fans for over twenty-five years with its delicious mix of blood, guts, sex and punk. Boasting off-beat humor, plenty of attitude and one of the most famous zombies ever committed to celluloid, it's easy to see why the film's legacy continues to grow. "It makes the pain go away..." More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead is the ultimate account of the tongue-in-cheek, stylish and apocalyptic zombie movie. It features -- for the first time ever! -- contributions from all the main cast as well as clips, photographs, storyboards, conceptual art, publicity materials, archival documents and behind-the-scenes footage. "They're back from the grave and ready to party!" Through this definitive retrospective fans are finally able to explore the film's journey from the world of Night of the Living Dead to the mind of acclaimed writer/director Dan O'Bannon.

Narrator Brian Peck ("Scuz") guides you through the blood, sweat and tears as cast and crew look back on their experience in the graveyard creating the film that's been called "a beauty of a cult classic!"
Bonus Features: Never-before-seen deleted, behind-the-scenes, blooper and special effects test footage that brought the Dead to life, 2-hours of incredible bonus features including "A Conversation with Dan O'Bannon: The Final Interview, They Won't Stay Dead: A Look at Return of the Living Dead Part 2, Love Beyond the Grave: A Look at Return of the Living Dead, Stacey Q Live! Exclusive "Tonight" Music Video, Even More Brains: Deleted Documentary Interviews, Return of the Living Dead in 3 Minutes, and more! Limited edition premium collectible O-sleeve packaging featuring artwork created by original Return of the Living Dead poster artist Carl Ramsey!

The release date has been set for October 18, 2011
Special thanks to Eat the deaD for the update!
October can't come soon enough.

Review: Maniac Cop

Directed by: William Lustig
Category: Cult Classics

I probably haven't seen this one in at least 15 years or so, so I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of quality. My memories have a funny habit of playing  tricks on me. What I remember being really badass when I was a teenager usually doesn't ring true anymore when I sit down to watch something again all these years later. Such was the case with Eliminators and The Borrower, 2 films I remember really liking back in my teen's but looking on them with more mature and fresh eyes, I think are terrible. Go figure.

Maniac Cop still holds up surprisingly well 23 years later. Sure it's a product of it's time and looks low-budget, but it doesn't make it any less entertaining and with director William Lustig at the helm as well as a pretty outstanding supporting cast, Maniac Cop has every right to be considered a cult classic.

I would probably even classify this under Trash Cinema because it has all the necessary ingredients for that kind of film and in the end, gleefully embraces how ridiculous and over the top it all is and just has fun with it. Don't try to make sense of any of the inconsistencies or massive plot holes because it would take forever and drive you nuts. Instead go into this knowing what film it's trying to be and just have fun with it.

A series of seemingly random killings has left the city of New York on edge. Detective Frank McCrae is convinced that it's by one of there own either currently or retired but can't seem to convince anybody else of this theory, much less his captain. After a rookie cop is framed for the murders, McCrae slowly starts to uncover the missing piece of the puzzle that ultimately rings his theory true. Can McCrae and the rookie cop framed for the murders uncover who's really behind the murders before he kills again?

This is the kind of film that I wish William Lustig had made with Vigilante. That one had the right look and feel, but in the end it was really underwhelming and never took advantage of all the things it had going for it that could have made it more like something like this. Fortunately Maniac Cop seems to take all the missed opportunities from that film and pushes them even further in this one for a really entertaining experience. What really helps this film more than anything is it's stellar cast. For one you have the awesome Robert Z'Dar as Matt Cordell/Maniac Cop. But you also have cult film favorite Tom Atkins as detective Frank McCrae who's hot on the trail of the maniac cop, Bruce Campbell (never looking more fit) as the wrongfully accused rookie cop who's been framed for all of the maniac cops murders, Richard "Shaft" Roundtree as the Commissioner and what the hell, you even have boxing legend Jake "Raging Bull" LaMotta in a cameo as a security guard and Sam Raimi as a television reporter. A truly great cast all around.

Maniac Cop is not without it's flaws, but for the most part everything works really well. It's violent, bloody and impressively shot by Lustig. It fortunately retains it's visual flair for the entirety of the film offering some really impressive camera work and stunt sequences. The makeup may not be the best, but again it's a low-budget film, so you kinda have to guess that going in. The good thing though is that the maniac cop is not fully revealed until the very end, which is a good thing as his makeup is the least impressive thing about this film. I have to say that it was really cool seeing Campbell play kind of the hero in the tough cop role. I'm just so used to seeing him as a smart ass in most of his films and here he's given the opportunity to play the straight guy, a rookie who's been framed for multiple murders including that of his wife, who must prove that someone else is responsible in order to clear his name.

You have the right to remain silent..........forever.

Warning: Spoilers!!
One of the things that I didn't remember about this was the fact that maniac cop had someone pulling his strings. I just remembered, incorrectly, that he was just some dead cop who came back to life and was out for revenge against the people who had wronged him. But when he's out murdering people he's not targeting the ones that led to his death, instead killing unlucky random citizens he just seems to come across at night. But there's more to it than that as we soon realize that he's getting information on certain people connected to the police force by someone in the department and using it to his advantage. So right away I start to think, "how can a zombie cop think?". Maybe he does the cop stuff out of memory and habit since he was a decorated veteran cop for so many years, but how is he able to think and process information to use to his advantage? So my memories were incorrect and he is not in fact dead after all. At least not yet anyway. Because I do remember him pretty much being a zombie in part 2, but I guess that process hadn't taken effect yet in the first one.
In case you were wondering, Matt Cordell was a decorated cop who was unjustly sent to prison for killing someone on the job. Refusing to be separated from the other inmates (he did put most of them in there after all), he is ambushed in the shower by a bunch of fellow inmates and murdered......seemingly. When he's taken to the coroners office the coroner discovers that Cordell is not dead after all, but just barely clinging to life. The coroner instead states that he was in fact deceased and justifies it by stating that he felt nobody could live anyway after what Cordell had been through and he was pretty much brain dead and his pulse wasn't strong enough to sustain life. It's never really stated what happened to Cordell's body after that though. Did the coroner in fact bury him? Or did he somehow let him go? Another major plot hole that drove me nuts. As I said, the many plot holes and loose ends will drive you crazy. I wish there was some explanation as to why this guy is 1.) Alive. 2.) Able to have super human strength. 3.) Going around killing random people instead of the ones who "wronged" him. All that shit just didn't make any sense to me. We're just supposed to accept it I guess and move on. End Spoilers.
Robert Z'Dar in Tango & Cash
Robert Z'Dar being cast as the maniac cop was simply a brilliant move. The guy's made a name for himself as a regular B-movie baddie, but he has popped up in a big budget film from time to time, most notably as the truck driver in the beginning of Tango & Cash (a badass 80's actioner that I reviewed previously here) who showed up again later in the prison escape sequence. Maniac Cop doesn't utter a single word in all three films, instead using body language and action, and with Z'Dar's naturally big size he comes across as physically imposing and threatening. And that jaw. Who wouldn't be scared of that jaw?

Maniac Cop is finally getting the Blu-ray treatment on October 11th of this year by Synapse Films with a decent amount of extras. Most of the film takes place at night, but as much as I enjoyed watching this on my Collector's Edition Widescreen VHS, a lot of it was hard to make out in the night scenes which looked dull and muted, and unfortunately most of this film takes place at night. So watching this on Blu-ray when it comes out would definitely be an upgrade in terms of picture quality and a must buy.
Interestingly Maniac Cop 3 (the least favorite of the bunch) is easily and readily available on DVD very cheap. Part 2 was only ever released on a lazy bare bones Full Frame DVD, just like with the OOP DVD of Split Second. Plus, it's never been available in Widescreen, which is just odd and lame. Part 2 is easily the best of the series and deserves a proper release. Hopefully the success of the Blu-ray release of this film will encourage Synapse Films to also release part 2 in the near future. Only time will tell.


Review: Sharky's Machine

Burt is Sharky. Nobody leans on Sharky's Machine!
Directed by:
Burt Reynolds
Category: Badass Cinema

Sharky's Machine is a film I've been wanting to catch for a long time. I love me a good Burt Reynolds flick, and while this one has always been on the back of my mind, I've never had a chance to really come across it until now. Most Burt fans consider this his best film. For me it's still a toss-up between this and Stick. I know Stick didn't end up becoming the film that neither Burt nor the author had envisioned, but for me it's still one helluva badass Burt Reynolds flick where he plays cooler than cool and tough as nails all at the same time. That's the Burt I like to see. I know the guy became the biggest box office star at the time and made a shitload of money with films like The Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit, but it's these hard-edged more serious films that I prefer when I'm needing a Burt fix.

Sharky's Machine starts off with a bang. Sharky, a narcotics cop, is in the middle of an undercover drug sting when it goes completely awry where several innocent civilians are killed or hurt. Sharky is able to eventually bring the guy down, but because of the whole botched operation he is quickly demoted to Vice. Once in Vice he teams up with a collection of Vice cops who mainly work on catching prostitutes and whatnot. Nothing too big until they discover a prostitution ring with ties to the mob and a local politician. Sharky zeroes in on one particular high dollar prostitute named Dominoe played by the enticing Rachel Ward. Dominoe, it seems, has ties to both the Italian Mob "and" the local politician who is running for governor, so Sharky feels staking out her place is a good place to start. Undoubtedly though, he starts to form a voyeuristic love for her as he watches her day and night from an adjacent building.
In the meantime there's a sadistic and psychopathic hitman out on the streets killing off anybody that might be able to connect the mob to the local politician under the employment of mob boss Victor Scorelli.

The hitman here is played by none other than Henry Silva and it's whenever he shows up on screen that the film really picks up speed. He's sadistic and extremely violent and completely psychotic as he's continuously high on PCP and Cocaine. The guy's almost like a ghost as he's able to move around and disappear before anybody knows what the hell happened. I love all the little touches given to this mysterious hitman that differentiate's him from your average run of the mill movie hitmen. Mainly the screaming he does when he's about to blow your head off. I don't know, it's definitely unique and strange but adds a certain amount of character to him that you don't normally see, especially in a movie from 1981. I don't know if it was in the book or if it was a creative decision by director Burt Reynolds, but it works.

If you mess with a cop like Sharky, you better be very tough.......or very beautiful.

I seriously loved this film. It's gritty and extremely hard-edged in the world of crime drama's and I was happy to see that Burt picked a genre and stuck with it from beginning to end, unlike the mess that was Gator, which didn't know what kind of film it wanted to be. Reynolds direction is solid and when the action and violence unfolds, it's pretty damn brutal and I loved that about this film. He didn't half ass the violence to please anyone, instead choosing to go full on gratuitous in it's depiction of violence whether it's a gun fight, a fist fight, or in one sequence against women where Sharky gets into it with Dominoe and ends up roughing her up a bit. I was kinda shocked at that scene because he did the same thing in Gator where he roughs up a girl and doesn't seem to mind looking like the kinda guy who can hit a girl.
The blues score is pretty impressive too, giving the film a lowdown dirty shame (not the Wayans film of the same name but the genre kind of film from that era in the late 70's) kinda feel. The opening credits theme song might not work so well though as it just seems out of place, but the rest of the blues score works great.
Reynolds has also surrounded himself with a tremendous cast of supporting actors. We've got Charles Durning as Sharky's high strung boss, Bernie Casey as his new Vice partner, Henry Silva as the psychotic hitman, Richard Libertini as an old friend on the force, and Brian Keith from Hardcastle and McCormick who plays another one of his Vice partners. A really, really great cast in a pretty great film.

My only complaint, and there are 2 of them, is that this is not available in Widescreen (a constant complaint of mine, I know), and the mid section of the film seriously drags when Sharky is staking out Dominoe's apartment as we watch her do days and days of mundane crap. I felt this section dragged on unnecessarily long and I caught myself losing interest once or twice. Thankfully the film redeems itself in the last act as all hell breaks loose and Sharky and his "machine" (his Vice Squad partners if you didn't already figure out what machine stood for) go up against the ruthless hitman. Somehow in this last section of the film Reynolds was even able to throw in a fight with himself and a bunch of ninjas. Don't ask me how, but he does and it was a pretty badass sequence.

These are the kinds of films I wish Reynolds had continued to make on a regular basis instead of resorting to comedy. I know the comedies made the money, but these are the kinds of films I would have preferred to see with Burt Reynolds in his prime.


Review: Gymkata

Directed by: Robert Clouse
Category: Cult Classic

The skill of gymnastics, the kill of karate

First thing you should know when going into this is that it's directed by Robert Clouse, the dude who directed probably the best and most influential martial arts film of all time, Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon. It also stars Olympic Gold medalist Kurt Thomas and if that's not enough, also stars regular Hong Kong baddie and martial artist Richard Norton.

So you're probably wondering, does it all work? Did the filmmakers invent some new hybrid of gymnastics and martial arts that had never been done before and miraculously knocked it out of the park that one time and no other filmmakers could ever top it so they never even tried?
I'm sorry to say that it doesn't. I wanted it to though, really really bad. The beginning is promising as the setup shows what kind of film this is going to be. The camp factor is really high and I'm pretty sure that it wasn't intentional. And I knew that going into this. But I had hoped that the cheese and camp factor were so ridiculous that it would fall into the "awfully good" category.

Synopsis via Max Halperin:
Jonathan Cabot is a champion gymnast. In the tiny, yet savage, country of Parmistan, there is a perfect site for a "star wars" site. In order for the U.S. to get this site, they must compete in the brutal "game". The government calls on Cabot, the son of a former operative, to win the game. Cabot must combine the gymnastic skills of the west with fighting secrets of the east and form GYMKATA!!

I know the concept sounds ridiculous, but I figured if they could somehow make gymnastics martial arts look good, then it at least had that going for it. Man, this thing is bad and not in a good way. It definitely has it's moments, but it tries so hard to be so serious and you can tell they were going for a martial arts James Bond kind of genre but it's missing so many elements that could have made it all work. For one you have director Robert Clouse who just does not seem to be trying at all here. Everything looks bland and while this was made in 1985, he seems to be using the same techniques that he incorporated into films like Enter The Dragon and Black Belt Jones, but a whole decade later just doesn't work. One of the most noticeable aspects are the sound effects. The punches, falls, kicks and swooshes sound like the came right outta some really bad Hong Kong film from the early 70's. You keep thinking to yourself as you watch it, "didn't they stop doing that stuff in these films in the 70's?".
Okay, so if the fight sequences were at least badass then I could forgive those sound effects. It would have added that little "something", but even the fight scenes were laughably bad. Maybe the first one or two times when Thomas is doing some completely unnecessary jumps, flips and tumbles during a fight it was amusing. But after the third time it gets tedious and repetitive. Nothing new or interesting to differentiate one from the other where you could actually point out from memory when talking to your friends about it. Like, "oh dude, remember that badass fight when he did this or that in the forest?". Nope, none of that here.

Surprisingly, Kurt Thomas does a decent enough of a job. He can deliver the lines without making you wince in pain and Richard Norton is always reliable as an able bad guy. Some of the supporting actors are not so lucky though. Bad acting and bad dubbing are all over the place. There is one awesome aspect of the film, the score by Alfi Kabiljo. It's way more cooler than it deserves to be for this film. It's a loud, stylish and bombastic score that reminded me of Basil Poledouris's work on Conan the Barbarian. I'm not kidding, it really did and it's probably that aspect that led me to believe this was going to be something pretty badass.

I have to say that for most of the film, it was alright. It started off pretty cool as you immediately see how ridiculous this film is going to be. Then it just gets kind of tedious for the mid section until just getting plain weird towards the end. It's right after he's completed most of the "Game" and has returned to the village. All of a sudden it tries to turn into a creepy supernatural kind of film complete with eerie music as he's walking through a seemingly empty town, but then starts to see a few towns people acting really weird and trying to kill him. These townsfolk are moaning and yelling and making really strange sounds and almost acting like monkeys. I just don't know what the hell the filmmakers were thinking with this sequence. Everything slows down to a crawl, even the fights. As he's walking around this empty village a towns person comes out of nowhere and a fight ensues, in incredibly boring slow motion. One after another either a slow fight or a slow foot chase. To me, it felt like a good chunk of this film was dedicated to this ridiculous and completely out of place sequence and after it's all said and done, it's the sequence I'll remember most about the film because it's what ultimately killed the film for me. That's just me though, it might not be all that bad for other viewers.

I love how there's always miraculously and conveniently a balance beam or a pommel horse in this tiny little village in the middle of nowhere for Thomas to show off his moves. My favorite is when he gets surrounded by a mob of a hundred villagers and amazingly finds a pommel horse and proceeds to knock the shit out of each and every one of them. Funny stuff. And  the filmmakers decision to make every villager in this film look as hideous as humanly possible is another strange and funny aspect. The blackening of the teeth and the dark circles around the eyes look so bad and lame and amateurish that you can't help but laugh and wonder if it was done on purpose for laughs or not.

This is a bad film from every angle and if you're looking for a good laugh with friends, then this is the film for you. And it would be a decent film for that alone if that last section didn't kill the film completely in it's odd and unsuccessful decision to turn into a different film altogether and ultimately leaves you bored to death.

Badass finds of the day!

So let me just start off by saying that I've been trying to get my hands on a Laserdisc player for a few months now. I could find lower brand ones on eBay and Amazon for roughly around $50 on up. Of course they're all used and almost all do "not" come with a remote. And the Pioneer's are way more expensive, I guess they are considered top of the line in Laserdisc players. Those easily go for a few hundred at least. But I check here and there on the internet cuz you just never know.
Today I decided to hit a local antique store. Here in my town we have an entire street dedicated to antique stores and it's hard to choose which one to stop in at. I chose one and after browsing the entire store for an hour we make it to the very back where they were selling a lot of vintage vinyl records. Under a pile of trash and an enormous pile of dust I found this Laserdisc player. I almost screamed for joy. Unfortunately the guy who was selling it wasn't there at the time so I had to wait a little while till he came back to ask the price since there wasn't any prices on anything back there. When he finally showed up he said that he forgot he even had this and didn't even know if it worked or not since he never tested it. I asked if it did work, how much would he sell it for? He said $20. For $20, what the hell? I'll take it!
I took it home, dusted it off and am extremely proud to say that it works magnificently and on a plus side, besides being a fucking PIONEER, is that it had The Abyss Special Edition Laserdisc still in it! You can say I'm on cloud 9 right now. The player itself is in remarkably good condition once I took all the dust off and wiped it down. Almost looks new. Only thing is that it did not have a remote, which means I'll have to physically get my ass up off the couch to actually touch the buttons on the thing. Small price to pay for such an enormous amount of enjoyment.

Second awesome find of the day in the same antique shop was this Italian Alien One Sheet.
Again, no prices on anything so I asked the guy how much and he said "eeeehh, $10?". Sold!!
Now, I'm hesitant to call this an "original" one sheet because I honestly do not know and do not want to get my hopes up, I'll have to do some research first. But it looks like the real deal and if it is an authentic original Italian one sheet, this thing could potentially (at least I'm hoping it is) be worth a lot of money as it is in near mint condition with only a dent on the bottom left corner. No holes, tears or folds anywhere.

I'm telling you, this was the coolest day ever!
My intentions originally were to look for old VHS tapes that these stores "may" have had lying around or something. I had no idea that I'd be lucky enough to spend $30 and get a PIONEER Laserdisc player and a "potentially" vintage Alien Italian one sheet in near mint condition. I'm tellin' ya, what a day.


Review: Prison

Directed by: Renny Harlin
Category: Horror/Cult Cinema

Prison is a pretty great little horror film. Released in 1988 and never having had an official U.S. DVD release as of this day, which shocks the hell out of me, it has everything you would want in a horror film and delivers ten fold.
Most people don't know that this film even exists in director Renny Harlin's filmography. This was his second decent budgeted film to be made after a few shorts and it's with this film that you see the Finland native really has a flare for this kinda stuff. I just can't believe that this film has never gotten a proper U.S. DVD release. I know it's available in a Region 2, but why not a stateside release?

Prison is a slow burn kind of film, and you're a little thrown off for the first half as not much really happens other than setting up the story and characters, and there are a lot of them. You start to think that it's gonna play out more like a ghost story or thriller or something. But right at the half way mark the shit hits the fan and it hits it hard. Prison has everything I love in a good horror film. It's stylishly directed, has really good character development, the best B-movie cast money can buy and top notch special and makeup effects. It also has plenty of "Oh Shit!" moments to satisfy a true horror fan and raises the level of this film to awesome.

Right in the beginning as the film starts were shown a guy get executed. You can tell that it's some time ago, maybe the 60's or 70's, and you never see the face of the guy getting strapped into the electric chair, but you do see one of the guards and it's a younger looking Lane Smith, who plays warden Eaton Sharpe. Jump forward about 20 years and the prison has been abandoned for what seems like years and has been recently reopened and former prison guard Eaton Sharpe has now been appointed warden of this new prison. As the new prison inmates start rolling in for the first day of roll call you see a lot of familiar faces and immediately know that this is gonna be better than you expected. Right away you have a very young Viggo Mortensen, Tiny Lister Jr., Chelsea Field, Lane Smith and a slew of other B-movie regulars which gives the film a definite aura of authenticity. Immediately warden Sharpe orders a few of the guards to knock down a wall that housed the original electric chair in the basement and once they do, they unwittingly unleash the spirit of the prisoner that was electrocuted (wrongly) all those years ago and is now out for revenge on the warden and everyone else in the prison. You soon learn that the spirit was a wrongfully electrocuted prisoner who was set up by warden Sharpe when he was a security guard.

When the spirit is released and starts killing both prisoners and guards off one by one, the film really starts to pick up it's pace. The deaths are gruesome and creative and really well executed by director Renny Harlin. They're aren't a lot of digital effects (thank gawd), instead the use of light substitutes the evil force to great effect. And when they do use some effects work, it still looks really great and not cheesy or lame in any way. But when the kills come in, they are awesome! Over the top, bloody, creative and fully realized in a practical way, which really raises the bar in terms of quality. Everything just looks great and I never once winced at how awful a certain death or sequence was executed. It's a low budget film, but looks and feels like some of the best horror films to come out of the 80's thanks to a "then" confident and talented director. This is the Renny Harlin I love and miss. The guy who gave us great looking pictures like Prison, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and The Long Kiss Goodnight. Seriously, what happened to this guy?

 Viggo Mortensen does a really great job as the quiet hero. He plays a thief who is in prison for a short stint, but has a heart of gold. He's a man of few words, but never hesitates to risk his life to help someone else out. Another factor that plays into the story later is that he bears a striking resemblance to the guy that got executed all those years ago, the vengeful spirit now currently haunting the prison. It's funny, this guy has been acting in minor roles for over 25 years but it wasn't until Peter Jackson cast him as Aragorn in The Lord of the Ring trilogy that people really took notice. The guy delivers the goods in everything he does, whether it's in films like this and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 where he played Tex, or minor roles in films like Albino Alligator and Daylight, he gives everything into each role and makes them memorable. Lane Smith does the evil warden role really well here. The guy is such an asshole and constantly seems to come up with interesting ways to torture and punish the prisoners to get what he wants. Chelsea Field does a fine job as well, though I never understood what her position was. She works on the committee that got the prison up and running again and her job was basically to see if everything was running according to plan. She's one of the good guys and though she kinda disappears for the mid section of the film, she returns to play a pivotal role in the end.

If you can sit patiently through the first half of the film, your patience will be handsomely rewarded. This film delivers the goods on all fronts and while I was a little worried in the beginning with the "slow burn" feel, I'm happy to say that this rare, little seen and under-appreciated horror film exceeded all my expectations and turned out to be a really badass and extremely well made horror film with a lot of "Oh Shit!" moments. Because come on, if you're not yelling "Oh Shit!" at the television while you're watching a horror film, is it really any good then?


Batmobile (1989)

Slow day so I thought I'd post this awesome vintage Popular Mechanics magazine article I found over at VHS Wasteland. I remember when this first came out and images were starting to leak out in magazines (this was before there was the internet in every household) before it's summer release in 1989. It was something so new and fresh and completely unique that I immediately fell in love with it.
This was and always will be my favorite version of the Batmobile. It was basically the same in Batman Returns, but they made a few minor modifications to it.

I detested what they did to it in Batman Forever. But when Tim Burton's Batman came out in the summer of 1989, next to the badass truck that Tango & Cash drove at the end of that film in the same summer, I thought this was the coolest fucking car I'd ever seen in my life. I even like it more than the old Batmobile from the Adam West show.

I don't know, there's just something about the design of it that always blew me away. It's so dark and gothic, completely impractical of course, but man does it look badass charging down the street.
Thanks to VHSWasteland.com for the article.


Raiders of Atlantis - 1983 Prism Entertainment VHS Release

 Image courtesy of robotGEEK'S Cult Cinema.
If you use this image, give credit where credit is due.
You can say I'm about as giddy as a kid on the last day of school right now. Browsing through eBay about a week ago I came across this and couldn't believe the price the seller had on it. $6.99. Yup, just $6.99 and a few bucks for shipping.

The thing was that he or she didn't even have an actual photo of the case or tape, instead using a stock photo for the listing. But the description really caught my attention. It stated that this was the very first VHS release of Raiders of Atlantis done by Prism, the best version available on VHS as the subsequent versions released on VHS were Grade Z stuff.
It also stated that it was a former rental in a clamshell case. So immediately I assume it is one of those regular hard plastic cases where they took the cardboard VHS cover and cut it to fit into the case. Well imagine my surprise when I received my package today and opened it to find that this is the much bigger clamshell case, even bigger than the VHS clamshell cases usually reserved for Special Edition re-issues of horror films by Anchor Bay like The Evil Dead trilogy and the Demons films back in the 90's. And the cover art in this is specifically made, printed and cut to fit specifically by a manufacturer to fit into this particular larger size clamshell case. This much bigger package design more closely resembles the larger VHS clamshell cases from the late 70's to early 80's used for Warner Brother's films when released on VHS way back then. And to top it off, this thing looks brand spankin' new! Like nobody rented it ever! It has a few stickers on it as the picture shows, but the case, the vinyl covering the artwork, the glossy artwork and the tape itself are in near mint condition.

Image courtesy of robotGEEK'S Cult Cinema.
If you use this image, give credit where credit is due.
The actual tape has the film's release date of 1983 by Regency Productions SRL, but it also has Package Design & Summary Copyright 1985 Prism Entertainment Corp. on the same label. The Packaging on the lower back says the same thing except it states the year as 1986 for the Package & Design Copyright. So I'm not sure if the tape itself and the package design are in fact the very first release by Prism or not, or if this is a special package design done exclusively for video rental stores. If anybody can shoot any info my way regarding this I'd be much appreciative.

In any case, I'm an extremely happy man right now because for a measly $6.99, I got far more than what I was expecting.
I can only assume that the seller didn't know what he or she had on there hands or just didn't care because if they would have included a photo of the actual item, I probably would've paid far more than what I paid for it to get my hands on this. This is absolutely one of my favorite films of all time and one of the best examples of Trash Cinema to come out of the 1980's.