Hit List (1989) Film Review

VHS cover scan courtesy of retro-daze.org

Directed by: William Lustig
Category: Action/Thriller

This is a film that I'd been wanting to see for quite some time, yet was made difficult by the fact that it has never gotten a release outside of VHS and Laserdsic. And when I did come across it on these formats from time to time, they were always too expensive for me to spend on a blind buy not knowing if the film was really any good or not. But I do have to admit, that RCA VHS was always so attractive to me, so I always kept an eye out for it hoping I could come across one fairly cheap. And I eventually did.

While this wasn't as "awesome" as I was hoping for, it was still a very good thriller. There are things that work, and there are things that don't. Thankfully, the things that do work, work extremely well and make up for some of what the film lacks. Mainly what it lacks is substance. There were long stretches of time where nothing very interesting happened, yet it wasn't altogether boring either, if that makes sense. What does work in it's favor is the strong cast, Lustig's excellent visuals and a fantastic ending.

Starting with the cast, while I've always found Rip Torn to be just a flat-out odd actor, he comes across even more so in here where he tries to pull off an Italian gangster. And I'm aware of Jan Michael Vincent's reputation and substance abuse as much as the next guy, but considering Lustig had to shoot most of his scenes solo because he was just so out of it most of the time, I honestly couldn't tell. He seemed coherent enough, and I never once noticed he rarely ever shared the same shot with other actors. The guy who really steals the show in here though is Lance Henrikesen. While he seems to be one of the busiest actors in history, knocking out half a dozen films or shows a year, he always finds time to really go nuts with a character from time to time and in here, he gives us one of his most memorable, insane and most entertaining villains I've ever seen from him. Seriously. This movie is worth the watch just to see Lance play insane over the top psychotic hit man alone. Truth be told, it's Lance who ends up saving this film, making it a much better film overall than had someone else played the main bad guy role.

The action and stuntwork will definitely be a highlight for anyone who watches this, because it's what ultilmately drives the film. There are some nice sequences scattered throughout the film, but sadly, not as much as you would like. However, once the film hits it's third and final act, Hit List kicks into high gear delivering some outstanding action, stuntwork and car chases. I won't spoil it for you, except to say it's awesome and worth the investment.

William Lustig has not made a lot of films as a director, though he is a highly prolific producer. Of all the films he's made, he'll most likely be remembered as the director of such cult classics as the Maniac Cop trilogy, Vigilante and Maniac. I personally find him a highly underrated filmmaker. He has a very specific style when it comes to making films, a very gritty, yet stylized approach that give all of his films a very Lustig quality. I had always hoped he would direct more, or use his specific talents in the action/thriller genre, but it just seems that those weren't in the cards. I am glad that he did ultimately give us a handful of gems though. I just wish there were more.


No Contest II: AKA Face The Evil Film Review

VHS scan courtesy of Talesfromthesnikt.blogspot.com
This is the perfect example of why you can't have too much of a good thing. When  I randomly came across the first film in the series, No Contest about a year ago, it was more than just a pleasant surprise. It was awesome. I fucking loved it. Essentially just a low-budget Die Hard ripoff, it ended up being one of the better ones in a sea of Die Hard ripoffs. In fact, it's damn near an identical clone! What was even more surprising, aside from it's impressive casting, was that it was directed by Paul Lynch, who's only real big credit was directing the very first Prom Night. He again returns in the director's chair, and again re-teams with star Shannon Tweed.

In this sequel, oddly re-titled Face The Evil here in the U.S., they bring along the always reliable baddie Lance Henrikeson, and Bruce Payne, who shockingly turns a good guy performance this time around. While not as impressive as the cast of the first film, they do solid work with what they have to work with.

Aesthetically, director Paul Lynch seems to kind of go-through-the-motions here. While a competent
VHS scan courtesy of VHSCollector.com
looking film, it's a far cry from his slick streamlined approach where he was channeling John McTiernan. Here he takes a much looser and more freestyle approach, meaning you won't find any of the impressive widescreen shots and kickass camerawork that made the first one so good.

I have to admit. I had high hopes for this one. I mean, how could I not? The first one was just so fun and well made when I wasn't really expecting much to begin with. And knowing the same star and director were returning only got my excitement even hotter. But while the story, about a mad man who wants to release a chemical agent that kills instantly, was okay, the many sub-par fight scenes, action sequences, and less than stellar camerawork leave you let down.

While knowing full well that Shannon Tweed cannot possibly do most of the fighting and stunts in both of these films, it was easier to take seeing her stunt double the first time around simply because the first one was a much better and enjoyable film all around. Here though, it comes off as annoying when 90% of the time you see a stunt double with a bad blonde wig doing everything, even the simplest punches, kicks, or tumbles.

I think what this film does best is remind you how good the first film was, and if anything, get's you to go back and revisit that randomly surprising film.


Bad Movie Night Presents: Remote Control

My sealed VHS copy
Directed by: Jeff Lieberman
Category: Horror

Much like most of these types of films, or just most old horror films I've seen lately, this was another one I've come across countless times at my local video store, but never took the time to actually watch it for one reason or another. If you've never seen this either, I'm sure you have seen this cover though. How can you forget it?

Some movie friends of mine brought this up recently, and both stated how much they loved it, in a very 80's cheesy, fun/bad sorta way. So as you can imagine, I was sold. Found a sealed VHS on eBay really cheap and did some online digging, only to discover that this was from the same guy who did the horrendous Satan's Little Helper, a film that was so bad, so infuriating that we struggled to finish it. And SLH was a film that writer/director Jeff Lieberman made many years after Remote Control, so you can imagine my apprehension. My excitement had downgraded tremendously, but I gave it a shot anyway, thinking that it's 80's setting would hopefully add a little something to the nostalgia factor. I was right, and boy did it ever.

Remote Control was a blast from start to finish. Much like Death Spa, it's almost an insane characature of that specific decade. Everything about 1986 is so overdone in this, and it's hard to tell whether it was intentional or if that was where things were headed in that year. I have to think it was over-the-top on purpose, because I grew up in the 80's and I don't remember it being this insane or ridiculous. Regardless, it's a helluva fun time in the 80's cheese department and you won't be sorry by giving this one a chance.

A videocassette, when watched, turns people into killers. When the truth is revealed as to where these tapes come from and what the real intention is, it's a lot worse than anybody could have imagined.

Though it was released in 1986, this film has a considerably larger budget, look and feel than a lot of writer/director Jeff Lieberman's later films. I think also it's mid 1980's setting really helped. Things could just look outrageous and they could get away with it back then. Add to that Lieberman's better-than-I-was-expecting direction and Remote Control looks like a big budget horror film that could easily have played at your local cinema back in the day.

One of the things that really makes this so great is the fact that large portions of this takes place in several video stores. If you're a collector like I am, then you'll probably be paying more attention to the tapes sitting on the shelves in the background and all the sweet posters and counter displays. For example, look at this shot above. You can clearly see a video store standee of the Burt Reynolds flick Stick sitting on top of a shelf in the background. It's things like that that make this film so fun to watch. But it's also the simple idea of a VHS tape being the source of all this evil. It's so ridiculous but also very nostalgic to see an entire horror film revolve around a dead format.

So much of this film works on an absurd level that it's easy to forgive it for it's many, many shortcomings. In fact, it's the film's faults that really give it some of it's character. We laughed and yelled "what the?" so many times that it's almost impossible not to enjoy yourself. I'm not aware of this ever having a major release outside of VHS, at least not here in the U.S., which is a shame because if there ever was a cult horror film that could use a knockout new DVD or Blu Ray release, it's this one. Until that day comes, see if you can find it streaming somewhere, or better yet, track down a VHS.

It's been brought to my attention several times from readers - sometimes nicely, sometimes not so nicely - that this film has in fact been released on Blu Ray and DVD by the films writer/director Jeff Lieberman on his own website. For those of you who feel I misled you or feel that the information I was giving was wrong, I apologize. I simply gave the information I had at the time, having just barely seen the film for the very first time, and finding no information readily available online for any such release. But it seems that there is in fact a DVD you can purchase from the director himself. Sadly, the Blu Ray is Out of Print. Here are the details:

Fully-Remastered All-Region DVD & Blu-ray

  - New 2K HD transfer
  - All-new commentary with writer-director
    Jeff Lieberman
  - Publicity Still Gallery

1.85:1 widescreen / English 2.0 / 88 minutes
Rated R

Brand-new and factory-pressed.

You can order your copy directly from the director HERE.  


Memoirs of an Invisible Man Film Review

Directed by: John Carpenter
Category: Thriller

If there was any film from John Carpenter's second half of his career that felt the least like a John Carpenter film, this is it. But that doesn't mean it's not just as good as any of his other stuff. In fact, I consider it one of his last great films, and a criminally underrated and well-crafted thriller.

Nick Halloway (Chevy Chase) is a lazy, arrogant and successful yuppie lawyer living the high life while putting in as little effort as possible in his job. When a freak accident renders him invisible, he's faced with a shocking identity crisis, has to learn to cope with this new condition, and try to reconnect with a new flame, all while an evil CIA agent (Sam Neill) is hot on his trail. 

This film was a passion project for Chase (at least, that's what I remember reading in an article way back then), and as you may or may not know, this film flopped, big time. Ultimately, it ended up losing millions of dollars, not even coming near breaking even on it's budget. I believe it was intended to start transitioning Chase into more serious roles, and here, as his first leading man role in a more serious film, he does a magnificent job. But see, I think the problem right from the beginning was that people just couldn't disassociate him from comedy, and so most people believed this was in fact another comedy. But they couldn't have been more wrong. Yes, there are little funny bits here and there, but if anything, it's mostly a thriller, with healthy doses of action, drama and science fiction thrown into the mix. 

MoaIM is first and foremost a thriller, and a very good one at that. Chevy Chase does not crack jokes, is not snarky, and is not falling down for a laugh. Here he plays it straight, and I have to admit, he does a damn fine job. Though I couldn't stop staring at his weird haircut, it's completely obvious he went through great lengths to prepare for the sometimes physically demanding role. He's tan for one, which is kind of odd, but he's also in pretty good shape, something you can't help noticing during his one and only nude scene in his career. So you can tell he took the role seriously, at least physically. But then you have to consider the pains, and sometimes torture, he went through for the films grueling special effects, which were highly advanced and state of the art at the time. Hell, I think they still hold up amazingly well today, and come off as better and more realistic than most of the CGI stuff they try to pull of these days. They're damn impressive on a technical level.

By this time, John Carpenter had a string of bombs (which have since become insanely worshiped cult classics). Because of this, he went the independent route with his last two films, Prince of Darkness and They Live, which performed moderately well for theatrical films, but nowhere near the status of a success. They did however, turn a decent profit on their small budgets. This would be his first directing gig in 4 years, and his first film in a long while that he didn't have some creative input in the creation, but rather a director-for-hire gig. It's also the first time he didn't include "John Carpenter's" before the title, something he had always done with all his films, even if he didn't write them himself. Though this ended up being a huge dud for both Carpenter and Chase, Carpenter would go on to make the the moderately entertaining Body Bags (some people really enjoyed it, I didn't) the next year, followed by In The Mouth of Madness, his last great film. Chevy Chase on the other hand, continued to deliver mediocre comedies until he eventually fell into DTV territory.

When you think about it, there really aren't a lot of "Invisible Man" films. Right off the top of my head, I can only think of less than a handful. While I do love the original Universal classic horror film, there really hasn't been a decent once since then. Paul Verhoeven's Hollow Man was a bitter disappointment, and I honestly can't think of any others that were possibly made after. So this one will always go down as my personal favorite, and unapologetically, I consider it the best Invisible Man film to date.

I think one of the things that surprised me about this, other than the fact that it was fantastic, was that it's easily one of the only films that doesn't carry the John Carpenter trademark vibe. It doesn't look or feel like a typical Carpenter film. In fact, if the "directed by" credit wasn't there, you'd never know and you never would have guessed. Most people still don't know this is a Carpenter film. And some of that falls onto the score. Typically Carpenter either scored his own films, or if he didn't, they contained a very synth sound, with this film taking a very dramatic departure from that norm, instead utilizing a big, loud and bombastic score, typical of big budget films like this. It's just not something you're used to in a film directed by John Carpenter.

This really is a fantastic film. If you can just get passed the fact that Chevy Chase is not trying to be funny, and if you can accept him as a serious leading man, then you'll have a great time with this one. He turns in a solid performance in this film, right down to the completely unnecessary narration. But because of his deep low voice, it does end up adding a special something to the mix tonally, even if logically, the voice-over narration doesn't. John Carpenter may not be displaying his specific visual aesthetic, but he does delivery a solid and well structured thriller, easily making this the best and most enjoyable Invisible Man film to date.


Rob Zombie's 31 Film Review

Directed by: Rob Zombie
Category: Horror

I'm going to admit right up front, I was not a Rob Zombie fan in the beginning. I disliked his first film, House of a 1,000 Corpses so much that I didn't even give Devils Rejects a chance. Then when I heard he was remaking Halloween, I was flabbergasted, thinking "who in their right mind would give him the opportunity to destroy the Halloween franchise legacy with this amateur?"

Truth be told though, by this point, the last few Halloween films that were part of the original series of films were just fucking awful anyway. But I digress. I of course skipped these Halloween films until one random Halloween night many, many years later when I was home alone and it was playing on some cable channel like TBS, AMC or Syfy - I can't remember which. I was only half watching but I had to admit, I liked what I saw. That encouraged me to seek out the two Halloween films he did, and guess what? I loved them, which in turn got me to revisit all of his other films. When Lords of Salem hit theaters, I was a full-fledged Rob Zombie fan because of that film, much more than I ever expected to be. LoS still remains my favorite RZ film to date.

If you like RZ's films, you will probably like this. You won't love it though, that's a guarantee. While it's not a terrible movie, it's not a very good one either, and that really hurts to say coming from someone who always feels like I have to defend his films on a regular basis. What it boils down to with his latest film is that it's just painfully obvious that RZ can do so much better. He has, countless times before, even going all the way back to Corpses. But with 31, he seems to have taken a huge leap backwards. In my personal opinion, this is his worst film. Every director has one, even Steven Spielberg for Christ's sake. Tarantino himself considers Death Proof his worst film. And that's not to say 31 is a piece of shit, because it absolutely is not. It's just not very inventive, creative, gory, inspired, and worst of all, it's just not at all entertaining. I kept looking at the clock, wondering how much more I had to endure until it was over. And I have to reiterate, it wasn't a bad film. It was just kind of meh. Nowhere near on par with any of his other films.

You would think that since he had this film crowd-sourced, and having much more of a creative freedom than any of his other films since he didn't have studio's interfering, that he could finally just go all out and make the craziest, goriest film he could make, without having his hands tied. But when given that opportunity, he ended up just going through the motions. If there was ever a film in his career that felt more "phoned in", this is it, resulting in his weakest film to date, and it's frustratingly sad.

Essentially, he takes the idea of The Running Man (yes, the Schwarzenegger film), and puts a little spin on it by making the hunters sadistic clowns. Other than the fact that the characters here were kidnapped and forced to participate in this sadistic game for pure enjoyment, it's essentially The Running Man with a backwoods country twist.

Yet, it's just not very fun. The makeup effects and character designs were pretty cool, but this film is severely lacking in the gore department. I'm almost positive it was cut for it's 1 day theatrical release, but I don't think inserting the gore will help matters any. For starters, RZ goes full-on shaky-cam for any of the action and gore scenes. It's frustrating as hell because you can't tell what's happening and more importantly, you can't see anything. All of the gore sequences and effects are wasted on a shaky-cam technique that's as annoying as it is tired. And that right there is a huge step back for RZ since he really matured into a strong visual director with his last film, Lords of Salem. In that film in particular, there isn't a single handheld or shaky-cam moment to be found, and it made it a much stronger film.

I admire Zombie as a filmmaker. He makes the kind of films that nobody makes anymore. You can argue that he just steals idea's from other better films, which is true, but I like to think of it as playing tribute, or as a homage to those films, while putting his own stamp on them. He's done that with all his previous films, and 31 is no different. He's got balls, and he's not afraid to go outside the box. He doesn't play it safe by taking on any director-for-hire gig, instead only making films he writes, that he's passionate about. Which saddens me when we get to his latest film, because I just can't defend it or find any redeeming quality. It's shockingly mediocre on every level, and I hope this doesn't end up being the direction he goes from now on. That would be bad.

When this film played for 1 Night here in town, my wife and I were seriously considering going. At $15 a ticket, it would have cost us $30 just for the film, not counting snacks. My gut was telling me not to do it, even though I love RZ films. So we didn't. After paying $10 to stream it last night, the first thing we both said to each other was "Wow, I'm glad we didn't spend the $30 to see this in the theater". That pretty much sums up our experience.


Death Wish 4: The Crackdown Film Review

Image courtesy of www.RareCultCinema.com

Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Category: Action/Thriller

As I finally dip my toes into Charles Bronson films in my older age, I'm realizing that I've really been missing out on some fantastic revenge/action/thriller cinema. So I've decided to invest my time and immerse myself in a good chunk of his 80's output, primarily his contract films for Cannon Films, of which there are many.

I love the Death Wish films. Each one is distinctly different from the other, and as I dove into this latest entry, I wasn't a bit surprised that that little detail still rang true. Because I'm such an action lover, I had always thought that Part 3 would always be my favorite one, because let's be honest, it's fucking insane. But what struck me as rather surprising was how much I just loved this one, and truthfully, I wasn't expecting to. For some reason nobody ever talks about the Death Wish films after Part 3. So that was worrisome. I half-expected to come into a film that was a wreck, with a Direct-To-Video feel, and thankfully, that was not the case. And I should have known better. After all, this is yet another in a long string of collaborations between director J. Lee Thompson and Charles Bronson. In total, they would end up making 9 films together, though this one would be the the only Death Wish film they would make.

You know, I'm not even gonna bother with a synopsis this time because they're pretty much all the same at this point. Paul Kersey moves to a new city, only to have to take the law into his own hands once again because of gangs, or thugs, or whatever and they always eventually get to someone he loves. It's always the same story, only moved to a different city each time.

Death Wish IV has now taken the top spot as my favorite Death Wish film. It's 80's Trash through and through and it's glorious. Essentially it takes some of the "crazy" from Part 3, but decides to step it back a little, while in the process going a little cheese instead of taking the serious turn of parts 1 & 2. It's awesome, in the same kind of way Rocky IV and Rambo III are awesome, because they perfectly capture the extreme cheesy part of the 80's decade, and relish in it's absurdity. Whether that's intentional or not is up to debate.

I'm kind of taken aback at how this entry is not considered an important or essential part of the franchise. Just having seen it for the very first time, to me, this feels like what the series has been naturally building up to; to this point. The series has gone the serious route, then the over-the-top insane route, so now it's time to dive into the late 80's "Trash" route, and boy does this film deliver.

Director J. Lee Thompson delivers another solid 80's action/thriller yet again. It's hard to explain exactly, but there's something to the specific way he shoots films, edits them, and puts them together. There's a very particular "aesthetic", that's very 80's, very streamlined and professional, and very much his own. I just can't stress enough how fanstastic a director he was and how his work only benefited Bronson's films.

Bronson, to his credit, delivers yet another solid performance. It's effortless. He plays calm and cool like nobody else, almost to the point of being a robot. But when he puts on the charm, or has that little twinkle in his eye, he can make you forget he's about to kill you. By this time, Bronson is showing some serious age, yet it doesn't slow him down or prevent him from being a badass. Quite the contrary, age and experience has only made him more capable. It's hard to think of anyone else in this role. Sure there are plenty of guys who can pull off the tough older guy who takes the law into his own hands, but Bronson has an ability to really come across as Mr. Nice Guy when he wants, like flipping a switch, and it's that ability that gives Bronson the edge over most. Like, for example, the new Death Wish remake coming soon with Bruce Willis in the role. I love Willis. I grew up with him as being one of my favorite action heroes. However, he has really turned into a grumpy, uninteresting man in his older age. Even in interviews, he's so unlikable, usually speaking with a hint of arrogance, and a complete lack of interest in doing interviews. It's kind of sad, but mainly annoying, that an actor who was so likable and charming in the 80's and on into the 90's could turn into.....okay, I'm getting off track here. Sorry, moving on.

You would think by this point the whole vigilante premise, or just the Death Wish films in general, would be tired. I mean, it's pretty much the same film each time, just slightly altered and more reflective of that particular time it was made. But no, that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, as each film is released, each with varying degrees of years between them, they only get better, and more entertaining. I have had a blast with these films, and though I went into this one with some apprehension, much like I will with the next installment, Part 5: The Face of Death, I'm glad to report that my fears were laid to rest and this entry was by far my favorite and most entertaining in the series. Here's to hoping the next installment goes out with a bang.


Raging 80's Double Feature: Rad & Thrashin'

Rad (1986)
Directed by: Hal Needham

Don't ask me how, or why, but somehow I never got around to seeing Rad growing up. Though it was a staple of any youth who grew up riding BMX bikes in the 80's, like I did, I just never got around to watching this. Flash forward exactly 30 years and here I am, throwing in a bootleg VHS copy I acquired from a fellow collector forever ago that's been sitting on my shelf ever since. My wife and I were in the mood for something cheesy, and 80's, and I thought what better time to finally give this one a try.

Words cannot express the sheer joy I had watching this insanely entertaining flick. I now understand it's huge cult status. Every time this film is brought up, everyone I ever mention it to immediately says they love it. I fully understand the appeal, and it's legendary status is indeed warranted. Rad is arguably one of the most entertaining 80's flicks I've ever seen. Every single frame just oozes bright neon colors, bad fashion, insane hair cuts, and a pure 80's aesthetic that puts a huge smile on your face.

A pro BMX team comes into town at the heels of a huge BMX event, repeatedly referred to as the biggest BMX race in the entire world. I don't know about that, but it's apparently a big deal. One of the team members, Lori Loughlin of Full House fame, catches the eye of the local BMX wonder-kid. When a romance blossoms between them, the pro's resort to bully tactics to prevent him from entering the race. 

It's the same old story, with not a hint of originality brought to the table. But hey, it doesn't have to. It's as basic and cliche a story as you could possibly get, and that is one of it's best assets. Without having to do anything original, it can concentrate on doing what it does best, and that's delivering a plethora of nostalgia.

Most don't realize this, but this just so happens to be directed by legendary stuntman and coordinator Hal Needham, who helmed a ton of classics before this like Smokey and the Bandit I & II, Cannonball Run I & II, and Megaforce. You'd never guess by watching this though; this just seems like such an odd choice for a director with his history. I will give him props though, while not the most interesting visual director, he makes the most out of what he has and there are some great sequences that only benefited from his specific style.

You don't have to be a fan of BMX to enjoy this. If you love fun, cheesy movies, then you're certainly going to enjoy this one. There's just so much to love, and there's never a dull moment. Even when the slower scenes come into play, they're just soooo.........incredibly over-the-top corny. Just wait till you see the high school dance sequence. Incredible.

Thrashin' (1986)
Directed by: David Winters

Unlike Rad, this film I did in fact see, and quite often I might add. Because of a physical disability, I was never able to skate, but that didn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying this heavenly slice of 80's cheese. Interestingly enough though, I haven't seen it since the day of VHS. More than likely, probably since it's initial home video release. That's a long time. We're talking 30 years. So in those 3 decades that have since passed, I've forgotten everything about this other than it starred a young Josh Brolin, fresh off his stint in The Goonies the year before.

A young skater from the valley falls in love with the sister of a rival skate gang. That's really the synopsis in a nutshell. Sure other things happen, but that's really the meat of the story, and honestly, it couldn't be anymore cliche'd if it tried. As I was watching this, and enjoying every single second of it, we were accurately predicting exactly what would happen and what the lines of dialogue would be from time to time, and we were spot on every time. That's how predictable this film is from beginning to end. It's a tired formula, but put into the context of the skateboard world circa 1986, it's just fucking gold. There's no other way to describe it.

Next to how fun and entertaining this was, the thing that surprised and impressed me the most was the casting. Like I said, I didn't remember anything about this so I completely forgot who was in this. So you can imagine my surprise at the notable faces I kept seeing pop up. For starters, you've got some true skateboarding legends either doing the stuntwork, or sporting minor supporting roles. But then you've got Brooke McCarter, who played Paul, the blonde vampire from Lost Boys. I couldn't believe it. Though this film was made only a year before Lost Boys, he looks so much younger and it took me a while to realize who he was. Sherilyn Fenn was another surprise. She's not listed anywhere in the promotional stuff, yet here she is as the girlfriend of the main bad guy looking great as ever. She would later go on to costar in The Wraith the very same year.

Robert Russler. That name might not ring a bell, but his face certainly will. In 1985, he played Max in Weird Science, and then Ron Grady in A Nightmare on Elm St. 2: Freddy's Revenge that same year. He's been working steadily since then, but those are the two films that he will most be identified with. Here he plays the leader of the rival skate gang, The Dagger's. He was inspired casting to say the least. I mean, he really does make the most of the villain role. Tacky rat tail and all.

Thrashin' hit all the right notes. While it was made the same year as Rad, it couldn't be anymore different. Where Rad was more clean edge, sugar coated with bright colors and a wholesomeness to it, Thrashin' goes completely the other direction and offers the same kind of fun, only in a more gritty, dirty and sweaty environment. If I was forced to choose which one I preferred though, I don't think I could. I like the both equally for different reasons. Yet, aside from the things that make them both unique from one another, they're both pure 80's nostalgic cheese head to toe. You couldn't ask for two more different, yet equally entertaining pieces of celluloid trash.


"Punisher: The Secret History"; The Making of The Punisher (1989) Book is Coming!!

I'm sure you all know by now that Dolph Lundgren's The Punisher is undoubtedly one of my all-time favorite films. I just love this little film to death and I'm literally obsessed with it, having amassed a rather large VHS collection of this film from all over the world. And I'm still working on it, as there are more I still do not have and I just can't have enough.

If you're as big a fan as I am about this severely and criminally underrated slice of Badass Cinema, I have some fantastic news. Author, French Film Critic and all around Dolph Lundgren expert Jeremie Damoiseau has written a book on the making of Marvel's first film adaptation from the early stages of development to it's troubled release. Everything you ever wanted to know about the making of this film all the way through it's release will be in this book, and I for one couldn't be more excited.

Below is a recent interview Damoiseau did with Comic Book Media writer Brian C. Baer where he discusses his love for the film, how the book came about, it's forthcoming release, and more along with the excellent book cover courtesy of artist Laurent Melki, who was originally commissioned to do the artwork ahead of the films release for the French magazine 'L'Ecran Fantastique'.

The book will be released in French on Oct. 5th in book and eBook form and available at Bod.fr, Amazon.fr, and other online shops, with an eventual U.S. release later on down the line. The U.S. release will be 30-40% longer, making it  a more complete edition, with a lot of extra added content that won't be found in the French version. Damoiseau spent years accumulating an insane amount of information and conducting interviews with the production and cast to get the definitive and most comprehensive "history" on the making of this cult classic. October cannot come soon enough.


Comic Book Media interview with Brian C. Baer:

The year 1989 changed the world of comic book movie adaptations with the release of Tim Burton’s Batman. It was not the only dark, big screen superhero film released that year, but if you live in America, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that.
The second was Marvel’s The Punisher, directed by famed film editor Mark Goldblatt and starring Dolph Lundgren as the titular shoot-‘em-up anti-hero. The film had a very decent budget and was shot in Australia, but New World Pictures began to run into financial problems after production wrapped. While it was theatrically released in most countries as intended, America had to wait two more years for a straight-to-video release of the film.
punGoldblatt’s Punisher is a violent, serious affair that boasts some clever camerawork. The look of it is grey and grim, and its score is appropriately brooding. A long introduction sequence was filmed but removed in editing, so the viewer is tossed into the middle of Frank Castle’s crusade against organized crime without a traditional origin story. This makes the first live-action Punisherfeel a bit like a sequel, similar to 2008’s Punisher: War Zone, but it also makes Lundgren’s character absolutely terrifying. Despite the odd one-liner, his Frank Castle is quiet and visibly haunted. He is clearly unconcerned with the law, morality, collateral damage, and the very real possibility of his own death. For much of the film, he is more like a slasher movie villain than a superhero.
Despite staying true to the character and his origins, many fans were upset by the removal of the trademark skull logo on his chest. The Punisher is still a solid, compelling ‘80s style action flick, but is not remembered as an early example of a serious comic book movie. Most people don’t remember it at all.
But in 2017, Dolph Lundgren’s take on Frank Castle is getting its due in a new book by French film critic Jérémie Damoiseau. Punisher: L’histoire Secrète (Punisher: The Secret History) tells the history of the film’s production, from its first stages and early screenplay drafts up to the editing and troubled release. And it’s written by a singularly qualified individual.
punbikeDamoiseau is a lifelong movie lover who earned a Master’s degree in Film Studies in Paris, and attended film school in Los Angeles. Next, he began working at Paris’s prestigious distribution and production company, Metropolitan Filmexport. “On the side,” he said, “after I wrote my master’s thesis (2002) on Dolph Lundgren’s films, I got to manage the dolph-ultimate.com website, then leading me to interview, meet and work for the giant Swede himself (I first did official websites for Direct Contact and Command Performance before managing his personal sites and social medias).”
His love of Dolph Lundgren started early, with viewing his turn as He-Man in the live-action Masters of the Universe film from 1987. Two years later, when he wasn’t quite 11 years old, he saw the ultra-violent Punisher adaption multiple times on the big screen. By then, he was hooked.
As a preeminent expert on Lundgren’s filmography, Damoiseau was called upon to write liner notes for the American Blu-ray releases of films like Red Scorpion and Dark Angel. After collecting information and behind-the-scenes stories about the actor’s many movies, his Punisher adaptation in particular stood out.
dolphThere was a lot to say about the project, according to Damoiseau: “I didn’t realize it myself at first but as I went on about writing the initial booklet with its genesis, the rewrites, comparing drafts and influences, looking at the three different workprint cuts that were retrieved and tackling the release and distribution in both France and the US, I was almost shocked how much was either forgotten, little or un-known and therefore had to be addressed.” To cover every phase of the project, Damoiseau has interviewed 20 cast and crew members over the years, along with executives and editors from Marvel Comics.
For him, the best part of writing Punisher: The Secret History is sharing his love of a film which has been forgotten, ignored, or maligned over the years.
“What’s fantastic is to be able to write about a film that was so close to you and part of your cinephilic roots, which in a way is like going full circle or getting ‘closure’ with it, not mentioning the excitement of bringing some facts and anecdotes that almost nobody knows in the public.”
With any luck, Punisher: L’histoire Secrète will change the way comic book movie fans look back Goldblatt’s The Punisher. It will be out on October 5th of this year, and will be available in print and eBook through Bod.frAmazon.fr, and other online shops.
An English translation with extra content has been promised for release in the near future as well.


Quiet Cool Film Review

VHS scan courtesy of  The-ScandyFactory.tumblr.com

Directed by: Clay Borris
Category: Action/Thriller

Joe Dylanne is a plain clothes New York cop. When he receives a phone call from an old flame about her family who's gone missing in the woods, he immediately setting out to help, traveling to the northwest woods only to discover that her family has been murdered after accidentally crossing paths with drug dealers and their operation. When Dylanne discovers that her younger brother survived, together with her brother's survivalist skills, they set out to seek revenge on these cold blooded killers in a hunting game of survival. 

You know, this was so much better than I was expecting. It's one of those films I came across countless times at the video store as a kid but never gave it a second thought. Digging through my tape collection recently I realized that I had gotten this about a year ago and it's been sitting there all this time. I'm sure it was in one of my obscure 80's action phases and probably also because it was an RCA VHS release, which means it came in one of those sweet side-loader slip cases, which I collect from time to time. So I threw this one recently when I was in an action mood and let me tell you, this is definitely one you'll want to track down.

It's not great by any stretch of the imagination, and doesn't reinvent the genre, but if you're looking for something very 80's, made competently well, and delivers just the right amount of thrills to keep you invested for the long haul, Quiet Cool will deliver the goods. This one offered up a number of surprises for me, the first being that it starred 80's action staple James Remar as the main good guy, which is something you just didn't see very often in his entire career. Sure he's played the good guy a few times, but I had never seen a film where he was the lead, and not playing the villain. So that was a somewhat refreshing surprise. But then I was also surprised to see another baddie regular (and sometime film director), Nick Cassavetes, again playing his usual douche bag villain, barely uttering a word. Mainly just looking mean and badass in his big shoulder padded jacket and mullet. He made this the same year he played another douche baddie in the cult classic favorite The Wraith.

One of the other things that surprised me about this is that I was not expecting this to be a "hunted in the woods" type of film, especially since the film opens in New York, which is a pretty awesome section of the film by the way. But once the film moves to the northwest forest setting, it's where the rest of the film stays and the hunt begins, where it ultimately becomes a predecessor to films like Survival of the Game and The Hunted.

Written and directed by Clay Boris, it's a competently crafted film that carries much more of a professional's touch, looking like a film that would certainly play at your local cinema in the 80's, which combined with how entertaining it is, I'm really surprised that it didn't. Boris has a pretty long career, dating all the way back to the late 70's and still working today, and tackling pretty much ever genre, but with most of his work relegated to TV. Nothing in his filmography immediately stands out as anything I've ever seen or heard of, but at least we have this little gem.

Really, this is a far more entertaining DTV 80's flick than you and I expected it to be, and if you're into these kind of films, I strongly suggest seeking this one out. The long Out Of Print DVD is ridiculously expensive, and honestly, it's not that good to warrant the shelling out of almost $50 for it. I also highly doubt it even comes in widescreen on that OOP DVD. My suggestion is either VHS or Laserdisc. The VHS, oddly enough, is not very common so it might take some good old fashioned hunting on your part to find it, but you'll find it cheap when you do. Same goes for the Laserdisc, which I see more of than the VHS. And trust me when I tell you you're not missing out on anything by watching this the old school way. In fact, I think it adds that little extra spice to the experience.

Quiet Cool is an old school and highly entertaining action/thriller that proves James Remar is just as good playing the good guy as he is being a regular villain. If you're also wondering what Quiet Cool even means, fear not, it's explained in the film.


Bad Movie Night Presents: Ticks

My VHS Screener Copy of Ticks
Directed by: Tony Randel
Category: Horror

Aaaahhh Ticks. What a wonderful little surprise. A friend sent me this VHS tape a while back, knowing I would probably dig it, and he was right. I've come across this cover before, more than likely from the video store when they were actually video stores. But it wasn't until my buddy got this in my hands did I realize that it was directed by Hellraiser II: Hellbound director Tony Randel. Hellbound just so happens to be my all-time favorite Hellraiser film in the series so yes, I got really, really excited.

An illegal marijuana facility using steroids to enhance the growth of the plants cause ticks to mutate into gigantic and super-powered proportions. When a group of troubled teens set up camp in the woods close to the facility for a weekend as part of a youth camp program, the ticks begin taking them one by one and it's up to the remaining few to fight back.

Going in I was fairly certain this was going to be a low-budget cheesefest. I mean, how could it not right? But I don't think I was prepared for how entertaining, cheesy, and awesome this would ultimately be. How awesome is it? Well, how about Alfonso Ribiero playing a gangster thug circa the early 90's. That's how awesome. Yes, he does and it's fucking hilarious. But wait! Seth Green is also in this, and even Amy Dolenz, who's face is plastered on the cover but is nothing more than a minor character in the actual film. Ticks also has a healthy dose of noticeable character actors, including the one and only Clint Howard, to fill out the remaining ensemble cast.

One of the things that makes Ticks shine is it's outstanding use of practical effects work. Honestly, some of the stuff in here is pretty incredible and I struggle to understand how they were able to pull it off when most big budget studio's still can't get it right, even when they rely on CGI. If you're like me, then watching a low-budget cheesy horror movie made decades ago pull off what big budget studio's "still" can't is pretty infuriating. But let's move on.

I will admit that while Randel does a fine job in the director's chair, it doesn't carry the same bravado or magic that he displayed with his work on Hellbound. And I think that's really maybe my one and only complaint; that his visual eye candy just wasn't on par with that excellent work he did prior to this. But really, it's just me. I'm a very visual person. Everything else kicks all kinds of awesome ass. It's fun, funny, scary, gory, creepy, cheesy, and most importantly, it's entertaining as hell.

I really can't recommend this enough. There's really nothing better than watching a cheesy early 90's low-budget horror film with a group of enthusiastic friends, and to have that film be as good and entertaining as this film was. It's a rarity and if that same mood should ever strike you, I implore you to check this one out. I'm sure you'll have just as good a time as I did watching it.

How to see it:
The 2013 OOP DVD and Blu ray from Olive Films is insanely expensive here in the U.S., running anywhere from $50-$100 on average. As far as I know, it's not available to stream anywhere, so your cheapest route would definitely be the VHS. While it would be in full frame, you're not missing out on anything seeing it that way. It's not much of a visual film in that sense, so don't be like me and think you automatically have to see everything in widescreen, the way the filmmakers intended. I'm slowly starting to realize that some films are just better on a full frame VHS format. It makes the experience much more authentic....to me anyway. The VHS will run you around $10-$15, which isn't too bad at all.