Posts Tagged ‘VHS


Slam Dance (1987)

On those nights when Q and I simply can’t agree on what to watch, and neither of us have strong feelings one way or another, inevitably we turn to the bowl of shame. The bowl of shame is where we keep our cull* list, so when we turn to it, we’re indecisive, desperate, or both. In our younger days when we were more vital and resilient, we’d

The bowl of shame.

The bowl of shame.

watch the cull list through, with no breaks for “good” movies. But perhaps we’ve been scarred by too many duds to attempt to live through such an experience again. At any rate, the bowl sits there mocking us, and some evenings we just can’t resist. The night we chose Slam Dance I recall being particularly whiny and inconsolable, for what reason, I don’t know. I thought the title seemed promising, and knowing it was written by Don Opper of Android fame made it all the more enticing.

Unfortunately, the movie is pretty exhausting straight from the get-go. C.C. Drood (Tom Hulce) is a cartoonist keeping his head just above water. He lives in what looks like a large shower, though by all accounts it is his apartment. Maybe it looks like shit because it’s just temporary: he and his wife Helen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) are taking a break, and the guy needs a place to hole up for a while. That’s what happens when you get frisky with a call girl named Yolanda (Virginia Madsen).

But what happens when that call girl is found murdered? Obviously the cops and the murderers try to pin it on a doofus cartoonist, right? Of course! Drood finds himself in a web of, well, very bad things, and not even Good Cop Benjamin Smiley (Harry Dean Stanton) can seem to shake him out of it. Who’s behind this whole thing? Is it Detective Gilbert (John Doe), who seems pretty clearly hellbent on blaming Drood for the whole affair, and then some? Or what about Drood’s shady art dealer Campbell (Adam Ant); maybe he’d like to put Drood away for good so he can keep on banging his wife? Or, I don’t know, maybe it’s the lesbian madam who was in love with Yolanda?

Even the cover is annoying.

Even the cover is annoying.

Ultimately, who fucking cares? I certainly didn’t give a shit who lived, died, or lied in this movie. I did learn a few things, though: 1) I don’t like Tom Hulce. 2) I don’t like Virginia Madsen. 3) Don Opper should stick to movies about robots. 4) Harry Dean Stanton can’t save every movie he’s in. 5) Perhaps I should stay away from anything billed as an “erotic thriller.”

I can’t put my finger on exactly why this movie was so irritating. Perhaps it was simply that it thought it was way more clever than it actually was. There’s sort of this Doppelgänger thing going on, and that’s not interesting. And crooked cops aren’t really interesting. And philandering husbands aren’t interesting. And lesbian call girls are perhaps the least interesting thing of all. Maybe this movie might have been, like, subversive if it had been made in the 1950’s or something… but for 1987 it just looks like a coked-out mess. Gladly putting this one on the discard pile. Sorry, Don.

*Q and I have decided it’s time for a great cull; an early spring cleaning. We have a large number of movies we have not yet seen. Are these movies any good? This is the question we are out to answer. If it’s no good, out it goes.


Payback (1995)

It’s been a little over two years since Q and I decided it was time to cull the old movie collection. When you have 2,000+ titles and limited space, this type of slaughter is necessary. Last cull was a bit rough, though, so we’re intermingling this one with a good movie or two – just to keep our sanity. Anyway, somewhere along the line, as I’ve probably already explained in some other blog post somewhere, Q got this thing for Anthony Hickox. To be fair, he’s responsible for a few really enjoyable flicks, like Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, Full Eclipse, and Warlock: The Armageddon. What these movies have in common is that they’re all horror flicks. Unfortunately Payback, today’s selection for the cull, can’t in any way be considered horror.

paybackOscar (Soul Man‘s C. Thomas Howell) and Mac are the best prison friends. Mac’s a little older, and Oscar watches out for him, especially when the evil prison guard Gully gets on Mac’s case. See, Gully knows that Mac has hidden a fuckton of cash somewhere, and he’s hellbent on finding it – even if it means murder! One day, Gully takes it too far, buries Mac in a pile of trash, and ends up killing him. On Mac’s deathbed, he tells Oscar that boatload of cash is his, if he promises to murder Gully once he makes it out of prison. All he needs to do is swipe that little watercolor painting he keeps in his cell, and the secret riches will be his.

But – oh, no! – Gully’s not as dumb as he looks! He’s already taken the watercolor painting! Looks like Oscar’s going to have to find the cash without the clue, and only hope that Gully won’t get there first. Of course, turns out it’ll be difficult for Gully to use his stolen clue; he’s had an unfortunate accident and now he’s blind! Well that’ll make Oscar’s revenge that much easier to exact. There’s just one thing standing in his way now – Gully’s hot wife in a two-sizes-too-small waitress uniform, Rose. Oscar worms his way into their daily life, an easy thing to do since Gully can’t actually see who he is, and ends up working Gully’s restaurant for room and board.

It takes entirely too long for Oscar and Rose to finally bang, but they do, and money is found, and lost, and there are all these very predictable twists and turns, and since no one in this movie is a good person, they’re basically all gonna get their very own, personal ‘payback.’

I suspect the only reason this film somehow managed to score a 5.8 on IMDb is the dripping-hot sex scene where C. Thomas Howell’s ass gets up close and personal with the hood of a car under a barn. Didn’t you always want to see Soul Man getting busy? Oof. Why? Why? Also, I never realized how disgusting handlebar mustaches are until I saw Howell making out in this movie. Shiver. There are a lot of questionable things about this movie, but his casting in the lead ‘badass’ role tops the list for me. How’m I supposed to believe this little guy’s gonna take down Gully’s monster AND seduce his sorta-hot wife? His character also never really seems bought-in to anything, least of all revenge. Revenge should never be wishy-washy!

Of course, the plot and characters leave a lot to be desired as well. The real bad guys in this movie are as bad as the baddest baddies in an episode of Walker: Texas Ranger. We don’t know why they’re so angry, aggressive and greedy, they just are. They’ll judge a book by its cover and then punch it in the face before you can inhale. This kind of unchecked male aggression is so damn tiresome, and it seems to be everywhere. What’s the deal with that? Payback is just another of those movies about a bunch of shitty people doing shitty things that I don’t care about. When there’s no investment in character or plot development, what incentive is there to watch a film? The five minutes of C. Thomas Howell sex? I mean, I doubt it. There’s not even a lot of boobage in this. It’s got all the elements of one of those sexy crime dramas, but they’re all so half-assed, non-committal and obvious, I’m not sure why anyone even bothered to put this flick together.

So I’m happy to report that our videocassette copy of Payback will be relinquished to the discard pile, making room for something more deserving of my shelf space. Or, let’s be honest, making room for another piece of shit we’ll end up culling in another two years. What can I say, we have a sickness, and we’re not about to seek treatment any time soon.


Alien Warrior (1986)

AlienWarriorCoverThe videocassette strikes again! Another timeless (not) masterpiece (nope) from the 1980’s makes its way into my living room thanks to the wonders of the VCR. This time it’s one of the most enjoyable worst movies I’ve ever seen, Alien Warrior.

The short synopsis: Alien Jesus. The (slightly) longer version: an alien (Jesus) and his father (God) discuss how his brother came to earth in hopes of saving it from “Great Evil,” but failed. The alien is determined to finish what his brother started and shows up in the middle of Scary Bad Evil City, USA where drug dealers (Great Evil) reign supreme.

Our alien friend chooses the name Buddy and walks around town in tight jeans and a neatly-trimmed beard asking everyone he runs into: “are you Great Evil?” Apparently there really is one “Great Evil” and it’s a drug-dealer/pimp/rapist known as Mr. One. Our friend Buddy stumbles upon him and after MacGyvering a car and finding a woman to treat nicely he is successful at defeating Great Evil.

So, yeah, this is absolutely dreadful religious propaganda. Unfortunately, it’s not available on DVD; I would love to share this with more people. I’m quite fond of the extremely black and white good vs. evil tales a la Walker, Texas Ranger, and this is definitely comparable to that. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to get Chuck Norris to play this role. This movie is so gleefully, delightfully devoid of substance. I either loved it or I loved hating it. It doesn’t matter which.



Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills (1989)

scenesvhscoverWhat’s that you say? Paul Bartel writes and directs a movie about Hollywood sexual dysfunction? Maybe after a few years of success with their restaurant, Paul & Mary Bland turned into the types of characters that populate Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills? Stranger things have happened, especially in California

Clare (Jacqueline Bisset) is a brand-new widow, but that’s not stopping her from trying to brighten up her fading Hollywood star! Neither are several appearances by her husband’s ghost. She’s invited her neighbor, Lisabeth (Mary Woronov) to stay over while she gets her house fumigated. And so begins a bet between Lisabeth’s chauffeur, Frank, and Clare’s houseboy, Juan (Robert Beltran). If Frank bangs Clare first, Juan owes him five grand. If Juan gets to Lisabeth first, Frank forks over the bucks. If neither are successful in a few days’ time, Frank gets to bone Juan. Because that makes sense, right?

This bet, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg: the real in(s)anity is comes from the rich folks, not their employees. Clare and Lisabeth have their issues, but things get even more interesting when Lisabeth’s ex-husband Howard (Wallace Shawn) stops by for a visit, and runs into an old flame of his (and also porn star) To-Bel, who is now married to Lisabeth’s brother, Peter (Ed Begley Jr.).

There is so much more going on, but I’ll let you discover it all for yourself. Unfortunately, this is a movie very few people have seen, it seems. It doesn’t appear to be readily available on Region 1 DVD (except for the one I saw on Amazon for $260?). I think Vincent Canby summed it up pretty succinctly when he wrote: Scenes From the Class Struggle is one long smile with an occasional belly laugh” I’d throw in a few chuckles, too. It’s goofy, silly and fun. In short: pretty good, but nowhere near as good as Eating Raoul. Few things are, though. Right?


Get Crazy (1983)

I’ve probably never uttered the words “this is so dumb!” as many times, or as enthusiastically, as I did when I watched Get Crazy. Yes, this is one of the stupidest movies I’ve ever seen, but it is also delightfully hilarious!

Colin Beverly does NOT care about rock and roll!

Colin Beverly does NOT care about rock and roll!

Max Wolfe owns the Saturn Theater, and his first priority is to give the kids a great place to see live music. His most immediate worry: that he and his right-hand-man, Neil (Daniel Stern) put on a flawless New Year’s Eve concert.

Electric Larry has some goodies to help the crew get ready for the show in time.

Electric Larry has some goodies to help the crew get ready for the show in time.

Unfortunately, everything isn’t peaches and cream: Colin Beverly (Ed Begley, Jr.) a big-time promoter, wants to snatch the Saturn Theater from Max, preferring stadium shows to those at smaller venues. Max refuses to sell, but as soon as his health starts to present itself as an issue, his sleazy nephew Sammy joins forces with Beverly and his toadies, and together they do their best to foil the Saturn’s concert.

Malcolm McDowell actually does move like Jagger!

Malcolm McDowell actually does move like Jagger!

Amidst all the slapstick hilarity that ensues is one heck of a concert. An archetype of all your favorite bands gets a shot at entertaining the crowd. There’s the hippie groovy druggie band, King Blues the, uh, blues singer, Nada the New Wave punker and the show-stopping Reggie Wanker (Malcolm McDowell doing his best Mick Jagger impression!). And whether or not Auden (Lou Reed as the Dylanesque folk singer) makes it to the show on time is no matter, it’s Lou Reed!

I mean, come on guys, it's Lou Reed.

I mean, come on guys, it’s Lou Reed.

It is truly a shame that this movie isn’t available on DVD. Hopefully you still have your VCR. I instruct you to go out and find a copy of this on VHS and pop it in. It’s so stupid, I promise you won’t regret it.


Fright Night Part 2 (1988)

FrightNightPart2Well, it isn’t as good as the first, and it doesn’t have Chris Sarandon in it, but Fright Night Part 2 is still a pretty darn good vampire flick. We start off three years after the end of the first Fright Night, and Charley Brewster is cleared as “cured” by his psychiatrist: he now no longer believes that vampires are real; whatever it was that happened to him three years ago can be explained away by cold, hard science(ish).

Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), his old partner in crime, isn’t as easily convinced, though. Unfortunately, he’s fallen on hard times again, and Charley and his new girlfriend Alex stop by to say hello from time to time. It isn’t long until Charley starts seeing some weird things again, and this time it’s Vincent that has to convince Charley there are vampires afoot!

See, you can’t just kill a vampire, especially a really powerful vampire like Jerry Dandridge, without consequences. Seems his sister, Regine, is in town and she wants revenge! And when Charley starts feeling sensitive towards the sun and can’t eat garlic anymore, it seems she may have gotten the sweetest revenge there is…

So, yeah. Fright Night Part 2 is a lot like the first one, only with more androgynous vampires, and heck, it’s always good to have a little androgyny in your vampire movies, no? I’d also venture to say it’s a little sexier in general than the first, but I guess that’s to be expected, now that Charley’s a college kid. Without a doubt, though, I think it’s fair to say this flick’s got one of the best VHS covers of the 80’s! I saw it on the shelf in Jon’s Video Library, my childhood video store, and it burned in my brain; it’s a wonder I never rented it all those years ago. Anyway, nostalgia aside, I’d definitely give this a shot if you’re in the market for a goofy vampire flick.


Strangers in Paradise (1984)

Hitler demands Sage's aide in controlling the masses.

Hitler demands Sage’s aide in controlling the masses.

Several years ago during a last-minute purge before moving for the 3rd time in as many years, I threw out about 75 videocassettes. No discretion, all of them right in the trash. At the time, it felt wonderful; I wouldn’t have to haul these relics anywhere ever again! Looking back though, I definitely regret this decision. Who knows what treasures I trashed that day? The feeling stings all the more after watching Strangers in Paradise, a musical gem from the 1980’s that has neither dvd release nor Wikipedia entry.

The mastermind behind this opus is Ulli Lommel, a German dude who worked with both Andy Warhol and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. With credentials like that, I’m sure you can imagine this

The punk rockers are taking over the neighborhood!

The punk rockers are taking over the neighborhood!

thing is pretty batshit. Lommel stars as Jonathan Sage, a psychic-like guy who can not only read your thoughts, but control and change them. Knowing he could be used as a powerful tool used for mind control of the masses, none other than Adolf Hitler demands Sage work for him. Sage is disgusted by Hitler’s rule and backs out the only way he knows how: cryogenic freezing. Sage goes into the deep, cold sleep hoping the world in which he wakes will be enlightened, happy and free.

Unfortunately for Sage, he’s thawed out to a different kind of fascism: small-town America, where the plot of suburban parents to eradicate sexual deviance and punk rock from their

Sage's eyes will mesmerize...

Sage’s eyes will mesmerize…

children’s lives has thus far failed. The American parents are betting their last buck that Sage can use his mind control to save their children from radicalism and debauchery.

Sure, the plot is wacky, but the musical numbers are even wackier. They’re prevalent throughout the whole film and they are a sight to behold; I spent most of this movie staring wide-eyed at the screen in disbelief and excitement. I’ve never seen anything quite like this, and while I can’t exactly say it’s capital-‘G’ good, I can definitely say it’s worth your time! I’m really glad I watched it and I’ll happily watch it again.


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