Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category

Movie Reviews: 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983)

—Review by Richard McKenna

2019 After the Fall

Beware: spoilers ahead.

In 1983, as low-rent filmmakers scrabbled about for suitably desolate locations to double as nuked-out future deserts, quarry owners across Italy continued to rub their greedy hands in glee at the post-apocalyptic cinematic windfall Brezhnev and Reagan had unwittingly—or, in retrospect, wittingly—guaranteed them. Smelling money in the irradiated water, director Sergio Martino decided to take a break from his usual domestic sex comedies to give the world 2019: After the Fall of New York (hereafter just 2019).

According to Martino, who comes off as a nice guy in interviews, and would make a reassuringly avuncular vet or dentist, 2019 was inspired by viewings of Blade Runner (1982) and Escape From New York (1981), though not, intriguingly, by Mad Max (1979) or Mad Max 2 (1981). In an alternate, even more unlikely version of the story, he claims that 2019 was written before the release of Escape From New York. I don’t know how many plutonium isotopes you’d have to absorb to believe that.

The film opens with a jazzman, his face scarred by gluey, suppurating pustules (of which we will see many more over the course of the film), standing by a lamppost on the Brooklyn waterfront, somehow getting an elegiac synth riff to come out of his trumpet. In the background, across the small pond standing in for the Hudson, we see the ruins of New York. The camera tracks through the city, giving us a good reminder of why the scale models in films were called miniatures: it would be hard to make them look any smaller if you tried. On Italian TV some years ago, Martino claimed that the ruined skeletons of the skyscrapers—easily the most convincing special effect in the film—were made of burned and painted fruit crates, which sounds more than credible.

2019 Lobby-3We’re told that ever since somebody pressed the “fatal button” that unleashed nuclear holocaust, the human race has been completely sterile and no more children have been born (understandably, since “the radiation could not have been worse”). New York is now controlled by the evil Euraks, sadistic Europeans who dress like Darth Vadered-up versions of the crew in Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (1965). The Euraks spend their time chasing down and collecting mutants for vivisection, and dwell in a base which looks suspiciously like an industrial wine-making facility. The Eurak commander is an unnamed bald guy whose office wall is a replica of Picasso’s Guernica, and his lieutenant is the predictably cruel and sensual Ania, played by Anna Kanakis, who’s strangely cute in this, and her acting has been worse—a lot worse.*

Next, we’re introduced to our hero, Parsifal (played by Michael Sopkiw, who Italian genre-hounds repeatedly describe as a double of Kurt Russell, although the man looks nothing like Kurt Russell). Parsifal, tellingly if absurdly sharing the name of an Arthurian Grail-seeker featured in Wagner’s final opera, wears butcher’s mesh gloves and a leather headband, and when we meet him, he’s taking part in a Deathsport-like duel called The Nevada Race, driving an armored car with a shield welded to the passenger door and a cannon on the roof. When he wins, to the acclaim of the well-behaved crowd of pustule-covered punks and new wavers in attendance, he is awarded a license to kill, twenty ounces of gold, and a sex-slave called Flower. The couple head off on a pretty cool motorcycle trike across Monument Valley, which is dotted with the inert corpses of androids. Flower tells Parsifal that she once knew an android, adding, “I didn’t know what he was until I had made love with him!”

Parsifal liberates Flower, but soon after is kidnapped by agents of the rebel Pan-American Confederacy, who stun him with a gun from Barbarella and take him to their headquarters in Alaska. Here he’s informed that the Confederacy has located the world’s one remaining fertile woman, and that, partnered with a mopey guy sporting a robot claw and a strongman wearing an eyepatch, he must bring her back from New York so that she can be sent to Alpha Centauri to restart the human race.

2019 Lobby-1

Cue a lot of running about in a scrapyard and a tatty, one-street New York set—built for another film due to be shot in Rome, actually, and inherited by Martino after it caught fire. The trio encounter a member of a tribe of dwarfs—called “Shorty, what else?”—as well as the Needle People, a gang of scavengers who live off the rats they manage to spike. Shorty and a tired-looking blonde from the Needle People join the gang, and together they stumble upon the theater inhabited by Big Ape (George Eastman) and his gang of mutant monkeys.

Big Ape joins the crusade, the group finds the world’s only fertile woman, Melissa, preserved inside what looks like a gigantic croissant display case by her long dead scientist father, and they break out of the city. Their escape takes them down a walled-up tunnel that, for no clear reason, is protected by a mechanical portcullis, multiple waves of luminous spikes rising from the ground (with enough room to drive a car through, luckily), dozens of Eurak soldiers who leap out of alcoves, and an inappropriately extravagant-looking laser cannon styled like Syd Mead’s interpretation of a hostess trolley.

2019 Lobby-2By the time they make it to the desert to rendezvous with the Confederacy, only Parsifal and Melissa are alive. They board the ship and prepare to depart for Alpha Centauri.

2019 is basically just a heap of what the Italians call trovate—cool, gimmicky, derivative ideas piled higgledy-piggledy on top of one another and embellished to the point of absurdity: blood is gummy and orange; the dwarf commits the most unlikely suicide ever as he cries out, “Stupid bastards!”; rats attack as if they’re hell spawn (a customary occurrence in Italian genre films); skin is lasered off; someone says, “Careful, there’s something weird about this” about the weirdest thing that’s ever happened anywhere, at any time.

What stands out most to me now, after watching the film for the first time in 20 years, is how noisy it is—constantly, deafeningly, arbitrarily noisy. There’s a compressed noise for everything that happens: kicks make plastic-sounding punch noises, punches sound like a drum machine snare, a stabbing sounds like somebody kicking a sack of potatoes. And, Christ alive, there’s the endless repetition of the echoey laser noise the baddies’ bow-casters make!

The film was a French-Italian co-production, hence the transalpine nature of the cast, and the need to fit English dialogue onto the multilingual, labial gurnings of the actors results in peculiar ejaculations and a very loose way with prepositions (the aforementioned “I didn’t know what he was until I had made love with him,” for instance). Like many films from the same period and genre, 2019 is an amazing halfway house: there obviously wasn’t a huge budget, but there was, inexplicably, a budget, and one spent in a totally inconsistent way.

Martino claims the film was financially successful in Italy and around Europe in its day, something he admits would be unthinkable now, and he claims it was one of the last genre films the country produced before industry shortsightedness—or, he hints, political machinations (presumably the anti-genre intellectuals)—sabotaged the national film business by hindering the technological improvements that were already the norm elsewhere. Genre films were often categorized as being automatically right-wing at the time (escapism and imperialist, U.S.-individualist machismo being signifiers of crypto-fascist leanings), and the national film criticism industry was dominated by figures like Goffredo Foffi, whose strict Marxist rigor left little room for leather-clad rocker survivalists laser-blasting S&M mutants in the face while driving muscle cars.

2019 French Poster

2019 is creative as opposed to inventive, in the sense that you can almost hear the crew manically nailing stuff together, painting bits of plyboard and attaching spikes to the front of old cars, without there actually being much sense of novelty or surprise about any of it. The film is amazingly childish, and much of it actually resembles improvised play, appearing as it does to have been made up when the cameras started rolling. What can I say? My mistake! It’s immensely enjoyable—immensely stupid, often boring, totally ridiculous, and immensely enjoyable.

What it reminds me of most are the times I managed to persuade other, sportier, more outgoing kids to stop playing war and instead play games based around my 2000 AD-fueled sci-fi fantasies, only to feel the action quickly drifting out of my control—yes, we were in the future, or on the moon, but all they wanted to do was run fast, shout, and knock each other over anyway, and I, prissy obsessive that I was, would become increasingly irked and sidelined by the lack of genre respect. And I was obviously not going to be Parsifal. More like the mopey guy with the robot claw.

(Images via Wrong Side of the Art)

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*Kanakis was Miss Italy in 1977 (famously at age 15, cultural relativity fans!) and was married briefly to Claudio Simonetti from Goblin. She used to be nicknamed Lady Ribaltone (“Lady Turncoat,” loosely translated) for her perceived habit of constantly changing political allegiances. That probably wouldn’t mean much in most places, but this is Italy, the country where one of the best-known songs of the late Giorgio Gaber (a sort of cross between Leonard Cohen, Phil Ochs, and Mr. Rogers) is “Destra-Sinistra” (“Right-Left”), a light-hearted attempt to tackle the decidedly not-light-hearted national obsession with assigning an absolute political connotation to anyone and anything (sample lyric: “By its nature the potato is left-wing; mashed into purée, it’s right-wing”). Even 10 years ago Kanakis was still a fixture on talk shows, her I’m-half-Greek-I-speak-my-mind shtick and penchant for clingy clothes quite the compelling combo. Her star seems to have faded over the last decade.

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Richard McKenna grew up in the visionary utopia of 1970s South Yorkshire and now ekes out a living as a translator among the crumbling ruins of Rome. He dreams of being one day rescued by the Terran Trade Authority.

Movie Reviews: Hawk the Slayer (1980)

—Review by Richard McKenna

Hawk UK Quad

Beware: spoilers ahead.

1980’s Hawk the Slayer is what a semi-cynical British attempt to crossbreed Star Wars mania with the cover art of Wishbone Ash’s Argus looks like, and its channeling of Roger Dean by way of Roger Corman is—in its small way—as awesome as that sounds.

The film flopped when it came out, and if it made it to the grim provinces I inhabited at the time, it didn’t stay long, more’s the pity. It would be nice to be able to claim that the ten-year-old me who spent most of his waking hours trying to wish a copy of Tunnels and Trolls into his possession envisioned fantasy film (or “Sword and Sorcery,” as we then knew it) as being possessed of the production values of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and the socio-political nous of Game of Thrones, but that would be a lie of the most egregious kind: this is how I envisioned fantasy—an insane soup of lasers, elves, disco, tacky props, and plenty of folk in capes running through chilly woods tricked out with plastic skulls, dry ice, and green lights while swinging a sword. It’s exactly the type of film that I would have made in 1980, had I only been given the opportunity. Oh, and no girls allowed!

HTS 1980-1

Britain’s Starburst magazine panned Hawk the Slayer at the time, disappointed that the first film “with a sword and sorcery slant” should be such a “cheap little” one, so I never bothered trying to see it in subsequent years, and perhaps that was wise—it’s definitely the type of thing best seen before you hit twelve or after you hit forty. Hard to believe that within two years of its release, films like Dragonslayer (1981) and Conan the Barbarian (1982)—which seem almost to come from another decade, if not another century altogether—would appear, though there are echoes of Hawk the Slayer‘s cheap pleasures in The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982), and, weirdly, Excalibur (1981).

A prologue in a golden sauna sets things up: brooding Hawk (the disconcertingly Mike Oldfield-like John Terry) is good, while his disfigured brother Voltan (Jack Palance) is evil (obviously—his name starts with a ‘v’). Voltan kills their father after the “old man” (who looks a lot younger than Palance) refuses to give Voltan “the last of the Elven mind-stones,” which goes instead to Hawk after it lights up green, floats through the air, and is grasped by the cool living-hand pommel of Hawk’s sword. Hawk announces that he will kill Voltan and avenge their father.

HTS 1980-4After titles telling us that we have Chips Production to thank for what we’re watching (and what, to a Brit, could be more inviting, more dreamy, than the cozy domestic pleasures of a plate of chips?) come credits so dense with Harrys, Erics and Bernards that they look like something from the late 1940s: a good third of the crew seem to be actually called Terry, and the cast list reads like a postprandial fever dream of parochial British TV and cinema, although strangely it was the two American stars, Terry and Palance, who were singled out for criticism at the time for their respective lack of animation and overacting. In the second case, at least, that seems a little unfair—how the hell do you want Jack Palance to play an evil warlord in a no-budget fantasy world?

In blurry flashbacks which include one of the oddest tracking shots I’ve ever seen, we discover that a jealous Voltan killed Hawk’s beloved bride (City of the Living Dead‘s Catriona MacColl) before setting off on a rampage of cruelty around the land, and, flash forward, learn that he has now taken hostage the mother superior of a monastery (seemingly and incongruously a Christian monastery), promising that she will be put to death unless his demands for gold are met. Thus begins a lot of to-ing and fro-ing in the woods as a wounded survivor of Voltan’s cruelty seeks out Hawk, who, with the help of a handy witch, reassembles his crack squad of elf, dwarf, and giant. In the meantime, Palance bickers with his headstrong son and repeatedly pops off to another dimension to have the scars on his face laser-anesthetized by the evil entity protecting him. You can practically smell the heat coming off the d12s.

HTS 1980-2As it turns out, Baldin the dwarf and Gort the giant are useless except for some laboured comic relief, and even Hawk himself does far less slaying than you might expect, given his name. It’s Crow the rapid-fire elf, Ranulf the crippled warrior with the hundred-rounds-a-minute wrist-crossbow, and the Sorceress with her polystyrene storms and crazy-string mummify spell who contribute most to Voltan’s eventual downfall in the film’s absurd denouement.

The soundtrack, written by the film’s producer and co-writer, Harry Robertson, who scored several Hammer films starting in the late 1960s, runs the gamut of inappropriateness, from spooky baroque harpsichord riffs to disco space-rock, and each time Hawk appears, his signature synth trill is heard—even the synth sound that starts Jon and Vangelis‘ virgin romance anthem “I Hear You Now” is in there. The matte paintings seem to have been taken from some completely unrelated book of fairy tales, there’s a laser hula-hoop teleport device, Patrick Magee (!) as a druid, and, were proof of metal intent needed, what must be a tip of the hat to Judas Priest’s 1978 Killing Machine in the line of dialogue, “What manner of man are you?”

HTS 1980-5

Director Terry Marcel’s assertion that he wanted to create “something to top spaghetti westerns and kung-fu films” was obviously hugely optimistic (unless he was talking about the Foley work, with its incredible crushing-a-polythene-bag punch noises), and yet, for all its faults, the damn thing is just so enormously entertaining: enthusiastic, pacey, and ridiculous, its garish joke-shop world is engaging enough not to outlive its welcome, in part thanks to the almost total lack of character development, subtext, or anything except battles, magic, and Medieval/Renaissance/D&D yo-ho-hos, the naive cardboard-cut-out shallowness of the whole undertaking somehow serving to reinforce its archetypal power. It’s also, for anyone British, a weird window back into a country which was so much less sophisticated and demanding than it is today—though given the short shrift the feature got at the box office, perhaps not quite that undemanding.

Or maybe it’s just the fact that the whole thing seems to have been improvised in a British wood one overcast March that lends it peculiar resonance for those like me, who were acting out our longed-for fantasy worlds to even smaller audiences in similarly wintry and provincial woods at the same time.

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Richard McKenna grew up in the visionary utopia of 1970s South Yorkshire and now ekes out a living as a translator among the crumbling ruins of Rome. He dreams of being one day rescued by the Terran Trade Authority.

Movie Reviews: Firstborn (1984)

Firstborn

Beware: spoilers ahead.

The U.S. divorce rate peaked in 1981, as no-fault divorce became available in nearly all 50 states. A number of successful kid and teen dramas at the time reflected the new single-parent reality, including E.T., Footloose, Pretty in Pink, The Manhattan Project, The Karate Kid, The Lost Boys, Vision Quest, and The Bad News Bears.

For exactly one hour, Firstborn seriously addresses the breakdown of the nuclear family from the perspective of those it hit hardest: the kids. The last 45 minutes go up in a puff of action movie clichés and moral hysteria.

Jake (Christopher Collet, The Manhattan Project) and Brian (Corey Haim in his film debut) live with their mom (Terri Garr) in an affluent suburb on the East Coast. They go to a nice school. Jake has a nice girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker). He’s got typically rascally friends (Robert Downey Jr. plays one of them). He’s a star on the lacrosse team.

Firstborn

Things start to unravel when his boring, blue blood dad announces his plans to remarry, and his mom starts going out with working class Sam (played brilliantly by Peter Weller), who installs security systems and drives a big truck.

Sam tries to charm the kids into liking him. When that doesn’t work, he bribes them. Eventually, he moves in. One night, as music blares from a party downstairs, Jake comes out of his room and catches his mom and Sam snorting cocaine off the pinball machine (Sam’s one contribution to the household). Soon afterwards we learn that Sam is a drug dealer.

Mom starts to smoke and drink beer. Dishes and trash pile up around the house. Sam starts pushing the kids around. Jake begs his mother to kick him out, but she “can’t.” She tells a neighbor: “So he does not have a law degree, so what? He’s a very nice guy. He’s solid, he’s full of life, and he needs me… And right now, that’s very important to me.”

Jake, as the older brother and “man of the house,” has to take care of business himself. He steals Sam’s score, there’s a fight, Sam tries to run down Jake in his big truck, and there’s a final, unconvincing showdown back at the house.

MBDFIRS EC001

The second half of the movie hinges on the premise that Garr’s character, Wendy, up to this point a good mother who has raised two smart boys and handled a marital separation with dignity, would suddenly turn into the worst person in the world. I enjoyed seeing all the actors in Firstborn, and the ’80s repartee and atmosphere is fun, but I found Garr’s transformation totally unbelievable and offensive.

The subtext is there—it’s implicit in the tagline, actually. First, women are fickle and weak-kneed by nature, so there’s always an underlying justification for men to leave them. Second, if you’re a divorced upper middle class woman and you absolutely must get remarried, hook up with a guy who has money. Working class men know how to barbecue, but they’re probably lazy, violent drug dealers who will at some point try to kill you and your children.

While it lasts, you can watch Firstborn here.

(Movie poster via www.joblo.com; stills via Cineplex)

Quick Movie Reviews: The Keep (1983)

the keep poster

Beware: Spoilers ahead.

It’s 1941, and a Nazi regiment has been sent to defend a mountain pass—anchored by a creepy and ancient keep—in the Carpathian mountains. The creepy keeper of the keep warns the Nazis not to mess with the thousands of gleaming crosses embedded in the walls, and even tries to convince them that said crosses aren’t silver (nickel, I tell you, nickel!). But, as we know, Nazis absolutely must possess all that gleams, and they can sniff out the rich stuff as easily as if it were bratwurst. Schnell, Olaf! To the crowbars!

Problem: Prying out just one of the silver crosses unleashes a demon of some sort, which promptly begins tearing apart Nazis on a nightly basis. You see, the keep was built, way back when, not to keep something out, but to keep something in. To keep something in the keep, I mean. The evil thing, that is. What?

Enter the Jewish historian (Ian McKellan) and his pretty daughter (Alberta Watson), who are spared the concentration camp on the condition that they figure out what the hell is tearing apart Nazis on a nightly basis.

Enter Einsatzkommando Major Kaempffer (Gabriel Byrne), who, scoffing at the somewhat sympathetic Nazi Captain (Jürgen Prochnow) for buying the supernatural demon theory, begins executing the “partisan” villagers posthaste.

Enter some guy (Scott Glenn) who woke up in Greece with bright lights in his eyes and hauled ass to the keep to stop the demon and have sex with the Jewish historian’s daughter about 20 minutes after meeting her.

Enter the ultimate battle between good and evil, etc.

The Keep is a pretentious mess, directed and adapted by Michael Mann before he decided to insert some substance into his style. Still, it does look dreamy, and the demon in humanoid form is an overlooked makeup effects masterpiece courtesy of Nick Maley, who worked on Star Wars (the Cantina sequence), The Empire Strikes Back, and Krull, among others. The Tangerine Dream soundtrack (listen here) has achieved cult status in its own right, and rightly so.

According to urban legend, a stupidly long director’s cut exists that, if released, would remedy the theatrical release’s incoherence (referred to as “dream logic” by the film’s admirers). Somewhere in the vaults of Paramount, there’s a door marked by a silver (er, nickel) cross. Dare they unleash the beast?

(Poster image via movieposter.com)

(Video via laserdiscphan)

Quick Movie Reviews: Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (1982)

Timerider Poster

Beware: Spoilers ahead.

Dude in the middle of a motorcycle race gets zapped back in time by some incompetent scientists to the year 1877, where evil cowboys try to steal his fancy machine and he (the motorcycle dude) has sex with his great, great grandma (the motorcycle dude is in fact his own great, great grandpa).

Fred Ward (Remo Williams, Tremors) plays the motorcycle dude, and everybody loves Fred Ward, but not even Fred Ward can make one of the worst scripts ever written okay. I’m sorry, he just cant. And the motorcycle is just a motorcycle. It doesn’t shoot cool lasers or anything.

Good things I can say about Timerider include:

  1. The poster is awesome.
  2. It’s an early time travel flick, predating both Terminator and Back to the Future.
  3. Everybody loves Fred Ward.
  4. The evil cowboys are played in appropriate over-the-top fashion by Peter Coyote (the scientist with all the keys in E.T.), Richard Masur (Clark in The Thing, the dad in License to Drive), and Tracey Walter (the cook in City Slickers).
  5. Michael Nesmith, one of The Monkees, wrote the music and co-wrote the script. The music was fun.

(Poster image via SciFi-Movies)

Quick Movie Reviews: Just One of the Guys (1985)

Beware: Spoilers ahead.

Right. So there’s this really hot, stuck up high school girl who wants to be a journalist when she grows up and gets really pissed off when her journalism teacher tells her the piece she wrote to win the big summer newspaper internship isn’t good enough and that she should be a model instead. Hey, just because I’m really hot and totally into myself doesn’t mean I can’t be smart too, she says. But how to prove it? Well, duh!—I’ll just enroll as a boy in the neighboring school and show my boring paper to that journalism teacher to prove that my journalism teacher is sexist.

In this other school (how she/he gets in without parents or transcripts I don’t know) Terry (yeah, Terry) falls for sweet-but-dweeby Rick, which is like totally awkward because she’s supposed to be his best male bud and also she/he has to transform Rick into a cool cat to get him a date with the hot, stuck up girl who’s dating the jock-douche Greg (William Zabka, who played the same part in The Karate Kid).

If you think there’s not a scene where Terry is in fine-looking girl mode, waiting for her shallow college boyfriend to pick her up for a date, when the cute girl (the sexy, adorable Sherilyn Fenn) who has the hots for boy-Terry shows up, and Terry has to run back and forth switching from boy- to girl-Terry… Wait, what was I saying?

The denouement (look it up) unfolds at the prom, of course, when Rick fights the jock-douche and Terry shows Rick her boobs to prove that she/he isn’t gay, just a chick who dressed up as a dude to prove that her journalism teacher was sexist.

(Movie poster via movieposter.com)

Quick Movie Reviews: Out of Bounds (1986)

Restless farm boy Daryl (Anthony Michael Hall, in his first dramatic role) moves to L.A. to live with his big brother, but, wouldn’t you know it, he picks up the wrong bag at the airport—damn, that’s a lot of cocaine!—and wakes up the next morning to find big brother and wife whacked by the exceptionally evil drug dealer. And so the chase begins, with Daryl descending into the urban underbelly of the ’80s, assisted by punker and eventual lover, Diz (Jenny Wright).

The movie is uninspired, predictable, and unbelievable, but Hall is a better actor than anyone ever gave him credit for, and Wright is cute and quirky. I clearly remember seeing this in the theater and noting Hall’s imperfectly covered up acne in certain scenes. It made me feel better about myself at the time.

Siouxsie and the Banshees make a cameo in one of the clubs Daryl and Diz run through.

Quick Movie Reviews: Flight of the Navigator (1986)

Flight of the Navigator starts out strong. After a family outing on the Fourth of July, 12-year-old Joey is sent to fetch his annoying little brother from a friend’s house, but along the way big brother falls into a ravine and knocks himself out. When he wakes up and hoofs it back to his house, some old lady answers the door. She has no idea who he is. His parents are nowhere to be found. It turns out he’s been missing for 8 years. His parents, now visibly aged and haggard, break down when the police return him. His little brother is now his big brother.

This is pretty dark stuff for a Disney film, but it quickly becomes sort of an E.T. meets Close Encounters clone, with a dash of D.A.R.Y.L. and a pinch of Explorers. As the kid and his family are trying to figure out what’s going on, NASA discovers a crashed alien spacecraft. Dr. Faraday (Howard Hesseman from WKRP and Head of the Class) smells a link between the unaged Joey and the alien ship, and moves the kid to a scientific facility for observation. Hip teen rocker Carolyn (Sarah Jessica Parker) befriends Joey and eventually helps him bust out and get to the ship (a presence inside has been calling to him telepathically).

You can figure out what happens next. It’s a fun little movie with some substance, back when filmmakers treated kids with some respect.

Quick Movie Reviews: Deathstalker (1983), Deathstalker II (1987), The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984), Barbarian Queen (1985)

In my ongoing quest to watch every single sword and sorcery movie from the ’80s, no matter how irredeemably sleazy, I present this quadruple-feature from the Roger Corman’s Cult Classics series.

In the opening scene of Deathstalker, our hero rescues a maiden from a gang of lusty cutthroats and then proceeds to get it on with said maiden. Before they can finish (don’t you hate when this happens?), an old man drags “Stalker” to a witch who needs his urgent assistance to unite a magic sword with some other magic doodads to stop the evil wizard and save the princess. The awesome looking ogre-thing in the poster isn’t in the movie, so don’t get excited. I’ve already said too much. Just watch this clip so we can move on.

Deathstalker II is fun. I don’t really remember what happens (more of the same), but everything is so poorly done, everyone knows it, and everyone seems to be having fun with it—and that’s really what makes a bad B movie good: it has what I call a “recess” flavor. In other words, it gleefully creates the kinds of spontaneous, silly action-dramas we made up during our recess/lunch periods at school. Here’s a taste of the awesome soundtrack and the terrible acting.

The best thing I can say about The Warrior and the Sorceress is that David Carradine is pretty slick as the hooded bad-ass, but it’s nothing he hadn’t already done, and done much better, by that point. The story revolves around two warring factions fighting over the only water source on a planet with two suns. In better hands, it might have been fun. No clip for you. Next.

Barbarian Queen (a.k.a. Queen of the Naked Steel) is a cult classic and my favorite in this lot. Lana Clarkson, who Phil Spector was convicted of murdering in 2009, is so tall and hot and charismatic that she pulls off a quasi-feminist barbarian hero despite the shoddy production and all the cheap, predictable rape scenes. The Queen’s man is taken prisoner by the evil Romans, and she and her band of women warriors are damn well going to get him back! The trailer is fantastic.

Quick Movie Reviews: The Boy Who Could Fly (1986)

Yeah, I watched it. So what? It’s from the ’80s and I’m 40. These days, that’s all it takes.

Anyway, Mindy Cohn’s character, the obnoxious neighbor, sums this one up after the 14-year-old female protagonist gets hammered and starts to get horny for the kid who sits in his window all day not saying anything and pretending he’s an airplane: “You can’t be in love with a retard. It’s just not done!”

Also, spoiler alert, the title is not a metaphor. The kid actually flies at the end, and it’s really, really stupid.


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