Bad Channels (1992) DVD Review

badchannels1Bad Channels (1992)

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Written by Charles Band & Jackson Barr

Starring – Robert Factor, Martha Quinn, Aaron Lustig, Michael Huddleston, Paul Hipp.

Out on DVD from 88 Films UK .

 

Bad Channels is a sci-fi comedy which tells the story of an invading alien taking over a small town Californian radio station, in order to hypnotise and shrink earth women for its collection back home. That is pretty much all that can be said for any synopsis.

The movie is basically critic proof. It is brought to us by writer / producer, Charles Band, the man who, in various writing, producing and directing guises, is responsible for well over a gazillion movies (mostly of the “B” variety), ranging from well received horror genre pieces, such as Puppet Master, through to the downright silly, like Gingerdead Man and Evil Bong – and including everything from thrillers to “erotic comedies” in between.

Although not as silly as something like Evil Bong, Bad Channels has an all pervading sense of fun and nicely captures the atmosphere of a 1950s “B” movie, coming across as something of an homage to what were, one presumes, the movies of Band’s childhood. It is this air of fun which makes criticising the film seem like a pointless and churlish exercise.

badchannels2Now, Bad Channels is professionally made and obviously has some productions value (when compared to a lot of the stuff that manages to find release these days) and it is not as “out there” as, say, a Troma movie (nor, it should be made clear, is there any suggestion that it is trying to be). However, it is intentionally silly and lighthearted and some of the design is poor to the point of perfection in reflecting 1950s sci-fi schlock; the alien looks like he has a big rubber rock for a head and his robot sidekick looks like a refugee from a Smash commercial. Everywhere this horrible pair go, they cover everything in green rubber stuff and the alien carries a staff-like weapon which either makes people disappear, or gives them a nasty case of green jock strap rash all over their body.

Whenever the alien identifies a female target from his radio studio headquarters, he wiggles a lever about and the girl hallucinates being in some kind of promo video for whatever track the alien plays, seemingly going crazy to any onlookers, whilst, in her mind, she bumps and grinds along with the band. Eventually, this process ends with the victim (now only a few inches tall) teleporting into captivity in a test tube in the radio station. There was obviously some kind of deal with record companies in place here, or something going on, because for every kidnap scene, the audience is treated to an entire song – and guest appearance – from a different, awful, left-field rock band of some ill conceived sub genre or another (it was that early 90s period when cock rock was on the way out and ten tonnes of various shite were jostling to be the mainstream face of rock, a battle eventually won by grunge).

badchannels3It all just adds to the silliness, though, and one can’t help but feel that, had they involved decent bands the overall effect would have been lost, to the detriment of the film.

A proper “popcorn movie”, Bad Channels won’t revolutionise your life, but it will make you smile, which is a precious commodity itself in today’s world of torture porn, unhappy endings and rampant cynicism.

7/10

 

 

Doctor Mordrid (1992) DVD Review

drm1Doctor Mordrid (1992)

Directors – Albert Band, Charles Band.

Starring – Jeffrey Combs, Yvette Nipar, Brian Thompson, Jay Acovone, Keith Coulouris, Julie Michaels.

 

Released in the UK on DVD by 88 Films on 17th Feb 2014.

 

Whenever I hear certain things to do with Horror I get goosebumps. Now when I received Doctor Mordrid (which I haven’t seen since the mid-nineties) I immediately got them there goosebumps.

Why? I hear you ask. Well Doctor Mordrid features many things which moulded me as a horror fan as I grew into the genre. Firstly it is from Full Moon Entertainment, directed by Charles AND Albert Band (I think this was there first together?) , stars the legend that is Jeffrey Combs and has a cameo (naked) from the lovely Julie Michaels.

 

Doctor Anton Mordrid (Jeffrey Combs- Reanimator , From Beyond) has been on earth for 100 years. He is in fact a sorcerer from the 4th dimension and is here as a guardian . He is awaiting the return of Kabal (Brian Thompson – Terminator, Cobra) who is his arch enemy and another sorcerer.

 

drm2Mordrid and Kabal had been childhood friends , happily playing with their powers until Kabal became power-hungry and evil . Thus started a 100 year war which ended when Mordrid locked Kabal up in a prison.

 

But Kabal has escaped and is on Earth to enact his revenge on Mordrid and make the planet his slave and plaything. But with the help from a new friend Samantha (Yvette Nipar – Robobcop TV Series) Mordrid sets about protecting the earth and also trying to keep alive while under attack from Kabal. Can Mordrid save himself and all of mankind?

 

Doctor Mordrid is a huge amount of fun, there is very little violence and no gore whatsoever but it is a hugely enjoyable piece of cinema. Jeffrey Combs is in fantastic form as Mordrid who is an intergalatic sorceror, he lives in an apartment block (which he owns) and then befriends his neighbour Samantha who just happens to be a special police advisor on cults and demonology (of course) , and this is very lucky for Mordrid as he later gets arrested for a murder.

 

The sets on Doctor Mordrid are brilliant, I just loved his huge and tardis like apartment which is just so much roomier on the inside. And Jeffrey Combs looks stunning in his later scenes as he wears his official high waisted sorcerer’s jump suit, very tasty indeed.

 

This is a great piece of early 1990’s low-budget filmmaking, admire how Mordrid watches a bank of TV screens showing the news, so he can see if anything points to a return of Kabal. And when he finds something he records it on long-lasting VHS tapes and even writes on the spine what is on the tape. I just hope he has removed the tab so he doesn’t tape over it!  Oh what retro lovliness.

 

Doctor Mordrid is a little confusing at the start , it basically just kicks straight into the story and tells the backstory as we go along. But once everything kicks into gear then Doctor Mordrid goes along at a great pace , is just the right length and is an enjoyable gem of a film.

 

drm3The ending is a little disappointing with a crappy dinosaur skeleton fight , but all in all this is a great addition to the 88 Films collection and will look great on your shelf.

 

So the last line must go to Kabal “ Before this is over I will drink your blood and eat your flesh, and it will taste sweet”!

 

7/10

SPECIAL FEATURES

• ALL REGION CODES
• VIDEOZONE – MAKING OF
• ORIGINAL TRAILER
• 88 FILMS TRAILER PARK
• BLUE CASE
• REVERSIBLE SLEEVE INCORPORATING 

DeCoteau DeCoded by Matty Budrewicz

dc1DeCoteau DeCoded


Director and producer David DeCoteau has had one helluva career. Whilst even his most ardent supporters would have a hard time describing it as illustrious, the Canadian-American schlock kingpin has certainly been prolific. Hell, a look at his IMDb slate should be enough to tell you that, with well over one hundred directorial credits (under a variety of eclectic pseudonyms) since the mid eighties alone. Factor in his producing, writing and assorted other credits and well… Well I guess it’s safe to say that dissecting his full body of remarkable, money-spinning work would be a meteoric task; a near impossible endeavour, in fact, that’d be better served by a wordsmith far greater than myself.

Now, by and large DeCoteau has been responsible for a fair amount of dreck, something that he himself would probably admit to too. However, for the more liberal, loon-minded cineaste- you know, those of us with a voracious appetite for hootingly good tripe, there is actually a whole lot to savour with ol’ Davey’s hokum. And, what’s more, there’s a surprising amount of artistry and craft behind it all too.

One of the standout directors of the late eighties-early nineties direct-to-video B scene, DeCoteau is certainly one of the strongest visual stylists amongst them. Unlike his contemporaries Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski who prefer a more ‘locked-off’ camera approach, DeCoteau sports a keen eye for staging and pomp-filled composition. Favouring Dutch angles and deep focus, he possesses a strong understanding of how to get a slick, richly photographed film in spite of meagre budgets, schedules and resources. Just check out the sorely undervalued car boot sale classic and discount shop favourite Legend of the Mummy 2 (or Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy as it’s also known)(1999) for the proof: bottom-end it may be, but it’s wickedly photographed, with a look falling somewhere between classic Hammer and the glossy energy of Tony Scott.

dc2It’s perhaps with the late Scott that the best comparison lies. Like Scott was, DeCoteau is a populist filmmaker. Just consider the evidence: both were/are commercially safe and both filled/fill the needs and demands of their paying audience and financiers, churning out profit-making hits in their respective fields in spite of often vicious critical lambastings. Best of all, however, is how they both managed/manage to do so whilst remaining true to their own artistic sensibilities, elevating them far beyond that of a pair of box-ticking journeymen to the status of true pulp auteur’s. Sure, their budgets may be drastically different, but it can’t be denied they’re not a million miles away from each other, especially when one considers that beach volleyball scene from Scott’s ’86 smash Top Gun…

I refer, of course, to homo-eroticism DeCoteau’s defining trope. Openly gay himself, DeCoteau has been the figurehead of the niche homo-horror sub-genre since his minor video success with Voodoo Academy back at the turn of the millennium. A thoroughly enjoyable quickie (DeCoteau shot it all in four days), Voodoo Academy is one of DeCoteau’s finest, the story of six male students at a strange Scientology-tinged Bible School being seduced into kinky black magic by the resident Reverend and house ma’am. It’s effective and surprisingly atmospheric stuff, a sort of low-key hodge-podge of Suspiria (1977), Angel Heart (1987) and a Calvin Klein boxer shorts commercial.

Retrospectively, it’s easy to see DeCoteau’s distinctive blend of histrionic horror and sculpted, shirtless young men implicitly flirting with one another as the next logical step in his filmic evolution. Reworking and inverting the playful, girl-ogling sexiness that characterised his earlier gun-for-hire T&A jobs like Beach Babes From Beyond (1994), and infusing them with the same Queer Cinema sensibility that made his experimental black and white gay art-pic Leather Jacket Love Story (1997) such a festival hit, DeCoteau has turned post-Scream teen-centric terror into a girl and gay-baiting art-form a fact his longevity can attest to. Though perhaps a little too much for some, there’s without doubt a big and demanding market for DeCoteau’s kind of chilling chintz. I mean, just look at the colossal Twilight saga – what are they if not glorified DeCoteau flicks? Angsty teens, topless hunks, supernatural shenanigans…

dc3Ultimately, I think without Dave DeCee and, say, his Brotherhood series (2001-2009), Sparklin’ Edward Cullen et al just wouldn’t have been possible. The only difference is that the six-strong Brotherhood chapters are actually pretty damn good, unlike the god-awful Twilight, and the first three (I’ve Been Watching You, Young Warlocks and Young Demons as they’re known over here) especially so. It would seem even directorial titan Martin Scorsese isn’t above lifting from him either, what with his latest DiCaprio-starring hit bearing a strikingly similar title to DeCoteau’s 2002 lycanthrope romp Wolves of Wall Street. Oh, to see the faces of the people who unexpectedly stumble across that one…

Beginning his film career as a production assistant for the legendary Roger Corman back in the eighties, DeCoteau soon found himself at the attention of another iconic B sultan, Charles Band, with his first mainstream movie proper, Dreamaniac (1986).

The impact Band has had on DeCoteau is gargantuan and it’s often under the Full Moon head honchos auspicious guidance that DeCoteau has made a vast majority of his best stuff, such as the terrific should-have-been-a-series Shrieker (1998) and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)- his most well-known film. Indeed, a lot of DeCoteau titles I’ve already mentioned have also been Band produced, occasionally – as in the case of Legend of the Mummy 2 – uncredited. However, the real treat of their numerous and fructiferous collaborations is 1991’s Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge. For my money, it’s DeCoteau’s masterpiece.

dc4Retconning the timeline established in the first two instalments of the flagship Full Moon franchise, DeCoteau’s part III is a period-set prequel starring Mr. Sardonicus (1961) himself, Guy Rolfe. It’s Berlin 1941 and the Nazi’s- as they so often do, are unsuccessfully attempting to raise the dead for use as battlefield super-soldiers, via the experiments of the surprisingly well-meaning Dr. Hess. His superiors, the lecherous General Mueller and full-blown S.O.B. Major Kraus, are a different story however, and they take great umbrage when they learn, through Kraus’ driver and spy Lt. Stein, that master puppeteer Andre Toulon has been performing politically subversive shows with his anthropomorphic puppets. After a Kristallnacht-esque raid on his home in an attempt to grab Toulon’s secret life-giving elixir results in the death of his beloved wife Elsa, the heartbroken Toulon swears revenge and, with the help of his deadly puppets, embarks on a swath of bloody retribution against his wrongdoers.

Made whilst DeCoteau was closeted both personally and professionally, and purely because he was the only director willing to travel to the originally planned Romanian locations, Toulon’s Revenge is understandably free of his guy-candy fetishism. It’s for the best really too, as any sort of over the top eroticism would likely be out-of-place in the comic book-y series, lest of all between a gaggle of overly tactile male model types! Even without DeCoteau’s signature auteurist flourish though, Toulon’s Revenge is a far from perfunctory mercenary gig, packed as it is with his usual panache and creative bombast.

Transcending its modest budget, Toulon’s Revenge is a big-feeling picture, without doubt the most ambitious and most handsomely mounted of DeCoteau’s career. It’s part rollicking little horror programmer and part Where Eagles Dare-ish wartime adventure, just as DeCoteau and scripter C. Courtney Joyner envisioned it. This magpie, cherry picking knack is another goodie habitual to cinematica DeCoteau: his utilising of an obvious love of the movies to create interesting and often inter-textual cross-genre product. Take Creepozoids (1987) and Final Stab (2001) for example. On paper, both are nothing more than shameless rip-offs of Aliens (1986) and Scream (1996) respectively, with the latter actually going as far as to be being cheekily retitled Final Scream here in the UK. Now, I’m not going to dispute for one second that that’s not how they came about, but both transcend the usually awful ‘Rubbish Clone’ category by actually being quite inventively referential and self aware.

dc5The excellent Creepozoids, for instance, knows it’s fundamentally man-in-a-rubber-suit tosh and DeCoteau is more than willing to celebrate it, firing a whole manner of archetypal sci-fi and horror motifs at the screen with gleeful abandon: Aliens, a monster baby a la It’s Alive (1974), giant rats, an abandoned research facility, the fall of man, and a future earth thrown into ecological hell… It’s all there, delivered with a fair amount of wit too. Even better is that it’s all capped off by the, erm, ‘double delicacies’, shall we say, of Scream Queen Linnea Quigley.

The twisty-turny Final Stab meanwhile, is DeCoteau’s pleasing contemporary valentine to the golden age of slashers. It’s a wonderfully silly and loving patchwork of retro fun and sly humour, a shining minor gem vastly superior to more famous and truly chunder-some soulless Hollywood slash-arse like the Prom Night (2008) remake. In short, it’s much better than a casual glance would suggest.

Elsewhere, DeCoteau inverts the Death Wish (1974) vigilante formula with a female twist in his self-explanatory Lady Avenger- a cheap and cheerful blast of kinda-gritty action fluff from 1988. It’s an area DeCoteau would explore further with his producer only Steel & Lace (1991), a schlock hybrid of rape-and-revenge and the then blossoming DTV cyborg genre that followed in the wake of RoboCop (1987). Tailored towards what sells they both may be but, like Creepozoids and Final Stab, the glee in which they each embrace and toy with their own conventions is refreshing. Interestingly, Lady Avenger and Steel & Lace link pretty nicely thematically with Toulon’s Revenge, essentially creating a loosely connected ‘Vengeance Trilogy’ well over a decade before Park Chan-wook even began his. What? I’m just saying…

dc6In Toulon’s Revenge, perhaps the most striking moments (other than the ones of puppet carnage, natch) are those which allude to the classic Universal horror of the thirties, Frankenstein (1931) in particular. The similarities between actor Ian Abercrombie’s conflicted Dr. Hess and Colin Clive’s conflicted Victor Frankenstein are just as impossible to ignore as their shared use of stylised lab equipment.

It’s an obvious tip of the hat really, considering how Frankenstein’s director, the openly homosexual James Whale, is the progenitor of ghoulish camp. Fittingly, DeCoteau would later go on to helm his own revisionist version of the classic Mary Shelley tale, the kiddie-friendly Frankenstein Reborn! (1998), and even go as far as to cite Whale’s stupendous Bride of Frankenstein (1935) directly during a scene in 1999’s prequel to the prequel, Retro Puppet Master: “A world of God’s and monsters,” a young Toulon says, echoing the effete Dr. Pretorius.Stuart Gordon, a DeCoteau peer and fellow Band alum, and his debut film Re-Animator (1985) are another key Toulon’s Revenge touchstone.

In a fun visual quote, Toulon’s magical serum looks suspiciously like Herbert West’s glowing green re-agent from the similarly Frankenstein-like saga; who knows what kind of Freddy vs Jason franchise hopping this could’ve yielded too, had Re-Animator just kept the original H.P. Lovecraft stories thirties setting! The DeCoteau-Gordon back and forth doesn’t stop there, however. Exchanging the weird creepiness of William Hickey’s portrayal in the original Puppet Master (1989) for a more human and pathos laden take, the then seventy-nine year old Rolfe gives an excellent dramatic performance as the definitive incarnation of Toulon. It’s a turn cut from the same genial horror hero cloth as his part in an earlier Charles Band exec produced killer toys flick, Dolls (1986), directed by (you’ve guessed it) Stuart Gordon. Rolfe would return to the Toulon role three more times (or four if you count his archival footage appearance in the duff part eight, Puppet Master: The Legacy) before his death in 2003.

dc7Weirdly, and as if to confound even more the already incestuous nature of the eras B movie scene, Brit actress Sarah Douglas- best known as the villainous Kryptonian Ursa in Superman I and II (1978/80)- would later go on to star in Re-Animator and Dolls producer Brian Yuzna’s Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993). Unlike her part as the angelic Elsa in Toulon’s Revenge, Return finds Douglas as the driven military head of a scientific programme planning to raise the dead for use as battlefield super-soldiers. Just like Mueller, Kraus and Hess. It’s a convoluted web, no? Even more so when you think that Return’s producer, Gary Schmoeller, is the brother of David Schmoeller, the director of the first Puppet Master. Good Lord…

Ironically, just as Toulon’s Revenge stands as DeCoteau’s best, two of his subsequent entries in the series are amongst his worst: 1998’s Curse of the Puppet Master and the aforementioned Retro Puppet Master. Whilst bad scripting and a general air of rushed tackiness are forgivable, that both movies are so painfully dull is not; DeCoteau land is many things, but it’s never boring. It’s a shame too as Curse in particular boasts one of the most nifty but wasted premises of DeCoteau’s filmography; a Tod Browning-tinged tale of a madman attempting to turn one of DeCoteau’s beloved twinks into a human puppet. Thankfully, DeCoteau atoned somewhat with Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010), an interesting, amusing and again World War II-set Toulon’s Revenge companion piece.

Though the old rental medium that allowed someone like DeCoteau to flourish in the first place is now a thing of the past, it’s lovely to see that he remains as productive and as enterprising as ever. By embracing the online streaming platform, DeCoteau and his production company Rapid Heart have certainly proved themselves still relevant in the home entertainment arena, just as his recent 1313 brand shows.

Sure, the films may now be of noticeably lower quality than his giddy heyday (a truly horrifying thought if you’re one of the man’s detractors), but any filmmaker who still manages to regularly belt out gloriously goofy gay-tickling pap like Giant Killer Bees! (2010) and Hercules Unbound! (2012) deserves to be celebrated if you ask me. I mean, the MILF-tastic 1313: Cougar Cult (2012) alone is enough to warrant a look for the B curious, reuniting Quigley with fellow schlock sex sirens Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer, some twenty-four years after their last team up in DeCoteau’s Nightmare Sisters.

dc8A look around your local Tesco’s entertainment aisle will tell you Big Dave is as vital as ever too. Just last week a new DeCoteau joint, Bonnie & Clyde: Justified (2013), stormed into their charts top ten, whilst his endearingly naff Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft (2013) has been one of their bargain zone mainstays since its release back in March last year.

What with that and companies like 88 Films pushing his back catalogue out into the market again, there really is no better time to immerse oneself in DeCoteau’s stuff. You’d do well to give it a go. I think you’d just might like it.

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For more ramblings, follow Matty on twitter @mattybudrewicz

 

 

 

 

The Pit and The Pendulum (1991) BluRay Review

pit1THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM – 1991

Dir: Stuart Gordon

Starring: Lance Henrikson, Rona De Ricci, Jonathan Fuller, Jeffrey Combs, Tom Towles, Oliver Reed.

88 Films

Blu-Ray

There is much talk these days of the death of physical media such as DVD and Blu-Ray. With broadband getting faster and better all the time, and services such as Netflix and Lovefilm offering the average film fan everything at the touch of a button, it is easy to buy into the idea that everything is moving out into ‘the cloud’ as it were. However, there are still plenty of folk out there that prefer their films to come well presented, in cool packaging and with that little bit extra that online entertainment simply can’t provide. 88 Films with their motto “Classic movies treated with respect” are more than willing to step up and offer real fans that little bit more. Like the people over at Arrow their goal seems to be to source and provide us horror and exploitation fans the best possible releases of films that have long been neglected and resigned to bottom shelf VHS releases in the past. In fact, despite the market leaning towards online sales, it has developed into a bit of a golden era for lovers of the obscure, exploitative, and the grotesque.

The Pit and The Pendulum is a loose adaptation of the Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name. Poe’s story was a simple one, tracing one man’s tortuous ordeal with The Inquisition and his date with the titular pit and pendulum. Like a lot of Poe’s stories it delves into the deepening internal madness of his main character, meaning it is open to interpretation where film adaptations are concerned. Somewhat sacrilegiously I have never seen the Roger Corman version, but Stuart Gordon’s movie expands the story and develops elements surrounding The Inquisition, adds characters and a lot more blood-letting. The film follows a young innocent, God-fearing couple (Fuller and De Ricci) who fall foul of the brutal Grand Inquisitor Torquemada (Henrikson). The couple find themselves at the mercy of The Inquisition as Torquemada battles with his own attraction to his beautiful young captive.

pit2The Pit and The Pendulum is a strange beast that never seems quite sure what it wants to be. Coming as it does from Charles Band’s Full Moon productions and directed by Stuart Gordon it is sometimes an uneven mix of the outright horrific, ill-advised humour, old-fashioned swashbuckling and strange romanticism. At its best the film is truly horrifying, offering up some of the grittiest and most disturbing examples of medieval torture and punishment ever filmed.

To make this all the more chilling Lance Henrikson gives one of his career best performances as the vile, insidious Torquemada. A character of such vicious conviction, with confused and repressed emotion always threatening to boil to the surface, he gives the film a sense of violent dread whenever he is on-screen. Sadly the film insists on shying away from this too often and attempts to lighten the tone with scenes of humour and heroism that only undermine the tension and terror. This is a real shame because for around half its running time The Pit and the Pendulum is a fantastic horror movie; for the other half it’s a confused adventure film that feels like it belongs somewhere else. However, this is still a very entertaining movie that ranks as one of Gordon’s better efforts and looks a lot more than its low-budget origins would suggest. And it’s never bad to see so many genre favourites such as Henrikson, Jeffrey Combs and Tom Towles all in one film, not to mention a cracking cameo from the late, great Oliver Reed.

88 Films have put together a decent package here with quite a bit for fans to dig in too. The Blu-Ray transfer is decent, not mind-blowing, but good enough to justify the purchase. As for the extras an interview with Gordon is full of great anecdotes and insight, and it was interesting to find that the film was originally intended as a much bigger budget affair to be shot in England with Peter O’Toole as Torquemada.

pit3But the real jewel here is the full length ‘Videozone’ from Full Moon. It’s a fun, nostalgic trip back to the days of VHS video rental, and when you had to join fan clubs by post! It includes behind the scenes stuff from The Pit and the Pendulum, interviews with Henrikson and other members of the cast as well as promo materials from other Full Moon releases of the time. It’s a great little extra that took me back to my childhood and the hours I spent looking for films I wasn’t supposed to see in the 321 video shop. Like most of them now, that particular video shop has long been a pizza takeaway. But the fond memories of a time when these films lurked in the corners and the bottom shelves of the local rental shop still remain.

FILM: 7/10

PACKAGE: 8/10

 

 

 

 

 

Hideous (1997) 88 Films DVD Review

hideous1Hideous (1997) DVD Review

Director – Charles Band

Starring – Michael Citriniti, Rhonda Griffin, Mel Johnson Jr, Jacqueline Lovell, Tracie May, Jerry O’Donnell.

UK DVD release – 27th January 2014 from 88 Films !!

 

 

Charles Band Directs this entry into 88 films essential Grindhouse collection, making this movie number 14 in the series

 

The underground world of black market biological mutant trading is the story which contains this rivalry of teo eccentric collectors of oddities, Dr Lorca ( Michael Citirini, Goodfellas) – a bizarre mixture of Tony Stark and Svengoolie will do anything to obtain a precious specimen that he was cheated out of by ruthless business woman Belinda Yost (Tracie May).

 

Lorca is tipped off by dim but beautiful receptionist (Jacqueline Lovell, FemAlien) and sets up quite possibly the greatest theft ever; including a topless woman in a gorilla mask ( this is Full Moon people, enjoy) robbing his rival Napoleon Lazar (Mel Johnson Jr. Total Recall’s Taxi driver himself) of the creature as to display it prominently in his own collection.

 

Lazar is unhappy and hires a tough Boston P.I to track down and recover the stolen item, this brings the four characters into a beautifully designed Gothic castle ( built on the Full Moon stages and pretty darn impressive) which they are promptly and conveniently trapped inside.

 

Our precious and Hideous specimen in the meantime is evolving and recruiting the other creatures resurrecting them to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting cast, initally thinking that Lazar has sabotaged his collection due to the fact his is less majestic than his own, Lorca and his semi naked maid/secretary/lover? Plan to get revenge.

 

hideous2The creatures are all excellently created and are reminiscent of the monster from the movie “Head of the Family” Band loves puppets and miniature versions of humans, dolls, monsters and anything else on a micro scale they are scattered throughout his career and these are an impressive addition to his own collection.

 

The movie does the right thing and doesn’t take itself too seriously, the witty dry humour which is scattered throughout helps the pacing and even though the main focus of the story is the Shakespearian rivalry of the freak collectors the monsters littered enhance this giving a reason to cheer and jeer along with the film.

 

A particularly funny scene sees one of the hideous creatures getting a little to amorous with Elvina the receptionist and has to be seen to be believed.

 

The acting on display is adequate and the comic battling between the two collectors is great fun ending in a spectacular finale involving possibly the worst sword fight committed to celluloid and an acid bath!

 

The only quibble with this entry into the Grindhouse collection is the fact the titular hideous creatures are for the most part put on the back burner becoming underused in the action,their mutation, plot to escape and the subsequent fight to retrieve and own them seems rushed, would’ve been nice to see much more of the great puppetry and special effects on display akin to the level they are used in Puppet Master, the flagship Full Moon cannon.

 

hideous3The transfer is on par with the other releases and included is a rather excellent trailer reel as is usual on these discs, also an episode of the Full Moon produced infomerical VideoZone this time focusing on the making of hideous but also showcases some of the new (for the 90s) features and action figure lines that Charles Band had in the pipeline.

 

The great thing about this feature is the cast talking about their roles with gusto and it looks like they all had a pretty fun time making this movie.

Best watched with a group of like minded horror fans with a few beers, this comes recommended to those already collecting the series and newcomers alike.

 

6/10

 

 

 

Empire of The B’s – The Dave Jay Interview by Dave Wain

CB 001EMPIRE OF THE ‘B’S – DAVE JAY INTERVIEW

BY DAVE WAIN

 

DW: Dave, thanks so much for taking the time out for this interview. First things first, there aren’t enough superlatives to describe just how much I enjoyed reading this book. From a personal point of view my first encounter with Charles Band was renting Robot Jox on VHS as an impressionable 14 year old in 1991, and since then I’ve been obsessed. How did you begin to fall under his spell?

 

DJ: “Well, I take it from that question that I’m a little older than you, as my first notable encounter with the films of Charlie Band was thanks to EIV’s VHS release of Ragewar in 1984, when I must have been 13. I randomly rented out the tape to watch on a Friday night with my long-suffering friend, Spencer, who spent 70-odd minutes staring into the middle-distance while sighing loudly and shifting from buttock to buttock. I, on the other hand, was enthralled – there was something about the ramshackle ambition of Ragewar that really appealed to me, and I ended up watching it a couple more times before reluctantly returning it to the video store. There and then, I decided upon tracking down as many films by this Charles Band chap as possible. Now, today that would mean no more than pressing a few keys to find his page on IMDb. However, back in 1984 you had to be made of sterner stuff: I spent many an hour at my local ‘Mr. Video’ scanning the cover of every movie they had in the hope I would find Band’s name on there somewhere, anywhere!

 

The following year, I noticed there was a double-bill of Ghoulies and Trancers playing at a nearby fleapit cinema. So I again dragged along Spencer (poor Spencer) who spent the entire three hours tutting under his breath and nicking lemon sherbets from the foyer pick-n-mix. As for me, it was a done deal – I was a Charles Band fan for life.”

 

CB 005DW: How did the collaborative nature of the book develop? Can you tell us a little about its inception?

 

DJ: “Back in 2001, I put together a very scrappy-looking website solely dedicated to Band’s Empire output. It was nothing to write home about but was one of the very few Band-related sites on the web at that time. Through that, writer Torsten Dewi got in touch to say that he was considering putting together a book on Band, at that time intending to cover the entirety of his career. I initially signed up to the project as a researcher, but Torsten was busy writing screenplays for the likes of the Sci-Fi Channel and producer Harry Alan Towers (he wrote a great script for a proposed remake of Jess Franco’s 99 Women, which was greenlit by Towers but which unfortunately fell apart just prior to shooting).

 

During this time, Torsten encouraged me to contribute towards the book as a writer and once handed the baton I ran with it, tracking down the directors, producers, actors, etc. I’d grown up watching and admiring. This in turn led on to what would become a real journey for me: meeting David Schmoeller in Paris as Tourist Trap and Crawlspace were being screened at the Cinematheque Francaise in 2007; discovering that director Peter Manoogian had moved to the UK and spending almost five hours interviewing him at the Charing Cross Hotel, not only about his Empire and Full Moon experiences, but also his work on the likes of Humanoids from the Deep, The Slayer and The Howling, not to mention his father’s mentoring of Martin Scorsese; and spending time chatting with Tim Thomerson on the phone about Jack Deth, Richard Pryor, Robert Altman and, most surprisingly, his love of old UK crime thrillers and Stanley Baker in particular. Then there are the phonecalls with Band himself, discussing his remarkable upbringing and subsequent career. As a genuine b-movie fanboy, they’re all memories that’ll remain firmly lodged in my brain.

 

Additionally, John Klyza (producer of Sleepaway Camp IV) wrote a wonderful, detailed chapter about the rise and fall of Band’s Wizard Video and Cold Fusion founder Nathan Shumate also came on board, writing extensively about the likes of Band’s Moonbeam Company and his doomed association with J.R. Bookwalter’s Tempe Entertainment. Unfortunately, the book was growing at such an exponential rate that at some point we had to cut it in half, concentrating firstly on Band’s ‘70s/’80s output, and then on to the Full Moon years. Thus, Nathan’s contribution to the first book is minimal. But there’s plenty more to come!”

 

DW: One of the things that struck me in the book is that despite it being written from the point of view of a fan, you have retained a notable level of critical analysis – in fact you’re fairly damning about some of the Empire titles, especially those by Tim Kincaid!

 

DJ: “How could I not be? I’m passionate about Empire’s catalogue, but not blind to its occasional inadequacies. I truly feel that certain movies such as The Caller and Enemy Territory deserve more respect from the cult community than they currently receive, and I’m hoping that my championing of such titles will get a few more people to sit down and actually watch them. But I don’t think those people would take me seriously were I also to be defending the likes of Kincaid’s The Occultist or Gorman Bechard’s wretched Cemetery High (which might just be the single worst film that Band released during the Empire era).”

 

5.1.2DW: Having been a close follower of Charlie’s career purely in an online capacity, it’s a common occurrence to run across his detractors. The book though is surprisingly light on negativity with regard to his business practices, with the only criticism being from the long-standing rift with Brian Yuzna (Re-Animator producer) and Jefery Levy, who felt he was due some Ghoulies money. It seems that in actual fact Charlie is very highly respected, do you think this is the case? Do you also think that any animosity is just simply a natural fallout of the low budget world of movie making?

 

DJ: “Well, Gorman Bechard also stated in no uncertain terms that he’d like to cut up Charlie’s face with a broken beer bottle! So I guess there’s no love lost there. But I didn’t lead the interviewees in any way, shape or form. I just tried to remain an unbiased listener. Had the likes of David Schmoeller, Ted Nicolaou, Stuart Gordon, Peter Manoogian or Albert Pyun had anything overwhelmingly negative to say about Band, I would have kept it in the book. But their most common criticisms were not necessarily financial, more that they found the Empire (and Full Moon) way of making movies rather restrictive from a creative point of view.

 

From what little I’ve read, Roger Corman may well be the personification of best business practice in the b-movie world. I’ve never heard a word said against him in that area. But if so, he was definitely in the minority. A lot of these companies (FVI, Trans-World, Cannon et al) were robbing Peter to pay Paul just in order to survive from year to year. And Band himself was often short-changed during the 1970s when he released his own films through the likes of Brandon Chase and Irwin Yablans. There was bound to be some fallout from such a situation, and I don’t shy away from making mention of it. But really, my main focus was the films, not the deals that begat them.”

 

DW: The people interviewed for the book are all so engaging, but did you find anyone who was reluctant to reminisce on their days working for Empire? Who was the most difficult to track down?

 

DJ: “The biggest omission from the book has to be John Beuchler. I approached him at least twice about being interviewed but he just didn’t seem interested. A real shame. But out of those I did manage to pin down, Tim Felix AKA Tim Kincaid was easily the most reluctant. I approached him very respectfully and, being a gay man myself, was not about to make judgements about his gay porn roots as some writers have. But he was not forthcoming in any way, and answered many a seemingly innocuous question with a terse ‘no comment’. Luckily, SPFX guru Ed French was far more lucid about his own work on the likes of Breeders, Robot Holocaust and Mutant Hunt. He proved to be both humorous and extremely informative, which saved the day.”

 

CB 007DW: How did you feel watching Charlie’s recent vidcast and seeing him with your book in his hands? It must have been quite surreal after spending so many years on the project!

 

DJ: “Funny you should say that, as that’s the exact message I sent to Charles Band when he asked me if I’d seen the vidcast. I e-mailed back saying that it was surreal – partly because there he was holding my book in his hands and mentioning me by name, partly because said same book had been a looooong time coming, and mostly because 13 year-old me would have been pissing himself with disbelief! Those long hours spent scrutinising VHS covers in Mr. Video when I should have been out trying to get laid had been of some use after all. Who would’ve thought?”

 

DW: He seemed quite relaxed about the contents of the book which does have a notable amount of criticism in it – be it his overly ambitious “2000 films by the year 2000” agenda, the Dinocitta purchase that ultimately caused Empire’s collapse or the sheer ineptitude of some of the films. Was he quite reluctant to contribute to the project?

 

DJ: “Not at all. Charlie’s actually got a good sense of humour and good sense of self (if you doubt it, watch William Butler’s Gingerdead Man 2, which playfully rips into Band’s Full Moon ethos with abandon, much in the same way that Joe Dante and Allan Arkush satirised Corman in Hollywood Boulevard). Brother Richard and producer Maurice Smith (Spasms) kindly recommended me to Charlie, basically assuring him that I’m not just some random nutcase who wants to track him down! After that, he was relaxed, open and only concerned that the book represents the way that things actually were during the ‘70s and ‘80s, both the ups and the downs. Mention is made of the effect that his father Albert’s death had on him. I wanted to make this book personal – not uncritical but hopefully fair. He read through the finished manuscript and made suggestions for two very minor changes (as they were admittedly no more than slightly bitchy hearsay). The rest was left untouched.”

 

DW: The detail that is provided for some of these films is astonishing, along with the trivia, stills and interview snippets – especially as some of them are notoriously difficult to track down. Which was the most difficult film to locate?

 

DJ: “None of the movies were difficult to locate, bar one. Band’s first foray into film, Last Foxtrot in Burbank, remains lost to the elements. Charlie himself hasn’t retained a copy and film archivists the world over have yet to uncover a print. It has become the holy grail of the Band universe.”

 

CB 008DW: As a fan I’d imagine that having such in-depth knowledge about Charlie’s films meant that you had a certain familiarity with his filmography. Was there anything you discovered along the way though that surprised you in regard to its quality? (From a personal perspective, a friend leant me an HD transfer of Albert Pyun’s Vicious Lips last year and I was agog at how good it was – AND how good it looked).

 

DJ: “I’ve watched Band’s ‘70s and ‘80s oeuvre constantly over the years, so there were no major surprises. Vicious Lips is a strange beast but does look amazing considering it was shot for only $80,000 (with Pyun later shooting pick-ups on the set of Cannon’s Dangerously Close). Mansion of the Doomed has aged particularly well – a real shame that distributor Brandon Chase is currently making the rights so overpriced that no DVD label can afford to give it a decent release. And obviously TerrorVision has gained a legion of new fans by being such a concise encapsulation of 1980s excess. A genuine time capsule.”

 

DW: It’s baffling to me how Charlie isn’t afforded the level of respect or even notoriety given to Roger Corman or perhaps Lloyd Kaufman. Even a cursory glance at his IMDb page (inaccurate movie database as you refer to it!) there’s an absence of a photo, minimal biography and a forum that has seen only two threads started in two years. How do you think film historians / film aficionados will look back on the career of Charles Band?

 

DJ: “For me, that’s a real bone of contention. Whatever your view of his legacy, I can assure you that Charles Band LOVES movies, whereas I’m not convinced that Lloyd Kaufman sees them as much more than a means to an end – the end, of course, being his bank balance. To me, Kaufman patronises his audience, in effect stating, “I make shit because you like shit and don’t know any better.” There’s no genuine passion for the world that he inhabits, he’s just goofing off at our expense. However, I’m hoping that people are finally coming round to the fact that Empire Pictures, while not perfect, at least encapsulated a time when b-movies dearly wished to directly contend with major-studio product. They were, with the odd exception, made with care and ambition. They weren’t afraid to dream. There’s talk of a Band biography being written soon (I’m not in a position to say by whom, as it’s not my place), so I’m hoping that Empire of the ‘B’s is but the first in a long line of books that will give time and space to a man who deserves a little light shone on what has been an amazing 40-year career. Lord knows, we don’t need yet another book on Corman.”

 

DW: Any plans for a sequel to focus on 1989 onwards and Full Moon Pictures?! How do you view this next phase of Charlie’s career?

 

DJ: “As I mentioned earlier, we do plan on bringing out a Full Moon volume at some point. Originally, this book was meant to cover his entire filmography, so there’s a shedload of unused research, reviews and interviews waiting in the wings. The only difficulty I see is that Band’s ‘70s/’80s career encapsulated four or five companies (if including his video arms) and only 65-odd films. We were able to approach each title individually in the book and it was relatively easy to keep a handle on. By contrast, the Full Moon catalogue is currently running close to 250 films, with a near-maddening succession of sub-labels having been started up and swiftly abandoned since 1989. So we’re going to have to approach the material in a more generalised way while also attempting to do the subject justice.”

 

CB 009DW: Is it true that you’ll be contributing to Delirium magazine, Full Moon’s new bi-monthly publication?

 

DJ: “Well, I’ll be contributing to the first issue in the form of a Tourist Trap retrospective (adapted and expanded from the book). I’d definitely be willing to contribute to further issues, but haven’t yet been approached to do so.”

 

DW: Finally, what are your top 5 Empire Pictures releases?

 

DJ: “This obviously shifts from week to week, but right now it’d have to include The Caller, Enemy Territory, From Beyond, Walking the Edge. And Trancers, always Trancers.”

 

Empire of The B’s: The Mad Movie World of Charles Band by Dave Jay – Book Review

CB 001EMPIRE OF THE B’s: THE MAD MOVIE WORLD OF CHARLES BAND

Author: Dave Jay

UK RRP: £21.95

Pages: 377

Publisher: Hemlock Film

Charles Band – the 62 year old mogul with a 40 year career in the movies has managed to attain iconic status within the niche area of low budget genre filmmaking, yet outside of that circle – particularly in somewhere like the United Kingdom, he is barely known. Indeed, a straw poll in my little world of the movie rental store yielded further proof of that assertion, even amongst the more leftfield film fans. However, a quick walk to the 100+ strong section which carries his films soon gives way to child-like realisation from those people with cries of “He made Ghoulies?!… Trancers!… Re-Animator!… Galactic Gigolo!”. Ok, I maybe exaggerated the last one, but fact of the matter is everyone knows his films but few people know the man.

One person who has had an impressive level of access to Charlie is the British author Dave Jay, who over the last ten years or so alongside collaborators Torsten Dewi and Nathan Shumate has worked relentlessly to create Empire of the B’s. To fit all of Charlie’s career into one book soon became a logistical impossibility (he’s produced over 260 films) for Jay and his colleagues, so it was decided to focus on the start of his career before then moving on to perhaps his most well regarded period of creativity – Empire Pictures.

The book begins with a great introduction from Stuart Gordon (Dolls, Re-Animator) who tells of meeting Charlie for the first time and being a little daunted by this young guy who when eavesdropping could only be heard to be speaking in Italian, yet when finally meeting him became instantly intoxicated by his enthusiasm and charisma. This is followed by a further introduction from Dave Jay who sets out the path the book will take, as well as underlining some key aspects about Charles Band such as how much of a pioneer he was (and still is) as well as the crazy way his movies were green-lit – “here’s the poster, now go make the film”.

CB 002Chapter one deals with Charles Band Productions covering the period 1975-1983 which details Band’s sharp learning curve as well as the situations that gave him the determination to set up his own company. Jay manages to extract from Charlie an impressive level of honesty as he admits his naivety during this period along with questioning the quality of some of his own work. Even so, these eight years still produced a number of cool films like Laserblast (1977) which critic Leonard Maltin awarded 2.5 stars – the same as that year’s Oscar winner Amadeus! There was also the excellent Tourist Trap (1978), The Alchemist (1981) in which the late Robert Ginty suggests “they’d have been better off burning it than releasing it” and also Parasite (1983) which featured a young Demi Moore. Each of Band’s films here is given a couple of pages of in-depth analysis along with rare production stills and an incredible amount of trivia which for some of the titles is staggering due to their rarity. Added to this we have interviews interspersed between the films with some notable Band collaborators who offer some great insight into Charlie’s working practices.

As we progress to chapter two we find the bulk of the work as its devoted entirely to the fabled Empire Pictures. Taking in the years 1984 – 1989 it oversees the lifecycle of this ambitious company, their move to Rome and purchase of the legendary Dinocitta studios, their production of 48 films (Band frequently states “2000 films by the year 2000”) as well as their decline and eventual collapse. The early years of Empire were full of ambition and reading the book you find yourself wincing at the lack of measured and sensible decision making. That said though it’s impossible not to punch the air with a “Go Charlie!” as you learn about Ghoulies (1985) and its cinema success through to the company ending failure of Robot Jox (1989) which was Empire’s biggest investment. Despite knowing what happened to Empire by ’89 and seeing all the warning signs laid out, it’s so difficult not to be caught up of Charlie’s wave of irrepressible enthusiasm.

CB 003The scale of this chapter I found to be quite daunting, especially considering the number of films involved and at times the sheer mediocrity that was produced, but credit to the author though as it is kept tightly edited and packed with fascinating stories. Take Transmutations (1985), coming from a Clive Barker screenplay the writer bemoaned the fact that the finished picture only retained seven lines from his original script! Jay also manages to dig up a review of the film by none other than Neil Gaiman, and offers excellent analysis of the film himself. There’s a great section on the criminally underrated Troll (1985), “the quintessential Band flick of the 80s” which revolved around a boy called Harry Potter fighting off denizens of a magical world under the tutelage of a white witch. Ring a bell? While this chapter is a perfect introduction to the uninitiated, it also offers plenty for the hardcore Band fans such as a running joke on the justifiably awful Tim Kincaid films, as well as the funniest line in the book from Jay when discussing David DeCoteau’s longevity with the company. After a screening of Dreamaniac (1986) Charlie held up ten fingers and shouted “10 picture deal!” – “its nine more fingers that I would have been flipping at DeCoteau after suffering through this ham-fisted fiasco” writes Jay. After watching all six Brotherhood movies, I’m inclined to agree with the author.

The end of Empire is easy to predict with hindsight, and as you read through the films of 1988 with things gradually beginning to unravel it comes as no surprise to see its collapse. Credit to Charlie though, he certainly doesn’t go out with a whimper, with the stop-motion spectacular Robot Jox (1989) being the company’s most expensive film and featuring some jaw-dropping work from the late great David Allen. Following on from the end of Empire, the book takes a look the company’s unproduced work with the aid of the brilliant Jeff Burr and takes The Vault as an example of a project that didn’t see the light of day despite having all the pawns in place. Chapter four meanwhile is an insightful look at Wizard Video by John Klyza. The company ran from 1981-1987 and John begins with the vitally important notion that Charles Band ushered in an era in home entertainment that was way ahead of its time. He anticipated a cult market that today has been fully embraced by labels such as Arrow Video and Scream Factory, with Blue Underground before them. It’s a relatively short piece, but still manages to encapsulate the importance of the label, the titles it sought to acquire (often the exact opposite of what Charlie would make himself) and also the eventual decline. The book ends with a brilliant afterword from the screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner who manages in barely a couple of hundred words to ‘get’ Charles Band, and as Dave Jay concludes “it offers a better closure to the book that I could ever hope to provide”.

CB 004I must admit I approached Empire of the B’s with a fair degree of caution. I’ve been a Charles Band fanatic for over twenty years and have noted frequently not only the lack of information on Band but also just how hard some of the films are to track down. Many of the Empire Pictures films are yet to make it to DVD never mind blu-ray so the challenge of the task in hand to me seemed fraught with complications and dead ends. Over a period of ten years though, Dave Jay and his co-authors have somehow managed to compile a meticulously detailed encyclopaedic tome of 14 years of Charles Band films. By speaking to Charlie himself as well as numerous key players in the Empire days, Jay creates a vivid picture of a pioneer at work in his prime.

There’s been a misguided opinion circling for years that’s often questioned the ethics of Charles Band as well as his reputation, so in turn I expected this ‘warts and all’ account to feature a litany of former collaborators with less than complimentary recollections. Granted there are a couple, but where this book really succeeds is in its portrayal of someone with boundless enthusiasm, passion and charisma who seems well respected by his former colleagues yet for some reason isn’t afforded anywhere near the respect and plaudits that his achievements deserve. Dave Jay’s book goes some way in correcting that, and by doing so puts the spotlight on one of the most prolific producers of our time.

9 out of 10

You can purchase the book HERE from Hemlock Books