So look, there was an attempt to do a Crapfest in January, but it was postponed due to plague. That was really regrettable, especially since we had planned to mull apple cider and generously spike it with cheap brandy, a nice combination I re-discovered back in the cold of December (It being Texas, we were back to balmy fake Spring, and more regular, cooling cocktails). A new date was set, which was then postponed for business travel. Other dates were tossed out for various, and to my mind, worthless, reasons, ie., the Super Bowl and the Oscars. (Where are your priorities, people?)
So we finally settled on a Sunday that seemed to have the most people free. The Other Dave was at rehearsal, Alan had a matinee and a set strike, but uh uh, no way, we were doing this. Paul wrote that he had a killer sinus headache and a tough work day on Monday, and begged off. I, personally, think he used a Magic Genie wish and looked into the future at this column, and decided it was best to stay at home. The bastard.
Festivities got well and truly underway when Erik and I arrived at The Original Dave’s house, only to be greeted by a cursing host who informed us we were an hour early. Then Mark arrived, similarly early, just in time to join in on the being cursed-at. Rick arrived an hour later. We still didn’t start a movie until 4:00.
I have what I refer to as the Bag of Tricks. I add and remove movies as needed for Crapfests. My general process involves choosing 5 or 6 from the Bag, and letting people vote. I need to stop doing that.
Because the first movie was Robo Vampire.
Robo Vampire is a Thomas Tang/Godfrey Ho production, which means it is at least three movies stitched together, shot through with electricity, and forced to shamble around for an hour and a half. I covered one of these monsters back in the day and trying to follow the actual plot that supposedly exists in this patch job can cause a brain aneurysm. You’re better off trying to track the individual component movies and what happens in them.
There’s one movie, a Mr. Vampire knock-off, where a gang led by Edgar Allen Poe has hired a Daoist priest to help them ship heroin with hopping vampires. An “Anti-Drug Agent” is killed and then somehow turned into a “robot warrior”, by which we mean he wears silver clothes and armor made of inflatable flotation devices. I managed to get the Festers to shush up for a few seconds by pointing out a female ghost (her boyfriend had been turned into one of the vampires) was wearing a costume made of very sheer material, and not much else.
There is another movie where a female (and caucasian) “anti-drug agent” has been captured and must be rescued, which connects very loosely to a third movie that we just called “The A-Team Movie” that featured a squad of guys killing nogoodniks in the jungle, supposedly to help rescue the agent.
The most entertaining parts belong to the first movie, with our “robot warrior” (those quotes are so heavy with sarcasm they may fall off the page) fighting hopping vampires, and, at one point, getting blowed up REAL GOOD:
Which does not mean it is anywhere approaching a good movie. It is, in fact, crap. Here’s all you need to know:
We didn’t need those two other movies in the mix, anyway. Well, not much of them.
There was apparently some disappointment that there were no ninjas in the Tang/Ho offering, so the second pick was Ninja III: The Domination.
Now Ninja III has its fans; most of this is due to star Lucinda Dickey, who is trying to stretch her image beyond the same year’s Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Some is due to featured Sho Kosugi, playing (surprise, surprise) a badass ninja. I’m probably the only guy there for James Hong.
Ninja III does start off with a bang, or more appropriately, a whoosh, as a super ninja assassinates a top scientist and his bodyguards on a golf course, then kills a bunch of cops. A bunch more cops proceed to play Wild Bunch with him, and still he manages to get away, to transfer his spirit into telephone line(wo)man Lucinda Dickey. His fiercely glowing sword and special effects then cause her to track down the last surviving cops who ventilated the super ninja and kill them. At least two of them deserve it, for thinking that cigars were part of their uniform.
Kosugi is a ninja who has a personal grudge against the super ninja, and who informs us that “Only a ninja can destroy a ninja”, so we know we’re eventually moving to a showdown there. The story wimps out on several intriguing possibilities, because that would have required audiences to, you know, think.
So basically you have a pretty standard Cannon 80’s B-flick very much in keeping with its forebears, Enter the Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja. I’m not a child of the 80s, not a fan. I don’t mind if a ninja is portrayed as an unstoppable killing machine, but I do draw the line at their possessing magical powers, and the super ninja was the ninjitsu version of Pazuzu. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t care enough to correct my fellow Festers that singing “Flashdance” whenever Lucinda appeared onscreen was not entirely correct.
There had been a running Crapfest joke, going back years, of Rick requesting The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, and the rest of us going, “Hell no.” Now, Erik and Mark, our new members, were unaware of this running gag, and somehow Rick got to them. I’m not sure if it was money, or drugs or sex, but suddenly we had three people asking for The Garbage Pail Kids Movie.
Oh, God damn it.
(I think Rick’s secret weapon – at least with Mark – was mentioning that Anthony Newley was the marquee value. This intrigued them, but only because they had never seen Can Heironymous Merkin Forget Mercy Hummpe and Find True Happiness? I have.)
Anthony Newley is a kindly eccentric who runs an antique/curiosity shop, in which there is a garbage pail full of horrid, inexpressive puppets with bad habits. There may be some sort of origin story there, but I missed it due to all the howls of dismay as the suckers in the audience began to realize just what Rick had talked them into. But there are these horrific kids, Newley is trying to find the way to get them back into the pail, the Kids are supposedly looking for their lost “friends”, who were apparently incarcerated in the “House of Ugly”. I honestly tried not to pay that much attention.
Since this is – God help us – a kid’s movie, there is a kid protagonist, a young man named … urk … Dodger. We’re never given a backstory or home scene with Dodger, so who knows? He hangs around Newley’s shop, and has eyes for the moll in a bizarre 80s gang who reaaaalllllly hate him. His crush’s name is Tangerine (urk), and she’s the girlfriend of the gang’s leader, Juice.
Tangerine makes her dough by selling clothes she makes at clubs (sometimes literally off her back). The Kids have been making clothes for Dodger, which Tangerine finds will sell very well, and so she begins leading Dodger around by his pubescent dick until she gets enough clothes to have a fashion show, which, of course, the Kids cannot attend, as they are too ugly. Dodger eventually learns a lesson, that all women are evil. No, I mean, that some people are ugly on the inside, and that is what matters. Os something. Jesus.
I managed to make it through because I had an ace up my sleeve: I knew that Tom Parker, an actor I work with every weekend at a murder mystery dinner theater, had a line in this. I held on to that, and waited for that moment, that one shining moment. It was toward the end. It is, in fact, the first thing in this clip:
Oh, yeah, they do sort of find out what happened to the Kids’ friends: they were apparently crushed to death in a garbage truck.
Did I mention this was a kid’s movie?
Paul? Alan? Dave and I took a bullet for you. You owe us, amigos.
Dave was so pissed off after this he carried through on his threat to show Batman and Robin.
Sweet Christmas, it was even worse than I remembered.
There are people who have already covered any ground I might:
The Original Dave has since pointed out that my attempt to avoid any further trauma by the complete avoidance of thinking about Batman and Robin would severely limit the possibility of any healing on my part (Actually, what he said was “You are the cheatingest cheater who ever cheated,” but I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant). Anyway, there are a couple of things gleaned on a personal level past the horrendous crimes exposed in those last two videos.
First, Rick stated that he knew it was bad when he first saw it, lo these many years ago, but not being a comics person, could only judge it on the level of comparative quality. Having since played the Arkham Asylum video games, he had a better grounding in the Batman mythos, and could now understand the righteous anger directed at the movie by the fanbase. How, he wondered, was Joel Schumacher allowed to still make movies, when Salman Rushdie was yet in hiding, fearful of his life? I’m lying about the Rushdie part, but you get my drift.
Second, I was kind of looking forward to that ridiculous motorcycle race segment, remembering some particularly sweet and non-realistic bits. Then i actually saw the race, and realized the moments I was anticipating were actually from one of the Charlie’s Angels movies… Full Throttle, I think… and realized that the movie had found yet another way to jam a stick into my movie watching experience.
So, is Joel Schumacher also responsible for the fact that movies are only shot in two colors these days? Teal and orange? Man, he has a lot to answer for. Almost as much as whoever it was that first asked for Batman and Robin many months ago. I don’t remember who it was. It was probably Rick.
(Rick and I have often stated that we need a cable access movie review show, but we also realize that it would always end in fistfights and screams of “No, you go to hell!!!”)
After this, battered and bruised, we limped out into the night. Later, communicating by e-mail. we commiserated that yes, for some reason, this one hurt. This one, perhaps because of all the delays and postponements, had all the pain of several normal Crapfests concentrated into one. When the high point of your evening was Ninja III…
But at least we don’t have to listen to any of Rick’s requests for another year or so.