The Situation Report

Even for a tax week, this one has managed to excel in getting increasingly sucky.

I won’t go into the income tax woes; everybody’s got those stories, mine are worse than some, better than others. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m a survivalist in movie matters and have been stocking up on movies for some time, just against a buying moratorium like that which is about to be enforced. I have a fallout shelter full of, not cans of beans, but DVDs.

Typos. Mainly I'm afraid of typos.

Typos. Mainly I’m afraid of typos.

No, other crap’s been going wrong out in the world. The saddest one is the shuttering of FearNet, which was a damned fine resource. I’m especially going to miss the reviews of Scott Weinberg, who is that rare critic that, while I may not have always agreed with him, was always enthusiastic and perceptive in his reviews, and was valuable in pointing the way to movies I might have otherwise passed over. I hope to hell he lands on his feet and gets a post somewhere else, because he deserves it.

Well, there’s not much I can do about that, except to send good thoughts his way and the way of many of my friends who have found themselves unemployed this year; I did that a few years ago and I don’t have to tell you how much it megasucked. Finding a new job when you’re over 50 is a thorny proposition, at best. I think my worst day there was being informed that I was not worthy of working at Walmart, for God’s sake.

flu15Making matters worse is the fact that my wife came down with the current flu two weeks ago, and it is one of those that just sets up shop in your lungs and hangs on, so constant coughing in the night is a given. Neither of us has gotten much sleep, and I’m exhausted enough that the damn bug has slipped through all the vitamins and supplements and set up shop in my mucus membranes, and when you work three part-time jobs, you literally do not have time to be sick.

This Friday is Good Friday. I expect to be unconscious for most, if not all, of it.

But enough bitching. Here’s some good news:

I am now a three-time Telly Award winner under my nom de guerre, Randall Williams. Honestly, I got really cynical choosing this last entry, and went for the cute animals. It worked:

But this is the one that cemented that, my story on a specific breed rescue organization:

But the one that started it all, the one I fought to have entered that first year? Zombies. Though a few cute dogs were included:

One of the better non-work things that I do, that I do not plug near enough, is the Daily Grindhouse Podcast, which I started doing again this year along with DG regulars Joe Cosby and Jon Abrams. Do you want to know more?

39919Episode #16 – Street Wars – Jamaa Fanaka’s last movie is a typically intriguing mix of solid exploitation tropes and painfully earnest social issues – earnest enough to keep you guessing. I think we were all surprised at how easily this came together for a first episode.

Episode # 17 Vigilante Force The under-appreciated George Armitage fights the American Revolution in vigilante terms in an odd thriller starring Jan-Michael Vincent and Kris Kristofferson. Mayhem ensues.

Episode #18 – Ghosthouse – It was Joe’s turn to pick a movie, and I believe my response to this was “Umberto Lenzi? You bastard.” A surprisingly restrained – until the very end – haunted house story that we fell on like hungry zombies. This was the first movie we universally trashed, and it felt good.

Episode #19 – Thriller: They Call Her One-EyeThis one was my choice, I admit. I had been meaning to see this since Synapse put out their limited edition of the uncut director’s version with the original sub-title, A Cruel Picture. Our first divisive picture – I recommended it (with caveats), Joe didn’t like it and Jon outright hated it. A really good episode, though, as we kick around why our opinions differ so much.

raw-force-1982Episode #20 – Raw Force – Edward R. Murphy only directed two movies, and trust me, this is the one you want to see, as it is insane from the first frame. This thing is like an exploitation smoothie with everything thrown into the blender, and then garnished with incompetence and cheap visual effects. Cannibals, boobies, bad kung fu, boobies, Cameron Mitchell, boobies, black magic, and finally, some boobies. And Fake Hitler backed up by The Village People. Code Red is supposedly working on a remastered version, and screw the IRS, I’m spending money on that. Needless to say, we have a ton of fun discussing it.

Episode #21 – Ganja and Hess – Hands down, our best episode so far. Mike White from The Projection Booth (pound for pound the best movie podcast out there) drops by to class up the joint as we mull over Bill Gunn’s moody, ethereal vampire movie.

Episode #22 – The Devil’s Express This is how I repaid Joe and Jon for Raw ForceThe Devil’s Express is another of those movies that seemingly has everything – monsters, murders, gang wars, good old bad old New York, Warhawk Tanzania, bad kung fu, Brother Theodore… we had a fun time picking this apart, but don’t be fooled. we loved this movie.

Episode #23 – The Twilight People –  This was Jon’s choice, because it was a Pam Grier movie he hadn’t seen. I could have warned him that this is not truly a Pam Grier movie, but… our Guest is Dr, Gangrene, who loves the movie, which is good, because someone has to. I like Eddie Romero movies… except for this one.

Well, this has taken me a thousand words and two hours closer to that lovely, lovely Friday and my bed. (Homer Simpson drooling sound) Beeeeeeeddddddddddddd….




Crapfest: The Redemption

There is no doubt that the last Crapfest was scarring, the gom jabbar of the bad movie experience. So when I had an unexpected weekend off, we quickly pulled together. We had to get back on that horse, or we might never get back on it again. This time, we would explore the non-painful world of crap, we would enjoy ourselves.

Nice plan. Too bad they never survive reality.

We started out with a collection of blaxploitation trailers while foodstuffs were arranged and prepared. Turns out nearly two hours of blaxploitation trailers is too much for delicate sensibilities, so I put on something else to soothe the complainers, which naturally produced more outrage: an episode of the Dogville series from 1930, or as the whiners like to call it, “Vintage animal torture shorts”.

My response to all the haters was to point to Paul and say, “But look how happy Paul is!” Paul was indeed very happy with his all-talking all-singing and all-sorta-dancing doggies. Jeez, it’s only ten minutes long. You guys are a bunch of wusses.

The Other David finally arrived, and I had been saving something for him. He had just finished playing Macbeth in the play of that name; one night, in an after-show question-and-answer session, he had pish-toshed the superstitions surrounding that play.

The next day his car was totalled in a freeway crash. He was, thankfully, unharmed. But what came of this was he had never seen the episode of Blackadder the Third – nor any episode of Blackadder, seemingly – involving actors and Macbeth. This was what we refer to in the trade as A Mandate.

Well, that was enough quality. It was time to get underway.

Several weeks before, I had watched the delirious, incoherent, but undeniably exploitive movie Raw Force, aka Kung Fu Cannibals, for the Daily Grindhouse Podcast. That link will take you to that particular episode (with bonus whining from me about the last Crapfest). I found it perfect fodder for a Crapfest.

Raw Force 2Basically: the three guys that form the Burbank Karate Club seem to be booked as entertainment on a cheapass cruise liner. The big attraction seems to be some place called Warrior’s Island, where disgraced fighters are buried and some mysterious monks are rumored to be able to raise the dead. To hear the passengers talk, this must be cooler than Disney World. Unfortunately for all involved. Fake Hitler and his gang of Village People rejects are dealing with the monks, trading kidnapped prostitutes for raw jade, and they don’t want anybody messing with their operation.

That is a far more coherent synopsis than the movie ever bothers to give you. Once more, this is a movie where  you can quote Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure – “Great movie, Pee-Wee! Action packed!” But the response here went more like “What the hell is going on?” every ten minutes. Among the many one-movie johnnies are a couple of faces you might recognize – Jillian Kesner from Firecracker (aka Naked Fist) or most certainly Cameron Mitchell, who I swear to God is improvising his lines. The mighty Vic Diaz is one of the monks, which immediately makes my evening.

At the end, one of our heroes – the one who can fly a sea plane because he flew a Huey Cobra in the ‘Nam – smiles at the camera, and instead of “The End”, we get a super stating “To Be Continued…” My fellow Crapfesters did not disappoint me, bellowing, “FUCK you!” in chorus.

After that many boobs, fight scenes and Village People jokes, a break was called for while Host Dave fiddled with the technology, setting up his choice for the evening.  During this, I found out an interesting thing: you see, I could have gotten Dave to stream Raw Force from YouTube (as far as I know, it’s still there – you can do it, too. I actually recommend it), but I’m all too aware of how such things can turn on us. This is why we had to put off Jaws: The Revenge for several months. So I had bought the Grindhouse Experience movie set from the Amazon Marketplace to get a hard copy, for that is how I roll. (The fact that in a 20 movie set I had only heard of two also intrigued me)

Totally forgot to mention Mexican Nazi Rapist.

Totally forgot to mention Mexican Nazi Rapist.

The set is a bunch of flipper discs, two movies on each side. It turns out that at the end of each movie, the disc does not go back to the menu, no, it simply goes on to the next movie, which was the Italian mondo movie Savage Man/Savage Beast. I was in the kitchen scooping up delicious spinach dip when screams summoned me back to the viewing room. Something about snakes eating monkeys. “It was hippies wrapped in plastic at fake Cape Cod when I left,” I said  “Snake! Monkey! The horror!” was the response. Wusses. I figured out how to turn it off, so I could at least go back to the spinach dip.

Well, at the end of the break, I finally had to go to the bathroom, and while I was in there, I once more heard muffled screams from the viewing room. Perhaps Dave had mischievously returned to the snake-eating-a-monkey footage, I thought. Wusses.

Then I returned to the viewing room. I needed only one line and one frame to identify why people were howling. “You son of a bitch,” I said.

He had put on Highlander II: The Quickening.

downloadI paid money to see this movie. On opening dayThat was how much I loved Highlander. Suffice to say this is one of those sequels that takes the original behind the barn, kills it, peels off its skin, wears that skin like a dress and tries to convince you it’s the original, but it did a really bad job of it.

Yep, everything you know about the original is wrong so that the now-mortal Connor MacLeod can be made young again (and Christopher Lambert can stop doing his Marlon Brando in The Godfather imitation), bring back Sean Connery as the world’s only Scottish Spaniard, and give Michael Ironside the chance to act with his teeth. Also: did you know subway trains can go 400 miles per hour?

I literally ran out of curse words to call Dave.

Then we got to something I had mercifully blotted out: Jeff Altman’s cameo. The screams were incredible.

You see, what our newbies did not know, was that earlier in Crapfest history, we had sat through all but one episode of Pink Lady & Jeff. That is the sort of thing that leaves a scar that never really heals, like a morghul blade. We fully expected Pink Lady to step out from behind a curtain and do some painfully phonetic English “joke”. Fortunately, Altman delivered his cheap laugh and left the story within a minute.

Here’s how quickly things go wrong in this movie: “I know! Let’s mix our movie with Dune!

There is a disc I carry with me. It is my Mutually Assured Destruction Disc. It contains such horror, no one will survive its unleashing. I started carrying it after Dave unleashed Nukie. I almost hauled it out, but there was a mitigating factor: Dave had never seen Highlander II. I could not kill everyone just for sheer ignorance. I had to be satisfied with sitting in the dark, my arms crossed, occasionally huffing, “My movie had boobies.”

So I let Mark deliver the death blow instead.

SkyscraperUKDVDMark had begun crowing that he had found a disc that would totally redeem Crapfest, and, to paraphrase The Princess Bride, I do not think that word means what he thinks it means. Because the movie he brought was SkyscraperPM Entertainment made a lot of straight-to-video action movies, and most of them are not terrible. Not amazing, but not terrible, either. Then they had the brilliant idea to make Anna Nicole Smith an action hero.

Let me repeat that. Anna Nicole Smith. Action hero.

He attempted to sell this with an outtake reel of Smith mangling her lines. I find such stuff painful, and couldn’t get through more than a minute of it.

So Anna Nicole is a helicopter pilot who shuttles her clients around the city; she picks up the wrong clients, a couple of guys who are putting together a suitcase of electronic equipment that must do bad things, but I never could get up the interest to find out what. vlcsnap-2014-03-23-02h06m14s115The leader, Fairfax (Charles Huber) likes to spout inappropriate Shakespeare and end all his conversations by shooting whoever he’s talking to – seriously, I have no idea how he got people to work with him. Anna Nicole has the briefcase, there are hostages, when the cops show up Fairfax pretends to be a terrorist. (Maybe they are  terrorists. I can’t say as I really care.) At least, that gives him a chance to do some Michael Ironside teeth acting.

Any attempt to be ironic and say, “So this is like Die Hard, except in a skyscraper,” is met with “Anna Nicole Smith!”

The fact that she’s ridiculously good with a gun is explained away by the fact she’s from Texas (as if her terminally twangy whines to her husband that “I want a BAY-BEE” were not enough to clench her regionalism). There are, as I recall, three sex scenes with La Smith and her storebought wares, one of which brings the main story to a dead halt while Smith has a flashback to happier, sexier times while hiding in one of the offices.

I think the real star of this is the editor, who (judging from those outtakes) worked many late nights and probably burned out two Avids to make the movie as good as it is. Which it isn’t. Which is to say, at least it’s not terrible. I should have sat there with my arms crossed and huffed, “My movie had real boobies,” but I totally blew that opportunity.

The-Mystery-of-the-Leaping-Fish1We decompressed with the classic 1916 Douglas Fairbanks comedy. The Mystery of the Leaping Fish. That’s the one where Fairbanks plays Coke Ennyday, the Holmes parody who is constantly injecting cocaine, when he is not consuming evidence in the form of entire cans of opium. Johnny Depp or Robert Downey, Jr. are shoo-ins for the remake.

So did we redeem Crapfest? Not totally, but at least this time I didn’t feel like driving off a bridge on the way home. That’s progress.