4/30/2011

Bloodfist (1989)

Bloodfist (1989)-* * *

Directed by: Terence H. Winkless

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Joe Mari Avellana, Rob Kamen, Cris Aguilar, Marilyn Bautista, and Billy Blanks











Jake Raye (Wilson) is an L.A. area kickboxing instructor. A lot of his time is spent regaling elementary school kids with tales of his missing kidney, which he generously gave to his beloved brother, who is also a fighter. When it is discovered that Jake’s brother has been killed because of shady dealings involving not taking a dive in underground punchfighting deathmatches, Jake goes to Manila to investigate.

Now a man lost in a strange land, he meets up with Kwong (Avellana), a wise old trainer. Kwong informs him of The Red Fist, a secret fighting society that holds the said deathmatches, called Ta Chang.  They hold yearly tournaments, that, according to Kwong, have “no rounds, no rules, no referees and no points”. Despite his kidney ailments, Jake must enter the tournament in order to get answers about his brother’s killer. So Kwong trains him, and Baby (Shaner), the “wacky” fighter, helps him out as well. There’s also the love interest, Baby’s sister Nancy (Bowman), and the token “mini-boss” fighter Black Rose (Blanks). Will Jake Raye kick and punch his way to the truth?

Hey, everyone has their own methods of getting answers. Columbo has questions, and Jake Raye has roundhouse kicks. Produced by Roger Corman, there, inexplicably, are nine Bloodfist movies. Only the first two have any connection to each other as The Dragon returns in the sequel as Jake Raye. But apparently this series has legs, whether the supposed sequels were in-name only or not. Looking through our local video store, we always noticed Bloodfist, mainly because of the title. We thought it was kind of silly, as if action movie makers have a list of prescribed words they must use to make a title. The list may go as follows:

Blood
Kick
Punch
Cage
Fist
Fight/Fighter
Death
Rage
Terminal
Extreme
Force
Impact
Maximum
Best
Match
Sport

We are announcing two new action movies to go into production: “Bloodpunch”, "Death Cage" and  “KickPuncher” (Which is also the name of the Robocop parody on "Community"). If you have any more words to add to this tentative list, please write in and leave a comment today.

Back to the Bloodfist, The Dragon is always watchable, and you like him as Jake, the good-natured fighter. Vic Diaz, who has been in every Filipino movie ever made, plays the policeman who hands Jake his brother’s ashes in a vase. I guess they cremate first and ask questions later. Joe Mari Avellana, a familiar face around these parts, is perfect as the wise elder who puts Jake through his rigorous training. A movie like this wouldn’t be complete without training sequences. Lastly there’s Billy Blanks in an early role just bein’ Billy. (Just Bein’ Billy should the name for an upcoming sitcom featuring Blanks).


 

The big selling point of Bloodfist is its use of actual fighters, and their official titles and/or ranks appear on screen along with their names in the credits. This was just as important as who they are. While harsher  reviewers might call this nothing more than a Corman knockoff of Kickboxer (1989) or Bloodsport (1988), cooler heads should prevail and realize most DTV punchfighting product is all cut from pretty much the same cloth. Some are better than others. Bloodfist might not be the absolute best of the bunch, but it’s nowhere near the worst. It’s a fairly early entry into the punchfighting sweepstakes, and some sort of attempt was made to make it entertaining, what with the actual plot developments/twists, etc.

For its classic (or near-classic) status alone, Bloodfist is worth seeking out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty



4/28/2011

Exterminator 2 (1984)

Exterminator 2 (1984)-* * *

Directed by: Mark Buntzman

Starring: Robert Ginty, Mario Van Peebles, Deborah Gaffner, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Arye Gross, and Frankie Faison












Troubled Vietnam vet John Eastland (Ginty) returns in this Cannon-made sequel. For those that don’t know, Eastland has been dubbed by the media as “The Exterminator” because he goes around the streets of New York City with a flamethrower, taking the law into his own hands and roasting street punks into a pile of ash. His friend Be Gee (Faison) drives a garbage truck for Knight Waste Removal and offers John a job. Plus he and his dancer girlfriend Caroline have a budding romance. It seems all is looking up for the Termina...er...I mean EXTERMINATOR, but there’s a problem: the charismatic leader of a criminal underworld named simply X (Van Peebles). This guy has messiah-like delusions and is a ruthless commander of seemingly every punk in the city. X doesn’t take kindly to Eastland barbecuing his compatriots, so all-out war is declared. Eastland is putting a serious dent in X’s ambitions to control the city entirely, a lot of which is dependent on his drug dealing involving the local Mafia. When Caroline is assaulted by X’s gang, shattering her dreams of dancing on Broadway, John and Be Gee soup up the garbage truck Gauntlet (1977)-style and go for the ultimate revenge yet: X himself.

Exterminator 2 is the only directorial credit for Mark Buntzman, and there is a certain lack of confidence behind the camera that that would imply. Plus different countries have different cuts, many have the more violent scenes trimmed. It is said the Greek VHS is the most intact to date. But despite some of its technical flaws, the movie has great 80’s atmosphere and music that cannot be duplicated today. X and his gang wear some of the best outfits since Knights of the City (1985). Interestingly, there are some great breakdancing scenes in the movie too, which bring up the level of interest for the viewer.


Faison as Be Gee is lovable and sympathetic, especially for this down-and-dirty type of exploitation film.
The name of his truck, “Knight Waste Removal” is a not-too-subtle representation of the movie itself: He and/or Ginty is the “Knight” in shining armor (or some kind of armor) that will save the day, and “Waste Removal” clearly implies X’s gang of no-good-niks. They even put one in the trash compactor, and at one point while they are cruising around in the truck, and they spy some baddies, Be Gee says “looks like there’s some trash right there”.

Ginty is as taciturn as ever but that’s why we love him. Plus his alter-ego “The Exterminator” is just too awesome for words. You want to stand up and cheer every time he appears on screen with his metal mask, brandishing his flames of death. Playing a complementary opposite to Ginty’s phlegmatic nature is the bombastic, over-the-top Van Peebles as X. His big line, which he says more than once, is “I am the streets!” He makes a great bad guy because of his energetic performance.


Pretty gritty, fans of revenge movies or 80’s nostalgia will like Exterminator 2, and if you are a big fan of both, like me, any flaws the film may have are glossed over nicely.

NOTE: It was released on VHS in the U.S. on one of those silver MGM-Cannon big boxes, with a stated running time of 88 minutes. Presumably due to the aforementioned cuts, it just barely reaches that time even after the slow-moving end credits.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

4/25/2011

China O'Brien (1990)

China O'Brien (1990)-* * *

Directed by: Robert Clouse

Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Keith Cooke, and Richard Norton 











China O’Brien (Rothrock) is a tough cop in the big city, who also happens to be a karate instructor. After a shooting incident goes wrong, she is forced to move back to the rural Utah town where she grew up, Beaver Creek. Her father is the sheriff, and he does his best, but there is something sinister brewing in this quiet burg. It appears corruption is rife and it, naturally, goes all the way to the top.  The mastermind of all this is the sinister, but elderly Mr. Sommers (Kerby). Seeing Sheriff O’Brien (Blackwell) as a threat to their small-town criminal empire, as he cannot be bought off like the rest of the judges and law enforcement in town, including the bowtied judge Godar (Hazlett), the baddies use their preferred method of murder: they blow him up with a car bomb. Distraught, China runs for her father’s old position. Along the way she reconnects with old flame Matt (Norton) and the mysterious but helpful Dakota (Cooke). Luckily, the three of them have plenty of martial arts skill and they take on an army of goons, because the only way for Beaver Creek to be untainted with corruption is to punch and kick everyone in sight.


As has been noted elsewhere, one of the major flaws in China O’Brien is the lack of a powerful bad guy - at least one that can do martial arts. Because the “bad guy” here is the nebulous notion of “corruption”, and the man who has his fingers in all the interests of the town looks more like he should be doing daytime TV commercials complaining about his “diabetis”, the film’s end could be described as an anti-climax. To add insult to injury, assuming you’ve seen it, the plot and antagonist will remind you of Radical Jack (2000).

But all is not lost, as Rothrock, Norton and Cooke clearly came to play, and all three bring their physical A-game. The prerequisite bar brawl and the high school gym sequence are standouts, as is the confrontation at the political rally. Norton is his usual likable self, and Cooke has some seriously impressive moves. You’ll remember him as Prang from King of the Kickboxers (1990). But the star of the show is obviously Rothrock, and she does a great job as the crusading O’Brien. Fighting corruption is a theme everyone can get behind, so you cheer for her all the way.




By action movie standards, C O’B has a relatively slow pace, presumably to match the slower pace of the boondocks in which the movie is set. In that sense it’s appropriate, but fans may be puzzled by it.

The best way to describe this movie is “Americana with punching” - wouldn’t you love to see a Norman Rockwell painting of Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton pummeling the baddies into submission?

Break out the “good China” and see it tonight.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

4/23/2011

Deadly Prey (1987)

Deadly Prey (1987)-* * * *

Directed by: David A. Prior 

Starring: Cameron Mitchell, Ted Prior, Troy Donahue, Fritz Matthews, Dawn Abraham, and William Zipp





A big thank you to Sutekh from Explosive Action for providing us a copy!



Night Of The Kickfighters (1988). Clash of the Ninjas (1986). American Kickboxer 2 (1993). Deadly Prey. The upper echelon of action movie insanity. If you’ve seen any or all of these movies, there’s no going back. You’re a changed person.

Mike Danton (Prior) is just an average guy, we think at first. He just wants to get five more minutes of sleep in his waterbed and take out the trash in the morning. Without warning, he is kidnapped by a team of mercenaries and driven 75 miles southeast of Los Angeles into the forest, where said Mercs hunt live prey as training exercises. The nefarious Col. Hogan (Campbell) just wants to drink his New York Seltzer and run the operation from behind his desk, but his corporate benefactor, Michaelson (Donahue) is breathing down his neck for results. So with the help of his right hand man, Lt. Thornton (Matthews) and right-hand woman Sybil (Abraham) he focuses all his energy on his former protege Danton, who is killing off his entire squad.

Released into the wild like an animal, with only his wits, his mullet and his undersized white shorts, Danton makes mincemeat of his fellow meatheads. But help is on the way in the form of his concerned wife Jaimy (Tara) and her Father (Mitchell). Jaimy’s Dad is a retired cop with somewhere between 27 and 30 years on the force. He infiltrates Hogan’s training camp to find out what’s going on with Danton. Additionally, his old ‘Nam buddy Jack Cooper (Zipp), a former worker for Hogan, switches sides to the good guys to help out Danton. Will Danton - or you - ever be the same?


Far from your average AIP jungle slog, this is far, far funnier. And better. There are at least three solid laughs in the first two minutes of the movie alone . The tone is then set for what has to be the best AIP movie. Why can’t they all be like this gem? Almost every line of dialogue (which is mostly in soundbite form) or even the faces the characters make are a “laff” riot. How did they not know it was this funny while they were filming it?

Far from just a “homage” to First Blood (1982) and The Most Dangerous Game (1932), Deadly Prey is an entirely different beast. We’re just sort of thrown in to the plot, seemingly as random as Danton is thrown into the forest. It is a pretty big coincidence that a guy the mercenaries chose at random just happens to be Hogan’s former student and “the best”. But it’s a joy to watch Danton turn the tables on the baddies, and, looking a lot like a caveman and basically in the nude, display his survivalist abilities. At least they must have saved on their wardrobe budget, as, even when he eventually gets the chance to, Danton still steadfastly refuses to wear a shirt.



Deadly Prey would make an interesting double feature with Masterblaster (1987). It also features one of Steve McClintock’s best scores, and his sensitive end-credits tune “Never Say Die” musically is antithetical to the violence that we just saw, but that’s all part of the illogical fun. We tried to avoid describing specific scenes because you must see them for yourself.

Silly, ridiculous, hilarious, and full of laughs and action, for an entertaining night of wildly fun viewing, it’s basically impossible to top the modern-day classic Deadly Prey. See it!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

4/21/2011

Future Force (1989)

Future Force (1989)-* *

Directed by: David A. Prior

Starring: David Carradine, Dawn Wildsmith, Anna Rapagna,  D.C. Douglas, Robert Tessier, and William Zipp















In the future, crime is so rampant that regular police are overworked. Enter C.O.P.S., a private firm that is like law enforcement/bounty hunters. It stands for Civilian Operated Police Systems. The big hotshot of the C.O.P.S. is one John Tucker (Carradine). With the help of his computer nerd buddy Billy (Douglas), he always gets his man. After it is thought that TV news reporter Marion Sims (Rapagna) has some incriminating dirt on corrupt Adams (Zipp), the head of the C.O.P.S., he frames her for, of all things, treason, and now all the bounty hunters are after her. Luckily (or perhaps not), Tucker gets to her first. Now Tucker and Sims are on the run from their former co-workers, who all shoot to kill. Adams and his sidekick Becker (Tessier) are ruthless, especially against someone who is “not on their payroll”, i.e. Tucker. But Tucker has a secret weapon, a “power glove” that must be seen to be believed....

Here, director David Prior steals from everything ranging from Death Race 2000 (1975) to The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) to The Gauntlet (1977) to Robocop (1987), and it all has an especially junky feel. Even the cartoon COPS, which debuted on TV in 1988 (in that case it stood for Central Organization of Police Specialists), and the “original reality show” Cops, which debuted in 1989, might have been reference points for Prior, as they were contemporary shows in the general consciousness.

But the filmmakers must have had problems with the timeline, as even though Future Force was released in ‘89, the “far off future time” was a full two years later, 1991! Couldn’t they do just a bit better? Then again, they could have been aping yet another 80’s classic, Max Headroom, which takes place 23 minutes into the future. But this seems like it could have been a potential Ron Marchini vehicle, as it has the same cheap, “futuristic”, garbagey scenario, you know it’s the future because all the baddies wear baseball caps, and Carradine gives a flat, unlikable performance. Even “John Travis” (one of Marchini’s characters) and “John Tucker” are not far off, and Zipp’s portrayal of Adams is kind of D.W. Landingham-esque. Was this originally meant for Marchini, but Carradine was used instead?


Carradine seems bored/tired/uninterested/perturbed in his role as Tucker, and even though he was 53 years old at the time of shooting, it is said he is 40. We’re not saying all action stars have to be young guys - look at Eastwood (an obvious influence on this film) - but come on. If the main star is  not up for it, it can drag the movie down. While Carradine can do better, perhaps the influence of Marchini was just too strong. We know they know each other, at the very least, because they did a movie together, Karate Cop (1991). It’s almost funny how much Carradine openly seems like he doesn’t even want to be there. But on the bright side, he has an awesome vest.

As far as the baddies, William Zipp gives the best performance we’ve seen of his to date. He sinks his teeth into his villain role. His sidekick Becker (interestingly also the name of his sidekick in Jungle Assault (1989), but played by Ted Prior), is a good heavy, and the actor that played him, Robert Tessier has a long career which contains everything from One Man Force (1989) to Beverly Hills Brats (1989) to No Safe Haven (1987).


All of Tucker’s C.O.P.S. co-workers are goofy-looking dudes (except for genre stalwart Dawn Wildsmith) and they hang out at a strip club called the Demilitarized Zone, but in the movie, they misspell “demilitarized”! Come on. Little things like that go to illustrate the sloppiness of the overall production.

It may seem we’ve been a bit hard on Future Force, and Carradine’s perhaps-uncaring performance has something to do with that (even though he’s credited as a co-producer, so you’d think he’d care more, or at least put on that face), but if you take into account everything we’ve said so far, you could still have a grand old time watching this movie. It’s “cheap and cheerful” as they say, and there are plenty of fun and funny moments. Plus it has some memorable Steve McClintock music, as is common for AIP, and has a short running time of less than 80 minutes.

Seemingly one of the more popular AIP titles, you might be able to find this at closing video stores or thrift shops. If you do, pick it up...but don’t get on John Tucker’s bad side.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty



4/18/2011

Night Wars (1988)

Night Wars (1988)-* *1\2

Directed by: David A. Prior

Starring: Dan Haggerty, Brian O'Connor, Cameron Smith, Jill Foors, and Chet Hood













Jim Lowery (Smith) and Trent Matthews (O’Connor) are ‘Nam buddies who, nine years after the war, are both  haunted by the specter of their compatriot Jhonny O‘Connor (that’s how they spell his first name, it’s not a typo) (Hood). Jim and Trent must feel guilty for Jhonny’s becoming a POW. But when their dreams are so vivid, their injuries and cuts appear in their waking lives, they know there’s a serious problem. The torment of rogue mercenary McGregor (Horton) and his torture tactics have gotten to Jim and Trent so badly, Trent’s concerned wife Susanne (Foors) calls in psychologist Dr. Mike Campbell (Haggerty) for help. But the boys must “sleep together” in their fatigues to defeat the enemies in their dreams. When dreams and real life blur, who knows what the truth really is?

Night Wars is a good attempt at seriousness from AIP, but, once again, comes off as silly most of the time. That might be because of the constant, uncanny casting of goofy-looking sweaty people in almost every role. But there are some cool ideas and effects mixed in with the standard machine-gun firefights. This movie asks the question: what if the emotional trauma of returning Vietnam vets mutated into an actual, physical horror after the war? Try to imagine Jungle Assault (1989) crossed with A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984).
What if Freddy Krueger was a Vietnam vet?

The role of Jim Lowery should have been played by Wings Hauser, and he and Trent surely are the Bill and Ted of AIP movies, but mention (not necessarily honorable) must go to Dan Haggerty as the “cool” psychologist with the necklace and the pared-down beard. He’s really showing his range here. He’s not Grizzly Adams or the guy from Elves (1989). He’s a doctor. It’s really one of his best sweaters, er, performances.

There are the prerequisite torture sequences, but this time, they are really heaped on. There’s also the typical jungle/war cliches, but this time they are mixed with a dash of spookiness. Also it must be noted that this film has the most amount of people bellowing “NOOOOooooo!!!!!” that we’ve seen to date - it occurs four times during the movie.

While the ideas in Night Wars can’t exactly be described as original (many are lifted wholesale from Elm Street), the attempt to marry the Vietnam war film with the phantasmagoric dream film gives this AIP outing an interesting and noteworthy edge above some of the others. It really gives new meaning to the term “Dream Warriors”. Dokken take note.

For a war/horror hybrid film served up AIP style, look no further than Night Wars.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

4/14/2011

Operation Warzone (1988)

Operation Warzone (1988)-* *

Directed by: David A. Prior

Starring: Joe Spinell, Fritz Matthews, William Zipp, Sean Holton, and Chet Hood



"They Told 'Em War Was Hell...They Were Right!"

Get ready for yet another romp in the jungle courtesy of  David Prior and AIP. In this particular Vietnam war scenario, Sgt. Holt (Matthews), Cpl. Butler (Zipp) and Cpl. Adams (Holton), among other soldiers, are bravely fighting in the impossible conditions of the ‘Nam jungles. During a firefight, they rescue two Tunnel Rats, Jenson (King) and Hawkins (Cianetti). It comes to light that there is a mysterious, unseen man, dubbed “The General” that has classified documents that could supposedly end the war. Much of the madness can be traced back to Washington and the corrupt George Delevane (Spinell). In a Firehawk-like situation, the soldiers don’t know who to trust, and there could be a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. Will Holt and the boys make it home alive? Or will the behind-the-scenes dealings get the better of everyone?

Mindless shooting. Exploding huts. Endless machine gun firefights. Uninteresting explosions. Brain-numbing stupidity. Inexcusable boredom. Zero character development. Unexplained Australians. Goofy chases. Prerequisite torture sequence. An unnecessary fistfight scene that is so absurdly extended it makes the “put on the glasses” scene from They Live (1988) look like a blip. These are some basic snapshots that should give you some idea of the “we have to sit through it” vibe of Operation Warzone.

Matthews, Zipp and Holton are all AIP regulars, doing many things both in front of and behind the camera. It seems, contractually, Zipp cannot be in a movie that doesn’t take place in a jungle. So he must have been right at home. Holton looks completely different that he did in White Fury (1990). In ‘Fury he’s a snot-nosed little punk, and here he has an adult mustache and appears at least ten years older - but ‘Warzone  came out two years BEFORE White Fury! How quickly they grow up...or something like that. The legendary and excellent actor Joe Spinell is on hand, and his presence is much appreciated, but it’s what we call a “sit-down” role. In other words, in many instances, from Mickey Rooney in Maximum Force (1992), to Henry Silva in The Violent Breed (1984), to Spinell here (just to name a few), the movie production will hire a name actor to do some scenes over the course of a day or two, give or take. But all the actor’s scenes are sitting down. They never leave their chair. It just kind of exposes the penury of a given production. Here Spinell gives his sit-down role, which is better than many of the other actors’ more action based scenes, but the bottom line is the movie definitely could have used much more Spinell.

Another thing worth mentioning is the highly inappropriate music. Although the movie is set in 1960’s Vietnam, a happy, upbeat, jaunty 80’s synthpop song that sounds exactly like Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” blasts onto the soundtrack. I know it seems incredible, but it’s true. What were they thinking? That being said, Steve McClintock’s closing credits dirge “Shadow Of A Doubt” is catchy and one of the best things about Operation Warzone. You gotta hand it to AIP. Almost all their movies have at least one catchy, memorable, original song. It’s really a fairly dependable thing. No matter how “bad” the movie is, at least there will be a song. When is someone going to release a CD, “AIP’s greatest hits”? It would be amazing!

Dumb on top of dumb on top of dumb, Operation Warzone is a misfire.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

4/12/2011

At Gunpoint (1990)

At Gunpoint (1990)-* *

Directed by: Steven Harris

Starring: Frank Kanig, Christopher Claflin, and Tain Bodkin















Casey Spencer (Bodkin) is a hardened criminal, a man who just spent six years behind bars. He’s a robber and murderer, but now he’s getting out for good behavior. After inexplicably waving a friendly goodbye to the warden, he hits the streets. He then heads out into the woods of Salt Lake City to find a multi-million dollar cache of...well, cash. But this fanny-packed loser has a problem: FBI agent Marty Steiner (Kanig). He has a long history with Casey and was the man that put him in prison. Naturally, Casey hates Marty. Marty, being a city boy, must travel into the wilderness to find and recapture Casey, with the help of young local guide Chuck (Claflin). Who will succeed, criminal or law enforcement? Who will get the money? Just try and hold your interest!

Although this is an AIP pickup, you can see why they picked it up. It has all the classic AIP stupidity you’ve come to know and enjoy. However, At Gunpoint at least gets points for trying. It’s a low budget, independent affair with an attempt at seriousness. It’s probably hard to make a movie like this and we understand that, and we applaud the efforts of everyone involved. However worthy the attempt was, there are still some major problems.

The movie lacks a charismatic or even remotely interesting villain OR hero. That’s a huge strike right there, but when you add the fact that there’s a lot of yakety-yak and a surprising lack of action scenes, that deals the death blow to this film. You’d think the filmmakers would have thought of these things, as they are so basic, but no. That’s what makes this film so frustrating: the attempt at quality is so earnest, but the results are so lackluster.

Frank Kanig as the mustachioed hero doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, and Bodkin as Casey looks like a goofier James Caan. Claflin’s role could have been played by Corey Haim (or Feldman for that matter). That they couldn’t get even one minor name to be in the movie is probably what doomed this film to obscurity. It’s mainly a Western-inspired wilderness tale, with the FBI guy out in the woods with the local cops trying to catch the bad guys. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, or anything that hasn’t been done since the 1940’s or earlier.

While we actually thought this movie would be a lot worse before viewing it than it actually is, it really is pretty dull and boring. If you’ve seen Driven to Kill (1991), you’ll note some similarities. It was shot in Troy Canyon, Nevada and Salt Lake City. If you ever see this movie anywhere, pick it up solely based on its rarity, but don’t expect much. Don’t go out of your way searching for it on the internet, it’s not worth that much trouble to put in your collection unless you are an AIP completist.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

4/09/2011

The Big Sweat (1991)

The Big Sweat (1991)-* *1\2

Directed by: Ulli Lommel

Starring: Robert Z'Dar, Ken Letner, Steven Molone, Joanne Watkins, William Roebuck, Peter Sherayko, and David Rushing





When Marco Donnelly (Molone) gets out of prison after five or six years (depending on who you ask), he goes back to his adopted mother’s ranch in rural California. Seemingly bored after a half-hearted attempt to “go straight”, he falls in with his old bank robbing gang. The gang thinks it can rob another bank and get away scot-free, but they didn’t count on one thing: the wildly awesome FBI agent Troudou (Z’Dar). Troudou has an upbeat personality, a cigar he never lights, a closet full of Hawaiian shirts, and a dream: to bring in Marco, the evil Joe Rinks (Sherayko), and the rest of the gang - on his own terms. However, this may require a bit of driving...

There are a few noteworthy things about The Big Sweat, but the most obvious is the extended, ridiculously long chase scene. Some sources have it at forty five minutes. Think about that. That’s insane. The filmmakers were misguided if they thought they could outdo classic chase scenes in movies such as The French Connection (1971) and Bullitt (1968) simply by lengthening theirs. That’s misguided - their logic must have been “more running time = better”. Unfortunately, this childish logic was not successful. Seeing as most chases only work if you care about the characters in the cars, The Big Sweat should have concentrated on character development instead. As it is, how much patience/caring should we have? It’s really asking a lot of the audience to endure, and even die-hard car chase movie fans would be hard-pressed to justify that.

Also noteworthy is the presence of the great Robert Z’Dar as Troudou. He gives one of his most animated, and some may say goofy performances that we’ve ever seen. His energy is absolutely crucial to enduring this movie. Without Z’Dar, this would have been a slog of the lowest order. From his killer entrance on down, Z’Dar rules the movie. Maybe he felt he had nothing to lose.  And once he’s teamed up with American Hero Barsky (Rushing), the sparks really fly.

Director Ulli Lommel is pretty well-known, and if you can imagine what an AIP Lommel movie might be like...well...this is it.

Most of the budget must have gone to Robert Z’Dar and gasoline in this brainless outing.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty



4/06/2011

White Fury (1990)

 White Fury (1990)-* *

Directed by: David A. Prior

Starring: Deke Anderson, Sean Holton, Douglas Harter, Chasity Hammons, Christine Shinn, Michael Kaskel, and William Berg

Danny (Holton) is a champion snowboarder who loves nothing more than being a radically awesome dude with an attitude. His idea of a perfect life would undoubtedly be jumping out of a helicopter on his snowboard and “slamming” a can of Mountain Dew. He takes his girlfriend Christine (Shinn) and his pals Greg (Berg) and Lesley (Hammons) to a remote cabin in snowy Colorado.  They think they’re going to get some nice rest and relaxation, but something goes awry...

Tyler Bennett (Anderson) and his accomplice Marcus (Kaskel) are amoral bank robbers on the run. To escape from the heat of their latest job, they head out to the country and somehow find the aforementioned cabin. They hole up there and generally terrorize the four young adults. But they didn’t count on one thing: a “bounty hunter outta Detroit” named Martin Towers. This grizzled, bearded man is relentless and has been tracking Tyler for years. Armed with a missile launcher and his own determination, will Towers finally get his man...?

This one was pretty junky, even by AIP standards. It’s a fairly basic hostage drama, married with some shreddin’ snowboards. The main problem with White Fury is that its very simple idea overstays its welcome. Due to its pacing issues, when it seems the movie is going to end, it just keeps going with no new ideas to sustain it. Its threadbare plot is running on fumes. And having a wildly overlong snowmobile/snowboard chase/gunfight - which could have been a lot cooler had it been handled differently - doesn’t really help matters. The same song playing over and over again in the background during the scene is kind of a red flag that it might be going on too long. Plus there are plenty of “gaffes” throughout the film that give away its no-budget status. So it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re watching some bare-bones boring crud.

On the bright side, there are some great late-80’s fashions on display, and most of the cast does their absolute best under trying circumstances.  Have you ever seen Ben Stiller's impression of Tom Cruise? That seems to be the acting style of Deke Anderson as the main baddie Tyler. Much of the rest of the cast seem to be non-actors, so no harsh criticism is coming their way, at least not here. Plus, there might be more subtext here than you might think. Due to some subtle clues, there might be a chance that this is actually a story of the forbidden love between Martin Towers and Danny. Truly one of the great star-crossed love stories of our time, I tell ya. If you ever watch the movie (or see it again if you already have), just take note of the dialogue and interactions between Martin and Danny. You’ll see what we mean. Maybe it’s not so far-fetched.

While we wouldn’t recommend it be the first AIP movie you ever see, if you can’t get enough of that AIP style, you’ll find some familiar entertainment in White Fury.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

4/04/2011

Shredder Orpheus (1990)

Shredder Orpheus (1990)-*

Directed by: Robert McGinley

Starring: Robert McGinley, Megan Murphy, Steven Jesse Bernstein, Linda Severt, Marshall Reid, and John Billingsley




"A Skate-Rock Adventure of the Deadly Kind"

A wise man once said, “you can’t intentionally make a cult film”. A director can’t wake up and say “I’m going to start to make a cult film today”. That’s not up to him to decide. Sadly, director/writer/star Robert McGinley had to learn this lesson the hard way with Shredder Orpheus.

A modern-day (futuristic?) retelling of the Orpheus legend, but with “rock” music and skateboarding, it seems McGinley was going for a Street Trash (1987) meets Liquid Sky (1982) meets Brazil (1985) meets Repo Man (1984) meets Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus (1950) sort of thing. Apparently, in the future, bums and vagrants live in a trailer park-like section of town (Seattle or places near Seattle from what we can gather) called “The Gray Zone”. The most radical dude in the Gray Zone is, naturally, Orpheus (McGinley). He is the singer/guitarist for the hottest band in town, The Shredders. When his girlfriend Eurydice (Murphy) unexpectedly dies, Orpheus, with his lyre in hand (actually a futuristic “guitar” that doesn’t look or sound anything like a guitar, said to be designed by Jimi Hendrix before he died, which is just insulting. There’s no need to drag Hendrix into this), makes his descent into the underworld, represented by the EBN, or “Euthanasia Broadcast Network”. Here, hell is a TV station that brainwashes the populace. Will this “Shredder Orpheus” be victorious?

You might think that what we just described might be good. Maybe on paper it is, but the headache-inducing colors and music are eye-sores and ear-sores. There are no likable characters and the whole thing has this smirky, annoying vibe of “we’re trying to be funny and smart” which falls completely flat. It feels like a student film made specifically for public access TV. It’s grungy, and the only reason we watched it is because it was released by AIP. Troma must have passed.

The movie is nonsensical and grating. It really tests the patience of viewers. It’s not enjoyable to watch, it’s more like a battle to get through. Maybe that’s why AIP picked it up, it reminded them of their war films. One of the main detriments is that there is no main star you can get behind. There’s no Robert Z’Dar, no William Smith, no JAY ROBERTS JUNIOR for crying out loud. Without a powerful main star presence, the film is anchorless and aimless. Teachers can’t even show it to their students if they were learning about Greek myth.

Shredder Orpheus is for AIP completists only.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

4/01/2011

Jungle Assault (1989)

 Jungle Assault (1989)-* * *

Directed by: David A. Prior 

Starring: William Smith, Ted Prior, Maria Rosado and William Zipp

In the tradition of patriotic AIP fare such as Rage to Kill (1987) comes David Prior’s Jungle Assault. After some initial mindless shooting with no setup, we see it was a flashback to the Vietnam days of Becker (Ted Prior) and Kelly (Zipp). Since the war ended, these beer-swilling buddies have really hit the skids. They live in a broken-down hovel and face eviction, and they spend any money they may have on booze. After taking on the goons of local tough man Crusher (Swalve), as well as Crusher himself, in one of the silliest of the many barfights we’ve seen over the years, the commanding officer of the two men pays them a visit.

General Mitchell (Smith) tells the two dudes that his daughter Elaine (Moore) has joined up with the commies in South America. Reasoning that “any blade can get dull, but the steel’s still there”, he enlists the men to infiltrate the baddies’ compound and rescue the girl. But they will get no help or recognition by the U.S. Government. The guys agree, and once behind enemy lines in some hellhole like Nicaragua or Cuba (but actually Alabama), they must face the evil woman Rosa (Rosado) and her mercenary partner John McClusky (Marriott). Will the two dum-dums be able to kill all the commies, and not just bring Elaine back, but very quickly convince her that her whole ideology is incorrect?

Produced by Fritz Matthews, Jungle Assault is unbelievably low-budget looking and junky. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it is also one of the most cliche-ridden movies you will ever see. Quite possibly every tired line or situation is included, with seemingly no thought whatsoever to putting a new spin on things, or even any extra energy into them. Some of the dialogue is so cliched its funny, but that’s about the only saving grace there.


The main heroes as played by Ted Prior and William Zipp would today be played by Christian Bale and Curtis Armstrong respectively, and despite their lack of intelligence, somehow are able to, after years of alcohol abuse, not only NOT have beer guts, but also are incredibly ripped for some reason. Prior wears a Springsteen “Born in the USA” shirt and Kelly holds his machine gun incorrectly. Prior’s dialogue consists mainly of various grunts and yells, while the bad guys are continually spitting. William Smith brings his ultra-gravelly voice, while Marriott as McClusky brings some sort of Liverpudlian or possibly Mancunian accent to his ruthless bad guy role. Sure, Rosa, McClusky or their army of thugs could have killed Becker or Kelly a million times over, but they never do, leading to the prerequisite torture scenes.

The shooting scenes feature the same wound over and over again, a very silly, misty shotgun blast.

This movie is dumb with a capital D. It adds nothing to the genre, you don’t care that much about the characters and it provides minimal entertainment value. It features scenes you have seen a million times before and that leads to little excitement. It makes you not even care about a baddie’s death by rocket launcher. Because of this, the film is instantly forgettable. I guarantee the next day after watching it, all memory of it will be gone in your mind.

Featuring a really funny last line of the movie, and odd, inappropriate music throughout, but capped off by one of the best/funniest/silliest/most catchy end credits songs ever, “Freedom” by Brian Bennett, the only reason to watch Jungle Assault- and there ARE worse movies out there - is if you are an AIP completist (and if you are, God help you) - or you want to hear the great final song, the best part of the film.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty