Mid-Night Rider 80’s B Movie

This little known 1984 cult movie Mid-Night Rider is about a male gigolo street hustler who roams the streets looking for tricks. Really bad disco plays as he walks around Sunset Blvd, mostly at night. This seems to be an ode to midnight Cowboy. This dude is hooking up with a bunch of chicks and there is tons of nudity. He also gets beaten up randomly early on, to add some noire.

Meanwhile, some female pimp in a funny retro car takes him around to appointments. At one point the voice-over says something about being dropped off with twelve year olds, and the viewer (me) cringes. The box for this movie is also inappropriate and misleading, in that it makes the movie look family friendly. The main guy is hugging a kid on the front of the box, and you think you are buying a Highway to Heaven clone because of the bad hair-dos. The movie sold in VHS clamshell box, to make matters worse, I found this beside Disney films at the local Goodwill. The back of the box has the gigolo sitting on some grass smiling next to the little boy.
A closer look at the box and you see a slogan about sex, drugs and violence – plus a bunch of crazy shit that happens as a result of an orgy gone wrong.

This film is a complete train wreck, and is somewhat disturbing. Yet in its pure awfulness it is somewhat mesmerizing. I-net searches show only one copy on Ebay and very few on Amazon. The title was obvopusly a play on the TV show Night Rider. And the box was an imitation of Highway to Heaven Films. This film is more like a stairway to hell though.

976 Evil (Horror Hotline Flick)

What is even scarier than being groped?  One of the most exciting yet under-the radar Blu-ray releases of the year is “976-EVIL,” a forgotten but very interesting 1988 horror film directed by Robert Englund. His tenure as Freddy Krueger in the “Elm Street” series serves him well here as he spins a ghoulish tale of sex, bullying and revenge. Stephen Geoffreys (Evil Ed in “Fright Night”) stars as Hoax, the most geeky, nerdy, creepy teenager since Carrie White. What a crazy actor. He was great in Fright Night. Did he overact in 976 evil? Yes!And he wound up not getting roles except as a gay porn bottom, which we will have to overlook in this review, and maybe takes this film down a half a star out of prejudice.

Loathed by his classmates, he idolizes his cousin Spike (Patrick O’Bryan). Spike has been using the creepy phone number that gives the movie its title and it has been helping him get what he wants. In the end, however, he decides the whole thing is too creepy and throws it away. Unfortunately, Hoax finds the phone number and starts using it to get revenge on his creepy, religious mother (Sandy Dennis), on Spike’s girlfriend, and on Spike’s card playing buddies. At the end of the film, he turns into a demon, and only Spike and a private investigator (Jim Meltzer) stand in the way of hell on earth.

This movie is very interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, everyone in the movie is evil on one way or another. With no “good” characters we are left wondering how things will turn out. Secondly, this is a very gruesome movie with some memorable kills and one-liners. Director Englund is presumably responsible for that. Thirdly, this is an early screenplay by Brian Helgeland (who went on to win an Oscar for “L.A. Confidential.” Lastly, Geoffreys is simply the man as Hoax; he owns the movie.

You gotta watch it for the line “can I enter this hand with two hearts?” while throwing two beating human hearts onto the poker table. And the line, “Can I give you a hand with that?”, while severing someone’s arm. This film has no redeeming value except for entertainment. It seems to relish in Satanism and depravity. Truly it is an evil film, that lives up to its title.

The new Blu-ray features an amazing high-definition transfer of the theatrical version of the film as well as a “retro VHS” transfer that is 12 minutes longer.  There is also a commentary track with Robert Englund and his wife.  If you’re looking for a scary good time, look no further than the new Blu-ray of “976-EVIL”!

Fever – 80’s Aussie Noir

Sometimes we find hidden treasures on VHS at Goodwill. This is the case with 1988’s “Fever,” a 1988 film noir from Australia that unexpectedly impresses. To fully appreciate it, you have to know that it is a remake of “Diabolique,” the classic French movie about 2 women who kill an abusive man. Or do they? In this movie, an honest cop (played by the great Bill Hunter) finds drug money and is promptly murdered by his wife and lover. Or is he?

This movie is good because it takes all the film noir clichés and transplants them to 1988 Australia. This film portrays Australia as a desolate place and so it becomes easy to understand why the characters want a way out. As the double-crosses and shootouts ensue, it becomes easy to get swept up in it because it is done really well.

Overall I really enjoyed the rad Australian desert setting of the car chase scenes. The love triangle in the film was sleazy, but memorable, as the cop comes home and finds his wife in bed with a stranger. The husband gets hit on the head, and assumed to be dead for most of the entire film – before popping up suddenly from the trunk at the end. Australian movies from the 80s and 90s always seemed to gave the right amount of boob action, didn’t they??

At the center of it all is the late and great Bill Hunter, a legendary Australian actor who has been in more than 50 films, including “Strictly Ballroom,” “The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” “Muriel’s Wedding,” and “Finding Nemo.” As a tough but honest cop, he provides us with a center for all the mayhem. “Fever,” which inexplicably went direct-to-video, is a thriller worth finding.

Traci Lords – B Movie Honoree

An uplifting story in B-movie cinema is Traci Lord’s ascendance from exploited porno actress to legit B and even A-movie star. For example, “Not of this Earth” is a wonderful 1988 cheeseball remake of Roger Corman’s “classic.” It rules. She bares her breasts but also shows strong comedic skills as a nurse who unknowingly works for a space alien who is stealing the “life force” from nubile women. To borrow a quote from a video store I used to frequent in Berkeley in the 1990’s this film is the    “Showgirls” of sci-fi.

The film is so sexy and funny it doesn’t matter that it’s cheap. Jim Wynorski, who also made “Chopping Mall” and “The Return of Swamp Thing,” is an excellent sleazemaster whose films are very entertaining, The film, despite being made for less money than the original, turned out well and received a theatrical release and some decent reviews, leading to a role for Lords in the classic “Cry-Baby” and Stephen King’s “The Tommyknockers.” The 2010 widescreen DVD from Shout! Factory is very good and has commentary by Lords and Wynorski and an interview with Lords.

Another good B-movie starring Lords is “Shock ‘Em Dead,,” a 1990 horror comedy recently released to Blu-ray. It is about a hopeless loser geek who sells his sole to Satan so he can become a metal God. He gets his wish, but discovers he has to kill in order to continue his hedonistic lifestyle. Lords plays the “pure woman” who likes him whom he must seduce to end the curse. Although the film is cheesy, it has a decent plot and the songs are hilarious and pretty good. No longer required to shed her clothes, Lords is appealing in this obscure but underrated gem. Check it out!

Traci Lords is a reminder that a girl can rise from inglorious beginnings and become a movie star and decent actress. These two films are a must for any B-movie fan’s library! Thanks, Traci!

Warlock BluRay is Pagan Gold

Maybe I’m weird, but the most anticipated Blu-ray release for me this year was not “Rogue One” or “La La Land,” but instead “The Warlock Collection.” Part of the new Vestron limited edition collection series from Lionsgate, these films deal with a Satanic warlock who wants to end the world. The original film features Richard E. Grant as a witch-hunter from the 17th century who, like the warlock, is zapped into 1991. Only Grant and Lori Singer can prevent Julian Sands from destroying the universe by saying God’s true name backwards and thereby undoing creation.

 

Lori Singer plays “Kassandra with a K,” a buoyant woman from the valley who joins the witch-hunt via necessity (the warlock puts an aging spell on her) but gradually falls for the sincere Grant. This film is distinguished by distinguished locales, good performances, a healthy sense of humor, and a wonderful Jerry Goldsmith score.

 

Sands is pure evil, but you like him: his suave British charm is hard to resist. Grant shines in a rare sympathetic role; you may remember him as the villain from “Hudson Hawk” or as the alchoholic in the great “Withnail and I.” Singer is sexy and feisty; what happened to her? Mary Woronov from “Eating Raoul” and “Night of the Comet” has a small role. Overall, a great film that I regret missing in theatres.

“Warlock: The Armageddon,” an almost unrelated sequel, is lower-budget but just as much fun. This time, Sands is more directly related to Satan, and his powers are much more sinister. Born in an oddball fashion full-grown from some random woman, Sands must acquire the correct precious priceless stones to end the world. This he does by tricking people into giving him the stones, then killing them Freddy Krueger or Wishmaster style. He even turns somebody into a Picasso! Who can stop his nefarious plot? The Druids, of course. and two dorky teenagers played by Chris Young and Paula Marshall. You would think the Warlock would easily win, but you’d be wrong. It all concludes in mano-a-mano fashion, as the dorky teen turns out to have the right stuff. This film, like the first, has very interesting special FX and is made with a kit of charm. I did see this at the AMC Saratoga 6 in 1993, and I miss seeing genuine B-films at the cinema. If you like Julian Sands and ridiculous horror films, don’t miss this one. It’s from the director of the “Waxwork” films and “Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth.”

Finally, we have “Warlock III: The End of Innocence,” where the Warlock is now played by Bruce Payne because Julian Sands didn’t like the script. This movie is about a college girl (played by “Hellraiser”‘s Ashley Laurence) who inherits a haunted house but wants to keep it so she can find out about her family heritage. She brings several friends along, and soon they are all being tormented by the Warlock, who tortures all the friends until they turn on our heroine. This film was OK but I couldn’t get into it. It didn’t fit with the other 2 films, mainly because it was too serious. This one I would recommend watching just once.

There are, of course, more bonus features on this set than I can count,, but the main thing is that you get 3 very entertaining ’90’s B horror films, painstakingly restored, for about $25. This set is so entertaining you’ll be tempted to give your soul over to the warlock. Julian Sands is the best horror baddie since Vincent Price, and these films show that off-the-wall, non-cliché efforts can be very entertaining. Don’t miss this Blu-ray set!

Wasteland B Movie Classics

Picked up the Roger Corman double feature of “Deathsport” and “Battletruck” this week. “Deathsport” is a follow-up of sorts to “Death Race 2000” starring David Carradine, Claudia Jennings, and Richard Lynch. It’s about a deadly futuristic sport involving flaming motorcycles, lasers, and much mayhem. The film doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s a lot of fun and is from the director of “Rock and Roll High School” and “Caddyshack 2.” The director contributes an hilarious audio commentary.

“Battletruck,” also known as “Warlords of the 21st Century,” is a “Mad Max” type film starring Michael Beck from “The Warriors” about a lawless, oil-deprived future in which the Battletruck, possibly the coolest vehicle I’ve ever seen, reigns supreme. This flick has very little plot but is very well made from a director who went on to make “Black Moon Rising” with Tommy Lee Jones, which is also about a vehicle.

There’s not too much to say about these two films except that they’re good B-pictures. Claudia Jennings gets naked in “Deathsport” and David Carradine kicks ass. Richard Lynch is always the best villain, I want to own the “Battletruck,” and live in New Zealand, where that film was shot. This two-pack is available on DVD for around $10 and is a good deal.

Phones That Kill

Imagine if you could be killed for answering the phone at the wrong time. Well, that’s what veteran director Michael Anderson (“Logan’s Run,” “Orca”) did and the result is “Murder by Phone,” a 1981 thriller so outlandish that I’m shocked it hasn’t been available since a 1982 VHS release. The idea is this: a disgruntled former phone company employee has found a deadly phone signal. First, you make the mistake of answering his call. Then, he pushes a button and the signal is transmitted. First, you go deaf from the signal. Then, your head fries. It all takes about 10 or 20 seconds.

Who can stop this maniac? Well, ecologist Richard Chamberlain (from “King Solomon’s Mines”) is on the case, while Academy Award winner John Houseman looks on. While not a well-known film, this film delivers great cheesy deaths and a rousing anti-corporate message. The strange electronic score is by John Barry. If you can find this movie, you will amaze your friends with this bizarre and entertaining film. After seeing this film, you will be very glad that everyone can now screen their calls. In short, “Murder by Phone” (aka “Bells”) dials the right number for terror.

Gold

First off, you are probably expecting a review of the new Matthew McConaughey movie “Gold,” but, well, Homey don’t play that…this is about the unheralded 1974 Roger Moore exploitation film. Set at a South Africa gold mine, the film’s about a conspiracy by the owners of the mine to cause the mine to drill a hole in the mine and flood it, making money off the rise in oil futures. To do this, they bring in Roger Moore as the new general manager, hoping his inexperience and naivety will make him an easy fall guy when their plans come to fruition. They didn’t count on his bullheaded courage, however, and he ends up saving the mine instead of destroying it.

This film is underrated and only showed at drive-ins as part of a double bill in America and is now a public domain DVD. Right off the bat, it opens with a great title song as the letters G-O-L-D flash on the screen. Indeed, Elmer Bernstein’s music is top-notch. Then we see that the film not only has Moore and Susannah York but also stars Oscar winners John Guilgud (from “Arthur) and Ray Milland. Moore is the man in this movie, rescuing miners and bedding married York. He is a man of suave sophistication and fierce resolve. Between the extramarital affair and the exploitation of South African men, this film is hilariously amoral. The reason I enjoy this film so much is that it is a product of a bygone era. No longer can films be so carelessly exploitative and get away with it. Also, “Gold” is from some of the better Bond filmmakers, including Peter Hunt, director of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and John Glen (director of 5 good Bond films including “License to Kill”).

In short, “Gold” is a gem, a silly drive-in classic. Watch for it in the bargain bin DVD section and stay tuned for more reviews soon!