Parents + Why I Love Randy Quaid

Since the 1971 classic “The Last Picture Show” and spanning all the way to 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain,” there have been few better modern character actors than Randy Quaid. With his unique demeanor, which can be bumbling, serious, or seriously imposing, he is an unstoppable force. I reflected on this while watching the new Vestron Collection Limited Edition Blu-Ray of 1989’s “Parents,” which is perhaps the greatest horror comedy ever made. It is about the Laemle’s, a typical 1950’s family whose life looks good from the outside-until you realize that young Michael (played by Bryan Madorsky) is mentally ill, while his parents (played by Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt) seem to be hiding something. Could they be… CANNIBALS?

This movie almost makes “Blue Velvet” look like a walk in the park. We share young Michael’s perspective for the entire film, and we share his apprehension about the “leftovers” his parents keep trying to get him to eat. Michael is a strange kid himself, rarely talking and with a young girl friend who claims to be from the moon. Eventually a social worker (played by Sandy Dennis) becomes in his case, but this is not a family sympathetic to outsiders.

This movie plays the audience like a piano, with great 1950’s-style music (mostly by Angelo Badalamenti) and period recreations. We never know what’s going to happen next. Ultimately, the clash between this strange boy and his stranger environment is what the film is about, and the film leaves an indelible impression.

At the center of it all is Randy Quaid. Comedic and nerdy one second, unbelievably menacing the next, his performance is one of the best ever for a horror film. This film scares me like few others do. The picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are excellent, and so are the extras. The director, Bob Balaban, explains on the commentary that the film is about him and his childhood. What a scary childhood he must have had!

Randy Quaid and his wife have been in some trouble with the law over the past 10 years or so and currently reside in Vermont. Apparently he has retired from film and TV acting. Well, Randy, have a great retirement, because you are awesome! Don’t miss “Parents” on Blu-Ray!

Howling 2 Werewolf Botch Redux

What do you get when you take cheesy new wave imitators, werewolves, Transylvania occult rituals, and too many transformation flash back clips from the first film? You guessed it, The Howling 2! Thank the Greasy Dark Overlord that Shout Factory saw fit to rerelease this a year or two back. This was a film that Roger Ebert originally gave 1 star and panned, yet praised Sybil Danning’s performance as the head werewolf occult leader. You have to go into this film expecting a bad but watchable film. Its so bad its good. Whereas the Marsupials sequel of this same franchise licks balls and is entirely unwatchable.

One thing I really like is that Christopher Lee plays the brother of the lead werewolf bitch. He delivers a great monologue at the beginning and end.

If you have seen Vamp with Grace Jones about new-wave and vampires, then this is basically the werewolf version of that. Sybil Danning was so awesome in Hercules with Lou Feregino, as well as in Reform School Girls that she really should get a Groin lifetime achievement award. I had the pleasure of meeting her briefly at the legendary porn studio Metro in LA ( yes she had a porn career). I was waiting in line for this circus themed gangbang and she happened to be the hostess. A midget got shot out of a cannon. One of the fluffer girls would only suck on the tip. Was a billion degrees and us male talents had to stand around in 100 degree heat all day waiting for the female models to get their hair and make-up done. Anyhow, back to the film. Jimmy Nail (of Morons from Outer Space fame) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Nail has a great cameo as some drugged out street party reveler which is a Groin most neglected best supporting actor role of all time.

Did I mention there is a total Frankie Goes to Hollywood live band Body Double rip off scene? And that the song is continually recycled throughout the film ad nauseum, including at inappropriate times. In the end this only adds to the charm though.

You have to forgive these 80’s films for all their new wave stuff. Repo Man, Vamp, The Wraith, and Howling 2 are all part of the kind of pop art that Warhol could have appreciated. They are films that poke fun at the consumerist/materialist nature of the 80s. As such, they have become important time capsules to better understand that era. Its also a good woman empowerment role because Sybil Danning dominates all the men in the film and totally kicks ass. We want to thank Orion studios for having created this wonderful piece of trash which has endearing value to us. Danning proceeds to tear off her outfit and reveal her breasts 17 times during the end credits.

The director, Philippe Mora, is a GROIN Hall of Famer for such films as “The Return of Captain Invincible,” “The Beast Within,” “A Breed Apart,” and the Whitley Strieber biopic “Communion” with Christopher Walken. He says in the commentary that while he used to hate the film with a passion, now he loves it.  Star Reb Brown played Captain America on TV in the 1970’s, with Christopher Lee as the villain, and was Yor in “Yor, The Hunter from the Future.”  Annie McEnroe, the female lead, was in Oliver Stone’s “The Hand” with Michael Caine.  This film is funnier than “Exorcist II” and way sexier than “An American Werewolf in Paris.”  If you want a “howling” bad movie good time, don’t miss this winner!

Thoughts on Close Encounters

They have for some reason rereleased the Steven Spielberg classic Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind theatrically. It is competing against such other classics as Nut Job 2. Rather than doing a traditional review, I am going to bring up some questions which came to mind while watching this on the big screen 40 years after the original release.

  1. The first thing which is striking about this film by today’s standards is the extent to which Spielberg trashes the middle class traditional family. The husband is being accosted by his spoiled brat kids, who will not compromise with him regarding family outings and such. The kids and wife are always bugging and nagging him about little things and don’t allow Dreyfuss to realize his full potential as a human being.
  2. The husband leaves the wife (Terri Garr) for Melina Dillon, whose child he saves. He does this to feel like a man and to be a hero. Does Spielberg feel that men should leave their wives in pursuit of adventure and for a higher purpose? The way Dreyfuss leaves with the aliens is not unlike how Jesus’s Apostles were called upon and left everything behind, including their wives and children.
  3. Which brings us to the next point, why was Dreyfuss chosen by the aliens as the sole human to be allowed entry to the spacecraft? The aliens swarm around him in with his arms extended wide (in a messianic fashion). Is Spielberg saying that Dreyfuss becomes the messiah as the aliens decided to share advanced technology or thought with him. Am thinking this has to do something with the telekinesis he has in terms of having been sent the idea to meet the aliens at Devil’s Canyon. Perhaps telekinesis would allow the aliens to speed up the communication with humans to a great extent.
  4. An interesting side-note is that the only other character the aliens choose to interact with in the film is the French scientist played by Trauffaut, a great French director. He does the hand signs that correlate to the notes. Why did the aliens choose him to speak to? Because of his intellectual curiosity??
  5. At the press conference the older cowboy dude discredits the UFO siting by bringing up his Bigfoot experience. Was this guy a nut, genuine, or a government spook who was planted at the news conference in order to discredit the eyewitnesses? Does Spielberg believe in Bigfoot? Poltergeist, A.I., and Close Encounters were the only screenplays he actually wrote by the way. So he was into far out stuff.
  6. The cow mutilations in the film. What’s up with that? The one dude with the glasses does get gassed by the black helicopter. However, the other people take their masks off when they are by the military. Were the cows gassed or precision slayed like in real life? Was the government testing the cows for radiation?
  7. Also , the aliens in the film do have the tall skinny ones, and then the short stubby ones , like in Whitley Strieber’s Communion. Does Spielberg believe this is what aliens really look like and that aliens exist?
  8. Spielberg has been quoted as saying that NASA originally sent him a 20 page letter telling him to not make the film. That making this film would be too dangerous for the general public. What’s up with that???

St. Ives: A Bronson Classic

Whenever you’re looking for quick action fix, you can’t do any better than a 1970’s or a 1980’s Charles Bronson film, but for different reasons. The 1970’s films like “Death Wish,” “The Mechanic,” and “Hard Times” are genuine classics, whereas the 1980’s films like “Death Wish 2,” “Death Wish 3” and “Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects” are so-bad-they’re-good. “St. Ives,” a 1976 film I just watched, falls into the former category. It has a “Chinatown” film noir feeling that I really like, and the music is appropriate for the time.

The cast includes John Houseman, Jacqueline Bisset, Maximallian Schell, and also Jeff Goldblum and Robert Englund as hoods. Bronson plays Raymond St. Ives, a crime reporter and ex-policeman who is hired by the nefarious John Houseman to retrieve five stolen ledgers. Many deaths ensue, and Bronson ends up spear-heading a robbery to get revenge for a job gone wrong. My favorite scene in the movie is the first, in which Bronson is being confronted and accused at gunpoint, which throws us into the narrative right away because we want to know why he’s in trouble. This film is classic 1970’s cinema because it combines action, conspiracy, and a detective story. The director, J. Lee Thompson, made “Cape Fear” and “The Guns of Navarone,” as well as 8 other Charles Bronson films. This is probably the best one. If you’re looking for a classic 1970’s Charles Bronson experience look no further than “St. Ives”!

Instant Justice = Instant Fun

Ready for an hilarious bad action movie experience? Check out “Instant Justice” starring Michael Pare and Tommy Kiitaen. Neither of these actors need a huge introduction because Pare starred in “Eddie and the Cruisers,” “Streets of Fire,” “The Philadelphia Experiment,” and “Bad Moon,” while Kitaen was in “Bachelor Party” and “Witchboard.” Pare plays a Marine named Younglood (shades of the Rob Lowe classic from around the same time) whose sister is killed as part of a modeling/prostitution scam run by drug dealers.

Pare infiltrates the criminal underworld in the movie and will stop at nothing to avenge his sister’s death. Tawny Kitaen plays the love interest and potential victim, who apparently showers fully clothed and wants to run off with Youngblood if he’ll stop thinking about vengeance. All of this involves all little gratuitous nudity (not Tawny), drug use, car chases, shootouts, and bad acting. Pare is a poor man’s Stallone, but he has his moments, Tawny is hot with priceless bad ’80’s hair, but she’s not a great actress. The director used a fake name and was never heard from again. This film is definitely so-bad-it’s-good.If you enjoy bad ’80’s action, be sure to get “Instant Justice” from 1986 on VHS!

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!

Cherry 2000 Is the Future

One of the best films about androids is one that flew in under the radar, 1987’s “Cherry 2000.” This unheralded gem is about a man (David Andrews) who loves his devoted android girlfriend, a Cherry 2000 (played by the stunning Pamela Gidley). When she is accidentally destroyed due to exposure to water, he will stop at nothing to seek out another one. The newer models of droids, you see, are inferior, and sex between humans is a litigious mess (as Larry Fishburne shows us in a cameo as a lawyer). He ends up having to cross a desert wasteland to find one, with the help of sexy tracker-bounty hunter Melanie Griffith, and doing battle with such desert vagrants as GROIN Hall of Famers Tim Thomerson and Brion James. Will he find a Cherry 2000? Will he get it on with Melanie Griffith? Tune in and find out!

This film has a lot of things going for it. First of all, the director, Steve DeJarnett, is a visionary who co-wrote “Strange Brew” and wrote and directed the 1989 Anthony Edwards classic “Miracle Mile.” Secondly, the score by Basil Poledouris ranks as one of his best. Thirdly, there is a ton of action and some PG-13 sex. Fourth, Pamela Gidley and Melanie Griffith are very sexy and deliver good performances. Lastly, the plot seems to genuinely reflect the way things are going in the future. This film, unbelievably, went straight-to-VHS but quickly acquired a cult following when HBO showed it 24-7. It made a big impact on this reviewer as a child, and I like it even more today. Perhaps a remake is in order. In the meantime, I recommend you pick this flick up on DVD or Blu-ray, because it’s a great one!

Mr. No Legs Wrecks House

Tired of lame Hollywood action films? How about “feel-good” Hollywood films about disability? If you said yes to either of these questions, I’ve got a movie with you. “The Amazing Mr. No Legs,” aka “Mr. No Legs,” is a very low-budget but nevertheless satisfying film about a gritty, tough double-amputee crime boss who knows martial arts and gives the cops fits. Such actors as Richard Jaeckel and John Agar are helpless against our villain, played by Ron Slinker. Basically, the film is a showcase to show that a disabled guy can be just as badass as Bruce Lee.

In this film the star actually was a bi-amputee. That doesn’t stop him from doing flying jump kicks in slow motion from his wheelchair. The star takes the role seriously and seems to have tried to develop an actual martial arts fighting system which a bi-amputee can utilize. It is mostly based off of forearm strikes and blocks, while making Bruce Lee ‘waaa!’ type sounds. The lead is an inspiration to people everywhere, that there is never any excuse for not kicking complete ass! Sure, this guy could have stayed homed collecting disability. That would be way too easy though. Instead, our hero becomes a hit man for the mob. Even that is not a tough enough assignment for him. So he takes on the mob directly.

The production values are poverty row but it doesn’t matter. Quentin Tarantino needs to remake this film as soon as possible. Both the film and Ron Slinker are headed straight for the GROIN hall of fame, and this hard-to-find film is a must-watch. Go, Mr. No Legs, go!