Tagged: 1990

VHS Verdict: ‘Saga of the Phoenix’ Brings the Monsters & 80’s Mayhem!!

I finally got a round to checking out 1989’s ‘Saga of the Phoenix’, the wildly entertaining sequel to ‘The Peacock King’ from cult classic Hong Kong director Lam Ngai Kai (Riki-Oh). If you’re a fan of ‘Riki-Oh’ I highly recommend checking out the director’s other work and while ‘Saga of the Phoenix’ isn’t as shockingly violent, it’s easily just as wild and crazy as anything he’s ever done.  In the sequel we follow once again, the exploits of the two magical monks Lucky Fruit and Peacock but more so this time the “Hell Virgin” Ashura who in the last movie caused some major problems, almost destroying mankind as we know it while under the enchantment of the devil. Ashura though still loves the mortal world and eventually is granted permission to live there for 7 days, only if she makes a promise to stay out of any mischief that might interfere with the human world. She gladly accepts and quickly hunts down a weird gremlin creature named “Genie” when arriving on Earth. Peacock, Lucky Fruit and 3 bad ass nuns are also then sent down to chaperone her visit, but of course the wicked “Hell Concubine” has other plans, to send her evil minions there as well to try and corrupt her once again. 

Though I’ve heard many seem to think this one is more “kid friendly”, probably because the gremlin character “Genie”is focused on quite a bit. Though we follow Ashura and him running around Hong Kong in the 80’s having fun (which I totally dug), it’s still got plenty of downright bizarre scenarios to behold that I think places it in a league all of it’s own and quite a worthy sequel. There’s also the inclusion of a brother and sister human duo that befriend the main characters and the brother just happens to be a madcap inventor of an inter dimensional time machine. Go figure! There’s a few hints of romance and of course the three nun protectors all decide to go for a dip in the human’s swimming pool after their outfits get shredded in battle, donning swimsuits for the first time in their rather “sheltered” life. There’s also some pretty perplexing plot choices surrounding the character of Genie that just kind of have to be seen to be believed. The character which is a mix of puppet and stop-motion animation has got plenty to do here and is given more than his fair share of moments to shine and even scare.

Sure there’s a lot going on here in a movie with an admittedly flimsy plot, the good thing is that the majority of it all is one helluva good time. Bleeding sweet 80’s fashion & locations, outrageous characters, wild sets, puppets, stop motion animation, giant monsters and plenty of neon lasers to behold, it’s hard not to at least be enamored by all of the eye candy. There’s also a splash of martial arts action thrown in the mix to keep the action going at a steady pace from Lucky Fruit and Peacock. Sure there’s lot’s of logic issues with the plot & the dialogue (translations likely) can be a bit incoherent at times but there’s more than enough outrageous charm throughout to easily satisfy fans of directors like Steven Speilberg, Sam Raimi & Peter Jackson’s 80’s and early 90’s work.

If you’re a fan of weird 80’s fantasy, action & horror you definitely need track down The Peacock King & The Saga of the Phoenix.  It’s jam packed with all the things I love so much about that era of film making. Lam Ngai Kai (aka Ngai Choi Lam) is easily the best cult director out of Hong Kong for the time, it’s a shame he completely disappeared from film making after 1992. Perhaps he decided his body work couldn’t be topped? Thankfully he’s left behind a truly unique legacy of outrageous films that have yet to be explored by a huge portion of American cinemaniacs.  

VHS Verdict: 1990’s Undead Frat Boys & Slimy Little Puppet Devils!!

I had a little double feature “party by myself” last night consisting of me, a bottle of wine, my cat, some weed and two horror flicks from the late early 90s. Always in hopes of discovering a lost and forgotten gem! This can result in one helluva fun evening alone or an early night drifting off on the couch to some boring cinematic trash. Luckily for the most part it was the first. I started my first glass of wine off with a movie from 1990 called ‘Pledge Night’.

I’ve been wanting to check this one forever, mostly because I’d heard that Joey Belladonna from legendary thrash metal band ‘Anthrax’ had a role as the supernatural slasher ‘Acid Sid’ and his band even provided the film’s soundtrack. Unfortunately the measly minute and a half he actually appears and the bad ass metal soundtrack his band drummed up doesn’t make this a lost 80s horror gem. Pledge Night instead spends most of it’s run time being a dumb frat boy comedy. Basically putting it’s characters through ‘Hell Week’ in a series of gross out initiations for the first hour. By the time the horror aspect kicks in it’s a bit too late in the game and “Acid Sid”, the evil supernatural hippie frat boy fails to deliver the scares despite being a pretty cool looking villain. Instead he cracks lame one liners after each of his kills and we come to find Joey Belladonna doesn’t even actually play the character in his hideous slasher form but rather in a short flashback. There’s a few neat gore scenes sprinkled amidst the potty humor but overall Pledge Night fails to deliver much of anything entertaining to the table. It merely left me wondering what connection Anthrax actually had to this damn movie? If this’d been the second feature I’d have probably tapped out early on the couch for some zzz’s.

 

 

Next up was a 1993 horror flick called ‘Little Devils: The Birth’ from the director of 80’s cult film ‘Rawhead Rex’, starring Marc Price who played ‘Skippy” on ‘Family Ties’ and also starred in the awesome ‘Trick R’ Treat’.

Luckily this one had a better cast & some pretty likable characters to at least keep me invested in the ridiculous plot. It basically plays out as a second rate ‘Ghoulies’ knock off but fortunately had enough charm to justify staying up well past midnight to polish off the rest of the bottle of wine. We follow Price’s character,a struggling writer who rents a room from his crazy sex-obsessed older landlady and shares the house with his weird ass neighbor who’s up all night creating demon dolls from some glowing sludge from the local mausoleum. He also meets a beautiful exotic dancer and the two of them fall “madly” in love while simultaneously discovering that evil “little devils” are running rampant, killing people around his rental unit. This by no means is a good movie, it appears to have been shot on video, the special effects are pretty atrocious & it’s run time is about 20 minutes too long.

All that being said it somehow managed to keep me entertained for it’s entire damn duration. The comedy works here quite well and there’s definitely some decent chemistry amongst it’s cast. The little devil’s themselves are nothing to write home about and are probably the least exciting thing about this movie. They for some reason run around killing people with miniature flame throwers and in comparison make the puppets in the ‘Ghoulies’ look like academy award winning works of special fx wizardry. However despite it’s flaws this ‘Little Devils: The Birth’ had enough going for it to recommend for at least one solid viewing. At the end of the day Marc Price makes it worth an hour and forty minutes of any fan a trashy cinema’s time.

Comic Cover of the Week: Vintage TMNT!!

I’ve got this new found love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from 1990 since watching it for the first time in decades! It was sooo much darker in tone than I recalled. When I saw it back in the day I was a fan of the original comic books, my older brother had a bunch of them in the 80’s along with other cool weird indie comics like ‘Radioactive Black Hamsters’ and ‘Cerebus’ so the movie at the time felt purely like kid stuff. The original comics had an even darker, bloodier and grittier tone to them something I think would be quite interesting to see brought to the big screen some day. Well one of the old TMNT covers crossed my mind from back in the day, issue #10 had bad ass one the folded, front and back. This totally tubular classic was drawn by Peter Laird way back in 1987, an era when they kicked a lot more ass and all wore the same color head bands. One of my favorite vintage Turtles comic covers for sure!

The Next ‘Ninja Turtles’ Movie Should Be a Sequel to the 1990 Classic!!

Ok so here’s an idea for the next “live action” ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ movie that’s reportedly on the horizon. First, how about making it actually LIVE ACTION?! Cuz’ after re-watching the two classic 1990’s TMNT movies it’s come crystal clear what the direction this franchise needs to take for it’s planned “reboot”. The next movie, like the recent sequels to Halloween & Terminator, needs to be a DIRECT sequel to the 1990 classic! Ignoring everything but the first movie (maybe the second). It’d be the perfect move to reinvigorate the cinematic franchise, bring back those classic Turtles from that movie, bring back the suits, bring back Judith Hoag (who’s maybe somehow cuter today than she was back then) as April O’Neil and even Elias Koteas as Casey Jones!

It’s time to go back to those original characters, another cheap revamped CGI version of these classic characters is NOT what people want. Imagine the excitement of making a sequel to the OG TMNT, with the Jim Henson studio working on a new version of the Turtles suits, that look very similar to the classic designs but using the more advanced animatronics of today. Imagine a modern Turtles movie that actually utilizes real choreography & real martial arts, a concept like that is UNHEARD of in Hollywood blockbusters and people would be blown away to see what could be done today with the right talent behind it. You could even get the original voices of the Turtles back, yeah get Corey Feldman too to put the icing on the cake. 

The plot could be an awesome “fish out of water” tale as well, here’s a quick idea, the original Turtles & their Master Splinter 30 years ago ventured further below the surface, far beneath the sewers of New York, where they disappeared and were never heard from again and for reasons unknown to the few who actually knew of their existence. There they’d, embarked on a dangerous mission and in result of it became trapped in some sort of suspended animation, kinda like the mosquito in the tree sap from Jurassic Park. Whatever you need to do to explain where and why they’ve been missing….Meanwhile April O’neil & Casey Jones (who remain friends or maybe even lovers?) have moved on with their lives and almost question whether their incredible experience with the Turtles & Master Splinter back in 1990 ever really happened at all. Something thaws the Turtles out of their extended slumber and they soon make their way back to the surface, finding a much different world 30 years later, eventually reunite with their two old friends to once again & face a new threat to the city. Who knows maybe April & Casey even have a kid now, Casey Jones Jr, boy or girl who take up his crime fighting mantle?!

The classic 1990 Turtles would have a blast trying to fit in to modern times and of course the original April & Casey reuniting with them would be heartfelt cinematic gold. I’m certain this formula, with a more ironed out plot would be a HUGE hit and could re-start the Turtles franchise in a bold, nostalgic and exciting way. They need to give the fans something special this time around. The TMNT formula was never broken and the last thing people want is the Michael Bay era to rear it’s head. There’s a cinematic hit ripe for the picking and Hollywood needs to get creative and jump on it!! 

The ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Movie Reboot Needs to Go Old School!

I’ve been hearing lately that the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ movie franchise is going to again be rebooted after the shit show of the Michael Bay era of the reptilian heroes in a half shell. So it sparked me to revisit the original 1990 movie the other night which I hadn’t seen in probably 20 years or so. I was amazed at how well that movie has aged, seeing it in theaters back in the day I’d enjoyed it but kind of dismissed it as “kid stuff” at the time as my older brother in the 1980’s collected the original indie comic series and I’d had the chance to read them as a kid. If you’re aware of the TMNT early beginnings you’ll remember that it started off as a dark, gritty & violent comic series. I was blown away back then at the sheer oddity of the characters and the equally bizarre story lines of the originals. When I decided to revisit the 1990 TMNT film I’d forgotten just how dark that original movie actually is, especially considering today’s climate of safe moviemaking. The movie is almost closer to an R-rating than it’s original rating of PG. There’s kids smoking & drinking alcohol, robbing people, the foot beating up April O’neil, Raphael beaten into a near coma by The Foot and a badly beaten and bloodied up Splinter strung to a fence. It’s actually a pretty dark and gritty movie with the addition of the comedic surfer dude Turtles to lighten things up.

So currently we’ve got these new “TMNT” flicks, a big bloated Michael Bay produced, soul-less mess of CGI, uninspired storytelling and poor character development. The current franchise just hasn’t been connecting with fans the way they’d hoped, mainly with the amount of money that the films have made. Now they’ve got plans for a brand new reboot and it’s never been more clear just what this franchise needs to do: go old school. 

So first off let’s address the obvious big issue, imo the latest Michael Bay era CGI Turtles look terrible. They’re massive 8 foot tall green hulking humanoid turtles with creepy ass faces and not in a good way. Compare the newest incarnations with the very original designs. They couldn’t be more opposite. Even the Turtles of the 1990 movie do essentially look pretty much like what you’d hope for, sure they’ve been made much cuter but they stay fairly true to the original vision. So let’s face the facts, the original designs of the 80’s weren’t broken so why try and modernize them by making them the opposite of what they were intended to look like? Bring back the smaller classic versions of these characters, go simpler with their general design. It’s a lot easier to digest and most definitely not rocket science folks. 

Next I’d say you could go the similar route that many movies are taking by making the next movie a direct sequel to the original or at least setting the movie in the late 80s’ or early 90’s, it’s clear people love that era of film today (Stranger Things, IT anyone?). That being said bring back the suits!! Put real actors in real costumes with modern day animatronics the Turtles could look absoluterly mind blowing. The 1990 movie Turtles STILL look great and that was with a micro budget of 13.5 million dollars for the whole damn film. What they could do now would be incredible, we all want to believe that the TMNT are actually living breathing creatures and the latest movies sadly look like fakey cgi rendered cartoon characters inserted into the “real world”.

Lets get real here and let’s keep the budget low, we don’t need a TMNT movie to be on the scale of an Avengers film, we need a smaller more personal, more heartfelt movie with high stakes like the original. Next let’s get some real martial arts, real choreography and some real stunts again. One thing that blew me away revisting the 1990 movie was the actual real on screen martial arts that were displayed, it was pretty amazing actually and I’d love to see something in that vein in a brand new Turtles movie. It’d be like nothing out there in the mainstream that’s for sure. Lastly I’d love to see a darker more serious storyline, of course an “R-rated Turtles” movie would be my first choice, one that evokes the original comics would be absolutely insane. However, I know that’ll never happen so I think at the very least going as dark as the original movie would be more than good enough. Let’s see the Turtles roaming the city streets at night, jumping from rooftop to rooftop and roaming the dank sewers. Bring on the amazing real life set pieces, puppets and crazy creatures once again, I think fans would go bonkers for a throwback style TMNT. However I doubt Hollywood has the courage to try something as unique and inspired as the original movie. What do you think?!  

VHS Verdict: 1987’s Aussie Slasher ‘Dangerous Game’ is a Lost Gem!

Ever wonder what the other movies the guy who directed ‘Predator 2’ & ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street: 5’ did? No?! Well I found a great little movie from Jamaican born British director Stephen Hopkins from 1987 called ‘Dangerous Game’ that I had the pleasure of watching this New Years Eve. Something even better was that throughout the movie you could see it was clearly Christmas time, making this one a neat-o flick to watch during the holiday season as well. The premise is simple, a group of rowdy college kids are targeted by a full on corrupt, mentally unhinged cop one day near their campus. Things escalate when later the same cop follows them in what ends up a high speed chase and ends up losing his job after crashing his police motorcycle near the damn police station! This sends the crazy cop into a ballistic rage and when the college kids sneak into a huge department store to spend he night (cuz that’s what people did in the 80’s!) naturally he follows them in and hunts them all down!

This one’s a true pleasure to watch, it’s got some great teenage characters, one who’s like the Aussie version of Duckie from Pretty in Pink. These aren’t really your typical throw away annoying teens, which is always good for a movie like this when you’ve got a deranged killer on the prowl. It sucks to not give a shit if characters bite the dust cuz they’re annoying or have no personality or sometimes when you want the slasher to actually catch his prey! It does a damn fine job keeping you invested in the creepy ass game of cat and mouse that’s going on onscreen. It’s also got a great location going for it, the giant dark department store is a maze of 80’s awesomeness, with tons of Christmas trees, blinking x-mas lights and Christmas decorations scattered about. There’s also some super rad scenes up on the rooftops that are pretty stunning, the cinematographer does a great job all over in this film. The killer cop is played wonderfully by Steven Grives as he’s quite convincing as an unhinged force to be reckoned with. The movie’s got sweet action sequences as well going for it, some I gotta say, over the top in a great way, like a motorcycle chase inside the department store is total crowd pleaser for sure.

This one’s a great ozploitation 80’s flick that definitely deserves to be on more people’s radar. It’s a damn near perfect horror hybrid action movie that’s a ton of fun for people who’re fans of the 1980’s slasher genre. Though there’s not a ton of gore, there’s more than enough nail biting horror and suspense going on, it’s the more superior version of a similar American cult classic slasher flick ‘Hide and Go Shriek’ that came out a year later. Track this one down if you’re looking for something to add to next years holiday horror play list or just happen to love the 1980’s as much as I do!

VHS Verdict: 1990’s ‘Hard To Die’ Lingerie Machine Gun Battles!

Here’s one of the most ridiculously excellent movies I’ve seen in a looooong time! The year 1990 brought us Jim “Chopping Mall” Wynorski’s high rise slasher flick Hard To Die. I was lucky enough to run into a copy of this one while out combing the thrift stores and came to find it’s actually a pretty rare little movie to discover in the wild on VHS. I was pretty sure what to expect from the box art, it was tagged as the female version of “Die Hard” but the movie is actually a sequel to ‘Sorority House Massacre 2’ and features that movies main “antagonist” (same actor) as well as one of the women from said sorority in the previous flick. It’s known also as “Sorority House Massacre 3” and “Tower of Terror” but the most perplexing thing is that it uses actual flashback scenes to explain it’s ridiculous “plot” from ‘Slumber Party Massacre’ rather than ‘Sorority House Massacre’ or even ‘Sorority House Massacre 2’. I know crazy huh? What gives?! I guess it had something to do with the director showing the movie to Roger Corman and him loving it so much that he insisted on utilizing scenes from ‘Slumber Party Massacre’, a movie he’d produced, to be tied to these fantastic Sorority House sequels. 

Anyway!! I digress, ‘Hard to Die’ is a lot more fun & frantic than I’d expected, it features a group of lingerie shop employee babes who’re going in to work the graveyard shift, doing inventory in a mysterious high rise. They run into the creepy dude ‘Orville Ketchum’ from ‘Sorority House Massacre 2’ who’s now the after hours janitor at the building and he tells them all the freaky story from ‘Slumber Party Massacre’. The ladies of course are totally creeped out by the guy but then to make matters even worse someone delivers a strange package that contains a bizarre ancient box, of course they open that shit up and it sets forth an evil spirit (done via animated hand drawn cells which I love) that rushes out into the halls of the high rise.

Soon a sadistic killer begins picking people off one by one. About that time as well is when a small fire triggers the sprinkler system and the hot babes “regular” clothes (which are pretty damn skimpy as it is) get all wet. What to do about that you may ask? Well…get changed into the brand new line of dry lingerie they’re taking inventory on of course! But wait, you can’t do that unless you take a long hot shower right?! So yeah all the women take their turns in the soapy shower before spending the rest of the movie running away from an evil killer in lingerie and high heels.

I don’t wanna spoil that much more of this one, but there’s so much idiotic dialogue & downright moronic decisions made to enjoy here that you’ll wanna have plenty of booze and your best friends around to witness the spectacle of it all. There’s also a bit of a “shocking” twist ending as well and some unforgettable truly over the top action sequences to bath in. Like the title of this post says these ladies take no shit especially when they come across a collection of machine guns in the third act. Yeah lots of running around like Bruce Willis shooting shit up while in lingerie & high heels. This one is nonstop lunacy, people these days try and fail miserably to replicate movies like this, track this one down if you’re looking for a truly unique party flick-it delivers the damn goods and then some!!