Crazy 80s Aussie Rock Opera: SONS OF STEEL!
I’ve been stating lately here that I’m just not a big fan of movie musicals. BUT perhaps the type of musicals I’ve seen my entire life just don’t bring the fucking goods to the dance floor! I recently viewed 1988’s Australian musical oddity ‘Sons of Steel’ at a double feature movie night & paired it up with ‘The Legend of the Stardust Brothers’ from 1985! It was a gloriously cheezy musical combo!
If you were to ask me to really explain to you the plot of Sons of Steel I’d have a big problem trying to do so. It’s basically a “Dee Snyder” (Twisted Sister) look-a-like who sings a buttload of cock rock songs and also travels into the future or something where he meets some weird barbarians to try to try to stop an evil genius with a “mini-me” sidekick from destroying the planet?! I guess that’s the gist, but who really gives a damn, it’s one giant awesome mess of a rock opera with a TON of foggy, neon atmosphere, bizarre characters, a meandering wild plot, jam packed with terribly excellent heavy metal songs!
If you’re looking for a tubular 80s party movie this is definitely a BANGER! It’s sure to get the juices with it’s unusual plot & wild fashion, however, this like many other Aussie genre flicks of this era (Razorback, Fortress, Road Games, The Quest) have some truly stunning cinematography and rich atmosphere that amplify the onscreen antics to eleven. Simply said as dumb (and fun) as it’s story is, this movie looks far more fantastic that it has any right to. Easily one of the aspects here that make this such enjoyable viewing aside from the leather clad wardrobe, roaring motorcycles and two tone proto punk hairdos soaked in loads hairspray.
It’s leading musclebound man, Rob Hartley, (who portrays Black Alice) is a real joy to watch. He overacts and grunts his way through most of the strange dialogue as well as belts out some mindnumbing musical numbers. Apparently trying to save the world from a nuclear holocaust, he’s not quite the person you want to put the fate of the planet in the hands of. That being said Black Alice gets into some good trouble and there’s some pretty impressive action scenes to chomp into as well. I was excited to check out director Gary Keady’s filmography, however Sons of Steel remains his sole, one and only contribution! What a pedigree! Lucky for us all this one received received a snazzy fancy new blue ray release last year from Future Video-if you wanna ROCK check this shit out!
1980s Cine-MAGIC From Japan: The STARDUST BROTHERS!
I’m willing to bet you’re just like me and never heard of this near “forgotten ’til now” 80s gem from Japan: The Legend of The Stardust Brothers! This incredible movie from 1985 is most definitely one of the most unique oddities I’ve stumbled upon in quite sometime. An incredibly ambitious musical gem, packed with practical effects and eighties fashion that will likely knock your neon socks right off!
It tells the tale of two struggling rival musicians: one a rowdy punk rocker and the other an egotistical wanna be popstar who meet a mysterious man while sharing the same bill at a seedy night club. He offers them the contract of a lifetime, claiming that within one week, if they follow all the rules, the two of them will be rocketed to full blown pop super stardom. That is as long as they join forces, from that point on become The Stardust Brothers and tell the world they are indeed real bonafide brothers.
Now admittedly I’m not a real big fan of musicals, there’s only a few that I really love (Popeye, The Wizard of Oz & Little Shop of Horrors immediately come to mind). However this one has now EASILY made the list as a must watch and it’s something I’ll be watching over and over again. Essentially it’s the wildly unpredictable story of the bizarre rise and fall of this pop duo. It’s firmly glued together with a series of incredible little musical vignettes that are a visual and sonic feast.
A sweet mixture of punk rock, powerpop & some cool new wave numbers, connecting a series of incredibly ambitious music videos within one insane narrative. There are touches of the supernatural as well as a ton of amazing special effects, stop motion & practical monster effects that really impress, especially if your a fan of the 80s. It’s also filled to the brim with some of the best Japanese fashion of the era to go along with the catchy songs. As I write this, their theme song is still stuck firmly in my brain. I’d love to get my hands on some vinyl of the soundtrack. Aside from the cool music, luckily it’s got a pretty unique story that blends elements of scifi, horror and even a bit of romance. It’s unexpected twists and turns deliver a frenetic, action packed finale that will leave you pondering the events of the entire film. Its all done with a heroic dose of heart too.
Just how far do you really go to live the life of a superstar without any of the hard work required to get to the top? The Stardust Bros go the distance and the musical journey is definitely a wacky one worth taking. Apparently director Makoto Tezuka tried to catch lightning in a bottle a few years ago by producing a direct sequel, but after doing a little poking around it doesn’t seem like he was quite to able to recreate the neon electromagnetic magic of the first.
In the meantime I highly recommend picking this one up on a newly released blu ray from SRS Cinema. The Legend of the Stardust Brothers is packed with pure charisma, tons of vibrant youthful energy and shows you exactly how inventive some directors in the 1980s were in Japan with a limited budget! Don’t sleep on this one!
Movie Review: Classical Thai Horror of ‘The Maestro: Symphony of Terror’!
I’m a big fan of the 1989 cult horror flick ‘The Laughing Dead’, If you’ve never heard of it and are a1980’s gore horror fiend, well I’ve a feeling that it’s gonna be your new favorite “lost” 80s gem. Rumor has it that it just might be getting a fancy blu ray release?! I hope that’s true! Well it’s director/cult horror novelist/composer extraordinaire S.P. Somtow is back after a long hiatus starring in and writing the latest creepy outing all the way from Thailand with ‘The Maestro: Symphony of Terror’.
The tale of a musical genius haunted by his past and pushed into a state of pure insanity, The Maestro tells the story of a mentally unstable man named Arun (S.P. Somtow), a dedicated composer who attempted a run for fame in Europe but ultimately finds himself deeply depressed, back in Thailand teaching rich kids music at a local shopping mall. Behind the scenes though, he’s been secretly planning a wildly dark magnum opus called ‘The Tongues of Angels’, his ultimate goal: premiering it to the entire world on a livestream during the Covid 19 pandemic. His wildly demented ambition however may induce a lot more than musical madness but also death to those who threaten his journey.
So yeah I’ve been quite excited to check this out, but also had hoped Somtow would be at the mantle as director on the project. I really enjoyed his campy approach on ‘The Laughing Dead’ and the comedic elements incorporated with the heavy effects work of legend John Carl Buechler made it a total blast. That all being said ‘The Maestro’ does definitely deliver some of Somtow’s signature tones, but perhaps with a more artistic approach. Director Paul Spurrier does a decent job behind the camera, giving the movie at times a more slick approach then what I’d ultimately prefered. It combines lighter elements of horror with tense hypnotic dark classical music but also has a few more deeply disturbing psychological aspects at hand here as well that at times made me a bit uncomfortable. The lush locales of Thailand combined with Somtow’s intensely creepy musical compositions sonically assault in a truly unique way.
To be quite honest, his beautifully dark score is probably the biggest star of the entire movie. I’d been expecting something quite a bit different, with more old school fx leaning in on much more on the horror side of things. Instead this one plays out more a psychological thriller and is the first movie I’ve seen that takes place actually during the Covid 19 era. We finally see people on screen irritated with and fussing with their masks as well as trying to navigate life through these current bizarre times. But that doesn’t stop the shamed Maestro from seeking out his pawns, a crew of young musicians gathered from his mall class and the even from the streets.
Most of the madness takes place at a stunningly creepy decrepit mansion In the countryside where the symphony of horror begins to take shape. The Maestro has one thing on his mind: his music and will let nothing get in his way of composing the ultimate dark symphony.
This one’s definitely worth a watch, it’s got a great cast of young actors and Somtow shines again as the villain in a similar way he did back in ‘The Laughing Dead’.
I’m glad that S.P. has again returned to his horror roots, overall I think this is a pretty solid return to form. Going forward I’d like to encourage him to get back behind the camera again, I think he’s got the chops that the people thirst for today with the 80s cult camp fanatics. If anything ‘The Maestro: Symphony of Terror’ must be watched for it’s incredible musical finale, which blew me away. I’ll be hunting down the soundtrack for sure!!
VHS Verdict: The Deadly Ballads of 1989’s ‘EXECUTIONER: The Musical’!!
Last nite I picked up quite an interesting new VHS release at Portland Oregon’s Tanker Tape Swap, a great event where you can have drinks a’ plenty while doing some serious rare retro movie shopping! Black Wideo, a new Portland based VHS label was there with their first release, the 1989 oddball, no budget, shot on video, long lost horror comedy ‘Executioner: The Musical’.
One thing I’ve always adored is the amazing cover art from vhs tapes of the 80’s and ‘Executioner: The Musical’ surely delivers that tradition with it’s stunning cover, bbq’d burgers and grilled eyeballs anyone? If I didn’t know better I’d have assumed this tape was released in the 80’s and someone just unearthed a big box of deadstock vhs. Anyway this morning before work I popped this sucker into my vcr (the movie’s only 25 minutes long and perfect for breakfast viewing) and now I’ve got it’s theme song stuck firmly in my brain still, hours later. What we’ve got here is a charming little slice of lost 80’s video nostalgia. The simple plot for this: there’s a weird singing hooded executioner dude on the loose and his presence in the city’s got the suburban teens undie’s in a total bundle. It’s NOT safe anymore to walk the streets and even worse the teenagers aren’t able to ‘party hardy’ like they used to. It seems the killer’s favorite time to strike, when a ‘killer’ party is going down!
One of the my favorite parts of this one is the bad boy greaser teen character, who’s down right P.O.’d that he can’t party. I mean he’s reeeeally upset about it, so damn much so that he leads the rest of his pals (who’re a bit like rejects from a ‘Breakfast Club’ audition) into a full on ridiculously awesome numbskull “pop song” about how bad they wanna throw a damn party, immediately. Even though the music here’s pretty much a guy and his acoustic guitar (with some help from his friends at times), the songs are oddly catchy, albeit 100% idiotic. I mean that in a good way and being that the short film is from the late 80’s you get some sweet nostalgic fashion choices and fully over the top teen stereotypes on display (and for some reason spotting vintage Doritos bags in movies always seem to get me quite excited-YUM!) . Like the rich kid with his boat shoes, no socks, short shorts & English accent, the stoner druggie dude & the classic nerd with the taped glasses are all on display and ready to get sliced up and even “sing” some songs.
‘Executioner: The Musical’ may not be for everyone, but if you dig weird stuff from the 80’s and low budget oddities you’re likely to find something quite endearing about it. For horror fans there’s enough red kool-aid and corn syrupy blood to go around & a syringe to the skull as well! With such a short run time it’s hardly a commitment & it’s the perfect opener for a night of trashy retro horror movies. Check out Black Wideo for a copy, it seems they’ve got plans to release more from the director, Scott Grenke’s archive of lost films! Beware though, the film’s theme song “Friendly Killer” just might get stuck in your head for far longer than you ever thought possible!
VHS Verdict: ‘The Midnight Hour’ is a Full Dose of Sweet 80’s Halloween Nostalgia!
Are you looking for the perfect movie to watch this Halloween that’s got a little bit of everything for everyone? Well I’d highly recommend a little gem from 1985 called ‘The Midnight Hour’. This was originally aired on ABC back in the day as a made for TV movie. That being said it feels much more like a theatrical production, with genuinely spooky sets and some pretty sweet & spooky special fx. Imagine a whole movie with the look and feel of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and I must mention the music here’s also perfectly curated to the Halloween season at hand. One of the best sequences involves The Smiths “How Soon is Now” being the soundtrack to a truly uniquely executed vampire attack, it’s a ton of fun. The premise is nice and simple too, when a gang of teenage Halloween party goers sneak into a local spooky costume shop where they find a strange scroll made of human skin. When opening it and reading it aloud it revives a 300-year-old witch and a horde of ghouls, vampires & werewolves who head off into town to raise some mischeif and do a little holiday partying to boot!
There’s some great casting, we get some totally sweet 80’s personalities, the likes of LeVar Burton, Shari Belafonte, Peter Deluise & Kurtwood Smith among other super recognizable tv stars of the era. The whole thing is just so innocently charming, while still at times hitting some surprisingly darker tones. It’s really got something for everyone here, a bit of genuine horror, teen comedy (with some rather riske’ undertones for a tv movie), nostalic music, even a totally original 80’s song & dance number by Shari Belafonte called “Get Dead” to keep the party going all the way to midnight. There’s even a bit of a teenage love story at play here as well that features a ghostly teenage girl from the 1950’s who’s revived as well by the creepy incantation who roams the streets looking for love.
The Midnight Hour was directed by Jack Bender who went on to direct ‘Child’s Play 3’ (and a few other interesting made for tv movies as well) and it’s clear here he’s already got a penchant for horror. So if you’re looking for something totally nostalgic and a ton of halloween fun without getting too gory or scary, look no further, The Midnight Hour is a great opener for a double feature movie night. A warm up for some real scares of whatever you choose to fully creep out those who dare to stick around!
Santa’s Naughty List: 2018 Christmas Horror Flicks!
Well it’s that time of the year yet again and boy does time sure fly huh?! Yep another damn Christmas is comin’ and of course it’s the prime time to watch a plethora of holiday movies. One genre the “Christmas themed” horror movie, is easily one of my favorites. I’ve gotta say though it’s been a few years since I’ve actually seen anything that truly knocked my socks off ho-ho-holiday horror-wise that is.
2015 brought one of my favorites of all time, “Krampus”, which I’m sure to watch again this year and then just five years earlier another true classic “Rare Exports” dropped. So now it’s nearing the end of 2018, let’s take a quick look at what’s stirring about this year and see if there are any possible gems to watch between now and Christmas time!!
All The Creatures Were Stirring
So I watched this one last night, hoping it was going to become another holiday horror classic, sadly this just wasn’t the case. This Christmas anthology has it’s few moments but overall it’s a largely forgettable yuletide dud. It features six short Christmas themed segments, the best being one called “Dash and Away” which is kinda like a holiday themed short with a sort of Tales From The Crypt “Demon Knight” type of thingy going on. The rest features a lackluster take on a modern day Scrooge, a secret Santa office party going for a Saw type vibe, some pissed off killer reindeer which should have been awesome and the plot of others I’ve already forgotten. Also no sight of snow anywhere within these unspooky tales. If you’re really desperate this isn’t the worst thing you could watch but it’s surely no “Gremlins”. If you’re looking for a Christmas anthology check out ‘A Christmas Horror Story’ from 2015, that ones a much more ambitiously bonkers Holiday horror flick.
Anna and The Apocalypse
Here’s one lots of people are kinda ranting about lately, it’s a Christmas Zombie musical. I’m planning on checking this one out, but honestly I’m not a big fan of musicals and I’ve been steering clear of zombie movies for a while now as the whole craze at this point is just too played out for me these days. But hey I’m gonna give it a try soon regardless, why not?! here’s the synopsis: “A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy little town of Little Haven – at Christmas – forcing Anna and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But they soon discover that no one is safe in this new world, and with civilization falling apart around them, the only people they can truly rely on are each other.”
Yeah well here’s another one that in theory sounds like it might be a pretty sweet holiday horror, but then you watch the trailer and, well….I’ll probably pass. It looks like someone with a low budget was giving it an honest shot but the trailer does little to inspire me to seek this one out for a watch. Here’s the synopsis tho in case you’re feelin’ it with this one: “A group of college students attending a Christmas party at a sorority house that has a sinister past are all stalked by a bloodthirsty killer disguised as Mrs. Claus.’
Nope this isn’t a re-release of the 1989 classic schlock horror movie starring Dan Haggerty. This appears to be some sort of sequel to a movie called “Elf” not the awesome Will Ferrell one either, but another supremely lackluster one from maybe a year ago. Here’s the synopsis: “When a group of friends discover ancient elves locked in a cursed chest, they unknowingly unleash their wrath on the world.” Again, no snow in sight! If you’re going to make a crappy X-mas movie at least get some damn snow! Instead I recommend the Dan Haggerty flick of the same name-that one is awesomely idiotic!
Here’s yet another “killer in Santa costume” horror flick, this time all the way from Norway. To tell you the truth I’m pretty burned out on the whole “killer santa” thing, there’s great movies out there that were made in the 1980’s that do it best. But if you just can’t seem to get enuff of the genre then maybe Christmas Blood will be a must see for you! Here’s the synopsis: ” A murderer gets caught after terrorizing and killing people during Christmas night for past 13 years in Norway. After being in solitary for almost 6 years, psychopath escapes couple days before Christmas night. Police tracks next target of the psychopath to be in small village in the northernmost part of Norway. Group of friends are having reunion in the same village and unexpectedly end up being in part of Santa’s plan.” Hey at least this one takes place somewhere with snow! That being said if you’re looking for in my opinion the BEST killer Santa movie you must track down “Deadly Games” aka “Dial Code Santa” from 1989. It’s a rare french horror film that’s finally getting some attention here in the states this year, a mix of Rambo, Silent Night Deadly Night & Home alone!
I’m actually kinda excited to check out Pooka which is part of Hulu’s anthology series “Into the Dark”, It’s been referred to as Twilight Zone-ish type of horror outing and the whole concept sounds pretty interesting, I’m gonna check this one out for sure this Christmas, here’s the sysnopsis: “A struggling actor gets a holiday season job as a Christmas character in a plush suit to promote the hottest toy of the year, Pooka; he slowly develops two personalities – one when he’s in the suit and one that’s outside it.” It’s concept certainly beats another new “killer in a Santa costume” flick.
So that seems about it this year, are there any missing that I need to see or mention? Let me know!
That 80’s German Star Wars Musical Starring Mark Hamill?!
Ok so here’s an interesting clip! You remember that old Star Wars holiday special that George Lucas wants to pretend never happened? Well here’s another bizarre moment in retro Star Wars history, all the way back in 1980 Hamill made an appearance on German television making a cameo on a musical Star Wars themed variety show, recently Hamill shared the video and commented on it also saying “I remember not wanting to wear a gold jumpsuit like a rejected member of ABBA or if I could memorize dialogue in a foreign language-but thought “Who cares? No one outside of Germany will ever see this!” Thanks to the internet-NOTHING EVER GOES AWAY. Who knew?”
I’ve never seen this before but I’ll say it’s quite a treat for any true fan of the beloved series. In case you missed this one here it is in all of it’s glory!
Toxie Goes Soft On Us…
Remakes, remakes, remakes they just don’t stop! Now word on the street is that they’ll most likely be screwing up the Toxic Avenger!! Geez-what next huh?? Apparently they want to turn the new movies into a family friendly franchise. So really just taking away all that made Toxie cool in the first place! Deadline New York reported that they intend to “turn Toxie into a green superhero for these environmentally conscious times”.
They are making compairisons to “The Mask” and what I’m seeing is a steaming pile of shit! Continue reading