Thursday, August 31, 2017

Swimsuit: The Movie (1997)

aka Swimsuit

How bad is it? Unfunny comedy.
Should you see it? Not really.

Not to be confused with "Swimsuit: The Opera," of course. This meant to mock the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and other things of that ilk, while still parading beautiful women in skimpy beachwear. That should work. Unfortunately the script fails where the similar "Drop Dead Gorgeous," which lambasted beauty pageants, succeeded. Some surprising people are in the cast: Nia Peeples, Jack Wagner and Cyd Charisse, but they aren't given much to do. Characters are stereotypes and most were hired for looks, not acting. The plot has a failing chemical company set up a contest to find the perfect model for a new line of swimwear... hmm, not much more to say about this one.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Swap (1969)

aka Sam's Song

How bad is it? "Frankenfilm" that doesn't use its material well.
Should you see it? It's only for completists of Robert DeNiro or Sybil Danning.

"Robert DeNiro and Sybil Danning in a film together? Count me in!" you might be saying, but DeNiro's footage was shot a decade before Danning's. Jennifer Warren was the main female character in the original film, which was shelved, unfinished, purchased and then forced into new footage of a very different film, involving making porn films, murder, a love quadrangle (the "swap" of the title), blackmail, drugging, kidnapping and the death of almost every character. It's still not interesting. The way the film tries to fill holes in the structure makes it amusing - and quite confusing - by the end.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Survival Earth (1985)

aka Survival 1990

How bad is it? Pretty damn bad.
Should you see it? This is another very hard to find VHS... and, no, it's not worth the search.

This was shot on video, for television, in Canada - the trifecta of sludge. The VHS has no date on it. The film is about a post-apocalyptic world of 1996 (yes, the original title has it wrong!) when there's been a financial collapse and apparently a nuclear problem, because there are mutants, which aren't really explained by finances. The main female character is a mutant, though her only symptoms seem to be a faulty memory and bad acting. Filmed in a local park and one building - perhaps only three walls, and NO roof - it's a story of a couple pursued by people reverting to animalism before being rescued by a warrior that eats their dog. There's a sub-plot about cloning that gets dropped and forgotten. Mostly, there's talk. They have nostalgia for crappy cars. There's a recital of the poetry of Yeats! Nothing happens, slowly.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Superman IV: Quest for Peace (1987)

How bad is it? Ban enough it ended a very profitable series.
Should you see it? If you haven't already, it's watchable, so yes.

The third installment of this series was disappointing, as it tried for humor and didn't work well. This time, there's still some failed humor, but the biggest problem is that the franchise went to Golan-Globus, maker of cheap films and the sudden drop in budget is obvious, with cheesy sets and effects. Christopher Reeve not only stars again, but he also is credited for the story idea - and it's a bad idea: Superman tries to rid the world of nuclear weapons, going against governments. Lux Luthor is back. There's a clone of Superman made from a strand of hair that becomes the evil Nuclear Man. The plot has more holes than a screen door. My eyes glazed over before the end.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sunset Strip (1993)

How bad is it? Forgettable.
Should you see it? No.

John Mayall, the British blues legend, plays a strip club owner who gets killed early in this film. His friend, a photographer, is wrongly accused and pursues the real killers while trying to stay ahead of the police. There are long sequences of him riding his motorcycle through L.A. It's quite dull, despite strippers and trying to exploit the seamy drug and rock&roll scene.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Sunnyside (1979)

How bad is it? One of the worst "let's get the relative of someone famous" films.
Should you see it? Not even if you could find it.

This got a VHS release in the 1980's and I haven't seen a copy of it since, so I'm going by very fuzzy memories here. Joey Travolta tried to capitalize on his brother's sudden success, by acting and by singing, before he started working behind the camera; this was his first film. Travolta plays a guy who wants to leave his run-down New York neighborhood with his girlfriend, but first he has to make the streets safe from the local gang - I don't think the plot made more sense than that. There's a lot of forgettable pop songs, some bad acting and poor dialogue and uninvolving action scenes. Some TV actors, like Eric Lanueville and Talia Balsam, can be spotted in the cast.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sun Bunnies (1976)

aka Beach Bunnies, aka Red Hot and Sexy

How bad is it? One of the dreariest 70's soft-core films, written by Ed Wood, Jr.
Should you see it? Not unless you must see everything Ed Wood was involved with.

This was the last film that Ed Wood Jr. had anything to do with, almost a remake of Stephen Apostoloff's (A.C. Stephen's) own"Snow Bunnies," both of which are in the "Big Box of Wood" box set. A reporter is sent to investigate whether or not a celebrity is gay, and/or possibly planning a sex change. The rest of the film centers around four girls who travel, slowly, to the beach, then form couples with locals, separate, have long dull sex scenes, occasionally reconnect for some bad dialogue to bridge scenes and then leave the beach, slowly. The first few minutes have some bizarre dialogue that only Wood could write; the rest of the limited entertainment value comes from the horrendous, even for 1970's porn, clothing and the minimalist interiors (two rooms, tops) that recycle props from other films by Apostoloff and Wood.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Suffer, Little Children (1983)

How bad is it? Extremely incompetent.
Should you see it? Nearly impossible to find, it's not worth the search.

The copy of this I saw looked to be about a 6th generation copy of a VHS and it was almost impossible to see or hear anything. Several actors speak at once, with a cheap in-camera microphone and then music is layered on top of it (there's a title song, which is laughable). A mute girl is sent to a boardinghouse and she turns out to have telekinetic powers given by devil worship... I think; the film is really that hard to watch. Though short, it's padded and there's a sense of menace in waiting for things to happen - completely unintended - with a big final scene that's both awful and worth sticking out the rest of the film for.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Day the Clown Cried (1972)

How bad is it? Unknown.
Should you see it? Unknown.

I was going to put this in an addendum, but the passing of Jerry Lewis this week makes this seem an appropriate time.

In the summer of 1970 (maybe 1971), my local theater showed all of Jerry Lewis' films from his solo career, in order, once per week. This gave my mother some needed time off and I became a pint-sized film critic. His earlier films were simple, easy, broad comedy, but there was always a dark serious note in the background. As the years passed, his films became more introverted and deeper in concept, more difficult to like. By "Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River," (1968) he was no longer funny and it seemed he was exorcising inner demons through film. "Which Way to the Front" (1970) was a disaster and it's themes point the way to this final, unreleased film of this period. It is quite likely that the film, while technically competent - even artistic, is unenjoyably bad.

Thirty minutes of the film have been released online and a script is available, but few have seen the best rough cut that Lewis had in his personal collection and donated to the National Archives registry of film (with the proviso that it not be released for some time). The official story is that the film got lost in a legal battle that Lewis never completely understood; the unofficial one that the film was unreleasably bad. The truth is probably that there was fear that the film would ruin the reputation of Lewis because of its handling of controversial themes. The plot follows a clown put into a Nazi concentration camp, who leads children to the gas chamber; Roberto Benigni managed to make a decent comedy of similar material as "Life Is Beautiful," but all reports are that "The Day the Clown Cried" misses the mark by a wide margin.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Suburban Roulette (1968)

How bad is it? Dreary where it should be lurid.
Should you see it? I think not.

I saw this on VHS 25 years ago as part of Joe Bob Briggs' "World's Sleaziest Videos" line - yeah, I've been doing this for a while - and think it was missing scenes, perhaps an entire reel. All of Herschell Gordon Lewis' films have been remastered from the best prints available and released on DVD, so your experience might be better. At the same time he was making gore films, children's films, LSD films and hicksploitation (the man did have range), he made this drama that looks like an idea from his days with David Friedman with the sex removed. A couple with a rocky marriage move to the suburbs and discover that their neighbors are swingers. This leads to the expected key parties and the roulette wheel of the title, before drunken gropings and recriminations and the couple deciding to move again and try again. There's no nudity, surprisingly. There's not much of anything, really.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Stuff Stephanie in the Incinerator (1984)

How bad is it? Typical Troma release - low budget horror, poorly done.
Should you see it? Actually, yes! It's weird enough for one viewing.

No one gets stuffed in an incinerator. Guy gets knocked out, wakes up in mansion with two women (one a man in drag), has it suggested he has sex with one while the other watches, tries to escape, finds that one has disappeared ... whew... then he and the woman plan an escape, but end up making love while the missing "woman" watches, as was planned, and then they get captured and he's going to be forced to have sex with the "woman" and the other (Stephanie) gets stuffed in... an iron maiden.

THEN it gets weird! as Stephanie becomes Casey and Paul becomes Jared and the time setting of the film changes and the film becomes about missing money and revenge. It's like they gave up on one film and started anew. It almost works, but the low budget and lousy acting make it hard to warm up to.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Strike (2007)

aka 7-10 Split, aka Strike!

How bad is it? Unfunny comedy.
Should you see it? Nah.

I actually saw this because I confused it with a Volker Sclondorff film of the same name from the previous year. This stars Tara Reid and was directed by her brother; it has a number of familiar faces: Ray Wise, Vincent Pastore, Robyn Lively, Robert Carradine, Eddie George and Whitney Cummings. Two actors get fired from their pizza delivery job and go on the pro bowling tour - which makes little sense. Most of the alleys are the same one, inexpertly disguised and many of the interiors look like they were thrown together. There are a few mild jokes, the acting isn't great and the film just doesn't go anywhere.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Streets of Death (1988)

How bad is it? It's bottom of the trash barrel stuff.
Should you see it? No, unless you're doing a dissertation on how not to make a movie.

This was directed by Jeff Hathcock, who also lensed "Victims!" "Night Ripper!" and "Fertilize the Blaspheming Bombshell!" and this film differs in that the title doesn't have an exclamation point. I haven't reviewed those other films, because they're bad enough that they're not entertaining. This has two gay men abducting prostitutes and then using them to make snuff films, so a cop goes undercover as a hooker to catch them. It's more violent than you expect and a lot less sexy than these things tend to be (though there is one striptease that's passable). The dialogue is wretched and delivered woodenly. Mostly, the film is misogynistic and homophobic.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Street Wars (1992)

How bad is it? Low budget and weird, with a questionable ethos.
Should you see it? Only if you've enjoyed other Jaama Fanaka films.

Jaama Fanaka directed the surreally weird "Soul Vengeance" and the "Penitentiary" films, the third of which was bizarre. This one is a sort-of sequel to the latter. When a crack dealer is killed, his brother takes over, with a plan to become a legitimate businessman in three years, but doing just about anything until then. He ends up hunting down his rivals in an ultralight airplane with a mounted machine gun - so there ARE new ideas in exploitation! There's a few musical numbers, which aren't bad (except the lyrics), but which seem out of place. There's a funeral scene that I swear copies the "Blues Brothers" "I see the light!" scene. There are guys named Sugar Pop, Humungus (sic) and Montana. Khalid Muhammad plays himself, in a bid to make the film more than exploitation... it's not.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Strays (1991)

How bad is it? It's about the 5th worst killer cat movie.
Should you see it? If you like shoddy TV horror, sure.

No one has successfully made a killer housecat film. First of all, they're hard to train, secondly they're not all that frightening to begin with (though I had one that killed the neighbor's cat). This one has the added problem of being made for TV, so it can't even be over-the-top scary if it wanted to. Kathleen Quinlan and Timothy Busfield move into a house and adopt some strays that have moved in. Claudia Christian plays Kathleen's sister, so there's more people to attack. The attacks are silly, with the kitties looking off-screen at someone probably holding a toy or some food. In one memorable scene, a vent has a pillow stuffed into it to keep the cats out and one claws its way through - but it's obviously fake cat paws on the end of sticks! People keep trying to look terrified of cats that are just sitting there, but that gets old before the film's done.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Strangers In Paradise (1984)

How bad is it? Cheesy trash, but better than most Ulli Lommel films.
Should you see it? It's hard to find and not worth the search unless "The Apple" is a favorite.

Eventually, every Ulli Lommel film will have someone claiming it's a bad film classic. This is one of his earliest films, before horror and Nazisploitation, and he stars in it as well. A hypnotist is cryogenically frozen in Nazi Germany and then thawed in the present time by a guy who wants to convert punks, homosexuals and anyone else he doesn't like into his way of thinking. In the end, everyone is converted TO punks and homosexuality, including the lead villain. There's a ton of musical numbers, which aren't bad, but aren't quite what would fit with the film's theme, either. There's some laughs to be had in the earnestness of the kitschy characters, but it's more an oddity than a trash classic.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Stoogemania (1986)

How bad is it? Unfunny comedy.
Should you see it? Only if you're a completist for someone in the cast (which is unlikely).

Josh Mostel plays Howard F. Howard (yes, that's the level of humor), whose planned marriage to Melanie Chartoff is endangered by his growing obsession with the Three Stooges. He ends up on Stooge Row (Skidrow) - at the corner of Shaddup and Nyook Nyook - where people continuously relive their favorite Stooges bits. He gets sent to a rehab center, where he's treated by Sid Caesar in full-on fake German mode. It all ends in a pie fight. There's cameos by Victoria Jackson, James Avery and "Mousie" Garner (who you may remember from the Stooge shorts), plus a lot of archive footage of the Stooges, mostly from the Shemp era. Director Chuck Workman has an Oscar for his documentary work, but he just can't do comedy.

While on the subject, I'm not reviewing the few full-length Stooge films made at the end of their career: "Have Rocket Will Travel," "Snow White and the Three Stooges," "The Three Stooges in Orbit" and "The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze" as they are all pitiful. Also, "The Three Stooges" (2012) is mediocre [I like Will Sasso as Curly] and I expect its upcoming sequel to be more of the same.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Stealth Fighter (1999)

How bad is it? Bottom of the barrel action flick.
Should you see it? Only if you're a fan of someone in the cast.

I stopped counting the errors in this film when I hit 100, and I wasn't half-way through. Ice-T plays a fighter pilot (who also is a Navy lawyer and a Navy Seal!) who steals the titular stealth fighter and then joins up with arms dealer Andrew Divoff, who also manages to steal a satellite. They then threaten to destroy Washington D.C. if they aren't paid $10 billion. Costas Mandylor, Ice-T's former partner, then has to go after him, despite protests from his wife Erika Eleniak. Ernie Hudson plays the president. This is yet another Jim Wynorski film - he should be paying me for advertising his films here by now.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Starship Invasions (1977)

aka Project Genocide, aka Alien Encounter, aka War of the Aliens

How bad is it? Silly campy nonsense.
Should you see it? Sure.

The stories behind this film are better than the film itself: Christopher Lee and Robert Vaughn both claim that they were duped into making this, being told it would be a serious "Star Wars"-type film, rather than the camp it is; the Canadian film (the first SF film from Canada since... well, ever) may have been made as a tax shelter or it may have been hastily assembled to beat "Close Encounters" to the screen and it may have been either a serious homage to 1930's serials and 1950's sci-fi or it may have just failed. Beside Helen Shaver, there are no other names in the cast. Aliens decide to colonize Earth and use a suicide ray, leading to fun scenes of people strangling themselves; they also take a sperm sample from an Elmer Fudd wannabee. There's bizarre - and in one case rather sexy - costumes, robots that look like they found the top of "Robot Monster," special effects that range from excellent to "my Gawd that's lame," aliens that are telepathic just to cut down on dialogue and more references to the Bermuda Triangle and pyramids than in "Chariots of the Gods" (which clearly inspired the makers). It's slapdash, it's puerile, it's worth checking out.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Starship (1984)

aka 2084, aka Lorca and the Outlaws

How bad is it? Generic cheap science fiction.
Should you see it? No.

Someone must've thought the original title "Lorca and the Outlaws" didn't sound like science fiction, so they re-titled this; there's really not a spaceship involved. There's a mining colony and a plan to replace the miners with robots, so they fight back. The film looks good, mostly because of the location shooting in Australia in a mining operation, where you get to see things like the giant trucks, which probably looked futuristic to many people in 1984. If you're from a mining area today, the trucks look antique and dinky! There's no plot, characterization, energy, blah blah blah - a generic review of a generic film seems appropriate.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Star Hunter (1996)

How bad is it? It's the worst "Predator" rip-off and I've seen dozens (maybe hundreds).
Should you see it? No.

Produced by Roger Corman and directed by Fred Olen Ray, I knew this would be god-awful tripe, but it has Roddy McDowall and Stella Stevens in the cast, so I gave it a watch. Three high school football players and two cheerleaders, plus their assistant principal (Stevens) seek refuge after a bus breakdown, only to be taken in by a blind man who turns out to be an alien hunter (MacDowall), who unleashes a robot to collect their heads, while they are stuck inside a forcefield and have to improvise weapons. That sounds better than it is. It's padded heavily and it drags.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Star Crystal (1986)

How bad is it? Cheap SF that manages to rip off both "Alien" and "E.T."
Should you see it? Yes, it's just bizarre enough to recommend.

Five people on a spacecraft pick up a lifeform imbedded in a rock crystal from Mars, but don't have enough food or energy to get back home. Those problems become secondary when they start getting attacked by a tentacled alien. Several bad actors say lines like "She's got slime all over her!" and "All that emptiness makes you crazy after a while" before getting dispatched, leaving a cast of two. There's a chase scene shown as dots on a monitor, like a 1980's video game, but other effects are decent and the sets are good. In a bizarre and baffling twist, making you wonder if a major re-write happened during shooting, the creature taps into the computer, reads the Holy Bible!, gets converted!, apologizes for its behavior! and becomes an "E.T."-like alien that helps them get home.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Splatter University (1984)

How bad is it? Great title, but poor film.
Should you see it? If you're into regional 80's slashers, maybe.

This was a regional film (New York City) with a largely amateur (and quite unattractive) cast. Three years after a psycho escapes an asylum, women are getting knifed at a school. The students wear the same clothes to school every day, one person shows bloodstains before they're attacked, people nonchalantly go back to sex and beer after someone close to them dies and a dead body moves, but some of the laughs are intentional - there's a priest who has porn mags and peeps through windows, which provide some amusement. The killer is supposed to be a surprise, but is obvious to anyone who watches a lot of these kinds of film. There's no nudity, surprisingly, and the soundtrack appears to be one song by a group into The Cars.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Spine (1986)

How bad is it? It's pretty bad, indeed.
Should you see it? It's really hard to find and isn't worth that much effort.

This was reportedly made by porn producers who wanted to cross over into mainstream via horror. A guy released from a mental institution attacks nurses, hog-tying them and slicing their backs open to revel their spines (but you don't get the gore shots you'd expect). It has the flaws you'd expect in a shot-on-video slasher of the time: both overacting and underacting, a confused plot, some nudity (including an uncomfortable rape scene that doesn't fit the rest of the film) and some gaffes (it appears some lines had to be re-dubbed and they don't sync at all). It might appeal to aficionados of the genre.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Spawn of the Slithis (1978)

aka Slithis

How bad is it? Typical rubber-suit monster film hampered by a low budget.
Should you see it? If it shows up, sure, but don't go out of your way to find it.

The makers of this were obviously big fans of the monster movies of a generation earlier; they even used some of the same advertising gimmicks. Unfortunately, no one was asking for yet another "monster created from nuclear waste" film with a guy in a rubber monster suit. The suit looks like it took up most of the small budget - the script has some laughable dialogue, which is delivered by some very poor actors, the effects aren't great and everything has a cheap feel to it. It's not a terrible film.