Film Review: The New Barbarians (1983)

Also known as: Warriors of the Wasteland (alternate), Metropolis 2000 (West Germany)
Release Date: June 10th, 1983 (West Germany)
Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari
Written by: Tito Capri, Enzo G. Castellari
Music by: Claudio Simonetti
Cast: Fred Williamson, Giancarlo Prete, George Eastman

Deaf International, 91 Minutes

Review:

“The world is dead. It raped itself. But I’ll purify it with blood! No one is innocent! But only we, the Templars, are the ministers of revenge!” – One

Between 1990: The Bronx Warriors and Escape From the Bronx, Enzo G. Castellari made this terrifically badass flick. And like 1990: The Bronx Warriors, this film stars Fred Williamson in a supporting but show stealing role.

This is one of ten dozen Mad Max ripoffs but the post-apocalyptic genre of film was at its height in the ’80s thanks to the surprise success of Mad Max. There were ripoffs galore, some good, some atrocious, but some of them at least brought something new to the table. I can’t call this a good film but I like it a lot because it takes an oversaturated formula and gives it some sweet style.

The Italians could have really taken what they did with spaghetti westerns and started a whole spaghetti apocalypse trend. While they made films like this, as this is one of them, they never quite took off like the spaghetti western trend in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Enzo G. Castellari really made his mark in spaghetti westerns and dabbled in some horror. The two really prepared him for making post-apocalyptic movies, as they share similar qualities: barren wastelands, gunslingers, violence and terror. And hell, trade out the horses for motorcycles and you’ve got a spaghetti apocalypse movie, as I call these pictures.

The New Barbarians or Warriors of the Wasteland, as it is also called, is an energetic and engaging picture for what it is. It wasn’t intended to be a game changer or exceptional, it was just made to cash in on a genre craze but still had enough of its own originality and style to stand apart from its primary influences.

Castellari was the master of these sort of films and The New Barbarians just solidifies that. It is well executed with awesomely shoddy effects and surreal action. It has weird dialogue, weird characters and weird costumes. It’s like some sort of bizarre European post-apocalyptic themed fashion show from the ’80s. I don’t really know how else to sum it up in a single sentence.

This film, along with Castellari’s Bronx movies sort of form an unofficial trilogy in my mind. They have similar themes, similar style and are cool to experience. This is a better film than the two Bronx movies: slightly beating out the first and completely surpassing the second, which actually isn’t very good.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: 1990: The Bronx Warriors and Escape From the Bronx. It also has a lot of similarities to the more modern film Turbo Kid.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. The Wolfman (1983)

Also known as: Densetsu-no Kyoju Ookami Otoko tai Gojira, lit. Legendary Beast Wolfman Against Godzilla (Japan)
Release Date: Never released in a completed form (made in 1983)
Directed by: Shizuo Nakajima
Written by: unknown
Based on: Godzilla by Toho Co. Ltd., The Wolf Man by Universal Pictures
Music by: Akira Ifukube (stock music)
Cast: unknown

Unknown Running Time (about 15 Minutes has been released)

Review:

Godzilla vs. The Wolfman is a motion picture that was never completed. So I guess it is hard to review the film as a full body of work but being a big fan of Godzilla and the Wolf Man, as well as kaiju movies and “what ifs”, I had always been curious about this unfinished film.

This has been something that I’ve heard about for a few years but wasn’t sure whether or not it was some wild rumor or actually true. Well, I have now seen the footage that still exists and even shared it below, as opposed to the typical trailer I throw at the end of my film reviews.

From what I know of the plot, there is a werewolf loose in Japan. He happens to get irradiated and thus, grows to kaiju size. Godzilla crosses paths with this new menace and a big battle ensues. Godzilla is more similar to the ’50s Godzilla and what we would see a year after this in The Return of Godzilla. What I mean by that, is he isn’t the happy and heroic kid friendly kaiju of the late ’60s and early ’70s, he is more of a badass that doesn’t really care whether or not he ruins your town.

The werewolf transformation looks a lot like what was done in An American Werewolf In London and The Howling, a few years before this was made. For limited resources and not being made by an actual studio, it isn’t half bad.

The full-size giant Wolf Man suit is pretty damn cool. He looks like a white, arctic wolf and resembles a lynx more than an actual wolf but I dig it. As a monster, he is certainly very different than anything Godzilla has faced before. I love the unique take on the classic Wolf Man character. I guess he would be most similar to King Caesar from 1974’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla but even then, he is his own kaiju.

While this film did employ several people who had worked on Godzilla pictures before and after this, this was not being made by Toho like all the other films. This was essentially a fan film made by real kaiju movie makers.

Filming started in 1983 and went into the mid-’80s. The editing, sound design and visual effects production is still ongoing from what I’ve read. Currently, the clips that exist have Akira Ifukube’s old school Godzilla scores mixed into the action. I’m not sure if it is a place holder for something else to come or if this will even be completed. It’s hard to say but director Shizuo Nakajima claims that there is over ten hours of raw footage.

It is really well done for what it is and seeing it actually come together one day would be really cool. I just don’t know if Toho would ever allow that, as they’re very protective of the Godzilla brand.

As for now, I guess the world will have to enjoy the only footage that exists but at least we have something real to look at, as opposed to just rumors and speculation as to whether or not this film was just legend or fact.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: It’s pretty unique as a Godzilla movie but the tone is probably most like 1984’s The Return of Godzilla.

 

Film Review: Hundra (1983)

Also known as: Warrior Queen (German DVD title)
Release Date: July 23rd, 1983 (Spain)
Directed by: Matt Cimber
Written by: Jose Truchado, John F. Goff, Matt Cimber
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Laurene Landon, John Ghaffari, Marisa Casel

Continental Movie Productions, S.T.A.E. Productions, Cinema Epoch, 90 Minutes (original), 109 Minutes (extended DVD cut)

Review:

“Bow!” – every asshole man in the film

Hundra has a 4.6 on IMDb. That seems pretty low and that puts it below average. I think it’s at least a bit above average. It isn’t a classic or even very good but it has some pretty strong positives that at least keep its head above the water line.

To start, the first fifteen minutes or so are badass. A horde of evil men show up to rape and pillage a village of only women. It’s a rehash of the beginning of nearly every barbarian-esque picture since the first Conan came out but it works to great effect here.

Plus, it is immediately followed up by Hundra returning home and having to lure out the testicle-having baddies to a place where she can use the environment to her advantage and kill the entire horde. Well, one escapes to fight another day but that whole battle sequence was well orchestrated and showed a warrior woman who was able to outwit and outsmart a large number of rapist thugs.

Weirdly, she has a hard time taking out a midget on a miniature horse just five minutes later.

The problem with the film is that after all that awesome action in the beginning, it just slows to a halt and continues on for another hour and a half.

I guess the biggest highlight, other than that long opening pillage and the battle on the rocks between Hundra and a gang of rapey tyrants is the incredible score by Ennio Morricone. Morricone is mostly known for his work on Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns and other films in that genre. Unlike those movies, however, he gives us something a bit more classical and pure. His themes during the pillaging scene and the chase out to the rocks was stellar.

Additionally, Laurene Landon as Hundra was a pretty big positive too. She looked and acted the part and hats off to her because she did all of her own stunts except for the big stumble off of the top of the tower around the middle of the film. I really only knew Landon from her role in the first two Maniac Cop films but after seeing this, I wish she had more roles where she got to play a hardcore feminine badass.

The cinematography is a mixed bag. The outdoor stuff is great. The landscapes are beautiful and everything in the first fifteen minutes is shot and captured really well. However, when you get to the interiors or other closed set pieces, things take a turn for the worse, as the film just becomes dull, poorly lit and ugly. It’s hard not to compare this to the very similar Red Sonja and when you see the films side by side, at least Red Sonja had more interesting interiors. Granted, Hundra also didn’t have as big of a budget as Red Sonja.

The acting isn’t very good but if you’re watching this for that reason, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Landon is charismatic and very likable as Hundra and her friend Tracima (Marisa Casel) was incredibly alluring and had my attention.

This is really a film about women overcoming evil men who only want to use them for sex and as servants. Sure, it’s written by a man as most films with a feminist message were, back in the day. However, Landon’s performance legitimizes it beyond just being some guy’s Amazonian fantasy.

If this movie was whittled down to 80 minutes and had as much energy as its first fifteen minutes, it could have been something really good. Unfortunately, despite the long list of positives I just gave, it is just too slow and dull for about 75 percent of its running time.

But I would love to see a Hundra and Red Sonja team up story, even if it were just in comic book form.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Other sword and sorcery movies from the era, most notably Red Sonja, the Conan movies, Beastmaster and Conquest.

Ranking Every Episode of the Marvel/Sunbow Era of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

I once ranked every episode of Batman: The Animated Series. So I figured that I would rank every single episode of the Marvel/Sunbow era of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, as I just re-watched it in its entirety.

In this list I am including just the first two seasons of G.I. Joe and the miniseries put out by Marvel/Sunbow, as the show changed drastically and severely dipped in quality when DiC took over as the new production house for seasons three and four.

I will list these by episode name with the season number and episode number for reference. If a story is a multi-part episode, I list it as one body of work.

If you disagree or are puzzled with my picks, feel free to discuss in the comments.

1. “There’s No Place Like Springfield” (Season 1, Episodes 54-55)
2. “The Pyramid of Darkness” (Season 1, Episodes 1-5)
3. “Skeletons In the Closet” (Season 1, Episode 53)
4. “Sins of Our Fathers” (Season 2, Episode 28)
5. “The Gods Below” (Season 1, Episode 41)
6. “The Viper is Coming” (Season 1, Episode 29)
7. “Worlds Without End” (Season 1, Episodes 36-37)
8. “The Revenge of Cobra (miniseries)” (1984 – 5 parts)
9. “Flint’s Vacation” (Season 1, Episode 43)
10. “Excalibur” (Season 1, Episode 35)
11. “The Great Alaskan Land Rush” (Season 1, Episode 52)
12. “The Synthoid Conspiracy” (Season 1, Episodes 16-17)
13. “The Gamesmaster” (Season 1, Episode 26)
14. “Nightmare Assault” (Season 2, Episode 24)
15. “Pit of Vipers” (Season 1, Episode 48)
16. “Hearts and Cannons” (Season 1, Episode 44)
17. “Cold Slither” (Season 1, Episode 51)
18. “Computer Complications” (Season 2, Episode 7)
19. “Arise, Serpentor, Arise!” (Season 2, Episodes 1-5)
20. “The Traitor” (Season 1, Episodes 46-47)
21. “Not a Ghost of a Chance” (Season 2, Episode 27)
22. “Memories of Mara” (Season 1, Episode 45)
23. “An Eye for an Eye” (Season 1, Episode 40)
24. “Joe’s Night Out” (Season 2, Episode 26)
25. “A Real American Hero (miniseries)” (1983 – 5 parts)
26. “The Most Dangerous Thing in the World” (Season 2, Episode 23)
27. “Haul Down the Heavens” (Season 1, Episode 15)
28. “Cobra Soundwaves” (Season 1, Episode 24)
29. “Iceberg Goes South” (Season 2, Episode 15)
30. “Jungle Trap” (Season 1, Episode 10)
31. “Ninja Holiday” (Season 2, Episode 21)
32. “Red Rocket’s Glare” (Season 1, Episode 7)
33. “Cobra Quake” (Season 1, Episode 31)
34. “The Invaders” (Season 1, Episode 50)
35. “The Funhouse” (Season 1, Episode 12)
36. “In the Presence of Mine Enemies” (Season 2, Episode 29)
37. “Battle for the Train of Gold” (Season 1, Episode 23)
38. “Last Hour to Doomsday” (Season 2, Episode 6)
39. “Where the Reptiles Roam” (Season 1, Episode 25)
40. “Into Your Tent I Will Silently Creep” (Season 2, Episode 30)
41. “Sink the Montana” (Season 2, Episode 8)
42. “Bazooka Saw a Sea Serpent” (Season 1, Episode 34)
43. “Primordial Plot” (Season 1, Episode 42)
44. “Second Hand Emotions” (Season 2, Episode 25)
45. “Lasers in the Night” (Season 1, Episode 27)
46. “Once Upon a Joe” (Season 2, Episode 10)
47. “Cobra’s Creatures” (Season 1, Episode 11)
48. “G.I. Joe and the Golden Fleece” (Season 2, Episode 22)
49. “Countdown for Zartan” (Season 1, Episode 6)
50. “The Wrong Stuff” (Season 1, Episode 49)
51. “Lights! Camera! Cobra!” (Season 1, Episode 19)
52. “Cobra Claws Are Coming to Town” (Season 1, Episode 39)
53. “Captives of Cobra” (Season 1, Episodes 32-33)
54. “Raise the Flagg!” (Season 2, Episode 20)
55. “The Germ” (Season 1, Episode 28)
56. “Spell of the Siren” (Season 1, Episode 30)
57. “Twenty Questions” (Season 1, Episode 13)
58. “The Phantom Brigade” (Season 1, Episode 18)
59. “Operation: Mind Menace” (Season 1, Episode 22)
60. “Cobrathon” (Season 2, Episode 12)
61. “My Favorite Things” (Season 2, Episode 19)
62. “Eau de Cobra” (Season 1, Episode 38)
63. “Let’s Play Soldier” (Season 2, Episode 9)
64. “Money to Burn” (Season 1, Episode 21)
65. “Cobra Stops the World” (Season 1, Episode 9)
66. “Glamour Girls” (Season 2, Episode 14)
67. “The Spy Who Rooked Me” (Season 2, Episode 16)
68. “My Brother’s Keeper” (Season 2, Episode 18)
69. “The Rotten Egg” (Season 2, Episode 13)
70. “Grey Hairs and Growing Pains” (Season 2, Episode 17)
71. “The Million Dollar Medic” (Season 2, Episode 11)
72. “Cobra’s Candidate” (Season 1, Episode 20)
73. “Satellite Down” (Season 1, Episode 8)
74. “The Greenhouse Effect” (Season 1, Episode 14)

Film Review: WarGames (1983)

Also known as: The Genius (working title)
Release Date: May 7th, 1983 (Cannes)
Directed by: John Badham
Written by: Lawrence Lasker, Walter F. Parkes
Music by: Arthur B. Rubinstein
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, Ally Sheedy, Barry Corbin, Michael Madsen, Maury Chaykin, Eddie Deezen

United Artists, Sherwood Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 114 Minutes

Review:

“Which side do you want?” – Joshua, “I’ll be the Russians.” – David Lightman

In preparation for the release of the film version of Ready Player One, I have been reading the novel. WarGames plays a significant role in the story, at least in the book anyway, and reading about it got me all nostalgic and wanting to revisit the film. So I did.

I haven’t seen this in quite awhile but my fondest experience of this film was watching it in computer programming class in middle school. I had seen it before that but I didn’t have the computer knowledge to properly grasp the film when I was really young. Or at least the computer programming experience gave me more of an appreciation for the film, even if it was hokey and unrealistic.

Sure, the movie feels dated but it’s the best kind of dated. It’s chock full of ’80s-ness and backed up by a talented cast. The threat feels legitimate and the suspense and tension still work really well when experienced today. Maybe it’s because we now live in a time where our world leaders threaten each other with nukes over Twitter. The thing is, Cold War fears didn’t just go away with the Cold War itself, they just evolved in different ways and attached themselves to newer boogeymen.

WarGames isn’t what I would call an exceptional film but it tapped into societal fears, similar to Red DawnThe Day After and hell… Rocky IV. It is effective in that regard. It sort of exploits those feelings for its story but it does it in a cool and hip way, presented for teen audiences that were just starting to grasp their modern world, at the time.

It doesn’t just tap into Cold War fears though, it also taps into fears surrounding emerging technologies like home computers and the Internet. While everyone wishes they could hack their school and change their grades like Matthew Broderick in this film and in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, there was real concern over what these technologies could do in the wrong hands. It also looks at the potential negative effects of technological automation, where certain tasks and decisions are taken out of the hands of human beings and given over to computers. It’s possible that this movie had some influence on James Cameron, who was making the first Terminator film at the time of this picture’s release.

This film was a good vehicle to really launch the careers of Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy. Both had done a bit of work before this but WarGames quickly cemented them as teen stars, as the ’80s moved towards teen movies and MTV was becoming a household name: changing pop culture forever. There are also small but good roles here for a young Maury Chaykin, character actor Eddie Deezen and eventual ’90s badass Michael Madsen.

The adult cast is rounded out by the great mix of Dabney Coleman, Barry Corbin and John Wood. All brought some good veteran leadership to the film and each was likable in their own distinct way, even if Corbin was a hot headed general that didn’t want to deal with Broderick and his brainy youthful antics.

WarGames is still pretty damn good and I was glad that I fired it up for the first time in several years. If you ever wanted to have a fun double feature, this pairs well with Real Genius.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Real GeniusFerris Bueller’s Day Off

Film Review: The Hunger (1983)

Release Date: April 29th, 1983 (US), May 10th, 1983 (Cannes)
Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Ivan Davis, Michael Thomas
Based on: The Hunger by Whitley Strieber
Music by: Howard Blake, Denny Jaeger, Michel Rubini
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, Cliff De Young, Beth Ehlers, Dan Hedaya, Willem Dafoe (bit part), Bauhaus

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 97 Minutes

Review:

“You’ll be back. You’ll be back. When the hunger hurts so much it knows no reason! Then you’ll need to feed. And then you need me to to show you how.” – Miriam Blaylock

The Hunger is pretty well regarded by vampire aficionados and a lot of the goth kids I knew in high school and in my twenties. It’s a pretty cool and interesting film and considering that it has David Bowie in it, there is already an added magical element that he brings to everything he does.

The main star of the film however is Catherine Deneuve, who plays the vampire Miriam Blaylock. This is a character that resonated with a lot of vampire fiction lovers and for good reason. She was different, as were the vampires of the film. Here, they are explained through science instead of being simple supernatural creatures that we just accept for the fantasy element surrounding their historical representation in fiction.

Also, this film deals with issues that weren’t really seen in vampire fiction at the time. Here, we see killers that have to deal with the challenge of finding their victims, dealing with dead bodies and having to keep their ancient secret on top of the stresses of modern life and better science.

Deneuve was convincing and stellar as Miriam and her scenes with Bowie, who played her aging mortal lover, as well as Susan Sarandon, the new apple of her eye, were all pretty damn good. The film is slow, at times, but its pacing kind of works to its advantage and really, it isn’t a very long film to begin with.

The style and cinematography have a very strong neo-noir aesthetic. I’m not sure if that was intentional but the narrative has a classic noir aspect to it, as well. There is a femme fatale, twists and turns, some lover trickery and heinous crimes being committed. Is there such a thing as a goth-noir?

The beginning of the film is heavily accented and the tone set by the performance of the band Bauhaus, who do their most recognizable hit “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. It’s a very fitting way to kick this film off, as it gives homage to the king of classic cinematic vampires while referencing his death and telling you that you are now getting into something new in vampire fiction.

I like The Hunger but not as much as its hardcore fans. I get and understand their appreciation for it but it is far from being the greatest cinematic representation of vampires. Maybe in 1983 it was a refreshing take but I’d much rather watch Neil Jordan’s Interview With A Vampire, which I feel has been more influential on vampire cinema, fiction and culture.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Interview With a Vampire and for Bowie fans: The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Film Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Debut Miniseries (1983)

Also known as: Action Force (UK), G.I. Joe: The M.A.S.S. Device (alternate VHS title)
Release Date: September 12th, 1983 – September 16th, 1983 (first run syndication, 5 parts)
Directed by: Dan Thompson
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Corey Burton, William Callaway, Brian Cummings, Dick Gautier, Ed Gilbert, Chris Latta, Morgan Lofting, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, Bob Remus, B.J. Ward, Frank Welker, Peter Cullen

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, 5 Episodes (first run syndication), 21 Minutes (per episode), 97 Minutes (movie cut)

Review:

“Nobody’s perfect.” – Breaker, “No. But we do okay.” – Duke

This review isn’t for the G.I. Joe cartoon series as a whole. I wanted to review the early miniseries stories as their own bodies of work, as each was five episodes long but edited into movies for home video release and for two hour long weekend broadcasts on television.

This is the first of those miniseries releases and the story that popularized the reinvented G.I. Joe franchise in the ’80s. Some know this as The M.A.S.S. Device, as it was marketed that way on VHS and to differentiate it from the long-running cartoon that shared the name G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

In this inaugural chapter of the modernized G.I. Joe mythos, we meet everyone for the first time. On the G.I. Joe side there is Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Gung Ho, Breaker, Clutch, Cover Girl, Snow Job (I still can’t believe that was his name) and a few others. On the Cobra side we are introduced to four of the big leaders: Cobra Commander, Destro, the Baroness and Major Blood.

We also get introduced to the concept of the show and it’s heavy emphasis on science fiction and Cobra’s love of super weapons.

In the ’80s, probably due to the popularity of the Death Star from Star Wars and all the classic James Bond movies, there was always a need for super weapons. Cobra probably had more than any other fictional organization in history. Here, the super weapon is the M.A.S.S. Device, which require three special elements to operate. When operational, it can beam massive things to other locations or just straight up destroy them with an energy blast. Cobra actually does a weapons test, as a warning to the world, where we see them beam a nation’s entire army into their clutches, where they are captured.

G.I. Joe builds their own version of the device in an effort to combat Cobra. Most of the story is about the race between G.I. Joe and Cobra to collect the three rare elements from incredibly dangerous locations around the world.

For the time, the animation was top notch. Compared to what else was out at the time in the United States, this was well above its competition. Alongside Transformers, also produced by the same studio, G.I. Joe actually moved kids minds away from other toy franchises and locked them in place to Hasbro’s benefit. Today, G.I. Joe and Transformers are still massive franchises even if the live action movies leave a lot to be desired.

This was a really good kickoff to the modernized G.I. Joe franchise and actually, the cartoon universe improved with each new miniseries and eventually peaked with a full show. Things would go downhill in later eras but this was the start of a few years of stupendous G.I. Joe animated material.