Film Review: Rockula (1990)

Release Date: February 23rd, 1990
Directed by: Luca Bercovici
Written by: Luca Bercovici, Jefery Levy, Chris Ver Wiel
Music by: Hilary Bercovici, Osunlade, various
Cast: Dean Cameron, Toni Basil, Thomas Dolby, Tawny Fere, Susan Tyrrell, Bo Diddley, Tony Cox

Cannon Films, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Well, you can say that the night is full of danger, but you know, to the night, you’re not a stranger. You know what I mean?” – Phoebe

Man, this was a really weird but also kind of wonderful movie.

And sure, it’s cheesy as all hell but it’s got some real heart and is somewhat endearing. It’s also really cool seeing some seriously legit musicians in this, hamming it up to the max and looking like they were enjoying every minute of making this strange and lively movie.

I don’t even know if I can really consider this a cult classic. It’s not something that anybody talks about, even in circles of film fans that would love something as bonkers as this.

Basically, this is a horror comedy but it’s also a musical full of people like Toni Basil, Thomas Dolby and Bo Diddley. It’s also very much a product of its time and while for new viewers it will certainly feel extremely dated, it’s sort of a time capsule into the weirdest shit that entertainment had to offer as the ’80s shifted into the ’90s.

The movie’s main star is Dean Cameron, who I have enjoyed since first seeing him in Summer School when I was a kid. He always sort of played stoner type characters in C-level comedy films but I always thought of him as a solid, charismatic, comedic actor that probably deserved more rolls at a more mainstream level. I think the biggest thing he was in was Men At Work but he was also somewhat overshadowed by a stacked cast in that one.

Here, Cameron gets to shine and he even gets to perform some musical numbers with the band he throws together to impress the love of his centuries long vampire life.

While the story isn’t anything great, it’s hard not to get lost in this, as all the core characters are pretty entertaining. I especially liked Thomas Dolby in this, as he essentially plays the film’s villain, a new wave British dandy that doesn’t like this vampire kid trying to lure away the girl he sees as his own.

To enjoy this film, though, one probably has to really love the entertainment of its era, as well as pure goofiness. Since I fit that profile, this is a pretty good movie for me to throw on to mindlessly escape from the real world for an hour and a half.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other really odd comedies of the ’80s and early ’90s, especially those with horror themes.

Film Review: Exterminator 2 (1984)

Also known as: Dominator (Italy)
Release Date: September 4th, 1984 (UK)
Directed by: Mark Buntzman
Written by: Mark Buntzman, William Sachs
Based on: characters by James Glickenhaus
Music by: David Spear
Cast: Robert Ginty, Deborah Geffner, Frankie Faison, Mario Van Peebles, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Kenny Marino, Irwin Keyes, Arye Gross

Cannon Films, 89 Minutes

Review:

“You want to clean out the streets? I am the streets!” – X

It could be possible that I’m the only person that likes this movie more than its predecessor but I thought it took the concept of the original, upped the ante quite a bit, gave us a much better villain and it truly felt like a Cannon Group movie because it was.

I love that Cannon secured the rights to make this sequel and while I don’t know whether that deal was just to make one film, I really think this could’ve been a franchise that ran on for several installments like Cannon’s Ninja trilogy, Missing In Action films or American Ninja series.

Robert Ginty is so enjoyable in this role and I really enjoyed how this one was more of a buddy movie with Frankie Faison by his side. They had good chemistry, felt like real buds and I’ve been a fan of Faison since first seeing him as the landlord in Coming to America when I was a kid.

The evil scumbag gang in this movie is led by a very young Mario Van Peebles. In some regard, it draws parallels to his villain role in the third Highlander movie but I like him in this much better. He looks great, intimidating and he took the role seriously enough to come across as a real bastard. His final showdown with the hero, while mired down by clunky editing, was a great cat and mouse game between a cold-blooded killer with an Uzi and a vigilante hero with a fucking flamethrower! This final showdown always stuck out in my mind as one of the best when I was a kid.

I also like the villain’s look and the whole gang’s vibe. I liked how they painted red “X”s on their victims and that whole psychotic aesthetic. They sort of felt like a mix between a gang from The Warriors and the sadistic serial killer cult from Cobra.

This is just a balls out, badass action flick that further reinforces why Cannon Films was so damn good and why they excelled in the best decade for action movies.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as other ’70s and ’80s vigilante flicks.

Film Review: Highlander (1986)

Also known as: Dark Knight (working title)
Release Date: January, 1986 (France – Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Written by: George Widen, Peter Bellwood, Larry Ferguson
Music by: Michael Kamen, Queen
Cast: Christopher Lambert, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown, Sean Connery, Jon Polito

Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment, Davis-Panzer Productions, Highlander Productions Limited, 116 Minutes, 110 Minutes (theatrical cut)

Review:

“[repeated line by Ramirez, The Kurgan and Connor MacLeod] There can be only one!”

Any movie that starts with a Fabulous Freebirds wrestling match has got to be good. As far as I know, though, this is the only movie to do that. I should also point out that Greg Gagne, Jim Brunzell and Sam Fatu were featured in that match too.

The excitement doesn’t end with the awesome opening though, as it gets right into the action, as we see the title character enter the parking garage of the arena to fight another immortal swordsman in what is one of the coolest opening sequences of this film’s era.

Also, Queen made a lot of original songs for this film’s soundtrack and they are all mostly classics, at least to ’80s film buffs and lovers of Queen.

Highlander is a unique movie. It’s also really damn cool and despite this spawning a pretty big franchise with a half dozen movies and multiple television series, none of them have been able to capture the same sort of magic that this motion picture did.

The film also has a superb villain in it, as the very tall and intimidating Clancy Brown plays The Kurgan, a mad knight who is also immortal and on the quest to be the only one left in existence. Christopher Lambert’s Connor MacLeod and Sean Connery’s Ramirez form a bond in an effort to help destroy The Kurgan, as he is the most dangerous threat to all.

Big portions of the film focus on Ramirez training MacLeod in an effort to prepare him for the oncoming storm that is The Kurgan. The whole point of all of this, though, is that these immortals are destined to fight and kill each other until there is only one left, who then wins “The Prize”.

What’s really neat about this film and all the others, is that it spans over multiple centuries, as the immortals are all very old. Lambert’s MacLeod is young by Ramirez and The Kurgan’s standards but there is something about him that the other immortals respect and fear and ultimately, I think they all understand how he is instrumental in preventing The Kurgan from winning this centuries long tournament.

Now this movie can be a bit slow, here and there, and honestly, it could’ve benefited from some fine tuning but it’s not boring and it tells a really good, intriguing story. But based off of how this ends, it should have truly been the end of the series. It didn’t need sequels and because of that, the sequels are all sort of in their own weird continuity. I stopped trying to make sense out of the Highlander franchise years ago and just view this film as the only one necessary and the complete story. That doesn’t mean that I’m not planning on revisiting and reviewing those lesser films in the future.

I just really like this movie a lot and, unfortunately, it was milked to death in future projects and the greatness of what this is was completely diluted by what became a very mediocre franchise.

Looking at this on its own, however, Highlander is a fantastic action fantasy flick that spans centuries, has a stupendous villain and an incredible mentor-type. While Lambert is the real lead, he is the weakest of the three core male characters. But it doesn’t in any way wreck the movie and he’s convincing as this badass Scottish warrior.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the Highlander film series and television series.

Comic Review: Cobra II: Act 2: Clean House

Published: 2020
Written by: Teddy Goldenberg
Art by: Teddy Goldenberg
Based on: Cobra by Sylvester Stallone, Cannon Films

Teddy Goldenberg Comics, 48 Pages

Review:

I love Sly Stallone’s Cobra and even though it’s never officially gotten a sequel, that didn’t stop Teddy Goldenberg from giving us the next best thing.

Since I really dug the first part of the story, as soon as this second and final part came out, I had to grab it from Goldenberg’s website. You can do that too by going here.

Overall, this one is also a lot of fun, as well as being gritty, utterly awesome and taking that ’80s action movie formula and upping the ante in a crazy and great way.

It’s like a Cannon Films action flick on steroids but this chapter in the series gets real f’n trippy, as Marion Cobretti gets closer to solving the crime and confronting his own dastardly father, who has a striking resemblance to Christopher Walken.

I love this indie outlaw, bootleg stuff and this is one of the best out there. I like the first part a bit more but this concludes the story in a cool and unpredictable way and frankly, it just makes me want to see what else Goldenberg could do with unofficial sequels to other similar films. Or hell, just give us a Cobra III because Marion Cobretti needs to live on forever.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the first part of this story, as well as the bootleg Hungarian Cobra comic book I recently reviewed here.

Film Review: Outlaw of Gor (1988)

Also known as: Gor II (US), Outlaw (English TV title)
Release Date: December, 1988 (Germany)
Directed by: John Cardos
Written by: Peter Welbeck, Rick Marx
Based on: Outlaw of Gor by John Norman
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, Jack Palance, Donna Denton, Russell Savadier

Breton Film Productions, Cannon International, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Get out of here, you disgusting worm!” – Queen Lara

I’ve never seen the first Gor movie but when something is as wonderfully bad as this is, you don’t really need a bunch of context to enjoy the cheese.

Besides, I had seen this years ago when it was showcased in the fifth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I enjoyed it then and I enjoyed it now, as well.

Sure, it’s going to get a low rating but it’s a bad movie. I will be fairly kind to it, however, as it is chock full of sword and sorcery and science fiction cheesiness that makes it hard to believe that this wasn’t actually an Italian Conan ripoff, which were in abundance in the ’80s.

This is actually an American film and it was even distributed by Cannon Films. However, it did hit European markets first and starred a lot of European actors.

This also has Jack Palance in it and it immediately made me think of Hawk the Slayer, another ’80s sword and sorcery flick that featured Palance as its main antagonist.

The plot is really strange as it sees a normal dude in the normal world end up on another planet where he is basically a warrior king. He also takes along his annoying, doofus friend.

Apart from that, this is a wobbly plot full of ’80s fantasy tropes, sword and sorcery action but mostly forgettable scenes.

Overall, this is nowhere near the upper echelon of ’80s sword and sorcery movies but it also isn’t at the bottom of the barrel. It’s lower than average but still engaging and enjoyable if you’re into these sort of things.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: the first Gor movie, as well as other really low budget sword and sorcery flicks.

Film Review: Alien From L.A. (1988)

Also known as: Wanda, Odeon (alternative TV titles)
Release Date: February 26th, 1988
Directed by: Albert Pyun
Written by: Regina Davis, Albert Pyun, Debra Ricci
Music by: Jim Andron, Simon LeGassick, Anthony Riparetti, James Saad
Cast: Kathy Ireland, William R. Moses, Richard Haines, Don Michael Paul, Thom Mathews, Deep Roy

Golan-Globus Productions, Cannon Films, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Bitchin’ left hook, Crassus!” – Wanda Saknussemm

Albert Pyun directed a lot of schlock but he directed a lot of wonderful schlock like The Sword and the Sorcerer (his debut), Cyborg, Captain America (1990), Kickboxer 2, Arcade and a slew of others. While his films won’t resonate with most audiences, schlock lovers would probably bask in Pyun’s schlock-y glory.

Alien From L.A. is a special film, though, even for Pyun. It’s a vanity project for Kathy Ireland. She had no real experience acting but she was at the height of her modeling career, was the top Sports Illustrated swimsuit model of the time and the movie was probably greenlit just so Cannon Films’ top dogs Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus could meet one of the hottest women on the planet.

The story is about an L.A. girl that goes to Africa, after she gets a letter saying that her father died from falling into a bottomless pit. She goes to the site of his fall and falls into the pit as well. However, it isn’t bottomless and what we get is an extremely loose adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth. So Kathy Ireland, in this situation, is actually the alien to a subterranean society – so I guess the weird title makes some sense.

While the acting is terrible and the script is even worse, the film isn’t all bad but as stated earlier, you’ve got to have a palate for schlock and in this case, overly cheesy schlock.

Kathy Ireland is certainly likable, for the most part. However, her soft cutesy voice can get grating at times and I’m not sure why they had her talk like this the whole movie. I think they thought it would make her less attractive, just like they thought her glasses, until they were destroyed, would make her an ugly nerd. No, it’s Kathy f’n Ireland in her prime, nothing is going to make her unattractive.

Ultimately, this is a film that would have withered away and been forgotten years ago. However, it was immortalized after being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. At the time, it was fairly current and cool to see on the show because of how modern it was when compared to the Roger Corman, Bert I. Gordon and Coleman Francis movies that played much more frequently.

While I love Cannon Films, this doesn’t fit with their branding, as they were mostly known for their over the top ’80s action films that starred two guys named Chuck, one named Jean-Claude, a Dudikoff, a Kosugi and an infinite supply of ninjas and bullets.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s celebrity vanity movies and it’s sequel 1989’s version of Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Vids I Dig 194: Razörfist: Rageaholic Cinema: The ‘Death Wish’ Film Series (In 5 Parts)

From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 1): Because Batman is a pussy.

From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 2): Have you accepted Bronson as your personal lord and savior?

From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 3): Maximum Life Expectancy: One Scene.

From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 4): DEATH!

From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description (DEATH WISH 5): The only film where Bronson’s ‘death wish’… is probably literal.

Film Review: River of Death (1989)

Also known as: Alistair MacLean’s River of Death (Germany)
Release Date: May 15th, 1989 (Cannes)
Directed by: Steve Carver
Written by: Andrew Deutsch, Edward Simpson
Based on: River of Death by Alistair MacLean
Music by: Sasha Matson
Cast: Michael Dudikoff, Robert Vaughn, Donald Pleasence, Herbert Lom, L. Q. Jones

Breton Film Productions, Cannon International, Pathe Communications, 107 Minutes

Review:

I’m a pretty avid fan of the movies that Michael Dudikoff made for Cannon Films. So I figured that this would be a hidden gem because of that. Plus, it had an interesting premise that saw Dudikoff go to the Amazon to hunt for treasure and Nazis. Honestly, it sounded like a Cannon Films version of an Indiana Jones movie.

I should have been weary though, as Cannon already attempted such a thing with those two Allan Quatermain pictures from the mid-’80s. Neither of them were terrible but they weren’t awesome either.

Maybe Dudikoff is just at his best when Steve James is by his side and he’s either fighting ninjas or guys in weird costumes that hide in the bayou? Whatever the case, this movie is a total fucking dud.

What’s even more sad about the whole thing is that this also featured Robert Vaughn and Donald Pleasence. Two great character actors with solid chops and really long resumes.

Honestly, though, this movie is pretty damn boring for a film that’s premise promised some pretty cool things. While it has action, none of it is very memorable and we’ve seen much better efforts by Cannon Films four dozen times over by the time this rolled around in ’89.

It’s poorly acted, the script is bird cage liner and the direction and fight choreography don’t measure up to the reasonable low standards of Cannon.

For a Cannon Films or Dudikoff completist, I guess this is worth checking out. Just don’t expect to find your new favorite film of the lot.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other Michael Dudikoff action films, as well as other action movies from Cannon.