Release Date: October 17th, 1986 Directed by: Sondra Locke Written by: Rob Thompson Music by: Lennie Niehaus Cast: Sondra Locke, Sharon Baird, Robert Townsend, Christopher Hewett, Larry Hankin, Sydney Lassick, Gerrit Graham, Louie Anderson, Billie Bird, John Witherspoon, Gary Riley, Courtney Gains, M.C. Gainey, Jon Lovitz, Bill Maher
The Malpaso Company, Warner Bros., 104 Minutes
After seeing the trailer and checking out the critical consensus on this film, I thought that I might still enjoy it due to how weird it looked. But honestly, it was kind of hard to get through and the novelty of it wore off really quick. But hey, the French liked it.
This was Sondra Locke’s directorial debut and man, it was a complete misfire. So much so, that she never really bounced back from it and only had four total directing credits to her name, one of which was a television movie. She also got nominated for a Razzie for her performance in this, although she lost out to Madonna’s performance in Who’s That Girl?
I had read that this was made as a sort of allegory to her long relationship with Clint Eastwood, which was dissolving at the time. She saw herself as victimized and exploited and for whatever reason, this script spoke to her. I’m not entirely sure if she saw herself as the Ratboy character and Clint Eastwood as her character but this vapid Taylor Swift moment seems pretty petty and immature.
Locke also had Eastwood’s production company produce the film, so maybe that was her final “fuck you” to the guy.
Anyway, apart from Rick Baker’s solid effects used to create the Ratboy character, there is next to nothing about this film that is impressive. Hell, it even has a great cast with several talented character actors but they can’t come close to saving this, as it’s a complete dud from top-to-bottom. Granted, I do like Gerrit Graham in everything and I did enjoy him here, even if the film felt like a waste of his time.
This is just slow, drab, predictable and boring as fuck. There are a few amusing bits like the scene with John Witherspoon trying to hustle Ratboy but these moments are far and few between and it’s not worth sitting through the whole, dull picture to pull out the good bits. Besides, the clip is probably on YouTube.
I had hoped that there would be something worthwhile in this. Other than the few things I already mentioned, there isn’t.
Rating: 4/10 Pairs well with: I honestly don’t know, as it’s so bizarre and unique.
Also known as: Carquake! (UK) Release Date: July 6th, 1976 Directed by: Paul Bartel Written by: Paul Bartel, Donald C. Simpson Music by: David A. Axelrod Cast: David Carradine, Bill McKinney, Veronica Hamel, Gerrit Graham, Robert Carradine, Belinda Balaski, Mary Woronov, James Keach, Dick Miller, Paul Bartel, Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, Jonathan Kaplan, Roger Corman, Don Simpson, Martin Scorsese (uncredited), Sylvester Stallone (uncredited)
Cross Country Productions, Harbor Productions, New World Pictures, 90 Minutes
“I thought this car could beat anything on the road.” – Linda Maxwell, “This car’s a winner.” – Coy ‘Cannonball’ Buckman
A year after Paul Bartel directed the cult classic Death Race 2000, he made a very similar film with a lot of the same core cast members, as well as producer and B-movie legend, Roger Corman.
In this film, take the Death Race 2000 concept and strip away the futuristic sci-fi setting, the slapstick uber violence and the plot to assassinate a corrupt president and you’ve essentially got the same film.
Granted, Cannonball! isn’t as good and I kind of blame that on stripping away the things that made Death Race 2000 so unique. This is still really enjoyable, though, and fans of that more beloved flick will probably dig this one too.
The race car driving hero is still David Carradine and he’s re-joined in the cast by Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel (the director), Sylvester Stallone in an uncredited cameo, as well as some of the other bit players.
Like Death Race, the film follows a cross-country auto race, all the wacky characters involved and all the crazy shenanigans of racers trying to sabotage and outperform one another.
I like a lot of the new additions to the cast like the always great Gerrit Graham, Robert Carradine, Bill McKinney, Belinda Balaski and the inclusion of Dick Miller, Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, Jonathan Kaplan, Roger Corman (the producer), Don Simpson and Martin Scorsese, who is also uncredited for his appearance here.
The action is good, the comedy still works and this film has that unique Paul Bartel charm.
In the end, this isn’t quite a classic but it did help pave the way for all the other movies like it that followed for years to come.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000, as well as other cross-country racing movies of the ’70s and ’80s like the Cannonball Run films, The Gumball Rally and Speed Zone.
Also known as: C.H.U.D. 2 (France) Release Date: May 5th, 1989 Directed by: David K. Irving Written by: M. Kane Jeeves Music by: Nicholas Pike Cast: Brian Robbins, Tricia Leigh Fisher, Bianca Jagger, Gerrit Graham, Bill Calvert, Robert Vaughn, Sandra Kerns, June Lockhart, Norman Fell, Priscilla Pointer, Clive Revill, Robert Englund (uncredited cameo)
Lightning Pictures, Vestron Pictures, 84 Minutes
“Meet Bud, party animal of the living dead.” – tagline
Where C.H.U.D. is more of a serious horror film, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud is a straight up teen comedy that doesn’t have much of a connection to its predecessor.
While most people seem to have a severe dislike of C.H.U.D. II, I find it to be the superior film. The reason being is that it is a funny, stupid movie and the original “serious” picture is mostly a boring dud that only excels when the actual C.H.U.D. is onscreen.
In this film, the C.H.U.D.s are just standard zombies. And since the main zombie is Gerrit Graham, this film gets an extra edge it wouldn’t have otherwise had.
But this isn’t completely carried by the great Graham, you’ve also got Robert Vaughn in one of his most hilarious and badass roles of all-time. He’s a military general here and he just goes around blowing shit up. At one point, he fires a f’n bazooka into a diner full of zombies and it creates a massive explosion. The dude just doesn’t give a shit in this flick and it’s fantastic to watch him ham it up and blow shit up.
This also features Brian Robbins of Head of the Class fame. I always liked him as a kid, as he was a cool, smarmy fuck that had quick comebacks and charisma.
C.H.U.D. II is also full of cameos by people as diverse as June Lockhart, Norman Fell and Robert Englund.
While the comedy here is cheesy and may feel very dated, it’s standard, low brow ’80s fare and for fans of the decade, it works.
I also like how creative the ending was. This kills off the zombie horde in a pretty imaginative way, even if it is over the top and completely implausible. Plus, that moment where Bud the C.H.U.D. rips out his own heart to give it to the girl he loves is pretty awesome and quite romantic.
A lot of people see this movie as a joke when compared to the original film but that’s the point. It’s supposed to be a joke and frankly, it’s a joke that works well and thus, this film accomplishes what it set out to do.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: other horror comedies of the ’80s.
Also known as: Phantom, Phantom of the Fillmore (working titles) Release Date: November 1st, 1974 Directed by: Brian De Palma Written by: Brian De Palma Music by: Paul Williams Cast: Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, Rod Sterling (voice, uncredited)
Harbor Productions, 20th Century Fox, 91 Minutes
“[to Beef] Never sing my music again. Not here, not anywhere. Do you understand? Never again. My music is for Phoenix. Only she can sing it. Anyone else who tries, dies!” – The Phantom
This film often gets lumped together in conversations with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The films came out around the same time, share a lot of similarities and have both developed cult followings. However, this film is far superior and I find it strange that it’s cult following is nowhere near as massive as Rocky Horror‘s.
I think this film has the edge in that it was written and directed by Brian De Palma, who was one of the top up and coming directors of the time. He was at a creative high and even though this film merges a lot of genres and is overly surreal and very absurdist, it’s kind of a masterpiece in that all the parts fit together and there has never been anything like this since. Well, at least nothing like this that was anywhere near as good as this.
Additionally, I’ve gone on record multiple times about my general dislike of musicals. Well, De Palma made a musical with this film and it is one of my absolute favorite films of the 1970s. In fact, I dig the hell out of the music in this picture and it all works in a way that makes sense. And I guess it’s not a musical with a traditional musical structure but it is chock full of tunes that progress the story without unnaturally pulling you out of it for the sake of wedging in another musical number.
The film stars actual rock star Paul Williams in what is my favorite role he’s ever had, playing Swan, a demonic record producer.
But the film is really carried by De Palma favorite, William Finley. It’s Finley’s over the top and batshit crazy performance that takes this film to heights it would not have reached without him in the title role as the Phantom. Finley is always great but this truly is his magnum opus, as he gives great range, exudes his passion for this role proudly with every frame and commits to the bit full throttle.
As good as both Williams and Finley are though, the film is also bolstered by the talent of Gerrit Graham. He’s had a lot of great roles within the horror genre but this is Graham at his best, as well. He plays a rock star simply named Beef. His onstage performance is incredible, his comedic timing is superb and he is a big, sweet cherry on top of this already perfect sundae.
And then there’s Jessica Harper. She’s most famous for being the lead in the original Suspiria from 1977 and even has a small role in the 2018 remake. She plays the apple of the Phantom’s eye and she’s terrific. Her performances are also solid and she has a lot more spunk in this film than what fans of Suspiria might expect. It’s really cool seeing her play a role that’s a departure from the one she’s most known for.
Phantom of the Paradise also boasts some incredible visuals. The film feels like a true rock opera of the highest caliber and even if this was made on what I guess was a modest budget, De Palma takes advantage of his surroundings, his sets and the talent he had working on this picture.
The cinematography is damn good and it is greatly impacted by the lighting, as well as the camera movement and shot framing of De Palma. It’s not just the colorful characters on the screen and the stupendous tunes that give this film all of its energy. A lot of it comes from the camerawork and the attention to detail within every single frame of this picture.
I can accept the fact that most people probably won’t view this movie the same way that I do and that’s fine. But from where I sit, it’s a damn fine motion picture that is incredibly unique and a pillar of imagination and creativity.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: I guess The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the closest film to this but it pales in comparison.
Release Date: February 14th, 1986 Directed by: Ted Nicolaou Written by: Charles Band, Ted Nicolaou Music by: Richard Band, The Fibonaccis Cast: Diane Franklin, Gerrit Graham, Mary Woronov, Chad Allen, Jonathan Gries, Jennifer Richards, Alejandro Rey, Bert Remsen
Empire Pictures, 83 Minutes
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, war stories and monster movies are educational. They’re survival-oriented. They always neutralize the enemy in the end.” – Grampa Putterman
TerrorVision is a strange but enchanting and hilarious body of work. It’s the type of film that could really only come out of the 1980s. It stars Mary Woronov and Gerrit Graham, who both also appeared in Chopping Mall the same year. Both actors have a solid cult following and for good reason, they knew how to pick the right kind of movies that had the sort of elements that would eventually turn them into cult pictures.
The film also stars Diane Franklin, Chad Allen of Our House fame and a young Jonathan Gries, in what may be my favorite role he’s ever played.
The film kicks off with an opening scene on an alien world that uses very obvious miniatures and models that immediately lets you know that the film has no budget but it is going to be a real homage to the special effects style of the 1950s and 1960s. It also directly references its influences by showcasing old sci-fi films of that classic era throughout this movie.
The story is about a suburban family of wacky characters and their obsession with their new satellite dish and television in general. An alien creature accidentally gets beamed into the satellite dish and is then able to escape the TV and eat the family.
One cool thing about the film, is that other than the few shots in the driveway, the film is shot entirely on an indoor set. The sky in the backyard is just a screen and just adds to the magical nature of the movie’s presentation. It’s supposed to look low budget and it succeeds in pulling this off while also having some impressive creature effects. You have to suspend disbelief and realize that this is a comedy and almost parody. It sort of exists in a similar vein to the ’80s version of Little Shop of Horrors.
All the characters are great and entertaining, especially all the bits with the swingers and then all the parts with Jonathan Gries’ O.D.
While this film has a good cult following, it still doesn’t get the recognition that it probably should.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: The 1986 remakes of Invaders From Mars and Little Shop of Horrors, as well as another film with Woronov and Graham in it, Chopping Mall. It also fits well with The Stuff, Night of the Creeps and The Video Dead.
Also known as: Killbots (Belgium/original US theatrical title), Robot Assassins (Spain), Shopping (France/West Germany), Supermarket Horror (Italy), Terror In Park Plaza (Portugal), R.O.B.O.T. (working title) Release Date: March 21st, 1986 Directed by: Jim Wynorski Written by: Jim Wynorski, Steve Mitchell Music by: Chuck Cirino Cast: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, John Terlesky, Russell Todd, Karrie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Suzee Slater, Nick Segal, Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Dick Miller, Gerrit Graham, Angus Scrimm
Chopping Mall is an unknown film that has grown a good cult following over the years. I saw it on VHS but not until the early ’90s. I’m not sure if it was readily available or distributed in the mid-’80s when it was originally released. It certainly didn’t play in a theater or drive-in near me because Southwest Florida in the ’80s was devoid of any real culture. Well, it still mostly is, thirty years later.
One cool thing about Chopping Mall is that its opening scene stars Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov as the Blands from Bartel’s 1982 movie Eating Raoul. It makes this a sort of crossover film. But then, Dick Miller also pops up as one of the many Walter Paisleys he’s played over the years. In any event, this had a lot of nods to the Roger Corman camp of talent but since his wife Julie was the producer, that makes sense.
The film also has a small role for Gerrit Graham, who popped up in horror movies a lot in the ’80s and ’90s. He even played the husband of Mary Woronov in TerrorVision. And then you also have Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator fame, as well as Kelli Maroney from Night of the Comet.
The premise of this film sees a bunch teens decide to camp out in the local mall overnight, as some of them work at the furniture store where there are beds. You know, so the teens can do that sex stuff that always sets off the monsters in an ’80s splatter picture. What the teens don’t know is that the mall has three robot security guards who have gone on the fritz. This is like Short Circuit if there were three Johnny 5s and they all had a thirst for teenage blood.
This is a really short film but it is full of action, solid practical effects, cheesy non-practical effects, bad acting, hokey ’80s dialogue and breasts. There is also a fantastic head explosion that is Scanners level awesome.
I love Chopping Mall and even though it has that cult following I mentioned, most people have no idea that this crazy gem of a movie even exists.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with:Night of the Comet, TerrorVision, The Stuff, Night of the Creeps
Also known as: Chucky 2: El Muñeco Diabólico (Mexico), Chucky 2 – Die Mörderpuppe ist zurück (Germany), Brinquedo Assassino 2 (Brazil) Release Date: November 9th, 1990 Directed by: John Lafia Written by: Don Mancini Based on: characters by Don Mancini Music by: Graeme Revell Cast: Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Christine Elise, Jenny Agutter, Gerrit Graham, Grace Zabriskie, Beth Grant, Catherine Hicks (archive footage)
Universal Pictures, 84 Minutes
“Surprise! Did you miss me, Andy? I sure missed you. I told you. We were gonna be friends to the end. And now, it’s time to play… I’ve got a new game, sport: It’s called “Hide the Soul”. And guess what? You’re it!” – Chucky
Child’s Play 2 is my favorite film in the Chucky franchise. While the first is probably considered the superior film in quality, this is the one that I think is the perfect Chucky movie and back in the day, this chapter resonated with me the most. So let me get into why.
To start, we know who and what Chucky is. In this film, he comes back to life and just goes for it. No waiting, no building of suspense for 45 minutes, just pure unadulterated Chucky, ready to kill anyone standing between him and his “best friend” Andy (Alex Vincent). And why? Because he needs young Andy’s body before his soul is permanently trapped in his doll form.
The true highlight of this film though, is the big grand finale in the Good Guy Doll toy factory. We get to see our surviving heroes run through mazes of dolls that look like Chucky. We get to see the heroes crawl through industrial machinery and try to outwit the pint-sized plastic killer. We also get to see Chucky get run through the ringer like never before and really, he’s never got his ass kicked quite like this again. Andy and his older foster sister Kyle (Christine Elise) make a formidable duo. I’m actually really glad that they are now both back in the franchise, two and a half decades later.
As a guy that has seen a shit ton of horror movies, the finale in Child’s Play 2 is one of the best final battles I’ve ever seen in the horror genre. Although, the county fair showdown in Child’s Play 3 is also pretty damn good.
I also like the casting in this film. The foster parents were Jenny Agutter, who I adored in An American Werewolf In London and Logan’s Run, and Gerrit Graham, who always makes me smile, even when he’s sort of just a snarky douche. I loved him in TerrorVision and C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud, as well as his multiple appearances in the Star Trek franchise. Then you have Beth Grant, who is always perfect, in a small role as an elementary school teacher that gets in Chucky’s way.
Child’s Play 2 is the peak of the original trilogy of films for me, back before the franchise got a lot more comedic with 1998’s Bride of Chucky. It’s a perfect Child’s Play film and has Chucky at his brutal best where he still gets in some funny one-liners without the film being overtly funny and still having a good amount of actual terror in it. And there is just something about that Chucky-Andy relationship that almost makes the Andy films feel like the only ones that actually matter.
These three films differ from the first four in the series in that they are missing the character of Sgt. Carey Mahoney. Steve Guttenberg left the series and thus, took the main character with him. For the first two films post-Mahoney, we got a new lead actor played by Matt McCoy. Now McCoy is a decent enough actor but he is a straight laced kind of guy and not a great funnyman like Guttenberg.
Some people think the series should have ended with Guttenberg’s exit but then some people thought it should have ended after the first movie. If that were the case, it would have been forgotten and not have become a beloved comedy franchise. Personally, I think it should have ended with the sixth film but I will get into how horrible the seventh and final film is after I discuss the two before it.
Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach (1988):
Release Date: March 18th, 1988 Directed by: Alan Myerson Written by: Stephen Curwick Music by: Robert Folk Cast: Bubba Smith, David Graf, Michael Winslow, Marion Ramsey, Leslie Easterbrook, George Gaynes, G.W. Bailey, Lance Kinsey, George R. Robertson, Matt McCoy, Janet Jones, Tab Thacker, René Auberjonois
Warner Bros. Pictures, 90 Minutes
“Proctor! Where is Proctor?” – Capt. Thaddeus Harris
This is the first Police Academy film to take our characters out of their familiar setting. Since it is the fifth film, the producers were probably out of ideas and wanted to turn the fifth film’s production into more of a vacation.
Audiences weren’t happy going into a film without Mahoney, as the focal point, but what made all of these films work was the ensemble cast. Now without Mahoney, the spotlight was a little bit brighter on his cast mates. Hightower, Tackleberry, Jones, Hooks, Callahan, Harris, Proctor, Commandant Lassard and House all had more to do in this movie. I like this film because it expands on them and lets them continue on with these great characters.
Sure, the film is a step below the previous ones but it isn’t as bad as critics and IMDb would make you believe. If you are a fan of the series up until this point, you should still like this installment.
The Capt. Harris and Proctor bits in this film are some of the best of the series. The action sequences are also well done, as they take to the Everglades on airboats in an effort to chase down the villain. And the villain, who is played by René Auberjonois, is my favorite bad guy in the film series. It may also be my favorite Auberjonois role after his parts on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Benson.
Police Academy 6: City Under Siege (1989):
Release Date: March 10th, 1989 Directed by: Peter Bonerz Written by: Stephen Curwick Music by: Robert Folk Cast: Bubba Smith, David Graf, Michael Winslow, Marion Ramsey, Leslie Easterbrook, Bruce Mahler, George Gaynes, G.W. Bailey, Lance Kinsey, George R. Robertson, Matt McCoy, Kenneth Mars, Gerrit Graham
Warner Bros. Pictures, 84 Minutes
“Oh, crapola!” – Mayor
The sixth film isn’t very good. It has some redeeming things about it, as the cast of familiar characters are there once again, providing the audience with laughs. Watching this though, you could tell that the creative staff were out of material and out of jokes.
This was the first film in the series to play like a whodunit mystery but that felt out of place in a series where the movies were a series of random comedy gags with just a bit of plot sprinkled in to string it all together.
The villains were the cheesiest of the series, the big mystery reveal at the end was awful and the actors didn’t even look like they were having fun anymore and instead realized that if they wanted to keep making a paycheck, they were stuck churning out Police Academy films annually.
When this movie ended, so did the schedule of having a new Police Academy film each spring. In fact, for a long time, I thought this was the end of the series. It should have been. But then five years later, someone thought it’d be a good idea to do a seventh film.
Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow (1994):
Release Date: August 26th, 1994 Directed by: Alan Metter Written by: Randolph Davis, Michele S. Chodos Music by: Robert Folk Cast: David Graf, Michael Winslow, Leslie Easterbrook, George Gaynes, G.W. Bailey, Charlie Schlatter, Christopher Lee, Ron Perlman, Claire Forlani
Warner Bros. Pictures, 83 Minutes
“Everything about me… is real.” – Callahan
This film is easily one of the worst movies that I have ever seen. It pains me, considering that it still has some of those characters I love. But at this point, they have become absurd cartoon characters.
The director of this film is an idiot. For whatever reason, he must be really into acrobatics because there was a lot of characters jumping around doing bizarre flips throughout the film. It made no sense and it was, for lack of a better set of words, fucking stupid.
There were also sound effects that didn’t fit and were bizarre as hell.
Additionally, the camera was often times zoomed in way too close to the actors’ faces. It was disorienting and visually annoying.
This film features the talents of the legendary Christopher Lee and the bad ass Ron Perlman. I feel sorry for them for having even been anywhere near this picture. Also, Claire Forlani is in this for some reason.
You would do yourself a huge favor by steering clear of this film at all costs.