Vids I Dig 041: Toy Galaxy: The History of ‘Dino-Riders’: The Toyline That (Sort of) Made It To The Smithsonian

From Toy Galaxy’s YouTube description: Kids love dinosaurs and kids love war. Put them together and you get Dino-Riders.

It was supposed to be huge with a full out marketing and merchandising blitz with tons of intricately sculpted toys but it failed after just one season and 14 episodes.

But that sculpting work did have a second and third life. This is the history of Dino-Riders.

Film Review: Deathstalker (1983)

Also known as: Warrior King (Philippines), Stalker – The Warrior King (Norway), El cazador de la muerte (Argentina)
Release Date: September 2nd, 1983 (limited)
Directed by: James Sbardellati (as John Watson)
Written by: Howard R. Cohen
Music by: Oscar Cardozo Ocampo
Cast: Richard Hill, Barbi Benton, Richard Brooker, Lana Clarkson, Victor Bo

Aries Cinematográfica Argentina, Palo Alto, New World Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

“All the power comes to me.” – Munkar

The only Deathstalker I’ve ever seen is the third one and that’s because it was on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. That one was atrocious, so at least this one is better than that turd.

However, this is still a pretty shitty film even if it has the magic touch of Roger Corman. He helped put it out through New World Pictures when he was still running that studio and it was the first of ten pictures that he did from Argentina.

Anyway, the film is boring in just about every way. The script is abysmal, the plot is paper thin and not much of anything interesting happens onscreen.

Now I do like some of the practical effects but some monsters and creatures look good for the time, while others look like total crap. It’s as if some of the budget was pushed into certain characters or creatures while the other effects suffered from a lack of funds. It’s pretty inconsistent even though the film already looks cheap, regardless.

Rick Hill was decent as Deathstalker but he didn’t have much to work with and the direction he was given was poor. The real highlight though is Lana Clarkson, who simply wore a G-string and a black cloak. Her tippies were hanging out all over the place, which had I seen this when I was a kid, I probably would’ve rented this all the time.

The evil wizard is weak, not impressive and struck no terror in me whatsoever. I mean, if you’re going to do a sword and sorcery picture at the height of the sword and sorcery genre, you need to have a cool and menacing villain. This guy just looked like the doorman at The Pickled Bear, an underground gay bar in Palatka, Florida.

Weirdly, it looks like the second Deathstalker has a higher rating on IMDb than this one or the third one. Maybe I’ll check it out but I watched enough paint dry after my cousin re-did his foyer last weekend.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: the Deathstalker sequels and other very low budget barbarian movies.

Film Review: Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)

Also known as: Sam Hell (working title), The Hunter (Germany), Transmutations (France)
Release Date: January, 1988
Directed by: Donald G. Jackson, R. J. Kizer
Written by: Donald G. Jackson, Randall Frakes
Music by: David Shapiro
Cast: Roddy Piper, Sandahl Bergman, Cec Verrell, William Smith, Rory Calhoun

New World Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Hey, you try making love to a complete stranger in a hostile, mutant environment, see how you like it.” – Sam Hell

I always wanted to see this as a kid but not even the video stores in my area seemed to be able to get it. Or they just didn’t want to pay the high fees to bring it in. VHS tapes for mom and pop shops back then were usually around $99 based off of the industry catalogs I used to flip through at one of my stores.

Anyway, time marched on and I forgot about this film until seeing it late one night on cable in the late ’90s. When I stumbled upon it, I was high and drunk but I found it to be completely surreal and wasn’t sure how much of the effect it had on me was the film itself or the chemicals in my system.

I wouldn’t actually get that cleared up until now, in 2019, because I came across this on Amazon’s Prime Video and rented it for a few bucks. I thought that even if it was terrible, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was a god to me and even if he’s gone, I still don’t mind putting a little bit of cheddar in the collection plate.

This also stars Sandahl Bergman, who I mostly only know from Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja where she found herself starring alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime.

As was pretty common with low budget ’80s movies, this one is a ripoff of the Mad Max concept, However, it is a post-apocalyptic comedy that features a pink vehicle and mutant frog people. It’s goofy and crude and sadly, most of the jokes miss their mark, even with Roddy Piper trying to steer the ship. But it’s not his fault, the film’s script is just bad and unfunny.

Piper has charm and it comes through and frankly, it’s the one bright spot of the movie. I also like Bergman but she lacks the charisma I felt she had in those other two barbarian movies she’s more famous for.

I thought the effects on the frog people were pretty good, considering the era when this was made and the budget but the effects aren’t really anything special and the frog characters just make this film so bizarre that it becomes a gimmicky distraction from the already poorly written and mostly dull plot.

But this isn’t a total turd. Piper is still amusing in it. I just wish that this had been one of those rare, hidden gems from a bygone era but it was mostly just buried scrap metal in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: They Live because it’s sci-fi starring Roddy Piper from the same era. Also, other Mad Max ripoffs.

Film Review: Being From Another Planet (1982)

Also known as: Time Walker (original title), Pharaoh (working title)
Release Date: November 19th, 1982
Directed by: Tom Kennedy
Written by: Tom Friedman, Karen Levitt, Jason Williams
Music by: Richard Band
Cast: Ben Murphy, Nina Axelrod, Kevin Brophy, James Karen, Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Antoinette Bower, Sam Chew Jr., Shari Belafonte, Greta Blackburn, Jack Olson

Byzantine Productions, Wescom Productions, New World Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Nothing can stop him, not even time.” – tagline

Someone that reviewed this on IMDb titled their review “Boring From Another Planet”. Well, that’s pretty accurate.

It’s also a perfect film to be torn apart on Mystery Sceince Theater 3000.

But if I’m being honest, this film does have one saving grace: James Karen. I love that guy. I mean he’s great in everything, even with really minor roles. I even enjoyed his Pathmark commercials, which I’d only see when visiting my family in New York City back in the ’80s.

Apart from Karen though, everything else about this picture is dead on arrival. I usually like stuff from New World Pictures too but this is well below their respectable schlock level.

The story revolves around this alien that was mummified and asleep in King Tut’s tomb but he’s now been awaken, centuries later. I guess this is kind of like a slasher picture but it is severely light on the slashing and it only sort of fits that in how the mummy alien just sort of lurks in the shadows and watches young couple struggling to go beyond first base.

The special effects in this are bad between the look of the alien and the post production work on trying to make the magical bits come to life.

Also, the acting is of the ’80s TV movie quality. It’s not atrocious or anything but it makes Airwolf look like Dunkirk, if I’m comparing.

This was a dud on nearly every level. It’s not interesting, it’s executed poorly and it’s only worth a watch if you check out the MST3K version.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s sci-fi/horror schlock: Forbidden World, Xtro and The Boogens.

TV Review: Dungeons & Dragons (1983-1985)

Original Run: September 17th, 1983 – December 7th, 1985
Created by: Kevin Paul Coates, Dennis Marks, Takashi, Mark Evanier
Directed by: Bob Richardson, Karl Geurs
Written by: various
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast: Willie Aames, Don Most, Katie Leigh, Adam Rich, Tonia Gayle Smith, Teddy Field III, Sidney Miller, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Bob Holt

Toei Animation, Marvel Productions, Dungeons & Dragons Entertainment Corporation, TSR, CBS, New World Television, 27 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I used to watch the shit out of this cartoon when I was really young. It was one of my favorite Saturday morning treats. However, I haven’t seen it since at least the early ’90s.

But like most animated series that were productions involving Japan’s Toei studio and Marvel, it was top quality stuff for its time and it has aged really well.

Sure, it’s hokey and goofy like kid’s cartoons are but it has a real charm about it and that charm is still effective.

I love the character designs of the show, especially in regards to the villain Venger and the five headed dragon, Tiamat. Also, Venger was voiced by Peter Cullen, best known as the voice of Optimus Prime while Tiamat was voiced by Frank Welker, best known as Megatron.

The show followed six Earth kids, their little unicorn named Uni and the impish Dungeon Master. The Earth kids were magically transported to the Dungeons & Dragons dimension through a theme park ride. I know, it sounds ridiculous but you didn’t care about stupid details or coherent plot when you were five years-old. Frankly, I don’t care about it now because the show works for what it is: a kid’s magical adventure.

Unfortunately, the show never had a proper ending and the kids never actually made it home within the episodes produced. I guess it can be assumed that they eventually saw their parents again but hopefully that happened before they were in their forties.

Anyway, this is still a really cool show. I even showed a few episodes to my nephew and he dug it with his discriminatory 2019 standards.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s fantasy cartoons like Masters of the Universe, Captain N the Gamemaster, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Visionaries, ThundercatsSilverhawks, etc.

Film Review: Deathsport (1978)

Also known as: Death Race 2050 (Germany)
Release Date: April, 1978
Directed by: Allan Arkus, Roger Corman, Nicholas Niciphor
Written by: Nicholas Niciphor, Donald E. Stewart, Francis Doel
Music by: Andy Stein
Cast: David Carradine, Claudia Jennings, Richard Lynch

New World Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“As much as I would enjoy killing you here tonight, I will enjoy watching you die more in the Deathsport tomorrow.” – Ankar Moor

Man, despite being a fan of this film’s style, this was a real challenge to get through, even at just 82 minutes.

Maybe part of the problem was that it had three directors. Also, it was trying to capitalize off of the cult classic Death Race 2000 and was intended to be a follow-up to it but switching out cars for motorcycles. It definitely fails at being anything close to the greatness of Death Race 2000 and another similar film also starring Carradine, Cannonball.

I think the biggest reason as to why this doesn’t have the charm and coolness of those other two films, is that this one wasn’t directed by Paul Bartell. And I think that is most apparent in the dryness of this film and it’s complete lack of clever humor and endearing spirit.

Put out by New World and Roger Corman, this was a bargain basement production. But it was also mired in production issues beyond the budgetary constraints.

The film looks cheap. In fact, it looks cheaper than Death Race even though it was made much later in the same decade. But maybe the clusterfuck of a production just didn’t have the wherewithal to get the best bang for the buck, as Paul Bartell did and as Corman usually does.

The acting is really bad, even for New World Pictures standards. Plus, the action sequences are bizarre and riddled with more mistakes than a typical Corman production.

While the film has an interesting visual style that isn’t too dissimilar from Death Race, it has really bizarre weapons, like transparent swords and these handheld spotlight things that vaporize people.

This also has one of the strangest bits from any Corman production. There are two scenes that feature a naked woman dancing around these suspended silver rods. Then the rods start shocking them, as they dance around, yelping in pain as an old fascist dweeb laughs in amusement.

Deathsport was a real disappointment. Granted, I didn’t go into it expecting it to be on the level of the rare gem, Death Race 2000. However, I had hoped that some of that spirit would’ve made it into this film. It didn’t.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: Death Race 2000 and Cannonball.

Film Review: C.H.U.D. (1984)

Also known as: C.H.U.D. (Caníbales Humanoides Ululantes Demoníacos) (Spain), C.H.U.D. – Panik in Manhattan (Germany)
Release Date: August 31st, 1984
Directed by: Douglas Cheek
Written by: Parnell Hall, Shepard Abbott
Music by: Martin Cooper, David A. Hughes
Cast: Daniel Stern, John Heard, Christopher Curry, John Goodman, Graham Beckel, Jon Polito

C.H.U.D. Productions, New World Pictures, 88 Minutes, 96 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Are you kidding? Your guy’s got a camera. Mine’s got a flamethrower.” – Captain Bosch

This was the first film featured on the full-time revival of Joe Bob Briggs on television. I’m talking about his show The Last Drive-In, which is now streaming weekly on Shudder.

But like Joe Bob, I’m apparently one of the few that isn’t too fond of this motion picture. It’s not really bad but it’s pretty damn dull for about 80 percent of its running time and there are so many better movies from the era. This is probably why I haven’t reviewed this yet, as I just didn’t have the urge to revisit this, even for review purposes.

In all honesty, I prefer the sequel more. Yes, it’s actually a worse movie but it’s batshit insane and pretty much a black comedy spunoff from the C.H.U.D. concept.

People have been asking me for my opinion on this movie for quite awhile, though. So I guess a review is overdue and if Joe Bob can sit through it again, I guess I can too.

It’s still dull as shit. But it does have several known stars in it to at least distract me from my boredom enough to get through this.

On the flip side of that though, I do like the scenes that feature the actual creature or some of the gore it’s responsible for. I also like the idea for the film, I just thought that this spent too much time boffining it up and not enough time spent on cool monsters eating dumb people.

The performances can be a bit over the top but not so much so that I’d call the acting bad. And at least the performances provide some energy where the story fails to do so.

It may sound like I’m a hater, I’m not. But I’m certainly not a lover of C.H.U.D. I understand that a lot of people have a nostalgic soft spot for the movie but it didn’t really resonate with me as a kid, even though I pretty much lived in ’80s video stores and loved the horror genre tremendously.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: it’s really bizarre sequel, as well as Street Trash and Neon Maniacs.