Film Review: Munchies (1987)

Release Date: March, 1987
Directed by: Bettina Hirsch
Written by: Lance Smith
Music by: Ernest Troost
Cast: Harvey Korman, Charlie Stratton, Nadine Van der Velde, Robert Picardo, Wendy Schaal, Paul Bartel, Frank Welker (voice)

New Concorde, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Head for the hills… Mamma!” – Munchie

Out of all the Gremlins ripoffs not titled Critters, this one was my favorite, as a kid. However, it faded into obscurity quickly, in spite of its sequels, and it wasn’t a movie I could revisit until recently, as it popped up on Shout! Factory’s streaming service.

Unbeknownst to me in 1987, this is a Roger Corman production. So I guess I was a fan of the guy’s work even before I was aware of him.

Now this is a crude, cheap and absurd ’80s picture. It’s definitely schlock but it’s entertaining schlock that still, for some reason, hits the right notes for me. And I wouldn’t necessarily call it nostalgia, as it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I didn’t remember anything about the plot or the characters.

But I do like the characters, especially the acting work of Harvey Korman who played the dimwitted scientist Simon Watterman but more importantly, also played his rich, scumbag brother Cecil. The Cecil character was an ’80s southern yuppie caricature that was so bizarre and unique that he is the most interesting thing in the movie. While Korman has lots of comedy experience working in multiple Mel Brooks movies, as well as being on The Carol Burnett Show, he commits to the bit so spectacularly that I was absolutely buying what he was selling in this dumb, illogical film.

The rest of the characters were fairly normal but I did like Cecil’s stoner stepson.

As far as the special effects go, they’re nothing to write home about but this is better than the worst of the worst when it comes to other Gremlins wannabes. Although, these cheap puppets can’t hold a candle to the monsters from Critters or Ghoulies.

I fully understand that the vast majority of the human race would hate this movie. But for those who love ’80s schlock, crude humor and just want mindless entertainment, you’ll probably find something worthwhile in this flick.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequels, as well as other extremely low budget Gremlins ripoffs.

Film Review: Vampirella (1996)

Release Date: September 28th, 1996
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Written by: Gary Gerani
Based on: Vampirella by Forrest J. Ackerman
Music by: Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Talisa Soto, Roger Daltrey, Richard Joseph Paul, Brian Bloom, Angus Scrimm

Cinetel Films, Concorde-New Horizons, Showtime Networks, 82 Minutes, 86 Minutes (DVD cut)

Review:

“You are much stronger than I am.” – Vampirella, “At the risk of sounding egotistical, I am stronger than anyone.” – Vlad

I don’t think I even knew about this movie at the time of its release and I worked in a video store then. I was also a fan of comics, horror and movies that were made with the involvement of Roger Corman, the King of B-Movies.

Well, I didn’t expect much from this film but it was still pretty entertaining seeing Roger Daltrey of The Who get to ham it up pretty hard. He looked like he was having a good time, committing to this character and this film, regardless of the production value.

On the flip side of that, I have no issues with Talisa Soto, but I don’t think that she was the best choice to play Vampirella. But the script was bad, the dialogue was terrible, her hair was wrong and her outfit looked like dime store cosplay and didn’t really work. But I also realize that the traditional Vampirella costume is even racier and way more revealing. But it’s not the skin that’s the issue, as much as it is the poor, kind of unflattering design of the suit.

Also, Vampirella should be more curvy. Soto has a great body but it’s more athletic than curvy. Tia Carrere would have been a better fit but she was also probably more expensive in 1995, when this was made. But she looks more the part and if she had the same hair style that she did the first moment you saw her in Wayne’s World, it’s even a better fit.

But nothing would’ve really saved this picture from itself.

The plot was nonsensical and the pacing and editing were pretty bad. I just watched this movie and I don’t even remember what it was about other than an evil alien vampire (Daltrey) escapes from execution, heads to Earth, Vampirella follows and they fight. But hey, Angus Scrimm, Phantasm‘s the Tall Man, plays an elder vampire on their home planet.

Calling Vampirella a disappointment is an understatement. It’s a movie that really shouldn’t have been made. You think Corman would’ve learned after his experiment with Fantastic Four a few years earlier.

Unless you are an absolute die hard Vampirella fan, you should ignore this film. If you insist on checking it out, do so at your own risk. But it is free on YouTube, at the moment.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: Roger Corman’s unreleased adaptation of Fantastic Four, as well as the 1990 Captain America film.

Film Review: The Undead (1957)

Also known as: The Trance of Diana Love (working title)
Release Date: February 14th, 1957 (San Francisco premiere)
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Charles B. Griffith, Mark Hanna
Music by: Ponald Stein
Cast: Pamela Duncan, Richard Garland, Allison Hayes, Val Dufour, Mel Welles, Richard Devon, Billy Barty, Dick Miller

American International Pictures, 75 Minutes

Review:

“Hickory dickory dorse / My guest is dead, of course / The clock struck two / He’s turning blue / With little or no remorse.” – Smolkin, the Gravedigger

Man, Roger Corman certainly had a lot of films appear on Mystery Science Theater 3000. But it was all for a good reason and it’s a lot of fun seeing the master of schlock dominate the way he did.

Fans of Corman will probably enjoy this film, even though it’s what I would consider to be below Corman’s normal quality. Normies out there will probably be bored shitless and wonder why anyone would watch this but it takes a special someone to have a real love affair with Corman’s great and uniquely impressive work.

The reason why it is impressive is because Corman can create so much with almost nothing. Now this specific film isn’t the best example of that but for a movie that was made for less than a dime, he’s able to pull this off better than any other director in a similar situation would be able to.

Although bizarre, the story is kind of interesting. A psychic researcher sends the mind of a prostitute back in time in an effort to study her past-life experiences. So the film takes place in the Middle Ages and we soon discover that the prostitute’s older self is going to be killed over suspicions that she’s a witch. The psychic sends himself back in time to convince the prostitute to avoid death but in doing so, her future incarnations can never exist. Ultimately, the psychic ends up stranded in the past.

I wouldn’t call the plot wholly original or anything but it is kind of ambitious for a cheap-o ’50s motion picture.

While the acting isn’t good, it also isn’t atrocious. We also get to see a very young Billy Barty and Dick Miller.

Overall, this is far from Corman’s best but I think that this is a notable picture in his oeuvre, as it almost feels like a spiritual predecessor to his Edgar Allan Poe adaptations of the 1960s, which would primarily star Vincent Price and were some of his absolute best pictures.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: Roger Corman’s other late ’50s/early ’60s films, as well as his Poe adaptations.

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: Wheels of Fire (1985)

Also known as: Desert Warrior, Pyro, Vindicator (German alternate titles), Fuego (Spain), Guerreros infernales (Peru)
Release Date: April 11th, 1985 (Philippines premiere)
Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago
Written by: Ellen Collett, Frederick Bailey, Cameron Frankley, Keith Mortimer, Joseph Williams, Frank Wolfe
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Gary Watkins, Laura Banks, Lynda Wiesmeier, Linda Grovenor

Rodeo, Concorde Pictures, 81 Minutes

Review:

“What’s the matter, sweetheart? You don’t like my looks?” – Scourge, “Maybe as a corpse!” – Arlie

Roger Corman didn’t direct or directly produce this film but he put some money into it. When his previous company New World Pictures refused to distribute the movie, that was more fuel to the fire that became a big lawsuit between the two parties.

Also, Lee Ving was supposed to star in this as the villain Scourge. However, he quit just before shooting. Honestly, it would have been cool as hell to see Lee Ving in this. I was always a fan of the guy even if his roles were always kind of small. But he stands out in both Clue and Streets of Fire. Plus, his punk band Fear was one of the most badass bands of all-time.

This is one of dozens of Mad Max ripoffs. While none of these films are as good as the material they are stealing from, some of them are at least fun and have enough gravitas to justify their existence. This is one of those films.

The good guy is a black leather clad, shotgun wielding badass with a black muscle car and two big balls that each have their own V8 engine. He takes no shit, gives the evil bastards of the wasteland hell and doesn’t care whose car he has to wreck in order to make a point.

Now the acting is pretty awful and this film is also riddled with other issues but this flick is just rough and tough enough to make me not nitpick it apart, as I would with something that didn’t serve up as much testosterone as this.

Ultimately, this is a solid, no budget action movie that doesn’t need to hide its weaknesses, because its strengths are so good.

But if I’m going to pull something negative out of this, I didn’t like how they sped the frame rate up during car scenes to make the vehicles look like they were moving faster. Its kind of jarring but luckily, it doesn’t break the film as it isn’t overused to the point of madness.

If anything, this movie just makes me want to build a beat up, black muscle car and head to the desert with a camera. Point being, this film had to be fun to make and everyone looked like they were having a good time.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Mad Max ripoffs: Battletruck, Metalstorm and Megaforce.

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: Viking Women Vs. The Sea Serpent (1957)

Also known as: The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (complete title), Viking Women (UK)
Release Date: December, 1957
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Lawrence L. Goldman, Irving Block
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Abby Dalton, Susan Cabot

American International Pictures, 66 Minutes

Review:

“Get your filthy hands off her, you big slobbering dog!” – Ottar

This is one of a few Roger Corman films that has eluded me for years. It’s also one of the few movies that was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 that I hadn’t seen until now. But I missed it when it aired, back in the day, and it’s not one that has been all that accessible on streaming services. Maybe that’s due to the broadcasting rights contract they had back in the early ’90s for this film.

Having seen it now, I can say that I didn’t miss out on much.

For the most part, the film is slow and goofy. It’s enjoyable in that hokey Roger Corman way but for a film promising a sea serpent, the monster’s time on screen is pretty minute.

Also, the creature looks exactly like you’d expect being that it’s a simple sea serpent and showcased in a Corman film of the ’50s. It’s basically just a rubber tube with some fins glued to it and a dead, gnarly face. But I love this sort of shit so I can’t hate it. I just wish there was more monster and less pointless conversation throughout the movie.

The majority of the movie is just viking chicks paddling a boat and walking around on an island. This has some action but it’s nothing to write home about.

This is far from the worst Corman picture but it is also far from the best.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other late ’50s and early ’60s Roger Corman pictures.