Film Review: Wizards (1977)

Also known as: War Wizards (working title)
Release Date: January, 1977 (Avoriaz Fantadtic Film Festival – France)
Directed by: Ralph Bakshi
Written by: Ralph Bakshi
Music by: Andrew Belling
Cast: Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval, Steve Gravers, Mark Hamill, Susan Tyrrell, Ralph Bakshi (uncredited)

Bakshi Productions, Dong Seo Animation, Twentieth Century Fox, 82 Minutes

Review:

“I’m too old for this sort of thing. Just wake me up when the planet’s destroyed.” – Avatar

This is a movie I first saw when I was really young and as a kid, I didn’t really understand it. As an adult, it’s still a pretty bonkers picture but I understand what’s happening in it a bit better.

I think fans of Ralph Bakshi’s work will greatly enjoy this, as it’s definitely one of his most unique and otherworldly films. It also mixes mediums and experiments with its visual style throughout the movie’s 82 minute duration.

Wizards isn’t just a straight up fantasy epic like you might expect if you’ve only seen Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings adaptation or Fire and Ice. This mixes fantasy and science fiction and it’s a real clash of magic versus technology.

Out of everything I’ve seen from Ralph Bakshi, this is his strangest film but it’s also damn cool and pretty original.

The actual plot could’ve been a bit better and finely tuned but you’re so captivated by the intense and alluring visuals that you find yourself in somewhat of a mesmerized daze. Wizards has a hypnotic quality about it and if you went frame-by-frame, you could be lost, analyzing all the artistic detail for days.

In fact, this has so much detail worked into every panel, I feel like you will just miss most of it, as the film flows pretty quickly from moment-to-moment.

I absolutely love the art in this. I don’t like to throw the word “awesome” around too carelessly because it means “to inspire (or cause) awe”. But this is visually awesome, as I had to pause certain parts to appreciate just the detail of the background illustrations.

Also, seeing this now, it brought me to a realization. Even though I didn’t understand the movie as a kid, it had an artistic impact on me. The reason I say that, is I remember a lot of the art I did in elementary school and my style reflects a lot of the things seen in this film, most specifically the buildings and architecture Baskshi used throughout the story.

The detail and look also reminds me of the architectural design and detail that Dave Sim and Gerhard (more effectively) used in the Cerebus the Aardvark comics.

Wizards is a really neat film. It’s not a great one, as an overall package, but the art, itself, makes watching it a really worthwhile experience.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Ralph Bakshi animated features, as well as the theatrical animated films of the era.

Film Review: From A Whisper To A Scream (1987)

Also known as: The Offspring (original title)
Release Date: May 13th, 1987 (Cannes)
Directed by: Jeff Burr
Written by: C. Courtney Joyner, Darin Scott, Jeff Burr, Mike Malone
Music by: Jim Manzie
Cast: Vincent Price, Susan Tyrrell, Clu Gulager, Terry Kiser, Harry Caesar, Rosalind Cash, Cameron Mitchell, Martine Beswick, Lawrence Tierney

Conquest Productions, Manson International, Whisper Scream Limited Partnership, 99 Minutes, 92 Minutes (VHS cut)

Review:

“One thing I’ve learned, my dear, is that one is never too old for nightmares.” – Julian White

I’ve stated in the past that I’m not a big fan of anthology horror movies. However, as I’ve reviewed more and more over the almost five years that this website has existed, they’ve kind of won me over.

Sure, many are bad and most are inconsistent from segment-to-segment. However, even if something doesn’t hit the right way, it’s over pretty quickly and the viewer gets to move on to the next chapter.

With From A Whisper To A Scream, we get an anthology picture where every chapter was pretty decent. Plus, the story that connects everything together stars horror legend Vincent Price in his last true horror role.

I don’t know if Price would’ve been a fan of the level of gore in this movie but it’s pretty standard for an ’80s horror flick that’s going for the jugular. I don’t think it’s overly gratuitous and it’s fine for the style but it’s definitely edgier and bloodier than the film’s one would typically associate Price with.

Each story was interesting and pretty creative. Unlike Creepshow, the Twilight Zone movie, Tales From the Darkside and the Tales From the Crypt TV show, this didn’t have source material to pull from and adapt. Still, the situations were cool and unique and frankly, pretty f’n bonkers.

From A Whisper To A Scream was enjoyable from top-to-bottom. For me, that’s rare in an anthology horror picture.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other horror anthologies of the ’70s and ’80s.

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: Fire & Ice (1983)

Release Date: March 25th, 1983 (Germany)
Directed by: Ralph Bakshi
Written by: Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas
Music by: William Kraft
Cast: Susan Tyrrell, Maggie Roswell, William Ostrander, Stephen Mendel, Steve Sandor, Susan Tyrrell

Polyc International BV, Producers Sales Organization, 20th Century Fox, 81 Minutes

Review:

“Next time you present me with one of your little sluts, Mother dear… I’ll squash you like a bug.” – Nekron

I have a funny story about this film. I saw it when I was probably about four or five when my aunt told my uncle to take my cousins and I to a movie. However, she said it had to be a cartoon because he always took us to see movies he wanted to see, which were usually violent action films. So my uncle took us to this and while it was rated PG by 1983 standards (before PG-13 was even a thing), it certainly wasn’t a kids’ cartoon due to its level of violence and barely clothed voluptuous women.

Anyway, I thought it was cool as hell as a young kid and since I hadn’t seen it since the ’80s, I thought that revisiting it was long overdue.

Luckily, Fire & Ice is still a lot of fun. It has held up tremendously well and it has that early ’80s sword and sorcery spirit. Plus, the visual style is incredible.

What’s really interesting, and it wasn’t something I knew about or would have cared about as a kid, is that the film was made with rotoscoping. What that means, is that live action actors were filmed and then those frames were then traced over for the animation. This early ’80s rotoscoping isn’t as clean as the technique is in more modern films like A Scanner Darkly but it still gives fluid movement and realistic motion.

I also love the character design and the way the fantasy world was drawn. The ape men look great, the monsters are cool, especially the giant octopus, and the rotoscoped characters just fit naturally with the painted landscapes.

The story is also entertaining and what’s really cool about it, is that it was written by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas, two guys that had previously written Conan comic stories for Marvel. For fans of classic Marvel Conan, you will see parallels to those tales. It’s also worth noting that Peter Chung, the guy who would later create Æon Flux, was an artist on this picture.

Fire & Ice is imaginative and badass. It’s a cool world and a great looking film. I heard a few years ago that Robert Rodriguez was trying to make a live action adaptation of this and frankly, I hope that he does. This is a world that could and should be explored more. Maybe a live action resurrection will help turn Fire & Ice into more than some forgotten ’80s sword and sorcery cartoon. There’s a good story here with really cool characters.

Hell, maybe a comic book company can get the publishing rights and put out The Further Adventures of Darkwolf because he is one of the coolest barbarian heroes of all-time.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other early ’80s sword and sorcery movies, as well as the animated films Wizards, The Lord of the Rings from 1978 and Starchaser: The Legend of Orin.

Film Review: The Demolitionist (1995)

Release Date: March 10th, 1995 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Robert Kurtzman
Written by: Brian DiMuccio, Anne Kurtzman
Music by: Shawn Patterson
Cast: Nicole Eggert, Richard Grieco, Bruce Abbott, Heather Langenkamp, Susan Tyrrell, Peter Jason, Sarah Douglas, Tom Savini, Reggie Bannister, Joseph Pilato, Jack Nance, Derek Mears, Bruce Campbell (uncredited)

A-Pix Entertainment, Two Moon Releasing, 100 Minutes

Review:

“You’re under arrest for the murder of Alyssa Lloyd.” – Alyssa Lloyd/The Demolitionist

If you were to take Robocop and take all the really good stuff out of it, replace the actors with mostly incapable ones, bastardize the plot and make the hero look like Jamie Powell from Charles In Charge, then you would have The Demolitionist. But hey, special effects maestro Tom Savini acts in this!

This movie is terrible with a capital TERRIBLE. It’s mid ’90s sci-fi/action schlock for the straight to VHS market. Granted, even though I lived in video stores throughout my youth, I never rented this. The first time I saw it was in the early ’00s when I was a third shift security guard at a high rise condominium on the beach and this popped up on TBS or TNT at three in the morning. I actually didn’t get to see it with full violence and boobies until I just watched it the other night.

Why did I decide to watch this again? Well, it’s been like fifteen years and even though I knew it was bad, I’m a sucker for terrible motion pictures. So, being a sucker for cinematic shit, reliving this experience was not a disappointment.

First, this film has Richard Grieco in it as the sadistic villain. Grieco was decent on the original 21 Jump Street and his own spinoff of that show, Booker. He also starred in a terrible but fun movie, If Looks Could Kill, which saw him play a high school student mistaken for a James Bond type of spy. Other than that, his acting work has been abysmal and this is no different. Well, it could actually be the big glorious cherry on top of his sundae of shitty performances.

Nicole Eggert of Charles In Charge and Baywatch fame stars as the hero. She’s basically Robocop but a hotter version with a normal head and a body that also doesn’t really look altered. Granted, she’s basically a zombie and needs some special injections to prevent her from rotting away. Sadly, we don’t actually get to see Robozombie eating douchebag brains.

Eggert and Grieco were just atrocious in this. It’s really bad, man. Their acting is actually worse than I remembered. I can’t say that it is wholly their fault though, as this entire production is horrendous. Weirdly, it is directed by Robert Kurtzman, who is actually really respected as a monster movie makeup artist. However, his work in the director’s chair leaves a lot to be desired.

Nothing about this movie is good, other than I have a soft spot for Eggert because I used to crush on her hard when I was a young lad in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

You may be wondering if this cyber turd should be run through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer? Of course it does! The Shitometer can eat and analyze the toughest turds! Even cyber turds! The results read, “Type 4 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: Robocop and other clones of its story but this is no friggin’ Robocop.

Film Review: Cry-Baby (1990)

Release Date: April 6th, 1990
Directed by: John Waters
Written by: John Waters
Music by: Patrick Williams
Cast: Johnny Depp, Amy Locane, Susan Tyrrell, Iggy Pop, Ricki Lake, Traci Lords, Polly Bergen, Kim McGuire, Darren E. Burrows, Mink Stole, Willem Dafoe

Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 85 Minutes

Review:

“I’m so tired of being good.” – Allison

I’ve been a big fan of John Waters since I was pretty young. Granted, I didn’t see his more vulgar offerings until I was in my late teens but I had a real appreciation for Cry-BabyHairspray (the original) and Serial Mom. I just loved the style of the films and the humor was my cup of tea.

I then realized that it has been a long time since I’ve sat down and watched a Waters picture. So I wanted to go back to where it all started for me: 1990’s Cry-Baby.

This was also one of three films that made me a fan of Johnny Depp’s work. The other two films being Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. Granted, I also love that he’s in the original A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Cry-Baby is a light musical. While I generally don’t like musicals, this one is pretty great in that it uses a 1950s rockabilly style and there isn’t an overabundance of musical numbers.

The story is about Cry-Baby (Depp) and a girl he meets, Allison (played by Amy Locane). They are from opposite sides of the tracks, Cry-Baby essentially being a Greaser and Allison being a Square, which are like the Socs in The Outsiders. The movie is a sort of Romeo and Juliet story with a cool rockabilly soundtrack and a 1950s style. The climax, which sees Cry-Baby and Allison’s Square ex-boyfriend play chicken while on top of the cars, is pretty well done and a really enjoyable finale.

The film also stars a bunch of interesting people. For one, you have Iggy Pop, who I love in everything and wish he had a bit more meat to chew on in this. You also have former underage porn star Traci Lords and Waters regular and future talk show host Ricki Lake. Willem Dafoe even cameos as a pretty hilarious but no nonsense prison guard. The cast also includes a lot of people who worked in several of Waters’ other films.

Cry-Baby is a short and fun movie. It doesn’t need to be more than it is. Ultimately, it is entertaining and not only drums up 80s and 90s nostalgia but it channels the 1950s, so its like a time capsule with triple the goodness.

While this isn’t Waters’ best film, it truly embodies what a Waters film is while being accessible to those that might not want to see a large drag queen eat dog poop.

Rating: 7/10