Film Review: Mother’s Day (1980)

Release Date: September 19th, 1980
Directed by: Charles Kaufman
Written by: Charles Kaufman, Warren Leight
Music by: Phil Gallo, Clem Vicari Jr.
Cast: Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce, Tiana Pierce, Gary Pollard, Michael McCleery, Beatrice Pons

Duty Productions, Saga Films, Troma Entertainment, 91 Minutes, 76 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“You’ll get what you deserve in them Deep Barons, you lez-beans! You won’t be causin’ no one no trouble no more!” – Storekeeper

This movie just flew under my radar for decades, which is surprising to me as I’ve seen dozens of films put out by Troma since the ’80s and this is something that I would’ve dug when I was obsessed with slasher flicks as an ’80s kid.

I discovered it just recently when it was featured as the first movie of the third season of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs. That episode had Eli Roth on as a guest and he revealed that this was one of his all-time favorites. So much so, that he watched it with the other kids celebrating his bar mitzvah.

This takes the Texas Chain Saw Massacre formula and moves things to New Jersey and gives us a film that is a lot more comedic and playful than its terrifying inspiration. By 1980, this formula had already been recycled quite a bit but this picture is more memorable and entertaining than most of the others.

I really liked the killer family, even though they were evil and batshit crazy. All three of the actors really hammed it up and gave their performances their all. I also liked that the head of the family was the mother, who somehow could play a sweet, charismatic old lady while also being completely deranged and sadistic, as she commanded her demented, pervert sons to, “Make mommy proud!”

I also thought the three females leads were decent. The one with the glasses actually had a pretty good character arc over the course of the movie, as she starts out as the shy, reserved girl scared of everything and eventually steps up to the plate to take this evil family out of existence. The final kill was bizarre yet very satisfying.

Although, the girls trashing that dude’s store in beginning was pretty fucked up. Clean up your mess, don’t be an asshole. Honestly, by slasher film logic, they all should’ve died horribly for knocking over that guy’s shit and bolting after acting like complete jackasses.

Anyway, this is a solid horror comedy with lots of violence and gore. It fits well within the patented Troma style and if those movies are your thing, this will most assuredly entertain you.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other slasher films with crazy families, as well as other Troma pictures from the ’80s.

Film Review: The Last Horror Film (1982)

Also known as: The Fanatic (UK), Love to Kill (Germany), Fanatico (Spain), Fanatismo Letal (Venezuela), Fanatical Extreme (US video title)
Release Date: October 9th, 1982 (Spain – Sitges Film Festival)
Directed by: David Winters
Written by: Judd Hamilton, Tom Klassen, David Winters
Music by: Jeff Koz, Jesse Frederick
Cast: Caroline Munro, Joe Spinell, Judd Hamilton, Filomena Spagnuolo, David Winters, Susanne Benton

Shere Productions, Winters Hollywood Entertainment Holdings Corporation, Troma Entertainment, 87 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve seen enough fake blood to know the real thing when I see it.” – Jana Bates

I recently revisited Maniac, which starred Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro. I knew about this movie, which also starred both of them and came out just two years later. I’ve never seen it but since I cherish both actors, I figured that seeing this was long overdue.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, I just knew that a New York City cab driver goes to the Cannes Film Festival in France due to his obsession over a film starlet.

One thing I didn’t expect from this was the comedy element. But I actually enjoy it quite a bit, as it lets Spinell really ham it up. The scenes between him and his mother, who is played by his real life mom, were funny as hell and their personal chemistry comes through in a very charming way.

Side note: For those that don’t know, Spinell was really close to his mom and despite his life as a character actor and party animal, he always kept his mom close. Little did I know that he actually included her in one of his films.

Beyond that, I really like Spinell and Caroline Munro when they’re together. This is the third time they’ve been in the same movie after Maniac and the cheap Italian Star Wars ripoff, Starcrash.

The really cool thing about this movie, is that like Maniac, it almost has giallo notes to it. Plus, setting it in Cannes and filming it during the festival created an awesome and unique atmosphere for something so dark, violent, gory and borderline slasher-y.

Additionally, the filmmakers rely on your knowledge of Spinell’s past characters, specifically his role in Maniac, to play off of and to set up a really good twist ending that you won’t see coming.

Seeing this, I was surprised to find out that I actually prefer it to Maniac, even though it’s nowhere near as well known and was sort of lost to time for a few decades before Troma decided to dust it off and distribute it on DVD.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Maniac, which also stars Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro, as well as other late ’70s and early ’80s horror and slasher films.

Film Review: Troma’s War (1988)

Also known as: 1,000 Ways to Die (alternative title), Club War (Germany)
Release Date: October, 1988 (Tokyo International Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Michael Herz, Samuel Weil
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman
Music by: Christopher De Marco
Cast: Carolyn Beauchamp, Sean Bowen, Michael Ryder, Patrick Weathers, Jessica Dublin, Ara Romanoff

Troma Entertainment, 87 Minutes, 104 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“You try chopping Siamese twins apart with a machete and not change.” – Nancy

I love everything Troma stands for, always have. However, I don’t enjoy a lot of their movies because even if they’re intentionally bad, it is often times too much and despite a few funny moments, here and there, their films get buried too deeply in their own schtick.

However, there are some films that they’ve made that are really damn good for what they are. While Troma War isn’t their best offering, it is definitely one of their better ones and I probably rank it in my top five.

This movie is absolutely insane but that should be expected considering this came from the mind of Lloyd Kaufman during his peak. Plus, it was directed by Michael Herz, who has been behind the camera for three of the Troma films I’d rank above this one: The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High and Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.

The story here is bizarre but basically this picks up after a plane has crashed on an island. The survivors then have to fight a war against the madmen that occupy the island. But this is a Troma film, so things can’t be that simple and cookie cutter.

Troma’s War is a movie that gets more and more bonkers as it plays on. The two craziest bits being the stuff surrounding the Siamese twin character and the stuff surrounding the guy with AIDS. But the over the top, violent and gory action is also insane.

Honestly, it’s a hard movie to describe and it sort of has to be seen to be believed.

Like all things Troma, one should expect terrible acting, questionable direction and the cheapest practical effects imaginable. However, this is just as much imaginative as it is offensive and that makes it much better than the standard Troma schlock.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Troma’s other ’80s and ’90s movies.

Film Review: Rome, 2072 A.D.: The New Gladiators (1984)

Also known as: I guerrieri dell’anno 2072 (original Italian title), Rome 2033: The Fighter Centurions (Belgium, Finland), Fighting Centurions (Norway, Germany), Gladiators of the Future (Portugal), Rome 2072 A.D., The New Gladiators, Warriors of the Year 2072 (alternative titles)
Release Date: January 28th, 1984 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Elisa Briganti, Cesare Frugoni, Lucio Fulci, Dardano Sacchetti
Music by: Riz Ortolani
Cast: Jared Martin, Fred Williamson, Renato Rossini, Eleanora Brigliadori

Regency Productions, Troma Entertainment, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Take a good look at these contestants, because for these men violent death is just seconds away.” – Commentator

I’ve seen several Lucio Fulci films but I never knew of this one’s existence until I really started going down the rabbit hole of European Mad Max ripoffs.

Sadly, this picture is pretty dull.

It does have two saving graces, though. They are Fred Williamson and the third act of the film that sets things right and makes this turkey end on a pretty high note.

First off, there’s really no one noteworthy here except for Williamson. And fans of Williamson should already know that he spent a big portion of his career married to schlock. This is no different but he helps to elevate the schlock when he’s onscreen. He’s just a bonafide badass and his presence in this film is no different. He owns this shit and he’s pretty unapologetic about how fucking manly he is.

Additionally, the last half hour of this picture is pure adrenaline. Once we reach the third act, we see these manly men get put into a violent game show, ala The Running Man, but in this picture, our heroes are on motorcycles and using any means they can to kill their opponents in an effort to ensure their survival.

There are some strong similarities to this picture and the David Carradine starring Deathsport from six years earlier but this is a better movie with a presentation that looks a wee bit more polished. It also sprinkles in elements of Death Race 2000 in how it employs vehicular violence in a reality TV format in a post-apocalyptic future.

One thing that I liked about the movie, which most people probably won’t, was the use of miniatures and models to create a futuristic looking Rome. You can tell that these sequences are miniatures but it has this otherworldly and dreamlike appearance that sort of drew me in.

Fulci is a better filmmaker than what this movie shows. He’s made worse pictures than this, though. If you’re interested in seeing his best work, Four of the Apocalypse, Massacre Time and Zombi 2 are much better examples of what he’s capable of.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: other Mad Max ripoffs: Battletruck, Metalstorm and Megaforce.

Film Review: The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967)

Also known as: The Blood Demon, The Snake Pit and the Pendulum, Castle of the Walking Dead
Release Date: October 5th, 1967 (West Germany)
Directed by: Harald Reinl
Written by: Manfred R. Kohler
Based on: The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe
Music by: Peter Thomas
Cast: Christopher Lee, Karin Dor, Lex Barker, Carl Lange

Constantin Film, Hemisphere Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

“The blood is the life.” – Count Frederic Regula

I love Christopher Lee, that is not a secret. However, he is only in the opening sequence of this film and then doesn’t appear again until the last twenty minutes. That being said, the film isn’t a complete waste.

All the main actors are pretty decent with their material, although the material isn’t great. The story is based off of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum and we have also had a few adaptations of that story by the time this came out. This version is German and it takes some big liberties, which do set it apart.

For one, the story has a snake pit instead of just some long drop into nothingness. Also, the madman is pretty much a resurrected ghost – played by Lee in chalky white makeup. Plus, there is a whole horse and carriage journey that takes up the bulk of the film, until the people arrive at the haunted castle.

The sets look cheap and resembles a low budget spook house from the 1960s more than a real scary horror filled fortress. But hey, it still looks pretty cool and the wall paintings are neat. Also, the lighting is striking and vibrant and the film has a subtle giallo presentation to it.

Christopher Lee overtakes the scenes that he is in but there aren’t many. The leading lady had a very strong Barbara Steele vibe but wasn’t quite Steele. The main fellow was okay but nothing exciting. The guy who plays the priest/bandit was really fun though.

This was one of the few Christopher Lee films of the 1960s that I had not seen. Being that it was available on Amazon Video for Prime members gave me the opportunity to finally check it out. While I’m glad I did, it really isn’t anything that people who aren’t die hard Lee fans will enjoy.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: Surf Nazis Must Die (1987)

Release Date: 1987
Directed by: Peter George
Written by: Jon Ayre
Music by: Jon McCallum
Cast: Gail Neely, Barry Brenner, Robert Harden, Tom Demenkoff, Bobbie Bresee

The Institute, Troma Entertainment, 83 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

“I am the Fuhrer of the beach!” – Adolf

As I’ve been watching through a lot of old school Troma films the last week or so, I have become reacquainted with Surf Nazis Must Die.

This film is shitty, even for Troma’s standard. It had a few things about it that felt somewhat commendable but never really developed into anything worthwhile.

The cinematography wasn’t as inventive and fine-tuned as the other well-known Troma pictures and for the most part, it doesn’t really seem to fit the same visual style that their other films had in this era.

Surf Nazis Must Die is more low budget looking than normal and the gore is severely toned down and a lot less gratuitous than say The Toxic Avenger or Class of Nuke ‘Em High. At the same time, it wasn’t produced by Troma, it was just distributed by them.

The premise is ridiculous, as it should be but I really couldn’t get invested in it. I really didn’t care, truthfully.

The thing is, the title of the film makes it seem like a bad ass post-grindhouse grind house film. I love films where Nazis are villains and I loved the old surf film era of the 60s. What seemed like a Tromaville parody of those two things, was just a mishmash of shit that quickly hit the floor.

So does this Troma picture get to go through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer? Oh, yeah! As “Macho Man” Randy Savage would say. The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Rating: 3/10

Film Review: Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986)

Release Date: December 12th, 1986
Directed by: Richard W. Haines, Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman (as Samuel Weil)
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Richard W. Haines, Mark Rudnitsky, Stuart Strutin
Music by: Ethan Hurt
Cast: Janelle Brady, Gil Brenton, Robert Prichard, Pat Ryan

Troma Entertainment, 85 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

“But what about the Fellini festival?” – Warren, “Warren – fuck the Fellini festival!” – Chrissy

Class of Nuke ‘Em High is a diamond in the rough from the massive catalog of films made or distributed by Troma Entertainment. Being that Troma’s modus operandi is making really awesome shitty films, this one can be expected to follow suit. Well, it follows suit and then exceeds the distinction that is its birthright.

The Toxic Avenger is considered to be Troma’s masterpiece and the foundation of their bad filmmaking empire. By many of the Troma faithful, Toxie’s first flick is like their bible. In my opinion, Class of Nuke ‘Em High exceeds it.

Here you have a school, next to a nuclear power plant, which leads to 80 minutes or so of insanity. The Honor Society has evolved into a ruthless gang of cretins, called the Cretins, that buy weed from a guy who grows it on the nuclear power plant’s property. This “atomic weed” becomes the catalyst for all the crazy things that happen in this film – leading up to climax where the Cretins take over the school on their motorcycles and a beastly toxic creature brings terror to those still left in the building.

If you want over the top, and I mean severely over the top 80s camp, gore and something so ridiculous it’s just fun, this is a great film to throw on.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)

Also known as: Sardu: Master of the Screaming Virgins, The Incredible Torture Show, The House of the Screaming Virgins
Release Date: November 3rd, 1976
Directed by: Joel M. Reed
Written by: Joel M. Reed
Music by: Michael Sahl
Cast: Seamus O’Brien, Luis De Jesus, Viju Krem, Niles McMaster, Dan Fauci, Alphonso DeNoble, Ernie Pysher

Alan C. Margolin – Joel M. Reed Prodcutions, Troma Entertainment, 84 Minutes (theatrical cut), 88 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Her mouth shall make an interesting urinal!” – Master Sardu

I’ve been slowly working through a lot of the cult classic grindhouse splatter flicks that all the gore hounds have raved about for generations. While most of them aren’t good pictures by any stretch of the imagination, I actually did find Bloodsucking Freaks to be entertaining and somewhat worthwhile by comparison.

Unlike Blood FeastThe Corpse Grinders and Last House On Dead End Street, which are hard to get through (and not because of the gore), Bloodsucking Freaks is at least humorous and a bit fun. The comedy of The Corpse Grinders wasn’t effective and it was an ugly boring mess.

I think that Bloodsucking Freaks works on some level because of both Seamus O’Brien and Luis De Jesus. Both of them were funny and had a good camaraderie. O’Brien was also a good showman and had an alluring air about him. Everyone in the aforementioned splatter flicks had no charisma at all.

Also, the humor is just better and it lightens the tone, even though you’re watching torture and dismemberment at every turn.

Now Bloodsucking Freaks is not a good film but it is more accessible if this sort of gore-riddled thing is your cup of tea. Yes, it is bloody and violent but it isn’t anything that should be too overly shocking. It is a very dated picture, as these movies tend to be, and it is kind of hokey.

It also has a better story than other similar pictures. There is some thought put into the story and there are a few twists and turns. The cop character is more interesting than any character I’ve seen in a splatter spectacle. You’re never really sure what he’s up to and he doesn’t just follow some stock character road headed directly into predictability.

If you want to experience a splatter flick, this is a good choice, as it delivers on more than just gratuitous gore.

Rating: 6/10

 

Film Review: Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990)

Release Date: 1990
Directed by: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Andrew Osborne, Jeffery W. Sass
Music by: Bill Mithoff
Cast: Rick Gianasi, Susan Byun, Bill Weeden

Troma Entertainment, 105 Minutes

Review:

“I was depressed, I was confused and I was turning Japanese.” – Sgt. Kabukiman

Having recently watched and reviewed several old Troma films (some of those to be posted soon), I figured I’d also revisit the single film of one of my favorite Troma characters, Sgt. Kabukiman.

This is probably my third favorite Troma movie, after The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High. It’s witty, it’s funny, it’s violent, it’s graphic and it gives a person everything that Troma has become known for. It doesn’t stray from the pack, it just reignites the formula and brings something different to the table.

Yes, this film is bizarre as hell and it is extremely low budget but like The Toxic Avenger those challenges produced great results. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz proved once again that they can be masters of no-budget film and that they are inventive and ingenious when it comes to the right sort of project.

I kind of wish that this had spawned a franchise ala The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High but it never really did. Maybe Troma will make a proper follow-up at some point or maybe we’ll get another team-up movie with Toxie like what they did with the Citizen Toxie film.

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. is Troma at its best and if those films are your cup of tea, this movie will probably be your thing.

Rating: 5.75/10