New Year; new posts…

 

Happy New Year!

With a new year and a new need to have some sort of creative output; I’ve decided to re-start this blog. Make sure that you keep checking here soon for more reviews and overviews, and as always- comments & suggestions are appreciated…

One more way you can follow me is through my radio show. The nice folks at Cult Radio A-Go-Go (http://cultradioagogo.com) have given me a half hour to do what I wish, so I’ve turned the empty time into “Kitschen Sink Radio”  airing on Saturdays @ 7:30PM EST / 4:30 PM PST (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kitschen-Sink-Radio/123873747678483) – a show about bad music and the people that put it out. Already we’re up to 17 shows and I’ve been happy with the response, so make sure that you tune in…

Blacker than Black- “Urban Revenge” 15 movie pack…

Urban Revenge

This is my first purchase of flicks from The Garr Group (www.thegarrgroup.com , but good luck finding any useful information on their website- as it seems to be with most of these budget providers, their site is “Under Construction”), and they seem to specialize in multi-disc collections of Public Domain and ‘gray-area’ titles. After finding this, I think that I need to seek out some more of their collections if they are like this; some of the titles can be found anywhere, but others I had never seen anywhere on DVD…

 

I’ve always been a really big fan of 70’s “blaxploitation”; for a time in the early and mid 70’s some of these titles were allowed a freedom depicting an experience that other drive-in movies of that time. Most were very cheaply made, and, seams and all, showed a slice of life far from the way I was raised, but were exciting and daring (growing up we had an “inner city” drive-in that I would frequent, just so I could catch up on triple features no one else showed). Some great people came from that period of filmmaking, and some of them are still working today; people like Pam Grier (a personal favorite); Fred Williamson, Bernie Casey, Richard Roundtree and Jim Brown are just some of the names. Now, on a lower tier, people with VERY little money tried to jump on the gravy train to turn a quick buck; those are the titles (for the most part) included in this set…

 

The discs themselves come in a hard-sided double-width case with fairly serious cover art featuring Morgan Freeman (I do like on the back the little red circle that points out that “Warning- Some movies may contain explicit language, sex, violence and nudity”… REALLY? I wouldn’t have guessed that). The 15 movies are spread out between 3 discs, and as you’d expect from the dubious nature of this package, the quality is less-than-pristine. In fact, some of them are downright awful. Blurry transfers, video artifacts abound, rough prints, they’re all included here:

 

 

Disc 1-

 

1- Black Godfather (1974): A stalwart in these PD collections. Rod Perry stars in this urban take on Mafioso. Fairly flat and talky, but pretty well acted (you’ll recognize Tony Burton– Apollo’s right-hand man from the Rocky movies). Also features scenes in a warehouse, foreshadowing Reservoir Dogs. (94 min.  2 stars)

 

2- Black Hooker (1974): Not really blaxploitation; more of a drama about the cast-off son of a street walker and his life in the country, Some barnyard sex in the middle does nothing to spice up this lame and overbearing flick- shot and acted in parts like a play. Should never have been included in this set. (86 min.  1 star)

 

3- Velvet Smooth (1976): Now, this is more like it! It’s horrible and particularly badly-acted, but with the head-spinning action and the outrageous wardrobe, it makes most of its faults endurable in a bad-movie kinda way. A female detective and her co-workers are hired to takedown a gang of cardboard mask-wearing hoods. Someone thought that the lead actress (Johnnie Hill as Velvet) could carry this flick, and she did such a good job she never appeared in ANY movie again. (92 min.  2-1/2 stars)

 

4- TNT Jackson (1974): More karate chick action, this time it’s the distraught sister of a murdered man avenging her brother’s killer. Hong Kong locations give this one a different feel, and better acting by the leads (Jeannie Bell, a former Playboy Playmate, is a lot easier to look at than Velvet Smooth) as well as more professional behind the camera talent (Roger Corman produced, and Dick Miller (Bucket of Blood) wrote it) make this a not-too-bad time waster. Warning- the print used is particularly faded. (71 min.  3 stars)

 

5- Super Soul Brother (1979): AKA The Six-Thousand Dollar Nigger. Dr. Dippy (yep- Dr. Dippy) comes up with a drug that would make a normal man a “super man”. They use a bum (“Wildman” Steve) for their experiments, with comical (well, ATTEMPED comical) results. Not funny in the least, not even unintentionally. (80 min. that seem twice as long   ½ star)

 

 

Disc 2-

 

1- Jive Turkey (1974): Numbers racket action with Mafiosa trying to cut into a black racket. Not high on action at the start, and the women are not attractive at ALL, but the story isn’t bad and there’s a feel about this that seems pretty authentic. Stay tuned for the women who kills a guy with the heel of her shoe (84 min.  2-1/2 stars)

 

2- Candy Tangerine Man (1975): Some Super Pimp action with The Black Baron having to keep his bitches in line (they even get a special credit in the opening titles: “The Actual ‘Hookers’ and ‘Blades’ of the Sunset Strip in Hollywood); between on-the-lamb chicks who steal and his money, and the Mob trying to horn in on his action- what’s a poor Mack to do? With a good score and some recognizable faces (Marilyn Joi was a fixture in these kind of movies, and Buck” Flowers was in a  bunch of both John Carpenter and Bill Rebane flicks). With gratuitous ‘golden shower’ scene- thank God the print for this one is really bad and blurry. (86 min.  2 stars)

 

3- Brotherhood of Death (1976): ‘Nam soldiers vs. The Klan in this better-than-expected revenge flick. Like The Black Six, the leads were NFL football players- a gimmick that worked pretty well in this flick as, for the most part, the guys did an OK job. Well-made for what they had to work with, with an interesting story and enough action to keep things interesting. I was glad I ran across this- one of the few titles on this that I had never heard of before. (77 min.  3 stars)

 

4- Children of the Night (1985): Made-for-TV movie stars Kathleen Quinlan as a social worker out to make lives better for Hollywood hookers. Too well-made to be in this set, it can’t really be considered exploitation because, well, it’s a mid-eighties TV flick; it’s well produced and acted, and doesn’t have a predominately black cast (Mario Van Peebles is the basically lone African-American star in this). Good use of “Hell is For Children” by Pat Benatar (however, there’s no way music rights were cleared to be included this on this set) based on real-life incidences and people.  (93 min.  2-1/2 stars)

 

5- Death of a Prophet (1981): Another Made-for TV flick (more like a SHOW with its short running time); this one detailing the life of Malcolm X, interspersing real life remembrances with re-enacted parts. Morgan Freeman plays Malcolm X going about the last day of his life through his assassination, intercut with newsreel footage and narration. Again, pretty good but shouldn’t be included in this mix (59 min.  3 stars)

 

Disc 3-

 

1- Mr. Mean (1977): OK but empty Fred Williamson exploiter (he stars and directs) with The Hammer playing Mr. Mean- one bad mutha who gets caught up in an international crime ring. Mostly shot in Italy with (rumored) borrowed equipment being used to make another film he was starring in at the time (the original Inglorious Bastards); the movie rambles on like pretty much all Williamson movies do (lots of people walking in and out of doors; people on the phone, etc.) but has a clunky charm to it all. (80 min.  2-1/2 stars)

 

2- Stigma (1972): Other than the racial prejudice on display over the Phillip Michael Thomas (yes, THAT ONE- Tubbs for Miami Vice) character, this is less blaxploitation than pure exploitation as Thomas plays a defrocked doctor in this expose of sexual diseases and the fun that can be had. A seventies version of the ‘it can happen to YOU!’ 30’s VD flicks, sleazy and hard not to watch, with the hysterical acting, dopey music, and all-over-the-place messages. Not to be missed- by the director of I Drink Your Blood, another insane drive-in flick. Look for an appearance by the DJ “Cousin” Brucie. (93 min.  3 stars)

 

3- Black Jesus (1968) I had heard about this and was really looking forward to finally seeing this rarely-screened ‘cult’ item starring Woody Strode. Again, not some much blaxploitation, this is more about political persecution and, in the end, martyrdom in the Congo. Strode is an actor of great charisma (an ex-football player who wasn’t as successful an actor in the States as he was overseas) and manages to make this heavy drama compelling and interesting. Backed and Directed by an Italian crew (81 min.  3 stars)

 

4- Black Force (1975) Jumping on the karate craze of the mid-seventies, this pointless and poorly-made fodder has a group of kung-fu experts hired to retrieve African artifacts. Owen Wat-son (who also appeared in Velvet Smooth) appears as the ‘leader’ and his wooden acting and puffed-up ego are hilarious. The credits introduce the actors along with what degree black belt they are, like that would somehow make the following action more authentic I guess (even someone who only provided a PHONE VOICE gets their 2nd Degree Black Belt credited!). Didn’t work- lame to the 5th degree (black belt). Also, don’t miss the credit playing up that “All martial arts sequences are authentic” and no special effects were used. If I were the filmmakers, I would have hired George Lucas’ team to spice up some of this “action”. One of the actors with the incredible name Warhawk Tanzania went on to make the insane Gang Wars a year later. (77 min.  1-1/2 stars)

 

5- Black Force 2 (1973): This re-titled flick (originally released as Brother on the Run and on this DVD with the title Man on the Run) has no karate action whatsoever. Instead, it’s a turgidly-paced lemon following the exploits of a shoplifter on the lamb and the nice-guy teacher who wants to help him. Terry Carter is the soft-hearted teach and the only other actor in here of worth (you’ll recognize the other- James Sikking from Hill Street Blues as well as playing Doogie Howser’s Dad); he’s pretty good, but just too weak to carry a dull picture like this. Only in the annals of exploitation would a sequel have been made two years before the original!  (84 min.  1-1/2 stars)

 

 

 

One last thing- for some totally unknown reason at the bottom of the package says “NOTE: Views or opinions expressed in this product are those of their individual producers and do not necessarily represent of those of TGG Direct, LLC”. Well, since none of these have separate audio tracks (or ANY special features), the disclaimer is a bit odd- is the Distributor afraid of being sued from someone watching these flicks? They don’t want to be sued when someone innocently watches Black Hooker and decides to devote her life to turning tricks? Right. Purchased at Kmart for $4.99- a deal at twice the price…

 

David Carradine in the Future Force/ Future Zone Double Feature

 

FF and FZ

  I was a big fan of David Carradine from when I first saw him on the “Kung Fu” television show. By 9 or ten or so, I was struck on just how damn cool he was- kickin’ major ass while roaming the land. As I got older I would catch him in genre flicks that would trickle down to Central Florida; great stuff like Cannonball! (an underrated Roger Corman- produced car crash flick with the very yummy Veronica Hamel and the funny Gerrit Graham); Thunder and Lightning (more car hijinx- this one co-starring my favorite “Charlie’s Angel” Kate Jackson), and his most famous- the giant cult flick Deathrace 2000 (with FOUR smokin’ gals in this one: the pretty genre favorite (but barely in this) Roberta Collins (who had more screen time in things like Caged Heat & Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive, and who died just last year from an OD); Louisa Moritz (who’s been in a million things like Chained Heat; Lunch Wagon and New Year’s Evil– a busty blonde with a squeaky voice who you’d recognize the second you saw her); the tall-and-sexy Mary Woronov (again, in a bunch of things from Andy Warhol underground stuff to Ms. Togar in Rock and Roll High School and the waiting-to-be-discovered lost film Get Crazy) and, my favorite of the bunch (sorry, Mary) the should-have-moved-on-to-much-better-things Simone Griffeth, who later appeared in more obscure drive-in stuff like The Patriot and Hot Target. She was a stunning woman who could really act (if not necessarily shown off in Deathrace), and apparently is still acting in local theater (in between her Real Estate day job)…

 

 

   I wanted to get in some reviews of some budget Carradine titles in honor of his passing on June 3rd and remembered that I had been sitting on a two-disc set of Future Force (1989) & the sequel Future Zone (1990); a combo set that can be found for $5 at places like FYE (courtesy of the budget DVD company Echo Bridge Home Entertainment). I didn’t know much about either title other than these were made during a low (one of several) in big Dave’s career (it would be a few years before he’d appear in the big studio flick Bird on a Wire, and 15 years before getting the title role in the Kill Bill movies), and that it was directed by David Prior- a director of low budget schlock who has a list of this type of thing as long as your arm (and he’s still at it). The box art has some Lawnmower Man- type computer graphics, suggesting something very Sci-Fi. Of course, cover art has lied in the past, but surely something with the Seal of Approval of “Caine” (Carradine and his 3rd wife Gail Jensen are credited as Associate Producers) wouldn’t DECEIVE, would it? Read on, fellow travelers…

 

 

   David stars as John Tucker, an officer of the “C.O.P.S.- Civilian Operated Police Systems” (as some helpful narration at the beginning of the movie informs, because of how bad crime has gotten by the so-in-the-future 1991 (!) the government has sold police forces the privatized corporation and now most crime has been obliterated) who ends up having to guardian angel a news reporter who’s fingered a mob boss in town (an overacting ham of a human being named William Zipp). Showing the low budget nature of the movie right off the bat- do the cops wear cool armor? Well- no. Actually, the uni consists of dark Wrangler jeans, a sky blue t-shirt under a denim cutoff vest. He does have a cool steel riot glove (ala The Glove– see my earlier blog post about that Rosey Grier/John Saxon vehicle) that gives him the strength to lift things like cars, smash meal and shoot lasers. But, being a David Prior movie, it’s carried out in his consistent, cheesy way, That is, a low budget version of a basic cable TV movie (and I know- I’ve sat through some of his other offerings, like Raw Justice (ever wondered what a movie starring Pam Anderson and the guy from Airplane would be like? Wonder no further- this is it); and Raw Nerve (with Glenn Ford reaching his absolute nadir, acting with an apparently drunk Jan-Michael Vincent and a way too sober and clothed Traci Lords) …  

 

   Carradine looks bloated and a bit tired in this- simply going through the motions. And if the flick had the least bit of fun to it, it might be easier to take. Unfortunately, it takes itself DEADLY serious, and sucks the air right out of any pace or drama it tries to set up. Tucker throws out grumpy lines to convey that he’s a bad ass: “You have committed a crime and have been found guilty. You have the right to die. If you relinquish that right, you will be placed under arrest…”. Wow- harsh stuff, huh? The only other name on display here is Robert Tessier, a big, Mr. Clean- looking guy who’s been in a bunch of Burt Reynolds films (like Hooper and The Longest Yard) as well as the Bad-Guy-who-turns-into-the-Good-Guy-and-dies-for-his-efforts personal favorite cheese-fest Starcrash, as the Boss’ right arm. Just like everyone else in here (except for the above-mentioned Zipp and Dawn Wildsmith- the ex- Mrs. Fred Olen Ray as the fellow cop with a heart and slashed throat), he seems to be acting in some kind of catatonic state…

 

 

   So OK; the acting’s kinda flat and the Art Direction is uninspired- at least there’s some nifty Sci-fi effects, right? Uh, no… sorry. Lame in that department as well. The whole movie is shot with the dingy, uninspired poor man’s karate movie look, with not a hint of fantastic elements. And the library music used (lots of bass keyboard thumping) and amped-up sound effects do not help matters; instead of helping the excitement level it’s just that much more distracting. The movie is unrated, and except for a few swear words and some after-killing blood there’s nothing too rough in this (which would have probably spiced up the very long-seeming 80 minute running time). The “Flying-Glove-of-Death” is pretty funny though; you have to wait to the 68 minute mark for that, though)…

 

 

   I’m glad that he was able to regain some level of credibility before dying (but with all the speculation on HOW he died, seems to have undone that); it’s a shame that he had to survive on low-level product like this. As I was barely unable to get through the first one, the sequel Future Zone is going to have to wait for another day for me to review it- I’m still having trouble keeping food down…

 

 

Future Force- 1 out of 5*

 

Richard Grieco hits the acting skids in “Final Payback” (2001)

 

final_payback_07

 

 

   Johnny Depp is known to be pretty much the coolest guy in movies. Not only is he probably the most entertaining guy out there with his varied roles, he seems to be just a good guy (things like recording personal messages for a young coma patient; sending pieces of his wardrobe to fans; or appearing with his former teenage bandmates for a 20-year reunion just to play music). He got his start on “21 Jump Street”; a pretty successful series for the Fox Network that was suppose to launch the career to superstardom of another actor on the series- Richard Grieco, but things didn’t turn out as planned. While Johnny hooked his star to directors like Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and Robert Rodriguez, Richard ended up with straight-to-video “mavens” like Chuck DuBus (Fish Don’t Blink); Christian Viel (Evil Breed: The Legend of Sam Hain); and David Wu (Webs). This time he picked Art Camacho, a Stunt Coordinator and sometime Director (his biggest flick to date is the recent Half-Past Dead 2), and together they unleashed Final Payback, a DTV of a slow and talky man-on-the-run versus a corrupt-police-force-out-to-get-him flick…

 

  When Grieco goes dippin’ his ink in the company well- well, no good can ever come from that apparently, and he wakes up to his girlfriend (Priscilla Barnes, in probably the most thankless role of her life) dead in her shower. Oh, and it’s a Police Chief’s (John Saxon– SURPRISE! As another cop!) wife; the same Police Chief who had ol’ Rich bounced off the force a few years earlier. He hears cops, hops on his Honda, then scoots away, causing the lone cop car following him to flip and burst into flames…

 

   Well, after THAT, you get scenes of drug dealers and users being brought in by (drum roll, please) Martin Kove, chewing scenery from here to L.A. He grits his teeth, rolls his eyes, and sucks up major to the Mayor (Corbin Bernsen, who’s few minutes of screen time must have either been as a favor to the makers of this or commanded pocket money for a weekend in Sausalito). Kove is easily the best thing in this (maybe not BEST- let’s say “most entertaining”)- Grieco could have made this his, but with his sulking, overacting and facial ticks, it’s hard to like him. His greasy hair and earring, his oily and pudgy face, his stupid leather jacket all made me hope that they’d turn the tables and off the good guy (I don’t want to give it away, but no luck). It’s kinda fun- there are some flourishes that make this not as static as typical fare (the junkie hitmen- one played by Manuel Sanchez that is a low-rent version of the great Danny Trejo; a buddy-turned-informer trippin’ out in an alley), but in the end, it’s just a fairly-good time-waster…

 

   The flick itself is shot flat and pretty static, though nicely framed in widescreen 1:85. The most surprising thing is the lack of real stunts, but the fight scenes that are here are well-staged. This DVD is released by Digiview and can be had for a buck at pretty much every WalMart on earth. No extras, but that’s OK- I can’t picture really wanting a “Making Of” or a “Director’s Commentary” for this; nothing all that exceptional here. One last thing- for some reason most of the cursing is bleeped out (“Son of a ____”); however they left an “F-word” in.

 

 

 

Final Payback– 2-1/2 out of 5*

 

 

“7 Lucky Ninja Kids” and Earl Owensby

 

earl-owensby

 

   Earl Owensby has been referred to by others as a “Hillbilly Roger Corman” or a “Southern-fried Orson Welles”. It’s a shame to label the guy, and I don’t think that either of the descriptions really suit him- he never had the pure output of product that Corman had (I think that Earl has only had his hand in about a dozen or so feature films), and he never released anything that could be considered an artistic vision and something on par with Welles. However, he did have Corman’s drive-in sensibilities- knowing his target (basically people below the Mason-Dixon Line who like adventure, thrills and a moral thread running through their flicks) and attempting to deliver the goods. And, as Orson Welles, he could be a Jack-of-all-Trades; at different points in his career he was Producer, top-lining Actor, Director- Hell, he even built his own studio after acquiring an abandoned and half-built nuclear power plant in a small town in South Carolina (http://www.earlowensby.com/)- and this ain’t no tin-roofed shack behind an outhouse either, but a world-class facility worthy enough of the likes of James Cameron (who shot The Abyss there). The only person that I can really equate him with would probably be H.B. Halicki- the Stuntman/Director/Producer/Star of the original Gone in 60 Seconds; a self-made man who made a few flicks before tragically dying while performing a stunt in a movie he was making…

 

 

   I’ve been fascinated with him long before I ever saw one of his flicks- I had read somewhere about him (OK- actually the SOMEWHERE was in an issue of “Penthouse” that a friend of mine had snuck out of his Dad’s sock drawer. See- sometimes we DON’T lie and really DO read the articles, even as a kid) and had never thought until then the possibility of someone; ANYONE; being able to make a movie that actually played in theaters that wasn’t located in New York or Hollywood. This was a real guy making real features. The next few years I was able to catch various Owensby movies either at local drive-in’s or on TV (Wolfman– another one of his that seems to be released by all kinds of bargain DVD companies and one I have to bring up on the blog again, a true Gothic/Southern werewolf movie that must be seen to be believed; Seabo (aka Buckstone County Prison– made in the wake of mid-‘70’s badass Southern cops on a rampage like Macon County Line and Walking Tall) and Rottweiler– released to cash in on the brief resurgent 3D craze of the early 80’s). I’ve also missed out on some beauties that I have to watch; like Living Legend (his take on the whole “Elvis Presley thing”) and Tales of the Third Dimension. One of his later works (and, if I’m not mistaken, his last film to date as a Director) is 7 Lucky Ninja Kids, a movie that would appear to have been made to cash in on 3 Ninja and its never-dying string of sequels and rip-offs. I would once in awhile find this in on DVD in unexpected places like FYE but never thought of purchasing it until too late, and then when I started to look for it in earnest, it ended up going out of print and fetching as high as $50 from used movie vendors on Amazon and eBay. Imagine my surprise finding it at a Family Dollar for 60 cents (that’s what it rang up as- even though there’s a printed-on-the-cover price tag selling it for $1). Yeah, it’s packed in a cardboard sleeve, and manufactured by some outfit called Dollar DVD (don’t bother going to dollar.dvd.com; that web page is long gone), but I thought that I could risk three quarters for this obscure little item…

 

 

   Well, there’s a reason that this has fallen into obscurity- THIS ISN’T AMERICAN MADE! It’s a painful redubbing of some Honk Kong kids comedy, with skilled acrobatic kids performing antics that would make the Three Stooges wince and atrocious dubbing with clever repartee like “You dumb jerk” 50 times, and gems like “You don’t believe me? You’re an idiot! You don’t know anything! Only how to sleep!”; and “Over here I’m ‘Rocky’, but in the states I’m known as ‘Rambo’!” (the last line said by a fatigues-wearing ten year old who’s appointed as the squadron leader). The basic plot has the 7 Lucky Ninja Kids stumbling on a diamond heist and murder, but in between the idiocy of Japanese Gangsters trying to find ways to stop the meddling kids are restaurant hijinx; stuttering hitmen; tough guys trying to stand on an ice rink; a BMX bike chase; and a desk that beats up the guy sitting behind it (don’t ask). It all culminates in a prolonged warehouse fight, when, after the kids are victorious (sorry to spoil the ending) is an apparent out-take of the leaping-in-unison shot in the credits, showing the crew rushing in to goof around with the suspended tykes…

 

 

   Framed incorrectly to the right, therefore cutting off a fair-sized sliver on the right and leaving a large black band on the right, it is distracting to say the least- it’s as if the telecine operator (the guy who transfers this obvious ¾ video master to DVD) couldn’t stomach to watch this, so he started up the machine, then left for the local pub to get a few drinks in him. On top of that, it’s horribly zoomed in, easily cutting off a total of a quarter of the picture on both sides, like if you were to try to watch a movie with your face stuck right on the TV screen, and the tracking is bad, especially at the top of the screen and an occasional picture warble. The sound is very flat and has a slight hum throughout; all punctuated by the highly exaggerated smacks and cracks of all the worst Kung Fu movies of the seventies. The dubbing is (naturally) just awful, and the tinka-tinka theme song sung by the kids (“Olalala-lalalala chi chi chi”) doesn’t help matters…

 

 

   The Director listed as Chau Chen Li (I think- between the cutoff titles and the white letters on a washed out white background, it’s hard to see ANYTHING). Even though it’s aimed at kids, I’m not sure that this is wholesome Disney-esque entertainment, with lines like “Goddamn foreigners” and “What’s you problem? Go to Hell!” Also, watching the kids get punched and kicked around by adults double their size is a little disturbing. As for how Earl Owensby is tied to this I have no idea- nowhere on either the film or the packaging is his name (or ANY English name) listed. If this IS somehow his, I would guess that he was a distributor for it, but there aren’t a lot of clues that THAT ever happened, either. And after watching this 80 minutes of celluloid (that, at times felt like twice as long) I sat in a stupor, not believing what I saw so I was going to watch it again just to make sure. But you know what it’s like to suck in helium? How your voice gets funny and it cracks everyone up around you and you feel light-headed, so it wears off and you try it again, only this time it’s not as funny, and the high isn’t as high and all you end up with is a slight headache? Well, when the headache started about 5 minutes into re=watching it I couldn’t go through with it, ejected the DVD and sleeved it. Oh, and even though the date is reported as “1989”, I have to think that it was made at least 10 years prior to that, judging by the cars and scenery…

 

 

   One more thing- come to find out that “Dollar DVD” is an offshoot of the late Brentwood/BCI- Eclipse – it appears to be BCI’s ‘sub-label. They’ve released a whole slew of very old PD titles- things that have been in bargain bins as far back as the old VHS days (like Charlie Chaplin shorts; The Road to Bali and The Beverly Hillbillies that are in Public Domain). So if you find it for under a buck, consider it “fair market value”; if, however, you run into somebody asking you to pay anything more than that, tell them to lay off the helium.

 

 

7 Lucky Ninja Kids– 1 out of 5*

 

 

 

Flexplay and You…

flexplay1

 

I remember seeing these first at a 7-11 a few years ago where I bought a couple of them out of curiousity (one of the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks and something else), then they seemed to disappear. I was at Staples last week and saw a big cardboard display for them, so I though that I’d cover them on the blog…

 

 

“Them” are Flexplay DVDs (www.flexplay.com) “the Time Limited DVD” and what they are- well, it’s kinda hard to say. It’s sort of like having a rental DVD, only you don’t have to return them- instead you’re stuck with a disc that “ages”; after you’ve opened it from it’s protective air-tight sleeve you have 2 days (the packaging says) to watch it before it comes unplayable. I saw that Staples were clearancing these out; they normally retail for $5 each (a bit high for a comparable DVD rental when you can go to a Redbox for $1 a night, but, you don’t have to return the disc anywhere so I guess you’re paying for convenience) but they marked all of theirs down to a buck a piece (of course your mileage may vary). I ended up buying 15 or so; different titles that interest me like The Invasion; Cloverfield; Be Kind Rewind; The Brave One (Jodie Foster– YUM!); The Love Guru, etc. They also have some TV content like Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs episodes and some concert flicks like Rolling Stones- Shine a Light, but all of their content seems to be current or semi-current- I guess you really want to buy a classic movie if you really want to see it, and not have it go ker-plunk on you for repeated viewing…

 

 

I went ahead and opened the recent Sweeney Todd for analysis. Once you open the cardboard package (they’re packed in a full-color sleeve that opens to reveal the clear pouch that contains the disc), you remove the air-tight disc packaging, cut the side off then remove the DVD. The disc itself looks like a standard DVD; it has the same heft as any other professionally produced disc, even down to the full-color silk-screened top (which seems a little wasteful- I mean, you’re just going to chuck this in a few days anyway; why go whole hog with fancy graphics on a disc that you’ve already purchased?), but if you look on the underside of it, the disc is a pretty ruby red (I think that this has changed and they’ve come up with newer technology for the “rotting” process; The Love Guru disc looks like the familiar reflective silver that are standard with regular DVDs). It goes quickly straight to the movie- no menu or extras or anything (again, in comparison to Love Guru– that has a simple Menu that allows you to choose either “Play” or “Setup”, which allows you a choice of English/French/Spanish Languages or Audio- all in 5.1). The picture was in widescreen; again, no choice (however, some of the other titles show “widescreen” on the packaging, so I’m not sure what titles they have that are NOT in widescreen)…

 

 

The picture itself is clear (if just a touch softer than the regular DVD release) and the sound is as vibrant. I watched the flick on both an upconverting DVD player on a large-screen HD set as well as on my PC and had issues with neither. I then waited two days and tried to watch on both and again, no problem- however examining the physical disc itself I noticed the inner ring of the disc was gradually turning black- the way the disc shuts itself off. I tried it two days later and was still able to play it in both the stand alone DVD player as well as the PC. On the 5th day, however the stand alone DVD player churned then stopped; I was still able to play it on the PC until about the week mark, where it finally failed to play. However as another test, I was able to copy it using (SHHhh- secret) software that allowed playback with no issues whatsoever both when I opened it as well as making another copy after a week (though the packaging does say that the discs are “copy-protected”, so either the software I have is very good or their copy-protecting software ain’t). Actually, after almost two weeks, the files on the Flexplay are viewable; what seems to derogate are the files initiated at startup. So, basically if you are not tech-y (my Parents immediately come to mind) this protection is fine; but if you want to find a way to crack it, it is easily achieved…

 

 

I’m not really sure who these are marketed for; I would guess first and foremost would be the casual movie viewer who’s not a collector (and therefore wouldn’t want to own a DVD for repeated viewing) and who doesn’t want to go to the trouble of either joining a local video store (like Blockbuster) or something online (like Netflix), or doesn’t want the trouble of repeatedly going to a Redbox for renting then returning or incur the expense of Pay-per-View on their local cable systems. This seems like a very specific niche, though, and I’m not sure how long the company is going to stick around (a recent look on their site shows some even newer titles available, so maybe Staples just wanted to get out of the pre-recorded DVD market) with all of the viewing options available. You can purchase these on the Flexplay site as well for $4.99 each with free shipping. One more thing that is a bit disturbing is the waste factor; the disc covers mark these as “recyclable”; however, you have to go on their site, register the UPC codes individually (limit 5 at a time) then they’ll send you a pre-paid shipping package to return to them. It seems a bit too much work to be “eco-friendly”; this also doesn’t allow for the cardboard sleeve these are sold in, so this may bother you if you have those kind of concerns. At the $1 price-point I would recommend these easily; anything above that for a title that you would consider watching more than once then I would be more apprehensive…

 

 

Flexplay (in general)- 2-1/2* out of 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creature

 

creatureposter

 

 

   Let’s see- it’s got:

 

 

   * A mixed-sex crew of older and young explorers, investigating strange goings-on in a space outpost…

 

   * An almost silent-but-strong Security Officer who seems to have more going on that at first appears, and Corporate-backed expeditions in the hope of finding, uh, SOMETHING…

 

   *Space turf that continually fogs and  thunders and is too dark to see much further than a few yards ahead of you…

 

   * Titillation in the form of hot chicks stripping down for the sole purpose of giving the audience something to ogle at, as everything else to look at is drab and boring industrial pseudo- functional backdrops…

 

   *A thumping bass-heavy score, punctuated by occasional squeaks, heavy-breathing sounds, and pings designed to jar you out of your seat…

 

   * Gloppy space mutants that come in a variety of shapes and leave behind astronauts in bloody heaps……

 

 

 

   So is it Alien? Of course not- it’s the easily-available 1985 B-flick Creature; filmed as Titan Find and made by monster fan, makeup artist and still-working director William Malone, who made another Alien-clone prior to this one called Scared to Death (1981) (aka filmed as Syngenor) and went on to helm most famously the House on Haunted Hill remake and Feardotcom. And if you get a chance, visit his pretty-cool-for-a-Hollywood-Director website (http://www.luminousprocesses.com/ )…

 

 

   The flick itself is very low budget (said to be well under a million dollars), but also somewhat claustrophobic, has some well done SPFX (including the spaceship scenes and the bloody carnage left over in the aliens’ wake, and a pretty good, if kind of by-the-numbers, main monster) and some taunt suspense. Probably its most surprising aspect (well, for me at least) is the above-average acting from some familiar faces (familiar to people that constantly wade through movies like I do, at least); people like Diane Salinger (you may recognize her as Simone- Pee Wee’s dinosaur companion in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure), the cute-as-a-button Wendy Schaal (who’s been in a bunch of stuff but sticks with me most in the Where The Boys Are remake)- who ends up coming up with a way to dispatch the monster by remembering how the crew from the 1950’s The Thing killed the giant carrot monster; Lyman Ward (three words- Ferris Bueller’s Dad- now of COURSE you know who THAT is); and, best of all, that old German nutbag Klaus Kinski, at his greasy-smiling, boob-grabbing best, as a fellow astronaut from a rival conglomerate, thrown into the mix for laughs and all-out creepiness. And, by the way, if you’ve never seen a Kinski performance, then I recommend that you drop what you’re doing (well, I guess I mean AFTER finishing reading this blog), go on IMDB and randomly pick out 2 or 3 flicks of his to see- you will NOT be disappointed!…

 

 

   The print I watched this on (part of the 10 movie “Space Odyssey” set put out by the late-and-lamented BCI-Eclipse, which also includes other recent-vintage somehow-they’ve-become-public-domain-fodder like Slipstream and Abraxas) is a weak video dupe, but the only time I remember seeing looking anything more than average was on a cable broadcast in the late ‘80’s; it seems like every dollar DVD manufacturer uses the same crappy dupe. Of course, it’s worth it for the pittance that you’ll pay (I know that pretty much every Walmart has Digiview’s version of this for a buck), but it would be nice if some enterprising Company would put this out in a pristine clear print complete with extras (I would LOVE to know what the fellow cast thought of working with ol’ Klaus!)- I have to doubt that will happen though as Creature seems to be stuck in some PD loophole Hell. Such a shame…

 

 

   ….anyway, if you see it, pick it up- a fun way to kill 90 minutes of tacky video viewing…

 

 

 

Creature– 31/2 out of 5*

 

 

 

Posted in Reviews. Tags: , , , , , . Comments Off on Creature