When he's inadvertently stuck in the middle of crime disguised as a toxic spill, a football star (Ken Wuhl) partners with a cop with a heart (Matt Frewer) to stop a Beverly Hills heist worth billions.
I love it when I revisit a film that I haven't seen since I was a teenager and not having any real expectations going in, other than I hope it's good, to just be blown away by how awesome it is. That's exactly what happened with this one. First off, this film is pure nonsense and completely absurd. You really have to check your brain at the door, yet it's done with so much heart and quality that you can't help but love it. And I did. I loved the shit out of this one.
One of it's most charming and endearing aspects is that the film just looks fantastic aesthetically. I mean, this has all the trimmings of a big budget Hollywood studio film, the kind of action film that ruled the theaters back in the early 90's, and if it wasn't for some of it's absurdity, it could easily rival the best of the Die Hard ripoffs that were so prominent during this time. But it's the absurdity of it that makes it so great! This is Trash Cinema at it's finest, and if you're looking for a serious action film, look elsewhere, because while I'm sure it wasn't intentional, so much of this film is dumb, cheesy, and unintentionally hilarious, but in a really fun way that I mean.....how can you not love it?!
Let's start with the mullets. Were they still a thing back in '91? They must have been because they're pretty prominent in here and they're glorious. Then there's the complete lack of realism to almost "everything". For example, everything explodes for no reason. If a car is about to crash, it explodes for no reason at all while midair before it hits it's target. If a car jumps a curb, it explodes. Basically everything explodes, even the mansions of Beverly Hills. And quite easily I might add. In fact, if this movie is trying to tell us anything, it's that mansions in Beverly Hills are made of cheap plywood. Who would've thought?!
Some other magnificent highlights include Robert Davi playing a villain who delivers totally random and unnecessary exposition to help drive the film forward enough so that things happen, really bad one-liners, a villain (with a mullet!) who uses a tank, and a truck with a flamethrower, to chase our 2 hero's through the city when he could easily just shoot them, completely random music (most likely the radio hits of that year) that literally come out of nowhere that make no sense to the sequence and disappear as quickly as they show up, and...........well I don't want to give it all away. You just need to see it for yourself to really get it.
While I've never seen anything with Ken Wuhl other than his show Wiseguy, I have to admit that I'm surprised he never really made it in films. TToBH may not be high art, but it does display his ability to be charismatic, and physical in an action film. Robert Davi is on fire as always. This was when he was really hitting it big with films that I adore like Peacemaker, Maniac Cop 2 and Predator 2 just the year before. The guy's just great in anything he's in, even if he is just playing the same charater over and over again. Surprisingly though, he's not a cop in this one. So I guess that would be a change of pace.
To date (12/3/2016), this has only ever gotten released several times on VHS and once on Laserdisc. The VHS only comes in full frame, while the Laserdisc is surprisingly in widescreen (YES!), yet it's not cheap. Much like other films I love to death, this has never gotten a DVD or Blu Ray release here in the U.S., which just really surprises me. It's a great film that deserves a much larger audience, and with companies like Shout! and Scream Factory, Mill Creek Ent., and Umbrella Entertainment knocking out long lost cult classics left and right, I hope it's only a matter of time before one of them wises up and releases this in widescreen in an HD format.
Quite possibly one of the best times I've had watching an action film recently, this is the definition of Badass Cinema. Check it out!
Here's a rad vintage ad I found that I thought would be fun to share because I love VHS, and also that it specifically points to Christmas, since it's coming up. I still haven't been able to grab a decent Media VHS release of Day of the Dead.
|The Vindicator VHS (1986)|
A scientist, who's part of a revolutionary team working on a new suit designed to sustain the harsh conditions of Mars, is killed in a laboratory accident. Or at least that's the official report. When he wakes up, he realizes his eyes and brain have been preserved inside this revolutionary and experimental suit. When he escapes, the leader of the team will stop at nothing to get it back.
On the production and technical side, it boasts an eclectic behind the scenes crew that is sort of all over the place, yet they all bring their unique strengths to the table. First and foremost, Stan Winston designed the suit, which is awesome. We all know a suit design can make or break the entire film. And when you consider the modesty of the entire budget, we should all be grateful that Winston and his team took the time to take on this little project while right smack in the middle of their winning streak while dealing with huge films like Aliens and Predator. It's directed by Jean-Claude Lord, who gave us the early 80's slasher Visiting Hours, as well as um, Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! The writing team of Edith Rey and David Preston also gave us Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. So yea, a pretty eclectic bunch to say the least, yet somehow these combined talents do something incredible. They made a film combining elements of Frankenstein, sci-fi, horror, action and drama, and put it all together so well that there's never a dull moment.
It's hard to pinpoint really why it's so good. It just is. Every element brought to the table works, and there's never a dull moment. Hell, even the score is pretty amazing, with it's bits of computer synth! Sure, there are a things you can nitpick to death, like Pam Grier's bounty hunter character not really being all that badass when you get right down to it. In fact, quite the opposite, and a lot of what she does doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. Her name is Hunter, but is that her real name or do they just call her that because that's what she does? And to be quite honest, it's actually a little annoying watching her trying to talk and act tough. It just doesn't come across as genuine. It feels forced and fake more than anything, even if it is nice seeing Pam Grier on the screen.
To date, going on a full 30 years now, The Vindicator has never gotten a DVD release, much less a Blu ray. And as far as I know, it never got a Laserdisc release either. VHS seems to be the only way to go if you want a physical copy of this badass flick, which, as you can see from the image above, looks sweet. The downside to that though is that it often goes for about $20. Well worth the purchase if you ask me, but for those that have a limit on how much they will spend on a tape, that can be a little high. If you're patient, they do pop up from time to time a bit cheaper, but not that often. There are also multiple copies available to watch on YouTube if you just want to do it that way, which I guess would be easier. I don't know what the holdup is on this release though. I don 't know if there are any legal issues tied up to it which prevents companies from touching it. I would love to see this in widescreen someday, so here's to hoping something like Shout! Factor or Umbrella Entertainment picks this up and gives it a proper and much deserved release.
It's funny how my tastes can change. I had actually done a review of this 5 years ago on this blog and my feelings at the time were pretty much that it was just alright, but better than you expect. Flash forward a full 5 years when I revisit it "again", and my enthusiasm is much higher for it. I loved it a helluva lot more this time around.
Here's a little project I'm very happy with. I have to admit that on a creative level, I've been on a lull for a very long time. But having taken myself out of the world of Facebook recently, I'm finding that I have a lot more time for more creative endeavors. I wanted to start with something small, so I came up with the idea of doing a custom VHS cover since I'd never actually done one before.
So I had this VHS bootleg of Roger Corman's Unreleased Fantastic Four movie from 1994. I purchased the bootleg from an online vendor years ago, but just judging from the quality of the actual tape, and the horrendous job on the cover art and label for the tape, I'd guess this particular tape has literally been around since the mid 90's. It's easily one of the worst dupes/boot's I've ever come across. On a scale of 1 - 10, I'd probably give this either a 1 or 2. Yes, it's that bad, practically unwatchable. But, when you consider the fact that there wasn't an internet when this bootleg surfaced, or at least the kind we have now, then this was really the only way to watch this remarkable little film. So we didn't complain. It was all we had and the only way we'd ever get to see it.
So I've had this really awful bootleg of a pretty incredible movie sitting on my shelf for a very long time. But I always HATED the cover art that came with it. I hated looking at it. Essentially it just looked like someone used the most primitive program they could find on their computer to put some words above a really terrible and blurry image from the film, then proceeded to make copy after copy of that same image. That's the type of quality we're talking about. I would guess it literally took this person about a whole 5 minutes to come up with it. My guess is that whoever made this was probably selling them at conventions back in the 90's and early 2000's.
Since the first bootleg's started circulating the internet and conventions, this film has become readily available on bootleg DVD's and on numerous streaming sites. So you can pretty much watch it with the snap of your fingers now. But the funny thing is that with all the different bootleg DVD and VHS versions out there, I still never found a cover I actually liked. I considered just downloading one of those cover images and using that, but really, none of them are appealing. They're as boring and uninspired as any of the covers for any new Marvel movie nowaday's. So I just figured making my own will be the only way to go. I had come across a random image similar in style and color online, but it was just the front image, made to look like the cover of a comic book, and wasn't going to work fully for what I needed. So I took a lot of inspiration from that one image and altered it to work for a wrap around VHS cover, taking out certain things I felt unnecessary, and added things I felt were important.
Playing around with different and new fonts was fun, finding the specific FF font wasn't hard at all, easily obtainable from a number of free font sites. I made sure to include Roger Corman's New Concorde logo on the spine considering it's his company that ultimately funded the film. And we all know the story behind that by now, even more so with the release of the documentary Doomed!The Untold Story of Roger Corman's Fantastic Four. I had actually hoped they would have also released it on VHS, but sadly that was not the case.
For the back I know I wanted to include in image of Dr. Doom because he's hands-down the best Doom interpretation out of any FF film, which is both sad and awesome. Sad in that none of the big budget FF films still couldn't get it right, and awesome in that this tiny little ultra-low-budget film did.
When I first put the image on the back, my intention was to make it smaller and throw in a bunch of other images from the movie; standard for any back cover. But when I saw how glorious he looked covering the entire area, I just left it. I think it works.
Since I have a bunch of old empty VHS clamshells laying around, I just used one of those, complete with sticker residue and, as you can see with this back image, still with the old Blockbuster purchase sticker.
Anyway, hope you dig it. It was a fun little experiment, and in any case, this looks a helluva lot better than it did sitting on my shelf before.
|VHS cover scan courtesy of LostVideoArchive-vhsarchive.blogspot.com|
First, here's some quick notes on the production. Released in 1986, it's produced by Michael Mann and directed by Paul Michael Glaser, a year before he took over directing reigns on The Running Man. The cast is a largely eclectic ensemble of familiar faces like Stephan Lang (playing a Native American??), Leon, Lauren Holly (Dumb & Dumber), John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Michael Carmine (Leviathan, *batteries not included), Laurence Fishburne, and James Remar (Quiet Cool, 48 Hrs.). This cast is nuts, but then there are the peculiar casting choices in general, like having Stephan Lang play a Native American, and James Remar a Hispanic named Nestor.
Now onto the film itself. I can't even begin and "try" to explain this film. It constantly shifts genre's, story lines, and tone so radically that I can't even pinpoint what type of film this is, other than just fucking awesome. It's awesome, trust me on this. Don't try to figure it out, just go with it and proceed to have your mind blown at how bizarre and off the wall this entire experience is.
A group of criminals (thugs, thieves, drug dealers, murderers) are taken and gathered from a local jail and sent to the everglades for survival training by someone named Indian Joe (Stephen Lang). Indian Joe is in charge of a program where he will train these criminals in the art of survival, in the process learning how to live with one another and learning lessons about life. Once completed they are sent to Miami to take on the local criminal activity.
Really, that's barely scratching the surface of this film, because there is so much going on and so many different storylines, yet it works. It all works shockingly well and it makes sense, in a chaotic 80's neon sorta way. Not to mention the film just "looks" great. I don't know if this is all on director Paul Michael Glaser, or if we should really be thanking his DoP, but whatever the case, the film stylistically and aesthetically has such a large retro cool 80's vibe to it. The hair, the clothes, the bright neon colors, the music, it's all thrown together so well, it's literally a hard punch of 80's nostalgia right to your gut.
Band of the Hand was nothing like what I was expecting based on that cover. Now that I think about it, I'm not really even sure what I was expecting based on the cover art. Maybe something with a Miami Vice feel, which it certainly carries, but there's also so much more and it goes in so many different directions that it's Miami Vice inspiration is only a very small fraction of the awesome found in here. I'm shocked this doesn't have a much larger cult following. While I did some research, I discovered that this was intended as a series, with this film acting as a series pilot. When it didn't get picked up for series, they decided to release it as a theatrical feature. I'm sure producer Michael Mann (Manhunter, Miami Vice) just saw the immense potential because this thing just looks amazing. Sadly though it was a flop, not even making it's budget back. Still, I would have thought that the home video market (that's what it was called back in the day) would have seen this thing take off, where it would have really found it's audience. Thus, it did not. What's even more, I've never actually heard anyone ever discuss this, or bring it up, so I've never given this a second thought. Again, I'm shocked.
I've just discovered that while it barely got a few DVD releases in the 2000's, there's finally a Blu Ray coming courtesy of Mill Creek; I'm told in December 2016. I for one will be first in line for this one. It's a must have for my collection, and I can only imagine how striking it will look on Blu Ray.
If you've never seen this, I implore you to change that as soon as possible. Band of the Hand was just the right amount of everything thrown in but the kitchen sink that by creating something totally unique, it justifies the craziness.
Since I no longer have a home computer or scanner (I stick to my laptop, mostly at work), I have to rely on various sources for my VHS scans. While I do have this on tape, and the cover is considerably less worn than this image above, I didn't have a way to scan it myself. So this image comes courtesy of VHS Archive. I'll probably start looking into getting a scanner again as I have a large number of tapes that I could not find cover images for. Soon!
|VHS scan courtesy of Chud.com / HBO's terrible cover art|
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Category: Good Question
Every so often, I'll finally get off my ass and take a film that's been on my radar for what seems like forever, and actually make the effort to finally see it, only to be absolutely blown away. That's what happened with my experience watching Cast A Deadly Spell.
In the 40's, everyone uses magic to some capacity. And then there's hard-boiled detective Dt. Lovecraft (Fred Ward), who is one of the only people who refuses to use it, making him a unique outsider. When he's hired to retrieve a stolen Necronomicon, he's thrust into the dark world of magic and may have taken on more than he bargained for.
A Made-for-HBO movie (VERY well made) released way back in 1991, and only appearing on HBO, this little gem literally blew us away upon our first ever viewing just a few weeks ago. It was a huge breath of fresh air, and quite the clever little film. It's hard really to describe what kind of film it is, because it successfully marries several different genre's together brilliantly and effectively. It's so successful in fact that I'm kind of shocked that this hasn't been pushed for a wider release. Having only ever appeared on HBO, and subsequently released on VHS (not sure if it was available for sale or if all the copies we come across were meant for home video rentals to video stores) and Laserdisc (I've seen some foreign editions, but have yet to see a U.S. release), it's never gotten an official DVD release to this day, and honestly, that's such a tragedy.
Working with elements of a film noir, horror, comedy, and a hard-edged detective story, Cast A Deadly Spell turns out something totally unique, and it works splendidly. It's just the right amount of funny, horror, action, and thrills that it never strays too far in any of those directions, making it equal parts awesome all around.
On the technical side, a lot of props need to be given to director Martin Campbell. At this point, he hadn't really made a name for himself in the U.S. as a director, as he was mainly working in television over the U.K.. Just a few years later he began working in action films by directing the Bond flick Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro and No Escape. But he really hit it big when he reignited the stale James Bond franchise by directing Casino Royale in 2006. But then he directed Green Lantern in 2011, and well, it's been hard to bounce back from that huge misfire. But hey, with this film, he does a helluva job with the visual aspect, giving the film a true "noir" look and feel.
The effects work in this is another area where the film shines. I guess we can all be extremely grateful this was made so long ago, meaning pre-CGI. And thank the heavens for that, because here it's all practical physical and optical effects, and it's glorious. It really adds a huge dash of authenticity to an already nostalgic wonderland of spirited cinema. I can't stress that enough really. With the way films are made these days, Cast a Deadly Spell was such a breath of fresh air; a revelation.
I like to compare it to the John Landis film Innocent Blood, only in the fact that it's such a big mishmash of genre's (genre's you wouldn't normally blend together), yet it works effectively well. I can't think of any other film quite like it to compare it to, except Innocent Blood, which is another surprisingly underrated film that never quite found the audience it deserved.
|Fred Ward, a zombie, and Clancy Brown|
This is such a fantastic little film, full of wonder, creativity, spirit, and awe. If you've never seen it, I urge you to seek this out ASAP. It's highly recommended. And here's hoping to a legit upgrade to DVD or Blu ray someday, in widescreen.
How to see it:
Well, as I stated before, it's never been officially released on DVD, so renting it from Netflix is out of the question. You can find bootleg's all over the place if you know where to look, and the VHS is readily available for a pretty penny. I'm sure it's on YouTube, but can't attest to the quality. I ended up renting it on Amazon Prime (luckily), and it looked great. Crystal clear image and it was even in widescreen.
|VHS cover scan courtesy of Retro-Daze.com|
Directed by: Jon Hess
Shame on me for taking so long to finally get to this. 90's martial arts/action/cop movies just don't get any better than this. Excessive Force has everything you could possibly want in a film of this type, and it delivers ten-fold. Not only did this film meet my expectations, it damn well exceeded them.
I could give you a synopsis, but basically it's virtually every single action/cop film cliche all thrown together. Which is absolutely fine because what set's this particular one apart from the vast majority of all the others is that this one is actually really good, surprisingly well made, and a blast from start to finish. It's like all the right elements came together at just the right time for this. For example, director Jon Hess does one helluva job shooting this thing, giving it a fantastic 90's cop movie vibe, full of gritty atmosphere and lots of excessive violence. In fact, I'm surprised his career didn't take off after this, the way other action director's did at the start of theirs like Renny Harlin and John McTiernan. Quite the contrary, Hess really didn't do much after this, and of all the films he's done, this is really the only solid one that stands out.
And it's sad to say, but despite a memorable turn as the lead vampire in John Carpenter's Vampires, and the assholiest of assholes in Karate Kid Part 3, Griffith really didn't turn into the new breakout action star that he should have been. It's a shame really. He's one of the few martial artists that can actually act. Not only that, while not the most handsome actor, he's definitely got a big, physically imposing presence. It really is a damn shame he never made it big.
Written/Produced/Starring Thomas Ian Griffith, Excessive Force is one of those hidden unseen gems that really should have gotten a bigger and better reception than it did. It should have given Griffith the same kind of recognition that Hard to Kill did for Seagal, or the way Kickboxer did for Van Damme. In fact, I found this one a helluva lot more entertaining and better made than Rapid Fire, the martial arts/action film that tried to turn Brandon Lee into an action star. Instead, Griffith was stuck in DTV-land, with the occasional role in a big budget film like Vampires or XXX. Still, the guy is a badass. It's like he knew exactly what kind of film he wanted, the kind of film and genre he was good at, so he just went out and wrote the damn thing himself. And he doesn't try to do a vanity project type thing where he makes himself out to be a hero. No sir. His character is actually pretty unlikable to be honest, yet he's so convincing that he's just fascinating to watch. He sells it, and he sells it really well.
Griffith was smart to surround himself with some pretty outstanding notable costars. Every time a new face popped up I was kind of caught off guard. I mean, you have Tony Todd (Candyman) as his partner, Lance Henrikesen as his boss, Burt Young (The Rocky films) as a bad guy, James Earl Jones (Darth Vader) as a friend, and the list goes on and on. It was kinda nuts at how good this cast was, all of which do what they do best.
If you like these types of films, you owe it to yourself to dig into this one. I can't stress that enough. It's just fucking awesome all around. One of the best in this genre, from any decade. And you're in luck. It's easy to get your hands on. Whether you go the DVD or VHS route, you won't pay more than $5, and that's with shipping included. I strongly suggest you seek this one out pronto. You'll thank me.
Directed by: Albert Pyun
Knights is a film that writer/director Albert Pyun made the year after one of his best films, 1992's Nemesis. It's also the same year he directed Arcade, and another personal favorite of mine, Brain Smasher...A Love Story. As you can see, he's a very busy director. often throwing out about 3 films a year. This particular film though seems to fly under the radar for most of those who genuinely like Pyun's films, or just these type of films in general.
In a post-apacolyptic future, cyborgs rule the earth and it's desert wasteland. A human named Nea (kickboxing champion Kathy Long) teams up with a cyborg named Gabriel (a miscast Kris Kristofferson) to put an end to the cyborg's rule by going after their cyborg leader Job (Lance Henrikesen).
I really enjoyed this one. Knights is a pretty simple straight-forward story, and that's one of it's best assets. Honestly, it couldn't be anymore low-budget than it already is, but because of that, Pyun makes the most of what he's got. He makes full use of the gorgeous desert landscape, offering some pretty killer camerawork, utilizing different colored filters throughout to give certain sequences a little punch. Aesthetically, Knights ends up being one of Pyun's better looking films.
One of the things I was not expecting, but what ended up working in it's favor, is that Knights is so over-indulgent that it ends up being extremely cheesy. There is so much hammy over-acting, and just plain silly dialogue that above all else, it's extremely cheesy. But it works! It works so well in fact that whether intentional or not, this cheesy experience made it so much better than it could have been had they all played it straight. I'm so glad they didn't though, seeing Lance Henrikesen really deliver the kind of over-the-top performance you expect from him half the time made it all the better. I have to really give it to Scott Paulin (The Red Skull from Pyun's Captain America) as one of Job's (Henriksen) henchmen. He made the absolute most of his limited screen time and delivers a truly hilarious/cheesy/hammy performance that easily makes it the most memorable (and hilarious) in the entire film.
The casting of this film is very peculiar. First of all, I don't know what Kris Krisofferson is doing in this. He just seems so out of place entirely. I have nothing against the guy as an actor. In fact, I think he's actually pretty good. But he kind of feels like he fell out of a completely different film or universe and landed smack in this thing. If he's a cyborg, why does he have a southern accent? And watching the fight scenes (he's supposed to be a kickboxer) it's painfully obvious he's not doing any of the actual fighting, save for a closeup here and there. Lance Henriksen was awesome as usual, as was Paulin, but a few other notable surprises for me were very brief appearances by Tim Thomerson (Trancers, Dollman, Near Dark), Vincent Klyn (Cyborg, Point Break), and DTV action star Gary Daniels (too many films to pick). I'm telling you, the casting of this thing is all over the place. Which brings us to the star, kickboxing champion Kathy Long. For her first film, she was not bad at all. She does a fine job playing the part, and when it's time to do some ass-kicking, she delivers the goods.
Ultimately I enjoyed this because of how unintentionally cheesy and silly it was. Had it not been, I doubt it would have been as enjoyable. Pyun again explores his fascination with cyborgs and robots, but this time set in a baron future as opposed to something more futuristic with buildings and flying cars. I'm still not sure why it's called Knights though. It's terribly misleading because there are no actual knights in the film, and that word is never uttered once. There's even poster art showing Kathy Long tightly holding a sword, which gives the impression that this is somehow a mish-mash of cyborgs and knights set in some alternate universe. But she doesn't use a sword at all in the film. So again, the title and marketing are somewhat confusing. But trust me, this is a fun one and worth seeking out.
The film works for the most part. There are a few things that ultimately don't, and some of the fight sequences could have used some fine tuning, but it doesn't take away from the experience enough to ruin it. Kristofferson as one of the main characters, and a cyborg no less, is too bizarre not to notice, but thankfully, it's really Kathy Long's film, and in her first starring role, she carries the film well on her shoulders. Thankfully she's surrounded by a fun supporting cast that kind of divert your attention from time to time.
How to see it:
Never officially released on DVD or Blu ray, you might find it a little hard to find. The VHS pops up periodically, though I've never seen it for less than $10. There are bootleg rips, even some in widescreen somehow, on several online retailers, but being able to stream a legit print has so far not become available.
As much as I like to think I'm a De Palma fan, I realized that I had only really scratched the surface of his filmography. So I decided to dig into his early films, the ones I never actually got around to - namely his "thrillers".
One thing immediately stands out when you watch a film that he both wrote and directed himself: they're so bizarre, but in the best possible way. They never stick to a specific storyline, theme or genre, often shifting all 3 of these things throughout the film. Though he didn't actually write The Fury himself, it certainly fits into this aesthetic. If you've never seen an early Brian De Palma thriller, I'd highly suggest you do so as soon as possible.
I'd have to say that Blow Out is probably my favorite. It's such an underrated masterpiece in the thriller genre, But Body Double would probably be his most "De Palma" film in this early area of his career. It's kind of nuts and amazing at the same time. In any case, any of these would be a good one to start with, because they're all well representative of the specific way he makes films, and it's safe to say that nobody has ever come close to displaying the mastery that he has, and nobody probably will.
Also of note, if you haven't yet watched the fascinating and highly entertaining documentary De Palma, I'd encourage you to do so immediately. It's literally 2 hours of De Palma talking about every single one of his films in order and it's awesome. A must watch for cinephiles. I've included the trailer below: