Oh hell, we're almost halfway into April and I never posted my March list. Nor did we post a funny April Fools review. Nor did we mention that this is our second anniversary. Yep, two years and we haven't even scratched the surface of our little world of thread-bare cinematic gems. What we are amazed by is what we haven't written about. Our favorite aquatic horror movies are a no show, we barely touched on ninja flicks, not a single Earl Owensby review, Indonesian action epics? Zero. Tomas Tang? Nada. Ron Marchini? Nope. Jim Brown? Zilch. Brian Trenchard-Smith? Nothing. Chris Mitchum? Barely. Damn, we got our work cut out for us!
STARHOPS (1978): Fun, ultra-lightweight would-be teen sex comedy. I say "would be" as it was directed by Barbara Peeters, who was famously removed from the director’s chair on HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1982) due to the fact that she didn’t want any nudity and violence in the film. There's a reason Roger got paid the big bucks! Jerry (Dick Miller), the owner of Jerry’s Drive-In, loses his marbles after mismanaging his business finances and being crowded out of the market by modern mechanized fast food chains (not much has changed in 30 years). Of course his car hops, Danielle (Dorothy Buhrman) and Cupcake (Sterling Frazier), decide to buy the place after using their feminine wiles on a bank officer. Unfortunately for them, an oil baron wants their patch of land for a full-automated gas station of the future (“I got 300 employees I want off my payroll!”) and resorts to all manner of dirty tricks to bring them down, including a disastrous health inspection. There are some funny jabs at big business, bureaucracy, and the food biz, too bad Peeters keeps it so squeaky clean. Some nudity (particularly from the one-and-done Frazier) would have made this an absolute classic. As it is, it's still a lot of fun. Oh, and just to be clear... STARHOPS is not Stephanie Rothman's fault. If it was, there would have been boobs in front of the camera.
Pauline Hickey), the movie is virtually plotless. The tiny bit of story that we get is that a kissogram agency is recruiting new talent and is willing to give them extensive training at a posh mansion where they will learn the art of stripping… and jogging topless… and soaping up another girls breasts while in a clawfoot tub. All of the necessary skills that will make your resume bust out – I mean, stand out. Stand out.
The scenes with the girls doing topless exercises, such as running up stairs (which they are clearly not accustomed to doing), trying on clothes, “dancing” (badly) are fun, but go on so long and presented so, ummmm, flatly, that not only does the 88 minute running time feel like 880 minutes, but numbness sets in to the point where I feel like watching MARY POPPINS just to refresh my palette. It’s like eating five pounds of bacon in one sitting. After a while all that rich, fatty succulence will start to have the opposite effect and leave you yearning for a strip-mall salad bar. This actually makes the few scenes of extremely wooden dialogue actually much more entertaining than they would have been otherwise. This is Kay’s first “feature” and would prove so successful that he would go on to make at least eight other movies along similar lines (such as the tongue-twistingly titled THE SEXY SECRETS OF THE SEX THERAPISTS), some of which actually included plot elements from what I understand.
PRAY FOR DEATH (1985). A group of wealthy right-wing uber-patriots (lead by the incomparable John P. Ryan) spend their free time dressing up in weird costumes and setting up man-hunting games in the backwoods of Louisiana. They carefully pick their targets, ensuring that they have skilled military history to provide a challenge. The justification for this? To ensure that they will be ready for the revolution that will take down the liberals who are ruining the country by allowing foreigners on American soil (so, American Indian’s are cool, then, right?). After setting up an elaborately idiotic assassination of a black man, Larry Richards (Steve James), who they are shocked to see running for governor, the group focuses on hunting down Richards’ friend Capt Matt Hunter (Michael Dudikoff), who turns the tables and becomes the hunter. Sound familiar? Yeah, that would be because almost the exact same movie was made (minus the political overtones) as HARD TARGET seven years later! Funny, I don’t remember Chuck Pfarrer ever mentioning this in any interviews. Either way, it’s probably the best thing Dudikoff has done, for whatever that’s worth.
|John P. Ryan's nuts!|
Speakman’s second leading role (the first being the obscure 1988 drama/thriller SIDE ROADS) is actually just as much fun as it was back in the day, but for completely different reasons. In ’91 it seemed like a pretty slick, if stock, action flick with lots of usual trappings and Speakman’s low-power, multi-strike skills bringing some of the same freshness that Segal brought to the party in 1988 with ABOVE THE LAW. Nowdays though, a whole different set of elements jump out at you. The grim seriousness of Speakman doing his kata in his apartment while Snap!’s “The Power” blasts on the soundtrack is nothing short of hilarious. Equally amusing is Speakman’s attempt to portray deep concern while dressed in a fluffy, blue bathrobe. But really, like Speakman’s masterwork, THE EXPERT (1995), it’s all about the supporting cast. You have Mako as a family friend who is harassed and finally killed by Korean mobsters (played by Japanese and Chinese actors) who want his tiny storefront to run drugs out of (because it has lots of storage space!). Professor Toru Tanaka is contract killer who likes to headbutt his victims to death and leave flowers on their corpses. James Hong as a double-talking mob boss. Pre-MORTAL KOMBAT Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa shows up as a gang thug. Also, Mickey Hargitay and Jane Mansfield’s offspring Mariska Hargitay of "Law & Order" fame, appears as the love interest, although the US version cuts most of her scenes. Sure, to those jaded by Hong Kong cinema, the fights could be a little longer and have fewer edits, but for American action fodder, it’s still damned entertaining.
|Ok, give me deep concern! Deep concern... Deep... Ok, in your own time...|