Saturday, February 21, 2015

One Bad Trip: Otto Preminger's "Skidoo"



The dancing mascot of "Skidoo". Created by credit genius Saul Bass, it's the best bit in the move.

Hi Keeba and hello, movie lovers.

Do you remember the '60's?

According the old saying, if you do remember the '60's, you weren't there (rim shot).

I don't remember the '60's because I was a wee baby. But if the '60's were anything like Otto Preminger's all-star 1968 freak out "Skidoo", I'm glad I missed out.

Conceived as a no-holds-barred culture clash comedy, "Skidoo" was a legendary box-office bomb for writer/producer Preminger, the Richard Burton of filmmakers. Despite his talent, Otto, like Richard, is better known for his many misses than his hits. For every "Laura" or "Anatomy of Murder", there is "Saint Joan", "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon", "Rosebud", "In Harm's Way", "Hurry Sundown" and "Such Good Friends"--a flick one critic likened to "a closet full of smelly underwear".

Even with that impressive list of flops to his credit, "Skidoo" may be Preminger's ne plus ultra of flop flicks.

It goes like this:


Concerned mother Carol Channing gets hip to her daughter Darlene's (Alexandra Hay) boyfriend Stash (John Philip Law).

Jackie Gleason is "Tough Tony" Banks, a retired mob "torpedo" (hit man), now living as an honest businessman in the California suburbs. Carol Channing is his ditzy wife Flo, who had quite a racy past before they married. Alexandra Hay (of "The Love Machine") is their daughter Darlene--at least, that's what Channing claims.

On a typical evening at home, Tony and Flo are fighting over what to watch on TV. Each armed with a remote control, husband and wife switch back and forth between the channels, cutting between commercials, various movies and even a senate hearing. Fed up, Tony storms into the kitchen to make a snack, only to discover his college-bound daughter sitting in a parked car with (gasp) a hippie!

This gentleman's name is (oh, how telling) Stash (John Philip Law, also of "The Love Machine"). He sports the usual hippie garb of long hair, love beads and a headband. This causes Tony to snarl, "Who's your tailor? Sittin' Bull?" Stash also spouts the usual hippie babble: "You know what I dig? Nothin', man. 'Cause if you can't dig nothin', you can't dig anything. You dig?"

This deeply impresses Darlene, who muses, "If I could be nothing, I could be anything."

Stash also dreams of a world where butterflies are free and there are organic supermarkets on every corner, so no wonder Gleason pops a blood vessel when he learns his daughter is dating this freak.


God (Groucho Marx) calls Tony home: Boy, did he get the wrong number.

Believe it or not, Tony soon has bigger problems than his kid's long-haired beau. He's visited by mobsters Henchy (Cesar Romero) and Angie (Frankie Avalon), who come on behalf of Tony's old mob godfather, simply known as God (played by Groucho Marx in his last film appearance).

It seems God wants Tony to break into Rock Island Federal Pen and rub out stool pigeon "Blue Chips" Packyard (Mickey Rooney), formerly Tony's BFF and Darlene's godfather. At first, Gleason refuses, insisting God released him from mob chores 17 years ago. However, when Tony finds his pal Harry (Arnold Stang) sitting in a car with a bullet through the head, the retired wiseguy glumly goes back to work.

Once inside the joint, Tony meets his cellmates: Leech (Michael Constantine, the principal on "Room 222") and Austin Penelton, known as Professor Fred. Fred, you see, is doing time because he burned his draft card. He's also a technical genius who has renounced technology and eats only brown rice.

Oh, yes, and one more thing: Fred carts around a stack of paper soaked in acid.

 Hmmm, that could cause problems, couldn't it? I mean, if someone accidentally got in to it...



Tony, Leech and Professor Fred share tight quarters in the slammer.

While Tony awaits his instructions, wife Flo is aghast to learn that Darlene, covered head to toe in body paint, has been arrested with Stash and about 30 other long-haired, pot smoking, folk singing hippies. To prevent her daughter from running away with this flower power mob, Channing invites the whole group back to their place. Soon, the Bank's dream house has become a hippie crash pad, complete with sitar music. Of course, the uptight neighbors are fit to be tied, but what else could a mother do?

Still cooling his heels in prison, Tony writes Flo a letter and then licks the envelope. Uh oh! The horrified Fred informs Tony that the paper was soaked in acid. "You mean LSD?" Gleason gulps. Is there any other kind? Soon enough, Tony is on a trip, complete with melting walls, vivid colors, floating heads, imaginary flies to swat at and his room mates shrinking to the size of Smurfs. Gleason sweats, laughs, screams and then asks for a flower. Once the trip is over, Tony has "lost his ego" (according to Fred) and is thus a changed man. That means the hit is off.



Scenes from an acid trip: Tony Banks (Jackie Gleason) freaks out.

So how can Tony escape Rock Island and get back to his family, especially when he learns Darlene is being held captive on God's yacht? (FYI: God lives on a yacht in international waters with his statuesque companion, the insatiable Luna, to escape arrest. George Raft is his captain.)

That's easy. Professor Fred spikes the prison's water and food supply with LSD. The resulting mass freak out is "Skidoo"s showcase sequence. To ensure the artistic integrity of the cinematic trip he was to film, Preminger supposedly dropped acid with Timothy Leary. While you can admire Preminger's commitment to details, I doubt any acid trip resembles the one Otto presents.

 Everybody from the prisoners to the guards to the visiting warden (Burgess Meredith) to the kitchen staff to the phone operators suddenly go bonkers. They sing in slow motion. They form daisy chains. Convict Frank Gorshin ("The Man") sees visions of himself as an angel. The tower guards watch pop-eyed (and you will too) as garbage cans come to life and dance to a Harry Nilsson song. This little musical interlude is called "The Garbage Can Ballet". A sample of the lyrics? "Oh, oh, oh, the great garbage can/Is a tribute to the ingenuity of man/Where corn and tomatoes mix with potatoes/And get thrown together with ham/And succotash and a piece of hash/ Can get together and have a bash..." The ditty ends with the lines, "Life is always equal in the can." Then the Green Bay Packers show up--nude, mind you--except for their helmets and shoulder pads to run a few plays. Meanwhile, Senator Peter Lawford gives his presidential acceptance speech and warden Meredith proclaims the "ideal prison" will teach macrame and modern dance.

Can you dig it?




Do not adjust your set: "Skiddo"s infamous dancing garbage cans prepare to cut a rug. Watch the sequence on "YouTube" if you dare.

While the prison population is tripping the light fantastic, Tony and Fred make their getaway in trash cans tied to helium balloons. Their destination? God's yacht. However, they aren't the only ones. Converging on that very craft is Flo, dressed in a mini skirt and tri-cornered hat, with a flotilla of hippies.

 "Skidoo! Skidoo! The world can be a better place for you!" warbles Broadway's Dolly Levi. "Skidoo! Skidoo! The number between one and three is two!"

As dopey and embarrassing as this number is, Channing totally throws herself into it. When it's all over, you can't help thinking, "What a pro."

The scene on God's yacht, of course, is total mayhem, with hippies and gangsters fighting, dancing, singing and taking drugs together. Gleason searches for his daughter, runs into wife Flo and the bickering mob couple have make-up sex. Then George Raft marries mobster Angie (Frankie Avalon) to the insatiable Luna--who starts making out with Henchy. A hippie then marries "this brother to this sister", meaning Stash and Darlene. And God? He and Professor Fred have ditched the love-in to sail away in a psychedelic sailboat dressed as Harri Krishna's. Fred offers Groucho a joint, who promptly inhales and then declares, "Mmmm, pumpkin!"

"Skidoo" is all over except for the credits--and you will want to watch the closing credit sequence, because Harry Nilsson sings the name of each and every member of the cast and crew, right down to the lowliest worker on the production staff. Now, the movie is over.

A real wild trip, right?



"23 Skidoo!" Flo and Tony get hip to the swingin' sixties.

Well, that depends.

"Skidoo" wants to be seen as a hip, irreverent, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants comedy. But director Preminger is too much of a tactician and control freak to helm such a free-flowing production. The movie just seems off, from the flat jokes to the usual '60's stereotypes to the kooky musical numbers. It's clear Preminger wanted to show the kids that an old Hollywood hand could groove to the times; any kids who actually saw the flick weren't fooled. Neither, as it turns out, were their parents, because "Skidoo" was one of the decades biggest bombs.

It was also one of the most obscure box office bombs of that decade. "Skidoo" never appeared on TV, not even on the late, late, late show. When VCRs came out, nobody clamoured for "Skidoo" to make its VHS debut. And it was years before "Skidoo" came out on DVD. Nobody wanted to see this movie ever again--including the people who made it! The only ones to show "Skidoo" any love was dedicated Junk Cinema Lovers, but we are, shall I say, a very particular bunch.

In the end, "Skidoo" seems to prove that the '60's mantra "Don't trust anyone over 30!" was sage advice, at at least in this case.

Therefore movie lovers, until next time, question authority, and SAVE THE MOVIES!





Monday, February 16, 2015

Once More With Feeling! It's "Beastmaster 2:Through The Portal Of Time"!


"Oh, dear, his perm didn't take!" Older, but not necessarily wiser, Dar (Marc Singer) returns for "Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time."

Hey, kids, what's the worst sequel of all time?

"Stayin' Alive"? "Grease 2"? "The Sting, Part 2"? "Return to Peyton Place"? "The Exorcist, Part 2"? "The Godfather, Part 3"? "Ghostbusters 2"? "The Jewel of the Nile"? "King Kong Returns"? "Scarlett"?

Believe it or not, it's none of the above. The worst sequel of all time belongs to "Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time" (1991).

"B2" (as I call it) is the ten years later second serving of "The Beastmaster", the 1981 sword and sorcery flick about an ancient Dr. Doolittle named Dar (Marc Singer in his greatest role EVER) and his quest to avenge the deaths of his family, friends and pet pooch at the hands of the evil Jun army, which was headed by an evil priest named Maax (Rip Torn in the most embarrassing role of his career).

Besides being the beastmaster, Dar is also the long-lost son of King Zed. He doesn't realize this because A) as a baby Dar was kidnapped from his mother's womb and transplanted by an evil witch into a cow's womb, thus ensuring that B) he could be kidnapped and later sacrificed by the evil witch. Baby Dar was saved by a poor farmer who A) also didn't realize Dar was King Zed's son and B) raised him as his own but C) eventually realized Dar had special abilities with critters.

As you can see, "The Beastmaster" had its own lame-brained charms. Unfortunately, "B2" is only lame-brained. That's because, except for Marc Singer and the ferrets, nothing in "Portal of Time" references, revives or continues the saga of Dar and his beastmastering abilities.



Wings Hauser waves his magic wand in "B2". Where is Rip Torn when you need him?

Instead, "B2" gives us--not that we asked for it, mind you--a completely new story that is an unsavory mix of sword and sorcery/time traveling/fish-out-of-water/bad '90's hair/bad '90's rock/and bad F/X that never congeals into anything coherent or entertaining. Instead, it merely stalls and sputters like an over-heated Yugo in rush hour traffic--and manages to make the original flick look good by comparison.

With Rip Torn unavailable because of his character's demise in the first flick, the baddie role in "B2" is taken up by Wings Hauser, a beefy fellow who resembles Sam Kininson, Meatloaf , Kiefer Sutherland  and the Phantom of the Opera all rolled into one.

When we first meet him, Arklon (as the baddie is called) has captured beastmaster Dar and has condemned him to death for, among other things, siding with rebels who want to unseat him and "practicing witchcraft". Arklon also sneers at Dar's talents with animals. This the despot will regret, especially when he commands his henchmen to chop off Dar's noggin. Why? Because Sharak the eagle will poke Arklon's eye out, Ruh the tiger (no longer black) will slaughter his goons and ferrets Kodo and Podo will release Dar--who will then proceed to stab, hit, punch and kick Arklon's remaining troops in their respective crotches before fleeing into the night.

Our story then shifts to a rag-tag group of rebels out on patrol. When their nominal leader wants to know if Arklon's flunkies are in the vicinity, he calls out, "Bring the witch!" That would be Lyranna (Sarah Douglas), a hip swaying Jennifer Beals-type who can "see" things. The rebel leader warns Lyranna that her "visions" had better be truthful or he'll cut her "black heart out of (her) bosom." This causes the witch to parry back, "Surely such a valiant warrior such as yourself you can think of a better use for my bosom."

 The fellow probably can, except an arrow through his neck ensures he won't be able to act on them.

Suddenly, the poor rebels are beset by Arklon's troops and Arklon himself, who wields a very bizarre weapon indeed: an old fashioned phone receiver. An old fashioned phone receiver that shoots lasers, no less. When all the dust settles, only Lyranna is left standing. Arklon wants her dead, naturally, but the wily witch insists that she knows where the one-eyed Arklon can get his mitts on the ultimate weapon and rule the world unchallenged.

I must interject here and point out that Arkon ALREADY HAS such a weapon and ALREADY IS ruling unchallenged. After all, what could possibly top a phone receiver that shoots lasers?

How about a neutron bomb?



"Is this the set for 'Conan the Barbarian'?" Evil witch Lyranna (Sarah Douglas).

See, Lyranna has discovered a magic portal that leads to 1991 L.A. In her spare time, the witch has been hopping back and forth between dimensions, picking up '90's slang ("You are are so hard to take a meeting with!") and taking stock of US weapon capabilities. Lyranna convinces Arklon that having The Bomb will make him truly the boss of everything and put his laser shooting phone to shame. In return for helping the baddie Arklon snatch the weapon of mass destruction, Lyranna wants to be his queen.

Arklon's queen? "Well, I certainly don't want to be your maid!" Lyranna huffs.

While all this is happening, Dar is tramping around in a swamp. It's there he meets a long-lost relative that resembles a talking tree. This leafy sage tells Dar that he has an elder brother who must be killed or the world will go kaput. Dar pleads with the tree person to identify his bad seed brother, but the relative just stomps off to die. Not very helpful, would you say?

I'm going to interject again and suggest that Dar's unknown bad seed big brother is Arklon. Who's with me?

As if "B2" didn't have enough going on, we are introduced to one final character, an annoying Valley Girl twerp named Jackie Trent (Kari Wuhrer). She crash lands into Beastmaster territory through that magic portal Lyranna is always babbling about. Of course, she is so dumb that she doesn't realize what has happened. Instead, she chirps such lines as "Where is the auto club when you need them?" and "Ever hear of the 'middle of nowhere'? Well, this is it!"

Of course, it's preordained that Jackie will meet up with Dar and still have no idea that she's not in L.A. anymore. She variously thinks the Beastmaster works for the circus or is one of those off-the-grid-loner-types and at one point asks, "Dar, were you raised by wolves?" Even worse than her stupidity is Jackie's constant stream of one-liners. When she and Dar are sitting around a campfire, they hear the howling of "The Lost Hounds" who, explains Dar, "stalk the night, looking for souls to drag down into the abyss."

"Sounds like two guys I met in Tijuana last night," Jackie smirks.


Alien from L.A.: the very annoying Jackie Trent (Kari Wuhrer).

Later, when Dar and Jackie are tramping around in the desert, they come upon soldiers on horseback. "Who are those geeks?" she asks.

They happen to be Arklon's goon squad and they have orders to capture "the outsider", as they call Jackie. This they do, but once the L.A. airhead is dumped on them, Arklon and Lyranna can't stand her anymore than anyone else.

When Lyranna shows Jackie the magic portal, all she can do is coo, "Way rad!" Later, when Arklon demands that Jackie provide him with the necessary info to nab a neutron detonator, she squeals, "I'm loaded with information! I watch 'Jeopardy' every night!"

After enduring several more of these inane bon mots, you can't help but root for Arklon to pistol whip the little jerk.

In final analysis, Kari Wuhrer's performance in "B2" makes Kathy Ireland's performance in "Alien From L.A." look like a masterful piece of nuanced underplaying--and is one of the key reasons why this flick's reputation as a piece of cinematic backwash is so richly deserved.



"Let's see, do I have everything? Tiger? Check. Eagle? Check? Ferrets? Check." Dar prepares to save the world.

Of course, it goes without saying that Arklon, and Lyranna will drag Jackie back to L.A. so they can get their nuclear bomb and Dar and his animal buddies will follow in hot pursuit. There will be culture clashes and confrontations, car crashes and sword fights, good will defeat evil, Dar will off Arklon and Jackie will continue to chirp like a demented chipmunk. Finally, our mismatched duo will say goodbye. Dar will return to his world and Jackie will hopefully shut-up.

It's not often that a genuinely bad movie is followed by a sequel that is even worse, but "B2" manages this amazing feat. Of course, many elements were involved in making "B2" so very, very bad: a horrible script, an uneven tone, cheap-o F/X and a truly annoying heroine all played their part.

You also can't forget the acting of the principals, either. As baddie Arklon, Wings Hauser struts about and fondles his long hair, but he's no match for the scenery chewing theatrics of Rip Torn. Sarah Douglas' Lyranna seems as if she wandered over from the set of "Dynasty", as her hair-tossing, nostril-flaring histrionics seem better suited to a night time soap opera than a mixed-up swords and sandals epic. Marc Singer, meanwhile, is still plenty ripped as Dar, but his bleached blonde hair and stringy perm are not flattering. Even though he is the nominal star of the show, Singer's role in the sequel is actually pretty small. As always, the acting honors ultimately go to the critters, but even they seem off their game this time around.

In the final analysis, "Beastmaster2: Through The Portal of Time" is just more proof that sequels to hit movies are just a waste of money--for the producers and the audience. Lightening rarely strikes twice; there is no guarantee that a sequel will recapture the spirit of its predecessor. Sequels are just a cynical ploy to ring cash out of a familiar name.

In the case of "B2", the filmmakers did something even more incredible: they took an already bad movie and made it even worse!

So, until next time, accept only originals, and SAVE THE MOVIES!





Friday, February 13, 2015

Watch Marc Singer Talk To The Animals And Rip Torn Disgrace Himself in "The Beastmaster"!


"OK, wait a minute, a message is coming in..." Fabled Beastmaster Dar (Marc Singer) receives a posting from one of his animal contacts in "The Beastmaster".


Greetings, movie lovers.

Every once and a while, a film comes along that is so striking, so unique, that it defines a generation.

"Gone With The Wind". "The Grapes Of Wrath". "The Graduate". "Star Wars".

The subject of today's article is such a film.

It came out of nowhere in 1982, was made on a modest budget and achieved cult status with repeated viewings on a fledgling cable channel called HBO.

Of course, I'm talking about the one and only "The Beastmaster"!

Our tale of adventure...and non-stop unintentional laughs...begins in some far-off, mythical, generic, pre-industrialized, quasi-medieval kingdom. An evil priest named Maax (Rip Torn, yes, Rip Torn) is conferring with a trio of scantily clad priestesses. These gals may have the figures of Victoria Secret models, but they have the faces of warped mutants who enjoy bobbing for french fries in the deep fat fryer. Of course, Maax hasn't hired these chicks for their looks; he wants them to use their powers to help him usurp the throne of King Zed.


Evil Maax (Rip Torn) and good King Zed go nose to nose.


After consulting their bubbling vat of goo, the weird sisters inform Maax that King Zed is the least of his problems. He should concentrate on King Zed's son, because he's the one who is going to off him sometime in the future.

On the plus side, the king's son hasn't even been born yet, so the evil priest with vertical eyebrows has plenty of time to come up with a fiendish plan to scuttle the prophecy--and I must say, Maax's fiendish plan is PURE GENIUS.

It goes like this. 

First, one of the evil priestesses sneaks into the royal bedchamber with a cow.

Next, she paralyzes the pregnant queen and king.

Using her evil magical powers, the witch transfers the unborn royal baby from his mother's womb into the womb of the cow. This leaves the queen dead and the king frozen like a popsicle, but, hey, it works.

Finally, her deed done, the ugly crone waltzes out of town, with the royal baby snuggled inside the cow, and no one is the wiser.

Like I said, PURE GENIUS. Especially the cow part.



Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes straight to the bone: Maax's witch-y trio.


Later that evening, a poor farmer stumbles upon witchie-poo preparing to sacrifice the royal baby. The farmer manages to defeat the evil one and save the tot, whom he adopts and calls Dar.

Flash forward a few years.

Dar grows into Marc Singer, a lean, ripped fellow with a pre-Billy Ray Cyrus mullet. On the surface, Dar seems like any other farm hand, except he has the ability to communicate telepathically with animals. He keeps this talent to himself, along with his sacred birthmark, which looks like a pair of pants carved into the palm of his hand.

Then one day the nasty tribe of Jun--headed by mad Maax--swoop down on Dar's peaceful village and slaughter everybody just for the heck of it. Don't you hate that? Dar is spared, however, by the quick thinking of his pet pooch. When he comes to from a conk on the noggin, Dar sees that his village is razed, his family is toast and his dog is a stiff. With nothing left to lose, Dar decides it is now time to embrace his destiny as the Beastmaster...by donning a fringed jock strap, a disco head-band and vowing to avenge his loved ones.

Every super-hero needs a support system (after all, even Bat Man had Robin, Alfred the butler and commissioner Gordon), so Dar goes about collecting his: Sharak, an eagle, Ruh, a "black tiger", and the ferrets Kodo and Podo. These critters represent sight, strength, cunning and provide the best acting in the flick.



"Remember, I'm the star of the show!" Marc Singer warns his ferret co-stars to stop stealing the movie.


While tramping around, Dar spies Kiri (former "Charlie's Angel" Tanya Roberts) skinny dipping in a lake. In order to arrange a meeting, Dar has his ferrets steal her cover-ups. Then he directs Ruh to "scare" her, so he can rush in to "save her" and thus get some nooky as a reward. Ruh, however, refuses to be part of this ungentlemanly scheme. Kiri, as it turns out, is a "temple slave" and doesn't have time for Dar's horny antics. Learning this info, Dar encourages Kiri to ditch her cruel masters and join up with him. "I will protect you!" Singer vows--now, I'm sure Dar means that sincerely, but I also suspect nature boy wouldn't be above trying to coax Kiri into some tonsil boxing along the way, too. You know, just to break up the monotony. Unfortunately, poor Kiri must return to slaving at the temple "or my whole family will be killed."

"You best forget all about me," she sobs before running away.

While tramping around some more, Dar runs into these spooky Bat People who enjoy sucking the brains and internal organs out of their human captives, leaving nothing but a pile of goo behind. These Bat People are about to make a snack out of Dar until Sharak the eagle shows up. Turns out these Bat People worship birds (yes, Bat People worship birds) and are duly impressed that Dar is best buds with an eagle. Not only do they let him go, but the Bat People will become important allies for Dar.

While still tramping around, Dar comes to a village/mico-kingdom that is under the evil thumb of Maax. He insists the hapless citizens sacrifice their kids to his fire god. This means viewers are forced to watch hysterical, screaming tots thrown alive into a fiery pit, which is much, much more disturbing than those previously mentioned Bat People sucking their victims' brains out like they were some kind of a fruit smoothie. Have no fear, though: Dar commands Sharak to save one poor blonde toddler in the nick of time and even returns the kid to his/her grateful parents.



Dar finds unlikely allies in the bird-worshipping, brain-eating Bat People.


Now, as if all of this wasn't diverting enough, Dar meets up with a traveling "pilgrim" named Seth (John Amos) and his tween charge Tal (Josh Milrad). As it turns out, Tal is the second son of King Zed, which makes him Dar's half-brother. Seth and Tal hope to raise an army to defeat Maax, who has imprisoned Zed and poked his eyes out. Dar agrees to help the duo and is delighted to learn that Kiri is Tal's cousin.

First, though, they have to save Kiri, who scheduled for execution with a few other temple slaves. This is accomplished by Seth, Tal and Dar donning burlap sack robes and peddling a raft that arrives at just the precise moment Kiri and the other slave girls are being marched to their deaths. When the guys ambush the baddies, plucky Kiri kicks one of the evil priests in the crotch and tosses three more into the drink, proving she's no weak sister herself. Later, Tal and Seth worry that Dar might change his mind about helping free King Zed (remember, Dar doesn't know that Zed is his real dad). Just then, Kiri saunters over to Singer, gives him a peek at her cleavage and plants a big, tongue baring smooch on him-- ensuring that the Beastmaster will indeed stick around.



Sensitive slave girl Kiri (Tanya Roberts) is a little uneasy accepting the aid of Beastmaster Dar.

All of this, of course, is leading up to the flick's final confrontation scene, where the forces of good battle the forces of evil and Dar learns he is King Zed's eldest son. Before that happens, Dar and company must sneak into Maax's castle and free King Zed, helped along by frisky ferrets Kodo and Podo, who have stolen Maax's master keys. In one of "The Beastmaster"s best sequences, Kodo and Podo are chased by one of Maax's "Death Guards". In case you are wondering what a "Death Guard" is, listen up. A Death Guard is a poor sap Maax's evil priests have subjected to "extreme torture" which turns them into "wild beasts". Their bodies are then encased in "deadly armour", which is basically leather separates studded with spikes. Then the priests "drain (their) blood" and "damage (their) brain with a mysterious green liquid." The end result is an invincible warrior that will "kill anything it meets"--although nobody explains how the poor suckers stay alive after all their blood has been drained away.

Anyway, this type of a hulk is no match for our furry heroes. As Kodo and Podo bob and weave and dart into tiny passage ways, an increasingly angry Death Guard gives chase and tries and fails to smash them to a pulp. Just when you think the little critters are ferret fricassee, they make a daring leap from a high parapet onto a passing hay wagon, which is carrying Dar and company to safety.

Ferret action sequences! Where else but in Junk Cinema will you see that?!


Dar discusses strategy with fleet footed ferret Kodo...or is it Podo?

Alas, King Zed might have been saved, but he's consumed with revenge against Maax. He wants his few loyal followers to rise up and kill the baddie and his priests. Dar objects to this plan, because 1) the king's loyal followers amount to about 15 people and 2) they would need an army to defeat Maax, which they don't have and 3) an elderly king with no peepers might not be the best person to lead a rag-tag group into battle. Even worse, when King Zed is formally introduced to Dar, he rejects him as "a freak", which causes Singer and his beasties to run away to find a safe place to cry.

You can bet bet your bippy, though, that Dar will ultimately join the climatic fight to kill Maax--as do the Bat People, who swoop down just in time to suck the brains out of the evil Juns--who were in cahoots with mad Maax--and make the world safe from over-the-top Method actors like Rip Torn.

When we last see Dar, he is staring off into space, his trusty eagle, tiger and ferrets by his side. Also sidling up to Dar is Kiri. As the music swells, it's clear the Beastmaster legend has only begun, and our hero and his furry friends will be off to new adventures, like "The Beastmaster: Through The Portal Of Time" and the syndicated "Beastmaster" TV series.

A flick like "The Beastmaster" is the kind of happy accident that can only happen in Junk Cinema. Where else will you find a hero whose surrogate mother is a cow, brain-sucking Bat People that worship eagles and the dad from "Good Times" prancing around in a thong?



Note to self: Get a better perm. Marc Singer in "Beastmaster: Through The Portal Of Time".

 Then there is Rip Torn, husband of the late Geraldine Page, a highly respected stage and film actor, cavorting around with a fake nose, vertical eyebrows and a caftan he must have pinched from the set of "Maude". What is he doing here? Was he broke? Was somebody blackmailing him? His presence as the evil mad Maax adds to the surreal insanity surrounding the flick, and, really, after watching Torn chew the scenery, I can't picture anyone else in the part. Add in Tanya Roberts--who would later win Razzie fame for her performance in the box office bomb "Sheena"--and Marc Singer in his greatest role after the TV series "V" and you have a can't-miss-laugh-till-you-ache classic.

To the cast of "The Beastmaster": Junk Cinema salutes you!







Saturday, January 3, 2015

Bing Crosby Presents "Stranded In Space"--No Kidding!


Set your clocks so you won't miss one thrilling moment of "Stranded in Space" (AKA "The Stranger")!

A hail and hearty hello to you and yours, movie lovers.

The subject of today's article is a justifiably obscure, supremely nutty TV movie that features a man on the run, a Big Brother totalitarian government, a planet where everybody is left-handed and an edict banning all open air concerts...produced by crooner, actor and orange juice promoter Bing Crosby(!?)

Ladies and gentleman, I give you "Stranded in Space"!

Made as a (failed) TV pilot in 1973, "Stranded in Space" (AKA "The Stranger") piqued my interest after reading about it in my MST3K bible, The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide.

See, Frank Conniff (TV's Frank) claimed that "Stranded in Space" was "the forgotten MST3K experiment". Unlike other flicks featured on the show, nobody ever wrote about it or asked about it; it had no fan following at all.

Conniff blamed this on "Stranded in Space"s relentless tone of blah "mediocrity", which he described
 "Houston, we have a problem. This movie sucks.": Astronaught Neil Stryker (Glenn Corbett) before trouble strikes.

 "as neither bad enough to stand out nor good enough to watch. It was just there." 

After sampling "Stranded in Space" myself, I would amend that statement. "Stranded in Space" isn't "just there." Rather, to quote Gertrude Stein, "there is no there there."

It begins like this. Astronaut Neil Stryker (Glenn Corbett) is orbiting space (in a capsule the size of a chew toy) with two other cohorts. One fly-boy is a newly married groom anxious to get back to Earth to reume his honeymoon. There is some vague problem going on, but Cape Canaveral isn't too worried, so the crew decides to relax. Then suddenly the camera starts shaking, the crew begins wigging out and the screen goes fuzzy...

Next we are at a hospital, where Stryker is holed up in his room, surrounded by lots of flower arrangements. He's been denied visitors, phone calls, newspapers, TV, even windows. Kindly Dr. Revere (Tim O'Connor) tries to reassure his patient that everything is peachy and he'll be home in no time. Yet...Stryker doesn't believe him. What's going on?

Turns out, Stryker crash landed on Terra, a planet that is like an impostor fragrance: it looks and smells like Earth-- but isn't Earth! Even more disturbing: Terra is run by an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-pervasive totalitarian government called The Perfect Order. Citizens are subject to constant monitoring and must follow a strict diet of dry conformity. Religion is outlawed, as are open-air concerts, everybody dresses in bland polyester separates and hooch is on the outs.

On the plus side, there is no poverty or unemployment, the streets are spotless and health care is free.

It all comes at a terrible price, of course. There is no personal freedom or freedom of thought. Folks who challenge The Perfect Order's orders are routinely rounded up and sent to the dreaded "Ward E", where they are subject to torture and/or brainwashing and later returned "rehabilitated" to society. If Ward E should fail, the trouble makers are snuffed.



"Is this on every station?" The Perfect Order spies on everybody on Terra.

How did The Perfect Order come to be? Well, "Stranded in Space" is kinda wishy-washy about that, to tell you the truth. It seems after a horrific war, the people of Terra wanted a society free of strife and conflict and somehow The Perfect Order was happy to oblige. It's been in power for, like, 35 years, and although people don't laugh and enjoy themselves as much as they use to (according to one old feller), The Perfect Order is thoroughly entrenched on Terra.

As with any all-powerful regime, The Perfect Order has devoted followers who rise up through its ranks via their complete toadying servitude to The Man. In "Stranded in Space", the pinched-faced, pompadoured Cameron Mitchell personifies this type of apparatchik. As George Bennett, Mitchell believes in The Perfect Order with all his heart and is convinced that Neil Stryker is a threat to Terra's way of life. That's why he wants the jet jockey dead...after Dr. Revere finishes probing his mind, of course.

Neil, no dummy, realizes something is very, very wrong and manages to bust out of the hospital. He stumbles around Terra trying to find someone who will help, but not rat him out to The Perfect Order's enforcers, who strut around in black turtle-necks and grey sport-coats. It's during these jaunts that Neil realizes that Terra has three moons, the people are left-handed, the only cars around are Chrysler's and that most people know someone who ran afoul of The Perfect Order and then "disappeared."

Now, you might think from my review that "Stranded in Space" seems kinda intriguing.

You would be wrong. Very, very wrong.

Despite elements that recall "The Fugitive" and the cult 1960's British series "The Prisoner", TV's Frank is right: there is nothing NOTHING! memorable about this movie.

Watching this flick is like being stuck in an endless city council meting where they endlessly ponder zoning regulations and keep forgetting to break for lunch.



"The Stranger": Glenn Corbett grits his teeth...and forget to act.


Or, to put it another way, I've had more fun waiting in line at the DMV than I had watching "Stranded in Space". And I watched this movie voluntarily! I had to go the DMV!

"Stranded in Space" breaks the cardinal rule of Junk Cinema: it's unlovable.

The hero? Neil Stryker seems more like he's suffering from hemorrhoids than a hunted man on a creepy planet yearning to go home.

His love interest? Dr. Bettina Cooke (Sharon Acker) is as blah as her drab pants suit. She only comes alive when she slaps Stryker's puss.

The villain? Cameron Mitchell's pompadoured hair is scarier than he is.

The scariest thing about The Perfect Order's army of enforcers is they all appear to shop at Dad and Lad. Yuck!

When "Stranded in Space" ends its broadcast day and poor Neil's attempt to escape ends with him finding refuge with a family on a camping trip (don't ask), you could care less. The damn thing is finally over, praise the Lord!

So what have we learned from this experience, kiddies?

That a planet can exists on the other side of the sun and no one will ever notice.

That an entire planet of left-handed people will still drive on the right side of the street.

That pairing a turtle-neck with a blazer is dumb.

That Chrysler Plymoths are the official cars of Terra. In fact, they are the only cars on Terra.

Cutting back on alcohol consumption is a fine goal, but banning concerts in the park? That's nuts! What are people suppose to do for fun?

Until next time movie lovers, SAVE THE MOVIES!




TV's Frank (Frank Conniff) was 100% right about "Stranded in Space": It Stinks!




Monday, December 29, 2014

It's "The Giant Spider Invasion"! Or Director Bill Rebane Strikes Again!

Run for your life! It's artwork from "The Giant Spider Invasion!"


Welcome, movie lovers.

Oh my God! Look up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...a golf ball from outer space? A giant splinter from outer space? Well, whatever the hell it is, it's speeding (moderately) towards Earth! And it crash lands in rural Wisconsin! And it brings forth...a bunch of rocks? And nesting inside those rocks are...spiders?

Thus begins "The Giant Spider Invasion" (1975), a low-budget howler lovingly conceived, co-written, produced and directed by Bill Rebane, the man who gave us "Monster A Go-Go" (see my review "Monster A Go-Go' I One Go-Go Gone Flick").

How can we ever thank him?

The many, many hilarious delights of "The Giant Spider Invasion" begins with its stellar cast, a group of actors who are familiar faces from 1960's TV. These actors were never stars, yet they never embarrassed themselves, either...until they reported for work on this flick.

First up is Alan "Skipper" Hale, Jr. as the jovial Sheriff Jones. He is ably supported by Barbara "Della Street" Hale as Dr. Jenny Langer, a local scientist and devoted pant-suit wearer. Next we have Robert Easton as filthy redneck farmer Dan Kester, who is miserably married to Leslie Parrish, his consistently soused spouse, Ev.

An unexplained "meteor shower", meanwhile, brings in Steve Brodie as NASA big-wig Dr. J. R. Vance, who uses this opportunity to begin a tepid flirtation with Jenny. Finally, we have cub reporter Dave Perkins, played by Kevin Brodie, son of Steve.

Alan Hale, Jr. yucks it up as jovial Sheriff Jones.

Leslie Parrish drinks it up as lush Ev.

Robert Easton sweats it up as Dan.

All these folks converge in a small, rural Wisconsin town where everybody knows your name. One typical small town Saturday night finds a hell-fire-and-brimstone preacher (who looks like an unhinged Bruce Dern) headlining a revival meeting, while Dan sneaks off to an assignation with bombshell waitress Helga (Christine Schmidtmer), just as Dave picks up Ev's younger sister Terry for a night of sweet necking.

Then there is a crash, an explosion, a freaky light show and a violent wind storm in rapid succession. The point of impact is the Kester farm, but the bickering Dan and Ev don't check things out until mornin'.

What they find is a crater the size of a swimming pool. And dead cattle. Hideously slaughtered dead cattle. And rocks. Weird space rocks. Little do Ev and Dan realize, those rocks carry space spiders, the shock troops for a giant alien spider invasion...which takes its own sweet time to get going.

Instead, viewers are treated to a low rent "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" bicker-fest, as Dan insults Ev ("You're so dumb, you wouldn't know rabbit turds from Rice Krispies!"), Ev insults Dan right back ("The only way I know you're alive is when I hear you flush the toilet!") and the crackers' mistaken impression that the sparkly rocks lining the inside of the space rocks are "real diamonds."

A far more congenial couple is Dr. Langer and Dr. Vance. They "meet cute" at her observatory, where Dr. Vance says he has "an appointment with her father." When Jenny says her pa died "in 1962", Vance replies, "I'm sorry. So the appointment must be with your husband." Then Jenny coyly states that she's not married, which causes Vance to grin and say, "I'm not sorry." Finally, Jenny makes it clear that she is the visitor Dr. Vance has come to see. With the sexual tension ready to boil over, Jenny offers Dr. Vance some tea.

Dr. Vance (Steve Brodie) admires Dr. Langer (Barbara Hale) from afar.


Meet "Cousin Billy": He's even more repulsive than you think.

At the lab, the doctors scrutinize Jenny's data and try to figure out what it all means. "I've never seen such fouled out data in my whole life!" Dr. Vance declares. Then they head over to Dutch's Cafe, where the elite meet to eat, to confer with Sheriff Jones. They later decide to hire a helicopter to take photographs of the impact site and check out possible radiation levels.

Meanwhile, back at the Kester farm, the house is suddenly over run with spiders--so much so that marathon drinker Ev even manages to blend one into her Bloody Mary. Eww! That evening, the desperate housewife opens her top dresser drawer and is attacked by a mid-sized furry spider sock puppet. Shrieking like a dental drill (and clad in only a blouse and panties), Ev runs pell-mell into a dark, dank, dirty garage for safety...where a afghan with pop-eyes is thrown on top of her.

And that is the end of that.

Ev is just the first in a line of giant spider casualties. The odious "Cousin Billy" is next, after the alien spiders force him to drive into a garage that promptly explodes. (My guess is Cousin Billy's greasy hair caught fire.) Poor Terry (also scantily clad) is attacked by alien spiders in her bedroom. In fact, the ramshackle Kester house collapses under the weight of a giant spider with googly eyes, which was resting on their roof.

Perhaps the worst death belongs to redneck adulterer Dan. Out in the fields searching for more space rocks, he fails to notice the king-size spider puppet creeping along behind him. The alien spider pounces on Dan, crushes him to death and then proceeds to suck...perhaps inhale is a better word choice...the cheese-head through his...her...its...how to put this tastefully...hinder.

Eww! Yet, oddly appropriate.

"He Died As He Lived": Dan meets an untimely end.

From that point on, "The Giant Spider Invasion" ramps into full monster movie mode. You know, stampeding hordes of horrified citizens; gun totin' yokels eager for battle; police officers trying to contain the crowds and/or begging for back-up; victims bleeding in the streets; eye witness accounts of the menacing horror ("You know that shark in 'Jaws'?" Sheriff Jones screams into his car phone, "Well, (this spider) makes it look like a goldfish!")--you know the drill.

Of course, the terrified screams of the movie's hapless extras MIGHT be more believable if the F/X weren't so laughable. Simply put, the giant spider causing all the trouble is actually a big, furry rug with huge ping-pong eyeballs and pipe cleaner legs draped over a VW Bug. In fact, when the "giant spider" crashes a county fair--and totally disrupts a Little League baseball game--it's clear that among the "fleeing residents" are about seven extras clearly dragging the critter along with ropes!

Indeed, director Rebane dubbed his movie "The Giant Spider Disaster" because of so many glitches behind the scenes.

For example, the movie makers envisioned a scene where a house would collapse when a "giant spider" hopped on its roof. Techs had a giant spider loaded on a crane; when they placed the bugger on the roof, a bulldozer was to simultaneously pull the house down. Unfortunately, when the spider landed on the roof, its "legs" stuck straight up in the air--and nearly impaled the the crew members inside! Even worse happened when director Rebane tried to stage a scene where a giant spider was suppose to burst into flames. First, the spider was covered in gun powder. Next, crew members in tree dropped a lit match on the critter. Nothing happened. A second match was dropped. Nothing happened again. Then, the book of matches was lit and tossed on the critter. Nothing. Frustrated, Rebane--who had the camera cranked up to a very fast fps to capture a 'slo-mo' effect--turned his camera off. Suddenly the giant spider burst into flames, burning the hair off the crew members and starting several brush fires too boot.

Vance and Jenny lose their footing (and their dignity) when surprised with a giant alien spider.


Made for the comparatively thrift price of $250,000, "The Giant Spider Invasion" was one of the top fifty grossing films of 1975. After running three times on the ABC network, the flick languished in obscurity until the fine folks at "MST3K" got a hold of it. The rest is bad movie history.

This is where I leave you, movie lovers. I can think of no better way to ring in 2015 than spending time with Della Street and the Skipper from "Gilligan's Island" as they battle giant sock puppets and a VW Bug draped in a furry afghan with ping-pong eyeballs in 100 degree heat in rural Wisconsin, can you?

Happy New Year, and of course, save the movies!






Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's "Yor, The Hunter From Future"s World And You're Just Living In It!




Greetings and salutations, movie lovers.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the holiday hustle and bustle? Is your brain about to explode from the constant blaring of all those Christmas carols? Have you lost the feeling in your legs and feet from standing in endless check-out lines? Are you tired of sales people trying to sign you up for credit cards and dubious store promotions? Do you need a break from the crowds at the mall, the crowds at the grocery stores, the crowds on the streets and highways?

If so, then set yourself down, pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy our featured flick, "Yor, Hunter From the Future" (1983)!

Made as a four-part series for Italian television and shot on location in...I kid you not...Turkey, "Yor" is a sci/fi/fantasy/quasi-remake of Roger Corman's classic "I Was A Teenage Cave Man", starring "Space Mutiny" heart-throb Reb Brown. It also features everything EVERYTHING! a Junk Cinema lover could possibly want: Cave people! Robots! Papier mache' dinosaurs! Horrible dialogue! Cheap F/X! And a bonkers theme song warbled by a group called...I kid you not...Oliver Onions, who's last big chart-buster was titled...I kid you not..."Come With Me for Fun in My Buggy." Author's Note: Oliver Onions is actually the "pen name" for brothers Guido and Maurizio de Angelis, who are describes as "prolific Italian musicians" who produced music under a variety of monikers to "avoid saturating the market." Many thanks to Wikipedia for this info.

The fun in "Yor", meanwhile, begins with its opening title sequence. While Yor, clad in only a leather jock strap and furry Ugg boots, jogs around the rocky, barren landscape he calls home, Oliver Onions bleats out the film's theme song, which goes like this:

"Yor's world! He-e-e-es the man!/Lost in the world of past/with echo of an ancient blast!/There is a man from future/a man of mystery! Yor's world! No trails to lead the way/In his search for a yesterday..."


This is Yor (Reb Brown). This is Yor's world. He's the man.


This is by far the nuttiest theme song I have EVER heard, even topping the haunting "A Terminal Madness", which was the love theme from a horror movie titled (what else?) "A Terminal Madness", that my late brother fished out of a 99 cent rental bin way back when.

Anyway, while Yor is jogging around, a group of cave people are giving thanks to their god for guiding them to a really swell camp ground. Then they are commanded to go hunt for vittles for their nightly pot-luck. This is where viewers are introduced to Ka-Laa (Corrine Clery), a chick in a leather bikini, and Pag (Luciano Pigozzi), her elderly guardian in a Fred Flinstone tunic.

While these two attempt to snare a pig in an armadillo costume, the first of several large papier mache' dinos are rolled on screen. Ka-Laa screams like a dental drill, which alerts Yor to their distress. He promptly springs into action, hitting the bogus beastie with his hatchet and gouging its eyes out for good measure. Then he slurps up a handful of its blood, proclaiming, "Drinking the blood of your enemy makes you strong!"(Dick Cheney, are you listening?) A grateful Pag invites Yor to their tribe's pot-luck and the guest of honor exclaims, "Come! Let us divide the choice meats!"

As Yor and the villagers happily chow down on dino burgers, the women folk put on a floor show where they twirl around in hoop skirts made of twigs. Ka-Laa, hoping to impress Yor, joins the kick line, swiveling her hips in time to the music, all the while giving Yor knowing glances throughout. Yor, meanwhile, grins the goofy grin of a dude who knows INSTINCTIVELY that he's going to get laid in the very near future.

The festivities come to an unexpected halt, however, when some other cave men with bad teeth and blue skin skin attack. Coming to the aid of his new friends, Yor inadvertently sets off a brush fire that torches all their huts and causes all sorts of damage. Although Yor, Pag and Ka-Laa manage to escape, the rest of the villagers aren't so lucky: the men and the oldsters are killed, while the children are carted off to be sacrificed and the women to be assaulted. Through some nutty plot contrivance, Ka-Laa is eventually nabbed by the blue (cave) man group. This means Yor and Pag must save her, but how?



"We didn't start the fire...Yor did!" Yor, Ka-Laa and Pag must find a way to escape the brush fire Yor created to save them from the evil blue cave men.

Simple: Yor will use the giant papier mache' bat he recently killed as a hang glider and swoop down into the baddies' cave! They'll never expect that, will they? And, for an extra touch of daring-do, Yor's theme song will blast from out of nowhere as he makes his flying entrance! Put them all together and you have one kick-ass daring rescue scene, right?

Well, it depends.

See, when Yor does swoop in, you can clearly see the wires operating his "giant bat" hang glider. This makes Yor look like he's trying out a home made zip line, rather than orchestrating the daring rescue of his lady love.

Another problem is what Yor does after he rescues Ka-Laa. While running away from the blue (skinned) meanies, our hero notices the make-shift dam they have built. Using his brute strength, Yor pries the dam open. This causes water to come gushing in, which drowns all the evil cave men...as well as the innocent women and children Yor forgot about while he was saving Ka-Laa!

Safe and sound for the moment, Yor, Ka-Laa and Pag stumble around for a while. Why? Because Yor needs to find himself. See, he wears a special Sarah Coventry medallion around his neck and he doesn't know why. Later, he learns that a gal who lives in the desert has a necklace just like his. Hmmmm. What could that mean? Are they members of a lost tribe? Brother and sister? First cousins? Facebook Friends? Yor must seek this chick out because she holds the key to his past...and might even be hot enough to make out with.


  Rea (Ayshe Gul): The key to Yor's past or just another hot date?

Yor does indeed find Rea (Ayshe Gul), a blond chick with the same medallion and Groucho Marx's eyebrows. She's worshipped by desert dwelling Sand Mummies who wield flaming cocktail wienie forks as deadly weapons. These Sand Mummies hate outsiders and they plan on killing Yor. Poor Rea doesn't know how to handle this dilemma. Should she save Yor or betray the Sand Mummies? Luckily, Yor takes control of the situation by punching out a few Sand Mummies, setting a few more of them on fire and then causing their underground temple to collapse. Naturally, Yor and Rea escape unscathed, while the hapless Sand Mummies are toast.

If you are keeping score, Yor has thus far destroyed three encampments and left dozens of Sand Mummies, cave men, women and children dead and/or homeless.

Yep, he's the man!

When Ka-Laa gets a gander at Rea, she's not too happy. After she spies Rea and Yor having sex by a water fall, she's fit to be tied. So the first chance she gets, Ka-Laa pulls a knife on Rea and prepares to off her. Then, out of nowhere, those pesky blue skinned cave men pop back into the picture. Ka-Laa screams for Yor ; yet another clumsy fight scene with Styrofoam boulders and crotch kicks takes place. The bad cave men are defeated, which is good. Poor Rea, however, is conked on the noggin by a rock and dies of her injuries, which is bad, at least for her. Ka-Laa is honest enough to be conflicted about Rea's passing. Yor, on the other hand, still has a bimbo to make out with, so he mourns Rea rather quickly.

Eventually, our traveling trio make it to the ocean. They frolic in the waves, hunt for sea shells, catch fish and enjoy a Surf-n-Turf dinner courtesy of Pag. This beachy interlude, alas, is interrupted by piercing screams. Sure enough, the gang finds a group of tweens cornered by yet another papier mache' beastie. Through the combined efforts of Pag and Yor, the throughly fake critter is soon oozing fake blood.

The oldest of the kids is called Tarita, and she obviously digs Yor. Inviting the group back to their beach-side village, Tarita's grateful pa Ky offers to give his underage daughter to Yor as a "thank you" present. For the first and only time in the flick, Yor does the mature, responsible (and legal thing) and declines, explaining that he "already has a woman" (Ka-Laa).



"Open your mouth and say 'ahh'" : Yor saves a group of tweens from a toothy, papier mache' dino.        

As the flick has made unflinchingly clear, inviting Yor back to your village/settlement is the surest way to inflict death and destruction on your people. And, yes, you can bet your sweet bippy that these pre-historic Tahitians are all set to become the latest victims of Yor's "assistance".

It goes like this: the villagers are happily breaking bread when lasers--yes, LASERS--start shooting out of an abandoned head light left lying on the sand (don't ask). While people scream and scatter, the lasers set their bamboo huts on fire and kill a considerable percentage of the population at large. This includes Ky, the villages' de-facto leader. When the smoke clears, and Yor surveys the wanton destruction of people and property, he yells, "Damn talking box!"

About now, you might be tempted to interject, "But Auntie Beth! Yor isn't responsible for this catastrophe!"

Au contrare. See, "the damn talking box" is also a video camera of some kind. Once Yor showed up on screen, the order was given to start shooting. Therefore, Yor is indeed the catalyst for this latest round of mayhem.

With her father dead, half her tribe stiffs and her hut a smoldering heap of ashes, Tarita encourages Yor to seek out a mystical island in the middle of the ocean that is constantly surrounded by fog. Right away. Now, in fact. She even gives Yor loan of her father's boat to make the journey. Just please get moving! You're burning daylight! Go, go,go!

Yor, with Ka-Laa and Pag in tow, thus sets off to the mysterious island in a wicker canoe that must have been a steal at Pier 1's annual 40% off sale. They hit high swells and rain and poor Yor is washed overboard. Once he hits dry land, Yor's movements are tracked via a large, clear, glass bubble. The person doing the tracking is a rather camp fellow named the Over Lord (John Steiner).


"We'll meet again/don't know where/don't know when..." Tween queen Tarita and what's left of her tribe wave goodbye (and good riddance) to Yor.

Now, please pay attention, because the final act of "Yor, Hunter From the Future" explains everything you need to know about our buddy Yor and his unique place in the history of mankind...and rotten movies.

Turns out (surprise, surprise) that Yor is from an advanced, technologically superior society that set off a nuclear holocaust. Protected by their ultra sophisticated aluminum siding, these folks were able to avoid the worst aspects of the catastrophe, such as dying. The planet (presumably Earth, but you never know) reverted back to prehistoric times and thus the people we have met along Yor's journey have no idea that they are living in a post-apocalyptic age.

Riding herd over the remaining members of this advanced society is the Over Lord, a bargain basement Darth Mal who declares himself boss of everything. His plan is to create a hybrid race of human/android servants who will do his bidding without question. To accomplish this goal, the Over Lord plans to use Yor's man juice and Ka-Laa eggs and womb to create these minions, thus ensuring that the resulting offspring will be dumb as posts, but easy on the eyes and totally ripped.

Luckily, not all the survivors of "the great destruction" share the Over Lord's views. These folks, who favor white blouses with huge shoulder pads, are lead by a blind, Charlie Watts-ish fellow. They have apparently been organizing a revolt for years, but things just haven't come together until recently. Anyway, these freedom fighters help Yor and Ka-Laa escape from the Over Lord's fertility clinic, and do battle with his rather cheap and chunky androids. Yor being Yor, he joins in the laser blasting fun and even sets off a nuclear device that will blow up the mysterious island, the Over Lord and his 'bots as well. While the Over Lord tries and fails to stop the blast, everybody else piles into a pod racer and flies away. Our feature presentation ends with the narrator proclaiming that Yor plans to use all his super knowledge to help his fellow citizens improve their lives "and avoid the mistakes of the past." Then the narrator leaves us hanging by asking, "But will he succeed?"

Since there was no sequel to "Yor, Hunter From the Future", the world may never know.

After experiencing a film as supremely nutty as "Yor, Hunter From the Future", one is often left to ponder a myriad of questions, such who thought this piece of junk up and how did it ever see the light of day.


A cheeky view of Yor in action.

"Yor' is supposedly based on a graphic novel of the same name and was written and directed by a bunch of Italian hacks--proof that not all Italian filmmakers are in the same league as, say, Fellini.

As our hero Yor, Reb Brown looks like a cross between Garth from those "Wayne's World" skits on "SNL" and the actor Kevin Nealon in a bad Doris Day wig. As an actor, Brown ranks somewhere between Christopher Atkins and a gravy spoon. The rest of the cast ranges from wooden to incompetent. The Sand Mummies, I can report, do throw themselves into their roles, such as they are.

Of course, the real problem with "Yor" is  Yor. He may indeed be "the man", but everywhere this guy goes, trouble and ruin follow.

By the end of the flick, Yor will have set off two brush fires; burst open a dam; collapsed an underground temple; butchered two dinos; left a group of hysterical women and children behind to drown; caused one cat fight; crashed a wicker canoe; and set off a nuclear device that blew an island to kingdom come, all without batting an eyelash.

Rather than a hero who brings peace and prosperity, Yor is a one-man demolition squad in a jock strap.

And another interesting tidbit: if you're hoping to find "Yor" on DVD, forget it. Although VHS copies are available for purchase (because VHS is NOT dead: I actually prefer it to DVDs), the only place you can get a "Yor" DVD is in...I kid you not...Germany! Yes, Germany!

So on that happy, if incredible note, I end this post. Please remember to enjoy the holidays and SAVE THE MOVIES!





Monday, December 15, 2014

And The Worst Movie Of 2014 Is...


Hey, kids! Want to know what the worst movie of 2014 is?

I won't keep you in suspense: it's "The Legend of Hercules", directed by Renny Harlin and starring Kellan Lutz!

Yes, this 3-D CGI chronicle of young Herc's rise to greatness was a dumb, dippy, daffy, dunder-headed dud.

In fact, "The Legend of Hercules" was SO AWFUL a native of director Harlin's home country (Finland) was moved to write on The IMDb, "He makes me ashamed to be a Finnish person."

How bad is "The Legend of Hercules"? Let us count the ways!

WAY#1: "The Legend of Hercules" shows its stupidity right from the beginning by completely botching the story of Herc's birth.



"I had sex with Zesus and all I got in return was Hercules": Queen Alcemene has a close encounter with Greek god greatness.

According to the flick, Herc's ma Queen Alcemene prayed to the Greek goddess Hera for a son. Hera, an obliging sort, promptly sent hubby Zesus down to earth to do the nasty with Alcemene. We know the King of the Greek gods achieved maximum joy from this encounter because he mooed like a cow when he hit the bull's eye, if you catch my drift.

According to Greek legend, Zesus did indeed do the wild thing with Herc's ma, but Hera did not arrange it, condone it or even like it. On the contrary, she was fit to be tied about her hubby's relentless philandering. So mad was Hera about this affair and the child it produced, that she sent a serpent to kill baby Herc, who promptly strangled the critter in his crib.

WAY#2: Herc is portrayed by Kellan Lutz, best known for his minor role in the "Twilight" sagas. Lutz has abs of washboard, buns of steel, shins of granite, pecs like melons and brains of mush. Walking and talking simultaneously is not a skill Lutz the Klutz has perfected yet. Thus, instead of featuring him in any more films, I kindly suggest he just be put out to stud.


Introducing "Jerk-u-les"!: Stud muffin Kellan Lutz in the role that will make him shameless.


WAY#3: The slaying of the Nemean Lion figures prominently in "The Twelve Labors of Hercules", the epic poem written about 600 BC by Peisander.

However, in this flick, the Nemean Lion is just a very shoddy CGI; no context is given as to why Herc slayed it or why he wears its carcass for a cloak. And, to be fair, in this instance, the lion wasn't hurting anybody. And he was kinda cute. Herc just offed the kitty to upstage his sniveling big brother Iphicles and impress Princess Hebe and that's not OK.

WAY#4: Herc's older brother Iphicles (Liam Garringgan) is a scowly, whiney villain in a bad wig. Scott Adkins as pa King Amphitryon looks like Mr. Bean in a too-tight toga. Bro Iphicles is especially obsessed that Herc might have plundered the maidenhood of Hebe (Gaia Weiss), the princess the brothers are at odds over. When confronted about this, Herc replies, "Please reassure my brother that that is none of his business"--which is Herc-speak for, "We did it and you know it!"

Isn't it a bit icky that Princess Hebe is valued only for her looks and her virginity? That's not OK, either.

WAY#5: After Herc is sent on a suicide mission, he's captured and forced to be a gladiator or a cage fighter or a pro-wrestler or a ninja or some such thing to "earn back his freedom." This A) never happened in the actual Herc legends and B) it's a blatant rip-off of "Gladiator" and C) it's yet another example of how director Harlin was banking on his audience being so dumb they wouldn't know he was screwing with them.

Surprise, Renny! We're NOT dumb AND WE DID notice you were screwing with us.


"Look at me! I can fly!": Herc springs into action.

WAY#6: For a good chunk of the flick, Herc does not know and/or really believe he is Zesus' son. Then he's about to be killed and/or crucified and he suddenly realizes having a Greek god for a dad might not be a bad thing. Once Herc undergoes this, uh, "conversion experience", he becomes EVEN stronger.

The unsubtle implication here is to suggest Herc has a lot in common with another son of a powerful man, namely, Jesus.

This is, of course, utter horse pucky. Not even Kirk Cameron would suggest such a thing (but I wouldn't put it past him). This is yet ANOTHER example of Mr. Harlin counting on his viewers being stupid. Well, Mr. Harlin, stupid is as stupid does!

WAY#7: No doubt hoping to appeal to the ladies in the ticket buying public, "The Legend of Hercules" posits that Herc is just ga-ga about Princess Hebe and that marrying her is the only thing he wants to do in the whole wide world and he never, ever, EVER looked at another female.

Uh, not quite.

As usual, Harlin and his script writers chose to ignore yet again THE COMMON KNOWLEDGE about Hercules, mainly that he was a rather frisky fellow who enjoyed tonsil boxing as much as the next demi-god.

Herc actually had three (some say four) wives. Wife #1 was Megara. Herc "won" Megara by helping her pa King Creon defeat the Minyans. When Hera drove Herc mad, he ended up killing Megara and their ( three to eight) tykes. This resulted in the famous "Twelve Labors of Hercules", which he undertook to as penance for his crime.

Wife #2 was Omphale, "The Barbarian Queen of Lydia", who purchased Herc as her personal slave. See, after Herc killed Iphitus, he was sentenced to three years of servitude, which is how Omphale managed to bag her goods. He and Omphale got along great, but when his three years were up, Herc left. Because the circumstances of how Herc and Omphale actually got together are a bit unusual, some scholars question whether this was a "proper" marriage. For the sake of argument, we will assume it was a proper marriage.

Wife #3, meanwhile, was Deianira. This spouse Herc "won" after he defeated the river god Acheloos in a wrestling match.

When did Herc hook up with Hebe? It was only AFTER he was granted immortality and moved in with the other Greek gods on Mt. Olympus;  only then did Herc and Hebe became an item. For the record, Hebe was the daughter of Zesus and Hera, making her Herc's half-sister as well as wife #4. Eww!

Oh, and here is another tidbit about Herc: When he agreed to help King Thespios rid his kingdom of some giant rouge critter, he noticed the king had 50 virgin daughters. Herc slept with 49 of them (the 50th was said to be "too shy" to participate). Nine months later, King Thespios had 49 grandsons, all strong as an ox. Talk about keeping it "all in the family"...



"Isn't it romantic?": The makers of "The Legend of Hercules" wanted movie-goers to think this is how Herc expressed his love to mortal women...



In reality, it was probably more like this...which ISN'T very romantic. 


WAY#8: Although big, beefy Kellan Lutz is supposedly the star of this show, it's Liam McIntyre as army buddy/fellow captive Sotiris who steals the movie. Simply put, McIntyre is everything Lutz isn't: talented, charismatic, intelligent, able to read lines naturally. All of which begs the question: why wasn't he cast as Herc? He might not have been able to save "The Legend of Hercules" completely, but McIntyre would have made a more compelling hero. Pay attention, Renny Harlin! Never send a boy to do a man's job!

WAY#9: Making a movie in 3-D is dumb. Making a bad movie in 3-D is even dumber.

Instead of wasting big bucks on special effects, why not invest that money in a decent script and hiring actors who can act instead of just staring into the camera and flaring their nostrils? The 3-D effects in "The Legend of Hercules" did not enhance or improve the viewing experience one bit.

Rule of thumb, Renny: 3-D will not make your movie any better if it's rotten to begin with! Furthermore, using 3-D will not distract the audience from your movie's failures. A rotten movie in 3-D is just that: a rotten movie in 3-D!


WAY#10: Hercules movies are not meant to seen as historical treatises on ancient Greece. After all, in "The Loves of Hercules" (1960), Jane Mansfield played a naughty temptress who turned her ex-cuddlemates into trees. Herc has battled a race of moon men, drunk from "the waters of forgetfulness", co-starred opposite the 3 Stooges and sang with the voice of Michael Bolton. Do I also need to point out the Kevin Sorbo TV series where Herc was turned into a sensitive '90's guy with Anthony Quinn popping up as Zesus?

However, at least these movies/TV shows were fun. "The Legend of Hercules" was not fun--except when that obviously bogus moon peeked through the clouds or the unseen Zesus mooed like a cow while doing the wild thing with Herc's ma.

WAY#11: Earlier, I mentioned how human beefcake Kellan Lutz was upstaged by co-star Liam McIntyre. Here is a pictorial of actors who played Herc much, much better than Lutz:



Steve Reeves


Kevin Sorbo


Ryan Gosling



Lou Ferrigno



Alan Steele 


Arnie


Cartoon Herc...who was still more life like than Kellan Lutz.



WAY#12: One of the neat things a really bad movie does is inspire movie critics to sharpen their pens and dip their quills in acid. "The Legend of Hercules" birthed some delightfully nasty put downs from critics that were vastly more entertaining to read than "The Legend of Hercules" was to watch. 

Just imagine, for a moment, that you are Renny Harlin or Kellan Lutz and you read these missive penned in your honor:

"Even dental extraction is more enjoyable to endure than this artistically bankrupt misfire."--Digital Spy.

"Essentially a Monday Night Raw episode with mythological dressing."--Chicago Reader

"Ode to a Grecian turd."--Houston Press

"The only thing epic about 'The Legend of Hercules' is what a failure it is."--Washington Post

"Has a whiff of the Augean Stables about it, if you catch my drift."--McClatchy tribune News Service

"(Kellan Lutz is) a big lump of hamburger who makes Taylor Lautner look like Daniel Day Lewis."--Screen Crush

"While the role (of Herc) may not call for a master thespian, it at least begs for someone who can emote without looking like he's straining to execute a dead lift."--Variety

"If there were any reservations about just how bad an actor Kellan Lutz is, 'The Legend of Hercules' more than confirms it."--Bullz-eye.com

For all these reasons, "The Legend of Hercules" earns the (dis)honor of being 2014's worst film.

And on that note, I take my leave. 

So, until next time, keep your loin cloth clean, and SAVE THE MOVIES!


The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Wikipedia, History Answers.com and Rotten Tomatoes.com in researching this article.