The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Don "The Dragon" Wilson has always been pretty cool in my book. I think if he had more memorable films he'd probably be in the DTVC Hall of Fame. He'd definitely be in my UFC Color Commentator Hall of Fame if I had one. I don't want to bag on Joe Rogan here, because everyone else does that, and to be honest, I kind of like Fear Factor, but D "The D" Dubs held it down when he had the gig back in the early UFCs. I was glad to see him in that Last Sentinel movie on Sci-Fi, even if they were packaging it as a vehicle for the chick that plays the counterfeit Starbuck on the new Battlestar Galactica.
Bloodfist IV: Die Trying is another in producer Roger Corman's Bloodfist series, all of which star Mr. Wilson as different main characters (except the first two, where he's the same guy). In this one, D "The D" Dubs plays a repo man who repos the wrong car. He fights a buff and long haired Gary Daniels for it. Later Gary brings his boss and others to the repo place to retrieve some stuff from the car, and they massacre all of Donny's co-workers. He's blamed for it, and he needs to clear his name and save his daughter, who's been kidnapped by Daniels' boss, at the same time. James Tolkan of Masters of the Universe and Top Gun fame plays an FBI agent.
I must say, Don does a great job choreographing fight scenes in this, especially with Gary Daniels and the late Cat Sassoon. The first and final fights with Daniels are some of the best I've seen in a non Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, or Jet Li film. I guess it pays to be the greatest kickboxing champ ever, right?
The plot in this was interesting. The bad guys were after switches to nuclear bombs or something. Don had to deal with not only the baddies, but the LAPD, the FBI, and the CIA. One thing I liked was how they had all these complicated plot twists with the whole "who's side is so-and-so on?" kind of deal, but it wasn't too heavy because we knew they were all against Don. All he had was character actor Amanda Wyss, who you may have seen in absolutely everything (most memorable for me was the reporter on Highlander: The Series), to lean on as he tried to clear his name and save his daughter.
Other than the nice fighting and the simple plot, this didn't have much going for it. There were no memorable lines or spectacular action. If I hadn't been watching this at 2am while fighting insomnia, I probably would have turned it off. After the final fight between Don and Daniels, there's still another 15 minutes (a half hour with commercials if you're watching it on TV), which for me was useless.
If you came into a bunch of Bloodfists for a cheap price, it's not exactly a bad deal, especially if you like good martial arts. Overall, though, spending more than a couple bucks on these individually, especially this one, is a little much. If you see Bloodfist IV on TV at 2am and you're battling insomnia or taking a break from a term paper or an all night cram session, you could do a lot worse. That's probably why Spike and ShowtimeXtreme show this around that time.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103840/
I first saw this film sitting in a used DVD bin for $5. It looked like a can't miss, and when I watched it for the first time with a buddy, it became an instant classic. This film is a staple of all of our Dolph fests, usually shown before the other Lundgren/Tagawa classic Showdown in Little Tokyo. This film also played a huge role in Dolph becoming the Babe Ruth of the DTVC Hall of Fame.
Bridge of Dragons takes place in some kind of post-apocalyptic future, I guess, where people are recreating 1930s Eastern Europe, maybe, and the royal family consists of an Asian woman. The only other Asian is Tagawa, and he's planning to usurp the throne by marrying the woman. She escapes, and it's up to Dolph, Tagawa's enforcer, to get her back. Did I mention she's a hot Asian woman? Dolph loves that, and instead of bringing her back, he joins the resistance against Tagawa. Finally, at another wedding after she's been recaptured, Dolph takes Tagawa outside and beats him like a rented mule, and then he blows up.
I don't know where to start. The two random Asians might be a good place. We have no idea why two Asians have so much power in this Eastern European society. Also, they're the only two Asians in the film. I don't know, your guess is as good as mine. That's not the only thing that makes no sense about this future. We have no idea why it's constructed the way it is, who the players are, and what their motivations are: they just show up, and we're supposed to accept it all as it comes. And I'll be honest, I like it. I know what Dolph's motivation is, and that's enough for me.
This is pure Lundgren. In one scene he kicks a flaming table at people, and a string that you can barely see lifts the table high in the air. It's the kind of thing you'll rewind a few times because it's that funny. Tagawa plays a guy named Ruechang, and when Dolph says it with his Swedish accent, it sounds ten times cooler. One of my favorite scenes is where he pulls a Three Stooges in the Haunted Mansion routine where he hides under a jeep and pulls a guy by the legs from underneath. Oh yeah, and his running is great.
There's plenty of hilarious bad action. When guys get shot, their bodies react in weird ways. They get pulled violently by zip chords and whatnot. Again, this makes for some very funny scenes. When Dolph fights Tagawa at the end, he does this kick that sends Tagawa unnaturally to the ground. One of the best things I've ever seen.
The woman in this is hot. According to the movie credits, she's Rachel Shane. According to imdb, her real name's Victoria Chow. In terms of Dolph eye candy, I'd say she's up there with the Silent Trigger woman and Tia Carrere from Showdown. Kylie Bax in Storm Catcher wasn't bad either. That's one thing I appreciate from Dolph. Unlike Van Damme, who feels the need to show us his buttcheeks all the time, Dolph supplements his own natural hotness with something for the hetero guys. He's an equal opportunity film maker, and it's refreshing.
This is a cornerstone in my bad movie collection. I can't imagine anyone who likes bad movies not having this in theirs. I may have only paid $5 for this, but it's at least worth ten, maybe fifteen. That's right, I said it, fifteen. Maybe. A big maybe. How's this, if you can get it for $5, you'll feel like you bought fifteen bucks worth of bad movie.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0194722/
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Peter Jackson, despite the Lord of the Rings things he did, will always hold a special place in my heart. After my friends and I found Bad Taste in 1994, we were converts, and we looked for anything we could find by him. We found this and Dead Alive, and both were spectacular. I never quite got the buzz around the LOTR films, because none of them could stand up to these first three in my mind.
Meet the Feebles is a sick and twisted parody of The Muppets. The Feebles is a variety show owned by this walrus dude. He's supposed to be in love with the hippo chick that's their star singer, but he bangs a cat on the side. At the same time, the star rabbit thinks he's got a fatal STD, and is planning his death. Our protagonist is supposed to be a diminutive porcupine who has just joined the cast. As more and more problems plague the production, the gay fox that runs the show decides to do his own act, a song about sodomy. The hippo finds out the walrus doesn't love her, and she snaps, massacring the cast with a machine gun.
Like Bad Taste and Dead Alive, this film is pure comedic gold. You know this isn't your-run-of-the-mill puppet film when you see a walrus doing a cat. There's also a rat who films bondage porn in the basement on the side, and a fly who runs a gossip column. Like Team America and Conan's sketch about puppet deaths, Peter Jackson does a great job killing off the puppets in his film. The hippo with the machine gun is fantastic.
Also like Bad Taste and Dead Alive, this film is not for the faint of heart. Don't let the puppet theme fool you, there are plenty of disgusting scenes in this, some grosser than those in the other two films. You've got the fly eating feces in a toilet, the rabbit with pus oozing out of the sores on his face, and the walrus vomiting on a rhino to screw up his golf shot.
This is not a kids film either. The humor is purely adult fare. One of my faves was the Deer Hunter tribute with the lizard who was captured in Vietnam and now fights a heroin addiction. I also dug the aforementioned sodomy song. Anyone who looks at the puppets on the cover and thinks Dark Crystal or Muppets Take Manhattan will be sorely disappointed (unless you're me, and you have a twisted sense of humor, and think those two movies sucked ass).
Pay whatever you have to to get this gem. If it sets you back the full $19.99, it's so worth it. This thing will provide many more hours of enjoyment than all of the LOTR special editions put together.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097858/
Of the many gifts given to me by MST3K, there may not be one as great as Miles O'Keefe. I've seen many of his films post season 3's Cave Dwellers, all because they had Miles, and all because he was so hilarious as Ator. This gem, of course, takes the Miles factor, and multiplies it by former Kansas City Chiefs star Fred Williamson.
Silent Hunter is about Miles O'Keefe as a dude who's in the wrong place at the wrong time with his family. They end up carjacked by some bank robbers, and his wife and daughter are murdered. He'd have been murdered too, if not for his bulletproof sternum. In mourning, he dons a fake beard and moves to the Colorado wilderness, where playboy sheriff Williamson (who also directs) is the law. The same bank robbers show up again, in Freddy's town, and they buy grenades from the local convenience store owner. They use said grenades to rob the town bank, and try to escape, but the helicopter crashes and they end up with Miles again. They need the daughter of a WWI PTO vet (not a typo) to help them through the icy wilderness, and Miles needs to track them to get his revenge. He does.
This movie is actually funnier than the synopsis makes it sound. The baddies actually do buy grenades from the local store. It has to be one of the greatest things I've ever seen in a bad action movie, and considering the hours I've logged, that's saying a lot. The old guy I mentioned actually is a WWI vet who fought in the Pacific. I know the reality was they wanted him to have fought in WWII, but they used terminology associated with the first one to describe it, hence the WWI vet who fought in the Pacific.
Miles is pure gold. Early on he's an undercover cop who tries to talk like he's from the street. It's hilarious. Just when you think it can't get any funnier, they stick a fake beard on him and put him in Colorado. Oh yeah, I forgot the bulletproof sternum. When his wife and daughter are killed, he takes three point blank shots to the chest, and survives. It's simply fantastic.
And Fred Williamson is no slouch. He's great as a director, putting scenes together that seem to have no real relation; I have to assume his moustache has some of the blame in that. The first scene he's in a naked woman exits his bed. That's better than Woody Allen casting hot women to play his love interests in his films, because in this case, Fred's putting it out there like: "just another day in the life of Big Daddy Fred Williamson". How can you not love that?
The action in this is great too. There are explosions due to the grenades, which show up everywhere. Somehow snowmobiles make it into the film, and they explode too. In one scene, to get the bag of grenades or the bag of money, I'm not sure which, Miles pushes this chick over a log, scoops the bag, and runs. It was so ridiculous. Also, that woman looks like Debbie Harry in the first robbery, and Pat Benetar in the second, representing the 80s' two foremost rock chicks.
With all of that being said, this is a very bad movie. You have to be someone who really loves bad movies to love this one the way my friends and I did. Ten to twelve years ago, I may not have been able to handle this. If you're a bad movie rookie, I'd stay away from this for a little while. If you're a vet, though, I'd pick this up. You should be able to find it for like $2 to $5 on VHS.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114448/
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I don't remember when I first saw this. It was like seven or eight years ago, maybe on Joe Bob Briggs' show, or some other late night thing. I saw it again recently (as in a year or two ago) when I was up late drunk, and passed out before the end. It's one of those things where late at night I'm looking for something to watch, and I see the name of DTVC Hall of Famer Rutger Hauer, and it peaks my interest.
Omega Doom is a take on Kurosawa's classic Yojimbo set in a post-apocalyptic future where androids rule and humans supposedly are regrouping to take over. Hauer is the hero who enters a town with two gangs of androids that he has to play against each other and take out. He's an android too, I think. Unlike Yojimbo, though, it turns out in the end that Hauer has been sent by the humans to clean out the android population... I think... maybe he was just a loner... maybe I missed something when I watched it.
In terms of the Yojimbo redux in the DTV market, Omega Doom is better than Desert Heat, the Van Damme movie. The only reason for this: Omega Doom doesn't think the audience is too dumb to pick up on it's Kurosaw-ian roots, while Desert Heat felt they needed to tell us that at the end. There's nothing I hate more than bad action films telling me I'm dumb.
The Hauer factor in this is very solid. There's no Hauer Bait-and-Switch here, he's in it as the lead, showing up in at least 75% of the scenes. This may not be Blade Runner or The Hitcher Hauer, but it's definitely really good DTV Hauer, and you really can't ask for much more than that.
This is bad action/sci-fi in no uncertain terms. The androids make no sense: they can be decapitated myriad times and survive, but a shot with this light thing to the abdomen is fatal. The androids, except for Hauer, makes tons of loud noises when they walk, as if a foley guy was a nephew of one of the studio execs, and demanded a bigger role in the film. The only proper word for the whole thing is comical. And it's a good comical too.
I guess for the bad, this film is pretty mediocre. Sure, it's great bad action/sci-fi, but it has no real memorable moments. There's plenty to laugh at, but nothing that'll have you dying. It's like slightly better than a Sci-Fi Pictures Original, with Rutger Hauer in it too. I'm not sure what that does for you. I liked it, but it's probably only like in my top 50 of all time bad movies. Maybe.
If you can pick this up for $2 on VHS like I did, I'd say do it, because that's not much of a risk. It's also a solid choice if it's on TV late at night, and nothing else is on. If you're having a bad movie night, this might be better shown after the main event, like they do on UFC Pay-Per-Views; but not as the big thing everyone comes over to watch. This is really meant for hard core bad movie watchers, and you should view it after the kids go to bed.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117238/
Kevin Sorbo has been a part of my life since he first starred in the old Action Pack Hercules movies. I remember a buddy of mine had me watch his taped copy of a TV movie called Surviving the Savage Seas or something, which had Robert Urich and Trevor Goddard. At the end, there was a commercial for Stouffer's mac and cheese, with this little boy playing with the girl next door, before his mom calls him to supper. I warned my buddy that Herc was in it, and sure enough, the next shot had Sorbo eating the frozen food, reminiscing about his old flirtations as a youth. My friend said he'd never get rid of that tape. That was 12 years ago, and his younger brother just graduated high school with mine, and I was hoping to see him at the commencement to see if he still had it. Unfortunately he wasn't there.
Walking Tall: The Payback isn't so much a sequel of the Rock remake of the Joe Don Baker not-so-classic, but rather a repackaging for the DTV market. It has Sorbs as a dude whose dad, the sheriff, is killed by some baddies that have taken over his home town. In true Herc fashion, Sorbs goes to a bar, where one of the baddies won't pay for his drinks. In order to make him pay, he thrashes the guy, his bad friends, and the bar, causing more in damage than the $6 the drinks cost. Awesome. Now he's a deputy, and he has the right to kick anyone's ass who doesn't pay for what they take. I'm sure you can guess the rest.
This is classic bad action. It just plain rules. Sorbo, though his character is supposed to be raised in Texas, has no Southern accent whatsoever. At the end of the movie he's shot in the leg, and it has no effect on him. After the scene where Sorbo beats up the guy for not paying for his drinks, he seems, almost by magic, to always leave a space open in his dealings with other people for us the viewer to interject: "Did you pay for that?" There's also a lot of explosions, gunshots, and major holes in the plot and lacks of continuity that we all look for in a bad action film.
I did have one major complaint, though. There's a gang rape of the potential Sorbo love interest by the baddies. It's not shown, but it happened. I'd say it's way too macabre and sick for what was an otherwise fun bad action movie. The film makers or Sorbo or someone should've rethought that. Now I know what MST3K went through when they were bombarded by the gang rape in Sidehackers.
(I guess my minor complaint was that Michael Hurst wasn't in it.)
Sorbo, like Adrian Paul and Lorenzo Lamas, would easily make my Syndicated Action TV Hall of Fame, if I had one. We all know he's the man from his work on Hercules. If this film is what we have to expect from his future DTV action outputs, we should all be pretty excited. My friends and I had non stop fun watching this movie. He may have a long way to go to beat out the likes of Dolph, Kinski, or Miles O'Keefe, but I'd say with this one film alone he's already ahead of guys like Dacascos and Sasha Mitchell.
Before I get into the overall recommendation, I must make a quick comment about the horse in the final scene. Herc rides him into the battle with the bad guys, I guess because it's stealth or something. Then he dumps it and it roams around, looking for someone to point it back in the direction of the main road. It's hilarious, and if you've got a friend with a great Mr. Ed impression, this is the perfect time for him or her to shine.
This is so worth renting right now, even though you'll pay new release money for it. If you're a huge Sorbo fan, I'd say buy it. If you have any question to the quality, just look at the cover. There's Sorbo, looking like he's leading a group of friends into action-- only those are the bad guys! How can you not love that? This is the perfect film (gang rape aside) for a bad movie night.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0804550/
One of the few holdovers from the old USA network (before characters were welcome) is the occassional direct to video action film they'll show on weekday afternoons. It's always interesting, because they air when kids are coming home school, and they're usually filled with gratuitous violence. I don't want to complain too much, because it's in these afternoon movies that I find gems like this one here, but wouldn't it be cooler if USA brought back the Cartoon Express for that time slot, and brought Up All Night back to Saturday night/Sunday Morning at 3am? Then I'd get bad action films and Wacky Races. A guy can dream, right?
Substitute 3: Winner Take All is about Treat Williams going to visit an old war buddy's daughter, who's a professor at a local ficticious college. I'm assuming he's visiting her, because she's hot (played by the chick who ran the PBS pledge drive on Seinfeld, and got pissed when Jerry threw out her card), but his booty call plans are dashed when she's viciously attacked. Treat suspects the 'roid heads on the football team who were upset when she wasn't playing ball and passing them in her English Lit class are to blame. Well, it just so happens Treat has a PhD in English Lit, so he substitutes while she's in the hospital, which is a long time (as in for some reason she stays there after she's healed). The mob gets involved, because they're selling the steroids, so Treat has to take them out too. Throw in a couple of his old buddy's who help out, and we've got an A-Team rip-off.
I'm still not convinced Treat's beefy enough to pull off the action hero lead thing. He just looks silly fighting brawnier men and winning. In one scene he beats up one of the football guys during the class he's teaching. Classy. At the same time, the Substitute sequels just wouldn't be the Substitute sequels without him, so I'm torn. I guess I'll keep him.
This film is rife with Seinfeld references. There's the aforementioned PBS chick, the dude who sells George and Kramer the wheelchair is the mob boss, and Treat sports Jake Jarmel (sp?) glasses when he substitutes. I thought Claudia Christian of Babylon 5 fame was also in a Seinfeld episode, but I couldn't find it on her imdb listing. Maybe I'm just confusing her with the woman that Jerry dated who thought the Dockers commercials were cool.
The bad action factor in this is great. There's the scene in the classroom, there's a scene where he takes some dudes out in a pizza parlor with dried red pepper, and there's one where he slits a dude's throat with a lens from the Jake Jarmel glasses. One of his friends is a ninja, just 'cause, and when he goes for the mob boss, he jumps on the roof of the car the guy's riding in and kills the driver by stabbing his sword through it. This is all the more funny when you factor in that the car is supposed to be bullet proof. I'm guessing that since he was such a small time boss he either A, skimped on bullet proofing the roof to save cash, or B, couldn't afford to go the next step and get the car ninja proofed.
This bad action, though, is beaten to a pulp by the film makers with a long, drawn out surveillance turn in the plot, where Treat and his buddies stake out a bar with the help of an artificially enhanced Claudia Christian (her boobs are fake). It's a huge chunk in the center of the film, and it's completely worthless. This has the effect of making it unuseable for a bad movie night, because everyone's ADD will kick in and the next thing you know your buddies are playing Ghost Recon on their laptops (this happened to me with a film like this, Dolph's Last Warrior).
This movie, like it's friends The Substitutes 2 and 4, air rather frequently on USA and the like. Watch it on there if you've got nothing else going on. Maybe play Scrabble on the Internet during the middle when all that boring crap happens. By no means should you pay to watch this at all.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0197924/
Monday, June 18, 2007
Growing up in the 80s, the Coreys were a pop culture staple. I try my best to get my hands on anything that features one and/or both of them. If I had to chose, I guess I'm more of a Feldman guy, but that's just me.
National Lampoon's Last Resort is about the Coreys, working in Detroit, who are called down to Feldman's uncle's resort island. They have to help it make money fast, because the uncle's evil rival from back when the two made pirate movies together is trying to foreclose on them... or whatever. That's pretty much it.
This is supposed to be a comedy in the vein of Airplane and The Naked Gun. It's not. It's a train wreck from start to finish. The Coreys are the only saving grace, and it's hilarious to watch them make sense of the unfunny script.
As a viewer, we fully understand how bad this is going to be when Feldman reads the letter from his uncle while the two are sitting on a bench in Detroit. Haim asks him how they'll get to the Caribbean island, and Feldman picks up some pellet or something and says "oh, it's one of these", and he slams it on the ground. In a flash they're on the island. Wow.
There were some cool parts. Former First Brother Roger Clinton is in the film for about five minutes as a mob enforcer. I totally dug that. When Corey Haim is first kissed by the chick he's after, he looks at the camera and goes "BOOM!", and they loop it three times in quick succession, go to a shot of Feldman and his uncle, and then give us a fourth one. There's a fish that's supposed to be in a bunch of scenes, and one time it's protruding from Feldman's pants, and he's stroking it. I forgot to mention the uncle is the dude who raises one of the Van Dammes in Double Impact.
There's a lot of bad, though. It's like a big Jay Leno monologue in terms of humor, or maybe the stand-up on Last Comic Standing: it's not as anger inducing as say Kathy Griffin, but at the same time, I'm laughing at, not with, any of the jokes, and after five minutes I'm wondering why I'm watching it all. In this case, the answer is the Coreys, of course.
I'd only get this if you're a Corey completist, like me, even though I'm kind of regretting it. If USA still aired Up All Night with either Rhonda Shear or Gilbert Godfrey, you'd be able to see something like this without the monetary risk. I guess now it takes people like me with blogs to warn you off, and unfortunately, that's what I must do: don't buy this, don't rent this, don't do anything with it that involves spending money. I was disappointed.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110629/