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.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Radioactive Dreams (1985)

Photobucket

Last week I reviewed an Albert Pyun film called Urban Menace with Snoop Dogg and some other rappers in it. It didn't turn out well, in fact, it was so bad, I couldn't fathom that Albert Pyun actually directed it. This was bad news, and I knew I had to rectify the situation as soon as possible, because Albert Pyun has been good to us here at the DTVC-- he's the only Hall of Famer to ever comment on a post. Anyway, as luck would have it, I came across a copy of Radioactive Dreams on VHS.

Radioactive Dreams takes place on April 1, 2010 (my 31st birthday), 14 years after the nuclear holocaust. Michael Dudikoff and Cougar from Top Gun grew up in a bomb shelter, abandoned by their fathers, and have finally tunneled their way out to the post-nuclear surface. Their only concept of the world is through mystery novels written by dudes like Phillip Marlowe (hence their names, Phillip and Marlowe). Anyway, at the same time, there is one nuclear bomb left, and whoever gets control of it will gain control of the world, and a woman carrying the keys to unlock them drops said keys in Duds and Coug's car while she's trying to make off with Duds' gun. Now the two make their way to Edge City, where everyone wants the keys, and their naïve Hardy Boys weltanschauung is put to the test.

Photobucket

Before I get into the film, I need to discuss something else. How is it possible that someone could direct this in 1985, and then make something like Urban Menace fifteen years later. This is more than just Kevin Smith making Jersey Girl, or Scorsese making Kundun-- at least those two movies looked like they were made by someone who had made a movie before. Urban Menace looked like a film student's final project, and Radioactive Dreams looked like a real movie done by someone who knows how to make films. Even more mind boggling is the fact that Albert Pyun had however many films under his belt between Radioactive Dreams and Urban Menace, many of which also looked like they were directed by someone who had directed a movie before. Urban Menace just makes no sense.

All right, enough of that, let's celebrate a good film, instead of dwell on a bad one, and Radioactive Dreams was good. It's just such a cool concept: take the Hardy Boys, and stick them in a world where the greasers, hippies, punks, disco dorks, mutants and sadists all rule. Then make it as 80s post-apocalyptic future as possible, right down to the amazing Pat Benetar knock-off soundtrack. This is the kind of film that I got into this for. All the things I gave Waterworld a hard time for, Radioactive Dreams followed through on. Dudikoff and Cougar weren't asses like Kevin Costner's character. As opposed to being a dumb movie that people tried to convince me was fun, this was a fun movie that was a silly spoofed on things like Mad Max 2, which really worked. The only drawback, of course, is that this isn't available on DVD. Wow.

Photobucket

And that brings up another point, because on top of being directed by a DTVC Hall of Famer, it also stars DTVC Hall of Famer Michael Dudikoff, and like a lot of his filmography, it's either on DVD but out of print, or only available on VHS. Dudikoff is that level of DTV action star that he should have every film of his reviewed, like Dolph, Seagal, and Van Damme, and I'm going to try and make that happen, but it's a huge impediment that I can't just pop on Netflix and load up my queue. Radioactive Dreams isn't really Dudikoff as the American Ninja type hero, and hearing him scream or talk in a high pitched voice might be hard for some, but it worked for me because the rest of the movie worked. This wasn't like Midnight Ride, where it annoyed me that he allowed himself to get beaten up by Mark Hamill so much.

Among the other stars, like Cougar from Top Gun and George Kennedy, there was a staple of Pyun films, Norbert Weisser. He actually has the distinction of being the one person who has starred in more Albert Pyun films (15) than Vincent Klyn (12). What's interesting is, of the six previous films of his (Weisser's) I've reviewed, one them, Android, actually wasn't an Albert Pyun film. Anyway, Radioactive Dreams marks the first film together for these two long time collaborators, which I think is pretty cool. I don't know if maybe you can see, as Norbert Weisser's on screen torturing Cougar for the nuclear bomb keys, that twinkle in his eye that made Albert Pyun see something special in him-- you can almost hear the Six Pence None the Richer playing in the background... Ohhh Kiss me...

Photobucket

This was a Vestron Video, and anyone who watched a lot of movies in the 80s knows that logo (or one of their other ones). They disappeared a long time ago, but I think for a lot of us they were a big part of what the 80s video age was all about, and it's one of the things I'm trying to capture here with this blog. Yes, I like to do newer films on DVD, but there's also a lot to be said for those old movie nights, especially as a kid with a bunch of friends on a sleep over, when we went to the video store and picked out the grossest looking horror film, or most bad ass looking action film, and ate a lot of junk food and lived it up. This was before Blockbuster and DVDs and Netflix and On Demand, when video stores were locally owned and carried just as many old barely known bad movies as they did new releases of the big budget ones, and often we settled for the barely known ones because the one or two copies of the new one were out. I can't believe I'm only going to be 31 on April 1st, and I'm already reminiscing about the good ol' days of the 1980s, but that's kind of what's happened. I can't just go to my local video store and rent Radioactive Dreams anymore, which is too bad. (For more on Vestron Video, check out Cinema du Meep's great post.)

You can get a torrent of this, but really, it's better to get it on VHS, which may not be easy. I guess the best way to describe it is a guilty pleasure, but I'm not so sure anyone should feel guilty enjoying themselves with this. It's just a good time from the 80s, and as a bonus, features two DTVC Hall of Famers. Definitely a good film to redeem Albert Pyun with after the horrible Urban Menace.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091818/

20 comments:

  1. Albert Pyun was never a great director in my book. He did a couple of good ones that I did enjoy, like for example Cyborg with JCVD. That movie was a big part of my childhood.

    But then he did that horrible Captain American movie and it all went down hill from there on in. Its like he is just making movies to get payed, not because he loves making them or has a passion for them.

    BUT, speaking of Radioactive Dreams, I have heard such good things about it. Everytime someone reviews it, its positive. A lot people have recommended this film to me, sadly it has been suffering the same fate as Night of the Creeps and Monster Squad did for a while (thank god they are finally out!)

    But even really hard films to get on DVD are slowly emerging. Just a while ago Richard Stanleys Hardware made it on to DVD, so there might still be hope for Radioactive Dreams.

    Oh and Matt, I know exactly what you are talking about, those video shop memories...I use to take HOURS inside of a video shop looking for just the right obscure horror movie.

    Funny story: One time I was at a video shop just waiting around till somebody would return the only copy of HOUSE II that was available. I waited and waited but the person who had it, I guess wasnt going to return the film that night so I finally decided to leave. Dissapointed. Unhappy.

    So anyways, turns out five minutes (literally!) five minutes later I see a bunch of police men drive by and a big comossion of people. When I go back to check out what happened, the owner of the video shop was shot to death! I peered into the video shop from the outside and saw his dead body with all his blood spread all over the floor!

    What this means to me: The people who were waiting to kill that video shop owner (for whatever reasons I never really knew why) were waiting for me to leave so they could kill him! I could have died for my obsession over movies!

    And with this story I end my brief walk down video store memories...

    ReplyDelete
  2. That is one of the craziest stories ever. I bet they were waiting for you to leave, and were probably losing their minds that you were sticking around so long, waiting for House II. That tops me and my buddy calling our video store to reserve Peter Jackson's Bad Taste, when we all knew no one was going to rent it. Man, that's just insane, good thing you didn't die for your love of bad movies!

    As far as Pyun goes, sure, he's no Almodovar or Scorsese, and I imagine he'd be the first to tell you that, but as a DTV director, he's the best. If you liked Cyborg, Nemesis, and Omega Doom, you'd like Radioactive Dreams, if not, you won't. What got me about Urban Menace was that it wasn't classic Albert Pyun, like Captain America or Kickboxer 4, it really looked like some kid on YouTube made it, which was crazy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well, you certainly are a connoisseur because you're right that the three Urban films were "slightly" (?) off. What happened was after shooting all three at the same time in Eastern Europe, the film was packed into two boxes for shipping back to US. Air France somehow lost one of the boxes so a bit more than half of each film was lost (and remain lost to this day). We had a few very low rez 3/4 daillies tapes of some of the missing material and this stuff is the You Tube looking stuff probably. each of the three films still had to be completed and delivered to fulfill legal obligations but now the films are made up from just half the material shot. It was a challenge and you see the end results.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, I'm glad you cleared that up, because it definitely seemed like something wasn't right there. I know a lot of my readers are big fans of yours, so it must suck to have work out there with your name attached to it that is missing so much of what you wanted. I mean it doesn't say on the cover or on imdb that half the film went missing.

    As far as "Connoisseur" goes, I picked that name for the site as a way to conjure up this image of an Alistair Cooke type in his smoking jacket watching Dolph Lundgren films. The only problem was, when it came to telling people about it, the name was too long, and most people couldn't spell connoisseur, so as a joke it kind of backfired.

    As always, thank you for your comments and support, and we'll be looking forward to your next project. (Hopefully Air France won't lose it!)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah, its a drag but it least it got finished although trying to shape an entire movie from just half its material is not something I want to go through again. I think if this occurred today, it might have been a little better end result because there's so much CG available for a reasonable price. My apologies to everyone who had to see it. I think my next two films, Bulletface and Tales of an Ancient Empire, will hopefully clear the bad taste (yours not mine-lol).

    I'm very happy with Bulletface, which is out in a week or so. Its sort of a cross between Traffic and Anti-Christ/Irreversible. Very sexually graphic and disturbing noir detective thriller.

    Thanks for all the kind support!
    Albert Pyun

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey thats awesome Matt, having Albert Pyun commenting on your blog!

    I once spoke with the Spierig Brothers during their Undead days..that was a cool experience!

    I still dont like Captan American though I have to say that it is good for a laugh, same as The Sword and The Sorcerer! As a kid, I always wanted to have that sword! Anyhows, Mr. Pyun, I respect your resilience as a director, keep up the good fight!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just saw the clips from Tales of an Ancient Empire (http://www.talesofanancientempire.com/) , and I'm excited for it to be released. I looked up Bulletface on Amazon and Netflix and didn't see it available. Will either of those have it when it does come out? If not, where would one get it? It sounds great, and I look forward to seeing it.

    I think any bad taste there could've been with Urban Menace is completely gone by you setting the record straight, and I'm glad you took the time to do that. Maybe someday the rest of the footage will turn up in a Norwegian mental institution a la The Passion of Joan of Arc. Anyway, thank you too for your support, and I'll be keeping my eye out for Bulletface.

    ReplyDelete
  8. At least you're sticking to your guns, Francisco, on Captain America. It just crossed my mind as I was reading my old review of it that the star, Matt Salinger's, father just passed away. I guess he's known for more than just being Matt Salinger's father, having written Catcher in the Rye and all, but it's still too bad.

    ReplyDelete
  9. So true about the 80's/early 90's video stores. I remember when my (now non-existant) local store had a dedicated Beta section. I used to laugh at the funny shaped tapes. I also remember picking up Braindead with the puffy cover and wanting to rent it every time but was too young!

    I have a trashy DTV movie I want to send you. It is called Space Chase and seems to only exist on VHS (one which cost me a bit and I've never seen again). Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0294931/

    I made a custom DVD-R of it. You really need to see it. Send me an email at sutekh at nondivine dot com and I'll post it off.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I remember that thing about the special covers...there was one for a film called Dead Pit, where the zombie on the cover had red eyes...and they lit up!

    ReplyDelete
  11. It's funny how one thing or another can trigger that kind of nostalgia. For me it was seeing that Vestron Video logo on screen.

    It's always an interesting dilemma for me here to choose between old favorites like this one, and new releases like The Marine 2-- it's just a matter of finding that balance; but it's always good to get feedback from everyone so I have an idea of which way to tip the scales.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I have to agree about Captain America (not enough action, and let's face it the movie was badly made...though not due to Pyun, as the budget was not there, I defend Pyun, as I liked Kickboxer 2 and 4,Nemesis, Sword and The Sorcerer, Bloodmatch,Dollman and Mean Guns...I even got www.unknownmovies.com (a big detractor of Pyun to acknowledge Kickboxer 4 and Mean Guns as passable films) Still it must be said that Pyun has always struck me as a guy who tries to do too much as opposed to too little. In fact Albert if you're reading this, you still need to send me back the interview questions. Indeed Pyun is an ambitious director...it's just that he doesn't always have the right style for the movie he is making, what is weird is that he is a natural great at making the Kickboxer fights bad guy movie (see Kickboxer 2 and 4) Also it should be noted Pyun also did a pretty decent horror film called The Invasion... It should be noted though that I personally didn't care for Radioactive Dreams...though mainly due to the pacing problems that Pyun later solved, also Dudikoff as much as I like him, came off as all wrong. It's weird cause Matt and I seem to disagree a lot on Dudikoff, as I liked The Silencer a lot, and Matt liked R.D a lot. Weird. Meanwhile Pyun has said he's talked to Sasha Mitchell about another film...one really hopes the two get such together soon, cause Pyun knows how to channel Mitchell's potential better than anyone in hollywood (Paul Morrissey aside) Anyway, Al, if you're reading this, know we all are hoping you get Sasha Mitchell back for another movie, most importantly another Kickboxer sequel in which Mitchell kills Tong Po once and for all.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Here's my take on Captain America, just to clear up any confusion on my thoughts about it.

    See, I felt The Silencer had the pacing issues, and Radioactive Dreams did all right. Maybe your big issue with it was Dudikoff as a Hardy Boys type, as opposed to the action hero lead we're used to.

    And I'm all for anything that can get Sasha Mitchell back and acting.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Radioactive Dreams is easily in my top ten favorites of all time (not just DTV, but in general), thanks for the great review!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm glad you liked it, because it was on an old post that I was updating the images on where I saw your comment mentioning this, so sorry I didn't get it to you sooner.

    ReplyDelete
  16. just wanted to chime in and say i got around to watch Radioactive Dreams and damn, i really really liked it.

    Favorite Line: "Save it babe. That was a million years ago. I got a short memory. In fact, I don't even know who you are" - Phillip

    ReplyDelete
  17. Yeah, it was great how they went from Hardy Boys to Marlowe/Chandler-esque protagonists. I'm glad you dug it.

    Also, as I explore comic book movies over the next few weeks, you'll have a chance at redemption for the 2003 Incredible Hulk movie. I have a feeling with some of the other ones I'll be reviewing that I may take back my statement about it being one of the worst of all time.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm glad you liked it. I dug yours on Vestron Video as well.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Months ago, I put together the full soundtrack to this classic B-movie since it had a slew of awesome 80s songs. I also got a copy of the film online (torrent wise, I think) and loved it from the first frame. Why hasn't this fun film been released on DVD yet? "Night of the Comet", "Night of the Creeps" and "Monster Squad" have all been put out. Where's "Dreams" and "RAD"? The one thing I really dislike about the soundtrack to "Dreams" is that there were three versions put out. The Australian and German versions are the same, but to have a totally complete edition, you need to track down another vinyl. Thanks to a fan on YouTube that contacted me recently about a mystery song video my close friend put up, I now know of the very limited Spanish soundtrack record. It contains two more songs not on the other releases, one of which is the mystery song my close friend and I seek - B.J. Ward's "Daddy's Gonna' Boogie Tonight". The other tune I did not know about is Lynn Carey's "All Talk". Gladly, the guy is going to share those tunes with me for a complete soundtrack.

    "Vicious Lips" is another soundtrack I would love to see an official release for. Right now, I only have 6 songs, all recorded, cleaned and edited to excellence from a copy of movie. I'm still missing five other unreleased tracks. It was an somewhat interesting B-movie, but nowhere near as good as "Dreams".

    I love 80s movies (and films in general) and music from that time period. My MP3 archive is massive. So is my soundtracks archive for that era. Name one from 80 to 89 and I more than likely have it (even rare ones), unless it's purely orchestral/instrumental. Only have a few of those for films I really like the music from. My close friend and I avidly work on extending 80s soundtracks to include every song heard in the films and not just those officially released. If interested, you can see a lot of my special editions over on my friend's blog, Inferno Music Crypt.

    ReplyDelete