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.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Soultaker (1990)

Photobucket

I first saw this on MST3K, but I don't remember exactly when that was-- late college maybe. At that time, Robert Z'Dar wasn't known as Robert Z'Dar, but rather the dude with the big face from Future War... man have times changed.

Soultaker was written by the lead actress so she'd have a film to star in (so the story goes on MST3K). It stars Joe Estevez ("I don't think anything is ever starring Joe Estevez!") as a Soultaker, a dude who collects one's soul after her or she kicks the bucket. His superior is Robert Z'Dar, and Z'Dar gives him the task of taking the souls of five kids who die in a massive auto accident. Somehow, though, the souls are displaced, and Estevez sees a unique opportunity to live with the soul of one of the girls, because she looks like a woman he dated and killed back in the Old West. Now these kids whose souls are displaced need to escape Estevez and make it back to their bodies before the doctors pull the plug.

Photobucket

According to imdb, this won a Saturn award in 1992. Huh? This was an out-and-out painfest. Beyond being pretty boring, it had all these rules about dying and the afterlife-- that it never followed! When the souls are displaced, Z'Dar tells Estevez that in order to track them he has to "abide by the laws of time and space." Does he? No, he shape-shifts and has shotgun bullets go through him, which in itself was amazing, considering a scene before he was felled by a nine iron blow to the back. It had a few hilarious moments, like one where the mom-- a dissimulated Estevez-- is watching her daughter undress for a bath; or how one of the characters looked like former Chicago Bears QB Jim McMahon (sp?), but those were few and unfortunately far between. Maybe if there were a few more of those, plus more Estevez and Z'Dar and less about the kids, this might have passed for a so-bad-it's-good, but it even failed there.

This was something of a landmark episode for the show, because they brought back TV's Frank and Joel for the host segments. I believe it was also the tenth anniversary. All that did was remind me how much better the host segments were before Joel and Frank left. As far as the actual riffing of the movie went, it was very solid, especially at the end when Servo and Crow went off on a huge rant about how the film should've ended. Nelson always excelled as a straight man in those scenarios, and he was particularly funny in that moment. If anything, the film was very entertaining with their commentary, and very hard to watch without it.

Photobucket

Mike and The 'Bots described DTVC favorite Robert Z'Dar as "a catcher's mitt with eyes." Ouch. He kind of plays a good guy here, and as you can see, he has a thick, blond mullet to boot. On top of that, he has a major voice distortion effect, I guess because he's middle-management in heaven. He's not in the film much, though, which is kind of too bad, and the voice distortion removed one of my favorite Z'Dar acting instruments: how he sounds like a phone sex operator or obscene caller when he tries to blot out his Chicago accent and replace it with sophisticated sounding discourse. "Hey Joe Estevez, what are you wearing?" "Is this Robert Z'dar again?" "[cough cough] Ah no, ha ha, what makes you say that?"

Speaking of Mr. Estevez, I believe this is only his second film we've done. Is that right? Out of 200+ credits, almost all of which are DTVC worthy, the only other one of his I've done is No Code of Conduct, with his brother Martin and his nephew "Charles"? Wow, how is it that 600+ posts here and 200+ films of his have only crossed paths that one (and now a second) time? That has to be some kind of statistical anomaly. At least he's tagged now, and we'll see about getting his ass up here some more-- Christ, 200+ films, that's Hall of Fame territory. He is in a film called Guns and Lipstick that I've been trying like a trooper to get my hands on, but it's always too expensive. In addition to Estevez, it also has Wings Hauser and Evan Lurie.

Photobucket

This car shows up at the very end of the film. Had it been in it more, I bet I would've liked the movie more. What is it, a Caddy or something? I don't know much about cars, but I know enough to say that's pretty awesome. The thing I really wanted to discuss in this paragraph is the tagline about how "there's no stairway to heaven." Forget how silly and cheesy it is, it reminded me of a line my buddy I hike with told me, that expert mountaineers call Denali's West Buttress route the "wheelchair ramp to the summit." I know that's really in bad taste, considering hiking mountains is one of the most apparent joys people confined to wheelchairs aren't able to savor, but it's always freaked me out, because I'll probably never hit Denali someday, but the idea that spending a few weeks on a frozen mountain at such a high altitude could be written off by some as a "wheelchair ramp to the summit", just blows my mind, especially when I think about some of the shit I've done that's kicked my ass and isn't even a fraction of what it takes to do Denali.

All right, we're way off track here, so let's reel me back in. You can get the MST3K version as we speak on Netflix Watch Instantly, and it's plenty worth it. The movie itself is way too expensive from Amazon on DVD (like $50!), but the VHS is around $1, which is like $4 with shipping, which isn't too bad, except you're buying Soultaker sans Mike and The 'Bots, which is pretty painful.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100665/

4 comments:

  1. Saw this without Mike and the bots first. It was a tough sit. Then watched the MST3K and it was a hilarious episode!

    ReplyDelete
  2. For me this sucked even the MST3K episode. I mean it was funny but I was disappointed because there was potential to make a good movie out of such a premise. They just made it in the most ridiculous of ways.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can totally buy Mike and the Bots theory about this being a vanity project for the lead actress/writer. It just has that feel to it throughout.

    I never tire of faux-Jim McMahon's line "Zeppelin was wrong man, there is no stairway to heaven". That's some deep, deep stuff right there.

    Another great Joe Estevez MST3K venture is WEREWOLF, which also give you the greatness of Richard Lynch and a bunch of Europeans trying to sound American. It's fantastic.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Tough sit is the perfect description. Soultaker wasn't exactly their most memorable work, but it was entertaining enough for me. The problem with the idea, though, is exactly what these writers ran into: coming up with a clear set of rules for wandering souls. Like, your voice can't be heard, but you can press an elevator button? How is that right? It was like Plot Convenience Theater all over the place (trying to remember what MST3K that line came from, but one of my favorites of theirs!)

    Werewolf is a great idea for a future MST3K post too, and one I hadn't remembered to think of, so thanks for that. Seasons 9 and 10 really have a lot of great DTVC fodder. As far as other Estevez flicks, I forgot I'd wanted to do Zero Boys for some time now, and Double Blast with Linda Blair, which has unfortunately been very difficult to find. Estevez will be a gift that keeps on giving for a long time to come, I'm just surprised I haven't taken more advantage of him to this point.

    ReplyDelete