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.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Project Shadowchaser III aka Project Shadowchaser 3000 (1997)

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I got this from Netflix as a part of a two-pack with Project Shadowchaser II. With only Frank Zagarino to tie it to the others-- that and I guess the guy who played the creepy womanizing orderly in Project: Shadowchaser was in this as one of the shipmates-- the whole thing seemed rather dubious, but the first two were pretty good, so I crossed my fingers.

Project Shadowchaser III takes place in the future, when a a ship called the Siberia goes missing. 25 years later it returns, on a collision course with a space station orbiting Mars, much to that crew's chagrin, considering they're two days out from going home. They link up with the ship to investigate, and find a mysterious, killer presence, in the form of a shapeshifting android, our old buddy Frank Zagarino. Can they make it out alive?

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How many movies can you rip off in 90 minutes? Well, let's see. There's Alien, The Thing, Terminator 2, Solaris... that's four. I'm sure there're others, but that's enough for you to get the point. In DTV, it's okay to rip off other, bigger, more famous projects, as long as the movie is fun. This wasn't. It was really unremarkable, with nothing special, nothing over the top, a few funny bad movie moments, but beyond that, just a big ol' pile of blah. Not to mention, there was a lot of grossness, with Zagarino's android character's skin melting off and stuff. The only bright spot was Musetta Vander as the heroine, a Russian scientist on the space station, but that wasn't enough to save the rest of the film.

We had a major Zagarino bait-and-switch. They list Christopher Atkins's part as a "special appearance", even though he's in most of the movie. Zagarino should've been the "special appearance", and it should've been as the "Terminator Rip-off". None of the fun character we loved in the first two-- in fact, due to his odd shapeshifting abilities, he's often played by another actor. Whose idea was it to take the entire foundation Zagarino had built with this character over two movies, and dump it in favor of a bunch of cheap rip-off sci-fi characters?

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The late Sam Bottoms is in this. Who is that you ask? None other than Timothy Bottoms's younger brother. I was going to go into a whole thing about how bad it is if you're leading man's claim to fame is that he's Timothy Bottoms's brother, but I saw on imdb that he died of brain cancer in 2008, and I felt like that would be in poor taste. Still, look at the progression: Martin Kove, Bryan Genesse, Sam Bottoms. In the female lead we've stayed pretty consistent, right? Meg Foster, Beth Toussaint, Musetta Vander. I was about to say "what, Frank Zagarino wasn't available?"... oh yeah, that's right-- though how cool would have been with him in the lead fighting an android built in his image?

You know when you fire up a movie, and the make-up effects or special effects coordinators get into the opening credits. It means the film makers have some crutches they plan to lean on in lieu of a solid story or great acting. In this case, it was vintage late 90s CGIs and the aforementioned gross skin melting as Zagarino the android changed shape. The thing is, in both cases, the effects weren't that great anyway, so to then ask them compensate for much bigger inadequacies was too much for them to bear. The reality is, both the computer and make-up effects can be horrible, as long as the film is fun, it'll still work.

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We have a TGIF alum, Bill Kirchenbauer, also known as Coach Lubbock from Just the 10 of Us, the Growing Pains spin-off. He plays Wheels, a cigar smoking ship worker confined to a wheel chair, which goes all Christine on him and drives him to his death. That show, Just the Ten of Us, had two of Michael Dudikoff's female leads, Heather Langenkamp of Nightmare on Elm Street fame was in Fugitive Mind, and Brooke Theiss was in Quicksand. Another note on Brooke Theiss, she's married to Bryan Genesse, the star from the previous Project Shadowchaser.

The thing is, I think part 2 is worth a look, and if this is packaged with it, you might as well give it a whirl. On its own, though, I'd stay as far away as possible. Hopefully sometime they'll package parts 1 and 2, which makes more sense, because they're more alike-- and both of a higher quality.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114192/

7 comments:

  1. Great review of all three. I've got a watch on eBay on the double set that I hope to get cheap, and I think I found a rare Region 4 DVD of the first movie.

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  2. Another great review! Will have to pick up 2 & 3 soon.

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  3. That'll be sweet if you can get them. I'd love to hear what both of you think of these.

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  4. Balls, I just ordered ordered this one on DVD. Nevermind, it's a double pack with TC 2000 so not a total loss.

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  5. Yeah, this is definitely the weakest entry in the series, the next film in the series-Orion's Key was alot more fun then this one.

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  6. I doubt we'll see Shadowchaser 1 & 2double-DVD. The first one was from Lloyd A. Simandl's (legendary man there!) company while all the rest are from NU Image. That's why the first one is so rare. There's that R4 DVD and a Dutch DVD and some releases from Japan/China, which might or might not be legal.

    Great review, as always. Here's the thing: You do NOT first give the audience Kove and Genesse and then follow it with Sam Bottoms and Christopher Atkins! It's like someone making Crackerjack 2 and replacing Thomas Ian Griffith with a guy like Judge Reinhold, it's just wrong and is never goind to happ...wait...damn...

    It's weird what people find gross. Faces melting off etc. is nothing special to me and doesn't stop me from enjoying my pop corn, but the vomiting in Devil's Tomb took away my appetite. Christopher Atkins also does that and there's never anything SPECIAL about his appearance. Why isn't there an "Unfortunate appearance by"-credit for guys like him...?

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  7. Anything packed with TC 2000 is not a total loss.

    And I love that there's never anything special about Christopher Atkins's appearances. You could tell in this that he thought he was a definite star, a true practitioner of The Craft, as they say.

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