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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vicious Lips (1988)

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This is one I've been wanting to check out for some time. Directed by DTVC Hall of Famer Albert Pyun, it was automatically on my radar, but then I saw some images of it on the Internet that looked really cool. It went to the back burner after I did a few other Pyun flicks, Bransmasher, Sword and the Sorcerer, and Blast. Now we're here though, so let's get to it.

Vicious Lips takes place in a cyber-punk future where a band, The Vicious Lips, gets their big break playing at the Radioactive Dreams (recognize that title?) when another band dies in a spaceship crash. This comes right on the heels of the manager replacing the lead singer with a girl he finds at a high school talent show. Now they just have to get their act together and get across the galaxy and make the gig on time.

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This one was a disappointment, unfortunately. The first thirty minutes or so were fantastic. Great music, great imagery, really off-beat, just a total fun time. Then the spaceship crashes, and the film grinds to a halt. We lose the music. We lose the action. We lose any of the fun. The film then resolves itself in a manner that was something of a cop out. (I will discuss in the seventh paragraph because it contains massive spoilers.) The first thirty minutes came off like a perfect cyber-punk, New Wave musical, and then it's literally no longer a musical, until we get to the final number at the very end, and that middle that wasn't a musical not only didn't make any sense, but didn't really work either.

The music in this was sweet. Very 80s. The Vicious Lips sounded like Berlin or Pat Benetar, and then there were a few background songs sung by a male that were more New Wave. It begs the question: why did such a large chunk in the middle go away from this stuff? The movie isn't that long-- 80 minutes-- so you figure it would've taken two songs, even if they were recycled from earlier in the film, placed at 15-20 minute intervals, and that would've gone a long way to break up the monotony.

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The other thing was the imagery. How do you not love the classic woman with three boobs? But then you also have a vintage/futuristic concert poster on the wall. There were so many great shots like that, including the one of the Radioactive Dreams nightclub that I have above; plus, a lot of the outfits and make-up were great too. And again, as with the music, we lose a lot of this in the movie's dead zone, where we're stuck on a ship set. It would've been nice to see more of these futuristic intergalactic city sets, and the eclectic looking characters that populated them.

This didn't have any of our favorite Pyun Mainstays, so anyone playing the Pyun Mainstay Drinking Game will be a little disappointed. The star of the film, Dru-Anne Perry, looked really familiar, but according to imdb, she's only done this, a previous Pyun flick Dangerously Close (one we haven't gotten to here at the DTVC), and a Matlock episode. Maybe she's done some commercials too, and that's what I recognize her from. Is it 80s of me to think she looks really hot with her hair teased up like that? We find out later that it's a wig, which is kind of a disappointment, but I guess it saves on the Aqua Net budget.

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WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS!!! WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!

(I gotta say, writing in all caps with multiple exclamation points hurts my soul.) I wanted to separate this paragraph off just in case anyone wants to see this, because it'll ruin the ending. This movie uses the ol' "it was only a dream" device, which to me is a euphemism for "I just didn't feel like writing my characters out of this situation." It's always felt lazy to me, I don't know, and a little offensive as a viewer too. Essentially you're telling me, everything that happened didn't really happen, so in a sense, you wasted my time. I'm not saying Albert Pyun was doing that in this case-- on the contrary, I don't know of a director that has more respect for his audience than he does-- I'm sure he had his own reasons for doing it the way he did-- one that comes to mind is that the film had some MTV aspects to it, and a lot of music videos in the 80s used that "it was all a dream" device, and maybe that's what he was trying to do. The problem with that is, music videos are 3 or 4 minutes, not 80; and who knows, maybe if the middle worked more like the first 30, the dream thing might have fit better.

END SPOILERS!!! END SPOILERS!!! END SPOILERS!!!

Okay, while I'm not able to recommend this, I will say that, because you can catch it out on Watch Instantly right now, you might want to check it out on the cheap for the first 30 minutes or so, because that stuff was really good. Unfortunately we lose that in the middle, and with it, the film loses me.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0163375/

12 comments:

  1. Great review. Haven't seen this, but i hate a "it's all a dream" type ending.

    One of the the worst offenders of that plot device is: St. Elsewhere.

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  2. Awwww... this had such promise. New-Wave cyberpunk musical! Sign me up! Only 30 minutes in and it does a complete bait-and-switch? Lame.

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  3. Roseanne also pulled the "it was only a dream" crap and far too many horror films use it, it's the laziest plot device of all time.

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  4. Actually Matt never reviewed this film at all; it was only a dream.

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  5. Ha ha ha, yes, I never actually saw this, I fell asleep and woke up for the end credits, and none of you read this review, you also fell asleep and dreamed you were reading my review, and I'm dreaming that I'm responding to you comments.

    And I can't leave this comment thread without mentioning the St. Elsewhere finale. That was pretty controversial at the time, and I think there was a sense that it was an unintentional middle finger to the people who were rockin' with them for so long. I'm glad you brought it up, because I'd forgotten all about it.

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  6. Totally agree with your review. In a way, Vicious Lips is kinda representative of the best and worst things about An Albert Pyun Joint; at best, his work can be fun and energetic (like the first 30 minutes of this flick), at worst, his movies can be slow, obviously padded-out, and ponderous. For every Mean Guns, there's an Adrenalin: Fear the Rush (really dug those insert shots of Bloody Mutant Teeth, though). At least the music in Vicious Lips is pretty rockin'.

    Also, don't know if you've seen his Invasion flick, but that was quite the experience for me on hallucinogens.

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  7. "It was just a dream", "The main character(s) is/are actually dead" and "unreliable narrator/split personality" plot devices are those that I really hate. Not that I didn't enjoy a recent Scorcese film based on a novel I had read (no titles, but I think everyone knows...), but once it became clear they would use the same twist, the events just become distant and insignificant. A good movie? Sure. But I would've preferred other kind of ending. I haven't seen this (it's not on DVD anywhere, I guess?), but they could have ran out of money? Pyun seems to have a thing for these "musicals", so perhaps he put everything in those scenes and had to cut corners elsewhere? Pyun-films also have a reputation for being butchered by studios at a rather early stage, so who knows?

    I remember St. Elsewhere, but wasn't there also some popular "prime time soap" (Dallas or Dynasty?) which had an entire season which ended up being just one character's dream? And some in which a season ended on a wedding where pretty much everyone died...and the next season began with pretty much everyone miraculously surviving? And what the hell was I thinking in my youth watching episodes of Dallas and/or Dynasty?! At least St. Elsewhere had some black humor and the voice of KITT!

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  8. Had to mention Berlin, the singer they used in this (not the actress, she was lip-syncing) sounded a lot like Teri Nunn, which was cool.

    I was thinking the same thing TJ, that maybe Pyun ran out of money, and this was the best bet. That's why I made sure I pointed out that I didn't think he was disrespecting the audience with the "it was all a dream" device, even if I think in general that's how that kind of thing comes off.

    I believe you're thinking Dynasty for the other one. Dallas had the whole "Who Shot JR?" that I think was ultimately supposed to be the devil, right? Man, that's all so long ago-- I'd even forgotten the St. Elsewhere thing until Ty brought it up-- or did he bring it up, or was I only dreaming?...

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  9. Perhaps life is just a dream... It appears that the "dream season" was the 8th season of Dallas, but the massacre was in Dynasty. Entertainment Weekly listed "Who Shot JR?" (it was a woman - but don't they say the devil is a woman?) and that massacre among the top-10 cliffhangers on TV just last March. The 80s... Fun times. Everyone had evil twins and stuff like that. These days the plots are even more way out there, with all that fantasy stuff, but they play it seriously. I often think Pyun's films are like those 80s TV-shows. It seems like back then, they got some wacky idea and they just shot it. Pyun is like that. He has the guts to try different things. I guess that's why the end product is often taken away from him... A shame.

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  10. love, Love, LOVE the poster art for this one! Looks like Jem and the Holograms trapped on the planet of the Inhuminoids. The movie itself sounds like it could be a mixed blessing. And knowing what kind of ending I'm getting going in makes it a bit more fun for riffing.

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  11. When I was in college, I had my first contact with American Spanish channels, and with them, the Telenovela. I was fascinated by how well I could understand what was happening based on how many old daytime and nighttime soap cliches they recycled. I do remember now both the Dallas season and the Dynasty cliffhangers-- it's funny how those things get commingled in my mind.

    Roman, the imagery is fantastic, especially early on. I don't think it had the best riff qualities though. The best Pyun film for that is Alien from LA, which MST3K did a really good job on.

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