Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Thursday 31 May 2012

Burl reviews The New Gladiators! (1984)

It's Burl roaring up to you on his customized dirt bike! Ha ha, I’m here to review an action picture by the famed Italian horror meister Lucio Fulci! Old Lucio was better known for his zombie pictures and, before those, his own crude takes on the giallo genre (The Lustful Duckling Winks Nine Times I believe is one of his!), but this futuristic effort takes him out of his comfort zone and puts him firmly in Death Race 2000 territory!
I guess technically The New Gladiators is meant as a cross between Death Race 2000, Rollerball, The Road Warrior and Blade Runner, but it most closely manages to rip off The Running Man, even though that movie hadn’t yet been made! And still it manages to get in some of Fulci’s trademark grue!
Ha ha, the year is 2072 and everybody likes violent TV! The best-loved show is a kind of jousting game called Kill Bike, but the popularity on that one is waning so the crafty, ratings-hungry robots that run the world decide they need an even bloodier game! Ha ha, they come up with The Battle of the Damned, which is also a motorcycle game, but played out by death-row convicts who have nothing left to lose!
A trio of whistling new-wave assassins set in motion a series of events designed to force Drake, the best dirt-bike warrior of the future, to take part in the games! Meanwhile Sam, the ruthlessly avuncular Big Brother type who runs all TV on the planet (or something!) has a nefarious agenda of his own! And then Fred Williamson shows up just like he did in Warriors of the Wasteland, here wearing an even more outlandish outfit!
I’ve got to say, this is a silly picture! But it sure is entertaining! The many shots of the futuristic cityscape, which are meant to look like Blade Runner but come off more like a particularly ambitious ad for model toys, get a lot of grief in the reviews, but I loved them! Sure they look fake, but there’s a strange beauty there and a conviction of its own effectiveness that carries the day! And there are many other visual tropes that give this picture its own special look – ha ha, why use a four-point star filter when a eight-point one will do!
As I mentioned, there’s lots of blood and gore, with dummies in white jumpsuits suffering many decapitations (remember Eye of the Tiger?) and impalings! There’s also a fellow with a melty face who reminded me of the Robert Joy character in George Romero’s Land of the Dead! (Maybe Romero thought “Ha ha, that Lucio has taken enough from me over the years, now I’m going to borrow something from him!”) But where the movie stumbles for this reviewer is in its action scenes! Ha ha, there are many more exciting ways to shoot motocross duels than what Fulci comes up with, that’s for sure! There’s no particular excitement, and the participants are all pretty anonymous in their jumpsuits and helmets anyway!
It’s too bad, because this could have been a modern classic of camp! It’s halfway there at least, so it’s certainly worth watching for the discerning viewer! I give The New Gladiators two magic palm-rays!

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Burl reviews Alien Predators (1987)

Hi, Burl here! I remember watching Alien Predators way back in high school! I probably watched it with my good friend Doug, and if I remember correctly, we both thought it was boring and uneventful! I couldn’t remember much about it, except that someone got a head shaped like a football, and that there was an RV in it!
That’s why I even bothered watching it again: the RV! Ha ha, I love an RV movie, especially when there’s a siege scene, or at least a scene of menace! I’m sure you’ve all seen that terrific picture Race With the Devil – that’s more or less the model for this microgenre as far as ol’ Burl is concerned!
This picture, which was directed by the son of the guy who made Vanishing Point, takes place in Spain for reasons I never figured out! But the main cast, three young people driving around the country in a rented RV, are all American, and three more annoying people you’d be hard pressed to ever meet! Ha ha, there’s two fellows and a girl, and it’s kind of a friendly romantic triangle that never turns into the Jules et Jim situation that would have made it more interesting! No, they’re all stuck in the aggressive flirtation stage of their isosceles, and something about the way they prosecute it makes them seem kind of dim-witted! At any rate, it takes up way too much screen time!
The actual plot is supposed to be about an alien virus which crash-landed on Earth along with Skylab, and now, some years later, has infected the citizens of a small Segovian town, the very town our troika of heroes is fun-truckin’ their way through! A Spanish NASA scientist explains all this to the kids, and informs them that head-bursting is part of the infection process! Yes, we do get to see a head bursting right at the end of the picture, and it’s not too bad! Really adds some spice to the thing, and spice is something this movie desperately needs!
An exotic if perplexing setting, some head-bursting and an RV – those are the ingredients for a magic sauce! But this picture is no magic sauce – it’s barely worth a hucklebuck! It encourages lots of questions, though! Ha ha, who is the fellow in the neat-looking truck? Is he meant to be an alien-possessed madman? And why is there a big NASA laboratory in Spain? Don’t they do all their work in Florida or Texas, somewhere like that?
There’s a bit of a siege against the RV, but it’s limited to a short bit involving an ugly alien crab chattering at the window, like a lost scene from Without Warning or something like that! Ha ha, it could have been a lot more exciting, and you can say the same for the entire movie!
I feel like I’ve been down on a lot of movies for the same reasons of late: namely, that they’re sadly deficient in eventfulness and action! I really should seek out some pictures that Deliver The Goods, which is what I always hope for when I sit down to watch a movie like this! Well, there are some goods delivered – what special effects there are, and what can be made of them through the murky photography, appear to be pretty good, and come courtesy of Mark Shostrom, the man behind the trick effects of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and The Supernaturals!
Otherwise I don’t have a lot of marvelous things to say about Alien Predators, and I guess I’ll give it one irritating venetian blind shadow!

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Burl reviews Zone Troopers! (1985)

Hi, ha ha, it’s Burl to review one of those Charles Band productions from the 1980s! I actually saw a few of these things in the theater if you can believe it, pictures like Ghoulies, The Dungeonmaster and of course Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn! Looking back it seems incredible that such cheeseball little movies ever saw the light of a cinema projector, but these were different times!
I don’t know what sort of theatrical release Zone Troopers got, but I don’t think it ever made it to my neck of the woods! I didn’t even bother catching it on video ever, so when I recently spied a VHS copy for sale in a Times Square video shoppe – ha ha, I was just there for the regular movies, I swear! – I snapped it up! (Turns out the movie just got some kind of on-demand DVD release or something, so maybe that’s why someone dumped their VHS!)
It’s a WWII story, set in Italy in 1944 during the hard-fought Allied campaign up that benighted peninsula! There’s a big Wehrmacht assault at the beginning which thins the squadron of Yanks down to four: The Sarge, Mittens, Joey and a newly-arrived war correspondent named Dolan! This is pretty much our cast for the rest of the movie, though there are some Nazis (with a special appearance by Hitler, ha ha!) and some aliens. And of course there’s the main alien, who’s been trapped by the Germans and who looks like a mime with the head of a spider! And he eats cigarettes for dinner!
The doughboys save him and manage to reunite him with his alien friends (who don’t have bug heads, but certainly possess frosted tips), and they get some help in vanquishing the Wehrmacht! Not all of these old boys make it through the adventure, though, so the ending is bittersweet!
This movie is pretty beloved in some circles, and I guess it has a nice pulpy feel, a modicum of ambition and a little more wit and intelligence than your average cheap programmer! Certainly it outdoes most of the other Empire pictures of the day! I was prepared to really like Tim Thomerson’s performance as the Iron Sarge, since he’s perfect for the role and also is someone I’ve met and hung out with, and who was a nice guy, very funny! But he overdoes the squarejaw routine here, and his performance is pretty lifeless, never conveying the legendary aura the Sarge is clearly supposed to have!
I actually preferred the performances of the guy who played Dolan, the correspondent – he was a doughy middle-aged guy, but he had an appealing surfer’s drawl that I thought fit the part well! You believed he might be a writer! The fellow who played Mittens was good too, and the scene where he slugs Hitler in the jaw is pretty delightful! The alien, meanwhile, is kind of forgettable, and not a terribly good trick effect! It was created by John Buechler, but it’s no Cellar Dweller, ha ha!
The movie’s certainly not unenjoyable, but there’s not that much to it! It’s hard to rate a movie that rises above expectations but falls short of possibilities, so I’ll just give it two Kilroy drawings and leave it at that!

Burl reviews Death Moon! (1978)

Ha ha, it’s Burl here with another TV movie for you! Boy, I’ve never watched so many TV movies as I have since beginning this movie review blog! I don’t know why, but I’ve really been enjoying the suckers! I suppose it recalls a time in my life when movies like Curse of the Black Widow and Cruise Into Terror and This House Possessed and Snowbeast were about all I could watch, since I was too young to go to the movies by myself and there were no VCRs yet!
Unlike those other movies I just mentioned, Death Moon is not a picture I recall from the heady days of my youth, even though it was apparently broadcast in late May of 1978, which should have placed it right in my prepubescent crosshairs! Perhaps it simply wasn’t broadcast in my region! Or maybe the tumblers of fate weren’t going to click into place until I was good and ready to accept the full, fierce beauty of the movie’s concept: a Hawaiian werewolf!
Ha ha, you read that right! Robert Foxworth, whom we know so well from Prophecy and – well, that’s about all I know him from, besides his small role in Damien: Omen II and maybe his appearance in that other TV movie It Happened at Lakewood Manor, a.k.a. Ants! – plays Jason Palmer, one of those overstressed businessmen who’s always waking up shaking and sweating from accursed dreams involving a fearsome tiki! His sawbones recommends a vacation, and the next thing you know, Jason Palmer is in Kauai, wearing a tiny blue bathing suit and gamely seeking some relaxation!
But as Jason begins his program of relaxation by squiring about a blonde businesslady, and as Rick, a ladies’ man hotel detective, chases a burly room thief, the werewolf attacks begin, and people are being torn apart all over the place, a fresh outrage each night! Ha ha, it goes on for a week or so, and that’s a lot of full moons! The house dick (who with his Ken doll face and receding hairline looks like a perfect telepod cross between Crown International superstars Bill Adler and James Daughton) begs the local cop to be allowed to help solve the murders, but everyone tells him to concentrate on catching the room thief! But when the room thief becomes a werewolf victim, Rick is able to turn the full force of his investigative prowess on the case!
The unfortunate room thief, by the way, is played by Charles Haid, whom we know from Ken Russell’s great Altered States! It’s funny: Haid is so good at playing a bigmouth blowhard, and here he is in a role which gives him no lines at all, until his werewolf encounter anyway, and then he only screams! And he’s the most unsubtle sneakthief ever, too! Ha ha, he wears loud shirts, smokes a stogie and weighs about two hundred and fifty pounds, and you have to consider that Rick might be a bit of an idiot not to have been able to catch him!
He also doesn’t think there might be a werewolf loose despite coming face-to-face with the leisure suit-wearing fiend in the movie’s finest scene! Ha ha, it only lasts a second, but it’s worth a rewind on the ol’ VHS to see Rick’s lycanthrope encounter one more time, I can tell you!

The trouble with Death Moon is it’s nowhere near as good as we all want it to be, given the fantastic concept and the era in which it was made! There’s not much Hawaiian atmosphere, and if I didn’t know better I’d say it might as well have been filmed in Southern California! And Robert Foxworth without a beard is a little strange – his curly hair and weasel face put him in the Marjoe Gortner category, almost! But still, you can’t argue with the idea of a Hawaiian werewolf no matter how direly executed, and I give Death Moon one and a half fake gurning tikis!

Monday 14 May 2012

Burl reviews Piranha! (1978)

Hi, Burl here to review a fine old classic about munching fish! Ha ha, I’m talking about Piranha, the great original that was such a marvelous rip-off of Jaws that Steven Spielberg himself apparently championed it when Universal Pictures was mulling an infringement lawsuit!
But Piranha is its own thing, most definitely! It’s a Joe Dante picture, and you all know what that means: Dick Miller is in it! He plays a good, meaty role, essentially the Murray Hamilton part from Jaws, but with a lot more humour and dimension! Ha ha, he’s as great as ever, and his reaction shots to the things his glasses nerd assistant says are priceless!
It seems that a scientist played by Kevin McCarthy, who was in almost as many Joe Dante movies as Dick, created the mutant piranhas to destroy any ‘Cong who dared dip a toe in the waterways of Vietnam, but they were never used! I guess they’ve been languishing around in this strange swimming pool for years! And then two teens get the Big Munch, and our heroes turn up and immediately manage to release the fish into the river! Ha ha, they never really apologize for that one, but at least they try to help!
I could go on about the cast of this movie! Dick Miller is there of course, and McCarthy, but we also get the great bellowing deaf man Keenan Wynn whom you’ll remember from The Dark; the spooky Barbara Steele from Shivers and of course the hero, Bradford Dillman, whom we know from that fine 70s classic Bug! The fate that befalls old Keenan is particularly gruesome and has stayed with me every time I sit on a dock and let my feet dangle in the water!
A lot of people object to the strange little monster seen in the laboratory, but I think it’s a marvelous addition to the picture! I’m also pretty fond of the piranha fish themselves, who seem whipped up into such a frenzy that you’re afraid they’ll just wiggle themselves into a heart attack or a stroke! And they make a funny noise: rrrrrrrrrrrr! You have to hear it to know what I’m talking about!
Anyway, Piranha is a fine little picture with its heart in the right place, and I’ll always be glad it was made! Thank you Joe Dante, John Sayles and Roger Corman and everybody else too! I give Piranha a solid three disintegrating rafts!
Ha ha, a little note! Sorry I haven’t been putting up too many reviews lately! I’ll try to step it up a bit! Thanks for sticking with me, everybody!