Welcome to the latest installment of Bargain Bin(ge)! I spend a lot of time in the bargain bins of used DVD shops all over the country looking for potentially forgotten or overlooked cinematic atrocities, and I document all of the highlights here.
Today I’m featuring a spectacular failure to adapt a popular (and personally beloved) anime to film, a local 80s movie that has rightfully been forgotten to time (but “launched” a lauded film career), a low-budget deep-sea creature-feature, and a Lucio Fulci “Django” knock-off. Let’s get started!
I am a huge fan of the “Mobile Suit Gundam” anime franchise, and have been for well over a decade. That said, I have been aware of this live action stinker from 2000 for quite some time. Like most Gundam fans, I try to pretend it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, it does, and I found it in a bargain bin just a couple of weeks ago while I was on a business trip. I’ve never watched it before, but just from the trailer I can tell that this is going to be a painful experience. I think there should just be a standing policy that anime shouldn’t be translated into live action unless someone really knows what they are doing. Director Graeme Campbell still does a fair number of made-for-TV movies and work on various series, but it doesn’t seem that he’s been able to cut it in the big time. Likewise, the writers have credits on Sci-fi shows like “Mutant X” and “Tripping the Rift”, but not much else to speak of. A number of the actors have gone into voice acting or B-level TV and movie work, which are the most successful stories to come out of “G-Savior”.
For those unaware, the “Mobile Suit Gundam” franchise has a following in Japan not unlike “Star Wars” does here. It is absolutely huge, and has been consistently produced in one form or another since the original series debut in 1979. A number of the series were cut in order to be released theatrically in segments, and are actually pretty impressive. So, to have a live action “Gundam” whiffed on so badly was a huge disappointment.
Realistically, you just couldn’t do a convincing mech live-action movie until pretty recently. Stuart Gordon’s “Robot Jox” in 1989 wasn’t quite impressive enough with audiences, and that was the best mech movie on the table for decades. With the recent successes of “Pacific Rim” and (ugh) “Transformers”, I’m curious if we’ll see someone pick up the baton and try another go at “Gundam” on the big screen in the not-too-distant future.
This one is a bit of a local stinker. Filmed on location in my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space and Rocket Center, the whole film oozes the essence of the 1980s, including featuring an unnecessary robot companion a la “Rocky IV”. Both of the screenwriters have almost no other credits before or after this, outside of a couple of unimpressive Christian movies. Director Harry Winer has done a fair amount of TV work in the decades since this film, but never managed to break out in films (I expect for good reason). Proving that some were capable of getting away from this beast with a successful career, this was cinematic debut of Academy Award nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix. How about that? The cast also includes such sort-of notable names as Kelly Preston, Lea Thompson, Tate Donovan, Terry O’Quinn, and Tom Skerritt, who have all had at least respectable acting careers. I’m mostly just looking forward to that good ol’ child acting from Joaquin Phoenix. Here’s a taste:
Oh my fuck.
To give you a sense as to how successful this movie was, director Dan Milner only directed one more movie after this feature (of his three total), and then concluded his career as an editor for “Popeye the Sailor Man” and “Bozo: The World’s Most Famous Clown”. So, it didn’t exactly take off. However, this lowest-of-the-low B-movie supposedly has a lot of entertainment value to it, along the lines of a Roger Corman flick. I’m always on board for a cheap monster movie, so I’m hoping this has promise.
Ah, Franco Nero. What a beautiful, beautiful man. I’ve talked about him way, way back when I covered “Django (1966)”, but haven’t really come across him since then. However, he is in “Omega Code 2”, so the isn’t the last I’ll see of the gorgeous original Django. As for “Massacre Time”, this flick came out stateside in 1968, despite being made in 1966. Directed by infamous filmmaker Lucio Fulci, who would a decade later film a zombie fighting a shark in his notorious cult classic “Zombie”, and written by prolific Italian filmmaker Fernando Di Leo, this movie looks as spaghetti as spaghetti movies get. As you would expect given the success of “Django”, this movie was sold and distributed as a clone/knockoff to play off of Nero’s leading role in the film. The movie even went by such names as “Django: The Runner”, “Django: Der Hauch des Todes”, and “Djangos seksløber er lov” in various foreign markets. I’m quite looking forward to this one, and have my fingers crossed that it will be a good (massacre) time.