Welcome back to the Misan[trope]y Movie Blog! Today, in the third entry of Killer Robot Week, I’ll be taking a look at Jim Wynorski’s cult classic “Chopping Mall!”
“Chopping Mall” has just about everything you could possibly want from a B-movie: a dash of humor, over-the-top deaths that would make any highlight reel, and a fair share of one-liners. For example:
Let’s send these fuckers a Rambo-gram!
I’m just not used to be chased around a mall in the middle of the night by killer robots.
and of course, as is repeated by the robots after every human death:
Thank you, have a nice day!
What more could you possibly ask for?
Director Jim Wynorski is a bit of a notorious figure in the B-movie world. He spent a long time working under Roger Corman early on, and has now accrued 98 directorial credits to date over his career. However, a number of these have been pseudonymous soft-core porn features, such as “The Hills Have Thighs,” “The Devil Wears Nada,” and “The House on Hooter Hill.”
In 2009, a documentary was made about Jim Wynorski’s career called “Popatopolis.” In the film, a crew follows him over the course of three days, during which time he astoundingly completes an entire film (“The Witches of Breastwick”). The documentary was generally well-received, and brought a number of new eyes to the B-movie stalwart. It currently holds a 7.0 rating on IMDb.
As mentioned, Jim Wynorski has used a number of pseudonyms for his soft-core pornography and otherwise lesser works over the years. These have included “Rip Masters,” “H.R. Blueberry,” “Jay Andrews,” “Bob E. Brown,” “Tom Popatopolous,” “Noble Henry,” and “Arch Stanton.”
Jim Wynorski’s co-writer on “Chopping Mall,” Steve Mitchell, had a not-insignificant career in television writing after the film. His credits include episodes of classic shows like “Jem,” “G. I. Joe,” “Pacific Blue,” “Transformers,” and a movie from 1997 called “Against the Law.” However, he doesn’t have any credits more recent than 1998.
The distinctively 1980s music in “Chopping Mall” was composed and arranged by one Chuck Cirino, who has had a long career in B-movie music since. “Chopping Mall” was only his second film scoring gig, and he now claims over 60 (as well as a handful of Director and Cinematographer credits).
Director of Photography Tom Richmond has likewise had a long career post-“Chopping Mall,” including a number of cinematography credits on higher budget features such as “Mother Night,” “Killing Zoe,” “Little Odessa,” “The Singing Detective,” and “House of 1000 Corpses.” He is still active today, with a couple of shorts awaiting release.
The designer of the robots in “Chopping Mall,” Robert Short, has had a long career in special effects. He designed the mermaid effects in “Splash,” worked on “1941,” “E.T.,” “Beetlejuice,” and “Piranha,” oversaw the effects work in “Punisher: War Zone,” and has work in three movies forthcoming in 2015. All together, he has been working on special effects in film for almost 40 years.
The cast of “Chopping Mall” includes a host of character actors that die hard bad movie fans might recognize. Barbara Crampton has featured in a laundry-list of Stuart Gordon movies (“The Re-animator,” “Castle Freak,” “From Beyond”), Dick Miller is a legendary Corman figure from his roles in “Little Shop of Horrors” and “A Bucket of Blood,” and the combo of Mary Woronov and Paul Bartel have popped up all over Corman’s filmography. Star Tony O’Dell has had a number of small acting roles over the years, but appears to be more prolific in recent years as a dialog and voice coach on television shows such as “Girl Meets World,” “Emeril,” and “George Lopez.”
Something that stands out quite a bit about “Chopping Mall” are the numerous references to other B-movies hidden throughout. Two characters (played by Bartel and Woronov) are directly borrowed from the 1982 movie “Eating Raoul,” and the janitor played by Dick Miller is credited as being the same character he portrayed in the infamous Roger Corman movie “A Bucket of Blood,” creating an unlikely shared universe between the three films. There is also a brief clip shown from the Corman movie (“Attack of the Crab Monsters”), as well as a split second shot of the book “They Came From Outer Space,” which features the source material for another Corman-produced classic, “Death Race 2000.”
The “Chopping Mall” security robots are undoubtedly the most memorable part of the film. Their robotic voices were recorded by Jim Wynorski himself, who clearly had a blast with them. The robots themselves were functional and remotely controlled, down to the gripping rubber claws. Five were ultimately created for the production, just in case of damage over the course of filming. I wasn’t able to find out what happened to the robots themselves, but I want to believe that Jim Wynorski has one in his living room.
The robot design here is pretty simple: they operate, sensibly enough, with tank-style treads. Their laser eyes and electrical powers look excellently cheesy now, which is hardly something to complain about with this movie. They don’t have a ton of mobility, which makes them a little less terrifying that other killer robots I will cover this week, but they do get the job done. I also noticed that they look very similar to the police robot from “R.O.T.O.R.,” but that is neither here nor there.
The plot is likewise pretty straightforward: a handful of kids are having a party in a mall after closing, and an electrical storm causes the brand new, untested security guard robots to malfunction. The story follows the group of teens as they attempt to find a way out of the locked-down mall, all while evading the blood-thirsty killbots.
“Chopping Mall,” released originally as “Killbots” in theaters (changed because it was believed to sound too kid-friendly), wasn’t a big hit upon release. It eventually did make money on its shoestring budget ($800,000), but this is one of those movies that has benefited immensely from word of mouth, cable replays, and its eventual cult status in the long run.
Given its unarguable cult classic status, “Chopping Mall” is frequently reviewed and discussed in bad movie forums, podcasts, blogs, etc. Personally, I’m a big fan of the coverage done by the We Hate Movies gang and the Bad Movie Fiends podcast, and recommend checking those out if you were a big fan of the film.
It probably goes without saying, but I highly recommend “Chopping Mall” for any bad movie fans. This is just about a must-see for hardcore aficionados of cinematic awfulness, and a good choice for introducing people to the style. The pacing is good, the deaths are memorable, and it infuses enough humor to be entertaining and plenty bearable for even casual audiences. If you are looking to show a bad movie to a mixed audience, this is a pretty good selection for you.
If you missed the previously entries in Killer Robot Week here at Misan[trope]y, you can check them out here: