Semi-Hiatus

Hey all of you loyal bad movie aficionados! This is just a heads up that I’m going to be suspending the consistent weekday posts for now.

No worries, though! I just want to spend some more time dabbling into audio and video content, and have come to the stunning realization that there are only so many hours in a day. So, at least for February, I’m going to be working on some videos (like this one on Larry Cohen’s The Stuff) and Plotopsy Podcast episodes. Currently, I’m planning to have one up each week, but we’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, the Misan[trope]y archive has over 475 entries as of this writing, so go check some of those out in the Post Index!

Advertisements

Bargain Bin(ge): Bucket O’ Blood (Chicago, IL)

Bucket O’ Blood is a bizarre little shop tucked away off the beaten path in a small neighborhood of Chicago. It is primarily a record store, but also has a specific niche as an emporium of science fiction and horror books, magazines, and movies. As a bonus, it also has an enviable and eclectic selection of film scores on vinyl.

bucketoblood13 bucketoblood11 bucketoblood10 bucketoblood8 bucketoblood7 bucketoblood6The store has been around for the better part of a decade according to the clerk I spoke with, though its current location is only a few months old. There isn’t much else around it: a couple of restaurants and a bar, but it is hardly a thriving commercial area.

bucketoblood5The selection of movies here isn’t particularly wide, but it is quality. A few standouts I left on the shelves include a (probably bootleg) copy of Sam Fuller’s Shark, a hilariously deceptive copy of Roger Corman’s self-parody Creature From The Haunted Sea, and a Korean movie about a killer Taxi Cab.

bucketoblood15 bucketoblood16

Likewise, you might not find a bargain here, but the ambiance makes the cost worth it in my mind. Check out some shots of their delightful decorations:

bucketoblood1 bucketoblood2 bucketoblood4 bucketoblood3Now, on to my bucket o’ movies from Bucket O’ Blood:

Robot Wars

Apparently, according to IMDb, this movie is a sequel to Robot Jox, the cult classic by Stuart Gordon. I had always heard that Crash And Burn was the sequel, but apparently that movie just features some re-used footage. Honestly, though, I doubt that either movie bears much in the way of a real connection to Robot Jox. Robot Jox was a huge financial undertaking for Empire Pictures, and wound up contributing to that company’s bankruptcy. However, out of the ashes of Empire, Charles Band created Full Moon Pictures as a successor, which produced both Robot Wars and Crash And Burn in the early 1990s. As is often done with low budget pictures, a bunch of the more expensive special effects shots from Robot Jox were re-used, so that the company could get more bang for their buck. I imagine this is the only reason why multiple giant robot movies were put out by Full Moon Pictures in the years following Robot Jox.

Crash And Burn

In a delightful happenstance, the box set that contained Robot Wars also included Crash And Burn, the other wayward descendant left in the wake of Robot Jox. Thanks to this haul, I might have enough material to do another Killer Robot Week in the near future.

Murdercycle

First off, what an awesome title. I don’t know anything about this movie, apart from a single clip of the transformation sequence that I watched on YouTube. That and the title were enough to sell me on this movie. It remains to be seen if this is a forgotten masterpiece or a disappointing failed concept, as Full Moon has been perfectly capable of creating both.

The Demon

The Demon is early 1980s slasher film that came out during the biggest boom period for the genre. From what I have seen, it is a bit polarizing: some dismiss it as no more than a Halloween clone, while others have positive things to say about the film’s atmosphere. However, most seem to agree that it isn’t a good movie when all is said and done. I haven’t seen it before personally, and the plot struck me as just odd enough to make it worth checking out. A serial killer movie involving a psychic detective made me immediately think of Suspect Zero, though I imagine that is where the similarities will end.

Creature

Creature is yet another film from the dark era of Klaus Kinski’s twilight years, not unlike Star Knight. From what I hear, it is a notably gory Alien knockoff that has developed some clout as a b-movie cult classic. Interestingly, it apparently re-used props and sets from an earlier abysmal Alien knockoff, The Forbidden World.

Bargain Bin(ge): Disc Replay (Skokie, IL)

Disc Replay is a small regional chain of buy/sell/trade stores, not unlike MovieStop or Replay’s that I have covered previously. Apparently Disc Replay’s primary stomping grounds are Illinois and Indiana, with a little bit of bleed-over into Iowa, Kentucky, and Michigan.

discreplayskokie1After leaving B-fest, I went to a hotel in Skokie, IL to get some sleep. Unfortunately, in spite it all, I was still very caffeinated, so I decided to scour the area for a media store before inevitably crashing for the evening. Sure enough, there was a Disc Replay within a couple of miles of the hotel.

discreplayskokie3discreplayskokie2
As it turns out, this was one of the best hauls I have had in a while, in terms of both the quality of the finds and the total price. Almost every standard DVD I saw was 3.99-5.99, and the store had a standing deal of “Buy 5, Get 1 Free” for DVDs. The selection was also fantastic, as I came across a number of movies that I hadn’t seen in any stores before. Below, you can check out the ones I walked away with.

Heartbeeps

You don’t hear a lot about this atrocious 1981 robot comedy these days, but Heartbeeps was a widely loathed film upon its release. The cast includes comedy legend Andy Kaufman, noted eccentric renegade Randy Quaid, Bernadette Peters, Christopher Guest, and cult favorite performers like Dick Miller, Paul Bartel, and Mary Woronov. I’ve never seen it before, so I am curious to see just how bad it is.

Inglorious Bastards

This is probably the most recognizable film by Enzo Castellari, thanks to Quentin Tarantino. I actually think I already have a copy of this somewhere, but for a couple of bucks, I could always give a spare away. I have definitely seen the movie before, but it has been a few years. After seeing 1990: The Bronx Warriors, The Last Shark, and The Shark Hunter, I’m definitely planning to dig further into his filmography, and giving this a rewatch is a necessity. As a bonus, the always fantastic Fred Williamson prominently features, which is always enough to get me invested.

Barb Wire

Barb Wire is an action movie starring Pamela Anderson. Apart from that, I know that it supposed to be a memorably terrible comic book adaptation. That’s more than enough justification for me to give it a shot: there’s just no way this could be good.

Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo

This movie is best known for pioneering the most ridiculous possible sequel naming convention imaginable. This 1984 Cannon movie tells the tale of a group of break dancers battling against evil land developers, making it the most 1980s movie ever made. I’ve never seen this movie before, so I was super excited to actually find a DVD copy of it.

Ghost In The Machine

I first heard about this movie from We Hate Movies, when they did an episode on it some time ago. From what I understand, it is basically the same concept as Shocker, but worse all around. Cheesy, dated cyber-thrillers are usually a blast, so I’m eager to sink my teeth into this thing.

Bone

Bone is the first film by Larry Cohen, a b-movie master who I have covered a whole lot on the blog. It is apparently about as dark as a comedy can possibly get, and was mis-marketed as a thriller, which has kept it as little more than a footnote in Cohen’s career. I was shocked to find a DVD copy of it in the wild, and look forward to seeing what Cohen’s debut feature has to offer.

Good Burger

Good Burger

goodburger4

Today’s feature is the 1997 fast food comedy, Good Burger.

Good Burger was co-written and co-produced by the trio of Dan Schneider, Kevin Kopelow, and Heath Seifert, who have worked on a variety of television shows over the years, including Kenan & Kel, All That, KaBlam!, and Singled Out. Schneider in particular is also responsible for creating a number of other hit children’s programs, such as iCarly and Drake & Josh.

Good Burger was directed and produced by Brian Robbins, who previously did directing work on the sitcom Kenan & Kel, and has since helmed a number of Eddie Murphy vehicles, namely A Thousand Words, Meet Dave, and Norbit. His other credits include The Shaggy Dog, Hard Ball, Ready To Rumble, and The Perfect Score. He is also at least partially responsible for bringing Thompson and Mitchell into the public eye through creating the children-focused sketch comedy show All That, which provided their initial platform.

The cinematographer on Good Burger was Mac Ahlberg, who shot a huge number of b-movies over his career, and frequently worked with cult favorite director Stuart Gordon. His cinematography credits include Re-Animator, Evil Bong, King of the Ants, Space Truckers, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, The Brady Bunch Movie, Robot Jox, Arena, DeepStar Six, Dolls, From Beyond, House, and House II: The Second Story, among many, many others.

The editor on the film was Anita Brandt Burgoyne, who has cut such movies as A Kid In King Arthur’s Court, A Very Brady Sequel, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Legally Blonde, and A Good Old Fashioned Orgy.

goodburger2The musical score for the movie was composed by Stewart Copeland, whose other film credits include Wall Street, Talk Radio Rumble Fish, Men At Work, Highlander II, Surviving The Game, The Pallbearer, She’s All That, Very Bad Things, and Boys & Girls, among others.

The cast of Good Burger is made up primarily by Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live, Fat Albert, Stan Helsing, Master of Disguise), Kel Mitchell (Mystery Men, All That), Sinbad (Jingle All The Way, Houseguest, First Kid), and the recently deceased Abe Vigoda (The Godfather, North), with a handful of other regular players from All That filling in accessory roles.

goodburger3The plot of Good Burger is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Two dim-witted teenage boys, are forced to save the fast-food restaurant they work at from going out of business, despite a new-and-improved burger joint opening across the street that want to be the “Top Dog” in the fast food industry.

Good Burger was adapted from a popular recurring sketch from the Nickelodeon ensemble comedy show All That, which prominently featured both Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. The duo’s popularity was all over Nickelodeon’s programming for a number of years, as they also co-hosted a popular sitcom on the network called Kenan & Kel.

In September of 2015, Kenan and Kel reunited for another Good Burger sketch on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, to the delight of many of their long time fans. Kel has recently featured on a handful of Nickelodeon produced shows in the last few years (primarily as a voice actor), while Kenan has been a regular cast member on NBC’s lauded sketch comedy flagship, Saturday Night Live, for many years. However, their paths have rarely crossed.

Good Burger was made on a relatively low budget of $9 million, on which it grossed $23.7 million in its theatrical run. Currently, it holds an IMDb user rating of 5.6, along with Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 32% from critics and 63% from audiences.

goodburger1Good Burger is packed pretty tight with every variety of juvenile humor, which makes sense given it was clearly geared towards children. Interestingly, I still think the final product is more dignified and generally funny than your average Adam Sandler movie, thanks to a handful of moments of clever wordplay that stand out from the rest of the physical gags. That said, audiences today would have to rely on nostalgia to enjoy it, as it was clearly designed solely to appeal to an existing fan base, and is thus very loosely plotted, and clearly had very little effort put into it.

A lot of critics give children’s movies a pass for no reason other than their demographic, which is a policy that has never sat well with me. Even Roger Ebert opened his review of Good Burger with the following statement:

“Good Burger” was not made for me, and if I say I didn’t much enjoy it, that wouldn’t be useful information.

Personally, I understand the logic behind having a different standard for children’s movies, but I think the result of that policy over time is that entertainment for kids is now held to virtually no standard at all. Most movies that are catered to kids now amount at an amalgam of color and noise, with the exception of the occasional articulate works from Pixar or laudable foreign animated features. If critics don’t put forth the effort to pan things like The Nut Job or the countless Alvin & The Chipmunks “squeakquels,” then there isn’t a whole lot of incentive to try to make children’s movies any better in the future. So, in this case, I appreciate Gene Siskel’s take on Good Burger, which is notably more brutal than Ebert’s, which can be seen below.

I can’t talk anyone out of having positive feelings of nostalgia for movies like Space Jam or Good Burger, but I have to say, Good Burger is honestly pretty terrible. It was clear to me on this rewatch how lazy most of the gags were, how uncomfortable all of the kids were acting outside of a sketch scenario, and how paper thin the concept for this movie was to begin with. Good Burger isn’t as wretched as something like Chairman of the Board or any of Happy Madison’s more recent comedic features, but it reeks of being amateurish and poorly crafted. If you have positive memories of Good Burger at all, you should absolutely not seek it out today. It has aged about as well as raw ground beef.

B-fest 2016 Recap

This past weekend, I got to enjoy my very first B-Fest: an annual 24-hour movie marathon in Chicago that celebrates the very least of cinema. I heard about it for the first time a few years ago, but, for one reason or another, wasn’t able to attend the event until this year.

First off, this entire event was a lot of fun. The audience participation was a blast, the movie selection (for the most part) was fantastic, and the handful of people that I met seemed to be genuinely good folks. That said, I think everyone I met was from either Wisconsin or Illinois, which made me wonder if there might be interest in B-fests popping up in other areas of the country, given the house was packed to the brim almost exclusively from semi-locals. Surely an Alamo Drafthouse or some LA theater would jump at this kind of idea?

There were a handful of familiar faces scattered among the sea of attendees. A couple of the folks from Red Letter Media seemed to get the most attention, and there were lots of RLM t-shirts floating around among attendees. Apparently Noah from The Spoony Experiment was there as well, though I didn’t catch him. I was a little surprised there weren’t more reviewers/personalities there: this seems like an ideal event to bring together the nebulous bad movie aficionado community. I sure know I’m not the only one doing this kind of thing, and I would love the opportunity to network with some obsessive weirdo peers.

There were some things that I hoped for from the festival that didn’t quite happen, though: engagement with the crowd between movies was minimal, a more consistent social media component would have been awesome, and a little more personality in general out of the conference and organizers certainly couldn’t have hurt. And, as much as the Northwestern University student center is almost certainly a big cost saver for them, the atmosphere of a proper theater is something I really missed. Maybe that is a silly thing to note, but movie marathons in proper theaters just feel more…charming. Both the Groundhog Day Marathon at Gateway and the Ohio 24 Hour Horror/Sci-Fi Festivals have really good host theaters, and have also been good about doing things to engage the audience between movies, like having a designated MC and giveaways/contests throughout the run of the marathon.

The only proper complaint I had about the whole festival, though, related to a number among the small army of volunteers who were (theoretically?) helping to run the festival. I spent a little bit of time outside the theater while the movies were playing, and the students running the registration tables were pretty openly insulting and dismissive of the B-fest attendees whenever they thought no one was listening, and gave vibes that they would rather be doing anything apart from engaging with the B-fest folks. Naturally, that wasn’t particularly pleasant, and gave the festival a more amateurish vibe than it should have, given how long it has been around.

In short, I absolutely love the concept of B-fest, and will try to go back in the future, even if there is more that I would have liked to have seen from it. All in all, it was an enjoyable ride, and something I can certainly recommend checking out. Without further ado, let’s get on to the lineup:

The Adventures of Hercules

Hey, I just covered this! In my review, I mentioned that it doesn’t live up to its predecessor, which I still think is true. However, it played really well with the audience. As with many bad movies, the experience of watching it with a riffing crowd in full force gave me a much more positive outlook on it than I had previously.

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster

More or less, this is an Italian knockoff of The Blob, with a bizarre and convoluted backstory about an ancient spirit and a comet. This is arguably the feature directorial debut of the great Mario Bava, though he is not credited as such on the film. He also apparently shot the film and provided special effects work under a handful of pseudonyms, making him essentially a jack of all trades on the picture. It is hardly a good movie, though, but there some impressive flashes here and there that make it stand out. In particular, there are some effects shots that look pretty decent, though they have inevitably aged poorly.

Americathon

This is a bizarre movie, which provides a satirical future vision of the USA from a pre-Reagan 1979. In a way, it is equal parts Idiocracy, Death Race 2000, a racist cartoon, and the Star Wars Holiday Special in a blender. Harvey Korman is given the task of bailing out the national deficit of the USA by running a month-long telethon variety show, while the combined forces of Israel and a series of Middle Eastern countries (who have resolved their differences) are seeking to sabotage the last ditch effort to save the nation’s autonomy. The telethon features a solid week of puppeteers, Meat Loaf fighting a car, Jay Leno getting beaten by an old woman, and some astoundingly racially insensitive and homophobic acts/remarks. It is an absolute train wreck of a movie, and might have been the standout of the whole marathon for me.

bfest1

Calling Dr. Death

callingdrdeath

Calling Dr. Death was probably the “best” movie of the lot featured in the festival. It is a bit predictable as a murder mystery, but it is a perfectly serviceable b-level thriller, and has the bonus of featuring Lon Chaney. I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it again, but it felt a little out of place with the rest of the lineup. Still, the title is beyond fantastic, and the print of the movie that was used looked stunning.

The Wizard of Speed And Time

Apparently this short film is a bit of a tradition at B-fest, and was screened off of a tiny projector. There isn’t much to say about it, but it is totally worth watching, especially given how little time it takes to get through it. Apparently this short eventually spawned a full feature, which I may try to dig up one of these days.

Plan 9 From Outer Space

Look, it is Plan 9 From Outer Space. We all know this movie. No, I haven’t done a post on it yet. What can I possibly add to the wealth of information out there already about this movie anyway? That said, I do love this movie, and this was my first time seeing it in a theater with a participatory audience, which was quite the experience. Unfortunately, this movie also drew in A LOT of extra bodies into the theater that weren’t there previously and didn’t stick around after, which made it an especially hot and uncomfortable room. That’s a situation a proper theater might have been able to deal with, one way or another.

bfest4 bfest5 bfest6

The Human Tornado

The Human Tornado is the second entry in the infamous Dolemite  blaxploitation franchise. All of these flicks are delightful in their hybrid nature of being both immensely incompetent and influential. There sure as hell wouldn’t be any Black Dynamite without Dolemite, to say the very least. Rudy Ray Moore’s line deliveries and fight choreography are both legendarily terrible, and I dare you to drink any time you spot a boom in frame.

The Garbage Pail Kids Movie

I covered this a while back, and I foolishly thought I would never have to watch this movie again. Regrettably, I was wrong. This movie put the crowd in a really sour mood, which deteriorated much more with the subsequent snoozefest of Blood Mania. There was some decent riffing to be had for parts of the movie, but the whole flick just drags on way longer than it has any right to. I think most people used this as a nap break, and I really wish that I had joined them.

bfest3 bfest2

Blood Mania

Good holy fuck, this movie was fucking dreadful. However, it was also probably the most fun I had through the whole duration of the festivities. This is one of those movies that desperately wanted to be artistic and stylized, but forgot to do anything else. The editing and direction are nearly nonexistent, and the cinematography and lighting bounce all over the place in the desperate pursuit of “art.” Unfortunately, there isn’t any to be found. The performances are wooden to boot, which doesn’t do this theoretical erotic character drama/thriller any favors. As many pointed out, neither the “Blood” nor the “Mania” show up until the last sixth of the movie, which is at least 45 minutes too long on the whole. On my own, this would have been torture, but the groans and griping from the audience kept me going throughout. For once, I wasn’t alone in dealing with this sort of mess.

Moon Zero Two

Admittedly, I didn’t totally comprehend this movie, as I was barely awake after the nonsense of Blood Mania. However, the concept here is actually pretty interesting, given it was made in 1969. The story takes place on a United Nations controlled moon base, after the Cold War and the Space Race have become distant memories. The setting is treated like a frontier town in a Western, which is a parallel that the movie will beat into your head with all of the force it can muster. Surprisingly, this is a Hammer film, which is a company best known for its frequent use of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in classic monster movie adaptations. Science Fiction is pretty far outside of their typical purview. Interestingly, this movie was featured on the very first (not very good) season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. As a side note: good luck getting the movie’s theme song out of your head. Thanks to the animated introduction, I think it has taken permanent residence in mine.

Low Blow

I’ll be honest: I totally missed this movie. I was still zonked from Moon Zero Two and Blood Mania, and decided to sleep through a feature to regain my composure. Red Letter Media covered it a while back on Best of the Worst, though. I’ll see about checking it out on my own time soon.

The Fifth Musketeer

The Fifth Musketeer is another movie in the lineup that just didn’t seem to fit in. This is an adaptation of the final Three Musketeers story by Alexandre Dumas, which centers on Louis XIV and his fictitious twin brother, who is forced to wear an iron mask to conceal his identity. The story has certainly been adapted more adeptly, but this movie isn’t totally awful by any means. The costuming and visuals are decent, even if the performances leave a bit to be desired. Generally, the big problem with this movie is how long it is. More than anything this is a mediocre, un-engaging movie, which made it a bit hard for the audience to riff on.

Roar

I covered this movie previously after Drafthouse gave it a limited theatrical distribution last year. To put it simply, this is unlike any other movie you will ever see. I only caught bits of it with the B-fest audience, but it seemed to work well with the crowd. I know when I first saw it, I definitely did a lot of cringing over the course of the movie, and I can see how a participatory audience could enhance that. However, the participation I saw was more reactive than it was riffing: it is hard to resist audibly reacting to watching a person getting literally attacked by lions and tigers on screen.

I decided to head out after Roar to get some sleep, but you can check out the final two featured movies in the lineup below.

Kansas City Bomber

The Super Inframan

The Lawnmower Man

The Lawnmower Man

lawnmowerman1

Today’s feature is 1992’s cyber-thriller cult classic, The Lawnmower Man.

The Lawnmower Man was directed and co-written by Brett Leonard, who is best known for movies like Man-Thing, Virtuosity, and Highlander: The Source. His co=writer for the screenplay was producer and frequent collaborator Gimel Everett. While the movie is theoretically based on a story of the same name by Stephen King, there are very few similarities between the two works, and King successfully sued to have his name removed from the picture, but only after a lengthy legal battle.

The cinematographer for the film was Russell Carpenter, who has worked on a variety of both low-budget and high-budget movies like Ant-Man, Jobs, The Ugly Truth, Shallow Hal, Titanic, True Lies, Hard Target, Critters 2, and Pet Sematary II.

The primary editor for The Lawnmower Man was Alan Baumgarten, who has cut movies like Trumbo, American Hustle, Zombieland, Dodgeball, Kickboxer 2, Meet The Fockers, and Gangster Squad.

The team of producers for the movie included co-writer Gimel Everett, Clive Turner (Lawnmower Man 2, Howling IV, Howling V), Masao Takiyama, who has produced a number of anime adaptations of Marvel properties (X-Men, Wolverine, Blade, Iron Man), Milton Subotsky (Maximum Overdrive, Dr. Who and The Daleks, The House That Dripped Blood), Edward Simons (Communion, Howling III, Howling IV, Howling V, Howling VI), Robert Pringle (Howling 2, Lawnmower Man 2), and Steven Lane (Phantoms, The Howling).

The musical score for The Lawnmower Man was composed by Dan Wyman, who worked in the music department under John Carpenter on Halloween and The Fog, and composed the music for Brett Leonard’s previous film, The Dead Pit.

The effects work for the movie was done by a team that included Heidi Williams (Evolver), Frank Ceglia (Leprechaun 3, Leprechaun 4), Erick Brennan (Freddy vs. Jason), Tom Ceglia (Mortal Kombat, Swordfish), Brian Christensen (Suburban Commando, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), Michael Deak (Pick Me Up, Arena, From Beyond, Friday the 13th Part VII, The Dentist), Paul Haines (Leprechaun 3, Critters 3), Francesco Chiarini (Mars Attacks), Paul Lewis (Cliffhanger, Demolition Man), Ken Pearce (Antz, The Avengers), Henry Preston (Wild Wild West, Speed 2), Jimi Simmons (Spawn, Jack), Drex Reed (From Beyond, The Stupids), Rodd Matsui (Tank Girl, Smokin’ Aces), Alex Funke (Waterworld, Freejack), and Michael Kory (Van Helsing, Space Jam, Total Recall).

The cast for The Lawnmower Man includes Jeff Fahey (Planet Terror, Machete, Body Parts, Darkman III) Pierce Brosnan (GoldenEye, Die Another Day, The World Is Not Enough, Mrs. Doubtfire, The World’s End, Dante’s Peak), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad, The Cell), Mark Bringelson (Dollman, Heathers), and Jenny Wright (A Shock To The System, Near Dark, Young Guns II).

lawnmowerman3The plot of The Lawnmower Man is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A simple man is turned into a genius through the application of computer science.

The 1996 sequel to The Lawnmower Man, Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace, was absolutely loathed by both critics and audiences, and is now regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. I covered it some time ago due to its inclusion in the IMDb Bottom 100, and didn’t have anything particularly positive to say as I recall.

The plot of Lawnmower Man centers heavily on virtual reality, which means that it inevitably wound up with a video game tie-in. The initial Lawnmower Man game had a couple of different versions: on the Sega CD and PC, it was essentially an interactive movie, whereas the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis versions were run-of-the-mill platformers. This was standard practice at the time, as different developers were often employed to design the same game for different platforms, which created a lot of variety in gameplay and design depending on the format. While neither version received an overwhelmingly positive reception, a sequel was produced in 1994 called Cyberwar.

The Lawnmower Man was made on a production budget of $10 million, on which it grossed just over $32 million domestically over its theatrical run. Critically, it wasn’t nearly as successful: it currently holds Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 38% from critics and 31% from audiences, alongside a lackluster IMDb user rating of 5.4.

The first thing that is impossible not to notice about Lawnmower Man are the prominent performances from Fahey and Brosnan, and how much they dramatically differ from each other. Jeff Fahey is specifically trying way too hard to sell his role as Jobe, the mentally challenged subject of artificial intelligence enhancement testing, while Pierce Brosnan couldn’t be phoning in his performance any more if he performed while sleepwalking. The combination of the two makes for a baffling on-screen duo, to say the least.

Lawnmower Man is undoubtedly an effects-driven movie, which is usually an issue when it comes to aging. Visual effects technology tends to advance rapidly, meaning that movies that rely too heavily on them look incredibly dated before too long. As it so happens, this is one of the biggest problems with watching The Lawnmower Man today: it feels like a time capsule to the early 90s, which is not a good thing when it comes to virtual reality simulations.

I think Lawnmower Man has an unduly bad reputation for not being original. It certainly has plenty of problems, but a lack of originality is not one of them if you ask me. This isn’t Frankenstein, as many have claimed. This is a movie about artificial enhancement of human capabilities through the use of the cutting edge of technology, which is still certainly relevant today from an ethical standpoint. It is a different set of questions and issues than trying to defeat death or create life. That said, the execution of the story and exploration of these issues leaves an awful lot to be desired, but the concept itself is perfectly sound in my opinion.

Overall, Lawnmower Man is hardly an unwatchable movie, but it is certainly a long way from being genuinely good. The cheesy effects and bad acting make it a pretty entertaining watch, even if it isn’t paced particularly well. Bad movie fans should certainly give it a shot, as well as anyone who is in dire need for a dose of early 1990s nostalgia.

lawnmowerman2

The Adventures of Hercules II

The Adventures of Hercules II

herculesii1

Today’s feature is the 1985 sequel to 1983’s Hercules, and is known by many names: Hercules II, The Adventures of Hercules, and The Adventures of Hercules II.

Hercules II was once again written and directed by noted Italian b-movie director Luigi Cozzi, under the anglicized pseudonym of Lewis Coates. His other films include the infamous Star Wars knockoff Starcrash, 1983’s Hercules, and a bizarre recut and colorization of the original Godzilla.

The cinematographer for the film was Alberto Spagnoli, who also shot movies like The Last Shark, Daisy Miller, and 1983’s Hercules.

The editor for The Adventures of Hercules II was Sergio Montanari, who also cut such films as Django, Starcrash, and the previous Hercules movie from 1983.

The Adventures of Hercules II was once again produced by the infamous Israeli duo of Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan, who built a legendary reputation for churning out b-movies during their run leading The Cannon Group, such as Enter The Ninja, Over The Top, Masters of the Universe, Ninja III: The Domination, and 1983’s Hercules. However, with The Adventures of Hercules II, neither men had their names directly attached to the movie. Once again, the executive producer for the film was John Thompson, who has since produced action movies like The Legend of Hercules, The Expendables, Mansquito, and Olympus Has Fallen.

The musical score for The Adventures of Hercules II was composed by Pino Donaggio, whose film credits include Carrie, Piranha, Dressed To Kill, Body Double, and Raising Cain, as well as the previous Hercules movie.

The effects work for the movie was provided by a team that included Giovanni Corridori (Cliffhanger, The Italian Job, The Pit and The Pendulum, Leviathan), Alvaro Rossi (Popeye), Lamberto Marini (Sacco & Vanzetti, The Gospel According To St. Matthew), Alain Costa (Space Jam), Giancarlo Ferrando (Troll 2), and Marco Ticozzelli (Alien vs. Predator).

The plot of The Adventures of Hercules II is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Hercules searches for the Seven Thunderbolts of Zeus, which have been stolen by renegade gods.

The Adventures of Hercules II currently holds a 3.9 user rating on IMDb, which is interestingly a tiny bit higher than its predecessor. However, it also didn’t receive nearly as much attention as its predecessor, and has less than one third of the total votes recorded for the original on IMDb.

Hercules II does a decent job of holding on to the bizarre, cosmic aesthetic that made the first movie so visually distinctive. However, it fails to build on a lot of the memorably outlandish moments from the previous film, with nothing even coming close to the glory of cosmic bear tossing. There are still plenty of cheesy effects and moments of bad acting, and it holds up pretty well as an enjoyable bad movie in its own right, but it doesn’t compare to the 1983’s Hercules by a long shot.

As you might expect of any low-budget sequel, Hercules II opens with about 8 minutes of recycled footage from 1983’s Hercules, and plays like a highlight reel before the credits. I was a little surprised that there weren’t more moments of reused footage throughout the film to be honest, as many of these cheap sequels try to milk as much as they can out of their predecessors (like Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2, for instance).

Hercules II certainly has a looser plot than the original (which is saying a lot), which is essentially just an excuse to have Hercules fight a series of monsters in order to retrieve magic thunderbolts from within them. Unfortunately, the monsters were clearly designed to be as cheap as possible, so there aren’t nearly as many elaborate stop motion devices, and most of the monster are standard humanoids. That said, some of the key highlights of the film include a Sasquatch-like monster that is obviously just a guy in a ghillie suit, a quickly decapitated cheap clay-mation Medusa, a white knight with a laser trident (and a forest filled with soul puppets), psychic mermaids, a proper dinosaur laser fight finale, and a fire monster antagonist that looks like the electric gremlin from Gremlins 2.

The silly effects and bad acting combine with the retained bizarre aesthetic from the first movie to make a thoroughly enjoyable bad movie. Even though it isn’t as entertaining as its predecessor, and is rightfully in its shadow, there is plenty in this movie to enjoy. If you happen to be a fan of the first film, I definitely recommend giving this a shot. However, I do think the first movie needs to be seen before this one to provide a bit of a primer for the ridiculousness of it all.