Bargain Binge IV

Attack of the Giant Leeches

My goodness, that’s one hell of a creature design! According the the IMDb trivia, the costumes for the “leeches” are basically thin plastic suits with the “suckers” sewn on. That’s some classic low-budget monster work there, perhaps worthy of Ed Wood. As with many of these movies, there is a fantastic alternate title that was used for some of the foreign releases that I absolutely adore: “The Diabolic Marsh”. There isn’t a whole lot to glean about the film’s plot from the trailer, but there also isn’t much information doled out at all. I think the biggest takeaway from the trailer is getting a solid look at those pathetic leech costumes. I’m willing to bet that those suits see way more time on film than they by any right should. Someone put some time into sewing on all of those suckers after all, and they’ll be damned if those suits don’t get some solid screen time! I’m cautiously looking forward to this one, because I have a feeling that this may be one of those movies that has a dull, dragging plot and way too much overexposure of the monsters. Then again, it looks mighty cheesy, and could make for some good unintentional laughs.

Land of the Minotaur

I’m surprised that I haven’t been able to find a formal trailer or many clips from this. I have heard it mentioned a number of times as one of Peter Cushing’s lowest points, and I was pretty excited to finally find a copy of it in a monster movie collection with the likes of “The Creeping Terror” and “Eegah!”. I’m also eager to see how Donald Pleasence is in this flick, as the last thing I caught him in was the dreadful “Pumaman”, which he apparently said on record was the worst movie he was ever involved in. I guess that means he thought more highly of this movie then? Apparently this was originally titled “The Devil’s Men”, which sounds like a more accurate title from what information I can piece together about the plot. I’m a little surprised they didn’t go with that title, so I have to assume that someone had a hangup about using the term “devil” somewhere along the line. That would be pretty strange for folks making a B-movie, and I certainly don’t see any reason why someone would think a Minotaur title is more marketable that one about the devil. I don’t seem to recall there being a big boom in Minotaur movies at any point.

Star Knight

I was really surprised to find a Klaus Kinski appearance in a bargain bin collection of old science fiction movies. The only exposure I’ve had to Kinski is through his stellar work with Herzog, and those films are about as far as you can get from the movies I typically feature here. Never the less, here he is. After some further reading, it looks like Kinski did a handful of European exploitation films early in his career, but this one was oddly and unfortunately one of the last movies he did before his death. The film seems to be a sci-fi interpretation of a knight versus dragon tale, which seems interesting enough in concept. Kinski plays the “dragon”, and Harvey Keitel stars opposite him as the knight named “Klever”. I haven’t been able to find a trailer or clips for this one, but I did locate the theme song. The writer/director has quite a few credits in Spain, but not a whole lot that stands out or saw much of a wide audience. I’m looking forward to seeing how this movie goes horribly, horribly wrong.

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Videodrome Atlanta

For most people, video rental shops are a thing of the past, or at the very least vestiges of a bygone era. At the beginning of the year, I watched one of the last once-mighty American Blockbusters close down, and that looked like just about the last nail in the coffin of physical video rentals as a business model.

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However, I recently came across a charming little video rental joint in my travels: Videodrome, a local shop in the heart of Atlanta, GA. I can giddily report that it is just as delightfully dingy and fascinatingly unique as the Cronenberg masterpiece from which I assume it draws its name. And even more excitedly, I can happily report that the business seems to be doing well!

I spend a lot of my time on the road wandering through used DVD shops, and find a lot of interesting and hard to find movies in the process. I even have a section of this blog dedicated to the interesting and obscure stuff I find.

Well, Videodrome knocked them all out of the water. They had copies of films that I though didn’t exist in any kind of physical form. They had a number of movies that I had only ever heard of via Z-movie reviews from folks like The Cinema Snob or the deeper cuts of MST3K. Overall they didn’t have the widest selection out there, but the stuff that they had was impressively off-the-wall. Any place that keeps a physical copy of “Turkish Star Wars” in stock with a warning label that subtitles are not included has my attention.

Personally, I picked up a handful of movies that I had been meaning to watch but hadn’t gotten to: “WestWorld”, “Dead Alive”, and “Time After Time”. If you haven’t seen those three, I can highly recommend the lot, but with a special emphasis on the latter two. I will likely do a full length post on the bizarre creature that is “Time After Time” soon, and I plan to go over all of the early Peter Jackson movies once I can find a copy of “Meet the Feebles” to watch (to Videodrome’s credit, it was present but already checked out when I came in).

"HG WELLS RACES THROUGH TIME TO CATCH JACK THE RIPPER"
“HG WELLS RACES THROUGH TIME TO CATCH JACK THE RIPPER”

I am tempted to pick up a couple of more movies for my last night in Atlanta tonight, because I want to support this lovely, utopic cinematic paradise in any way that I can. Also, because they have some Ted V. Mikels movies that have proved near-impossible to find through any other means, and because I’m hoping “Meet the Feebles” is back in stock today so I can start working on that aforementioned review of all of the early/weird Peter Jackson films.

If you love B-movies and find yourself in the Atlanta area for a few days, you absolutely must check out Videodrome. They are open daily from noon to midnight, which are business hours I can totally get behind. Videodrome Atlanta is an amazing video rental spot that is surviving through their focus on the rare and obscure entries into the history of cinema, and can use the support of local film buffs and transient bad movie enthusiasts alike to keep being awesome.

IMDb Bottom 100: Ed

Ed

“Ed” is a thoroughly incompetent piece of work, but not any less watchable that the countless other dumb animal-centric family movies out there as far as I can tell. The effects are all a bit worse than you might expect (all of the chimp effects are embarrassing), but the jokes are exactly the sort that you should anticipate from a movie like this. Poop jokes and pants getting pulled down are pretty standard fare throughout, and cracks about back hair pop up constantly. Real deep stuff.

The writing beyond the jokes is horrible, with things happening with very little set up or explanation. For instance, the chimp knows how to play baseball because he was owned by Mickey Mantle apparently? Did Mickey Mantle train chimpanzees as a hobby? There is also a point towards the end of the movie where the team’s owner sells Ed to a circus on the eve of the championship game. Why throw a serious wrench into your team’s championship run, and give up the established staple of your marketing to boot? At least, why do it at that time? Wouldn’t his value go up even more if he had a pennant to his name? Was he a pending free agent aiming to test the waters of the open market? Also, the movie opens with Matt LeBlanc’s character at an open tryout for minor league baseball. He states that he never played baseball on any level, yet he clearly loves the sport and is very capable of playing. How? When did he gain these talents? Why is he trying out now after all of these years of zero interest in organizational play? Is there a catalyst for his actions? If his parents were about to lose the farm, that would actually put some stakes into this film. But no, the parents just disappear from the film after the opening segment. They don’t even show up to any games, shockingly.

The acting didn’t actually seem all that bad outside of the token child actor and the eponymous chimp. Let’s be honest, what on earth could any actor have done in a movie about a baseball-playing chimp?

I’m not sure how this director wound up with this job. There is bound to be a bizarre story behind it, because he has exclusively worked on documentaries outside of this movie. Honestly, this would have had more potential to be funny if it were played out as a sports mockumentary about the rise and fall of a third base playing chimp’s professional baseball career. Anyway, the director’s experience at least explains why the whole film just seems…off.

Last huge problem with this movie: the title. Give me a pun. Give me a dumb joke. Give me something relating to animals, chimps, baseball, sports, or anything actually relevant to the movie. Don’t just make the title the chimp’s common, human name. How is that going to trick anyone into watching this movie? Come on, put in a little effort here folks.

When I froze the Bottom 100, this was sitting low at #85, which I was somewhat surprised by. This movie has problems, but I’m not clear on how this is dramatically worse than the endless Air Bud knockoffs/sequels or Cop Dog. Sure, this is the bottom tier of the animal-centric family movies, but you can’t exactly have high aspirations for any of them. That all said, this movie is definitely miserably bad (and one of the worst movies I have sat through so far), but it is plenty possible to sit through if you absolutely must. I just have a particular dislike for family movies, so I am admittedly a bit biased against this thing straight out of the gate.

By the way, it is on Netflix if that sounds like your kind of thing.

IMDb Bottom 100: Final Sacrifice

Final Sacrifice

The Final Sacrifice is one of those perfect B-movies. This is the sort of thing that you hope to find when you take a gamble on an unheard-of DVD or VHS.

I’ve been taking my time writing this review because I really wanted to find an unriffed copy of this film. The MST3K crew clearly dug this movie up out of nothingness and made it into something absolutely iconic. This is probably the best riff of the Mike Nelson era, which is saying a lot. Unfortunately, the popularity of the riff means that it is very easy movie to track down, but not without the charming silhouettes of the snarky trio.

I’m still going to keep my eyes open for a unriffed copy, but I also want to keep moving forward with the list. So, The Final Sacrifice.

The acting is bad, but in a good way. The lead is very miscast for a hero character, but does what he can with it. The villain is outstandingly over the top, and has one of the most ridiculously evil voices you will hear. If anyone actually has a voice like that, there is simply nothing else they can do with their life apart from evil and treachery. Without the riffs, I would be willing to bet that the villain character would be the saving grace of the whole movie. According to the IMDb trivia, none of the actors got paid for this movie, so I have to applaud them for the effort they did put into this thing.

The writing is honestly just really silly. Whoever named the lead character “Zap Rowsdower” need to be given an official award, and subsequently never allowed to write anything ever again. The plot is indescribably baffling, but at the very least the title isn’t completely irrelevant to it. The mystery element of the story isn’t so bad as the movie gets started, but the payoff on it is equal parts predictable and shallow. I really don’t want to spoil the movie, because everyone should watch this thing, but I will say that it is a great, dumb B-movie ending.

Right now this is sitting at #66 in the IMDb Bottom 100. I don’t think this is going to fall out of the Bottom 100, but it has been falling a bit recently. Honestly, I think it deserves a spot on the list just because of the entertainment value of the riff. Without the riff, no one would even know about this movie. At the core, this was a student movie made for absolutely nothing, and probably would never have qualified for such a “prestigious” list without the MST3K attention it received. Once again, I think the position of this movie on the Bottom 100 is a nod the the influence of the MST3K team on the entire hobby of riffing on bad movies.

I can recommend this riff (at the very least) to anyone. I think this is a fantastic introduction to Mystery Science Theater 3000, and an absolutely hilarious job. I might not recommend the movie to Canadians, because the movie may hit a little to close to home. City-resurrecting cults are a very serious concern up there, or so I hear.

IMDb Bottom 100: Epic Movie

Epic Movie

What is there to say about this? The whole run of _____ Movie films are the same in concept and execution. They are parody patchworks that wouldn’t be able to cut it in the deep and prestigious marketplace of ideas that is YouTube. When a “joke” in one of these movies isn’t a direct reference to something in pop culture at the time, it is some sort of gross-out gag or crass visualization. Usually the jokes are an underwhelming and tiring combination of both of those things.

The acting comes off as particularly creepy in this movie, as the leads are supposed to be portraying children in the story. At least, it seemed implied to be the case. There are occasional scenes involving a high school (I think?), which makes things less clear as far as the character ages go.  In any case, it is uncomfortable to picture the characters as children in a number of the scenarios they are put into, and the whole movie gets dark very fast with that in mind.

Not that the filmmakers cared, but there is no way any of these movies can stand the test of time. They date themselves with their references, which as stated before, comprise the entirety of the “humor” in the films. Watching this movie today, I was reminded of blockbusters that have already dropped entirely out of the public consciousness. There was one particular reference to the trailer of the previous Superman reboot, a franchise that has notably already been re-rebooted. A good parody movie can actually stay timeless, even while poking at then-current films. Airplane! is the obvious example of this. The jokes and humor are vastly independent of the movies that are being lampooned, so they stay entertaining through the years. The ____ Movie franchise has clearly failed in this regard, because the films are already incredibly dated only a few years after their releases.

Anyway, this is not an entertaining movie. A failed comedy is the worst kind of cinematic train-wreck, and doesn’t typically have the potential redeeming values that failed dramas and horrors can provide (good practical effects, hammy villains, etc). I don’t recommend this movie to anyone, even if you are the sort that is endlessly entertained by poop jokes.

The one interesting aspect of this film (that gets a disappointing amount of screen-time and really dumb dialogue, as you would expect) is Crispin Glover playing Willie Wonka. I honestly think he fit the role excellently, and firmly believe he would have been a finer casting choice for the character in the remake than Johnny Depp. He is a more genuinely eccentric and unpredictable sort of actor, and that kind of volatility is part of what made Wilder’s incarnation so memorable in my opinion. That sort of makes me even more disappointed in this movie though, because he seems so wasted in this mess. It also reminded me of Burton’s attempted Willie Wonka movie, which isn’t something I am ever going to enjoy. Ugh.

I am a little curious as to how this one in particular has hit the bottom 100 while others in the franchise have not. They have all seemed the same to me, and this one didn’t seem much worse than the others. Maybe the fact that it is such a re-tread on the style is part of why the votes for it are lower. Then again, it might be because all of the primary films lampooned are completely forgettable. Most of the framing of the film pokes at The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which I don’t recall being that big of a hit. I don’t honestly care why this is so lowly ranked among the ____ Movies, I just know that I want them all to burn in a cleansing fire as a sacrifice to the Comedy Gods.

IMDb Bottom 100: Laserblast

Laserblast

This is one that I actually hadn’t seen before, but proved to be amazingly bad. I have no idea how I had missed this one for so long.

Let’s start with the special effects. The aliens in the movie look completely ridiculous, to the point where rubber suits were genuinely a better option. At the time, the effects might have looked truly grand. But, as we all know, effects from this era have not aged gracefully at all. Come to think of it, the aliens look nearly identical to the animated chess pieces from Star Wars, which is appropriately one of the worst effects in Star Wars. All of the laser effects are pretty laughable as well, though I will give them credit for the many objects they decided to set on fire throughout making this movie. That was pretty awesome in a lowly, Michael Bay sort of way.

However, that is all kind of overshadowed by the really bad makeup and props in the movie. For example, everything about the lead character’s design was horribly botched (we’ll get to that in a minute). The “laserblast” gun looks preposterous, and is clearly a hodgepodge of whatever was laying around in someone’s garage. Given it is the basis of the movie’s title, I think some effort should have been put into it. There is also an infamous sequence where the lead blows up a Star Wars sign on the side of the road. It isn’t a billboard or anything, just a blank sign that said “Star Wars”. Apparently this was added in after the movie was complete, because of someone’s overconfidence I would assume.

The makeup when the lead character goes into…uh…hyper mode(?) is some of the laziest work I have ever seen in a movie. Someone had the bright idea to just paint the guy’s face green, and then leave it at that. How did they think that would be acceptable? His “mutation” while wearing the laser gun specifically turns his face green, with no other physical effects. Brilliant.

Speaking of the “mutation” the lead character goes through, there really is quite a presentation of bad acting here. When he is in this altered state, the lead actor spends most of his time madly flailing his arms. He occasionally fires the gun when he can keep his arms still long enough, but he goes right back to the flapping afterwords. The rest of the acting in the movie is unremarkable, save for the two stoned cops thrown in for comic relief. Speaking of which, does the guy on the right here look like Sean Penn to anyone else (http://tinyurl.com/lhpltbo)? Anyway, they ham it up a little bit, but the rest of the cast is pretty flat.

The writing isn’t spectacular, but the story idea has some promise I suppose: A kid with a chip on his shoulder finds a superweapon that subsequently corrupts him and leads him to seek vengeance for perceived offenses. I think the ending could have been much more interesting and less anticlimactic, but this was clearly a movie that no one bothered to put  a whole lot of effort into. Why would I be surprised?

It should be no shock that there are a number of other goofs and errors throughout the movie, but I’m not going to put the effort into enumerating them. This movie is bad, but it is definitely the good kind of bad. This is the sort of film that you can watch and laugh at, which is always what you are hoping to find when sifting through bad movies. Again, the MST3K riff is brilliant on this movie, and adds a lot to the entertainment value. I can certainly recommend it if you are looking for an awesomely bad watch.

IMDb Bottom 100: Lawnmower Man 2

Lawnmower Man 2

The trailer has everything you need to see about Lawnmower Man 2. The only thing missing is the cheesy #2 villain who is actually the main antagonist for most of the movie, but overall the trailer hits all of the (very few) highlights to be found in the trash heap of a movie.

Honestly, this movie is horrible. No arguments there. It isn’t, however, the worst I’ve seen, and by a pretty significant margin at that. The acting is hammed up by the bad guys and generally shittily done by the kids, but the writing and the effects realistically killed the film quite thoroughly before the actors ever came upon its corpse. The editing is also exquisitely bad, which was apparently the result of a serious hack job postmortem by producers in a hopeless attempt to make the film semi-marketable. Despite all of that, it is moderately watchable due to a handful of bright spots.

As I mentioned earlier, this came out in 1996. Independence Day and Twister also came out that year. Watch the trailers of these three movies and compare the effects. It is unbelievable that they came out within months of each other. This movie belongs in the 80’s in the worst possible way, and missed it by the better part of a decade. Interestingly, that makes this movie both anachronistically terrible and entertaining at the same time. Something about those crappy early 90s computer effects is just dopily charming, y’know?

I spend a lot of time pondering what makes bad movies bad. I think the biggest issue with this one, beyond the script and even the effects, is the general fact that it is so misplaced in time. It was a relic in regards to special effects when it came off the presses, and to make matters worse, there wasn’t any call or need for a sequel to the original in the first place. No one was clamoring for a follow up to “Lawnmower Man”, and if there were people doing that, no one could hear them from their basements. It was just a bad idea from the start that someone decided to roll with.

Speaking of rolling, let’s compare this to Rollerball (2002), which I can’t help but do for some reason. It was also a movie bringing back a “franchise” that no one ever even sort of cared about, which is a notable similarity. However, the premise of Rollerball actually had some promise for an interesting movie, and it subsequently managed to disappoint every expectation. To Lawnmower Man 2’s credit, at least no one expected anything exciting or interesting from it (at least I hope they didn’t). The two movies also share legendarily miserable story pacing, overly stylized settings, and two of the most boring dystopias in recent cinematic history. So, I suppose they have more in common than they should, given Rollerball came along many years later. You are supposed to learn from the failures of your predecessors, folks.

As a concluding note, this must be in the running for one of the worst sequels ever made. I’ll keep that in mind at least, because American Psycho 2 is sitting on my kitchen table. Not in the bottom 100, but maybe it should be? If you have other recommendations for awful sequels I can watch, I’d love to hear them. However, I’m not planning to watch Christmas Vacation 2.

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Reviews/Trivia of B-Movies, Bad Movies, and Cult Movies.

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