March 12th, 2008

VAMPIRE BUSTER (1989) *

A ninja traps his evil master’s spirit in a vase and 500 years later it winds up being auctioned off in modern day China to a wealthy industrialist.  He hires a fake exorcist to bless the evil urn who accidentally unleashes the spirit when he drops cigar ash into the vase.  The spirit possesses the industrialist and he sets out to spread his evil throughout the world.  The “demon” has magic powers, like being able to turn a lamp into a trident, make televisions look like babies, and turn belts into snakes.  The only way to keep the monster in check is to wave a blanket at it.  Finally, the ancestor of the ninja who trapped the spirit 500 years ago arrives on the scene to put his ass back in the vase.  

 

If you can’t already tell, there are no vampires and very little busting going on in this flick.

 

You got to sit through a lot of rigmarole involving slimy gangsters, phony fortune tellers and unfunny comic relief sidekicks before you get to the demon fighting and when you finally do get down to the nitty gritty, it’s not worth the wait.  Like most Chinese fantasy horror movies, the special effects consist of lots of flashy lights and people flying around on wires.  The flick also features more false scares than you can shake a fried wonton at. 

 

Everyone refers to the monster as a “demon” and NOT a vampire, which leads me to believe that this was just re-titled to cash in on the Mr. Vampire craze of the late 80’s.  There may be no vampires in this flick, but one thing is for sure, it definitely does suck. 

 

Best line:  “I’m headed to asshole street!”

VAMPIRE HONEYMOON (1992) *

 

A pair of cops pose as a honeymooning couple to catch a killer.  They really do fall in love but a sexy ghost breaks the couple up when she turns the dude into a bloodthirsty vampire.  Pretty soon the guy’s going out on the prowl putting the bite on a bunch of skinny Chinese club bitches.  The ghost then explains that all she really wants is for him to find the man who killed her, who happens to be her husband.  In the end, an exorcist rids the cop of his vampirism and he and his new bride live happily ever after. 

 

Not much of this movie makes a heck of a lot of sense.  Like for instance, how can a ghost turn you into a vampire?  Don’t you need to be bitten by a vampire in order to turn into one?  It also irked me that in the end, the ghost ends up getting revenge on her husband all by herself, so why the Hell did she even need to change the cop into a vampire? 

 

The acting is the pits, the story is all over the place and the pacing is slower than molasses.  It doesn’t help when most of the movie plays more like a scenic travelogue than a horror movie either.  Don’t even get me started on the idiotic dream sequences featuring giant balls of rolling shit and vampire ravers.  Speaking of ravers, what the Hell was up with the excessive Chinese club dancing in this movie?  If I heard that techno crap song (“Survive the Human Race”) one more damn time I was about to drive a wooden stake through my DVD player. 

 

Fans of Hong Kong horror and vampire aficionados will be the only ones able to stomach this lethargic, tedious and innocuous flick.  All others avoid it at all costs.   

KENTUCKY KERNELS (1934) **

Before George Stevens directed such classics as Gunga Din, Shane, and Giant, he did this hit or miss Wheeler and Woolsey comedy. 

 

A man tries to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge and lands in two starving magicians’ (Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey) fishing nets.  They decide to cheer him up by adopting Spanky from The Little Rascals from an orphanage ran by Margaret Dumont for him, but when he runs off to elope, the boys are stuck with Spanky.  The kid has a bad habit of breaking glass, but as it turns out, he’s also inherited a plot of land in Kentucky and W & W head down south to claim it.  Little do they realize that it lands them right smack dab in the middle of a Hatfield and McCoy style feud.    

 

While Kentucky Kernels isn’t nearly as funny as some of the duo’s other comedies, at least the budget was bigger than what the boys were normally used to.  Their material isn’t the best, but they’re still fun to watch.  Spanky steals all of their scenes from them and is quite a good comedian himself.  It’s also neat to see Dumont without the Marx Brothers for a change.  The songs are all fairly innocuous (the scene where Spanky serenades a dog is unmercifully cute), but doesn’t hamper the film’s momentum too much.  Some of the verbal repartee between Wheeler and Woolsey isn’t bad, but most of the sight gags (like the climax where a horse drinks a barrel full of moonshine) are pretty weak.   


Fans of the comedy team will want to check it out, but if you’ve never seen any of their flicks, I’d probably recommend you watch a better vehicle like Mummies’ Boys first.  Stevens also directed the duo in the next year’s The Nitwits.

THE NITWITS (1935) ** ½

 

The comedy duo of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey re-teamed with director George (Kentucky Kernels) Stevens for this comedy.  

 

A music publisher is targeted for blackmail and murder by a mysterious criminal known only as “The Black Widow”.  Wheeler and Woolsey are two knuckleheads that work in the publisher’s building and when he makes a pass at Wheeler’s best gal (a young Betty Grable), Wheeler knocks his lights out.  Afterwards, The Black Widow murders the publisher, leaving Wheeler as the prime suspect.  Grable takes the wrap for him and goes to jail, but Woolsey invents a makeshift lie detector to uncover the killer’s identity.

 

The film isn’t up to the team’s usual standards but it has some laughs if you’re an indiscriminate fan of the team.  There’s a pretty funny running gag where Woolsey keeps running into a British guy carrying tennis supplies, sending balls and rackets flying everywhere, as well as a humorous bit where the team tries to serenade Grable from outside the prison.  

 

The best part is extended chase ending where The Black Widow dresses up as a scary looking skeleton to frighten the boys.  Had the killer dressed like this for all of the film and not just the final reel, The Nitwits could have been a memorable horror/comedy in the tradition of Hold That Ghost.  As it is, it’s just a passable time waster filled with consistent chuckles but no big belly laughs.