April 15th, 2008

SCORPION THUNDERBOLT (1988) ***

If you’ve ever seen any of these Ninja movies starring Richard Harrison, you should already know what (not) to expect, but I’ll be damned if this one isn’t pretty entertaining.  Like all these Ninja flicks, director Godfrey Ho bought an unreleased horror movie, then haphazardly edited in scenes of Harrison kicking ass.  Scorpion Thunderbolt is actually one of the better in the Ho/Harrison series, because Harrison has a larger role, there’s more action and it features a cool monster turning women into shredded wheat. 

 

A hooker is killed by a giant snake monster; then the plot begins.  An old witch uses a crystal ball and makes said giant snake monster murder a bunch of hot chicks.  A cop on the case falls in love with a mysterious woman who turns out to be the evil snake monster.  (“I’m not a human being!  I’m a snake demon!”)

 

All of this is intercut with scenes of Harrison trying to find out the mystery of a gold ring.  While driving down the street, a hitchhiker flashes her tits and he picks her up.  She takes him to her “studio” where she shows him a porno she was in and he says, “I’ll admit you got fucking talent!”

 

She does a strip show for him, seduces him, and then they fuck while her movie plays.  Since the girl is under the control of the witch, the old bag makes the slut try to murder Richard, but he stops her.  She then pukes up a bunch of spicy mustard and dies.  Harrison goes out looking for the owner of the ring and every so often gets into a random kung fu fight using makeshift weapons (exercise equipment, umbrellas, and in one scene he uses a towel to bitch slap someone).

 

During the finale, the cops corner the giant snake woman and she flies away.  (Yes, the snake woman freakin’ flies!)  Her boyfriend tries to tell her that he can handle her murderous ways and will go on loving her, but unfortunately, the cops intervene and gun her down.  Finally, Harrison shows up to kill the old witch by destroying the ring in a fire while the Indiana Jones theme plays. 

 

Now this is what I call fucking cinema.

 

In addition to the above, but we also get a scene where a guy ties a woman to a pool table and shoots balls at her pussy, a girl humping a giant snake man, and best of all, a giant snake baby breastfeeding! 

 

So basically you get two movies for the price of one in this flick.  You get a pretty good giant killer snake man movie (one that’s decidedly a whole lot better than what’s been turning up on the Sci-Fi Channel recently) as well as a fairly decent kung fu flick.  Most of the action involves the giant snake monster carving up young girls, but the scenes of Harrison laying the smackdown on a bunch of third rate ninjas are equally enjoyable.  The transformation scenes are well done, all things considered, and the monster resembles the bastard stepchild of Godzilla and the snake man from Dreamscape.  The subplot with the cops tracking down the witch is kinda lame, but any movie featuring this much nudity, kung fu, impromptu dance sequences, and gore gets an automatic three star rating from me.   

 

Harrison gets the best line of the movie while interrogating a punk:  “Why do you want the ring, fucker?”

VENGEANCE (1976) *

Jason (The Exorcist) Miller stars as a political prisoner being held in Spain who escapes from a chain gang after the guy he’s shackled to gets his hand inadvertently chopped off.  He’s eventually hunted down by a tracker with a bloodthirsty dog bent on returning him to prison.  Miller manages to kill the tracker, but the dog wants revenge for it’s master’s murder and continues after him.  Miller finds a woman in the middle of the jungle and she asks him how long he was locked up.  He replies, “A long time”, which leads to them humping like rhinos in heat.  Of course, the dog shows up, kills her dog and goes to town on her sheep before coming after Miller.  The guards follow in hot pursuit and Miller has to machine gun a bunch of them to death before sneaking out of the country while the killer dog nips at his heels. 

 

The central idea of this flick isn’t the worse thing the filmmakers could’ve come up with.  Besides let’s face it, I’m a sucker for a good killer dog movie.  The thing is, they kinda forget about the homicidal hound halfway through the movie and the film settles down and becomes a half assed revolutionary picture instead. 

 

The parts where the dog is tracking Miller down aren’t bad (Canine POV is used heavily), but everything else about this shit heap is pretty unbearable.  The scenes where Miller joins up with the resistance are boring as all get out and the romantic angle goes nowhere (although it does provide enough T & A to keep you semi-awake during all the dull stuff).  The movie goes on waaaay too long (it’s 106 minutes, about 26 minutes longer than it really needed to be) and is filled with too many inconsequential supporting characters that get in the way of the chase.  Miller looks completely lost in the lead and shows why he didn’t have much of a career after The Exorcist.  If all the viva la revolution shit had been excised and the film focused solely on the Man vs. Beast aspect of the story, it may have made for a passable thriller.  As it is, the dog isn’t the only one who wants vengeance as you’ll probably want to hunt the director down and punish him for making this stinker. 

 

A lunatic prison guard gets the best line of the movie when he says, “Talk you shit ass priest!”

 

AKA:  A Dog Called Vengeance. 

MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986) ***

You know I may be the only movie critic out there that actually likes this movie, but I wear that as more of a badge of honor than a scarlet letter.  I don’t get why everyone seems to hate this movie.  Seriously folks, you’re watching a killer truck movie called Maximum Overdrive!  KILLER TRUCKS.  What are you expecting, On the Waterfront for God’s sakes?   

 

Of course, we all know that Maximum Overdrive was Stephen King’s directing debut.  We also know that the critics were less than kind to this flick, which is probably why he hasn’t directed another movie since (Come back Steve, we miss you!), but I gotta tell you, Maximum Overdrive is a lot of fun.  It’s a down n’ dirty popcorn movie and if you check your brains at the door, you’ll have a blast with it. 

 

I happen to enjoy me a good killer car movie every now and then.  King wrote Christine, which was made into the greatest killer car movie of the 80’s by the master, John Carpenter.  In Maximum Overdrive, King ups the ante by having all the machines of the world go kill crazy after a mysterious comet passes over the Earth.  (This along with Night of the Comet were among the very few entries in the “Comet Paranoia” craze that swept mid 80’s horror films.)  Instead of just ONE classic car running down people and turning them into pancakes, there are a thousand killer diesel semis (led by a truck with an oversized Green Goblin hood ornament) running by themselves and running down pedestrians left and right.  The trucks eventually seize control of a gas station where the film becomes Night of the Living Trucks and the trucks force the humans to keep their gas tanks filled.  Of course, there’s only one man who can save the day…

 

Emilio Estevez. 

 

Look, you’re either the kind of guy who wants to see Emilio Estevez blow up driverless trucks with a bazooka while AC/DC plays constantly in the background or you aren’t.  (Originally, King wanted Bruce Springsteen to star.  Can you imagine how THAT would’ve turned out?)

 

As a director, King has a workmanlike style and keeps the lovey dovey bullshit to a minimum.  He knows we came to see people getting run over by killer trucks and in that respect, he certainly delivers.  He also shows a knack for black humor during the film’s early scenes of carnage.  The scene where the Little League coach gets a Coke can to the groin by a demented soda machine and the part where a ballistic bull dozer flattens a kid on a bike is some of the best examples of ingenious death and destruction ever seen in the 80’s.  Other scenes of machines on a rampage also have a kick to them like when a bank sign reads “Fuck You”, a drawbridge opens by itself and causes a bunch of cars to tumble into the river, a video game electrocutes it's player, a maniac fuel pump blinds it's attendant with spurting gas, an electric kitchen knife goes berserk, and a killer RC car deep throats a German Sheppard. 

 

I will admit the film does slip gears every now and then whenever someone tries to figure out WHY everything is happening (like the annoying waitress who screams, “WE MADE YOU!” like a zillion times), but I’ll be damned if this movie isn’t consistently entertaining.  It may be dumber than a bag of used spark plugs, but it’s one of the few unabashedly fun King outings. 

 

Despite the critical bashing, it was still remade a decade later as a TV movie, Trucks. 

 

Love interest Laura Harrington gets the best line of the movie when she tells a lecherous salesman, “If you touch me again, you’ll have to wipe your ass with a hook when you take a dump!”

YOUNG GUNS (1988) ***

 

Emilio Estevez stars as a wet behind the ears Billy the Kid in this empty headed but entertaining Brat Pack western.  He gets saved from a hanging by a generous rancher (Terence Stamp from Superman 2) who lets him work on his farm in exchange for food and shelter.  Billy makes an uneasy friendship with the other twentysomething cattle hands (played by Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermont Mulroney, and Casey Siemaszko) and when an evil cattle baron (Jack Palance) murders Stamp and steals his cows, the boys saddle up and go out for revenge.

 

Director Christopher (The Principal) Cain directs the action in a pedestrian manner, but it’s the performances that make this flick worth watching.  Estevez is quite good as the maniacal Billy and his performance (along with his cackling) is pretty memorable.  It’s also fun to see him and his brother Sheen share the screen (they later would go on to make the immortal Men at Work together), even though Chuck gets gunned down about halfway through the flick.  Brian Keith also puts in a fine turn as a crusty bounty hunter who buys the farm in an outhouse.

 

I could’ve done without the slow-mo “Spirit World” trip sequence, but it’s not bad for the most part.  I mean brains get splattered out, knives get tossed into jugulars, and lots of people get gunned down for no good reason, so it’s pretty hard to hate.  Eagle eyed viewers will also have fun spotting Tom Cruise as a cowboy during the final shootout.     

 

I’ve always been a Young Guns 2 man myself, but this is a decent western for people who would prefer The Breakfast Club over The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.