September 8th, 2008


Director Mark L. Lester was responsible for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best movie, Commando and Dolph Lundgren’s best non-Rocky IV film, Showdown in Little Tokyo, so it only figures that he should be the one to bring us the definitive Coolio vs. prehistoric monsters movie, Pterodactyl. 


Basically it’s all about a smirking professor who takes a bunch of students to investigate an active volcano somewhere in Turkey.  Unbeknownst to them, the heat from the volcano has awakened some prehistoric pterodactyl eggs and those suckers are HUNGRY!  They annoying students run into a gang of tough mercenaries led by Coolio (come on when you think “tough mercenary”, you immediately have to think of Coolio) who are looking for a terrorist cell hiding out in the woods.  The pterodactyls grow to enormous size and quickly reproduce.  That means the scaly bird beasties have to latch onto various cast members and whisk them back to their nest so that the baby pterodactyls can turn them into Gerber’s Prehistoric Baby Food.  In the end, Coolio busts out a big ass bazooka and sends the bloodthirsty birds to Gangsta’s Paradise. 


The typical plot and cardboard acting are about on par with what you’d usually see on Sci-Fi Channel at 1:00 AM.  At least the effects are slightly better than the norm and there’s more intentional humor that actually manages to be kinda funny.  All of this doesn’t quite add up to make a successfully entertaining flick though.  Sure, it’s a hair or two better than the usual Sci-Fi Channel fare, but that isn’t saying a whole lot.  Coolio is pretty good (God, I thought those words would ever come out of my mouth) and his hard ass character is kinda like a cut-rate Keith David. 


The pterodactyl effects aren’t half bad as far as these things go and the gore is better than average.  The scenes of the baby dinos ripping out people’s guts are fun as is the scene where one guy got cut in half by the prehistoric bird’s wings.  Lester slyly rips off Jurassic Park here and there (the students find a bunch of Pterodactyl Pee-Pee instead of Brontosaurus Poop, there’s a monsters-chasing-the-Jeep scene, etc.) and keeps things moving along at a steady clip.  His considerable action chops suffer due to the lack of a healthy budget (the gunfights are all interchangeable and indifferently edited), but Pterodactyl nevertheless manages to be a decent enough time waster.


It ain’t much, but at least it’s better than The Lost World:  Jurassic Park. 


Coolio gets the best line of the movie when he gets the drop on the greasy terrorist:  “You move and I’ll blow your nut sac off!”


The original Day the World Ended was one of my favorite Roger Corman movies.  It told the story of a family trapped in a house with some gangsters after the apocalypse that was menaced by a goofy looking monster.  This one is all about a big city children’s psychiatrist (Nastassja Kinksi) who comes to a small hick town to work at an elementary school.  She takes a shine to an alien obsessed orphan who claims his daddy was a UFO.  Once poppa comes down to Earth in the form of a slimy monster with lots of teeth, bodies of those who hate the little tyke start turning up minus their heads. 


This flick was part of a quintet of remakes of old AIP movies that were the brainchild of producers Stan Winston, Lou Arkoff and Colleen Camp.  While some of these flicks managed to be decent (like Teenage Caveman), for the most part, they weren’t very good.  The Day the World Ended is easily the worst of the lot.  Like the rest of the films in the “series”, this doesn’t have much to do with the original (The world doesn’t even end, dammit!) and is completely unnecessary to boot. 


All of the half-assed Xtro-style hijinx could’ve worked if directed Terence Gross put a little oomph into the proceedings.  The pacing drags (particularly the first half of the film) and Gross’s over-reliance on slow motion flashbacks is at best thoroughly annoying and positively headache inducing at worst.  The rubbery looking monster is OK but the solemn tone and the listless acting doesn’t help things very much.   All in all, The Day the World Ended is mostly a dull and lifeless affair that will only leave you yearning the original.

RENEGADE (1987) ** ½

In 1970, Terence Hill starred in the hit western, They Call Me Trinity and became an international star.  So much so that whenever he starred in a non-Trinity movie like this one, it was usually re-released under another name to make the audience think they were seeing a Trinity sequel. 


Hill stars as Renegade Luke, a con man who earns his money by scamming horse salesmen and shortchanging waiters.  When his old partner in crime is thrown in jail, he gives Renegade custody of his temperamental teenage son.  The two embark on a cross country road trip where they have to elude grubby truckers, greasy bikers, and clumsy hitmen.  Renegade tries to settle down with the kid in a quiet Amish community but their idyllic life is threatened when a greedy land developer (Robert Vaughn) shows up wanting them both dead.


Renegade is similar to such John Hughes father-spawn movies like Curly Sue and Dutch.  Like those films, this flick isn’t a laugh-a-minute comedy, and even though it’s not completely successful, it does have its moments.  I’ve never seen any of the Trinity movies, but Hill is good enough here to make me wanna check them out.  He’s pretty funny and has a natural screen charisma that helps carry the movie through its occasional lulls.  Although the flick gets bogged down once Hill gets to the Amish town, there are enough decent stunts (a helicopter chase, cars flipping and crashing, people jumping out of skyscrapers, etc.) along the way to keep you entertained.  Director Enzo Barboni stages the action competently and sprinkles in some genuine laughs, but the constant Lynyrd Skynyrd music will have you pulling your hair out. 


AKA:  They Call Me Renegade.  AKA:  You Call Me Trinity, They Call Me Renegade.


Palmer (Maurizio Merli) is a cop with a need for speed who goes above his superiors’ head and convinces his mechanic to soup up his patrol car.  He wants to be just like his supercop captain so he’s constantly trying to live up to his legend.  Unfortunately though, Palmer’s just not a very good driver and keeps crashing his car into various things.  Meanwhile, there’s a gang of thieves running around the city robbing banks whose wheelman is an ace driver who continually out drives the police.  With the help of his crusty captain and a few key modifications to his car, Palmer puts the pedal to the medal and sets out to catch the no-good crooks.  


Highway Racer is a middling slice of low budget Italian junk that has the benefit of some pretty good action sequences.  It contains a fair amount of chase scenes, some not-bad stunts and a few halfway respectable car crashes every ten or fifteen minutes.  Director Stelvio (Black Cobra) Massi may stage all the car scenes nicely but the acting (and dubbing) is perfectly dreadful.  It doesn’t say much for your film when the cars have more personality than the actors.  (Merli has so little screen presence that in one scene he actually gets upstaged by his car’s hood ornament.)


Merli may not be much of an actor but at least he gets to deliver the best line of the movie:  “Life is like a tube of toothpaste, you have to squeeze hard to get the best out of it!”  Maybe if he had squeezed harder, he would have given a better performance.  I doubt it. 


Massi and Merli teamed up the next year for Convoy Busters, which confusingly enough is also an alternate title for this flick.  


AKA:  Convoy Busters.