December 8th, 2008

NETWORK (1976) ***

Anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) gets canned by his network and goes on the air and tells everyone that he’s going to kill himself.  The top brass gets upset but they give him a chance to go back on television and apologize.  Beale uses this opportunity to say the word “bullshit” a lot and while this enrages a lot of the executives, it also gets very big ratings.  The network then decides to give Howard his own show, despite the fact that the man is obviously is having some sort of breakdown and is slowly going bat shit insane.  When Beale’s ratings eventually dwindle, the bitchy programming executive (Faye Dunaway) has him murdered on the air to keep up the ratings.


Network is a searing indictment of television that is just as relevant today as it was in 1976.  While some of the stuff in Paddy Chayefsky’s script doesn’t ring true (Beale’s show looks like a cross between the 700 Club and an Andy Williams Christmas Special), Sidney Lumet’s direction is intense and the performances are all great.  Finch is captivating as the nutty newscaster and deserved his posthumous Oscar.  There is a reason why you always see his “I’m mad as Hell” speech on every Oscar clips show; because he’s awesome.  Dunaway is also excellent and reminds you that there was a time when she actually had a decent career and William (The Wild Bunch) Holden is quite good as a crusty old school television man. 


I would have enjoyed the movie a lot more if it had just focused on the meltdown of Howard Beale, but there are a lot of annoying subplots that slow things down.  The love angle between Dunaway and Holden feels like it came out of another movie and the subplot about a SLA reject organization getting their own TV show just does not work.  Still, it’s highly recommended for Finch’s fantastic performance alone.


No matter how bad a movie is (and let me tell ya something folks, Skinwalkers IS bad) I can usually stomach it as long as it’s got three of the following: 


1.  A group of greasy villains who pursue the heroes and demand that they hand over a youngster, whom they intend to sacrifice; usually while saying shit like, “Give us the boy!” and “All we want... is the child!”


2.  A character making a startling realization accompanied by a slow motion shot of his coffee cup shattering and making an echo-y “Ka-Cha-ha-ha” sound.


3.  A wizened old Native American medicine man that imparts wisdom to the white heroes who gets ruthlessly murdered and is never missed.


Skinwalkers has all three of these wonderful ingredients, yet it’s still a monumental waste of 90 minutes. 


There’s a prophecy about a 12 year-old kid who will bring about the end for all Skinwalkers (or “werewolves”, as we used to call them in my day) on his 13th birthday.  There are two factions of Skinwalkers:  Good Skinwalkers who believe they are cursed and welcome the idea of being human, and Bad Skinwalkers who like being wolfy and eating people.  The Bad Skinwalkers are led by this guy who looks like Michael Hutchence if he didn’t auto-eroticize himself to death who along with his Native American biker buddies (or at least people who are spray tanned so they kinda resemble Native Americans) set out to find the kid and murder him.  The pipsqueak is protected by Casey Jones from Ninja Turtles and that hot chick from Doomsday so the kid at least has a fighting chance.


The thing I couldn’t figure out about Skinwalkers was why the people waited to change into werewolves until an hour into the film.  I mean all they do is get into Walker Texas Ranger style shootouts every ten minutes or so.  Then once I saw the actual werewolves, I understood why they didn’t spend a lot of time as their hairier selves.  The werewolf make-up was about on par with Teen Wolf Too.


Man, what’s up with these movies like Skinwalkers and Underworld where they simply refuse to call the werewolves “werewolves”?  I don’t get it man.  I mean the movie had a semi-decent premise (It had greasy guys saying “All we want... is the child!” for God’s sakes!), but the execution is completely wretched.  It’s as if director James Isaac forgot everything he learned on Jason X and decided to go the pussy-fied PG-13 horror movie route with Werewolves In Name Only.


The Bottom Line:  The Howling IV it is not.


There is a reason why you don’t see many killer frog movies:  Frogs just are NOT scary.  The only two killer frog movies I can think of are Frogs and this turd.  Whereas Frogs featured an army of regular sized frogs wreaking havoc, this one has one human sized frog-man wreaking havoc.  While Frogs at least had an environmental message, Rana:  The Legend of Shadow Lake has all the appeal of watching a complete stranger’s home movies of a long and boring camping trip.  It was directed by Bill Rebane, the man who made such cinematic atrocities such as The Alpha Incident, The Legend of Bigfoot and Twister’s Revenge, so if you’ve seen any of those flicks, you may already know what to expect.


The plot has a half-human frog monster swimming around a small town lake eating fishermen and hunters.  A forest ranger, a lady scientist and a young whippersnapper try to figure out the reason behind all the disappearances and eventually track the creature to its underground lair. 


Basically it’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon on a $6.58 budget.


The Legend of Boggy Creek was a big hit around the time that this flick was released, so Rebane was going for that whole “Is it fact or fiction?” thing.  The problem with that approach is that where a Bigfoot type monster MAY be a tad realistic, a half man-half frog just simply is not.  The film is filled with long boring scenes with Opie Taylor type kids fishing and camping that will just put you to sleep after awhile.  The constant annoying voiceovers and narration will also wear on your last nerve.


The gore is OK.  We get a spear gun through the chest, a fishing hook through the throat, and a couple decent shots of half-digested fishermen.  The frog-man suit is too stupid to be taken seriously and isn’t quite awful enough to be good for a laugh, so it’s pretty useless.  The final shot promises us a sequel, which thankfully never happened.


Troma later got a hold of this and re-released it under the name Croaked:  The Frog Monster from Hell; which didn’t really do it any favors either.


AKA:  Croaked:  The Frog Monster from Hell.  AKA:  Rana:  The Creature from Shadow Lake.  AKA:  Ranna.


<Special Note:  I had originally intended to have this up on the night that The Diamond State Drive-In Theater closed, but what started out as a small farewell grew into a massive eulogy (nearly 3,000 words).  I hope you have as much fun reading this as I did writing it.>


Felton, Delaware.  Saturday, November 29th.  9:00 pm.


The Diamond State Drive-In Theater, Delaware’s only drive-in movie theater has closed its doors forever.


It’s gone to that Big Drive-In in the Sky.


We may never see another drive-in in the First State again.


But I’ve come here to praise the drive-in, not to bury it.  For over half a century, The Diamond State Drive-In Theater provided Delaware with the best movie-going experience you can have.  To me, there is no single better way to watch a movie than sitting in your own personal automobile under the stars with someone you love.  


The first drive-in theater opened in Camden, New Jersey on June 6, 1933.  Over the years, the number of drive-ins grew and grew, and particularly flourished during the post World War II “Baby Boom”.  It was in this period that The Diamond State Drive-In Theater opened up in Felton (on August 12, 1949 to be exact).  At the peak of drive-in’s popularity, there were close to 5,000 drive-ins in America.  In 1954 there were as many as 9 drive-in theaters in the state of Delaware alone.  Now, there are none.


Now you might say, “Mitch, what does it matter to you?  After all you live in MARYLAND for Pete’s sakes!”


I’ll tell you why it matters to me.  I have a soft spot in my heart for the drive-ins of yesteryear.  One of my earliest and most memorable movie-going experiences was at the now long gone Delmar Drive-In in Delmar, Delaware.  There I saw a double feature of Mortuary and Mausoleum.  It was that night when I saw Bobbie Bresee’s breasts grow monstrous faces and devour Marjoe Gortner that I realized that the drive-in was the only true place to see a movie.  That historic evening took place in Delaware.  As much as I love my home state, the nearest drive-in in Maryland is in Middle River, about three hours away from my house in Bishopville.  Not an easy haul.  The Diamond State Drive-In was about an hour away, a much more manageable commute even when you’re driving home from a from-dusk-till-dawn show. 


The DSDIT was also far more economical than the multiplexes (or as like to call them, “Roofies”).  Double Features cost a measly $8 compared to the $10 you had to fork over in order to see ONE damn movie at a Roofie.  In addition to having some of the best damn popcorn I’ve ever tasted, the DSDIT also served up some out-of-this-world cheeseburgers and inexpensive drinks.  I mean me and my wife would get two tickets, a complete dinner, a healthy ration of snacks for about $30.  You spend that much at a Roofie just on tickets and concessions, without the benefit of a hearty meal AND you only get to see ONE movie to boot.


Plus, you got to enjoy the movie inside the comfy confides of your own personal form of transportation and didn’t have to worry about some stupid teenager talking on his cellphone throughout the whole movie.  If on the rare occasion someone did start getting obnoxious, you could simply roll your window up and turn the volume up on the FM radio and all was right with the world.


Not to mention you get to see some of the best pre-show material that ever graced the silver screen.  I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of all those commercials they show at a Roofie before the film starts.  The DSDIT, while they do show one or two newer ads, always begin their night's entertainment with the immortal “Let’s All Go to the Lobby!” advertisement.  Honestly, there should be a federal mandate that says that all movie theaters in the nation have to play this before showing a motion picture.  Nothing and I mean nothing sets the mood for a film like some dancing popcorn and singing soda pop.  They also play vintage ads (my favorite is for the mosquito repellent Pic) and even Woody Woodpecker cartoons in between the features.  That’s old school. 


Now I’m not going to lie to you and pretend that I didn’t honestly prefer the days when drive-ins showed nothing but exploitation fare like The Big Bird Cage, I Spit on Your Grave, and Pieces (or as I like to call it “The Golden Age”) to the family-friendly oriented experience of the here and now.  As previously stated, I was weaned on stuff like Mausoleum so I may be a bit biased, but every now and then, the DSDIT would return to its Golden Age roots.  Like a few years back when, on Halloween weekend, they played an Evil Dead marathon.  I was sadly unaware that this went down until afterwards and I unfortunately missed out on the fun, but I sure as heck was there for the outstanding Texas Chainsaw Massacre Triple Feature in ‘06.  Yes no matter how many Disney movies and kid-friendly flicks the DSDIT showed, they always kept true to their drive-in heritage around All Hallow’s Eve. 


Folks, there is just nothing finer on God’s green Earth than sitting behind the steering wheel of your loyal automobile with the woman you love and watch Leatherface carve up teenagers into human pate not once but THREE times in a single evening.


My first experience with the DSDIT was back in ’03 when me and my brother fired up the dearly departed Ford Tempo and gunned it up Route 13 to see a Comic Book Double Feature of X-Men 2:  X-Men United and Daredevil.  I got to tell you it was love at first sight.  It was 1983 all over again.  While X-Men 2 is a classic piece of drive-in cinema, it was still no Mausoleum, but that was okay.  Top that off with a showing of Daredevil, one of the most criminally underrated movies of the 21st century, and you had not one, but two Four Star classics.


I admit I’m getting a bit teary-eyed at the fact that I will never see the sight of Ben Affleck dressed in tight red leather beating the crap out of low level hoods on an outdoor screen in Delaware ever again.


Personal and financial issues kept me from frequenting the DSDIT for the next couple of years but I never once forgot the magic of that evening watching Hugh Jackman slash the bejesus out of SWAT team personnel with his adamantium claws while under the stars.  It would take three years until I would see my next feature at the DSDIT, but it was well worth the wait as I took my beautiful wife to the aforementioned Texas Chainsaw Massacre Triple Feature.  You just know you’ve found that Special Someone when you can share with her the joys of seeing a redneck lunatic wielding a heavy duty power tool while wearing a mask made out of human skin. 


The next year saw us only visiting the drive-in once to see a double bill of Balls of Fury and the Rob Zombified Halloween.  You know I’ve long had a theory that the very nature of watching a film at a drive-in not only enhances the quality of your movie-going experience but the actual quality of the movie itself.  This theory was proven correct on that night.  By all means, Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake should’ve been a total cinematic turd but somehow seeing Zombie’s white trashy deja vu version of John Carpenter’s immortal classic at the drive-in added at least an extra star to the film.


Then the unthinkable happened.  In the early months of ’08 I learned that this was to be the final year of the beloved DSDIT.  I was dumbstruck.  How could this have happened?  I started beating up on myself for not visiting the drive-in as often as I would’ve liked.  I told myself that I should’ve been a more frequent patron.  That I should’ve gone more than only three times in five years.  As much as I loved the drive-in, I would only wait for “Must See” entertainment to play there before I would go.  If only I had gone more, maybe the drive-in wouldn’t be in this predicament.  I soon made a pledge to visit the drive-in as often as I could, whenever I could, to see whatever looked remotely interesting.


Thankfully ’08 was a GREAT year to be a drive-in moviegoer.  It seemed like wonderful drive-in fare was being cranked out on a week to week basis by Hollywood.  It was as if they sensed that the DSDIT was coming to an end so they decided to shower them with nothing but the finest drive-in flicks since Bobbie Bresee’s mammary monster faces in Mausoleum.


First trip we made up to the DSDIT during its final season was in April to see a double feature of Jumper and Rambo.  Usually drive-in double features work better when the films have a common theme.  Jumper and Rambo were similar in that they both had one-word titles.  Jumper was a low grade sci-fi action flick that like the Halloween remake; played ten times better while projected on the jumbo drive-in screen.  Then there was Rambo.  People, there is just nothing more American than seeing Rambo machinegun the bejabbers out of 2,500 Burmese soldiers while resting comfortably in your American made vehicle.  Sigh...  It’s moments like these that I’ll miss the drive-in most.  Sure I have this movie on DVD, but even if I watched it on Blu-Ray in High Definition quality on a 72 inch plasma screen, it still wouldn’t compare to the majesty of seeing Rambo firing 250,000 rounds of high caliber ammunition into the skulls of slimy Burmese soldiers on the drive-in movie screen.


The first week in May, me and the wife returned to our beloved DSDIT to check out the awesome double feature of Iron Man and The Forbidden Kingdom.  As with Rambo, Iron Man pulled at our jingoistic heartstrings when Robert Downey Jr. pulled a reverse 9/11 on some Afghani soldiers by napalming them in the face with a flamethrower.  Then Forbidden Kingdom started up and believe you me, that the drive-in was the perfect place to see the historic pairing of kung fu superstars Jackie Chan and Jet Li.


A few months later the drive-in was showing a Comic Book Double Feature of Hellboy 2:  The Golden Army and Wanted.  Since I had fond memories of my first trip to the drive-in where they showed a double bill of X-Men 2 and Daredevil, I figured I might as well make another pilgrimage to the DSDIT.  Hellboy 2 was no Daredevil but it did have a great scene in “The Troll Market” where there was about a thousand varieties of aliens, monsters and weirdos.  Wanted was next and it turned out to be the best brain dead action movie since Shoot ‘Em Up.  It didn’t make too much sense (a weaving loom tells assassins who they should murder or some such nonsense) but the best thing I can say about it was that Angelina Jolie’s naked frame looked damn fine projected upon the gargantuan drive-in screen.


A couple weeks passed and I heard that the DSDIT was playing The Dark Knight and The X-Files 2.  Although The Dark Knight is overrated like all get out, it will be forever remembered for Heath Ledger’s take-no-prisoners performance as The Joker; one of the best in the history of the drive-in.  When X-Files started up, it stunk up the joint but good.  Still, seeing a cinematic turd at a drive-in is a lot preferable to seeing a cinematic turd in a Roofie, that’s for damn certain.


Then on Labor Day Weekend, the DSDIT showed a From-Dusk-Till-Dawn Sci-Fi Quintuple Feature of Space Chimps, Meet Dave, Babylon A.D., Journey to the Center of the Earth, and The Happening.  While neither of the films turned out to be classics, most of them carried a wonderful aroma of drive-in goodness.  Space Chimps was typical of the kiddie fare that the drive-in now catered to, but it wasn’t terrible or anything.  Meet Dave was horribly marketed and the previews were awful, but it turned out to be surprisingly decent and had a handful of good laughs.  Babylon A.D. was Babylon O.K. and featured a great drive-in performance by Vin Diesel and some above average futuristic kung fu.  Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D was next, and even though it wasn’t shown in 3-D (I’m beginning to think this new 3-D craze is a complete crock because none of the movies that have been advertised as being in 3-D have actually been showed in 3-D at my local theaters), it had enough eye candy to keep me awake at 3:00 AM.  Finally, The Happening started up and it was probably the best dang M. Night Shyamamadingdong flick ever made.  I’m not saying that it was any good, but it did have that great scene in which Marky Mark begged a plastic plant not to kill him.  


What was even greater than seeing FIVE movies that evening (for the low, low cost of $10) was the fact that it gave us five intermissions to see all of those wonderful drive-in ads, some of which we saw for the first time.  There was the immortal “Let’s All Go to the Lobby”, a classic Woody Woodpecker cartoon, a wonderfully cheesy (no pun intended) nacho commercial from the 70’s, an ad featuring a juggling box of popcorn, as well as the good old “Countdown to Showtime” clock.


In the waning days of the DSDIT, they reverted back to playing nothing but kiddie friendly fare like Beverly Hills Chihuahua and High School Musical 3, so we didn’t really see a need to go back.  When the announcement came that on the final night of the drive-in, there would be only be showing ONE feature, my heart sank.  Although I desperately wanted to have one last visit to my favorite theater, the whole point of going to the drive-in was to get the double feature experience.  Add to the fact that the film in question was Bolt, yet another kid’s movie (and another one of those 3-D movies that’s NOT shown in 3-D) I knew I just couldn’t muster up the strength to go one last time.


I’m glad that the From-Dusk-Till-Dawn show was the final night that I went to the drive-in because that’s exactly how I wanted it to live on in my mind.  Showing great drive-in entertainment from sundown to sunrise, seeing such spectacular sights as Eddie Murphy sharpening his nose with a pencil, Vin Diesel kung fuing people with his futuristic metal hand, Brendan Fraser fighting off prehistoric piranhas, and scenes of people feeding themselves to lions, that’s how I wanted to remember the DSDIT.  I didn’t want to remember the drive-in as the place that showed badly animated CGI movies starring Scientologists. 


It’s kinda like remembering a deceased relative.  You don’t want your last memory of them to be of the senile version of their former self that wasted away dying a slow death in a nursing home.  No, you want to remember them as they were in their prime, when they were filled with life and love. 


Now all this time I didn’t sit idly by and let the drive-in go down without a fight.  I did all I could to help it prevail in its fight.  I wrote a plea to the great drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs who was especially bereaved to hear of the DSDIT’s imminent passing.  I wrote long letters to the Historical Society of Felton, urging them to consider it a historical landmark.  I got a pleasant reply from Sarah Ferguson who let me know that my voice did not go unheard, but at the end of the day, it did little from stopping the inevitable.  No matter how many voices were heard, the drive-in’s lights came to a close on November 29, 2008.


There is a silver lining though.  There are plans to move the drive-in to Wattsville, Virginia where it will hopefully reopen in ’09 or ’10.  By then, who knows what kind of spectacular drive-in entertainment will be in store for us.  One thing is for sure though; wherever the drive-in goes, I most certainly will follow.


Until we meet again under a starlit night, this is Mitch Lovell reminding you that the drive-in will live on...


The Killer Snakes is a Chinese version of Willard, except instead of a tormented loser getting pushed around and beaten up until he finally unleashes an army of killer rats on his enemies, it features a tormented loser getting pushed around and beaten up until he finally unleashes an army of killer snakes on his enemies.  There’s even a killer Komodo dragon in there for shits and giggles too.


What really separates the movie from Willard (besides the snakes) is the fact that the main character is also a sex maniac.  There are plenty of sleazy scenes where our “hero” looks at bondage porn and chokes his chicken while having bizarre multi-colored sex dreams where he gropes a bunch of naked chicks, ties them up and then whips them.  We also get a great scene where the guy is caught masturbating and then there’s a shot of a jug falling to the floor and squirting out milk.


I’m too lazy to look up this dude’s name who plays the Willard character, but he did a good job and talked to snakes in a convincing enough manner.  His soliloquies to the slimy buggers were great (especially since he was horribly dubbed) and he plays a pretty good sexual deviant too.    


The film is at its best during the scenes in which the crazy dude gets revenge on the muggers and hookers who bullied him.  In one particularly cool scene, our hero strings a mugger up by his feet and lets his pet cobra go to town on his face, but the best part comes when he ties a hooker up and lets the snake crawl up inside of her You Know What.  That shit rocked.


Even though it may seem like I’m talking this flick up to be a classic, The Killer Snakes ain’t exactly all it’s cracked up to be.  Sure, the film delivers on the sleazy goods most of the time; but the problem is that the main character isn’t remotely likable, making it extremely difficult to root for him on his quest for revenge.  While the film is loaded with too many dull patches where nothing happens for me to quite recommend it, killer snake movie enthusiasts will definitely want to check it out for some truly great scenes of wanton reptile destruction.  Members of PETA will be outraged at the footage of real snakes being sliced up and eaten as a delicacy, the slow motion shots of snakes being cut in half and scenes a real live snakes being set on fire.


The Killer Snakes isn’t the worst Willard rip-off out there, but it’s definitely the sleaziest, so that’s worth SOMETHING in my book.


The Roger Corman directed Vincent Price movies based on Edgar Allan Poe stories were so popular for AIP that when Corman directed Price in this H.P. Lovecraft adaptation of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, they changed the name to make you think you were getting a Poe movie.


Price stars as a warlock who was burned at the stake by a mob of angry villagers.  While burning, he curses the town and vows to return from the dead to haunt them.  Centuries later, his descendant Charles Dexter Ward (also Price) inherits the castle and moves into town, despite the audible protests of the villagers.  Slowly but surely Ward becomes possessed by his ancestor’s spirit and soon returns to his devious ways.


The Haunted Palace is in some ways reminiscent of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday and while it’s nowhere near the same league as that classic, it still is required viewing for Corman and Price fans.  Like most of Corman’s Poe movies, the film moves at a deliberate pace.  Even when things are slow-going, Corman heaps on tons of gothic atmosphere to keep you watching.  The magnificently atmospheric shots of foggy graveyards and creepy castle corridors are all elegantly filmed and make a perfect setting for Price to go absolutely insane.  The excellent score by Ronald Stein enhances the mood perfectly and those shots of eyeless mutants and angry “Old Ones” are pretty tight as well.


Price is aces when dealing with the conflicting personalities of Ward and his malevolent ancestor.  He has an amiable rapport with Lon Chaney, Jr., who plays the faithful caretaker, and the pair makes for a fine team.  The scenes involving the irritable townspeople complaining about Price’s antics kinda gum up the works; however the film is just peachy whenever Price gets crazy as an outhouse rat.


AKA:  The Haunted Village.

TOWER OF LONDON (1962) ** ½

Vincent Price stars in this remake of the 1939 film (in which is also starred in a different role) as the hunchbacked Richard III, Duke of Gloucester who murders his brother in order to sit on the throne of England.  Throughout the course of the movie, he murders anyone who gets in his way (or sends them to his torture dungeon, whichever is more convenient) and is consequently tormented by his victims from beyond the grave.  Of course, since this is Vincent Price we’re talking about, he wigs out big time whenever he sees one of these apparitions.    


As a drama, Tower of London is largely a failure.  The film is little more than a series of scenes of Price murdering his relatives and then being haunted by their ghosts afterwards.  This gets a bit repetitive after awhile and the movie often feels like it’s just chasing its tail. 


As a Vincent Price movie though, it works.  If you’re a fan of Price, you really owe it to yourself to check him out in this flick.  Price is great while giving long winded soliloquies, arguing with the ghosts of his dead relatives and when sentencing people to be tortured.


Speaking of torture, the scenes of people being whipped, placed on the rack, and having hungry rats unleashed onto their face are well done, although they really are quite tame.  The film’s weakness is that it’s more of a costume drama than a horror movie.  When you have Roger Corman behind the camera and Vincent Price on screen hamming it up, you have high expectations and Tower of London just doesn’t live up to them.  I personally loved seeing Price off his rocker and there were enough scenes of him acting nuttier than a squirrel turd for me to at least give the flick ** ½.


Price naturally gets the best line of the movie when he says, “Do you think my affection is as warped as my back?”


There were a lot of twin movies being made around the time that Double Impact came out.  We had Big Business, Twins, and Dead Ringers just to name a few.  Double Impact is slightly better than those movies, although that still doesn’t mean that it’s really all that good.


The plot:  After the murder of their parents, a set of twins are separated to keep them safe from a horde of scummy bad guys.  25 years later, one twin is a slick LA aerobics instructor and the other is a greasy, cigar-chomping smuggler.  Together with their bad ass uncle (Geoffrey Lewis), they team up to avenge their parent’s death.


While no one in their right mind would call Double Impact Jean Claude Van Damme’s best movie, it’s nevertheless a seminal film in his career because it marked the first time that JCVD played twins.  After Double Impact, Van Damme went on to play twins and/or dual versions of himself in Maximum Risk, Replicant, and The Order.  Double Impact represents the best of the dual Van Damme formula although admittedly, that’s not saying a whole heck of a lot.  


The murder of JCVD’s parents is pretty strong stuff as both baby JCVD’s are heard wailing in the background while their mother’s head is getting blown off.  Unfortunately, nothing else in the movie matches the violent intensity that this scene delivers.  Sure, one guy gets electrocuted, another gets his hand crunched in a combine and the main villain gets squashed, but it’s nowhere near what you’d expect from a 90’s Van Damme flick.  The action sequences aren’t choreographed all that well and lack the punch (and kick) of some of Van Damme’s best work.  The fight scene where both Van Dammes kickbox the shit out of each other starts out alright, but it’s ultimately undone by some shoddy low-grade editing and obvious stunt doubles.


The flick is also way too top heavy with plot and goes on for far too long than it really needed to.  (Did the world really need a 110 minute long Van Damme movie?)  The best part of the movie though is when the villain’s musclebound lesbian bodyguard “frisks” Van Damme’s big-titted girlfriend.


Van Damme is OK at playing twins I guess.  Neither one of his performances are really any good, but I guess you can’t really complain when you’re getting two Van Dammes for the price of one.  Bolo Yeung was great as the villain in Enter the Dragon and he does a good job here playing yet another bad guy and Geoffrey Lewis has some fine moments as the duo’s crusty uncle.  I also got a chub from seeing Julie Strain as an aerobics student.


Van Damme returned the next year with Universal Soldier.