July 25th, 2009

VICE ACADEMY 6 (1998) **

Vice coppers Candy (Elizabeth Kaitan) and Traci (Raelyn Saalman) are at it again in this sixth and final installment of the Vice Academy franchise.  This time out, our girls inadvertently let three smoking hot “Bikini Bandits” rob a bank.  An Internal Affairs officer is brought on the case and mistakenly thinks that Candy helped the robbers get away.  (She didn’t, she’s just really stupid.)  He sends her to jail but Candy escapes and sets out to clear her name.

 

It took me a while but I finally made my way through all the Vice Academy movies.  Overall, I’d say that Part 6 is a thoroughly middle-of-the-road effort from series writer/producer/director Rick (Hobgoblins) Sloane.  The cinematography is a lot better as well and the flick looks like a real movie for a change.  That doesn’t mean much in the long run because like most of the sequels in this tired franchise, Part 6 is low on tits and laughs.

 

Unlike its predecessors, Vice Academy 6 has some real “jokes” in it.  Unfortunately, only a fraction of them are actually funny.  That’s more than what can be said for most of the movies in the series though.  For instance, there is one stripper who is named “Sophisticatia”.  Admittedly not the best joke in the world but if you’ve been to enough strip clubs in your lifetime, you’ll know that they have some incredibly stupid names sometimes.  There was also a pretty funny sight gag involving a sign that was out in front of the bank after it was robbed which read:  “The bank is closed due to a robbery.  We have lost all your money.  Sorry for the inconvenience.”  The funniest part however was this dialogue exchange that took place while the bank was being robbed: 

 

Nun:  “Let’s pray.  Do you know anything from Genesis?”

 

Hooker:  “Not since Phil Collins left the group!”

 

We’re not talking Abbott and Costello here but it’s OK as far as these things go.  Since I’ve sat through all of these flicks and now can consider myself an authority on the series, I’d tell you to check out the first one and skip the rest.  If you’re wondering how I’d rank ‘em: Part 1, Part 5, Part 3, Part 6, Part 2, and Part 4.

BASKET CASE (1982) ****

“What’s in the basket?”

 

It’s a question asked by many people in Basket Case.  Those who find out usually get torn to pieces.  Most of them deserve it.  Some of them don’t.  The ones that do boy… phew!  

 

Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) carries the titular wicker box around for most of the movie.  He checks into a fleabag hotel in New York City with the box in tow.  But he’s not in New York to sightsee.  Duane’s really there to find the doctors who…

 

I know most of you reading this review already know what is inside the box.  Usually I have no qualms about spoiling major plot points in my reviews.  Most of the time, I’ll tell the movie’s “big secret” in the review without so much as a Spoiler Warning.  Not this time.  If you’re reading this and have never seen Basket Case before, stop reading this and go see it IMMEDIATELY.  

 

You know I watched Basket Case today for the first time in several years and it’s amazing how well it still holds up even after repeated viewings.  I’ve seen it probably a half dozen times now (the first time I saw it was on Up All Night or Night Flight, I can’t remember) and it still packed a wallop today.  Why does it work so well?  Mostly because we can sympathize with Duane’s plight.  We want to see him get his revenge; that’s a given.  We also want to see him get the girl too.  Because of his attachment to what’s inside the basket, we know it can’t be.  

 

Another thing that makes Basket Case fire on all cylinders is director Frank (Frankenhooker) Henenlotter’s storytelling.  He expertly sets up the premise (not before starting things off with an unsettling murder set piece) and slowly builds the suspense to a boil.  He also captures the sleazy side of early 80’s New York with a lovingly affectionate eye.  The way he films The Big Apple’s rundown flophouses, Kung Fu movie theaters, hookers, and drug dealers, he makes it seem like a pretty cool place to live.

 

I watched the flick today with a buddy of mine who had never seen it.  Part of the fun was watching him reacting to the film.  He loved every second of it and jumped and howled at all the right places.  This flick really works with a crowd.  I can only imagine what it was like to see it in a packed theater full of people.

 

They don’t make movies like Basket Case anymore.  If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and see it.  If you’ve already seen it, check it out again.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

Basket Case is on The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of 1982 at the Number 7 spot which places it in between First Blood and Tron.

A MAN CALLED HORSE (1970) **

Richard Harris stars as a prissy Englishman doing some hunting in the Wild West who gets captured by Sioux Indians.  They drag him around and make fun of him (they call him “Horse”) before eventually turning him into a slave for some old wench.  One day he kills and scalps two scouts from a warring tribe and earns the respect of the Sioux.  He also gets the balls up to ask the chief’s sizzling hot daughter (Corinna Tsopei) to marry him.  In order to get her to suck his teepee though he has to go through a torturous process known as “The Sun Vow” in which he gets some hooks shoved through his nipples and is suspended in mid-air.  After he successfully completes The Sun Vow, he is made a part of the tribe and he gets the chick to sit on his wigwam.  The other tribe is still sore about their dead peeps so they send a war party to fuck up the Sioux’s village.  Horse successfully defends the Sioux people and drives away their enemies but not before his woman gets killed in the fracas.  Although in the end, the Sioux try to make Horse the chief of their village, he just up and leaves.  What a dick.

 

I always read that A Man Called Horse was influential because the grueling Sun Vow sequence was copied so many times in dozens of Italian cannibal movies.  I won’t lie.  The Sun Vow scene is intense.  I didn’t even mind the reverse-negative “Spirit Journey” sequence that followed where Horse found his “Power Animal” either.  (After 2001:  A Space Odyssey, it was almost a pre-requisite to have a “trip” sequence somewhere in your movie.)  The thing is; nothing else in the movie comes close to topping that scene.

 

Part of the problem is the character of Horse himself.  He’s basically a prick.  He only thinks of himself and gets married because he sees it as a way to escape.  Although he has a mild change of heart when he willingly becomes the son of the old hag who used him as a slave, he still leaves the tribe in the end when they need him the most.  What a D-Bag.

 

Director Elliot (The Car) Silverstein’s pacing is erratic at best.  At times the film limps along like a wounded three-legged goat and other times there are long stretches where nothing happens.  The performances don’t help either.  Harris isn’t very likable although, it’s more of his character’s fault than his.  There is one funny part where the Sioux went to scalp a guy that was already bald but other than that, there’s not much in the way of making the Indians three-dimensional characters.  The only Indian that leaves much of an impression is Corinna Tsopei as Horse’s wife, Running Deer.  They shoulda called her character Smoking Fox.  Hubba-hubba-hubba.

 

Harris went on to star in two sequels, Return of a Man Called Horse and Triumphs of a Man Called Horse.  I can’t say I really wanna find out what happens next but I do think it’s intriguing that Irvin Kershner directed Return.  Since this guy directed two of the best sequels ever made, The Empire Strikes Back and Robocop 2, I may have to check that one out at least.