December 13th, 2009

THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1985) ***

A rich couple invites two slimeballs (Last House on the Left’s David Hess and The Gates of Hell’s Giovanni Radice) to their swanky party.  Their stuck-up guests make fun of the duo and try to cheat them at cards, which really pisses off the pair of psychos.  They then proceed to torture and rape the female guests while beating the crap out of the dudes.  Predictably, the high-class victims eventually get the upper hand and exact their revenge.

 

The House on the Edge of the Park could’ve been a classic of the genre but it never completely comes together because the rich antagonists aren’t very likeable and in my opinion; get what’s coming to them.  I mean you can’t invite David Hess and Giovanni Radice to your party and not expect them to RSVP.  (Rape Somebody Very Perversely.) 

 

If you’re a David Hess fan, you’re immediately obliged to see The House on the Edge of the Park.  His charismatically nutzo turn is almost as good as his immortal performance in Last House on the Left.  He also gets what has to be the longest comeuppances of a villain in the history of cinema.

 

The flick is scary and has a number of shocks but it plays it’s cards too soon and the protracted finale doesn’t do it any favors either.  The way the tables constantly turn between the partygoers and the psychos is still intriguing though.  Director Ruggero (Cannibal Holocaust) Deodato really knows how to film David Hess acting all kinds of unhinged and that alone is enough to make the film a memorably sleazy Italian exploitation item.

RETURN OF THE DRAGON (1974) ***

Bruce Lee eats a bunch of soup and comes down with a major case of the shits.  Then the plot begins.  He gets a job protecting a Chinese restaurant in Rome from some meddling gangsters that extort money from the place.  Whenever the thugs show up, he mops the floor with them.  (When he isn’t shitting his guts out that is.)  The gangsters get so mad at him for messing up their plans that they hire Chuck Norris to kick his ass. 

 

It does not go as planned.

 

I hadn’t seen this movie in a long time and had forgotten about all the lame comic relief and turd humor.  I’m not lying when I say that Bruce Lee takes a shit no less than three times in the first twenty minutes of the movie.  (Each time accompanied by stupid comedic music.)  It isn’t very funny.  Bruce should really leave the comedy stuff to Jackie Chan.  There is some pretty funny unintentional humor though.  (I particularly liked the henchman that dressed like a gay Asian version of Elmer Fudd.)

 

Lee also directed the film as well as choreographed the fight scenes.  The action is solid and features Lee doing his patented Wooing and Waaing shtick.  He also uses sticks and nunchucks to fuck a bunch of dudes up.  I just wish Lee hadn’t thrown in so much damn comic relief during the fight scenes as it takes away much of their impact.  (At one point Bruce throws a chopstick into a guy’s ass.)  And as great and iconic as Bruce’s fight with Chuck Norris in the Coliseum is, it’s still hampered by some gratuitous and unfunny comedic asides; like the part when Bruce rips out a chunk of Chuck’s chest hair.  (Bruce, seriously… did we need the extreme close-up on the kitten right before you delivered the final punch?)

 

Even though Lee made this before the immortal Enter the Dragon, Return of the Dragon wasn’t released here in the States until the following year.

 

AKA:  The Way of the Dragon.  AKA:  Fury of the Dragon.  AKA:  Revenge of the Dragon.

THE DIARY OF ELLEN RIMBAUER (2003) * ½

Rose Red was one of the worst Stephen King made for TV mini-series The Master of Horror ever did, so why the heck anyone would want to make a prequel movie is beyond me.  The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer is all about how the haunted house in that movie became evil and stuff.  As haunted house prequels go; it’s no Amityville 2:  The Possession that’s for damn sure.

 

The time and place is Seattle, 1910.  The prim and proper Ellen Gilcrest (Lisa Brenner) marries the rich John Rimbauer (Steven Brand) who has a taste for kinky sex.  He builds her a big ass mansion named Rose Red and in exchange, Ellen lets him get his freak on.  For their honeymoon, he takes her to Africa where he makes her have a three-way with a native gal named Sukeena (Tsidii Le Loka).  Ellen brings her back to America with them and keeps Sukeena on as her housemaid and confidant.  The Rimbauers gets down and dirty a lot through the years and naturally produce a couple of kids.  One day Ellen’s daughter gets sucked into a globe quicker than you can say Rand McNally and she spurns her pervert hubby so she can hang out with her ghostly offspring.  When John sees the ghost of his daughter, he completely spazzes out and jumps to his death.  

 

The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer plays more like a Harlequin romance novel than a Stephen King prequel.  Since the movie was made for TV, Mr. Rimbauer’s debauchery seems lame and tame.  In order for the flick to be truly effective, it needed an R rating to fully explore his kinky side.  (And show some titties for Christ’s sake.)  It also sucks that nothing out-and-out supernatural happens until the final twenty minutes of the movie.  Hey look on the bright side; at least it isn’t four hours long like Rose Red was.

 

Craig R. Baxley directed Rose Red and was behind the camera for this one too.  This is the man who directed such classics as Action Jackson, Stone Cold, and Under Pressure.  What on earth is he doing directing this tripe?  He also directed the 1999 made for TV King flick, Storm of the Century; which was pretty good. 

 

He should’ve quit while he was ahead.

NATURE UNLEASHED: AVALANCHE (2004) *

Remember when you needed an all-star cast in order to make a disaster movie?  Thanks to The SyFy Channel, you don’t need big names to star in your Nature Gone Amok Flick.  Now you can take all that money that would’ve normally gone to paying big name actors to appear in your movie and spend it all on crappy CGI effects.

 

Some jackass falls off his snowmobile and it causes a mini-avalanche.  Then an avalanche expert (let’s call her “The Snow Whisperer”) hires a couple of dumbasses to take her up on the mountain to check things out.  (She gets most of her data from eating snow.)  Turns out, there’s a “Super Avalanche” headed towards a brand new swanky hotel.  Naturally the rat bastard resort owner doesn’t want the place evacuated because it will ruin the grand opening.  He finally wises up when his daughter gets snowed in and he asks for the help of The Snow Whisperer to rescue her.

 

The CGI avalanche effects are pretty bad but the practical effects are even worse.  It looks like the crew literally held big sheets of ice in front of the camera and cracked them in slow motion to simulate an impending avalanche.  There’s also a lot of obvious fake snow flying everywhere when the avalanche caves in the hotel.  Sadly, the only remotely cool (no pun intended) thing about this movie is the close-up of The Snow Whisperer’s gnarled frostbitten foot.

 

Screenwriter John Sheppard did pen some unintentionally funny dialogue.  Some of my favorites include, “If you don’t mind, I have a snowmobile to fill up!” and “Hell is not hot; it’s cold, heavy, and inescapable!” Sheppard also penned the much better Operation Condor, Detention, and Never Cry Werewolf.

 

AKA:  Avalanche.

FIRED! (2007) ***

Actress Annabelle Gurwitch gets unceremoniously fired from a Woody Allen play.  She deals with her subsequent depression by interviewing a bunch of celebrities about their memories of getting canned.  In addition, Gurwitch talks with everyday people who’ve lost their jobs.  In the end, everyone pretty much comes to the conclusion that losing your job only opens you up for bigger and better opportunities.

 

I’ve always liked Annabelle Gurwitch on Dinner and a Movie and I know what it’s like to lose my job, so it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed this documentary.  Gurwitch’s interviews with her famous friends (who include Tim Allen, David Cross, Andy Dick, Sarah Silverman, Fred Willard, Paul F. Tompkins, and many more) make up the bulk of the movie.  Among my favorite anecdotes are Tate Donovan’s story about being fired from Torch Song Trilogy (done as a puppet show!), Fisher Stevens talking about being let go from Friends before it became a big hit, and Ben Stein showing his distain for corporations that instigate mass layoffs while giving themselves big fat raises.

 

The scenes of common out-of-work folk are just as insightful as the celebrities’ stories.  Especially memorable are the Michigan autoworkers that wind up getting laid off before the documentary gets completed.  If only Gurwitch had waited another year or two to interview them when the unemployment rates skyrocketed.  I bet those blue collar workers would’ve had some REALLY interesting things to say then.

MOVING TARGETS (1998) **

David Giancola, director of Mystery Science Theater 3000 favorite, Time Chasers was behind the camera for this ho-hum cops n’ mobsters flick.  It’s all about a lawyer who is in possession of a computer disc that incriminates a slimy gangster (Miles O’Keeffe).  Before he gets a chance to testify, the mobster has him killed.  It then falls on the shyster’s widow (Libby Hudson) to make sure the cops get the disc.

 

Moving Targets is pretty weak (it’s hamstringed by a PG-13 rating) but it’s harmless quasi-entertainment.  Despite feeling like a boring episode of Law and Order most of the time, it does feature some OK action sequences for such a shoestring production.  There are car chases and snowmobile chases and a handful of explosions too.  The highlight though is a rather solid bus chase that concludes with the bad guy getting rammed by a speeding train.

 

The cast is all over the place, which helps keep you watching.  It’s amusing seeing Burt Ward playing a donut munching detective.  He’s not very good but I have to say I did get a chuckle or two out of watching The Boy Won… err… make that The Middle-Aged Wonder trying to talk tough.  It was also weird seeing Scream Queen Linnea Quigley wearing lots of clothes and very little make-up as the District Attorney.  As much as I love Linnea, she was woefully wrong for this sort of role.  It was just odd enough casting to make it funny though.

 

It’s Hudson who gets the best line of the movie when she tells a flirty lesbian cop, “Remember, I like the penis!”