November 7th, 2012

LEGENDS OF THE SILVER SCREEN: SHANNON TWEED

Shannon Tweed is the Queen of the Erotic Thrillers. For that and that alone, she would be a Legend of the Silver Screen. But since she also starred in No Contest, the greatest Die Hard rip-off of all-time, she has a special place in my heart.

Our first Tweed film is…

SEXUAL RESPONSE (1992) ***

Sexual Response is an erotic thriller that stars Shannon Tweed AND Catherine Oxenberg. And that can mean only one thing: Kleenex stocks just went up a considerable amount.

Shannon Tweed stars as a call-in radio host named Eve. She’s trapped in a passionless marriage with Philip (Vernon Wells) and is looking for excitement. A bad boy named Edge (Emile Levisetti) flirts with her at the bar and she winds up having an affair with him. Eve knows that despite his rough exterior, he’s a sensitive guy. (And we, the audience know he’s a sensitive guy because he welds while wearing overalls and sunglasses.) When Eve calls it quits on the relationship, he begins stalking her. Things get even more complicated when her husband finds out what they’ve been up to.

Shannon Tweed is one of the sexiest women in the history of cinema. But to me, she’s even sexier when she’s playing uptight characters like this. (See also: Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death.) I particularly liked how her character gave her callers sexy advice that she herself would never take; that is until “Edge” seduces her. (Tweed more or less did the same call-in radio host routine in Hot Line series.)

Catherine Oxenberg (one of my all-time crushes) is also in this movie as Tweed’s radio show manager. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any sex scenes in this movie. However, she does suck on a carrot a few times. And if you love Catherine Oxenberg as much as I do, then that will be enough for you.

And Vernon Wells is pretty great in this movie. He doesn’t hit the heights of Road Warrior or Commando or anything, but that’s okay. His character was much more subdued than the kind of guys Wells usually plays, which worked for me. I mean, just look at him trying to look “normal” while sporting a yuppie ponytail. Somehow, seeing him like that is even creepier than seeing him in leather ass-less chaps or a chainmail vest.

Overall, Sexual Response features seven sex scenes, all of them involving Shannon Tweed. There are six Guy on Girl scenes and one Shower scene. That means we get a sex scene about every 13 minutes or so. That’s not a great average, but the sex scenes are all pretty good and the first one in particular is a doozy.

Of course, it helps that all the sax solos on the soundtrack during the sex scenes are fairly awesome. At one point, the sax guy even gets a close-up! It’s not as good as the gag in Fatal Instinct, but I dug it.

The sex in this movie is good. So how is the violence? Not bad. There’s this one part where a guy gets his throat slit and his blood spills onto a plate of cold spaghetti. That’s some real Godfather type shit right there.

I have to admit that the twist ending is pretty out there. But you know what? I kinda thought it was awesome. In fact, in retrospect, it makes the sex scenes in the movie kinda creepy when you think about it.

Shannon of course gets the best line of the movie when she says: “I have to convince my publisher that Masters and Johnson was wrong!”

Our next slice of Shannon cinema is…

MODEL BY DAY (1994) ** ½

Famke Janssen stars as a sexy supermodel whose friend (Traci Lind from Fright Night 2) gets assaulted by some thugs and nearly loses an eye. When the cops can’t help her, Famke becomes a kickboxing avenger in sunglasses and purple tights called Lady X. Naturally, the cops spend more time trying to catch Lady X than the real criminals.

Model By Day has a pretty good pedigree. It was directed by Christian (Screamers) Duguay, edited by Patrick (My Bloody Valentine 3-D) Lussier, and written by Joseph Loeb and Matthew Weisman, the team who wrote the one and only Commando. It also boasts a pretty great supporting cast. There’s Sean Young as Famke’s bitchy agent, Kim Coates as a sleazy nightclub owner, and Shannon Tweed as a tough karate instructor whose motto is: “If he hurts you… It’s YOUR fault!” Of course, I wish Tweed’s role was larger, but there IS a scene where she wears some skintight leather.

I really wanted to like this movie, but it’s just too episodic and uneven for me to fully recommend it. One scene will be all stylish and music video-y (like the hospital scene) and the next will look like your average DTV action junk (the fight scenes are rather sloppily edited). The comedy bits, while somewhat amusing (there’s a Basic Instinct parody scene) are rather ill-fitting too. The movie sometimes resembles a cheap buffet. There’s some stuff I liked and plenty I didn’t.

Famke is great in this. Her sexy performance is easily the best thing about the movie. You can picture Bryan Singer watching Model By Day late one night on cable and immediately thinking she’d make a great Jean Grey.

She also gets the best line of the film: “Sure, Johnny shot a lot of people, but I have no reason to think he’s being dishonest with me!”

And our final Tweed flick is…

WHITE CARGO (1996) ** ½

A hot babe is killed and detective David Bradley investigates. He soon gets mixed up with a crooked modeling agency (ran by Shannon Tweed) and squares off against Italian and Asian gangsters who are about to start an opium war. Bradley also finds time to rekindle his relationship with his kinky ex (Lydie Denier) and when she also gets killed, he goes out for revenge.

White Cargo kinda suffers from the same problems as Model By Day. It’s pretty much all over the place and tries to be too many things at the same time. It wants to be a detective movie, but there’s also a subplot about a struggling photographer trying for her big break that eats up a lot of screen time. And the opening scene where a chick gets killed with darts seems like something out of an Italian giallo. But every so often Bradley will Kung Fu a bunch of random people just to remind you… you know… it’s a David Bradley movie. And like Model By Day, there just wasn’t enough Shannon Tweed for my liking.

This flick does contain some random weirdness that keeps you entertained. Most of said scenes revolve around a creepy crime scene photographer named Greasy who talks dirty to corpses while he’s taking their pictures. This dude, who looks like a cross between Clint Howard and Wade Boggs, probably deserved his own spin-off movie. We also get a great scene where Bradley fights a dominatrix in a leather bar and beats up a guy wearing a T-shirt that says, “Homo”.

Also odd is the bartender character played by Tiny “Zeus” Lister. He spends nearly the whole movie serving Bradley drinks and shining shot glasses, but at the 11th hour he inexplicably joins in on the fight. I wish he had more to do in the rest of movie, but it’s still sorta funny to see him appearing out of nowhere to gun people down.

In fact, the whole final reel where Bradley, Tweed, and Lister run around side by side by side shooting bad guys and blowing up lots of shit is pretty awesome. As many reservations I have about White Cargo, I do have to say, the ending is fucking nuts. Despite that, I still have to take off points for the fact that the ultra-hot Lydie Denier has not one but TWO sex scenes (including one with another chick), but she doesn’t get naked.

Bradley gets the best lines of the movie when he’s trying to make peace with a Chinese drug lord. Some of my favorites: “The smoke of the poppy has reared its ugly head!” and “Your word is as pure as water from a mountain stream!”

Next week’s Legend: Michael Pare.

MEATBALLS 4 (1992) **

Meatballs was a good kids movie, but if it didn’t have Bill Murray in it, nobody would’ve remembered it. Meatballs 2 was an OK 80’s sequel that I enjoy more than most would, just because I have fond memories of seeing it in the theater as a kid. I never saw Meatballs 3, so I can’t comment on it, but Part 4 has lots of T & A in it, which is more than I can say for Meatballs 1 and 2.

Jack Nance owns a waterskiing camp and every year, his campers compete with a rival camp, ran by Sarah Douglas in a big waterskiing tournament. Corey Feldman is Nance’s only hope for winning, but he’s so cocky that most of the campers resent him. The disgruntled water-skiers then jump shit (heh) to Douglas’ camp and Feldman has to man-up and prove he’s as good as he says he is.

Meatballs 4 was directed by Bob Logan, the man who did the decent Exorcist spoof, Repossessed. This one isn’t nearly as good as that film, but it’s watchable. I mean, there are plenty of summer camp movies out there and there are plenty of movies with the number 4 in it. Meatballs 4 is about middle of the road on both counts.

There are some novel moments here. There’s a strip charades scene and a part where Feldman plays chicken on jet skis. However, most of the jokes revolve around people falling off of water skis, which isn’t very funny. Neither is a lot of Feldman’s blustering, but I have to admit that the part where he dances like MJ at a party while a faux version of “Black or White” plays on the soundtrack made me laugh.

Corey gets the best line of the movie when he addresses a woman’s cleavage and says, “Bill… Ted… Been on any excellent adventures lately?” He also gets meta at the end of the flick when he tells a babe: “I was in The Goonies!”

AKA: Happy Campers. AKA: Summer Vacation.

DETECTIVE-PALOOZA: DICK TRACY

DICK TRACY VS. CUEBALL (1946) ** ½

Dick Tracy (Morgan Conway) is investigating a series of murders. He does some snooping and discovers they’re connected to a recent diamond robbery. As it turns out, the arch criminal Cueball (Dick Wessel) is going around strangling everyone who cheated him out of his cut of the loot. Dick then uses his girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Anne Jeffreys) as bait to catch Cueball.

Dick Tracy (Morgan Conway) is a bit stiff in this go round. I know he’s supposed to be a square, but that doesn’t mean he had to be so damned dull. And the gag involving Pat Patton (Lyle Latell) getting hit on the head wasn’t funny the first time. It was less funny the twelfth time it happened.

Luckily, Wessel makes for a cool villain. Whenever he’s on screen threatening crooks and strangling stoolies with a ninety five cent hatband, Dick Tracy vs. Cueball is a lot of fun. There are some other neat touches along the way. I liked the bar called The Dripping Dagger that has a neon sign of a bloody knife in the front window.

Director Gordon Douglas’ workmanlike style doesn’t do the movie any favors. He had a long and varied career, directing everything from Them to Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off. If only Douglas incorporated more of the flavor from Chester Gould’s comic strip, perhaps Dick Tracy vs. Cueball might’ve worked a bit better.

DICK TRACY MEETS GRUESOME (1947) ***

Gruesome (Boris Karloff) is a criminal who gets a whiff of nerve gas and is knocked out cold. Presumed dead, he’s taken to the morgue where he later escapes and uses the gas in a daring bank robbery. Dick Tracy investigates and sets out to bring Gruesome and his gang to justice.

Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome benefits greatly from the presence of Boris Karloff. Honestly, the film is probably no better or worse than Dick Tracy vs. Cueball, but the fact that Boris Karloff is in it gives it the edge. And he’s pretty awesome in this movie too. I especially loved the scene where he wakes up in the morgue.

The flick also features the original Dick Tracy, Ralph Byrd reprising his role from the serial. I have nothing against Morgan Conway, but I’ve always preferred Byrd. Plus, he has a profile that’s closer to Tracy’s.

I’ll admit, there are parts of this movie that are just plain goofy. Take for example the bank robbery scene where people have to stand very still to make it look like they’re frozen in time. But when it’s Boris Karloff doing the freezing, it doesn’t really matter.

Dick Tracy’s trusted sidekick Pat Patton gets the best line of the movie when he says: “If I didn’t know any better I’d swear we were doing business with Boris Karloff!”

AKA: Dick Tracy’s Amazing Adventure.