January 11th, 2014

MIAMI CONNECTION (1987) *** ½

You know you’re in for something special from the very first scene, which features Ninjas on motorcycles. Yes, Ninjas on motorcycles. Things only get better in the next scene when a rock band named “Dragon Sound” belts out one of the most hilariously awful hair metal power ballads these ears have ever heard. The band is enjoying a nice run playing at a swanky club, but the group they replaced is extremely sore about the whole thing. They try to beat up Dragon Sound, but naturally, since Dragon Sound is a rock band comprised solely of Black Belts in Tae Kwon Do, they get their ass kicked. They then seek the help of a local thug to get back at Dragon Sound. Since Dragon Sound’s guitar player is dating his sister, he readily agrees. After several Kung Fu battles, Dragon Sound has to contend with the Ninjas on motorcycles for the big finale showdown!

As far as So Bad They’re Good Movies go (and as much as I hate that term, it certainly applies here), Miami Connection falls short of something like Troll 2, but it’s definitely a highly enjoyable cheesefest. This is my favorite kind of bad movie because it features some legitimately awesome moments (some of the fight scenes are really good), some ridiculously awful moments (the cheesy soundtrack features some unforgettable tunes like “Against the Ninja”), and some truly pathetic attempts at “acting” by the cast (they flub several lines). I mean, try not to laugh during the one guy’s tearful monologue about finding his long-lost dad. That shit was hilarious.

But while there are some legitimately awesome moments here, the film sorta loses its luster as it enters the final act. Things get a lot patchier in this section of the flick, and the final fight scene (it takes place in a big ass ditch) probably goes on a bit too long. Still, there are plenty of stellar moments of WTF movie magic here.

If you’re a fan of mullets, Kung Fu, and Ninjas on motorcycles, it is my duty as an American to tell you to rush out and see Miami Connection immediately.

AKA: American Streetfighters.

ANGELS FROM HELL (1968) * ½

Tom Stern stars as a biker who returns home to Bakersfield, California after serving in Vietnam. Before long, he beats up a surly biker and is elected leader of the gang. While planning a big coast-to-coast biker run, Stern parties with movie stars, smokes dope, hangs out at a hippie commune, and butts heads with the local sheriff (Jack Starrett).

Angels from Hell is a thoroughly boring biker flick. It was directed by Bruce Kessler, the man who directed Simon, King of the Witches. And like that film, Angels from Hell suffers from a case of severely lackadaisical pacing. The biker party scenes are rather dull and uneventful and it doesn’t exactly help that Stern isn’t very likeable. Sure, we get the requisite scenes of bikers parading down the highway while groovy tunes on the soundtrack blare out, but the songs (including the title track) are pretty weak. And while the downbeat ending echoes Easy Rider, it just comes off as forced.

The opening scene, where Stern comes to the rescue of a black biker being beaten in a bathroom, has a kick to it, but the rest of the film feels rather listless. And while Stern’s interaction with the sheriff (who is at least sympathetic to the bikers’ way of life) is sort of interesting, nothing ever really comes of it. At least has the benefit of some pretty funny biker lingo like, “I’m going to lay some jazz down on ya!” Other than that, Angels from Hell is one of the more sluggish and ho-hum biker flicks I’ve sat through.

CATACOMBS (1993) *

Centuries ago, some monks tried to perform an exorcism in the catacombs of Italy. They failed and the restless spirit remained hidden deep inside the catacombs. Of course, it gets loose in present day, kills off some monks, possesses a hot chick, and threatens the life of a sleepy-eyed American priest played by Timothy (Master Ninja) Van Patten.

Catacombs is one of the dullest horror movies I have endured in recent memory. Half of the flick is taken up by long scenes of people slowly wandering down a hallway before they are startled by a fake scare (or two). When these scenes get old, director David (Puppet Master) Schmoeller offers up long dream sequences to help pad out the running time. All this does is irritate the audience further. Every now and then, a character will find a bloody rose or an hourglass will start bleeding, but these events are few and far between. Schmoeller even fails to get any atmosphere out of the potentially eerie setting.

The only memorable part comes near the end when a life-sized statue of Jesus comes to life and kills a monk for eating a Snickers bar. For some folks, this nutty scene will be worth the price of admission. However, the rest of Catacombs is an utter bore. I can’t imagine most people staying awake that long anyway.

AKA: Curse 4: The Ultimate Sacrifice.