September 5, 2018

September's Mystery Movie: Third Clue

Clue #3: The writer of this month's movie wrote and directed one of the ultimate best-worst films.

Tape Freaks Presents: August's Mystery Movie at the Trylon CinemaWednesday, September 5th @ 7:00pm, only $5!

Knock Offs part II: If Looks Could Kill

We though this was going to be a James Bond knock off, but we were pretty surprised when the main character was less 007 and more Inspector Clouseau.

Normal everyday teenager with 5 o'clock shadow.
The plot unfolds something like this: Michael Corben is just your average high schooler who has to take summer school in order to graduate. He only has to make up his french credit, but must join the french honers students in France to do so. Poor Michael Corben. Meanwhile, British intelligence super spy (code name Blade) has just busted into Augustus Steranko's mansion and is about to ruin his plans for world domination. But Blade is taken off guard when he is promptly dispatched by Steranko's right hand. US intelligence has the only solution: activate their deep, deep, deep cover operative, Michael Corben and send him to France. Now both Corbens are about to board the same flight to Paris, we hope nothing wacky happens...

Lots of death for a comedy: There's two major deaths before this movie gets going, which is odd because the over all tone of the flick is straight forward slapstick comedy.

Is that Robert Daultry?: It totally is–and now he's dead. Well that was unexpected.

The French Teacher.
Over the top evil: There's little subtlety in this film, from the chewing gum explosives to the comically-oblivious french teacher, but the villains in this film take the far-fetched cake. Augustus Steranko is some kind of politician who's plan for world domination hinges on minting his own currency, but he's not just going to do that any old where, he's going to do it in his own mansion! And he's not just going to print money on paper, nooooo. His new currency is gold coins, so he's smelting gold in HIS OWN FRIGGIN' HOUSE.

Over the top henchmen: Steranko's right hand, Ilsa Grunt (played by Linda Hunt), has a thick German accent and a necklace that turns into a metal whip. Steranko's other main henchman has an insatiable thirst for murder, and cybernetic left arm.

Over the top action: The action in this flick is over the top in the best ways. One of the final fights happens on a vat of molten gold. Another involves a helicopter rotor coming loose and taking out a GIGANTIC portion of the mansion's roof. There's also a big final shoot out, and a ton of explosions.

Over the top acting: But don't let us sell this movie too hard, everyone gives a hamfisted performance in this one. Though that's not entirely without charm.

Unexpected feminism: There are a few points in this film where characters acknowledge the lady characters are capable and have value. That should be a given in any film, but it's so far from the case it's not even funny.

But did we like it?: This wasn't a film we were 100% on board with at the start (probably because we were expecting something so different), but it certainly won us over by the end.

September 3, 2018

September's Mystery Movie: Second Clue

Clue #2: The director of this month's movie built his career on knock off flicks.

Tape Freaks Presents: August's Mystery Movie at the Trylon CinemaWednesday, September 5th @ 7:00pm, only $5!

September 2, 2018

Knock Offs Part II: Message from Space

This movie was brutal. There wasn't a single likable character, almost no plot, and it was two hours long. It wasn't totally without charm, but it almost was...

The plot unfolds something like this: The peaceful planet of Jillucia, has been conquered by the steel-skinned warriors of the Gavanas Empire, who've turned the planet into a military base. Kido, the elder of Jillucia, sends eight Liabe seeds [glowing walnuts] into the universe to find heroes worthy enough to liberate their planet. Kido's granddaughter (Princess Emerald) and the warrior Urocco are sent to round up all the seed recipients and assemble their rescue task force. This is the only hope to save Jillucia, so hopefully all the recipients are ready to embrace their destiny.

Don't let me over sell this: That plot rundown gives this movie more credit than it deserves because if this movie were as simple as that, it might have been more enjoyable. But every character has to have their own solo adventure, and that leads to more backstory, and that uncovers more mythos, and that leads them to different planets, and that leads to a highly unnecessary two hour runtime.

Walnuts, or Liabe seeds?
The plot that never gets going: Our first two heroes find their prophetic walnuts very early on, and they come across the third walnut recipient in shortly after that. Those three team up with a fourth friend (who oddly isn't the fourth nut recipient) and together they're led to the fourth nut holder. The fourth friend does eventually become the fifth nut holder, but not before the first four recipients denounce their nut-destiny. Now, we're about twenty mins into this thing and before the plot can move forward: three of the eight nut holders must receive their nuts, and four others must be replaced. The original four nut recipients do eventually receive replacement nuts (that also glow) and find the sixth nut holder after crash landing on a far-flung planet. And now were about an hour fifteen into the flick. On the same planet they discover the third nut holder's robot is also the seventh nut holder. The eighth nut holder turns out to be someone who's been with the group most of the movie, but wasn't deemed worthy of a glowing walnut until this point. Now that the eight heroes are FINALLY assembled, they can save Jillucia! But there's also 15 mins before the movie ends and so it's really hard to care anymore.

Not one likable character: Aside from a robot sidekick, everyone in this film is either completely obnoxious, gruff, or outrageously childish. The worst offenders the three "teen" friends and their thirty-something companion who somehow embody all of those characteristics. The "teens" seem more like adults imitating toddlers than they do teenagers reacting to the slightest annoyances by screaming at each other or throwing temper tantrums. Their older friend isn't any better, he's about as sophisticated as a Benny Hill character but he also screams every single line he has before huffing out of the scene. And these are basically the hero protagonists! Entitled selfish brats who hate each other, but eventually (and apropos of nothing) decide to work together to save Jillucia, but also continue to be horrible monsters while they do it. If this movie wasn't a full two hours, that all might add to the ridiculousness of the movie, but two hours of this only obliterates any fun in the rest of the film.

Visuals galore: From the clearly plastic ivy the Jillucia inhabitants adorn themselves with, to the fully impressive costumes the villains rock, someone's always wearing something to look at. The sets and matte paintings are pretty impressive as well, and the effects are enjoyably cheesy. But again, if this film was an hour shorter these elements would more than make up for the unbearable elements, but they're lost in the din of "teens" arguing.

The cast: I would love to know how the filmmakers signed on some of these actors. Many of them had established careers at this point (Vic Morrow, Shin'ichi Chiba, Etsuko Shiomi, to name a few) so their involvement doesn't make a ton of sense. And to add to my confusion, the directer and most of the main cast made The Shogun's Samurai the same year. That movie was apparently so good it was nominated for 5 different Awards of the Japanese Academy, so it seems they were capable of producing quality work together, so why on Earth did any of them agree to do this?

Space suits of the future!
The Morphin Power Ranger connection: Shôtarô Ishinomori was one of the writers of this film, and he created Super Sentai Zyuranger, which became Power Rangers in the US! He also wrote a bulk of the episodes for most of the numerous Power Rangers franchises before his death. 

Other weird connections: Kinji Fukasaku co-wrote and directed this movie. He also directed Green Slime, Battle Royal, The Shogun's Samurai, and co-directed Tora! Tora! Tora!. 

A spin off of a knock off: Apparently there's a TV series called Message from Space: Galactic Wars that's a spin off of this film. Though they reuse a lot of the costumes and FX from the movie, they do up the Star-Wars-knock-off ante by adding a Wookie-like character. The only behind the scenes connections between the two are writer Shôtarô Ishinomori (maybe) and actor Hiroyuki Sanada, but to make things even more complicated, Sanada plays a different character in each... 

Don't let us undersell how aggravatingly drawn out it is: At the halfway point of this movie we were ready for it to be over. This is the kind of movie where every 10 mins or so you'll find yourself asking "did any of that matter", and it'll turn out that none of it did matter. But again, if this movie had been an hour long we might have loved it! Maybe one day someone will post a fan edit on Youtube.

Glowing nuts.

September's Mystery Movie: First Clue

Clue #1: The filmmakers were clearly trying to cash in on two different movies while making this month's sci-fi action movie.

Tape Freaks Presents: August's Mystery Movie at the Trylon CinemaWednesday, September 5th @ 7:00pm, only $5!

August 1, 2018

August's Mystery Movie: Third Clue

Clue #3: Although this month's movie uses an outdated term for sex workers, it also features sex workers portraying themselves. (It might not have been an intentionally a progressive move, but it does take most of the caricature out of their portrayals.)

Tape Freaks Presents: August's Mystery Movie at the Trylon CinemaWednesday, August 1st @ 7:00pm, only $5!

July 31, 2018

New York-sploitation: Basket Case

Basket Case is a movie I forever thought I had seen, but it turns out there are two movies about men being followed around NYC by little murderous monsters from this time period. This one is more of a family hardships sort of murderous-monster movie, and it's got some twists you really don't see coming.

The plot unfolds something like this: Duane Bradley is a man with a secret, a secret that he carries in a wicker basket with a lock on it. He's made his way to a flophouse hotel in NYC where he hopes to blend into the scenery. (Sadly a young man lugging a gigantic wicker trunk everywhere he goes seems to be one of the few things that will turn the head of a New Yorker.) Bradley's on a mission: find the doctors responsible for separating him and his brother Belial, and make them pay the ultimate price for their sins...

The city: NYC is portrayed in full scum-tastic splendor. The flophouse where he rents a room is held together by grime and is run by the exact stereotype you're imagining. His neighbors range from the shifty petty thief to the sex worker with a heart of gold. Bradley takes an iconic walk through Times Square, drinks in a seedy nightclub, takes in a film in a filthy porno theater, creeps through back alleys and up fire escapes, and throws in a dash of touristy sight seeing, just to round things out.

Beverly Bonner: This movie also features Beverly Bonner, who appeared in all three of the Basket Case movies, sometimes as the same character and sometimes as someone else entirely.

The effects: Though the effects in this film are as low-budget as everything else, the filmmakers sort of lean into that rather than attempt to hide it making the cheapness of the effects come off as intentionally cheeky. That (on top of the voice actor's choices for voicing Belial) brings the comedy up a level, but it's very hard to tell if it was done intentionally or not.

Unexpected darkness: There are a few moments that set this movie's tone on the dark end of comedy, but that darkness is well balanced considering how goofy the main character is (and that he carries around gigantic wicker basket with a lock on it for the first act of the film). But you could argue that this is one of the few horror-comedy-tragedy movies in the world, because it gets pretty bleak.

Under appreciated classic: This little bag of weirdness is full of fleshed out characters, unique story elements, classic trashy NYC, and some unexpectedly delightful performances from a myriad of background characters.