80s Trash of the Week: Ghostbusters 2

I’ve managed to avoid watching this money-grubbing exercise in sequelry for 20 years, but after the news that Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd are finally coming together to make a third entry, I decided to do it. Ghostbusters II isn’t the worst sequel of an ’80s classic (cough, Caddyshack II) but it definitely loses sight of what made the original great, and seems to have helped herald in the lame feel-good era of the early ’90s.
It seems that as soon as the Prez said “a kinder, gentler nation” back in the late ’80s, movies- perhaps also influenced by the new PG-13 rating- had to have a certain … perkiness. Probably best evidenced by the works of Robert Zemeckis and Joe Dante, highly mimicked but never properly replicated, movies got a cartoonish and affected screwball quality, as if made from bad molds of Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? It would culminate in 1994’s North, best eviscerated by Roger Ebert in his infamous review.

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Peter MacNicol is the best part of the movie; he began with next week’s ’80s pick, Dragonslayer, and went on to Sophie’s Choice and Ally McBeal. Here he plays an art historian with a hilariously contrived accent who gets possessed by an evil painting of Vigo the Carpathian, sort of a Vlad the Impaler without the vampire stuff. The Ghostbusters are split up and New York forgot all the ghosts from the first movie, and call them frauds; plus the City sued them for property damage and banned them from ghostbustin’. Ray runs an occult book shop on St. Mark’s, Venkman hosts a late night cable access paranormal show, and Egon is performing his trademark experiments that veer toward mad science. They get brought back together when Dana’s baby carriage takes a solo ride down First Avenue.
She’s been divorced from Peter- divorce being the ubiquitous subject of movies of this period- and has their baby Oscar but little contact with wacky Venkman, who Murray portrays with his trademark ’80s cokehead glee. I was always more a fan of his somewhat hapless self from Stripes; seeing him as an invincible Bugs Bunny type made him less fun for me. Of course, he was perfect in the original Ghostbusters, but here with family issues he’s a bit less enjoyable. Thankfully Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts all return and are quite good. William “Dickless” Atherton is unfortunately replaced by a snarky mayor’s aide who’s not up to the task. Atherton was also the reporter in the Die Hard films; he’s a tough act to follow.
It’s the plot that sinks the movie, and Murray himself said it best- too much slime and not enough “us.” He’s right. The slime river beneath the city gets too much screen time, even though the fact that it runs through the urban-legendary remains of the Pneumatic Beach Transit line from 1870 is a pretty sharp bit of screenwriting; it also vaguely mentions the Malbone Street Wreck, the worst accident in subway history, when a ghost train barrels through. But back to the story: Vigo wants to come back, and chooses Baby Oscar as his vessel. Sort of like how Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom couldn’t balance the horror of child slavery with the kid-pandering of Short Round, the Baby Oscar in Peril scenes don’t seem to fit in a sequel to a movie where the bad guy was a marshmallow man summoned forth by a naked bubbly Sheena Easton.
In the end, the mood slime is lame; New York’s bad vibes come from the river of pink goo infused with Vigo’s ancient evil, not because it’s full of entitled, geo-centric materialistic egotists. Scrooged, another Bill Murray mistake, manages to somehow be less cloying. Even the ghost montage- a favorite from the first movie- is disappointing. This time the Titanic returns, forgettable except for a brief Cheech Marin cameo as a dock worker. The ghosts are more angry looking than Slimer, who makes a quick cameo as well. A fur coat comes to life; some Harryhausenesque ghouls haunt the Washington Square arch; and some executed criminals haunt a judge, but nothing as imaginative as the library ghost in the first movie, or as funny as Sigourney Weaver possessed by Zuul. She has little to do except play it straight here, and Moranis gets kissy with Annie Potts, and never recaptures the hilarity as Vinz Klortho the Keymaster of Gozer.
The centerpiece of the film is how they try to top the Stay-Pufft Marshmallow Man, by soaking the Statue of Liberty in happy pink goo and playing soul so she’ll boogie down First Avenue and smash her way into the Museum of Art, where Vigo has Sigourney and the baby. It looks cool, but it seems too big. Trading in the proton packs for Happy Slime Jizzer Guns, too many nods to fans of the toys and cartoons, cutsey babies and a fifth wheel Ghostbuster are just wrong moves in a highly anticipated sequel. That’s why even though it set a 3 day weekend box office record, it was swiftly knocked out by Tim Burton’s Batman and quickly forgotten. Unless they’ve learned their lesson from this, I fear for the newly planned third entry. Remember, Vigo is partly defeated by New Yorkers singing in harmony outside, which is perhaps only out-lamed by the ending of Krull, where the villain is defeated by bolts of pure love.

Take a good look at Dan Aykroyd’s writing career since Ghostbusters. Besides this sequel, he committed the following crimes that led to the atrocity known as Blues Brothers 2000: Dragnet, Nothing But Trouble, and Coneheads. He’s selling wine now, and I think he needs money. Harold Ramis has had a few stinkers, but I feel safer with him. Bill Murray has become almost as subtle as Jack Benny did in his later years, and has redeemed himself many times over for this sequel. So the new one can be hit or miss, we’ll have to see. The ’90s smarm is over; if this one is better than Die Hard & Indy 4, it’ll be something.

Beers Required to Enjoy: 2
Could it be remade today? They’re trying…
Quotability Rating: low
Cheese Factor: New York aged cheddar
High Points: Janosz, Statue of Liberty
Low Point: Dancing Toasters, lame ending
Gratuitous Boobies: not even ghost boobies

80’s Trash of the Week: The Warrior and the Sorceress

As much as I love Conan the Barbarian, I have to blame all the terrible sword & sorcery movies that followed on its great success. Even David Carradine got into the act with 1984’s The Warrior and the Sorceress, where he plays Kain the warrior. Not Kwai Chang Kane, either. In this post-apocalyptic remake of Yojimbo, he wears a black cloak with a red stripe, and carries the finest sword and throwing knives to be had at at the Rennaissance Faire.And as you can guess from the title, there’s a sorceress, but she comes later. We meet Kain as he struts into a town lorded over by the thugs of Bal Caz and Zeg the Tyrant, who battle over control of the town well. When Kain comes to town, he is met by Bludge the Prelate – everyone here is named after a Tarot card or something- who tells him the score. Carradine plays Kain as cool as usual, with a sly grin that says “yeah, I’m starring in a real piece of shit this time.”

And the Oscar winner for fight choreography isn’t…

Bal Caz looks like Andrew Zimmern with a topless slave girl on his right and a talking Gila monster advisor on his left. Kain starts playing the two bad dudes against each other in true Yojimbo style- though to be true, the story was Dashiell Hammett’s first, with Red Harvest. The thugs didn’t even bother to cut their mullets or grow them out, but that makes it even more entertaining. Zeg looks like Robert Patrick with hemhorroids, and he holds Naja the Sorceress prisoner; he wants her to create for him the “Sacred Sword of Yura” which can cut stone, I think. Because he tries to chop stone with his sword, and when it breaks, he slaps her around.

It was tough to find this rare photo of the Sorceress with clothes on.

In this post-apocalyptic hell-world, not only is the water is controlled by sword slobs in ragtag outfits, but the women are forbidden from wearing any tops. Especially the sorceresses. All the time. Now, you know I like the boobies and love sharing them, but this is like Carradine is leading a National Geographic exploration to the lost tribe of the sword-wielding bikers and their boobie bitches. Soon Kain has the two leaders in a gang war, the diaper-clad Bal Caz on his litter vs. Zeg and mullet marauders; while they mess around, Kain kidnaps the Gila monster critter and the sorceress- who was part of an order he once served- and exchanges them. So the bad guys… trade them back. I think this was to buy him time to help Bludge escape, at the Sorceress’s request. But I was too blinded by boobies to pay attention. Or I was writing this. You figure it out.

Tonight on Bizarre Foods, I’m going to eat Yoda.

So then he has to go back and save the Sorceress again, by siding with Zeg and asking to see her. By now, Zeg’s captain Queef (okay, it was probably Kief) is getting suspicious, especially after the Sorceress escapes. She’s now stripped down to a thong, and I began to realize that nudity was her power, like Samson’s hair. Kain sets her free from low-budget cross between Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors and an octopus, but Queef is onto him by now. Played by Anthony de Longis who was Blade from Masters of the Universe (full review) and recently starred in Jet Li’s Fearless, he’s actually quite surprisingly entertaining in this. Sort of like Ben Foster in 3:10 to Yuma, the Z movie version.


They trick Kain by having a four-titted exotic dancer distract him at dinner. I wish I was kidding. The 3-boobed chick from Total Recall, eat your heart out. But this gal has a snake in her cooch or something that strikes Kain and makes him fall unconscious, but not before he tries to choke her to death. If you find yourself forced to watch this movie, fast forward to this scene if only to see David Carradine’s face when the dancer with four boobs dances out. It’s hilarious. If his eyebrow got any higher it would be off his forehead. I guess they had so many scenes with Maria Socas topless that the only way to top it was to come up with a double-breasted dancer.

Four tits, huh? Let me count those again.

They beat up Kain but he escapes while they’re fighting, thanks to yet another subplot with Burgo the Slaver, who sort of looks like a giant Jawa. If Jawas looked like leather-faced pig people under their hoods. He comes back for revenge and soon his slavers have killed the two bad guys and enslaved the whole town, including Bludge the Prelate. But luckily for us, the Sorceress has saved Kain for a change, and turned his sword into the Sacred Blade of Yura, which can cut through styrofoam anvils like BUTTA. Between Kain and his sword, and Naja with her dagger and battle thong, it’s not long before they are free. Even though Queef steals the Urine sword, Kain is able to defeat him, because David Carradine is such a bad-ass.

I will trade you all my slaves for some sunblock!

Beers Required to Enjoy: 3 or some kleenex & lotion
Could it be remade today? Not until 2084
Quotability Rating: zilch
Cheese Factor: Wisconsin
High Points: Holy shit that chick has four boobs!
Low Point: I think I overdosed on boobs
Gratuitous Boobies: Boobolplex from 09:36 till the end


80’s Trash of the Week: Electric Dreams

If the movie sounds like it’s dubbed into English when it isn’t, because the acting is that bad, you might be watching trash. I got that feeling a few minutes into Electric Dreams, a movie I had fond memories of as a little computer nerdling in the ’80s. It’s a movie about a PC that goes haywire and falls in love with its owner’s girlfriend, which was ridiculous even back then; no one who played with computers in the early ’80s had a girlfriend!

His computer eventually beats the crap out of him with Pac-Mania.

Like many computer movies of the time, it was both the best commercial for, and the most hilariously contrived warning against the technology onslaught of Apple ][e’s and IBM PC/XT’s in the home. We didn’t care; anything with computer graphics, as primitive as they were, we’d gobble up. And Electric Dreams fed that vibe. It’s too cute to be truly trash, but it’s one of those ridiculous and pandering films that can only come from the ’80s. It’s the rom-com version of Weird Science (full review).
We meet nerdy hero Miles (Lenny von Dohlen, Twin Peaks) as he’s beset by technology at San Francisco Airport. He’s off to a meeting with his boss, where he tells how he’s trying to design an earthquake-proof building. He has trouble with the ticket machine, the ATM, and thinks he’s talking to a woman who’s actually listening to her Walkman. Despite all this, he decides to buy a computer to help him organize his life and design his earthquake-proof brick, and takes home the latest and greatest by Pinecone systems. The computer can run the whole house by connecting to the phone with an acoustic coupler (how i lusted for this primitive modem back then- it looked cooler than faster ones) and special electric plugs.

Earthquake-proof M.C. Escher jigsaw building. Genius!

He mistypes his name during the setup, which makes the computer address him as “Moles.” Soon his PC is making him coffee, running the security system and even running the blender, though I have no idea why you’d want that. Like any of us with a new toy, he wants to play with it; he hooks up a microphone, and connects to his boss’s mainframe at work over the phone line one night. He accidentally spills champagne all over the keyboard, and that’s when the problems start. His new neighbor Madeline (Virginia Madsen) moves in upstairs, and when she plays the cello, the computer starts playing along with her. The dog from next door starts barking, and the computer mimics it.

Madeline tells him he plays really well, but he hasn’t got a clue; when he goes to see her in concert, the computer starts playing to her through his beeper. These oddities lure Madeline to nerdy Miles, and one night they take her powder blue ’65 Mustang to a drive-in to see Casablanca, and Bogey and Ingrid are too much for their raging hormones to take. In the meanwhile, the computer is watching TV and learning English. When Miles gets home, it starts talking to him in his sleep, repeating his words. Like any good nerd, he’s almost more excited about his computer than he is about Madeline.

Yo yo mamasita!

He asks the computer for help, and it writes a song for her. Unfortunately for us, it’s sung by Boy George, but in 1984 that would even get a computer some poontang. From here, the story begins to resemble Cyrano and Frankenstein, as Madeline falls for “Moles,” not knowing that the computer is wooing her with songs. And “Edgar,” the computer, is pissed off at Miles for not introducing them. Miles told him about love, see. Bad move.

The Groucho glasses are ’cause Bud Cort idolizes him and bought his mansion.

Was this the first “cancelled by computer” movie? I’m not sure. Wargames didn’t really do that stuff. But Edgar sure does, cancelling Miles’s credit cards, flagging his checkbook so he’s listed as dangerous, calling the restaurant to rudely cancel reservations. His night out with Madeline thus ruined, he heads home to fight it out with Edgar, who has full control of the house. Much like The Demon Seed (full review), when Miles tries to tear the motherboards out, he get shocked and his whole house turns against him, while the computer screen shows a funky 3-D version of Pac-Man devouring him.

This was pretty sharp for ’84.

Can Miles beat the computer and get the girl? The ending isn’t what you expect. Maybe I should ask if a computer can understand love. In a reverse of 2001, the computer commits suicide because it cannot love, instead of killing because it is forced to lie. And in tribute to the two lovers, it blasts the movie’s theme song, “Together in Electric Dreams” across radios all over the world. I have to say I was a little hard on this movie for the first half; as the opening credits say, it really is a fairy tale for computers, and reminded me of cult classics like Twice Upon a Time and The Wizard of Space and Time in its tone, which makes it difficult to slam.

The best parts of the movie are the computer animated sequences set to music, and the director made many music videos after this. They get more complex as the story unfolds, beginning with colorful dots and patterns, then an animated sequence of girl dancing on a snowflake, and finally a crumbling building as it incorporates Miles’ architectural programs. All set to the music of Heaven 17, UB40, Culture Club, Phil Collins, and Giorgio Moroder, the sought-after soundtrack captures the era perfectly. Most memorable is Edgar’s voice- supplied by none other than Bud Cort, most famous for Harold & Maude. In 1979 he got into a terrible car accident that wrecked his career, and I had no idea it was him. It’s filtered of course, but he manages to give the computer a living voice and jealous, childlike personality.

It’s a light bit of fantasy, and we all tittered when the computer-generated voice said “fuck.” The actors left a bit to be desired, but for a computer nerd the animation sequences were top notch and worth the price of admission. It’s sad that this isn’t on Region 1 DVD, but it is worth tracking down if you like ’80s trash.

Beers Required to Enjoy: 2
Could it be remade today? Apparently yes. Nathan Fillion would be a good lead.
Quotability Rating: does not compute
Cheese Factor: 2.8 velveetahertz!
High Points: soundtrack, computer animation
Low Point: bad acting
Gratuitous Boobies: Not even pixels:

Hello ladies

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

I watched this again as part of a dare with Caitlin of 1416 and Counting, who has to watch Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth. I think I got the better part of the deal…

Yet another early 80’s evil computer movie… love ’em!

When this came out I was 11 years old, and my mom wouldn’t let me go see it. After the Poltergeist incident, where I sneaked into the Franklin Theatre with my friend Ruben and had nightmares about the tree outside my bedroom window eating me, the TV eating my sister, and our house being built on a cemetery, horror movies were verboten. So I had this described to me in gory detail by Ruben:

“It’s so awesome! It’s like about this um, town of witches who own a killer TV station… they want everyone to watch… and it makes um, your Halloween masks like go crazy and make bugs come out of your head!”

Now Ruben was easily excited, but so was I, so I had to see this movie. But it was not to be. I forgot about Halloween 3: Season of the Witch for over 20 years. Then I read that it was an attempt to end the Michael Myers story and instead make a new tale each year, a sort of anthology franchise. Now that is a great idea; take an established franchise and inject it with fresh blood every year by handing it to a different writer and director, and let them spin a horrifying Halloween yarn, like we’re around a campfire. Sadly they handed it to Tommy Lee Wallace, who wrote and directed. The best thing he ever did was the adaptation of Stephen King’s It for TV, which he thankfully left the prepubescent gangbang ending out of.

The masks are damn creepy. Looks like a Misfits album

The movie begins with the kind of titles spoofed endlessly in movies like Student Bodies (full review) informing us that it is Northern California, October, Saturday the 23rd. One week before Halloween. A man flees unseen assailants, tries to hide behind a gas station where the black-gloved, suited pursuers corner him. He manages to escape by crushing one with a car- but they don’t seem human. Are they men in black? The gas station attendant finds him collapsed and brings him to the hospital where Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins, Detective Ray Cameron from Night of the Creeps) is working the night shift. The man babbles about how “they are going to kill us all!” when he sees a TV commercial for Silver Shamrock Halloween masks, and they sedate him.

Doc Challis is played by Tom Atkins, who made Night of the Creeps so good

The remaining black-gloved man sneaks in and covers his mouth while he pulls his skull apart- according to the doc when he does a post mortem- and then stalks out the door. When the Doc chases him, he walks calmly to his car, covers himself with gasoline, and kablooey. Thrill me, indeed. Ellie Grimbridge, the daughter of the murdered man, comes to I.D. the body the next morning, and teams up with the Doc to get to the bottom of the strange death of her father.
The annoying as hell commercial by Silver Shamrock is everywhere, sounding like a cross between an Atari 2600 game and a loop of the Lollipop Guild theme from Wizard of Oz. It’s enough to make your head explode and turn you into a murderous killing machine even if you’re not wearing one of their masks!

Welcome to our scary little village! Begorrah!

They head to the village of Santa Mira, a predominately Irish town full of security cameras and suspicious people, where the only big business is the Halloween mask factory. Everyone speaks with an Irish accent out of Darby O’Gill and the Little People, and everything is painted some shade of green. The town has a curfew and Jamie Lee Curtis’s voice announces it over the loudspeakers for everyone to confine their activities to their own home, as the security cameras keep a watchful eye. There they meet a family of tourists in an RV, and Marge, a store owner visiting to fix an order of masks.

Nothing soothes grief like a hearty boning.

The town is led by Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy- “The Old Man” from Robocop) who runs the factory, and in effect, the whole town. He’s vaguely creepy, and an inventor of practical joke novelties. Their first night there, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin, Bullets Over Broadway) jumps the Doc’s bones while Marge finds a computer chip in one of her masks. Unfortunately for her, picking at it with a nail file makes a blue laser shoot out and blast her face open. And yes, bugs come out of her head! So Ruben was right. He’s a cop now, so it’s good to know he’ll be able to foil plots by druidic cults thanks to watching this film. The black gloved men also tear the head off a drunk who babbles to Doc Dan that he wants to burn the factory down.

She totally ate Pop Rocks and soda!

The next day Conal gives them a tour of the factory, but is very guardful of “trade secrets,” and nosy Ellie gets them into trouble when she sees her Dad’s car parked in a garage. That night the black gloved men take Ellie away, and Doc goes to find her- sneaking into the factory. Finally he realizes the minions are automatons, when he punches one in the gut and gets a handful of goo. They drag him back to Conal Cochran’s lair, where he explains his fiendish plot to give every child a mask that has a little bit of Stonehenge in it. See, Stonehenge was a sacrificial altar and wields enormous power, that will make their heads explode and burst forth with crickets and snakes.

You don’t really know much about Halloween. You thought no further than the strange custom of having your children wear masks and go out begging for candy.

It was the start of the year in our old Celtic lands where we’d be waiting… In our houses of wattles and clay… The barriers would be down, you see. Between the real and the unreal. And the dead might be looking in, to sit by our fires of turf… Halloween. The festival of Samhain. The last great one took place 3,000 years ago and the hills ran red… With the blood of animals and children.

That’s Conal laying it all down for the Doc, monologing like a punkass super villain who’s never watched a James Bond film. He ties him up in a chair with a mask on and leaves him, the second mistake. Of course he gets away, frees Ellie, and pours a bag of the killer microchips onto Cochran’s evil lair so the monolith electrocutes the living hell out of everyone. But can he stop the broadcasts that are set to unleash crickets and snakes from every child’s head?

I hate when vandals smash my jack o’lantern!

The movie has one great scare at the end that still got me even though this is my second viewing of this bizarre flop. Just when you think you’re safe, robot out of nowhere! Poor Ellie. Doc sure seemed to like bashing her head in with that tire iron. One thing that’s never explained is if the automatons are fake, or made from corpses; you’d hope Conal killed Ellie and used her body, otherwise Doc Challis left her to burn to death in the Shamrock factory, not knowing that he rode away with a killer robot instead. Which is a little more chilling.
Doc makes it to the same gas station the story started in, calling the local TV stations to stop the broadcasts. I’m guessing the director thought this would be something like Network meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers as he shouted “Stop Channel 3! Stop it! ST

OP IT STOP IT!!!” as the annoying as shit commercials played in the background. But it’s hilarious, instead. Halloween 3 was a complete failure, though it was pretty gory for its time, especially the model of Marge’s exploded face, which still looks like something from Faces of Death. The concept is just so silly and undeveloped; it shows that the script went through several incarnations, including one by John Carpenter, before the director reworked it.

Stonehenge! Where the banshees live, and they do live well!

Santa Mira was also the setting of the classic film The Invasion of the Body Snatchers; the original story of Season of the Witch was written by Nigel Kneale, who wrote the Quatermass movies. He sued to have his name taken off the film after seeing how violent it was. Despite these pedigrees, the movie is sort of like Troll 2 played straight, without kids pissing on dinner and Dad hollering “You can’t piss on hospitality!” or super ghost grandpa and his magic sandwich, or the campy witch. Tom Atkins tries his best, but he’s not allowed to be as awesome as he was in Night of the Creeps. Dan O’Herlihy has a blast as Cochran, the master prankster who wants to sacrifice millions of children to his Celtic gods, but it’s too late and feels a lot like Body Bags-era Carpenter. He was busy making The Thing, and thank goodness for that.

Beers Required to Enjoy: 3
Could it be remade today? oh, that would be something!
Quotability Rating: nil
Cheese Factor: stinky Irish gubbeen
High Points: gross-outs, ending
Low Point: SLOW!
Gratuitous Boobies: half a second of Ellie’s left nipple.

80’s Trash of the Week: Fatso

Dom DeLuise is probably best known for being Burt Reynolds’ abused sidekick, but he did star in a few films of his own, and probably the most personal, and one of the funniest, was 1980’s Fatso. Movies like Big Night, Moonstruck and even Goodfellas– with Henry trying to work his illegal deals while also preparing meatballs and veal cutlets- have shown the Italian-American obsession with food, but I think none hit the mark as closely as this DeLuise film.
We see little Dom born, and he is a colicky baby who grandma placates with a cannoli when he cries. He grows into Dom DeLuise, and we meet him and his sister Antoinette (Anne Bancroft) at a funeral for an obese cousin. Everyone is crying and emotional, and fiery Antoinette is crying into the casket of Sal, telling him how much she’ll miss him, and she soon tirades into how angry she is at him for eating himself to death. Bancroft wrote and directed the film, and she perfectly captures that uniquely Italian-American manner of boisterous emotion, where the more we love you, the louder we berate you. Another matron just shakes her head and opines, “no more eggplant parmigiana, Sal.”
Dom sneaks to the kitchen to drown his sorrows with a heel of Italian bread dunked in bubbling tomato sauce and then coated with grated parmesan cheese. His New York food predicament is hilarious. He can’t walk five feet without a fruit salesman tossing him an apple, a vendor making him a dirty water dog as he approaches, the baker hoisting a sfogliatelle to lure him in. It’s very amusing today to see DeLuise, who’s skinnier than Kevin from “King of Queens,” be in a movie called Fatso. Compare it to Simon Pegg with a tiny beer belly in Run Fatboy Run. Nowadays DeLuise is barely fat.
Dom DeLuise is at the top of his game here, with a character capable of subtle sheepishness, exemplifying human weakness, and bursting into energetic comic slapstick. The funny fat guy- we all know one. Anthony DiNapoli is a hilarious paradox, showing how food is like air to some of us. He tells his younger brother, “You don’t know how to run your plate!” because he eats all his eggs first and then the bread. When he finally goes to the dietitian, he brings a bag of food for everybody from Balducci’s. The look of pure horror on his face as the nurse reads off the list of foods he’s not allowed to eat. When she says bread and macaroni, a tear runs down his cheek.
He meets a nice Polish girl named Lydia (Candice Azzara, Easy Money), and finds that when he’s around her, his romance with food slips to the wayside. He’s got someone to love other than eggplant parmigiana. When he goes to pick up a birthday cake and ends up waiting so long in line that he can’t stand it anymore, and eats a slice of the cake. This infuriates Antoinette so much she explodes in the way only Anne Bancroft can. This is the final straw that sends him to Chubby Checkers, a support group for dieters. Among them, Dom really looks like he barely has a weight problem, and Bancroft uses the camera to make us feel like gazelles caught in a herd of water buffalo. But the film is never really cruel; it just wallows in self-deprecation and celebrates human weakness.

“Give me those keys or I’ll cut you from your throat to your balls!”

They padlock the fridge and pantry cabinets shut with chains, and one night he’s watching food commercials and can’t sleep. “Gimme those keys or I’ll cut your throat down to your balls!” After chasing each other around with knives, his little brother Junior (Ron Carey, High Anxiety) convenes an emergency intervention of the Chubby Checkers. The parade of portly pals comes in to help, but Dom’s confessions make them so hungry they tear the chains off the wall and eat everything in the house. The slow descent into madness is brilliant. They start with hot water with lemon, which makes Dom say he doesn’t like cold food. Not even a cold apple? No, I like warm apple pie. With cold ice cream. You ever suck the jelly out of a jelly doughnut and then stuff it with chocolate swirl ice cream?
Watching Junior refuse to get the honey out of the cupboard as the houseful of hippos sits around talking about chocolate-covered orange wedges, he feels like a lamb in a wolf’s den. “The big guy couldn’t wait for Dom to make tomato sauce, so he ate my leftover lasagna- FROZEN!” After his big binge, he concentrates on time with Lydia, as she distracts him. And all his well until one night, after he decides to himself to ask to marry her, she doesn’t show up. Family is visiting, and they order Chinese food, which Dom goes to pick up. But he can’t get over why Lydia hasn’t shown up, and the Pu Pu Platter starts calling…
“You eat $40 worth of Chinese food and scare the shit out of everyone and you’re SORRY?” The final blow-up with his sister lets Dom have a funny, touching heart to heart with them about why he eats so much, and how he might not be so anxious about it if they loved him for who he is. “Do crazy people hate themselves? I’m always trying to find an excuse for eating! I don’t need an excuse. When I eat, I’m ME!”
Now, this might not be trash, it’s actually a funny, touching and still poignant move madeon the cusp of the ’80s that feels more like an independent ’70s production. As someone who was morbidly obese and lost 160 pounds, the depiction of food cravings and how difficult it is to diet when you’re surrounded by a thousand sumptuous feasts beckoning you from every restaurant, bakery, and snack shop in the neighborhood were hilarious and true. (For the record I used to be Hurley, and I’m down to Jack Black size and still losing). If you want to remember Dom DeLuise at his best, this is the movie to find. Though his Caesar in History of the World Part One is unforgettable, natch.

“You want to get something to eat?”
“No, I had some Chinese.”
“What did you have?”
“Oh, everything.”

Beers Required to Enjoy: 2 cannolis and an espresso
Could it be remade today? Sure, it should be.
Quotability Rating: Minor
Cheese Factor: Ricotta, melted mozzarella, and parmesan on top
High Points: Anne Bancroft’s insane sister
Low Point: The romance montage drags a bit
Gratuitous Boobies: Actually, there’s a tit in the opening credits…

80’s Trash of the Week: The Beast Within

It took me seventeen years Tom! Like the cicadas! But I came back!

One of the many movies my 12-year old posse suggested I sneak-watch on HBO in the ’80s was a film called The Beast Within. I missed it, and only now have I rectified it. And it’s got everything we wanted in a movie back then- scary shit and boobies- in preponderance. If only I’d seen it back then, it would have fueled such nightmares. The story of a young man who feels like a stranger in his own skin… with a beast inside that commands him to kill!

This medication may cause swelling and brain moles.

The movie begins in ’64 with the McClearys on their wedding night, driving in the rain. The car goes off the road, and when hubby Eli (Dick Jones from Robocop) goes to get a tow truck, his wife hears dogs barking and gets scared, and goes looking for him. In the woods she is confronted by a strange creature that knocks her silly. And while she lies unconscious, it tears off her clothes and bumps some very uglies with her. So gals, next time ditch the heels and walk in the rain. A few blisters is a lot better than waking up under a rapey monster with forest litter in your butt crack.

Who knew that Dick Jones suffered so much before he joined OCP?

17 years later, the McCleary’s son is in the hospital with an unknown disease giving him fevers, making him waste away no matter what they pump his IV with. His parents are at a loss, and decide to face the horror of that evening, and seek out the dark secret of how their son Michael was conceived. It brings them back to the town of Nioba where it all began, where the townsfolk all seem to know something they won’t let on.

They hit the newspaper archived and the police station, while Mike has torn out his IV and struck into the night. He hears voices and has tormented dreams of being locked in a basement cell, driven by something… within! This leads him to the home of an ornery old man who’s just sitting down to a fine dinner of raw meat. Michael feels a sudden compulsion- heralded by the buzzing of cicadas- and with a sudden flare in his eyes and flash of teeth, he’s tearing the old man’s throat out for a midnight snack, and the miracle cure for his wasting condition.

“I like my meat RARE!”

After he’s gorged on flesh and blood, he passes out in pretty Amanda’s front yard. Bad luck, honey. She gets him back to the hospital, where his new fortitude is seen as a miracle. As his parents dig around, Sheriff Pool (veteran character actor LQ Jones) leads them around and tells them about the mysterious night Mr. Curwin died- torn to pieces before his house was burned down- the “only violent time in this peaceful town.” But Mike’s out on the prowl again, sniffing after Amanda now. She’s quite eager, and takes him into the forbidding Black Fens Swamp for an eerie make-out session. But she gets more than Mikey’s roaming hands, when her dog dumps a severed arm in her lap.

“Wanna make out in this godforsaken swamp?”

The police start digging and find dozens of skeletal remains- when Doc Odom recognizes an artificial hip he put on one of the bones. And the dark depths of the town’s secret is slowly revealed. For Mike wants to stay in town- he seems to know everybody, people he’s never met, and he’s charged with purpose 17 years in the making. The Sheriff starts digging up graves and finds the coffins loaded with rocks; but when they go to question undertaker Dexter Ward- Michael’s already been there, embalming the man alive. Something- perhaps the beast that sired him- has Michael screaming for vengeance, and he will not be denied.

“J’ever notice how much a skull resembles a bowling ball?”

I thought this was a werewolf movie, but if there’s one good thing about it, it is startlingly original. For instead of transforming into a wolf, Michael eventually sheds his skin and becomes a sort of monstrous bug-eyed cicada with claws, for no reason anyone can explain. Even when the Beast Within bursts forth and becomes the Beast Without gnawing on every Curwin in sight- and the Judge is forced to tell the town’s awful secret- even he doesn’t know why! A guy got locked in a basement for messin’ with another man’s wife, and starved until he ate the corpse of the adulteress to survive. And then the husband decided to feed basement boy corpses for 17 years, until he killed him and escaped, and decided to rape Mrs. McCleary in the woods that night. Couldn’t they have made him eat cicadas? That’s pretty gross.

The transformation in all its gory glory

Despite the movie making no sense, it is strangely watchable. The suspense level is kept high, as Mike gets grungy teeth and gnaws on people, and a slit appears between his shoulder blades, portending that the beast within wants to get out and party. Sadly, the beast that finally emerges looks a lot like a slimy critter from It’s Alive! 3: Island of the Alive (full review). It’s a bit of a letdown, but the transformation is agonizing- it was one of the first movies to use (and overuse) air bladders under latex make-up, so his head swells like a balloon. He finally sheds his skin after pulling a few Curwin’s heads off, and we get to see Mike’s face hanging from the branches, discarded like a cheerleader’s lingerie on prom night.

Who wants to make face jerky?

The film delivers on Joe Bob Briggs’ requirements- two boobs and a bucket of blood- by having the story come full circle; the Cicada monster finds Amanda unconscious after a car wreck, and has its slimy way with her. There’s also a very gratuitous set of freezer boobies in the morgue kill scene, which had me laughing. But overall, The Beast Within was worth a rental 26 years later. I’d put it in the same league as Evilspeak (full review), one of my guilty favorites. Instead of Clint Howard we get LQ Jones and Ronny Cox- “Dick” the evil executive from Robocop– and they help make this confused exploiter a good time. The novel is supposed to make more sense, but it doesn’t have a Rapey Cicada Monster. So what’s the point?

Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?

Bonus: The DVD comes as a double feature with Stan Winston’s first film- The Bat People, one of the lowest rated films on IMDb. And the bat dude looks like Brown Hellboy. I had enough bad movie fun and skipped it.

Beers Required to Enjoy: 2
Could it be remade today? Oh, please please do.
Quotability Rating: Low
Cheese Factor: You could melt this on nachos.
High Points: Mikey’s Magic Head Balloon
Low Point: Chop meat on a dying man’s feet. Really?
Gratuitous Boobies: One, two, three pairs of boobies! ah, ah, ah.

80’s Trash of the Week: The Beastmaster

I have my eyes…
I have my cunning…
and I have my strength.

The Beastmaster was a huge success on cable, and I must have watched it a few dozen times. I one day hoped to swing a sword around in a loincloth, commanding the beasts to do my will. Now I have a disobedient cat, a pair of cargo shorts and some swords hanging on the wall. I think that’s close enough.

Marc Singer, the ’80s star of If You Could See What I Hear and the V miniseries, had his first big role in this bronze age sword & sorcery flick that’s essentially Conan meets “Manimal,” or “Conaminal” as you could call it. With Rip Torn as the evil priest Mayax, John Amos as a big black Friar Tuck and Tanya Roberts as sacrificial eye candy this was second only to Highlander in the annals of awesome things to find on cable in the ’80s. It had dyed black tigers, a pair of sneaky ferrets, and killer bat-people who could digest your flesh in seconds. In a sea of shitty fantasy movies, this one rose above and is what all B movies should aspire to.

Mayax welcomes you with impaled victims

The evil priest Mayax gets a prophecy from his trio of ugly witch-bitches telling him thatt he unborn son of the king will be his undoing. Despite being told that nothing he does will change his fate, he makes the creepy sorceresses- who have model-worthy bods and faces requiring triple or quadruple bagging- go to do his evil bidding. They steal the king’s unborn son by transferring him to the womb of a cow, kill his wife, blind him, and slaughter his villagers. Only his right-hand man Seth survives the onslaught.

Rip Torn with awesome skull dreads

The witches take the cow to the woods, cut it open, and prepare to sacrifice the baby, but are interrupted by a man who happens upon them. Unlucky for them, he is a fearsome if unlikely warrior wielding a bizarre throwing blade called a Kada. He takes the child and raises him, naming him Dar. A short montage later and Dar has grown into Marc Singer, and shown an affinity for speaking to animals. A bear comes upon his adoptive father’s camp, and he saves their lives. He has the mark, and can master the beasts. He is the Beastmaster!

These pet ferrets do more than chew stuff and stink

Silly as it is, this is really only a half-notch below Conan the Barbarian, lacking some budget and the established mythos, and a huge star such as Arnold. Marc Singer is ripped for his role, and while no muscle man, he is perfectly believable as the destined warrior who defeats Mayax and the Jun horde. One day he comes home to find his father and village slaughtered by the Jun- a horde of leather-clad, masked warriors in the tradition of the Humongous from The Road Warrior, who look like they strutted off a Molly Hatchet album cover and live only for genocide. He survives only because his trusty dog drags him from the flames of the razed village. Dar takes his father’s scimitar and throwing blade, and sets out on his own- for revenge.

The Jun horde does not mess around

On his journey, he comes upon a hawk, two mischevious ferrets, and a black tiger that he saves from Mayax’s warriors. These become his allies- his eyes, his cunning, and his strength. Dar was taught to do right, and when he finds a man in a cage in the forest he releases him. Too bad he was meant for bat food! The forest is host to a group of silent bat-people, who catch their prey in a winged hug and devour them a lot like Seth Brundle in The Fly. Dar only escapes because his hawk alights on his shoulder, and they respect his kinship with their feathered brother. They have a hawk totem in camp and must worship them. What luck!

Bat people got… no reason to smiiiile

The first thing Dar uses his animal trio to do is get in a slave girl’s loincloth. Kiri is bathing in the river, and he spies her from above. He sends the ferrets to steal a piece of her clothes, and when she chases them into the forest, they lead her to the tiger! But he “scares off” the tiger. Kind of creepy, Dar! But he gets her digits- she’s a slave girl for Mayax and must return to the Temple of Ar, lest her family be killed. So Dar didst get blue balls that night.

Is that a ferret in your pocket or are you just happy to see me

His next meeting is with Seth- John Amos- and the young boy Tal. They help kick some Mayax minion ass. Seth uses a fighting staff that Amos really seems to know how to use! I remember seeing an interview where he claimed he auditioned for Indiana Jones, and I wish he got more adventure roles. He has a natural charisma, and was bad-ass enough to be a hero, but he never got the chance. Here he says they are “pilgrims,” and Dar might not believe them but he trusts their motives. Dar finally meets Mayax when he foils a child sacrifice at his temple, by having his hawk fly away with the kid. Mayax’s save is priceless- when the hawk saves the child, everyone falls to the dirt in honor of the miracle. He just stammers, “See! He wants your children!” and has a staredown with the only man not groveling- Dar. He knows a showdown is inevitable.

I wish I had this stick the last time I saw J.J.

Seth and Tal join Dar in his mission to rescue Kiri, for they have no love of Mayax. And yes, his character his spelled “Maax” in the credits, but screw that. They say Mayax. This is the first daring battle against the priest and his sacrificial cult. His fanatical followers hang themselves on command and fight to the death; his warriors have fluorescent green slugs put in their ears that drive them mad, so they kill everything in sight with spiked fighting gloves or cestus. They always reminded me of the guy on the cover to Quiet Riot’s Metal Health album. With his tiger and ferrets to steal keys and chomp on baddies, they manage to rescue Kiri, by the skin of their teeth.

It’s 18 karat! So what if it’s got an eye in it!

But Mayax is not so easily defeated. Tal took a ring off one of his acolytes, and it opens to reveal an eye with whiche he can spy on his enemies. When Seth takes Dar back to his encampment, we find the blinded king from the beginning, who doesn’t know that Dar is his son. I dunno why they don’t just tell him, but the king is a bit of a pompous jackass for a deposed, blinded ruler dependent on his followers. He wants to attack Mayax, even though he is aware of their plans. So of course, Dar has to save the day. They have an exciting battle atop of the ziggurat temple of Ar, with Mayax trying to sacrifice Kiri as Dar races up the temple steps, sword flashing through red-robed Hare Krishnas left and right.

John Amos is great as usual, but I wish his loincloth was a bit less revealing.

But even when Mayax is foiled, the battle is not over; the Jun horde is returning to protect their leader, and a ragtag band of rebels cannot stop them in their numbers. What will Dar and his friends do? Can he summon the beasts of the forest? Can John Amos take them all on himself? Are there enough ferrets in the world to nibble their ankles off? The final battle is quite exciting, with a trapped moat of burning oil that makes the battlefield look like the rim of a volcano. It may not be as epic as Conan, but Beastmaster is a surprisingly original and enjoyable story that could only have sprung from the ’80s, when all you needed for a B movie was a sword, a desert, and a girl in a ragged bikini.

Jun Leader insists that the metal health will drive you mad.

Beastmaster succeeds because despite its epic scope and nearly two-hour length, it is well-paced and the fight scenes are quite good for the time. The actors aren’t great, but certainly are more talented than most B movie casts. Director Don Coscarelli was offered the chance to direct Conan the Destroyer (full review) by Dino De Laurentiis, and he turned it down because he thought the story sucked. And while this movie is very silly and has a mishmash of all sorts of things- the psychotic Jun horde, flying bat people who digest you in their wings, animal telepathy, a crazy throwing blade, ugly oracle women, eye rings and a bronze age setting- it all seems to work. It has a sense of humor, but takes itself just seriously enough; which nudges it more toward Clash of the Titans than that Conan sequel that nearly killed sword & sorcery movies for good.

Hmm… smells like barbecue! Let’s go check it out.

Beers Required to Enjoy: none, but why not?
Could it be remade today? Please no!
Quotability Rating: Low
Cheese Factor: Beastmaster is vegan
High Points: Attack ferrets, John Amos kicking ass
Low Point: If I wanted to hear a whiny blind king, I’d read Oedipus Rex
Gratuitous Boobies: Tanya Roberts, yum! And more on the DVD extras