Category Archives: Bad and weird movies

LIGHT SPEED ESPER (1967-1968)

light speed esper coverLIGHT SPEED ESPER (1967-1968) – This overlooked Japanese television show was titled Kousoku Esupâ in its nation of origin. If you enjoy live action programs like Ultraman or other shows from the tokusatsu subgenre of entertainment then Light Speed Esper will certainly appeal to you.

Hikaru Azuma (Kiyotaka Mitsugi) is a boy out enjoying a trip in a balloon with his parents. Tragedy strikes when their balloon collides with a spaceship piloted by aliens from the Andromeda Galaxy. As happens. You know how it is.

light speed esperHikaru’s parents are killed in this intergalactic accident, filling the extraterrestrials – called Alien Espers or Esper Seijin – with immense feelings of guilt. They possess and animate the dead bodies of Hikaru’s mother and father to make amends. Very morbid amends, I grant you, but amends nonetheless.

The plot thickens as the Alien Espers (lower left) share their knowledge about an impending invasion of Earth by the Giron Seijin (Feuding Aliens). Continue reading

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BIONIC NINJA (1985)

bionic ninjaBIONIC NINJA (1985) – Hey! The people who dubbed this flick into English overused “Hey!” to such a degree that if you play the Hey! Drinking Game you’ll die of alcohol poisoning a third of the way through the movie. Leo Fong supposedly choreographed the fights and did some stunt work in and out of ninja garb in this film, another splice job of unrelated movies.   

Hey! It’s also been released under the titles Ninja Assassins and Ninja ForceBionic Ninja is using “ninja” as its plural form but sadly, none of them are bionic. For some reason many international releases took to using the word “bionic” in their titles as if the word meant “super” or “ultra” or “maximum.” The ninja in this movie are the NOISIEST ninja ever committed to film, but they do possess powers of teleportation, so that’s fun.

Hey! In Hong Kong, a kung-fu fighting Chinese courier named Gordon Mann is transporting a “Top Secret Technical Film” containing information that could alter the balance of power in the Cold War. The Soviets have hired a band of ninja (our title menaces) to steal the film from Gordon. Mann’s boss in the British Secret Service, Warren Smart, lets Mann twist in career limbo under suspicion that he willingly handed over the film while Smart is secretly a traitor himself. Continue reading

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BEYOND THE UNIVERSE (1981): MOVIE REVIEW

beyond the universeBEYOND THE UNIVERSE (1981) – Well, Balladeer’s Blog has come to the last film in the Anne Spielberg, Robert Emenegger and Allan Sandler batch. If you’re new to the Spielneggerdler oeuvre, various combinations of the trio churned out no less than TEN low-budget, mostly awful sci-fi films in 1980 and 1981. Yes, you read that right. Ten movies in just two years, with results about what you’d expect from that “quantity not quality” approach.

I reviewed eight of them in a movie marathon spirit HERE (Warp Speed, Escape From DS-3, The Killings At Outpost Zeta, Captive, PSI Factor, Laboratory, The Perfect Woman and Time Warp). I reviewed Lifepod, which I consider to be the best of the Spielneggerdler output, separately HERE and now I’m wrapping up with Beyond The Universe.

Going in, we know we’ll be getting reused actors and recycled special effects from the other nine films, assorted offspring of big-name talents of the past, and one or two “stars” in the embarrassing twilight of their careers. Usually a few members of the Cameron Mitchell clan, or even Cameron himself, tag along.

I’ve previously noted how a few of the movies set in E-Space (Emenegger Space) used the name Starfleet for their futuristic space travel organization. This time around we get a global government called the United Federation.

The year is 2081. We learn that in 1993 and 1996 nuclear wars broke out involving China, the Soviet Union and the United States. (Hey, we can look back and laugh at those wars now, but back THEN …) Those conflicts were followed in 1999 by a Five Year Civil War in which what was left of humanity fought each other until, ultimately, the United Federation was established. Continue reading

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THE SATAN KILLER (1993): IT’S NOT A HORROR FILM

satan killerTHE SATAN KILLER (1993) – August of 1993 saw the release of this cop-on-the-edge movie crossed with a “Satanic serial killer at large” exploitation flick. Steve Sayre directed under the alias Stephen Calamari and starred as Police Detective James Stephen (not StephenS … Stephen. As in Stephen Calamari.)

Before I dive into this review let me say that I am now obsessed with finding information about Lost At Sea, a 1995 film Sayre made with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban as the villain. If Lost At Sea is as deliriously deranged as The Satan Killer it will be another gift from the Bad Movie Gods.

Getting back to the topic of this review, this low budget film shot mostly in Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach, VA deserves its own Disaster Artist-style book and movie devoted to its making. The seven current IMDb reviews feature a few people who claim to have been part of this production and it sounds like the kind of wild, guerilla, quasi-shady venture that was much more interesting than anything that made it on film. A Virginia newspaper was supposedly even investigating Steve Sayre and his brother at one point to see if a movie really was being made, at least according to one of those reviews.   

Let’s take a look at our leading characters:

Steve SayreDETECTIVE JAMES STEPHEN (Steve Sayre) – James’ fiancee Christie (Cindy Healy) is abducted, tortured and murdered in a ritualistic way by a Norfolk area serial killer dubbed the Satan Slayer (not killer) by the local media. James has been working the case and media scavengers make a sideshow of his grief. Our hero copes by drinking heavily and slipping into the yellow shirt that he apparently plans to wear every day for the rest of his life.

              I’m serious, by the way. The movie takes place over the span of a few weeks but the detective wears the same yellow shirt the entire rest of the film with the exception of a few flashback scenes featuring happier times with his fiancee. To show that our hero is apparently going without sleep and without shaving, what looks like shoe polish is applied to his face to pass for beard stubble and dark circles under his eyes. Comically enough, after awhile our hero starts looking like he’s made up to look like a raccoon.  Continue reading

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LABORATORY (1980): BACK IN E-SPACE

LaboratoryLABORATORY (1980) – Time for another Anne “Steven’s Sister” Spielberg project with Robert Emenegger, after whom Balladeer’s Blog has named the REAL E-Space. (Sorry, Doctor Who fans.) In this flick we meet some of the strangest aliens in the Emeneggerverse. They have humanoid outlines but they’re wrapped within shimmering disco-ball skin and are reminiscent of Eldrad from The Hand of Eldrad

These aliens, who speak with distorted, almost robotic voices, come to the Earth in a spaceship that looks like a cartoon fireball. They proceed to abduct six Earthlings from a range of backgrounds to study them and subject them to physical and mental tests. Continue reading

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AGON: ATOMIC DRAGON (1964-1968)

agon atomic dragonAGON: ATOMIC DRAGON, also called Phantom Monster Agon and Giant Phantom Monster Agon, is an overlooked miniseries from Japanese television. It was produced in 1964 but due to legal action over the monster’s similarity to Godzilla its creator’s old Toho contract was invoked to prevent the miniseries from being televised until 1968. This black & white miniseries ran just four half-hour episodes and aired on four consecutive nights, from January 2nd – 5th, 1968.

THE STORY: On a night when a typhoon is lashing Japan, a truck transporting uranium is blown off a cliffside road and into the sea. The uranium is devoured by a VERY Godzilla-looking monster called Agon after the supposed Jurassic Period dinosaur it resembles.

agon faceWhen an irritating reporter named Goro Sumoto aka “the Suppon” arrives to report on the police and the Atomic Energy Authorities scouring the beach for the lost uranium, Agon rises up from the sea in the exact same “bubbling waters first” technique favored by Godzilla. Goro photographs Agon, who vogues for a while, then submerges again. The reporter also meets Monta, the obligatory wise-ass little kid character so common to kaiju stories.

The atomic scientist Dr Ukyo, his female assistant Satsuki and Police Detective Yamato consult with Goro, and the good doctor theorizes that Agon has been in suspended animation since the Jurassic Period and that atomic bombs mutated him, making him hungry for the uranium which fell into the sea, waking him. Continue reading

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MIDNIGHT’S EDGE: THE MOST ACCURATE SITE FOR ENTERTAINMENT COVERAGE

masc graveyard smallerHere at Balladeer’s Blog I’ve long found Midnight’s Edge to be the most accurate site when it comes to entertainment news. I would put Clownfish TV in second place. As for Midnight’s Edge, not only do they carefully label what has already been proven and what is merely word from sources, but over the past few years they have been the only entertainment site I’ve seen that winds up being ACCURATE, especially in the long run, after all the facts have come out.

Best of all, Andre, the boss at Midnight’s Edge, isn’t from the U.S. so he never takes a shrill, partisan approach. He has no dog in our fight. 

You can subscribe to Midnight’s Edge here, but if you want a taste of their style watch the video below:

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A.D.A.M. (1973) FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

A.D.A.M.A.D.A.M. (1973) – Written by Donald Jonson and directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, this made for British tv item served as an episode of ITV Sunday Night Theater on April 8th, 1973. The story is part science fiction and part horror with the A.D.A.M. of the title being an acronym for a super-computer called an Automated Domestic Appliance Monitor.

A.D.A.M. (voiced by Anthony Jackson) is basically the Smart Home from hell and was designed by military engineer Roger Empson (Mark Jones) to run the household and care for his physically disabled wife Jean (Georgina Hale). The computer system turns sinister, acquires independent thought and “falls in love” with Jean. Continue reading

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THE RATINGS GAME (1984): FILM REVIEW

Ratings GameTHE RATINGS GAME (1984) – Danny DeVito directed and starred in this telefilm – now being re-released under the vague-to-the-point-of-meaningless title The Mogul, which was produced by Showtime back when they and HBO Films were emerging as a genuine creative force in original content.

That era saw HBO Films churn out many made-for-cable movies that reflected studio-level production values and often adapted fictional and non-fictional properties that neither networks nor Hollywood felt like tackling at the time.

Telefilms like And The Band Played On, Barbarians at the Gate, Gotti, Kissinger and Nixon plus many, many others received critical acclaim AND proved commercially successful when released on video or in syndication to – ironically – network television.  

Ratings Game bThe Ratings Game – written by Jim Mulholland and Michael Barrie – was a perfectly respectable satire on the network television ratings system but it has become unjustly forgotten. The change of title for its latest release seems like a desperate attempt to change the telefilm’s fortunes. 

Personally I really like The Ratings Game. It definitely qualifies as one for my list of Aristophanes Now productions, in this case because it captures the feel of the Parathespian Comedies from Attic Old Comedy. (But let’s face it, it would probably have been written by Strattis instead of Aristophanes.)

Part of the reason for this telefilm’s obscurity may be the way it satirized the flaws in the network ratings system. This flick was released when Nielsen and similar ratings outfits still often used a mere 1,100-1,200 participating homes to extrapolate the ratings numbers on which television programs lived or died.    Continue reading

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APRIL FOOL’S DAY/ SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)

Slaughter HighSLAUGHTER HIGH/ APRIL FOOL’S DAY (1986) – This is the low-budget horror film made in England and set on April Fool’s Day. There are still VHS tapes and YouTube videos that show the original title, but the title was changed to Slaughter High because of the year’s OTHER April Fool’s Day slasher film with a gimmick ending.

Slaughter High starts off showing us April Fool’s Day of 1976, when a group of “teenagers” including 30-something Caroline Munro go to bizarre lengths to degrade and victimize their nerdy classmate Marty. These “kids” aren’t so much bullies as they are psychopaths, actually.

Slaughter High bAfter an April Fool’s Day “prank” involving nudity, electric shocks and near drowning, Marty is still alive through no fault of his classmates. The supposed popular kids get punished for their criminal assault on Marty, and perversely blame him for it! It’s that kind of movie. Hell, Marty’s tormentors were caught in the act, it’s not even like he peached on them (since this was made in England I couldn’t resist writing “peached on them”).

The psychotic teens-in-their -thirties decide Marty deserves some payback for the way they got in trouble for nearly killing him earlier, so they stage a new “prank” involving tampered-with marijuana, dangerous chemicals … and acid. C’mon, you kidders! Stop giving Marty the business! Just cut off one of his limbs or something and call it a day, ya jokesters! Continue reading

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