ROLLER BLADE (1986) – They’re the Cosmic Order of the Roller Blade and they’re female Jedi Knights on roller skates. Well, sort of. Where does one begin when reviewing this film that is so beloved by all of us fans of bad movies? Let’s start with the setting and then tackle the characters as well as Roller Blade’s legendary director Donald G Jackson (R.I.P.).
This film is set in the future during The Second Dark Age, years after humanity’s “energy weapons” have unleashed an apocalypse which has left the world a ravaged mess of ruined cities yet immaculately maintained roads and highways. Go figure.
Amid the usual tableau of feral gangs and predatory mutants there stands a force for good dedicated to rebuilding the world: a religious order of warrior nuns called the Cosmic Order of the Roller Blade … Even though none of them wear actual roller blades, just regular roller skates.
“Skate or Die” is the ugly motto of the survivors in this kill or be killed future. That’s because the filmmakers absurdly pretend that traveling via roller skates or skateboards is the only way to move swiftly enough to have a chance of evading the dangerous gangs and mutants.
If you have any goods or supplies that you are taking with you the only way to transport them is in metal grocery carts that can roll along with you as you skate through the post-apocalyptic landscape. I’m not joking. This grocery cart nonsense is another idiotic element that the movie takes 100% seriously despite how inane it looks.
MOTHER SPEED (Katina Garner) – The Mother Superior of the Order of the Roller Blade. She is in a wheelchair yet still wears roller skates on her feet since such skates are part of the Order’s sacred garments. Mother Speed, like all the good guys in Roller Blade, speaks in grandiose faux-Shakespearean littered with “thees” and “thous” and “yea, verilies.” ESPECIALLY “yea, verilies.”
Making Mother Speed even more fun is the way she speaks with a weird accent that makes her sound like popular 1980s sex therapist Dr Ruth Westheimer. Continue reading
IDAHO TRANSFER (1973) – This film, directed by Peter Fonda and starring mostly unknowns, deals with time travel and post-apocalypse themes. It was retitled Deranged for its DVD release. I have no idea why.
Not so long ago Idaho Transfer was regarded among us fans of bad movies as a So-Bad-It’s Good example of the way so many 1970s sci-fi films were presented as if they were being deep and innovative when in truth they were just reworking ideas from old Twilight Zone and Outer Limits episodes but dragging them out to unbearable length.
Here in 2021 Idaho Transfer has fallen so far off the schlock charts that it’s unknown to many viewers. However, it is STILL one of the best So-Bad-It’s-Good examples of pretentious yet shallow 1970s sci-fi films. While this story might have made a decent episode of a half-hour anthology series it is excruciatingly stretched out to 86 minutes.
THE PREMISE: In the movie’s present-day (1973) a group of scientists in Idaho have been using their federal grant money to try developing a teleportation/ matter transfer device for the government. Along the way, however, they realized that they had accidentally invented a machine that transports people and objects through time instead of space. Continue reading
RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY (1991) – Back when I started Balladeer’s Blog in 2010 this Hong Kong martial arts/ splatter film was among the first movies I planned to review. Feeling intimidated by the need to describe the sheer scale of the joyously tasteless violence in this movie I kept postponing it. Eventually, it seemed so notorious that I figured too many people knew about it for me to bother.
This week I was floored to meet a fellow fan of bad movies and learn that they had never even heard of Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky. That galvanized me to finally post a review of the movie.
WARNING: For people who shy away from ultra-violence and the like, I will point out that this film usually grosses out and disgusts viewers just as much as some other flicks I’ve reviewed, like Father’s Day, Mandy, Lewd Lizard, Headless, etc. If you hated those reviews, you’ll likely hate this one, too.
Riki-Oh (pronounced Ricky-HO) is also known as Violence King and with good reason. This Category 3 Hong Kong movie does the seemingly impossible – it more than lives up to the Japanese Manga it was based on. Siu-Wong Fan stars as the title character. Ngai Choi Lam directed and wrote the screenplay adaptation.
Get ready for a kung fu film which combines the violent sensibilities of the Three Stooges crossed with the gore of Psycho Gothic Lolita, Dead Alive plus the aforementioned Mandy and Father’s Day. Not to mention more shots of men standing at urinals than you’d see at a major league ball park. Continue reading
THE BETSY (1978) – The popular 1970s television miniseries format proved to be perfect for adapting Harold Robbins’ novels since they were really just glorified soap operas, but for whatever reason this big-screen version of The Betsy attracted some very respected thespians for its cast. Name stars like Laurence Olivier, Robert Duvall, Katharine Ross, Jane Alexander and others pretty much slummed it in this flick, which was to the auto industry of Detroit as Dallas was to the Texas oilfields and Falcon Crest was to the California vineyards.
In this decades-spanning saga, Laurence Olivier stars as Loren Hardeman, the patriarch of a Detroit family which dominated the auto industry until recently. Loren is in semi-retirement and seems resigned to letting his grandson, Loren Hardeman III (Duvall), continue diversifying the family’s financial empire since their car business has been in decline.
Olivier’s Shakespearean talents weren’t really made to handle less grandiose dialects and accents, and his Midwestern American impersonation in The Betsy is almost as funny as his howlingly absurd Yiddish accents in The Boys From Brazil and The Jazz Singer. His oddball American accent as Douglas MacArthur in the film Inchon was bad, but not nearly as bad as the noises that come from his mouth in this movie. Continue reading
One of the most misleading movie posters in history.
SAINT JACK (1979) – Directed by Peter Bogdanovich and based on the novel by Paul Theroux, this movie is almost impossible to categorize. The Coen Brothers once said their film Barton Fink defied genre assignment, and if so then the same can be said for Saint Jack. It’s part gangster movie, part expat slice of life, part sex comedy and part failed political commentary. Kinda Hot, a book about the guerilla making of Saint Jack is loaded with even more sex and drama than the film itself.
Before I move on to story details, let me also point out how the creative forces behind the movie may well represent the most unlikely alliance imaginable. It’s produced by Roger Corman and directed by Peter Bogdanovich by way of his then-girlfriend Cybill Shepherd’s snagging of the novel’s film rights as part of a legal settlement with Playboy magazine. Oddest of all, Shepherd wanted the film rights ever since reading the Paul Theroux novel on the recommendation of … Orson Welles. And this was long before Welles appeared on Moonlighting with Cybill. Continue reading
With the Frontierado Holiday coming up on Friday, August 6th here is another seasonal movie.
GET MEAN (1975)- One of the weirdest Spaghetti Westerns ever made and that’s saying something! Get Mean stars Tony Anthony and was also released under the title The Stranger Gets Mean, making it the final movie in Anthony’s series of Italo-Westerns as the enigmatic gunslinger known only as the Stranger.
Another alternate title the movie was released under was Beat A Dead Horse, reflecting the view of Anthony and his production company that Spaghetti Westerns really were beating that dead horse of a subgenre for everything they could squeeze out of it by this point. Emphasizing that point was the way Get Mean features its heroic gunfighter clashing with anachronistic Vikings, Moors and an evil hunchback who loves quoting Shakespeare (for obvious reasons).
The film starts out with Tony Anthony’s character being dragged into a ghost town in a box canyon by a horse he’s been tied to. We glimpse Tony through a small orb like the kind used by Gypsy fortune-tellers. Many viewers use that orb to support their argument that Anthony’s gunslinger will be magically traveling through time and that THAT’S why he battles out of date Vikings and Moors.
It still wouldn’t explain why they speak Spanish and/or English or any of the dozens of OTHER problems that would result from a time-travel explanation. My view is to just enjoy it as weirdness for weirdness’ sake. Think of it like Six-String Samurai but without the actual meaning behind that film’s metaphors. Continue reading
Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog know how much I love bad and weird movies. Here are three out of the way films that are not good by any stretch of the imagination but which have a certain something that makes them bizarrely watchable.
DARKER THAN AMBER (1970) – Rod Taylor IS, for some reason, an Australian version of John D MacDonald’s detective Travis McGee. William “Big Bill” Smith plays the outrageously bleached-blonde villain Terry Bartlett and Theodore Bikel portrays McGee’s friend and idea man Meyer. McGee saves a woman (Suzy Kendall) from being forcibly drowned by her criminal associates only to see her get bumped off by them anyway.
Taylor’s odd “Crocodile” McGee runs a con to bring down the dead woman’s murderers. The novel’s Alabama Tiger, a millionaire who runs a non-stop party on his houseboat, became the Alabama Tigress in this movie and is played by THE Jane Russell. Robert Clouse of Enter the Dragon fame directed, with the highlight of this cult film being the supposedly real fight (in parts) between William Smith and Rod Taylor. Most video versions edit out much of this awkward battle but the unedited brawl can be viewed on YT. Continue reading
WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT? (1965) – TWO PETERS, ONE WOODY should probably have been the title of this blog post. Peter O’Toole, Peter Sellers and Woody Allen starred in this brazen (for its day) sex comedy set in Paris during the Swinging Sixties.
Woody penned his first original screenplay for this movie and by many accounts was not happy with the way writers were so often the doormats of the film industry. The big name stars and starlets had the power to demand script changes which favored the characters they portrayed and which often diluted the thrust (as it were) of Allen’s satire about the breaking of sexual taboos.
The end result is still hailed for its pioneering depiction of promiscuity in a major studio release. The relaxing of cinematic standards permitted What’s New Pussycat? to be bolder and kinkier than any pre-1965 production could have been. Compared to films of the past 55 years, however, it often seems as mild and self-consciously “zany” as an episode of Three’s Company, which was daring for television of the 1970s but certainly not today.
Peter Sellers is top-billed and looks like he’s cosplaying as Mayim Bialik from The Big Bang Theory in his portrayal of German psychiatrist Fritz Fassbender. Sellers is more annoying than anything else in this role with the vaudeville level German accent he puts on as Fassbender. The psychiatrist frequently cheats on his rotund wife with his patients. Continue reading
I WOKE UP EARLY THE DAY I DIED (1998) – Directed by Aris Iliopulos, this is the film that was made based on that notorious unproduced script written by THE Ed Wood, the master of badfilm behind Glen or Glenda, Plan 9 From Outer Space and more.
The identity of the screenwriter is the main draw for this cultiest of cult movies. A secondary draw is the way even the smallest roles are performed by famous, infamous or fashionably esoteric figures. Think of I Woke Up Early The Day I Died as an arthouse companion to 1994’s Ed Wood from Tim Burton.
There’s no dialogue, Easter Eggs regarding Wood’s various Golden Turkeys abound and excerpts from the actual screenplay appear on screen at times in case viewers are skeptical that the weirdness they’re witnessing really was in the original script.
Billy Zane is in the lead role as a violent mental patient who overpowers his nurse, dresses in her uniform and escapes from confinement. He pulls off an armed robbery but has the proceeds stolen from him in turn at a bizarre funeral held by a deranged cult. Zane then commits multiple murders as he works his way through the list of people who may have the money from his heist. Continue reading
LIGHT 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.
Hikaru’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