Category Archives: Bad and weird movies

THE KEEP (1983)

keepTHE KEEP (1983) – During World War Two, Nazi forces occupy a sinister stone Keep, only to realize they have disturbed a malevolent ancient entity which begins preying upon them. The unleashed force manipulates a prisoner of the Nazis into freeing it from its ages-old prison.

With hindsight, The Keep seems like it should have been a massive hit. Directed by Michael Mann, who adapted the screenplay from the novel by F. Paul Wilson, the stars included Jurgen Prochnow, Ian McKellan, Scott Glenn, Gabriel Byrne and Alberta Watson. Plus, the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark a few years earlier had made Nazis cinema’s most popular villains since the actual World World Two era.

So, what went wrong? Well, for starters, Mann’s cut of the film was supposedly just over three hours long at a time when studios expected such length only in epics (Reds, Gandhi, etc), not horror films. The Keep was then butchered in the editing room to the point where Michael Mann TO THIS DAY flies off the handle if this film is even mentioned during media interviews with him. Continue reading

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ANDROMEDA NEBULA (1967) FILM REVIEW

andromeda nebulaANDROMEDA NEBULA (1967) – This movie was adapted from the 1957 novel Andromeda: A Space Age Tale by Ivan Yefremov. Unusual for sci-fi writers in the Soviet Union under Stalin, Yefremov courageously defied some of the political limitations that the blood-soaked dictator and his regime placed on fiction. Ivan is credited for, among other things, breaking free of the Soviet policy that limited futuristic tales to just a few years in the future. He continued that trailblazing in his works after Stalin died.

andromeda nebula picAnd that brings us back to Andromeda Nebula. The story is set over a millenium in the future, when an Age of World Unification (under a Soviet system, of course) was followed by the establishment of the Ring aka the Great Circle. The Ring is a loosely affiliated assortment of planets who exchange scientific and cultural information and try to facilitate each other’s efforts to colonize space.

In the universe of Andromeda Nebula, faster than light travel does not yet exist, so communication between planets takes between decades and centuries. This imposes certain limits that similar fictional planetary alliances don’t have to deal with, and the movie focuses on the dramas that could unfold within those confines. Continue reading

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NEW YEAR’S DAY (1989)

new y dayNEW YEAR’S DAY (1989) – HAPPY NEW YEAR! Balladeer’s Blog welcomes in 2023 with this review of Henry Jaglom’s comedy-drama New Year’s Day, released on December 13th, 1989, and best known for the appearance of an all-nude David Duchovny. Jaglom wrote and directed this movie, as he had so many before it. Henry also plays a major role in New Year’s Day as Drew, a middle-aged writer/ director who recently got a divorce and has moved back to New York City from Los Angeles to start anew.

He had sublet his apartment while in L.A. and arrives in the wee hours of a very snowy New Year’s Day to discover that the subletters are still there, because their signed agreement gave them occupancy through January 1st. Drew thought that meant they would be gone by the 1st of the year, and after some initial arguing, the older man agrees to let the ladies stay that one last day. Continue reading

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DARK JUNGLE THEATER (2015-2016): MOVIE HOST SHOW

dark jungle theaterHere at Balladeer’s Blog my fascination with Movie Host shows of the past and present is pretty well established. I’ve written about such programs from the 1950s onward. Not long ago I covered “the Mexican MST3K” – A Platicar a su Casa, which has been translated into English as Let’s Talk at HomeDo Your Talking at Home and similar titles.

The Movie Host show being examined this time around is Dark Jungle Theater, which lasted for 2 seasons consisting of 26 episodes from March 15th, 2015 to January 8th, 2016. Dark Jungle Theater was hosted by Omaka Omegah as Princess Omaka, an African aristocrat who hosted and offered commentary on many jungle-themed movies and serials of the past.

princess omakaThis program was created, written and produced by Joel Stephens, famous for his many Movie Host programs that combine assorted old movies, cartoons and serials with the tradition of attractive female hosts introducing and commenting upon such superannuated programming. Similar Movie Host shows from Stephens include Frightmare Theater, Six Gun Theater, Mobster Theater, Your Afternoon Movie and others.

princess omaka againGetting back to Dark Jungle Theater, here is an overview:

SEASON ONE: Princess Omaka hosted 13 jungle-themed flicks with 12 of them preceded by 1 episode each from the old Republic serial Panther Girl of the Kongo (1955).

EPISODE 1 – Panther Girl of the Kongo, Chapter One: The Claw Monster – Phyllis Coates, famous for playing Lois Lane, was the titular Panther Girl, Jean Evans, who swung from vines, rode elephants and communicated with the animals in Tarzan style. This chapter finds her facing a giant crayfish monster. B-Movie regular Myron Healey co-stars. Continue reading

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TEN MORE JUNGLE JIM MOVIES

Recently, Balladeer’s Blog examined the 1937 Jungle Jim serial as well as the first six Jungle Jim movies starring former Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller beginning in 1948. Here are the remaining ten Weissmuller films as the pre-Indiana Jones and pre-Crocodile Dundee, but post-Allan Quatermain hero.

jungle manhuntJUNGLE MANHUNT (October 1951) – This seventh Jungle Jim feature film is one of the best examples of how the franchise combined fun escapism with outlandish “So Bad They’re Good” film antics. After rescuing female reporter Anne Lawrence (Sheila Ryan) when her boat overturns, Jungle Jim agrees to guide her on her search for Bob Miller – played by real-life football star Bob Waterfield, Jane Russell’s husband.

Football hero Miller’s plane vanished over the jungle years earlier and Anne is determined to enhance her career by finding him and writing up the story. It turns out that Miller has spent the time serving as a one-man Peace Corps, helping a remote village with engineering and other efforts.

During the expedition to find the missing football player/ pilot, Jungle Jim and company get mixed up in a battle between a shark and a large octopus IN AN INLAND BODY OF FRESH WATER! The shark wins and then Jim must kill that creature in a very unconvincing underwater battle. 

jungle jim vs dinosaurOur hero and Anne also encounter dinosaurs – yes, dinosaurs – in the jungle region where Bob Miller’s plane went down. Much of it is stock footage from One Million B.C. but at one point, Jungle Jim clashes with an upright-walking, man-sized dinosaur who looks like the model for the Gorn Captain fought by Captain Kirk years later. Or maybe Barney the Dinosaur.

Dinosaurs not enough for ya? Well, there’s also Lyle Talbot as mad scientist Dr. Mitchell Heller, an industrial chemist with a bad accent and a method for using uranium to transform lesser stones into diamonds. Heller employs an army of men who sport body paint (really costumes) that makes them look like living skeletons. Continue reading

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JUNGLE JIM ON SCREEN

jungle jim johnnyNews of the disastrous reaction to screenings of the unwanted and unneeded fifth Indiana Jones movie, starring a 136-year-old Harrison Ford, caused me to reflect on the 1980s flood of Indiana Jones imitators. Studios even revived the old H. Rider Haggard character Allan Quatermain by casting Richard Chamberlin as Quatermain in a few movies.

Conspicuously absent from that 1980s eruption was Jungle Jim, the former comic strip character who had been depicted in a film serial, several movies and a television series from the 1930s to 1950s. Obviously, the same attempts to update Allan Quatermain would have to be made in reviving Jungle Jim, but it certainly could have been pulled off.

After all, decades before Raiders of the Lost Ark, “Jungle Jim” Bradley, mercenary jungle guide and adventurer, was fighting Nazis and other menaces while finding lost cities & ancient artifacts, all while romancing lovely ladies. Throw in the occasional giant spider or huge, man-eating eel and enjoy!

A 1980s Jungle Jim series could have combined the best elements of Indiana Jones, Crocodile Dundee and Allan Quatermain.  

At any rate, all this led me to write this examination of the big and small screen escapades of Jungle Jim in all their fun, outdated, absurd and So Bad They’re Good glory. Johnny Weissmuller, the former Tarzan actor, actually had to speak in complete sentences as Jungle Jim, emphasizing his poor thespian skills.

jungle jim 1937JUNGLE JIM (1937) – This 12 episode serial from Universal starred Grant Withers as the title character in the pith helmet. The story involved Joan Redmond, a wealthy young heiress who disappeared in the African jungle with her parents years earlier.

Sightings of a white woman in command of a pride of lions have inspired media speculation that the now teenaged heiress was still alive. Two rival jungle expeditions set out to find her, one launched by the tale’s heroes and another launched by the tale’s villains. 

The good guys, guided by Jungle Jim, want to bring the young Lion Goddess back to her home country and her inheritance. The bad guys, led by the young lady’s villainous relative Bruce Redmond, want to kill Joan, thus allowing Bruce to claim the inheritance for himself. Further complicating things are two international criminals who have been stranded in the jungle with Joan for years and have been passing themselves off to her as if they are her parents. Continue reading

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SCROOGE IN THE HOOD (2011): CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2022 BEGINS

mascot chair and bottle picIf it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving, then regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog know it’s the day when I kick off my annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon in which I review several versions of A Christmas Carol. I look at movies, television shows, radio shows and books which adapt the Dickens classic. Every year I present new reviews and a few old classics since newer readers will have missed them.

scrooge in the hoodSCROOGE IN THE HOOD (2011) – This is easily the worst attempt at a comedy version of the Carol that I’ve ever seen. It’s also a failure in terms of production values. Acting is nonexistent, props are below Cable Public Access levels, dialogue is often impossible to make out and the writing is like something from a 14-year-old trying to be edgy.

The premise behind this failed comedy is that Scrooge is a pimp, and gangsters from outside the Hood are trying to muscle in on his business. They’ve already killed his colleague Marley and are gunning for him, now.

This flick has one joke – inserting profanity, bloodshed and sexual situations into A Christmas Carol – and repeats it over and over and over for 83 minutes. Even porno adaptations like Ebenezer Screwed show a more inventive approach. Continue reading

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AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL (1972): THANKSGIVING TURKEY

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Enjoy this holiday and the hope for peaceful coexistence represented by the possibly mythic meal that it commemorates. The kind of self-righteous killjoys who bash Thanksgiving are the type of sanctimonious idiots that are fun to laugh at in this hilariously bad movie.

american hippie in israelAN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL (1972) – Forget An American Werewolf in London! To hell with A Polish Vampire in Burbank! Seriously, though, it’s a shame, but this movie’s original title was The Hitch Hiker. Over the years it picked up the campier title An American Hippie in Israel.

Yes, this production was filmed in Israel and on Pharaoh’s Island in Egypt’s Gulf of Aqaba, which is up for World Heritage Site status because of the ruins of the citadel on the tiny island. That citadel is several centuries old and was at one time the residence of the Mameluke governor of Aqaba. 

I figured a Golden Turkey like this would make a nice change of pace from the usual types of Bad Movies I review. Last Thanksgiving I reviewed a similarly atypical bad movie – James Batman, a Filipino movie illegally teaming James Bond and Batman.

mike the hippieAn American Hippie in Israel was indeed an Israeli production which starred assorted young performers from the Israeli theater. Our title character is Mike (Asher Tzarfati), who has been bumming around Europe for a few years since returning from service in the Vietnam War. Having found no peace or contentment in Europe, he arrives by plane in Israel. 

steamrollerBy the way, before we met Mike, we viewers were treated to bizarre opening credits which appeared over scenes of toplessness and nudity from later in the movie. Soon, the continuing credits appeared over pictures of idyllic fields of flowers. You can play the Moshe Drinking Game to these credits, since that happens to be a VERY common name among the team behind this flick.

After the credits finally end, the idyllic fields of flowers are run over and ruined by a steamroller. So deep, dude! This is indicative of the ham-fisted approach of the entire movie, which is to say it makes Neil Breen films and Tom Laughlin’s Billy Jack Goes to Washington seem like epitomes of subtlety by comparison. Continue reading

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KOMMISSAR X: ALL SEVEN MOVIES

kommissar xWhat James Bond hath wrought! Among the many imitations of Ian Fleming’s 007 were American rip-offs like Derek Flint and Matt Helm, but often overlooked here in 2022 are Germany’s Kommissar X films. The series of novels began in 1959 and number at least SIX-HUNDRED TWENTY! You read that right. Truly, no man is Bert Island.

The Kommissar X (also known as Commissioner X) tales were similar in style to Germany’s own Jerry Cotton novels which began publication in 1954. The Jerry Cotton character even beat Kommissar X to the big screen, with professional Smug Prick George Nader starring as the federal agent in eight movies.

Kommissar X was played by Tony Kendall, with Brad Harris as his sidekick Tom Rowland.

kiss kiss kill killKISS KISS, KILL KILL (1966) – Also released under the titles Hunt for the Unknown, Chasing the Unknown and Jagd auf Unbekannt, this was the first film appearance of Kommissar X, aka Private Investigator Joe Walker, and his colleague Police Captain Tom Rowland. Like James Bond and Jerry Cotton, Joe Walker had his own memorable theme music to accompany him as he kicked butt, bedded down with beautiful women and drove fancy sports cars.

chasing the unknownStylish villain Oberon (Nikola Popovic), called “O’Brien” in some dubs, is a mastermind who has accumulated a fortune in gold through dishonest means and wiped out his accomplices in order to nab their share of the loot, too. He also has plans to abduct a nuclear physicist, which gets Kommissar X mixed up in all this.

In Yugoslavia, our hero tangles with some of Oberon’s underlings and renews his acquaintance with Captain Tom Rowland, who is in the country to train police departments in state-of-the-art criminology. Ultimately, the pair trail Oberon to his island fortress, where they face the villain’s army of beautiful female soldiers as they try to recover the stolen gold AND the nuclear physicist.        Continue reading

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KONG ISLAND (1968) BAD MOVIE REVIEW

kong islandKONG ISLAND (1968) has also been released under the titles King of Kong Island and Eva, the Savage Venus. Every one of those titles could let viewers build a strong case for false advertising. There’s no island, no king OR King Kong and though the third title listed above may hint at something lurid, the wild jungle woman of that title has very little screen time.

Under any name, this movie appeals to most of us fans of So Bad They’re Good films. We get a regulation Mad Scientist, his army of robot/ bionic apes which AREN’T really robotic or bionic, a sultry young woman raised in the jungle by the animals and plenty of action scenes.  

This Italian film was produced by Brad Harris, who also starred as the beefcake hero who shows off his bodybuilder frame in shirtless scenes. Ladies got to ogle Burt while men got to ogle Eva, who is known to the Kenyan natives as … the Sacred Monkey. (?) Years later the Hong Kong movie Goliathon would combine a jungle queen and a gorilla that really was as big as King Kong. 

The Characters:

brad harrisBURT DAWSON (Brad Harris) is the muscular soldier of fortune who hires on for any job, legal or illegal. Kong Island opens with Burt and a few accomplices on the run after robbing a payroll. They stop in the wilderness to split the loot only to be double-crossed by their colleague Turk (Paul Carter), who shoots down the other survivors of the raid.

Burt, too, catches a bullet from behind, but apparently the large sweat stain on his back stopped the bullet or something because he shows up later, with a gunshot wound on his shoulder despite being shot in the back. Go figure. Burt recovers and turns up in Nairobi, Kenya looking to hire on for any shady or dangerous job available. Continue reading

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