Category Archives: Bad and weird movies

GANG OF ROSES (2003): SPAGHETTI WESTERN FANS TAKE NOTE

Gang of Roses 2003GANG OF ROSES (2003) – The annual Frontierado Holiday, coming August 2nd this year, is about the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality. So is the movie Gang of Roses, which is why I cannot believe the merciless reviews this fun, harmless, escapist movie has gotten. I find it far better than the similar Bad Girls

I eat, sleep and breathe Bad Movies, and this was a case where I settled in happily expecting to see an all-time disaster based on the reviews that Gang of Roses gets and its 2.3 rating at IMDb. Instead I saw a movie that I think deserves AT WORST a 5 or 6 rating. Maybe a 7 if you’re into Spaghetti Westerns.

Years ago I gave a glowing review to Posse (1993) starring Mario Van Peebles and, significantly Gang of Roses features a cameo by Van Peebles – dressed as Jesse Lee from Posse – giving an assist to the all-female title gang. He then says “Good luck, ladies” and rides off. (For obvious legal and financial reasons he’s listed in the credits simply as “Cameo” instead of Jesse Lee.)

I mention this because many Western fans told me they would have liked Posse if not for the underlying political message. Well, in Gang of Roses you get all the fun action of Posse with NO politics at all.

Gang of Roses groupLet me give a quick synopsis, then take a look at the main characters, following which I will state my counter-arguments to the most frequent criticisms leveled at this female-led Western:

The gunslinging gang of the title is made up of four black women and one Asian woman. We’re told that after robbing a few dozen banks the gang split up and its members went their separate ways. When the sister of the Roses’ leader gets murdered during an outlaw gang’s crime spree that leader gets the band together again to seek vengeance and a hidden fortune in gold and jewels.

The main characters:  Continue reading

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THE COMIC (1985): MOVIE REVIEW

The Comic bigTHE COMIC (1985) – Virtually every film buff today knows the tale of Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert raising money from doctors, grocers and dentists in Michigan to finance their subsequent horror hit The Evil Dead

Over in the U.K. Richard Driscoll raised money from Welsh miners and doctors to finance his very odd movie The Comic. Raimi and company went on to lucrative careers in the entertainment industry. Driscoll’s story did not have the same type of fairy-tale ending. Not even with an established figure like John Eyres helping out financially when Richard’s original funds ran out.  

The Comic 2The Comic takes place “in another place and another time” according to one of the female characters. From appearances it’s a near-future police state in which fairly ambiguous laws are enforced by goose-stepping goons who wear their hair in ponytails. This film seems to be reaching for the heights achieved in cult films like Eraserhead and Café Flesh but falls so far short that it’s more like The Jar.

Writer/ director Driscoll also peppers in elements of MacBeth, Hamlet and King Lear but only succeeds in embodying the worst clichés of arthouse cinema. If this had been a latter-day student film or direct to video affair it would not deserve all the insults that reviewers throw its way. But if you’re cheeky enough to dump something like this on the theater-going public you’re just asking for a critical onslaught. Continue reading

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COMIN’ AT YA! (1981): MOVIE REVIEW

Comin at Ya 2COMIN’ AT YA! (1981) – Directed by Ferdinando Baldi, Comin’ At Ya! is often credited with starting the pointless and bizarre 1980s revival of 1950s-style 3D movies. The film stars Tony Anthony, famous to us Spaghetti Western fans for the movie series in which he played a gunslinger called the Stranger. He appeared in others, as well, some reasonably good and others, like Blindman, so bad as to be virtually unwatchable.

Tony’s standout feature is the way he always looks like he’s ready to burst into tears, which always set him apart from the countless tough guys in Italo-Westerns. That feature stands him in good stead in Comin’ At Ya!

Tony Anthony

Tony Anthony IS Tinsley – I mean H. H. Hart – in Comin’ At Ya!

Anthony stars as gunfighter H.H. Hart. No, not H.H. Holmes, which would be an entirely different type of movie. Hart has, like many a fictional gunman, decided to leave his past behind and settle down with his one true love – a female gambler called Abilene aka the Cajun Queen. Abilene is portrayed by European actress Victoria Abril.

On their wedding day, H.H. and Abilene are separated when the ceremony is crashed by a gang of white-slavers led by brothers Pike and Polk Thompson. Our story inverts the setup of Louis L’Amour’s western The Shadow Riders, in which two brothers who fought on opposite sides of the Civil War set aside their differences to recover female family members from white-slavers headed for Mexico. 

In Comin’ At Ya! it’s the villains who are such a pair of brothers. Pike served on the Union side and Polk on the Confederate side. The duo command an enormous gang made up of veterans from both sides of the war in addition to renegade Indians and Mexican pistoleros. They steal the lovely Cajun Queen from her new husband and add her to the rest of their haul of young women to sell into slavery down in 1870s Mexico.

comin at ya - cinema quad movie poster (1).jpgOur main character, Triple H, ain’t havin’ it and sets out to recover his new bride and set free the other unfortunate women seized by the Thompson Gang. Needless to say he’ll also kill every member of the gang as well as some of the snobbish, upper-class Mexican aristos – male and female – who buy the ladies at an elegantly-appointed mansion/ former convent now used for slave auctions.

Even though this is really just a Spaghetti Western, albeit with slightly better production values, releasing a film titled Comin’ At Ya! clearly means you want it to stand or fall purely on its gimmick: 3D. First I’ll address the 3D effects and then examine the movie as a whole. Continue reading

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THE RUINED BRUIN (1961): BAD MOVIE

Ruined BruinTHE RUINED BRUIN (1961) – Written and directed by THE John K McCarthy, The Ruined Bruin was another one of those late “nudie cuties” which would make modern audiences yawn and wince … But would no doubt REALLY excite Furries!

In the past Balladeer’s Blog has reviewed the closing years of the Nudie Cutie subgenre as it went through its final convulsions in the form of gimmicks, each one more absurd than the last. I’ve reviewed Nude on the Moon, The Naked Witch, Orgy of the Dead, Doctor Sex and others.

The Ruined Bruin features a bear – really a costumed man (Myron Griffin) – who escapes from the Los Angeles Zoo and, for no apparent reason than so this movie could be made, tries to romance assorted gorgeous half-nude ladies.

Despite their name the Nudie Cuties never featured full nudity. Toplessness and some butt-shots were all you got, with strategically and/or improbably placed branches, shrubs or rail fences covering pubic regions. Fans of Peter Sellers will remember the classic sendup of those nudie cuties that he worked into one of his Inspector Clouseau films.   

The appeal of these movies is barely understood today, when you can find any visual stimulation you want with just a few clicks on your keyboard but decades ago Nudie Cuties really packed ’em in.

At any rate Buddy the Bear (Griffin) escapes from the zoo and, equipped with his Boris and Natasha-level Russian accent for his voice-over, takes in the sight of plenty of beautiful women. When the first one rejects his advances (and no, I don’t know why a bear is interested in human women any more than I know why cartoon mice characters often woo female cats away from their feline arch-enemies) Buddy tries to transform himself into a human male. Continue reading

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THE GIRL IN THE KREMLIN (1957): BAD MOVIE REVIEW

Girl in the KremlinTHE GIRL IN THE KREMLIN (1957) – The tagline for this Golden Turkey should have been “STALIN’S BACK AND GABOR’S GOT HIM!” The world of Bad Movies is pretty thoroughly littered with hilariously lame films proceeding from the premise that Adolf Hitler survived his supposed death and plotted a Fourth Reich.

The Girl in the Kremlin gives equal time to Hitler’s equally insane but even more murderous contemporary Joseph Stalin.

Zsa Zsa Gabor – yes, Zsa Zsa Gabor – co-stars as TWINS in this movie which features Patty Duke Show regular William Schallert, so you can insert your own “Identical Zsa Zsas” song and joke here. (“They walk alike, they talk alike, they even get their heads shaved alike”)

Bald Zsa Zsa GaborAnd feel free to choose your preferred caption to the photo at right. Either: a) ONE … MILLION … RUBLES or b) Zsa Zsa Gabor IS Mrs Kojak, this fall on the CW! 

Adding to the joyously tasteless atmosphere of this flick is the fact that the guy playing Stalin is named Maurice MANSON! The Marilyn Manson and shock-rocker Hitler “Where Are They Now” Stalin jokes pretty much write themselves.

THE STORY: The Girl in the Kremlin begins in March of 1953, when in real life the subhuman piece of filth Joseph Stalin died. In this movie we see Stalin have a plastic surgeon transform a hapless stooge into a lookalike of the mad Soviet Dictator. (They Saved Stalin’s Face!)

Girl in the Kremlin 2The lookalike is killed and presented for burial while Stalin – who passed the time during the surgery indulging his famous fetish for watching a woman suffer a forced head-shaving – undergoes plastic surgery of his own to disguise his features. The murderous scumbag then flees Russia with – we are told – HALF THE MONEY IN THE SOVIET TREASURY plus a few aides including Nurse Grisenko, one of the twins portrayed by Zsa Zsa Gabor herself. Continue reading

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YELLOWHAIR AND THE FORTRESS OF GOLD (1984)

Yellowhair and the Fortress of GoldYELLOWHAIR AND THE FORTRESS OF GOLD (1984) – Reviewers need to lighten up about this movie. Especially over at IMDb. If those reviewers actually think this film deserves a low rating of 4.2 they’re being silly. I eat, sleep and breathe bad movies and I settled in to finally watch this supposed bomb fully expecting something hilariously awful. Nope. It’s no masterpiece but it’s a fairly good movie with a butt-kicking female lead. 

Actually, Yellowhair and the Fortress of Gold is better than 1980s schlock like the Allan Quatermain flicks or many Chuck Norris films. The production values are above many other Eurowesterns, which is what this really is, despite its Raiders of the Lost Ark pretensions. They’re also above many, many Grade Z action movies of the decade.

Yellowhair and the Fortress of Gold 2In my opinion the admittedly dopey opening seems to prejudice too many reviewers, who harden into hatred before the movie properly gets underway. The success of the first Indiana Jones movie a few years earlier prompted many studios to try touting all their new action releases as being “like Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

To capture that same old-fashioned cinema/ Republic Serial feel, director Matt Cimber presents the opening moments of Yellowhair and the Fortress of Gold as a “meta” trip to a movie theater, complete with excited, squeeing children. To pile on the corn even more, there’s a melodramatic voice-over setting the scene by depicting this movie as if it’s the latest chapter of the serialized adventures of Yellowhair (Laurene Landon), our half-breed Indian heroine, and her platonic friend the Pecos Kid (Ken Roberson). 

Pecos KidNOTE: Yes, that makes for a cringingly lame opening sequence but let’s face it, it’s only slightly more awkward than if Cimber had relied on setting the scene with an opening scroll like Star Wars and its sequels had revived years earlier and which other movies had been copying ever since. Anyway, you can tell some reviewers don’t bother watching beyond that opening sequence since their reviews bash the whole movie as if it’s like that. Actually, the voiceover disappears and the story proceeds like in any other film after that ill-advised opening dose of nostalgia.  Continue reading

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THE HISTORY OF TIME TRAVEL (2014)

The History of Time TravelTHE HISTORY OF TIME TRAVEL (2014) – This is not a bad movie, it’s simply a weird movie and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s a low-budget affair done as a faux documentary and since those have been done to death this film has not gotten the kind of attention it deserves.   

Writer and director Ricky Kennedy has managed to combine the fake documentary approach with well-established time travel motifs to tell a story that is so touching I was literally in tears at the end. I’m not going Kevin “The Kryer” Smith on you readers, I’m just saying that if you pay attention to the tale unfolding in this enjoyable but challenging movie you can’t help but feel very moved.

The emotional impact has caused me to elevate The History of Time Travel above my previous favorite time travel film, Primer. Just like Primer, this Ricky Kennedy creation requires a viewer’s full attention to be appreciated. If you’re not in the mood to devote as much focus to THOTT as you would to reading a book then save it for a time when you ARE in such a mood.

The movie begins as a seemingly straightforward documentary about a scientist who pioneered actual time travel but that’s just the narrative device for examining the way time travel would enable changes to “history” without the larger world even being aware of what changes have been made. And yes, I know plenty of time travel stories have addressed such issues but THOTT combines it with a powerful emotional punch that sets it apart. Continue reading

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