Tag Archives: Bad Movies

HORROR FILM: THE NEST OF THE CUCKOO BIRDS (1965)

nest of the cuckoo birdsTHE NEST OF THE CUCKOO BIRDS (1965) – Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with a review of this low-budget, black & white bomb which played a few theaters in 1965 then was considered lost until 2017. Florida’s Bert Williams produced, wrote, directed and starred in this very strange film which strives for “Psycho Meets Tennessee Williams” levels but falls more into territory occupied by the likes of Spider Baby and Manos, The Hands of Fate.

Williams’ wife Peggy sang the title song, which inspired a later version by the Cramps, believe it or not. Peggy also sang the closing song Lisa.

Our auteur Bert Williams plays Johnson, a Liquor Control Department Agent aka “Revenuer” in the slang of deep south moonshiners. He is sent on an assignment into the Everglades to infiltrate and bring down a violent gang of moonshiners who make their own bootleg whiskey via their still on one of the scattered pieces of solid land found in the swamps of the Florida Everglades.

After an absurdly irrelevant recollection to his chief about a lost love of his from long ago, Agent Johnson departs on his mission. 

masked killer from cuckoosJohnson’s cover is blown, and he flees into the swamplands to escape the bootleggers, who are led by their murderous boss called Doc. Half wading and half swimming, our exhausted protagonist arrives after dark at another isolated and uncharted little “island” amid the Everglades. He is nearly stabbed to death by a naked woman wearing a wig and a bizarre mask, a woman he at first mistakes for a statue.

The Revenue Agent manages to outfight and escape the woman in an utterly ridiculous fast-motion scene which could use the Benny Hill Theme as accompaniment. Johnson stumbles upon the tiny island’s lone structure – a dilapidated hotel called the Cuckoo Bird Inn, run by some of the strangest people this side of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Eaten Alive. Needless to say, the hilarity horror is just beginning. Continue reading

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LARAINE NEWMAN’S CANNED FILM FESTIVAL (1986)

ritzTHE CANNED FILM FESTIVAL STARRING LARAINE NEWMAN (1986) – Halloween Month continues at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at a neglected Movie Host show, since Movie Hosts/ Horror Hosts are as associated with Halloween as are monsters and cosplay.

In this post I won’t be covering the entire history of movie hosting and the “So Bad They’re Good” film subculture. For that, there are my many other blog posts covering movie hosting from Vampira and her contemporaries, through Moona Lisa, then Son of Svengoolie, Elvira, and programs like Saturday Night Dead, The Texas 27 Film Vault and MST3K

canned film festival castTHE SHOW: The Canned Film Festival Starring Laraine Newman. From June 21st to September 13th of 1986 this 90 minute syndicated program sponsored largely by Dr Pepper aired on Saturday nights in various time slots around the United States. Elvira’s show Movie Macabre had run from 1981 to 1986 and was winding down. The Texas 27 Film Vault, which had debuted on February 9th, 1985 was still on the air and would run for roughly two and a half years in Texas and Oklahoma.

Along came The Canned Film Festival, which, with a nationally known name like Laraine Newman attached to it, may well have been the reason that one of the attempted syndication deals for T27FV fell through. Be that as it may, Laraine Newman’s show would – like The Texas 27 Film Vault – show more than just lame horror and sci-fi films and would cover the whole spectrum of bad and/ or campy cinema of the past.

laraine as the usheretteTHE HOSTESS: Laraine Newman may be best known for Saturday Night Live and for her character actress work, but she had been a member of The Groundlings improvisational comedy troupe … As had Cassandra Peterson aka Elvira. Newman was also known as an aficionado of horror and fringe cinema. Continue reading

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ROLLER BLADE (1986): POST-APOCALYPSE PAP

roller bladeROLLER 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“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. 

Our characters:

Mother SpeedMOTHER 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

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IDAHO TRANSFER (1973): MOVIE REVIEW

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

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GET MEAN (1975): FILM REVIEW

With the Frontierado Holiday coming up on Friday, August 6th here is another seasonal movie.

Get MeanGET 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

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THREE BIZARRELY WATCHABLE MOVIES

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 amberDARKER 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

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I WOKE UP EARLY THE DAY I DIED (1998) – MOVIE REVIEW

i woke up earlyI 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.

i woke up early zaneThere’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

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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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