Thanksgiving week rolls along here at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at some of the most enjoyable – on whatever level – B-movies from the one and only Leo Fong! Leo’s been called a poor man’s Bolo Yeung cross-bred with an even poorer man’s Joe Don Baker … but I was drunk when I called him that, so make of it what you will.
All lovers of Psychotronic filmmaking worship at the altar of Fong and his many action flicks from the 1970s through today are still watchable in a very odd way and will always leave viewers smiling. We may snark away at the abundance of errors and absurdities in Leo’s movies but there’s no denying that a Leo Fong film has more heart and sincerity in it than any corporate blockbuster has in decades.
MURDER IN THE ORIENT (1974) – Leo Fong IS Lao Tsu, but not THAT one, in this lethargic treasure quest/ revenge story. Leo (He’s ALWAYS Leo to me no matter what his character is named) learns his sister has been killed by the Golden Cobra crime gang. That gang is after a pair of samurai swords on which Imperial Japanese war criminals serving in World War Two engraved a split map leading to a fortune in stolen gold.
Leo’s sister was collateral damage in that quest, and her death brings down on the Golden Cobras’ heads the stone-faced revenge of our man Fong and his late sister’s equally deadly boyfriend, Paul Martelli (THE Ron Marchini). All the performers seem like reluctant draftees rounded up and forced to “act” at gunpoint. Even the action sequences reek of half-heartedness in this odd little honey. Continue reading
Halloween month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog! In previous years I’ve run my list of The Top Eleven Neglected Bad Movie Classics for Halloween and even a followup list of eleven more. Right now here’s a look at three more classically bad horror flicks for the season.
BLOOD SONG (1982) – Singer Frankie Avalon as a 1980s- style slasher villain! The godfather’s Luca Brasi (Lenny Montana) as a co-star and co-producer! Who could possibly resist that? Frankie plays a homicidal maniac who escapes from an insane asylum with his beloved flute/recorder type thingee.
Turns out years earlier a girl played by Donna Wilkes – soon to star as Angel herself – got a blood transfusion from Psycho Frankie. In this movie’s logic-free universe that means that she has a mental link with our mad slasher. This link is causing him to track her down to kill her with the single-minded fury that Mike Myers showed toward Jaime Lee Curtis in the Halloween movies. Continue reading
In the middle 1980s/ Way down on Level 31 –
Randy Clower and Richard Malmos of The Texas 27 Film Vault (both lower right) featured in a Movie Host article with Stella from Saturday Night Dead and Elvira.
Before MST3K there was … The Texas 27 Film Vault!
Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of this neglected cult show from the mid-1980s.
EPISODE ORIGINALLY BROADCAST: Saturday May ??, 1987 from 10:30pm to 1:00 am. Exact date is still being debated. Any Vaulties with further information please feel free to contact me.
EXTRAS: Every single nanosecond of this film is riff-worthy, so with the usual comedy sketches from the Film Vault Corps (“the few, the proud, the sarcastic”) added on plus commercials there was no time for an episode of a Republic or Columbia serial before the movie this time. Randy and Richard, our machine-gun toting Film Vault Technicians First Class were able to get to the movie quickly. Continue reading
The three-day Frontierado Holiday weekend starts this Friday, August 7th. (Well, technically the good times start Thursday night, August 6th.)
MORE WILD, WILD WEST (1980) – Awhile back, Balladeer’s Blog reviewed the 1979 telefilm The Wild, Wild West Revisited, the previous reunion movie for the 1965-1969 Robert Conrad series in which he starred as wild west Secret Service Agent Jim West. Regular readers may remember that I tore that tv movie to pieces, on the grounds that it was more like a failed comedy than a sequel to the fun action series of the 60s.
This second attempt at a Wild, Wild West reunion special was – against all odds – EVEN WORSE. It repeated all the horrible decisions of the first one while introducing new creative disasters of its own.
Robert Conrad was back as Jim West with Ross Martin once again appearing as his sidekick Artemus Gordon. But that’s about all that went right.
From the very start More Wild, Wild West was bizarrely unoriginal. EXACTLY LIKE its predecessor it opened up with the retired Jim West, still a ladies man, getting interrupted mid-erection and Artemus Gordon, still a ham actor, getting called away from a stage career for “one last mission.” The characters frequently refer to the previous movie, so it’s not like you can say they were trying to erase the memory of the first one and start over. Continue reading
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! LOVE, GEORGE (1973) – Category: Bad movie elevated by kitsch value in the casting.
Directed by THE Darren McGavin and featuring his wife Kathie Browne in a small role, this hilariously bizarre film is also known as Run, Stranger, Run. “Run, Potential Viewer, Run” would be a more appropriate title.
Happy Mother’s Day Love, George (henceforth HMDLG) is often described as a psycho-sexual thriller but actually it is nothing more than a melodramatic soap opera with a few murders and VERY few scenes of blood and gore. Those blood and gore scenes are so over-the-top they are completely at odds with the low-key, almost made-for-tv mildness of the rest of the movie.
This was a theatrical release but is so subdued and slow-paced it seems like a telefilm. You and your friends can keep yourselves entertained making jokes about the recognizable cast members to kill time since the first murder doesn’t happen until we’re more than an hour into this flick.
Ron Howard IS Johnny, a teenager who has come to town to discover who his birth parents are but who mostly just stands around staring at people and ESPECIALLY at houses. He seems completely taken aback that the townspeople find this somewhat creepy. Johnny is intrigued by the rash of missing persons plaguing the small town and feels they are connected to the secret of his past. Continue reading
We all know today’s date, so let’s examine the notoriously bad Italian ripoff of Star Wars. I know many people consider Star Crash to be the worst of the Italo-Ripoffs but I’ve always gotten more laughs out of The Humanoid.
The many, many ways this movie steals from Star Wars will become clear as we go along. Let’s deal with first things first:
Richard Kiel plays the title figure. His real name is Golob but the Darth Vaderish bad guy arranges for Golob to be the guinea pig for a treatment that transforms ordinary people into powerful “Humanoids”. As a Humanoid Golob loses his beard for some reason but – even more comically – the beard suddenly reappears when he is returned to normal late in the movie.
Golob in his amped-up Humanoid form has super-strength, is invulnerable to harm and can deflect energy blasts that the Rebel Alliance-style good guys shoot at him. The bad guys plan to use a warhead to expose every man, woman and child on Earth to the bio-treatment, thus creating an instant army of billions of super-powered Humanoids like Richard Kiel. (Good luck controlling them since the treatment will reduce them to mindless animals like Golob.)
Corinne Clery portrays Barbara Gibson, the spunky Princess Leia pastiche. Barbara is a prominent scientist of Metropolis, which is what the entire Earth has been renamed now that it is just one big planet-wide city in the far future setting of The Humanoid. Barbara studies a gifted Asian lad who controls
the Force uh, I mean some kind of psychic or magical energy field.
Ivan Rassimov plays the main villain Lord Graal, whose entire army dresses exactly like Darth Vader. He does, too, but to stand out from his underlings HIS black helmet and mask have cutouts that let his eyes, mouth and cheeks show. Lord Graal wants to create the aforementioned Humanoid army so he can conquer the entire Milky Way galaxy. He has magical powers like the Asian boy. Continue reading
THE WIZARD OF MARS – (1965) – Category: A neglected bad movie classic that deserves a Plan 9-sized cult following
This 1965 film from David L Hewitt is my all-time favorite kitschy movie about space travel.
This one has all the little extras that separate a true bad movie classic from the mere pretenders. One of those extras would be incredibly cheap special effects, some of them cadged right from the old Soviet sci-fi flick Planet of Storms, which is a lot of fun for people like me who’ve seen those same bits of footage show up in countless other bad movies. (Especially the spaceship’s “viewscreen” complete with markings for North, South, East and West, which would, of course, be meaningless in space)
Another extra that this film has is the man I consider to be the Patron Saint of Bad Movies, John Carradine himself, as the titular wizard. I don’t recommend trying to see all the movies John Carradine has appeared in unless you plan on making a career out of it and I don’t recommend that either. (Somewhere around his Continue reading
TOOMORROW (1970) – What is one part Monkees episode, one part Frankie & Annette Beach Movie, one part Help!, one part Donny & Marie in Goin’ Coconuts, one part KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park and one part Beyond the Valley of the Dolls? The answer is Toomorrow, the infamous Don Kirshner/ Val Guest cult movie with a then-unknown Olivia Newton-John in a starring role.
The aim was to launch a new pre-fab pop band like the Monkees, but this time consisting of an Aussie (Newton-John of course), a Brit (Vic Cooper), an African-American (Karl Chambers) and a white American (Benny Thomas).
Olivia sings and also dances around the guys while they play, Benny plays the guitar, Karl is the drummer and Vic plays the keyboard AND his special invention called a Tonalizer. The band is called Toomorrow because, as Karl observes, they are “Too much! Too-Morrow!”
We’re told that Vic’s Tonalizer is what gives Toomorrow its special “sound.” How special is that sound? So special that its unique vibrations can revive the stagnant culture of an alien race that’s facing decay and collapse. It seems the aliens’ own musical output has grown stale because they have long since progressed beyond the troublesome “emotions” and “heart” that Toomorrow’s members pour into their songs.
Buy this movie for the Sandbaggers or Dalgleish fan in your life, because Roy “Neil Burnside” Marsden co-stars as Alpha, the captain of the aliens’ spaceship. His forever-terse voice is unmistakable despite the – admittedly competent – makeup and prosthetic effects for the ET’s (above right). Continue reading
MARS MEN aka HUO XING REN (1976) – What do you get when Taiwanese filmmakers take a co-produced Thai/ Japanese kaiju movie, alter the monsters and the character names then edit in their own actors Mighty Morphin Power Rangers-style?
You get this deliriously weird sci-fi/ monster flick which combines the appeal of Godzilla, Gamera, Jet Jaguar and Ultraman with The Golden Bat and Infra-Man plus a wig or two from Fugitive Alien! Not to mention pirated Pink Floyd music! Who could resist?
Taiwan’s elusive monsterpiece Mars Men has long been the Holy Grail for all fans of kaiju and of overdubbed & re-edited movie mashups from around the world. Huo Xing Ren, as it was called during its Taiwanese run, started out in 1974 as Giant and Jumbo A, a co-production of studios from Thailand and Japan.
The “heroic” monster and giant were Yak Wat Jaeng (right) & Jumborg Ace, respectively. Yak Wat Jaeng was a fanged, green-colored stone statue from the Thai movie Tah Tien (1971).
Jumborg Ace was a Jet Jaguar/ Ultraman-ish kaiju superhero from a Japanese tv show (all 50 episodes are available for purchase). Continue reading
2020 TEXAS GLADIATORS (1982) – HAPPY NEW YEAR! Balladeer’s Blog’s Weirdness at the End of the World welcomes in the year 2020 with a look at what Texas will be like in a few months. There are changes coming your way, Texans!
Actually, it’s not really Texas and there are NO gladiators in this film but at least it is now officially 2020!
When reviewing other post-apocalypse movies I’ve often made references to 2020 Texas Gladiators. The fact that I call it my favorite bad post-apocalypse movie has often prompted readers of Balladeer’s Blog to ask why I hadn’t reviewed it yet. The answer was always that I was saving it up for New Year’s Day of 2020.
Just because this is my favorite bad post-apocalypse film does NOT mean I consider it to be the worst one. That designation would be reserved for unwatchable trash like Empire of Ash III and the like.
2020 Texas Gladiators is my favorite bad entry in the genre because of how it defeats itself at every turn, because of its lame attempts to pretend it’s being filmed in America instead of Italy and because of how joyously tasteless it is. Tell the Hekawi tribe from F-Troop to move over! They’ve been replaced as the fakest-looking Native Americans in entertainment history by the post-apocalypse Indians in this flick, portrayed by obvious Italian extras!
Their black wigs with built-in headbands are one thing, their less than authentic vests are another thing, their Tonto way of speaking still another, but the POST-APOCALYPSE TEEPEES they live in will bring a smile to the lips of any true fan of really bad exploitation movies.
Taking things from the top, Al D’Amato directed 2020 Texas Gladiators under one of his countless aliases. For all I know he may have even directed a film using MY name. The following year Warrior of the Lost World, another Italian ripoff of Mad Max, would reuse this movie’s Nazi-esque uniforms and riot shields for the bad guys and many of this flick’s supporting cast. Hell, the largest vehicle in 2020TG even shows up as Mega-Weapon in that same movie. Continue reading