LIFEPOD (1981) – Previously Balladeer’s Blog examined the worst movies from the Robert Emenegger/ Allan Sandler collaboration, most of them with Steven Spielberg’s sister Anne … plus half the Cameron Mitchell family. With Lifepod, we return to E-Space (Emenegger Space. Sorry, Doctor Who fans.). This time, however, it’s with an underrated movie that makes you root for it despite its budgetary limitations.
The year is 2191. The moons of Jupiter have been colonized and are called the Jupiter States. A company nostalgically called the White Star Line has begun providing a spaceship cruise line to and from the Jupiter States. The flagship in this new line is called the Arcturus, with a state-of-the-art propulsion system and a revolutionary AI called a Cerebral running the ship.
As the Arcturus, on its maiden run, approached Callisto, the Cerebral announced massive system failures and began shutting down life support systems while ordering the crew and passengers to evacuate in lifepods and await rescue from Callisto’s authorities. In their Mayday broadcasts the crew make it clear they no longer trusted Captain Montaine (Christopher Cary), who insisted the Arcturus was fine and the Cerebral was just malfunctioning.
The picture becomes further confused when the Arcturus‘ engines restart and it flies off now that the passengers are gone. Continue reading
Previously here at Balladeer’s Blog I covered YT Channels that featured what I considered the very best of the emerging subgenre of Analog Horror or “Unfiction” as a lot of people have labeled it. Those descriptive terms have been coined to help keep these creative efforts distinct from pure ARGs (Alternate Reality Games).
Last year I reviewed Local 58, Kris Straub’s latest venture, but many readers have since been expressing their discontent with the way the new 2020 episodes never materialized. Per Straub, that’s because Local 58‘s Analog Horror tale was going to incorporate a fictional pandemic, so given real-world events he decided to hold off and reorganize the series.
(If you’re in the mood for Analog Horror which does NOT back away from pandemic and lockdown lore, check out Walker Creek Broadcast Station, but be aware that such lore is only incidental to the main storyline.)
At any rate, being left hanging like that with Local 58 left many of you asking about similar Analog Horror/ Unfiction series which are already completed. I’m happy to say that two of the most popular series are now available COMPLETE and IN ORDER. Even better, they have been edited into one long-form YT video each for your viewing convenience, rather than spread out episodically. (You damn whiners. I’m KIDDING!) Continue reading
After a terrific Fat Tuesday it’s time for Ash Wednesday … as in Empire of Ash, the awful series of post-apocalypse movies. From Canada! Brave the Canuckalypse with me!
EMPIRE OF ASH (1988) – Also released as Maniac Warriors, this post-apocalypse movie is, as you would expect, another of the 1980s’ countless imitators of The Road Warrior. In Empire of Ash our year is 2050 and our main location is an American settlement called New Idaho, with Canadian forests passing for the post-holocaust world. All cities have become uninhabitable so survivalists scrape by in woodland communities.
The plague that destroyed civilization is a blood disease and it continues to be one of the biggest threats, along with the usual mutants and rampaging, gun-wielding gangs. There are some scattered scientists trying to come up with a cure for the blood disease but there are also evil sufferers of the disease who prey upon the unafflicted by consuming their blood and bone marrow to survive a little bit longer.
The disease-ridden have been organized into a bizarre religion and they consider the plague to be God’s vengeance, just like AIDS was being called by assorted zealots at this point in the 80s. The religion and government are run by a preacher called the Great Shepherd (Frank Wilson). Before draining the blood and marrow of “pure-bloods” they baptize them as human sacrifices. Continue reading
MARDI GRAS MASSACRE (1978) – Category: A neglected Bad Movie classic, but its hard-core gore will prevent it from ever having a Plan 9-sized cult following
It takes a twisted sort of genius to make multiple disembowelment murders look boring, but that’s exactly what Jack Weis accomplishes in Mardi Gras Massacre! Today may be Fat Tuesday, but let’s rechristen it “Splat Tuesday” in honor of this late 70s splatterfest.
The actual “massacre” part of this movie is an incredible disappointment. An insane, hate-filled man with a knife – no, not Jim Bowie (rimshot) – is roaming around New Orleans during Mardi Gras targeting prostitutes as sacrificial offerings to the Aztec deities he worships.
That sounds promising for a horror film but the disembowelment ritual is reenacted word for word and movement for movement for EACH VICTIM! There is no variation and also no suspense because after the first killing we know exactly how all the subsequent sacrifices will play out. The only chills come from listening to the awful disco music that plays during the ceremonial slayings. (“NOOOOOOOOOO!”) Continue reading
Raizo Ichikawa as the red-haired Samurai Kyoshiro Nemuri, the Son of the Black Mass.
Balladeer’s Blog begins its examination of various Samurai films from Japan. In keeping with my blog’s overall theme I won’t be covering the uber-popular Samurai flicks like Yojimbo, The Seven Magnificent Samurai or the Musashi Miyamoto Trilogy. Regular readers who are familiar with my contempt for organized religion will not be at all surprised that I’ll be starting out with the Son of the Black Mass series of films starring Raizo Ichikawa, often called “the James Dean of Japan.”
In addition to the twelve Ichikawa movies I will also cover the two entries in the series made after Raizo’s untimely death from cancer. After that, to be a fully comprehensive look, I will also examine the original novels as well as the three Son of the Black Mass movies made in the 1950’s, even though they did not have the cinematic impact of the films starring Raizo Ichikawa.
The odd title of the movie series comes from the fact that the title character, former Samurai turned Ronin Kyoshiro Nemuri, is the child of a Japanese woman and the crazed Portugese missionary who raped her. The insane missionary was dabbling in Satanism and Nemuri was conceived during a Black Mass ritual, hence the series title. The deadly swordsman inherited his hated father’s red hair and when a heavy rain washed out the black dye Nemuri was disguising it with, his exposure as a half-breed led to his shunning and his fallen status. Continue reading
Here at Balladeer’s Blog I’ve always had a soft spot for the Resident Evil movies. I’m not implying that they’re good by any means, but as guilty pleasures I consider them pretty watchable in a Spaghetti Western sense. You don’t expect logic or well-maintained continuity in the original Django or Sartana series any more than you do from the Stranger or Hallelujah flicks or any of the other lower-level pulp series of Italo-Westerns.
To me the six Resident Evil movies (2002 – 2017) can be viewed the same way – as unpretentious B-movies with a kind of relaxing sameness and stories that are so unchallenging you can chit-chat with friends or loved ones while they’re on.
Seventies chop-socky films are another example. You might watch them but you sure as hell can’t defend them from criticism.
Milla Jovovich’s Alice is, to me, the main reason to watch these films. She’s believable in the action scenes and deserves recognition for the way she kicks post-apocalyptic butt in SIX movies as the same character. No other leading female figure has matched that feat in THEATRICAL RELEASE, English-language films. Not Lara Croft and not even Ellen Ripley. Continue reading
GIZMO! (1977) – Though the exclamation point in the title makes this seem like it might be a stage musical, Gizmo! is actually an entertaining documentary about some of the oddest inventions you could possibly imagine. Some never made it anywhere close to actually working, while others worked but proved so hopelessly impractical that you’ll howl with laughter at the wasted effort.
You’ll see failed aircraft and land vehicles as well as in-home contraptions powered by moving animals like the joke appliances on The Flintstones. Continue reading
Steven Spielberg’s sister Anne got her start as a producer for many of the cheapjack science fiction films of Robert Emenegger and Allan Sandler. She had worked with them – and Cameron Mitchell – as far back as 1975’s Death: The Ultimate Mystery. With apologies to fans of the original Doctor Who series, to me “E-Space” will always mean EMENEGGER SPACE, as in the Emenegger-verse of his series of movies in 1980 and 1981.
Emenegger Space is full of Grade Z special effects, bad acting, a few good ideas and an overall feel of striving for Alien and Star Trek levels but falling far, far short.
WARP SPEED (1981) – Set in the far-off year 2013 (!) this movie features the crew of a spaceship sent to determine what happened to the vanished crew of a multi-year mission to Saturn. The organization they serve is called Starfleet, which serves as a reminder that by 1981 there was just the original Star Trek series, its cartoon version and one movie, not the enormous universe of spin-offs that we have today. Point being that the term Starfleet was apparently open for use by other creators. Starfleet features in another Spielberg/ Emenegger/ Sandler joint, too.
Adam West plays Captain Lofton, the leader of the now-lost mission, and has assorted offspring of Cameron Mitchell backing him up in this movie. One such Mitchell, Camille, stars as Dr Janet Trask, a psychic who is sent into the abandoned Atlas vessel to investigate the cause of the crew’s disappearance.
Trask is outfitted with tech which sends back images of the psychic visions she receives of past events on the ghost-ship. Amid assorted David Lynch-style psychosexual interludes we see disaster strike the Atlas, followed by an aborted mission and ultimately a mutiny as the crew try to get the damaged craft back to the Earth. Continue reading
NICK CARTER IN PRAGUE (1978) – This film seems to like to hide from the millions of Nick Carter fans in the world by also going under titles like Adele Has Not Had Her Dinner or Dinner With Adele. I originally planned to review this movie last year but the passing of actor Robert Conrad prompted me to review his telefilm The Adventures of Nick Carter instead.
Created in 1886, Nick Carter was technically a private detective in New York City but really he was less of a sleuth and more of a forerunner of crime-fighting paragons like Doc Savage and Batman. Nick lasted through the end of the Dime Novel era and well into the age of Pulp Magazines, yet by the 1970s he was a much more popular character in Europe than in his homeland. Even before Nick Carter in Prague was released there had been a French-Italian animated series about Nick’s adventures.
This Czech film was directed by Oldrich Lipsky and starred Michal Docolomansky as Nick Carter. If you want a glib “pitch-meeting” style description of this movie think of it as a tongue-in-cheek effort like Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy but directed by Tim Burton and with a surreal, European arthouse feel.
The approach is wry and knowing but without stooping to the overdone camp of 1975’s Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, starring Ron Ely. Nick Carter in Prague is often labeled a comedy but don’t go into it expecting laughs, just lots of smiles like during Dick Tracy or Tim Burton’s Batman. It’s more “comedy” as in whimsical fantasy touches, not hard belly laughs.
The film is set around 1905 judging by the automobiles, and the opening minutes provide a nice introduction to Nick Carter. He’s a world-famous detective/ crime fighter whose exploits earn him plenty of headlines. Police departments and Secret Services around the world bombard him with requests for help and he survives multiple attempts on his life by a variety of enemies as part of his daily routine at his office.
Nick has so many pleas for his services that he selects who he’ll help next at random. The “winner” is Countess Thun (Kveta Fiolova) of Prague, so our hero is off to then-Czechoslovakia. The countess has a lot of pull with her government and Carter is given a hero’s welcome. The tubby Commissar Ledvina (Rudolf Hrusinsky) is assigned to help Nick in every way. Continue reading
ISLAND OF THE LOST (1967) – Directed by John Florea and written by Richard Carlson and Ivan Tors, this family adventure movie starred Richard Greene, known for playing Robin Hood in the 1950s television series and for playing Sir Denis Nayland Smith in a few of the Fu Manchu movies from the 1960s.
In addition to Greene, Island of the Lost provides additional cultural kitsch appeal: You’ve got producer Ivan Tors of Flipper fame dragging along Luke Halpin, the boy star of that series. Ivan also seems to have brought along a LOT of Flipper stock footage for the underwater scenes. Jose de Vega from Blue Hawaii is also in the cast as are soap opera queen Robin Mattson and the ubiquitous Irene Tsu. Plus the screenwriter is THE Richard Carlson, star of many b-movies.
Richard Greene AND Richard Carlson? You know that with a couple of Dicks like them around we are in for some campiness and lame special effects that might have been acceptable in the 1950s … in black & white, not color.
Greene portrays Professor Josh MacRae, a scholar who is convinced that there are undiscovered islands in the Pacific Ocean, islands on which live creatures long thought extinct. Like so many movie professors, he organizes his own expedition to try to prove his theory. And if he dies in the attempt he plans to take his whole family down with him! Continue reading