Tag Archives: movie reviews

LABORATORY (1980): BACK IN E-SPACE

LaboratoryLABORATORY (1980) – Time for another Anne “Steven’s Sister” Spielberg project with Robert Emenegger, after whom Balladeer’s Blog has named the REAL E-Space. (Sorry, Doctor Who fans.) In this flick we meet some of the strangest aliens in the Emeneggerverse. They have humanoid outlines but they’re wrapped within shimmering disco-ball skin and are reminiscent of Eldrad from The Hand of Eldrad

These aliens, who speak with distorted, almost robotic voices, come to the Earth in a spaceship that looks like a cartoon fireball. They proceed to abduct six Earthlings from a range of backgrounds to study them and subject them to physical and mental tests. Continue reading

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AGON: ATOMIC DRAGON (1964-1968)

agon atomic dragonAGON: ATOMIC DRAGON, also called Phantom Monster Agon and Giant Phantom Monster Agon, is an overlooked miniseries from Japanese television. It was produced in 1964 but due to legal action over the monster’s similarity to Godzilla its creator’s old Toho contract was invoked to prevent the miniseries from being televised until 1968. This black & white miniseries ran just four half-hour episodes and aired on four consecutive nights, from January 2nd – 5th, 1968.

THE STORY: On a night when a typhoon is lashing Japan, a truck transporting uranium is blown off a cliffside road and into the sea. The uranium is devoured by a VERY Godzilla-looking monster called Agon after the supposed Jurassic Period dinosaur it resembles.

agon faceWhen an irritating reporter named Goro Sumoto aka “the Suppon” arrives to report on the police and the Atomic Energy Authorities scouring the beach for the lost uranium, Agon rises up from the sea in the exact same “bubbling waters first” technique favored by Godzilla. Goro photographs Agon, who vogues for a while, then submerges again. The reporter also meets Monta, the obligatory wise-ass little kid character so common to kaiju stories.

The atomic scientist Dr Ukyo, his female assistant Satsuki and Police Detective Yamato consult with Goro, and the good doctor theorizes that Agon has been in suspended animation since the Jurassic Period and that atomic bombs mutated him, making him hungry for the uranium which fell into the sea, waking him. Continue reading

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EIGHT JAMES WOODS MOVIES

James Woods is like a force of nature. When he’s on the screen he virtually blows away most of the people with whom he shares that screen. His staggering versatility also marks him as one of the few true actors in the industry. Here are some of the movies which harnessed Hurricane Woods:

VideodromeVIDEODROME (1983)

Role: Max Renn, cable television entrepreneur

Comment: Sorry to start with such an obvious choice but I’m amazed that there are still people out there who haven’t seen this movie. David Cronenberg’s patented body horror and other surreal visuals needed a thespian who wouldn’t fade into the woodwork among them. Woods as the intense, sleazy Max Renn fit the bill perfectly.

James proved you don’t need to be twitchy and leering to portray a character who is virtually amoral in his pursuit of money, kinky thrills, Deborah Harry … and the ultimate underground broadcast called Videodrome. Anticipating the Deep Web, there was this magnificent film about how – before the internet came along – it was cable television that was considered a doorway to the forbidden and the depraved.

A cable titillation peddler tries to locate and strike a broadcast deal with a seeming Snuff Show called Videodrome. The sinister parties behind the pirate broadcast are the ultimate villains for the time period, and Cronenberg’s treatment of them shows that SUBTLETY can be more effective than hammering your audience over the head. LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!   Continue reading

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A.D.A.M. (1973) FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

A.D.A.M.A.D.A.M. (1973) – Written by Donald Jonson and directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, this made for British tv item served as an episode of ITV Sunday Night Theater on April 8th, 1973. The story is part science fiction and part horror with the A.D.A.M. of the title being an acronym for a super-computer called an Automated Domestic Appliance Monitor.

A.D.A.M. (voiced by Anthony Jackson) is basically the Smart Home from hell and was designed by military engineer Roger Empson (Mark Jones) to run the household and care for his physically disabled wife Jean (Georgina Hale). The computer system turns sinister, acquires independent thought and “falls in love” with Jean. Continue reading

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THE RATINGS GAME (1984): FILM REVIEW

Ratings GameTHE RATINGS GAME (1984) – Danny DeVito directed and starred in this telefilm – now being re-released under the vague-to-the-point-of-meaningless title The Mogul, which was produced by Showtime back when they and HBO Films were emerging as a genuine creative force in original content.

That era saw HBO Films churn out many made-for-cable movies that reflected studio-level production values and often adapted fictional and non-fictional properties that neither networks nor Hollywood felt like tackling at the time.

Telefilms like And The Band Played On, Barbarians at the Gate, Gotti, Kissinger and Nixon plus many, many others received critical acclaim AND proved commercially successful when released on video or in syndication to – ironically – network television.  

Ratings Game bThe Ratings Game – written by Jim Mulholland and Michael Barrie – was a perfectly respectable satire on the network television ratings system but it has become unjustly forgotten. The change of title for its latest release seems like a desperate attempt to change the telefilm’s fortunes. 

Personally I really like The Ratings Game. It definitely qualifies as one for my list of Aristophanes Now productions, in this case because it captures the feel of the Parathespian Comedies from Attic Old Comedy. (But let’s face it, it would probably have been written by Strattis instead of Aristophanes.)

Part of the reason for this telefilm’s obscurity may be the way it satirized the flaws in the network ratings system. This flick was released when Nielsen and similar ratings outfits still often used a mere 1,100-1,200 participating homes to extrapolate the ratings numbers on which television programs lived or died.    Continue reading

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APRIL FOOL’S DAY/ SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986)

Slaughter HighSLAUGHTER HIGH/ APRIL FOOL’S DAY (1986) – This is the low-budget horror film made in England and set on April Fool’s Day. There are still VHS tapes and YouTube videos that show the original title, but the title was changed to Slaughter High because of the year’s OTHER April Fool’s Day slasher film with a gimmick ending.

Slaughter High starts off showing us April Fool’s Day of 1976, when a group of “teenagers” including 30-something Caroline Munro go to bizarre lengths to degrade and victimize their nerdy classmate Marty. These “kids” aren’t so much bullies as they are psychopaths, actually.

Slaughter High bAfter an April Fool’s Day “prank” involving nudity, electric shocks and near drowning, Marty is still alive through no fault of his classmates. The supposed popular kids get punished for their criminal assault on Marty, and perversely blame him for it! It’s that kind of movie. Hell, Marty’s tormentors were caught in the act, it’s not even like he peached on them (since this was made in England I couldn’t resist writing “peached on them”).

The psychotic teens-in-their -thirties decide Marty deserves some payback for the way they got in trouble for nearly killing him earlier, so they stage a new “prank” involving tampered-with marijuana, dangerous chemicals … and acid. C’mon, you kidders! Stop giving Marty the business! Just cut off one of his limbs or something and call it a day, ya jokesters! Continue reading

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THE GIRL IN THE KREMLIN (1957)

Girl in the Kremlin

THE 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 Gabor

And 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 2

The 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.

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CHANNEL AWESOME SCANDAL: ASK BALLADEER

procrastitara

ProcrastiTara

Sometimes it feels like I’m about the only person on the internet who has not weighed in on the whole Channel Awesome/ Change the Channel controversy from a few years back. More and more of you readers have been asking me how I feel about the whole thing, since videos and articles addressing the situation continue to be released, so here we go.

I don’t know enough about it or about the various side issues. I would say ProcrastiTara has one of the clearest looks at the scandal and the “Not So Awesome” document with its list of complaints and accusations. For her video about this topic click HERE.   

For a shorter and more skeptical take from a different source click HERE. For what it’s worth that second video got a comment from Lindsay Ellis, one of the figures in the story (her remark is still in that video’s comment section). She said Continue reading

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SCORPION THUNDERBOLT (1983)

Scorpion ThunderboltSCORPION THUNDERBOLT – Yes, it’s Scorpion Thunderbolt, the horror movie that has absolutely NOTHING to do with EITHER scorpions OR thunderbolts! They could have titled this thing Terms of Endearment 2 and it wouldn’t have been any less appropriate.

Potential viewers will find various years of release listed for this flick like 1983, 1985 or 1988. That’s because this is another of those bizarre cinematic cut-and-paste jobs that we fans of bad movies just love, like They Saved Hitler’s Brain, Spookies, Pink Angels, Monster A Go-Go and so many others.

The original film was titled Grudge of the Sleepwalking Woman and was a Taiwanese horror movie from 1983. Balladeer’s Blog’s old friend Godfrey Ho, the Schlockmeister General of Hong Kong cinema, bought the original movie. That Dr Frankenstein of the editing room padded the film’s run-time by adding some kung fu fights and one of his usual non sequitur movie quickies starring Richard Harrison, then tried to pass the mess off as all one movie. Same ol’ same ol’ for Godfrey Ho, in other words.   Continue reading

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DREAM NO EVIL (1970)

dream no evilDREAM NO EVIL (1970) – This film, written and directed by schlockmeister John Hayes, made me wonder who I have to sue to make up for not having seen this gloriously bad movie before now. Dream No Evil is often pigeon-holed as a horror film but actually it combines a number of genres, none of which are well-represented. For a glib summary, let’s call it “A David Lynch film if all the David Lynch was drained from it.”

Brooke Mills stars as Grace MacDonald, whose character we viewers first meet in a flashback to when she was a little girl who had been abandoned at an orphanage. The child has recurring dreams about her father coming to take her back but that never happens. Ultimately she is adopted by the Bundy family, consisting of a preacher father who is also a faith healer and his two sons, Patrick and Jessie. Grace becomes part of the clan’s itinerant tent-show revival lifestyle. Continue reading

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