Tag Archives: movie reviews

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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A FORCE OF ONE (1979)

a force of oneA FORCE OF ONE (1979) – Fresh off the success of Good Guys Wear Black, Chuck Norris starred in this action film directed by Paul Aaron in only his second directing effort. The prolific Ernest Tidyman wrote the screenplay.

The Story: In a fictional mid-sized California city, a drug operation is thriving, helped along by bad cops who funnel confiscated drugs right back to the head of the narcotics pushers after pretending to have destroyed the seized goodies per department policy. The drug ring uses a sporting goods store as their front and use an aspiring karate champ as their chief enforcer.

             That enforcer is a deadly human weapon and when cops keep turning up dead at his hands the department hires a local karate dojo master to teach the police better techniques of self-defense. That dojo master falls in love with a lady cop and winds up helping the police to battle the drug ring.   

The Characters:

CHUCK NORRIS is in the role of Matt Logan, a former special forces man from the United States Army. He’s the defending Middleweight Karate Champion and also runs a karate dojo on the side. One of his students is his black adopted son Charlie (Eric Laneuville), whose late mother he had platonically befriended when … oh, don’t worry about it. They might as well have saved time by just having him be one of Matt’s students, PERIOD, since his only purpose is to get killed by the drug dealers, thus giving Logan a personal stake in the crusade to bring them down. Continue reading

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PRIME CUT (1972): MINI-REVIEW

prime cutPRIME CUT (1972) – Directed by Michael Ritchie. Prime Cut was released less than 4 months after The Godfather but it’s difficult to think of two more different gangster films. And I say that as a good thing. Prime Cut is not trying for the epic, operatic scope of The Godfather, it’s just a fairly solid street-level gangster flick with a few admittedly silly action sequences.

The story:

The Chicago Syndicate bosses are being disrespected by a subordinate Kansas boss who is itching to break out from under their thumb and take complete control of his own little empire. Part of that figurative declaration of independence took the form of not sending the Chicago boys their required tribute. 

hackman marvinThe Windy City mob sent a tough-guy “negotiator” to try leaning on the Kansas rebel only to have that Jayhawk State gangster take things to the next level by having the tough-guy killed, then literally ground into hot dog meat. Adding insult to injury the Kansas boss sent the hot dogs/ bodily remains of the negotiator back to Chicago in the package they were supposed to use to send their tribute money.

Chicago’s response is to send four button men under the command of one of their coldest, most hard-assed enforcers, to Kansas to bring the upstart back into line by whatever means prove necessary. Much bloodshed ensues, with butchery and slaughterhouses of all kinds reflecting the title theme.

The characters: Continue reading

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WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT? (1965)

what's new pussycatWHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT? (1965) – TWO PETERS, ONE WOODY should probably have been the title of this blog post. Peter O’Toole, Peter Sellers and Woody Allen starred in this brazen (for its day) sex comedy set in Paris during the Swinging Sixties.

Woody penned his first original screenplay for this movie and by many accounts was not happy with the way writers were so often the doormats of the film industry. The big name stars and starlets had the power to demand script changes which favored the characters they portrayed and which often diluted the thrust (as it were) of Allen’s satire about the breaking of sexual taboos.

what's new 2The end result is still hailed for its pioneering depiction of promiscuity in a major studio release. The relaxing of cinematic standards permitted What’s New Pussycat? to be bolder and kinkier than any pre-1965 production could have been. Compared to films of the past 55 years, however, it often seems as mild and self-consciously “zany” as an episode of Three’s Company, which was daring for television of the 1970s but certainly not today.

Peter Sellers is top-billed and looks like he’s cosplaying as Mayim Bialik from The Big Bang Theory in his portrayal of German psychiatrist Fritz Fassbender. Sellers is more annoying than anything else in this role with the vaudeville level German accent he puts on as Fassbender. The psychiatrist frequently cheats on his rotund wife with his patients. Continue reading

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BALLADEER’S BLOG TURNS ELEVEN YEARS OLD TODAY

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BALLADEER’S BLOG

THANK YOU once again to all of you readers for making Balladeer’s Blog so enjoyable to write. As I always say the unusual and controversial items I sometimes churn out here mean that readers have to be open-minded and very secure in their own beliefs not to just take offense and leave.

Here are some of my most popular blog posts from the past 12 months.

latitude zero pictureLATITUDE ZERO (1969) – My review of the long unavailable Japanese monster/ sci fi movie HERE.

DEMOCRAT SLOGANS – Yesterday’s jokes are today’s reality. Click HERE.

INSPECTOR LIPINZKI: FIVE HUNDRED CARATS – My review of this 1893 mystery story as dramatized on The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes in 1973. Read it HERE.

SHARYL ATTKISSON EXPOSES THE BIASES OF SELF-PROCLAIMED “FACT CHECKERS” – It’s brilliant and it’s right HERE

DuneAMERICA: PART OF THE DUNE SERIES – In the spirit of my blog post America: Part of the Alien Series. Click HERE.

EXPLAINING “DEFUND THE POLICE” FOR OVERSEAS READERS – A look at the ugly political game being played at the expense of community safety. Click HERE.

IRON MAN: THE FIRST TWENTY STORIES – Robert Downey Jr made Iron Man a household name, now see the hero’s earliest adventures HERE.

PROFILE IN COURAGE: DEMOCRAT TULSI GABBARD WARNED ABOUT MAIL-IN VOTE FRAUD BEFORE THE ELECTION LAST YEAR – She was proven right as we continue to learn in the ongoing vote audits and other investigations. Click HERE.

ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION – Gullivar Jones On Mars (1905) HERE, Are The Planets Inhabited? HERE. 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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SUNSET (1988)

SunsetSUNSET (1988) – James Garner portrays old west lawman Wyatt Earp while Bruce Willis plays silent film star Tom Mix as the pair try to solve a murder in 1929 Hollywood. Don’t expect realism but DO expect a very entertaining movie.

For a silent movie geek like me Sunset is irresistible. Not only do you get Tom Mix but Malcolm McDowell portrays Alfie Alperin, a Charlie Chaplin pastiche who, believe it or not, is the story’s villain.

Hell, We even get a partial reproduction of the very first Academy Awards ceremony. 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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