Tag Archives: movie reviews

LEO FONG: HIS BEST B-MOVIES

Leo FongThanksgiving 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 orientMURDER 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

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FRIDAY THE 13th PART 3D (1982): ON THE TEXAS TWENTY-SEVEN FILM VAULT

Friday the 13th Part 3DBefore MST3K there was … The Texas 27 Film Vault! In the middle 1980s, way down on Level 31 Randy Clower and Richard Malmos, machine-gun toting Film Vault Technicians First Class hosted this neglected cult show. 

ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE: Saturday February 14th, 1987 from 10:30pm to 1:00am. 

SERIAL: None. The movie, Film Vault Corps comedy sketches and commercials filled up the entire two and a half hours this time.

FILM VAULT LORE: This episode marked the second time The Texas 27 Film Vault came with a warning about violent content. It was also at least the second time they riffed on a movie that was originally in 3-D. Randy and Richard did various jokes about wearing 3-D glasses and 3-D effects coming out of the screen at them as they watched the movie.

Randy and Richard firing their machine guns at giant rats, cellumites and other subterranean creatures.

Randy and Richard firing their machine guns on the T27FV 3D poster.

When you throw in the previous year’s “Mock 3D” interview with Ben Johnson and the 1987 release of The Texas 27 Film Vault‘s official 3-D poster you could say Randy, Richard, Ken “Tex” Miller, Joe Riley and Laurie Savino had a definite fondness for taking shots at the whole 3-D concept.  

 FOR A LOOK AT THE 3-D TEXAS 27 FILM VAULT POSTER (courtesy of Randy Clower) –https://glitternight.com/2013/03/18/movie-hosts-the-texas-27-film-vault-poster/  

THE MOVIE: Friday the 13th Part 3-D was the most notoriously lame sequel in the Friday the 13th film series during the 1980s. Not only was it part of the laughable 1980s attempt to revive the 3-D craze of the 1950s but it’s also infamous for its DISCO VERSION of the iconic Friday the 13th theme. However it’s essential viewing for horror fans because it was the first time Jason Voorhees put on the hockey mask that is so closely associated with the character.    Continue reading

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TOP FIVE MARX BROTHERS MOVIES

Balladeer’s Blog’s usual “waiting for results to something” mode is to watch a comedy marathon. Let’s go for a vintage feel this time with a look at my Top Five Marx Brothers Movies.

cocoanuts5. THE COCOANUTS (1929) – The Plot (As if it mattered) – A hotel manager (Groucho) plots a real estate swindle during the Florida land boom while a jewel theft on the premises attracts unwanted attention from the law. Chico and Harpo sow all manner of confusion while Margaret Dumont and Zeppo are on hand in their familiar and comfortable straight roles.

Comment: Already I can hear the screams from Marx Brothers fans. How DARE I relegate to FIFTH place a movie based on the brothers’ Broadway hit written by THE George S Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind! 

Easy. No matter how good the play was The Cocoanuts movie suffers from too many of the typical weaknesses of early talkies. The tinny sound, plus the way the maps, telegrams and newspapers handled by the characters are obviously water-logged to keep the crackling from being picked up on the late 1920s sound equipment.

mascot sword and gun pic

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And most importantly the inclusion of pointless music and dance numbers in the “hey, we have sound now, so let’s REALLY show it off” spirit of early talkies. The hopelessly dull romantic couple slow things down, too.

I find myself fast-forwarding through this flick more than any other Marx Brothers movie. Even The Big Store. We need a Fan Edit of this flick including ONLY the comedy routines, which I agree are all classics. “Did anyone ever tell you you look like the Prince of Wales?” Continue reading

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FIVE SCARY BUT NOT GORY HORROR FILMS

Here at Balladeer’s Blog I often hear from people who like scary movies for Halloween but who really don’t like blood-soaked or sexually explicit films. Since I review a LOT of extreme horror movies here’s some equal time for people who want chills but not graphic violence.

Crowhaven FarmCROWHAVEN FARM (1970) – Do you like ghosts and witches? Do you enjoy slow burn horror like Rosemary’s Baby? Give Crowhaven Farm a viewing or two. It’s perfect for a viewing party after the trick or treaters are done for the night. And at just 74 minutes what do you have to lose? 

Hope Lange and Paul Burke portray a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. When they inherit the title farm they decide to give their relationship one last try by relocating there. John “He’s probably even in the Zapruder Film if you look hard enough” Carradine portrays a creepy handyman, Lloyd Bochner tags along for some Lloyd Bochnering and William “Big Bill” Smith shows up as a policeman.

VampireVAMPIRE (1979) – Incredibly underappreciated horror film that concentrates on atmosphere and eeriness rather than in-your-face antics. Cult actor Richard Lynch stars as the title menace, Prince Anton Voytek. When the undead bloodsucker’s tomb is disturbed by construction for a new church (talk about adding insult to injury), the vampire subjects the city to a reign of terror.

Jason The Exorcist Miller plays the new church’s architect and E.G. Marshall portrays an elderly cop who helps Miller in his struggle against Voytek. Kathryn Harrold, Jessica Walter and a very subdued Joe Spinell also star. Part Martin, part Grave of the Vampire, this flick is an excellent showcase for Richard Lynch’s villainous charisma and very odd looks. (Not being cruel, just making an observation.)

If you watch only one movie on this list, make it this one.    Continue reading

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GHOSTS OF HANLEY HOUSE (1968) ON THE TEXAS 27 FILM VAULT

The Ghosts of Hanley House

The Ghosts of Hanley House

Halloween Month rolls along!

In the middle 1980s/ Way down on Level 31 …

Before MST3K there was The Texas 27 Film Vault! Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of this neglected cult show from the 1980s. My interview with Randy Clower, my research through VERY old newspapers and emailed memories from my fellow Film Vault Corps fans have helped to reconstruct elements of the show’s history.

EPISODE ORIGINALLY BROADCAST: Saturday October 26th, 1985 from 10:30pm to 1:00am.

Flash Gordon Conquers the UniverseSERIAL: Before showing and mocking the movie Randy Clower and Richard Malmos, our Film Vault Technicians First Class showed and mocked a chapter of the 1940 serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.

FILM VAULT LORE: Randy and Richard’s presentation of Ghosts of Hanley House has occupied a very odd niche in pop-culture trivia for quite a long time. To those of us who remember The Texas 27 Film Vault this episode is famous as “the one where Psychotronic‘s Michael Weldon seems to have confused T27FV with MST3K.”

Psychotronic Video GuideIn Weldon’s 1996 book The Psychotronic Video Guide he refers to Ghosts of Hanley House as having been riffed on by the folks at Mystery Science Theater 3000. Actually MST3K NEVER showed Ghosts of Hanley House but The Texas 27 Film Vault DID. Weldon was a fan of Movie Host shows like Ghoulardi, Zacherley, Elvira and others, so it’s possible he had also sampled episodes of Randy and Richard’s show in the 80s but the subsequent years blurred his memory to the point where he confused T27FV with MST3K in this instance.

It would be a very easy mistake to make given the similarities between the shows.

THE MOVIE: Continue reading

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THREE MORE BAD MOVIE CLASSICS FOR HALLOWEEN

Blood SongHalloween 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

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THREE LABOR DAY MOVIES

The Labor Day Holiday is taking on greater significance the more that the white collar criminals called Democrats and Republicans sell out the working class. Bought and paid for office-holders are content to screw over the working class.

MatewanMATEWAN (1987) – This John Sayles film examines the 1920 Matewan Massacre in the West Virginia coal fields. The workers were attempting to form a union and the owners – the kind of people that the one percenters’ beloved New York Times has proclaimed to be “the conscience of the country” used hired thugs to harass – and even kill – the laborers.

On top of that the owners planned to bring in replacement workers who would work for less money and would not expect “luxuries” like worker safety measures and the like. Continue reading

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OPEN HOUSE (1987): HORROR FILM REVIEW

Open House 1

OPEN HOUSE (1987) – This movie falls into the bizarre sub-genre of “Theme Slashers” from the 1980s. I have a soft spot for those flicks and have previously reviewed Horror House on Highway 5 (slasher in a Richard Nixon mask), The Newlydeads (undead transvestite slasher), Bloodbeat (female slasher using a samurai sword), Hellroller (slasher in a wheelchair) and about a dozen others.

With Open House we get a slasher who specializes in killing … Real Estate Agents. Now who could resist a movie about a killer with such an oddly specific obsession? Cult figure Adrienne Barbeau stars in the film and has outrightly admitted she only made this turkey to finance her child’s college education. I have no idea what motivated Sam Bottoms and Tiffany Bolling to appear in this “so bad it’s good” little honey.

Harry, our homeless slasher, wins the hearts of all lovers of bad movies right off the bat with the makeshift weapon he uses to kill his first two on-screen victims. The homicidal Harry stops eating from a can of dogfood long enough to tape razors to a toilet plunger handle and uses the improvised device to unleash bloody mayhem. He carves up the sexy realtor and her hunky househunter just as they were about to get their freak on in the house she was trying to sell him.

Continue reading

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THE KINDRED (1987) MOVIE REVIEW

Kindred largerTHE KINDRED (1987) – This monster movie was the third horror project from the writing and directing team of Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow.

The duo got started while they were film students at UCLA and released the regulation 1982 slasher movie Death Dorm aka Pranks aka The Dorm That Dripped Blood. Next came The Power (1984), about a cursed Aztec relic.

Neither of those works were exceptional nor were they trying to redefine the genre, but there was noticeable improvement between the 1984 project and the 1982 debut film. The Kindred continued that professional refinement and is the most watchable of “Carpbrow’s” early horror efforts.

THE Kim Hunter is in a few early scenes as Amanda Hollins, a biochemist who was engaged in some ethically questionable research before a car accident left her in a coma for years. She has just emerged from that coma and wants her son John (David Allen Brooks) to go to her old beach house and destroy all of her work, including her notes.

Rod Steiger, just one year away from his outrageous tour-de-force performance in the slasher film American Gothic (with YVONNE DE CARLO), plays Dr Phillip Lloyd, the villain of the story. The mad Dr Lloyd has been trying his own hand at the kind of research that Amanda Hollins excelled at. To that end he’s been paying an unscrupulous ambulance driver to covertly provide him with accident victims to use as human guinea pigs.   Continue reading

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INVADERS FROM MARS (1953) ON THE TEXAS 27 FILM VAULT

Invaders from MarsBefore MST3K there was … The Texas 27 Film Vault! Before Joel and Mike there were Randy and Richard! Before Pearl, Devil Dogs and Deep 13 there came Laurie Savino, Cellumites and Level 31!

In the middle 1980s, way down on Level 31 Randy Clower and Richard Malmos, machine-gun toting Film Vault Technicians First Class hosted this neglected cult show.

ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE: Saturday June 7th, 1986 from 10:30pm to 1:00am.

Atom Man vs SupermanSERIAL: Before showing and mocking Invaders from Mars our members of the Film Vault Corps (“the few, the proud, the sarcastic”) showed and mocked an episode of the 1950 Columbia serial Atom Man vs Superman. Kirk Alyn starred as Superman with Lyle Talbot as his archenemy Lex Luthor. Lex has his own secret identity in this serial – each episode he dons a lead mask and oversees the villainy as “Atom Man”.

This was one of the liveliest and most campily watchable serials of the 50s. Especially laughable are the bits when Superman “flies” – an effect achieved by switching from live footage of Kirk Alyn to INSERTED CARTOON FOOTAGE of Superman flying. Think of the ‘Toons in Roger Rabbit interacting with the live backgrounds and you have the idea.

A behind the scenes photo of Laurie Savino, who held the rank of Mystery Clip Technician in the Film Vault Corps.

A behind the scenes photo of Laurie Savino, who held the rank of Mystery Clip Technician in the Film Vault Corps.

FILM VAULT LORE: This week Laurie Savino, who held the rank of Mystery Clip Technician in the Film Vault Corps once again presented Channel 27’s Movie Ticket Giveaway.

Correctly identifying the Mystery Clip this time around would win a few lucky viewers tickets to the upcoming release of the 1986 remake of Invaders from Mars, starring Karen Black. 

HOST SEGMENTS/ COMEDY SKETCHES – One of the comedy bits Randy and Richard injected into the film this time involved Jimmy Hunt, who played David Maclean, the child hero of the movie.

Whenever Hunt would say something harmless like “Gee Whiz” the Film Vault Guys would bleep part of it to make it sound like the kid had said “Jesus” and was getting censored. And so it went throughout the movie. Little Jimmy – but, hilariously, NONE of the adults, would occassionally get bleeped misleadingly as if cursing like a sailor.

That is one foul-mouthed little boy!

That is one foul-mouthed little boy!

A word beginning with “sh” would be bleeped like Jimmy was saying “shit”, a word beginning with “f” would be bleeped like Jimmy was saying “fuck”, multi-syllable “m” words would be bleeped like he was saying “motherfucking”. It was like a more adult throwback to the old “Cleveland-style” of movie hosting, dating back to the legendary Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson). 

THE MOVIE: Invaders from Mars is a very fun-bad movie complete with cheap and unconvincing 1950s special effects, stiff and unbelievable characters and a groan-inducing finale.

Some elderly critics praise this movie nostalgically and try to present it as a metaphor for anti-Communist paranoia, like the more-deserving Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Anybody who didn’t see this thing as a child in 1953 tends to view it more realistically: as a kitschy relic of its era, entertaining but hardly thought-provoking.  Continue reading

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