Tag Archives: movie reviews


str to hellSTRAIGHT TO HELL (1987) – For a glib, one sentence review of this movie, how about “Quentin Tarantino minus Quentin Tarantino equals Straight to Hell?” Though this flick came out years before Tarantino’s films it clearly influenced him and to this day it feels like a lost, inferior effort by Quentin. 

After Alex Cox became known as one of THE up-and-coming directors following his films Repo Man and Sid & Nancy he was trying to arrange a punk concert film (or documentary of an entire concert tour, depending on what source you read) in Nicaragua.

Given the violent and unstable situation in the country at that time, few wanted to invest in a concert film being made under such risky conditions. However, investors WERE willing to shell out a million dollars for a movie directed by Cox and starring many of the punk acts who were going to perform in Nicaragua.

straight to hellAlex threw in some of his stable of regulars from his two earlier films, slapped together a script in three days (co-written by Dick Rude) and used a mere few weeks to make this oddball genre-bender in Spain.

The result was a movie that the post-Tarantino world can easily relate to, but which audiences and critics of the time dismissed as a rambling mess. Straight to Hell is certainly too self-indulgent and self-satisfied to qualify as a good film, but it’s far from the one-star or two-star disaster that many IMDb reviewers dismiss it as.

THE STORY – A gang of inept Los Angeles hitmen trying to impress their criminal employer botch their assigned assassination. Fearing reprisals from the powerful crime boss, they rob a bank and flee across the border to Mexico, where they bury their loot and lie low in an incredibly strange town full of sweaty, violent weirdos and a lot of gunplay. Continue reading

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amphibian manAMPHIBIAN MAN (1962) – This “mad scientist creates a man capable of living underwater” movie was made in the Soviet Union but frequently appeared in dubbed English on American television decades ago.

While not classically bad, Amphibian Man features plenty of those comfortable B-movie elements that prove schlock is fun to laugh at no matter the country of origin.   

ichtyandr and knifeMany online reviewers accuse the makers of The Shape of Water of ripping off this 1962 movie that is based on a 1928 novel. Arguments can be made for that, but it’s important to remember that all sci-fi stories draw from the same general inheritance of tropes.

Amphibian Man itself bears similarities to the 1908 French novel The Man Who Could Live Underwater, in which a mad scientist creates a man-shark which he calls the Ichtaner. Coincidentally enough, in Amphibian Man the man-shark is named Ichtyandr, so this movie is not immune to rip-off accusations of its own. Plus, in both stories, the experimental man-shark is intended as merely the first of many.

This film’s characters:

no helmet onICHTYANDR SALVATOR (Vladimir Korenev) – A young Argentinean man whose scientist father prevented him from dying of a lung disease in childhood by grafting shark gills on to his body. Ichtyandr has been raised and educated in isolation and his father even designed a comical looking underwater suit for our hero to wear, complete with a shark fin. Continue reading


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pray for wildcatsPRAY FOR THE WILDCATS (1974) – That’s Wildcats as in the Baja Wildcats, the name given by the villainous Andy Griffith to himself and his fellow over the hill dirt bikers – William Shatner, Marjoe Gortner and Robert Reed!

Griffith is pure sleaze as Sam Farragut, a wheelin’ and dealin’ tycoon who enjoys throwing his weight around. He’s the biggest client at an ad agency where Shatner, Gortner and Reed are employed, and he threatens to take his business elsewhere unless they join him on his latest whim – a motorcycle ride along the Baja Peninsula.

This bizarre premise sounds like an episode of Bewitched, as in “Stevens, our biggest client insists we ride motorcycles with him to Baja California.” Instead, this is an overwrought made for tv movie from 1974 in which our kitsch cast gets into deadly trouble south of the border.

Our characters:
Continue reading


Filed under Bad and weird movies, Forgotten Television


It’s been pointed out to me that for my look at Mark Gregory’s action films I did not provide my usual “all links in one convenient post” item after a series of themed blog posts. Here we go.

adam and eve vs the cannibalsADAM AND EVE VS THE CANNIBALS (1983) – Way back in 2014 I reviewed this quasi-peplum flick starring Mark Gregory, real name Marco De Gregorio. Instead of portraying Hercules or Maciste or Samson taking on monsters and human opponents, Mark played Adam taking on monsters and human opponents.

Andrea Goldman portrayed Eve as the couple are expelled from the Garden of Eden and clash with dinosaurs, fur-faced cavemen, giant bears and green-skinned cannibals before settling down to have children. Weird story. Weirder theology. Continue reading


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cassandra crossingTHE CASSANDRA CROSSING (1976) – The Andromeda Strain meets the later Supertrain in this railroad version of the Airport movies. I’m sure we all know the formula of Disaster Movies, be they about natural disasters striking cities or manmade disasters striking mass transportation like airplanes, ships and trains.   

The Cassandra Crossing was a co-production of Carlo Ponti and Lew Grade. The film had a lot of potential but was ultimately doomed by oddball acting choices, a script full of holes and a train that clearly changes multiple times during the course of the movie. And I mean it even changes from electric to diesel multiple times as the film progresses.

cassandra crossing posterIn general, the storyline involves a genetically engineered plague covertly developed by government functionaries (think of Anthony Fauci and his ilk) despite international agreements not to conduct such research. Terrorists who want to steal the plague for their own use botch a raid on the International Health Organization (a pastiche of the World Health Organization), which results in a shootout and in two of the terrorists being exposed to the plague.

One of the exposed gunmen escapes and seeks shelter on a departing train, spreading the plague – for which there is no known cure – to the other passengers, instigating a crisis. If the infected aren’t contained, this plague could wipe out 60% of the population of Europe and eventually, the world. The government locks down all the people on the train and proceeds to care more about covering up where the disease originated than they do about public safety.  Continue reading


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the terrornautsTHE TERRORNAUTS (1967) – Simon Oates of Doomwatch fame stars as yet another maverick scientist in this effort from earlier in his career. Oates is running a British version of the SETI project and is forever trying to intercept signals from space … signals that might indicate intelligent life forms.

Conveniently, just when their funding is about to be cut Oates and his team at last receive a broadcast from actual alien life forms. And not just any alien life forms but the exact race that use a cave in France excavated by Oates’ father as a teleportation point from their orbiting space station.

terrornautsWild coincidences like that are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of this ridiculous movie’s plot holes, inconsistencies and lack of logic.

At any rate when Oates and company broadcast a reply of their own the extraterrestrials fly to England and snatch the entire building that the scientists’ project is housed in. The Earthlings, including a cockney female janitor along for excruciatingly bad comic relief, find themselves at the mercy of the space station’s Doctor Who (original series) level special effects renditions of androids, monsters and interstellar cooking devices. Continue reading


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santo vs the riders of terrorSANTO VERSUS THE RIDERS OF TERROR (1970) – Called Santo Contra Los Jinetes del Terror in its native Mexico, this is one of my all-time favorite hidden gems among the wacked-out movies about the Mexican wrestler called El Santo.

(Many movies about Santo and other Mexican wrestlers were shown on “the Mexican MST3K” show – A Platicar a Su Casa, reviewed HERE.)    

El Santo – often called “Samson” in English-dubbed versions of his flicks – has battled Martians, vampire women, vampire men, witches, mummies, wax figures come to life and dozens of other monstrosities. This particular flick stands out to me because of its joyously tasteless brand of “monsters” – a horseback riding outlaw gang of lepers.

Yes, LEPERS! In a move even Tod Slaughter might have deemed too crass and exploitative a group of bandits deformed by leprosy are at large and pulling off a series of robberies. Continue reading


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challenge tvmTHE CHALLENGE aka Surrogate (1970) – This made for tv movie aired in February 1970. The storyline involves a downed satellite that contains American national defense technology. It landed near a fictional Asian nation which is closely allied with Communist China.

The fictional nation’s navy recovered the downed satellite, but the U.S. navy blockaded them and, as this telefilm opens, is preventing the other nation from taking the satellite anywhere. The smaller nation is a client state of Communist China, as stated above, and China intervenes on their behalf.

darren in challengeNeither the U.S. nor Red China want to see this incident escalate into an all-out war, so they agree to a solution. Each side will send one man to a small nearby island. Whichever surrogate manages to kill the other within five days will have “won” the downed satellite for its side.

Yes, that’s a silly premise from a real-world angle, but this first aired in a less cynical time, so the fact that the story is obviously an allegory for proxy conflicts like the Vietnam War was considered daring for the period. Original director Joseph Sargent quit the film over creative differences, and replacement director George McCowan insisted on using the Director’s Guild pseudonym Allen Smithee. Continue reading


Filed under Forgotten Television


big easyTHE BIG EASY (1986) – An unjustly neglected film starring the one and only Dennis Quaid, who should have been made the new Indiana Jones after The Last Crusade in 1989. The Big Easy is easily one of the most underrated films of the 1980s.

Think of The Big Easy as Cajun-blackened Film Noir, which, of course, makes it colorful and upbeat Film Noir with kickass music. Set in New Orleans (known as the Big Easy for you overseas readers) this hardboiled mystery features Assistant DA Anne Osborne (Ellen Barkin) clashing, bickering, flirting with and falling for Quaid as Lt Remy McSwain. Remy is investigating Wiseguy murders that hint at an impending gangster war while Anne is probing police corruption.  Continue reading


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just a damned soldierJUST A DAMNED SOLDIER aka One Damned Soldier (1988) – Balladeer’s Blog concludes its look at all ten films of Italian cult action icon Mark Gregory, real name Marco De Gregorio. I know IMDb states that he also appeared in the made for tv movie Rainbow, but I watched that film and he’s not in it. The error seems to have been made by someone who saw the name MARY Gregory in the closing credits and, because the font for the credits is a bit stylish, mistook the y in Mary for a k.

Previously, I reviewed Mr. Gregory’s post-apocalypse movies 1990: The Bronx Warriors and Escape from the Bronx, plus his Thunder Warrior trilogy of Rambo imitations, his quasi-peplum Adam and Eve vs the Cannibals, and his pair of outings as an action villain in Delta Force Commando and Ten Zan: The Ultimate Mission.

mark in his j hatI’ll wrap up everything by examining Mark’s final two films before he walked away from the business at age 25 in 1989, with no explanation and after having just made his highest amount of money from a movie role.

The public fascination with Mark Gregory continues due to the mystery of his following years and the sometimes contradictory information about his life. Supposedly he raised horses for a time, then became a street artist in Rome, possibly spent all his film earnings or was conned out of them, and died in 2013 from an overdose. Some sources say it was a suicide, others an accidental overdose.

mark with dead meatJust a Damned Soldier features Mark in an ensemble cast as one member of a trio of badass international mercenaries who take on any dangerous, high-paying job that comes along. Our hero, whose character is also named Mark, serves alongside Cisco (Romano Kristoff) and their boss Bert Ernst (Peter Hooten).

Those three, plus their fourth, soon-to-die comrade that I’ll call Dead Meat for a Hot Shots joke, kick off the movie in style with a guns-blazing raid on an industrial compound in Cambodia. The quartet shoots and explodes their way to victory, overcoming dozens of armed soldiers in scenes that live up to the standard joke about 1980s action flicks – “Page One of the script says ‘The good guys open fire’ and Page Two says ‘The End.'”

Mark and his colleagues look typically badass while killing bad guys, stealing tons of gold from the facility, then escaping to a nearby hideout to have the booty flown out of the country. After high fives and similar gestures all around, our main characters escape in a ground vehicle. Continue reading


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